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Axios Sneak Peek

Welcome back to Sneak. A departing justice gave a civics lesson.

Smart Brevity™ count: 1,096 words ... 4 minutes. Edited by Glen Johnson.

1 big thing: Dems stiff Biden

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Democrats in swing states and vulnerable districts in this year's pivotal midterms are distancing themselves from President Biden on social media as his poll numbers hit their lowest point, Axios' Sarah Mucha reports.

Why it matters: The digital distance is one sign of the concern candidates feel about a person they'd normally embrace. Incumbent presidents — including one who believes he needs to come to their hometowns to sell his message — would normally be political gold for candidates from the same party.

Details: Swing-state Senate candidates like Abby Finkenauer in Iowa, Val Demings in Florida and Cheri Beasley in North Carolina, who might face tough general election races if they win their primaries, have avoided tweeting about Biden.

  • Operatives told Axios that while candidates like these won't completely shy away from the president, they won't be engaging on social media to thank him for passing legislation, for example.
  • They want to develop a brand distinct from Biden and the national Democratic Party.

Many Democrats in front-line districts have also stopped mentioning the president on their campaign accounts since Sept. 1, per data compiled by Quorum and reviewed by Axios.

  • That was a day after the administration completed its chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
  • Reps. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), Jared Golden (D-Maine), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) and Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) were among the front-line members who haven't mentioned "Biden" or "@POTUS" on their campaign accounts since Sept. 1.
  • Reps. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) and Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.) have mentioned Biden’s name but only in the context of urging him to act on specific issue matters.

Keep reading.

2. Clyburn's Southern case

Judge J. Michelle Childs. Photo: Courtesy of United States District Court of South Carolina

If helping Joe Biden become president isn't reason enough, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) has a strong reason for his favored Supreme Court choice: J. Michelle Childs is a Southerner — a rare perspective in the chamber.

Why it matters: Ketanji Brown Jackson has emerged as an early front-runner to replace Justice Stephen Breyer. The president has committed to putting a Black woman on the high court, and Jackson was recently vetted and approved by the Senate. Childs, though, is from Clyburn's home state of South Carolina, Axios' Alexi McCammond notes.

  • "The vast majority of African American women in this country have their roots in the South," Clyburn told Lexi today. "What [Childs] brings to the judiciary and would bring to the Supreme Court is the kind of background that would add significantly."
  • "She will demonstrate who and what Southerners are all about," he added.

Raw politics also may help: Childs hails from a state with two Republican senators, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott.

  • While they're not usually ones to help Democrats, Graham would introduce any Supreme Court nominee from South Carolina as the state's senior senator, and Scott is the Senate's only Black Republican member.

Several high-profile cases the Supreme Court is set to consider this year also originated from Southern states, advocates note.

  • A decision on Mississippi's abortion restrictions will be made in June.
  • The University of North Carolina is involved in the affirmative action case.
  • The court has two immigration cases on the docket for this year.
  • Childs' Southern life experience was "the most important issue in all of this," Clyburn told Axios.

Keep reading.

3. Hungary's quiet Democratic lobby

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Hungarian government — known for its links to the Trump administration and conservative supporters — is quietly working with a powerhouse public affairs shop stacked with Democratic talent, Axios' Lachlan Markay has learned.

Why it matters: The deal shows Hungary is trying to build inroads among a party wary of its right-wing leader, Viktor Orban. But the outreach has gone largely unnoticed due to previously unreported ties between the firm representing Budapest and its connection to a new lobbying and PR shop called Actum.

  • Actum boasts executives from both parties but its roster leans heavily Democratic.
  • Its ranks include former Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
  • On Thursday, the firm also announced it's brought on Mick Mulvaney, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina and Donald Trump's ex-chief of staff.

What's happening: In November, the Hungarian embassy inked the deal with an obscure Delaware company called IGG, LLC.

  • The deal with Hungary came as Orban's government mounted a far more visible influence campaign aimed at U.S. conservatives.
  • Buried in Foreign Agents Registration Act paperwork is a line noting IGG, LLC is wholly owned by Actum. It was formed late last year by executives who defected from a K Street mainstay, Mercury Public Affairs.
  • Two Actum partners are working on the Hungary account: former British diplomat George Tucker and Duncan McFetridge, a former aide to California assemblyman Jack Scott and state treasurer Phil Angelides — both Democrats.
  • Hungary agreed to pay IGG $9,500 per month for marketing and communications services, and $235,000 per month for "legal strategy consulting."

Keep reading.

4. Court vacancy ignites abortion debate

Abortion rights supporters in front of the Supreme Court on Jan. 22, the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The coming push to confirm a new Supreme Court justice is giving fresh energy to Democrats, who'd already seized on the threat of diminished abortion access to drive midterm voter turnout in swing states, Axios' Sophia Cai writes.

Why it matters: After decades of being a motivator for Republican voters, efforts to limit abortion are a potential liability for GOP candidates.

  • If the Supreme Court votes to overturn Roe v. Wade, they’ll be under tremendous pressure to defend the most extreme position — the complete illegality of abortion — which polls show is broadly unpopular.

Democratic candidates in states like Nevada, Arizona and Wisconsin are expecting abortion to motivate base voters and move suburban women away from Republicans — especially if the Supreme Court upholds Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban before it breaks for its summer recess.

  • “In Wisconsin, we have started to see energy around this issue in places that you don't see organizing around issues like that,” state treasurer Sarah Godlewski told Axios. Godlewski is among a slew of Democrats running for the seat of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).
  • "These first-time organizers are worried they would have to go to places like Minnesota to get health care," Godlewski said.
  • A 172-year-old Wisconsin state law making providing an abortion a felony could go back into effect if Roe is overturned.
  • Incumbent Democrats like Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) have all been vocal on the issue amid their re-election prep.

Keep reading.

5. Pic du jour

Photo: Orlando Sierra/AFP via Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris was up and out of Washington before dawn to attend the inauguration of the new president of Honduras, Xiomara Castro.

  • Castro is the first woman to serve as president of the Central American nation.

🥂 Thanks for reading this week! We'll be back Sunday evening. A reminder your family, friends and colleagues can subscribe to Sneak or any of Axios’ other free local and national newsletters through this link.