Axios Sneak Peek
November 20, 2022
Josh Kraushaar here. Send your tips and rants.
- Smart Brevity™ count: 1,187 words ... 4½ minutes. Copy edited by Brad Bonhall.
1 big thing: Behind the blue curtain
The number of House Republicans in crossover seats — districts carried by President Biden — nearly doubled from 2020 to 2022.
- Why it matters: This new cast of independent-minded Republicans could act as a moderating force in Kevin McCarthy's caucus.
The new Congress will include 16 to 18 House Republicans in Biden districts — up from nine after the 2020 election.
- Six of the split-ticket lawmakers hail from New York. Three to five will represent California (pending race calls).
- The number of Democrats representing Trump districts dipped: There'll likely be five of them — down from seven in the last Congress.
🔎 Between the lines: The majority-making Republicans who hail from blue districts want party leaders to focus on the economy, not impeachment.
- Former GOP Rep. Tom Davis, chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform from 2003 to 2007, told me in a panel discussion: "Nobody wants to go through [an impeachment] and lose the floor vote.... People are tired of that."
🖼️ The big picture: Even as the number of split-ticket voters inched up this year, the country is still in a historically partisan phase.
- The 21 to 23 split-ticket districts are ahead of 2020's level — but below the number of split-ticket seats in 2016 (35) and 2012 (26).
- After President Obama's decisive victory in 2008, there were 83 split-ticket districts — including 49 Dems in districts John McCain won.
🔬 Zoom in: The biggest House over-performers were Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska), Rep.-elect Anthony D'Esposito (R-N.Y.), Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) and Rep.-elect Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.)
- If Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) and Republican John Duarte of California hold on to their leads, they'll join the list.
🔭 Zoom out: In the Senate, partisanship was still king:
- Republicans won all 17 of the Senate races in states that Trump won in 2020. Democrats led in 15 of the 16 Senate races in states Biden carried.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) was the only GOP senator to prevail in a Biden state, with the Georgia GOP Senate race heading to a runoff.
2. Trump-district Dems
The number of Trump-district Democrats in the next Congress is much smaller (5) than Biden-district Rs (16-18).
- All of the Dems boast compelling biographies that allowed them to stand out in otherwise tough political turf.
Why it matters: The path to victory for most of those red-district Democrats was simple: Be normal.
- They also distanced themselves from President Biden. Several benefited from running against a MAGA-aligned Republican opponent.
🔬 Zoom in: Rep.-elect Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Wash.) boasted the type of biography that appealed to a working-class Republican district.
- Perez's opponent, Joe Kent, was a Trump-endorsed veteran.
Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola stunned the political world by defeating Sarah Palin in a summer Alaska special election.
- She's on track to a repeat victory over Palin, thanks to her ability to win over independents and even some Republican skeptics, including a critical endorsement from Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Maine Rep. Jared Golden, a 40-year-old former Marine, has proved he's the most independent Democrat in the House — often being the first to step up against his party's liberal agenda. He was the only House Democrat to oppose Biden's $1.9 trillion emergency stimulus bill.
- A major tell of his bipartisan appeal: He won the endorsement of the Maine Fraternal Order of Police — at a time when the party has struggled to win over voters concerned about rising crime.
Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur found herself in the fight of her political life after being drawn into a Trump district by the state's Republican lawmakers.
- But she won re-election by a double-digit margin. Republicans nominated an extreme opponent (J.R. Majewski), who was at the Capitol riot and falsified his military service.
Pennsylvania Rep. Matt Cartwright is the most liberal of the Trump-district Democrats — but has won six terms in his Trump-leaning district centered in Biden's hometown of Scranton.
- With a seat on the Appropriations Committee, he touted his work allocating money to economically struggling northeast Pennsylvania.
3. How Kari Lake lost
Kari Lake, perhaps the most Trumpian candidate running for office this year, narrowly lost her bid for Arizona governor to Democrat Katie Hobbs.
- Exit polls underscore that she lost by failing to focus on the concerns of college-educated white suburbanites — even as the GOP made inroads with the state's Hispanic voters.
By the numbers: Hobbs won 55% of white college-educated voters, according to the AP/NORC exit poll, a strong showing that's even better than Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's impressive 51% performance with the demographic in 2018.
- But among Hispanic voters, Lake made clear gains. Hobbs won Latino voters by 15 points (57% to 42%), a significant drop from Sinema's 38-point margin of victory with Hispanics in 2018.
Independents backed Hobbs over Lake by 30 points, 64% to 34%. Hobbs even won 11% of Republicans.
4. 🍨 First look: NRSC's senior hires
The NRSC, under incoming chairman Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, announced its first wave of senior staff hires, provided exclusively to Axios.
- Jason Thielman will be executive director for the 2024 cycle. He's a veteran Republican operative who has served as Daines' top aide since his first election to the House in 2012.
- Brock Lowrance will be senior adviser to Daines. Lowrance, a Montanan, previously worked at FP1 Strategies.
- Katie Behnke will be finance director. She is a veteran political fundraiser and owner of the Maybell Group. Behnke was also NRSC finance director in 2018.
- Mike Alm will be senior director of digital and marketing. He was EVP at Campaign Solutions, where he provided fundraising and political strategy to Republican congressional candidates.
- Mike Berg will be comms director. He was most recently deputy comms director for the NRCC, and previously was a communications staffer for Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley. Berg worked at the NRSC during the 2018 cycle.
🕶️ What to watch for: After a disappointing cycle for Senate Republicans, Daines has signaled he's going to approach things differently than outgoing NRSC chairman Rick Scott.
- Daines suggests Republicans will engage more actively in Republican primaries than Scott, who took a hands-off approach that led to flawed GOP nominees emerging.
5. 📺 Ad of the week: Warnock's Trump play
Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) is up with a new 30-second ad for his runoff campaign that features footage of former President Trump's endorsement of Republican Herschel Walker at his presidential kickoff announcement.
- "We must all work very hard for a gentleman and a great person named Herschel Walker," Trump says in the Democratic ad. "He was an incredible athlete. He'll be an even better senator."
Why it matters: Democrats are confident they can win the Dec. 6 runoff simply by tying Walker to Trump.
- Trump was a one-man turnout machine for Democrats in last year's runoffs that flipped the state's two GOP-held Senate seats — and gave Democrats control of the upper chamber.
The other side: The McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund went up with its first runoff ad against Warnock this week as part of a $14 million ad blitz.
- The ad spotlights allegations that Warnock's church evicted low-income tenants from church-owned housing.