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The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

House Republicans move aggressively in New England

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

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In today's edition …  The state legislatures that could flip in November … What you need to know from Biden's CNN interviewWhat we're watching: Biden heads to Colorado to give Sen. Michael F. Bennet a helping hand … but first …

The Campaign

Republicans see New England as a viable road to the House majority

House Republicans are eyeing New England as a path to the majority, working to pick up seats in a region that has been mostly inhospitable to the GOP at the federal level since the Democratic wave election in 2006.

Allan Fung, who is running in an open seat in deep-blue Rhode Island, is one of a handful of Republican House candidates in New England — including in Maine, New Hampshire and Connecticut — who are running competitive races. Victory in any of these races would mark a shift: there are no New England Republicans in the House, and Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) is the only Republican senator from the region

Republicans say strong candidates and a “perfect storm” of issues that include the high cost of energy and food as well as the rise of fentanyl in New England communities, which GOP candidates argue is arriving up north due to a lack of security at the southern border, is boosting their chances.

  • “I guess, a perfect storm would be too easy of an analogy, but the issue environment is perfect for a Republican,” said Dave Carney, New Hampshire Republican political strategist.

Republicans have also made the case that  abortion, an issue that has bolstered Democrats' hopes of retaining the House after Roe v. Wade was overturned, does not resonate with voters in New England as much as in other parts of the country because it’s unlikely theses states will enact laws restricting access to abortion.

Democratic territory

No House Republican has represented New England since former Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine) — who is running this year against Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) to reclaim his seat — lost reelection in 2018. But it's been much longer since Republicans had a strong congressional presence in the region.

Republicans held nearly half of New England’s Senate seats and a quarter of the House seats until the 2006 Democratic wave election, when the GOP lost the House. Four of the 30 House seats Republicans lost that year were in New England, leaving a lone House Republican survivor.

Democrats argue the New England Republicans, regardless of how moderate they are positioning themselves, will have difficulty distancing themselves from the extreme elements of the party that dominate today’s GOP.

In addition to Rhode Island, Republicans are targeting two districts in New Hampshire and one in Connecticut that Biden carried in 2020, as well as Golden's seat in Maine, which former president Donald Trump carried twice.

Connecticut's 5th District

George Logan, a former Republican state senator, is trying to beat Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes in a seat formerly held by Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who flipped the seat blue in 2006.

“Waterbury, Danbury, Torrington, these cities used to be pretty reliably Democratic,” Murphy said in an interview. “But as factories closed and the union families disappeared, they began to vote more Republican.”

Logan is positioning himself as a moderate, leaning into “sensible leadership.” But he's lagged in fundraising, raising a fraction of Hayes' haul, although his most recent fundraising totals for the third quarter haven’t been released.

  • Signifying the importance of the race for Republicans, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), the GOP conference chair, has prioritized making Republican inroads in the northeast. She held a fundraiser for Logan Tuesday night.

“Republicans are absolutely going to dominate the Northeast as single-party Democratic rule has delivered inflation, skyrocketing energy and home heating bills and a significant crime crisis. House Republicans are on pace to pick up seats throughout the northeast,” Stefanik told The Post in a statement.

Barbara Ellis, Hayes's campaign manager, said Logan’s reliance on the national party in the final weeks is proof he’s no moderate.

“The GOP knows that if they win these purple districts in New England, they will have a pathway to a majority so they can implement the MAGA agenda and [House Leader] Kevin McCarthy's Commitment to America,” she said. “Simply, winning a few seats will allow them to turn back the clock.”

New Hampshire's 1st District

Karoline Leavitt, a Stefanik protege and former Trump press aide, is running competitively against Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.). She doesn’t fit the mold of a moderate New England Republican and is highlighting culture war issues alongside an emphasis on the economy.

  • Pappas, elected in 2018, points out that his district often flips between the parties and that he could be the first person to win a third term in the state since former Republican Rep. John E. Sununu won reelection in 2000.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Democrats' flagship super PAC together have booked more than $19 million in TV ads in New England, while the National Republican Congressional Committee and House Republicans' lead super PAC have booked more than $23 million, according to the super PACs and people familiar with the committees' spending. Congressional Leadership Fund, the Republican super PAC, added $1 million to its TV ad reservations in Rhode Island on Tuesday.

Such ad reservations are subject to change in the final weeks of the campaign, and they don't include ad buys coordinated with the campaigns or the ads the candidates are running themselves.

Maine's 2nd District

One of the critical issues Republicans think will work in their favor in the region is the high cost of home heating oil, which is a topic on the campaign trail.

“I’m not sure how folks are going to get through the winter,” Poliquin said at a recent campaign even in Lewiston.

“Democrats have a natural advantage” in New England, said Scott Brown, a Republican who won the race in 2010 to fill the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts, only to the lose reelection two years later. “However, I think that this year is a very special year because this administration has done so poorly.”

Leigh Ann and Theo go deeper on the battle for New England here.

In the states

Forget Congress for a minute — Democrats and Republicans are fighting for control of key state legislatures

The 2022 midterm elections are officially less than one month away and efforts to shore up or flip majorities in state legislatures have kicked into high gear across the country. States are often where national political and policy trends bubble up and control of these bodies is particularly important now that the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade has left the issue of access to abortion up to state governments.

“Our main goal this cycle will still be to defend our majorities,” Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) president Dee Duncan said in a statement. “The current political environment also puts certain chambers in play that were out of reach at the beginning of the cycle and presents us with numerous opportunities to make meaningful gains in liberal strongholds across the country.”

Here are the state legislatures we’re watching:

Arizona: Republicans are looking to defend their majorities in both chambers this election year. The GOP has a 31-28 majority in the House (with one vacancy) and a 16-14 majority in the Senate. But Democrats see an opening following the fall of Roe and the emergence of election deniers running for office in the state.

  • “This is a year where Republicans should be on offense, and instead due to the candidates that they have elected in their primaries and their extreme opinions on abortion, they’re playing a lot of defense and it could be a good night for Democrats,” Adam Kinsey, whose media firm works with Democratic campaigns and progressive political organizations, told Tobi.
  • Kinsey predicts Arizona Democrats will “split the Senate 15-15” and “win the House back by one seat.”

Maine: The RSLC sees a chance for a legislative takeover in Maine and launched several ads targeting voters who may regret voting for President Biden. “The economy is the issue that will decide the battle for state legislatures in November,” RSLC communications director Andrew Romeo said. Voters “will support state Republicans who continue to serve as a counterweight to Biden’s economic destruction.”

Michigan: Republicans are also defending their majorities in Michigan. But after Michigan voters passed ballot initiatives requiring an independent redistricting commission to draw new maps, Democrats believe they have a shot at flipping one or both chambers.

  • “I think it’s a jump ball,” Joe DiSano, a Democratic political consultant, said. “I think it’s trending towards Democrats unless the Republican nominee for governor can start to solidify her base and bring the party together because her weakness at the top of the ticket is definitely reaching down into these races.”
  • DiSano predicts that “Democrats are going to do exceedingly well in a midterm election year where they should be getting trounced.”

Nevada: Democrats are on the defensive in Nevada, with some worried that Hispanic voters could sit out the election. The RSLC identified the state as an opportunity, but state Democrats are working hard to ensure that doesn't happen.

  • “This cycle we were very clear — and remain clear — that our top priority is to defend democratic legislatures,” Christina Polizzi, communications director at the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said. “We were very clear eyed about the reality of what the first midterm under a Democratic president means for the president’s party. And so as a result, we wanted to make sure that we were shoring up our majorities that may that may be vulnerable to Republican spending and Republican targeting.”
  • “The reality is Republicans have more money on their side for this fight,” she added. “They are on the wrong side of many, many, many issues that matter to voters. But the reality is they still have an upper hand in state legislative races.”

At the White House

Biden says Putin ‘miscalculated significantly’ on Ukraine

Tuesday night lights: Biden sat down with CNN’s Jake Tapper for a wide-ranging interview about the war in Ukraine, the possibility of a recession and a potential rematch with Trump. Here are the highlights:

  • On Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine: “I think he is a rational actor who has miscalculated significantly,” Biden told Tapper. “I think the speech, his objectives were not rational. I think he thought, Jake, I think he thought he was going to be welcomed with open arms, that this was the home of Mother Russia in Kyiv, and that where he was going to be welcomed, and I think he just totally miscalculated,” Biden said.
  • On the economy: “I don’t think there will be a recession,” Biden said. “If it is, it will be a very slight recession. That is we’ll move down slightly.”
  • On possible criminal charges against Hunter Biden for lying on gun-purchase application: “This thing about a gun — I didn’t know anything about it. But turns out that when he made application to purchase a gun, what happened was he — I guess you get asked — I don’t guess, you get asked a question, are you on drugs, or do use drugs?’ He said no. And he wrote about saying no in his book,” Biden said.
  • On a rematch with Trump: When asked whether his decision to run again is because he thinks he’s the only one who can beat the former president, Biden, who told Tapper earlier that he’d make a decision after the midterms, said: “I believe I can beat Donald Trump again.”

What we're watching

Biden is heading to Colorado, where he'll appear with Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) — who's facing a competitive reelection race — and designate a new national monument. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for two cases today, one about the “fair use” doctrine in copyright law and another about employment law.

The Media

Early reeeads


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