The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Power Up: Competitive state legislative races gave Biden a boost in 2020, Democratic group finds

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with Tobi Raji

Good Monday morning. Happy (belated) Nowruz and never doubt Sister Jean. This is the Power Up newsletter – thanks for waking up with us. 

🚨: "Oxford University and AstraZeneca reported on Monday that their coronavirus 'vaccine for the world' was safe and 79 percent effective overall, according to data from a long-awaited clinical trial in the United States, alongside other studies in Chile and Peru," The Post's William Booth reports

  • "AstraZeneca announced it will be submitting the full results to the scientific community in a peer-reviewed medical journal, and to the regulators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to seek emergency use authorization 'in the coming weeks.'...The U.S. government has preordered 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine."

The campaign

EXPLORING THE REVERSE COATTAILS EFFECT: In 2020, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee raised $50 million – a record-breaking haul to invest in state legislative races across the country. 

Amy McGrath, meanwhile, spent nearly $91 million over the course of her race that she ultimately lost to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) by 19 points. 

The flood of money spent on a single Senate race compared to the DLCC's overall spending on down-ballot races is a snapshot of the broader issue some party organizers take with the way resources are prioritized – with a heavy focus on the top of the ticket. 

That's one reason why Run for Something, a Democratic organization that supports first-time candidates, is releasing a study later today that shows that having a contested state legislative race made a “detectable difference” for Joe Biden. 

Conducted in partnership with two Democratic analytics firms – Kinetic21 and BlueLabs – Run for Something analyzed 3,953 precincts within 61 counties in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina, New York, Ohio and Texas. The study compared precincts where a Republican was running on the ballot for state House or Senate uncontested with places where both Republicans and Democrats were running. The study found that even if the Democrat didn't win, having a contested state legislative race provided anywhere from a .3 percent to 1.5 percent boost for Biden. 

Run for Something did not analyze whether down-ballot candidates made a difference for other races core to Democrats' new control of Washington, such as Senate or House candidates, though the group has long argued the “trickle up” effect can have an impact in all statewide races. That's been a “counterintuitive” strategy for Democrats, the group's co-founder and executive director Amanda Litman told us, and "one thing the Republican party has done really well.” Litman credited major GOP donors like the Koch Brothers for investing in candidates at a local level across the country. 

  • “By increasing the number of Democrats running down ballot, especially in areas that tend to be uncontested, they can excite voters with local issues and drive up Democratic participation,” Run for Something writes in a copy of the study provided to Power Up.
  • Still, the study is only the tip of the iceberg – and it's unclear if the boost for the presidential race is isolated to 2020: “We were surprised there wasn't more scholarship on this,” a BlueLab analyst told Power Up, who said the issue deserves “further research.”

Run For Something plans to use the research as fodder for its donor pitch: “I think intuitively donors and people understand and believe it – and there's a handful of operatives who think, this feels like it makes sense when you tell me but show me the research,” co-founder Ross Morales Rocketto told us. “Part of what we're trying to to here is demonstrate to the establishment the power of building a grassroots infrastructure.”

Part of the inspiration for research on the reverse coattails effect: Litman recalled questioning the people working on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's 2017 campaign who claimed Northam's victory was a result of his strength as a candidate – dismissing the energizing force of the slate of Democratic candidates who wiped out the Republican majority in the state's House of Delegates. “I understand their defensiveness,” Litman added.

Litman pointed to redistricting and voting rights as reasons why Democrats should have been investing in down-ballot candidates “decades ago."

  • 👀: GOP state legislators have introduced at least 250 laws in the wake of the 2020 election, limiting “mail, early in-person and Election Day voting with such constraints as stricter ID requirements, limited hours or narrower eligibility to vote absentee" in 43 states across the country, our colleagues reported earlier in March. 
  • The outcome of their efforts is dependent on the partisan control of the statehouses. “The same party controls both legislative chambers and the governorship in 38 states — 23 of them Republican and 15 of them Democratic. Many of the most restrictive proposals have surfaced in states where the GOP has a total hold on power, including Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, Missouri and Florida,” Amy Gardner, Kate Rabinowitz, and Harry Stevens report. 
  • Some GOP controlled legislatures also have “near total” control over redistricting efforts in important battlegrounds like North Carolina, Florida and Texas, the Associated Press's Nicholas Riccardi reported last week. That could result in more conservative voters being carved into Democratic districts.  
  • "Republicans are at the end of their 40-year plan to hold permanent party power and Democrats are on year five,” Litman said. 

The policies

MAYORKAS TELLS MIGRANTS ‘DO NOT COME’: “Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended President Biden’s immigration strategy and emphasized in multiple interviews Sunday that the southern border of the United States ‘is closed,’” our colleague Amy B Wang reports.

  • “The border is closed. We are expelling families. We are expelling single adults,” Mayorkas said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “We strongly urge, and the message is clear, not to do so now.”
  • “But the message from the administration has been conflicting, particularly Mayorkas’s message that asylum seekers should not come ‘now’ while other members of the administration have said they should not come, period,” per our colleague. 

Everyone’s pointing fingers. In a statement released Sunday, former president Donald Trump slammed Biden’s immigration policies. “All they had to do was keep this smooth-running system on autopilot. Instead, in the span of a just few weeks, the Biden administration has turned a national triumph into a national disaster.” 

  • But “Mayorkas blames Trump for dismantling processes like the Central American Minors program, which laid out an ‘orderly, human and efficient way of allowing children to make their claims under United States law in their home countries,’” per Wang.
  • Democrats blame him, too. “This is a result of four years of failed policies, inhumane policies and a systematic dismantling of the asylum system by Trump,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday.

Meanwhile, is a border trip in Biden’s future? Maybe.

On the Hill

HAPPENING THIS WEEK:With the confirmation of Marty Walsh to be Labor Secretary late Monday... the Senate Democratic majority will have confirmed all 15 of President Biden’s cabinet secretaries faster than the previous two administrations – and it was accomplished under extraordinary circumstances,” a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Power Up. 

  • Also happening: “Democrats are looking to pass the House-passed [Paycheck Protection Program] legislation (two month extension of program) this week ahead of the March 31st expiration of the program. Schumer filed cloture on this legislation, which passed the House 415-3 last week. Approving the legislation will require agreement from Senate Republicans,” per Schumer's spokesperson.
  • Finally, “Leader Schumer’s newly appointed Senate Sergeant at Arms Leadership team starts on Monday. This will be the first time since the office was created in 1789 that the SAA leadership team will be comprised entirely of women.” 

FROM THE ASHES: “After years of outcry about corruption and wasteful spending, Congress took a major step a decade ago by banning earmarks — special budget items that allow members to funnel money to projects in their districts,” our colleagues Paul Kane, Marianna Sotomayor and Tony Romm report. “But now earmarks are back.”

  • “The House Appropriations Committee will begin accepting requests at the end of this month, with members having to publicly declare they have no financial interest and that local officials support the project. Democrats have limited earmarks to just 1 percent of overall funds, which would have been about $14 billion out of the more than $1.4 trillion allocated to federal agencies for this year.”

THE NEXT BIG BILL: “Less than two weeks after Biden signed into law one of Congress’s most expansive measures in decades, House Democratic leaders are already dreaming bigger,” Politico’s Sarah Ferris reports.

  • “With most items on their agenda hobbled by the Senate filibuster, top House Democrats are eyeing ways to muscle through drug pricing and climate policy goals using the same arcane budget process that let the party bypass GOP votes for its pandemic aid bill. Sweeping immigration bills are also on the wishlist.”
  • “The stakes are high for their second and final reconciliation package of the year. Most Democrats believe they won’t get another shot at using the budget tool before the midterms next fall. Meanwhile, GOP leaders are already predicting they will recapture the House next year.”

Happening today: 

The people

🚨CAPITOL RIOT PROSECUTOR COMMENTS ON TRUMP: In his first television interview about the Capitol riot, Prosecutor Michael Sherwin told 60 Minutes's Scott Pelley that it’s “unequivocal that Trump was the magnet that brought the people to D.C. on the 6th.”

  • “Now the question is, is he criminally culpable for everything that happened during the siege, during the breach? … Maybe the president is culpable.”

TRUMPTOK? INSTATRUMP?: Trump adviser and spokesman Jason Miller told Fox News’s “MediaBuzz” on Sunday that the former president will “return to social media in about two or three months with his own platform.”

  • Miller also teased a “big” endorsement happening today. "Pay attention to Georgia. There’s a big endorsement that's coming that’s going to really shake things up in the political landscape. It’s big, it’s coming tomorrow, and just be sure to tune in,” Fox News’s Ronn Blitzer reports
  • Hint: “Trump is expected to endorse Rep. Jody Hice in a campaign to unseat Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in next year’s Republican primary,” Politico’s Alex Isenstadt and Zach Montellaro report.
  • Trump is also “trying to recruit a primary opponent to GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, whom Trump has accused of doing too little to intervene in the state’s vote count.”

TOM REED APOLOGIZES FOR SEXUAL MISCONDUCT: “Two days after a former lobbyist accused him of sexual misconduct, Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) on Sunday publicly apologized, vowed not to seek reelection and abandoned a possible run against New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo,” our colleague Beth Reinhard reports.

  • Nicolette Davis, a former lobbyist for Aflac insurance, told our colleague that Reed rubbed her back and unhooked her bra at an Irish pub in Minneapolis.
  • “Even though I am only hearing of this matter as stated by Ms. Davis in the article now, I hear her voice and will not dismiss her,” Reed said in a statement. “In reflection, my personal depiction of this event is irrelevant. Simply put, my behavior caused her pain, showed her disrespect and was unprofessional. I was wrong, I am sorry, and I take full responsibility.”

At the Pentagon

PENTAGON CHIEF TAKES UNANNOUNCED TRIP TO AFGHANISTAN: “Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin touched down in Afghanistan on Sunday, making an unannounced visit as the Biden administration wrestles with how to end its role in a war that is nearly 20 years old without allowing security to disintegrate,” our colleague Dan Lamothe reports

  • “The trip marks the first visit by the new administration to Afghanistan and comes ahead of a May 1 deadline to remove all U.S. troops that was set in an agreement signed with the Taliban last year. About 2,500 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, with several hundred more deployed on a short-term basis.”
  • Happening today: “Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Brussels for meetings with allies from North Atlantic Treaty Organization, countries who have backed the U.S. in the 20-year war,” the Wall Street Journal’s Nancy A. Youssef reports.

At the White House

BIDEN, BIG TECH AND DISCLOSURES: “Several members of Biden’s White House staff have ties to companies with major stakes in the administration’s positions on cybersecurity, antitrust and other policy areas,” the Wall Street Journal's Chad Day reports. “The ties pose an early test of how the Biden administration is interpreting its ethics pledge.”

  • “The disclosures detail staff members’s and their spouses’s assets, stock portfolios, income, nongovernmental positions and debts for 2020 through when they joined government service this year.”
  • For example, national security adviser Jake Sullivan holds between $50,000 and $100,000 of stock in both Microsoft and in Google’s parent, Alphabet Inc. He also owns between $15,000 and $50,000 of Facebook stock.”

Outside the Beltway

REMEMBERING THE EIGHT: “In three deadly shootings Tuesday at Atlanta-area spas, eight people lost their lives, leaving behind family members — one an infant daughter — and friends, including longtime customers,” our Post colleagues report.

  • Xiaojie Tan, 49
  • Delaina Yaun, 33
  • Paul Andre Michels, 54
  • Daoyou Feng, 44
  • Yong Ae Yue, 63
  • Hyun Jung Grant, 51
  • Soon Chung Park, 74
  • Suncha Kim, 69