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Wake Up To Politics - November 10, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Senate Republicans have a recruitment problem
Wake Up To Politics - November 10, 2021

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, November 10, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 363 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,091 days away.

Senate Republicans have a recuritment problem

Between redistricting and historical trends, Republicans are well-positioned to retake the House majority in the midterm elections, now less than a year away.

But the Senate is a different story: elections in the upper chamber have not historically been as punishing for the president’s party during midterms, and unlike in the House, it is the Democrats who will benefit from a somewhat favorable map next year.

Republicans also received another blow to their Senate hopes on Tuesday, when Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH) announced he had decided against challenging Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) next year. Sununu was seen as the top GOP recruit for the seat and had been heavily courted by Senate Republicans; even in light-blue New Hampshire, he had led every public poll that pitted him against Hassan all year.

Sununu did not mince words in his announcement, which reportedly blindsided Senate GOP leaders. “I’d rather push myself 120 miles an hour delivering wins for New Hampshire than to slow down, end up on Capitol Hill, debating partisan politics without results,” he said, adding that “nothing gets done” in the Senate except “debate and talk.”

Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH) dealt Senate Republicans a blow on Tuesday. (Lance Cheung / Department of Agriculture)

Other New Hampshire Republicans quickly followed in pulling themselves out of contention for the Senate seat, including former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), who lost to Hassan by only 0.14% in 2016, and former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who ran for Senate in the Granite State in 2014.

Although other candidates may jump into the race, Tuesday’s news leaves Republicans — at least for now — with just one major candidate for the seat: retired Army brigadier general Donald Bolduc, a fierce Trump ally who has championed the former president’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

This is a dynamic that’s being repeated across the Senate map. Seeing little appeal in joining the increasingly polarized partisan fray in Washington, moderate Republicans are sitting out Senate races — leaving primary fields wide open for Trump-friendly candidates.

Some of these Trump-allied candidates are starting to worry Senate GOP leaders, who fear they may compromise otherwise winnable races. As I mentioned last week, no less than three of these Republican Senate candidates — Herschel Walker in Georgia, Sean Parnell in Pennsylvania, and Eric Greitens in Missouri — face allegations of sexual assault or domestic abuse. (Walker and Parnell have been endorsed by Trump; Greitens has not, but is widely supported within Trumpworld.)

The problems surrounding Parnell have started to get so bad — he’s currently embroiled in a contentious custody trial, in which his estranged wife has accused him of abusing her and their children — that Republicans have started looking elsewhere. According to the Washington Free Beacon, television’s Dr. Oz is even considering jumping in the race.

Republicans are recruiting Gov. Doug Ducey to run for Senate in Arizona. (Gage Skidmore)

With both parties competing for control of a 50-50 Senate, neither has any room for error. So Republicans can little afford to have candidates like Sununu pulling out, and candidates like Bolduc (or Parnell, or Walker, or Greitens) popping up in their place.

“Arguably, Republicans lost five seats between 2010 and 2012 because of bad general election candidates,” GOP operative Brian Walsh told NBC News, recalling failed candidates like Todd Akin, Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, and Richard Murdock. “I’m not saying that's necessarily going to happen here. We don’t know that yet. But broadly, candidates matter.”

And control of the Senate is no small thing: there’s a non-zero chance that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will step down during the next Congress. A Democratic or Republican Senate could be the difference between the seat being filled by President Joe Biden or it being held open until 2025.

There are a few potential GOP Senate candidates to watch next. Republicans are trying to recruit a few other blue or purple state governors in Sununu’s mold, including Doug Ducey in Arizona, Larry Hogan in Maryland, and Phil Scott in Vermont.

Keep an eye on that trio to see if any jump into their Senate races and try to rescue the GOP hopes of claiming the majority — or if they decide, as Sununu effectively said on Tuesday, that a move to Washington would just be a waste of their time.

What else you should know

→ January 6 investigation. A federal judge ruled that the House select committee investigating January 6 can have access to hundreds of pages of documents it is seeking from the Trump administration. “Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President,” Judge Tanya Chutkan said in shooting down an attempt by former President Donald Trump to shield the documents. Trump has promised to appeal the decision.

Meanwhile, the January 6 panel issued 10 more subpoenas on Tuesday, on top of six that were issued on Monday. The latest subpoenas targeted Trump aides including former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and former White House senior adviser Stephen Miller.

→ More from the Trump era. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel released a report finding that 13 Trump administration officials violated the Hatch Act — which prohibits government employees from engaging in political activity — during the 2020 election. The officials included former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and McEnany. None are expected to face any punishments since they have left office.

Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was hit with a congressional subpoena and a Hatch Act violation on Tuesday. (Gage Skidmore)

→ Biden’s agenda. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in Glasgow on Tuesday that she plans to hold a vote on President Biden’s $1.75 trillion spending package next week. But moderate Democrats have threatened to oppose the legislation until the Congressional Budget Office “scores” its budgetary impact, and the CBO issued a statement Tuesday signaling that the scoring process could take quite some time.

→ RIP. Max Cleland, who served as a U.S. senator from Georgia from 1997 to 2003, died on Tuesday at age 79. Cleland also led Veterans Affairs during the Carter administration and lost both legs and an arm while serving in Vietnam, which left him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. “He was a man of unflinching patriotism, boundless courage, and rare character,” President Biden, his former Senate colleague, said in a statement.


All times Eastern.
— President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 9 a.m. and meet with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at 10 a.m. Biden will then travel to Milford, Delaware, to attend the funeral of former Gov. Ruth Ann Minner (D-DE), who passed away last week at age 86. He will depart for Milford at 11:40 a.m., arrive at 12:25 p.m., and attend the funeral at 1 p.m.

At 2:20 p.m., Biden will travel from Milford to Baltimore, Maryland, arriving at 3:15 p.m. Once there, he will receive a briefing at the Port of Baltimore at 3:40 p.m. and deliver remarks at 4:10 p.m. on how the bipartisan infrastructure package will boost funding for the nation’s ports and help prevent disruptions to supply chains. The president will depart Baltimore at 5:40 p.m. and return to the White House at 6 p.m.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff are in Paris, France. At 7:40 a.m., they participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial. At 10 a.m., Emhoff will meet with U.S. embassy staff and their families. At 12:20 p.m., Harris will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron.

First Lady Jill Biden will host an event at 11:30 a.m. to honor children in military and veteran caregiving families. It will be the first in-person event held at the White House for the “Joining Forces” initiative during the Biden administration; the first lady co-founded the initiative, which aims to support military families, with then-First Lady Michelle Obama during the Obama era and revived it earlier this year.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Event, Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough, and former Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) will also attend the event.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki does not have a press briefing scheduled today, nor do any of her deputies.

— U.S. public health officials will hold a press briefing at 11 a.m. on the COVID-19 response. Participants will include Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director; Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the president; Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a senior adviser to the White House COVID-19 response team.

— The House and Senate are on recess until November 15.

COURTS — The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments at 10 a.m. in Austin v. Reagan National Advertising, a lawsuit challenging the city code of Austin, Texas, which prohibits businesses from having digitized billboards away from the premises of their company, under the First Amendment.