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In today's edition … The latest on House leadership races … Biden, turning 80, faces renewed age questions as he weighs reelection, Toluse Olorunnipa and Yasmeen Abutaleb report … What we're watching: Biden's speech at COP27 … but first …
Emmer: House Republicans should be happy to be in the majority
Eight questions for … Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.): We chatted with Emmer, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, about Republicans’ smaller-than-expected gains in the House, why the party overperformed in New York, and what effect Donald Trump had on the midterms. This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
The Early: What should Republicans take away from the results in the House?
Emmer: They won a majority. That's what we set out to do four years ago. It's only happened three times now in the last 68 years. They should be extremely happy. They won the majority and we get to be the check on the Biden administration for the next two years.
The Early: What is your best estimate of how many House seats Republicans will end up with?
Emmer: I'm back to where I was for two years: We’ll be in the majority. We’ll wait and see when these votes are counted. We will be the majority, though.
The Early: House Democrats have said they see a small chance that they could hang on to their majority if everything breaks their way. Do you see any possibility that could happen?
Emmer: We will be in the majority. They're kidding themselves.
The Early: Republicans will pick up at least four House seats in New York. Why do you think Republicans did so much better there than in many other states?
Emmer: We had great candidates. We had the right message. And [Republican Rep.] Lee Zeldin's performance [in the race against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul] certainly didn't hurt.
The Early: Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, lost a seat that Biden carried by 10 points. Democrats lost an open seat on Long Island that Biden won by almost 15 points. Why were Republicans able to win these seats but not seats in other states that Biden carried by those margins?
Emmer: Actually, I think you're gonna find out that there are other seats in the country that are similar. But I would say it's local issues for those, plain and simple. The right candidates and local issues. And by the way, it wasn't just members of Congress. [Republicans also] picked up [state] Assembly seats. This was all the way through the political layers.
The Early: House Democrats did especially well in Michigan, where an abortion measure was on the ballot. And Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids was reelected in Kansas, where voters recently defeated a constitutional amendment that would’ve removed protections for abortion rights. What role do you think abortion played in limiting Republicans gains?
Emmer: As far as priorities, everything since Labor Day was very clear. It's about double-digit inflation, the cost of living. It's about crime. It's about the southern border. And then local issues: [in] a lot of these races, education was a big deal. We'll have to wait until the dust settles to be able to dig into the data and answer that question.
The Early: Republicans benefited from new maps in Florida, Tennessee and Georgia and elsewhere. But Democrats also picked up seats in states with newly redrawn districts like Ohio, where Republican Rep. Steve Chabot lost. Did redistricting help or hurt Republicans?
Emmer: Well, again, I think you gotta wait ‘till the dust settles. But right now, it looks like [House] Republicans won the popular vote across the country, and that didn't translate into the same result in terms of [seats]. We'll have to see. I can't answer that question completely until we see all the data after it's all counted.
The Early: Dave Urban, who worked on Trump's 2016 and 2020 campaigns, blamed Trump on Wednesday for Republicans underperforming. “Republicans have followed Donald Trump off the side of a cliff,” he told the New York Times. Do you think there’s any truth in that?
Emmer: Donald Trump was a great ally of ours. He helped us with our fundraising, he helped with different candidates and we won a majority.
On the Hill
Congressional leadership races tumult
House Republicans are moving forward with their leadership races Tuesday even if all House races and control of the House are not settled. (Democrats still have a slim chance of holding on to the House.)
Here’s a quick update:
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is frantically trying to shore up votes to be speaker after some members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus refused to support him following a disappointing election.
- Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said that McCarthy “is not his first choice.” Gaetz has long disliked McCarthy and was never expected to vote for him for speaker, but Gaetz’s opposition might matter if Republicans win the House by only a few votes and McCarthy doesn’t have room to lose support.
- Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) was more explicit, noting that McCarthy “has done nothing to earn” his vote over the past two years as minority leader, which is why he’s calling for a challenger ahead of the Jan. 3 floor vote.
McCarthy has spent his days calling members to secure their support. His allies said they are confident he will garner the 218 votes and no one else can come close. They also are betting that members’ moods will improve when it becomes clear that Republicans won the House.
The question is what concessions McCarthy will make to appease his critics. Read more about McCarthy’s challenges here.
That’s the not the only race up in the air.
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) is expected to easily be elected easily to the party’s No. 2 slot — House majority leader if Republicans win the majority.
But the race for majority whip is now in high gear.
Emmer and Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) are all running for what is sure to be the hardest job in Congress if Republicans win only a bare majority. Banks and Emmer released their platform documents on Thursday on how they’d run their whip operation, and Ferguson wrote a letter to his colleagues outlining his qualifications.
On the Democratic side, everything is relatively frozen until control of the House is clear and Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces whether she’ll step down. Democrats have more time than Republicans. Their leadership elections aren’t scheduled until Nov. 30.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) has been speaking with members about running for Democratic leader. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) is considering a run too, but is waiting on Pelosi to make a determination.
Reps. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) are considering leadership runs. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the majority whip, who have been in leadership with Pelosi since 2006, and have not announced their intentions.
Three Democrats have announced a bid for leadership, however. Reps. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) and Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) are running for caucus vice chair, and Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) is running for caucus chair, the position currently held by Jeffries.
Big thanks to The Post’s Marianna Sotomayor for her reporting.
📣 PROGRAMMING NOTE: Join Washington Post Live on Tuesday for the Global Women’s Summit. Register here to hear from guests including Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and many others. Leigh Ann will be a part of a panel with colleagues Ashley Parker and Jacqueline Alemany about the midterms and the new balance of power in Washington.
At the White House
Biden, turning 80, faces renewed age questions as he weighs reelection
Is age really just a number? “As President Biden careened between economic and global crises last year, his aides began to grapple privately with a more personal issue,” our colleagues Toluse Olorunnipa and Yasmeen Abutaleb report. “In internal polls, voters kept bringing up a specific concern: the president’s age. And word clouds created by outside pollsters were showing terms like ‘age’ and ‘Is he with it?’ in large letters, an indication that such worries were among the most commonly voiced by Americans.”
- “Questions about Biden’s physical and mental fitness have hung over him since he began his presidential run in 2019 and have persisted throughout the first two years of his term. But as Biden prepares to turn 80 on Nov. 20 — potentially announcing a reelection bid shortly thereafter — the United States is entering unmapped territory: an octogenarian in the Oval Office.”
- “If Biden runs for and wins a second term, he would be 82 years old at his inauguration in 2025 and 86 at the end of a second term … That has left White House officials searching urgently, if quietly, for the best ways to fend off attacks and neutralize the age issue in voters’ minds,” people inside and outside the White House told our colleagues.
- “The nascent White House strategy includes showcasing Biden’s ability to be quick on his feet when interacting with voters; increasing his travel to demonstrate his vigor; and pointing to his accomplishments as evidence he can do the job. Some allies are pushing the White House to do more, like showing video of Biden running meetings behind the scenes, where they say his sharpness is more apparent.”
What we're watching
Biden arrives this morning in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where he’ll meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi and speak at the United Nations’ climate change conference.
- Deets about the speech: Buoyed by Democrats’ performance in Tuesday’s midterm elections, Biden is expected to tout the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act — the largest investment ever made to tackle climate change — and remind countries of their commitment to the 2015 Paris climate accord.
- But questions remain about the path forward for climate legislation under a divided government. If Republicans take control of the House and/or Senate, they could block Biden from delivering further on U.S. climate change commitments.
Biden won’t be in Egypt long. He heads to Cambodia later today for an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit. We’ll be watching his meetings on Sunday with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, with whom he’s expected to discuss the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
- Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan is on ice. Here’s what you should know. By Danielle Douglas-Gabriel.
- Once sprawling, congressional battle maps are shrinking to key races. By Paul Kane.
- In battle for the Senate, the focus is on three states. By Colby Itkowitz, Hannah Knowles, Sabrina Rodriguez, Liz Goodwin and Robert Klemko.
- Racism led to lower benefits for Black veterans, studies find. By Joe Davidson.
- After a string of losses, Justice Dept. notches antitrust victories. By Perry Stein.
- For next IRS chief, Biden to nominate Daniel Werfel. By Jeff Stein and Tony Romm.
- After prices rise less than expected, markets soar on hopes of lower inflation. By Rachel Siegel.
- Noose found at Obama Presidential Center construction site in Chicago. By Kelly Kasulis Cho.
- Local read: The Commanders’ biggest threat, as always, is coming from inside the house. By Barry Svrluga.
- World read: The twilight of Africa’s glaciers. By Rachel Chason and Adrienne Surprenant.
From across the web:
- Why Some States Went in Different Directions in Midterms. By the New York Times's Nate Cohn.
- The path to 218: Why Democrats aren’t out of the race for the House yet. By Politico's Steven Shepard.
- How Zeldin’s loss is making New York’s Republican party ambitious again. By the Intelligencer’s David Freedlander.
- Ocasio-Cortez: ‘Calcified’ machine politics cost Democrats in New York. By the New York Times’s Nicholas Fandos.
- Sean Patrick Maloney on his loss, the media and A.O.C. By the Times’s Fandos.
- The right-wing grassroots scored big in 2010. But 2022 was far different. By the New York Times’s Charles Homans.
- Interesting read: ‘How did this man think he had the right to adopt this baby?’ By the New York Times Magazine’s Rozina Ali.
These were the tamest impersonations we could find….