Cuellar holds off primary challenge, and other late calls – Politico

Posted: March 5, 2020 at 6:21 pm

By ZACH MONTELLARO

03/05/2020 10:00 AM EST

Updated 03/05/2020 03:39 PM EST

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Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) holding off a tough primary challenge headlines the list of downballot Super Tuesday races that were called Wednesday, but many California races are still unresolved.

Mike Bloomberg formally ended his presidential campaign on Wednesday, winnowing the field further still. Meanwhile, Joe Biden was declared the winner in Maine, eeking out a narrow victory.

The Senate is poised to take action on President Donald Trumps Federal Election Commission nominee, which could give the embattled federal election watchdog a quorum. But many Democrats and money-in-politics groups are not happy with the prospective commissioner.

A message from the Partnership for America's Health Care Future:

American patients cant afford the higher taxes, longer wait times and lower quality care that would come with Medicare for All. Dont force American families into a one-size-fits-all government health insurance system. See why.

Good Thursday morning. Email me at zmontellaro@politico.com, and follow me at @ZachMontellaro.

Email the rest of the Campaign Pro team at sshepard@politico.com, jarkin@politico.com and amutnick@politico.com. Follow them on Twitter: @POLITICO_Steve, @JamesArkin and allymutnick.

Days until the March 10 primaries: 5

Days until the Phoenix Democratic debate: 10

Days until the March 17 primaries: 12

Days until the 2020 election: 243

Rep. Henry Cuellar narrowly beat out a primary challenger in a race that was called on Wednesday. | Getty Images

THE LATE CALLS Super Tuesday stretched well into weary Wednesday. I shamelessly stole a colleagues joke to highlight the fact that not all of the downballot races were called on Tuesday and some are still outstanding. Topping the list of races that were called on Wednesday: Cuellar holding off a primary challenge from Jessica Cisneros in TX-28.

A win that tight by Cuellar will likely do little to quell the liberal forces who had pegged the race as the next major opportunity to shake up the Democratic caucus, POLITICOs Ally Mutnick and Sarah Ferris wrote. Her near-miss is likely to embolden a score of liberal primary challengers hoping to take out House Democrats, including two later this month. In Illinois, Democrat Marie Newman is making another run at Rep. Dan Lipinski who, like Cuellar, also opposes abortion rights. And in Ohio, Rep. Joyce Beatty faces a stiff challenge from consumer advocate Morgan Harper. Cuellar, perhaps spooked by the rash of Democratic incumbents who fell last cycle, assembled a formidable campaign apparatus.

But that wasnt the only big race call on Wednesday. In Texas, the DSCC-endorsed MJ Hegar now knows her runoff opponent: Royce West, who edged out Cristina Tzintzn Ramirez for the second runoff spot for the Democratic Senate nomination. And heres the rest of the calls in the races we were watching:

AL-02: Former state Rep. Barry Moore will face businessman Jeff Coleman in the March 31 primary runoff for this safe, red seat.

CA-08: Republican Jay Obernolte secured a spot in November in the red seat. The second spot remains undecided between Democrat Chris Bubser and Republican Tom Donnelly.

CA-10: Freshman Democratic Rep. Josh Harder will face Republican Ted Howze in November.

CA-25: The simultaneous primary and special election remain muddled. Democrat Christy Smith won a spot in the special election runoff, but the other spot (and the two candidates who will face off in November in the regular election) remain uncalled, with Republicans Steve Knight and Mike Garcia battling.

CA-50: In this open, red-leaning seat, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar secured his spot in the November election. Republicans Darrell Issa and Carl DeMaio are dueling for the second spot.

CA-53: Democrat Sara Jacobs won a spot in the general election in November. Democrat Georgette Gomez and Republican Chris Stoddard are fighting for the second.

TX-23: Republicans Tony Gonzales and Raul Reyes are officially headed for a runoff in the GOP-held open seat. The winner will face Gina Ortiz Jones, who easily won her primary.

TX-24: Democrats Kim Olson and Candace Valenzuela are headed to a runoff, and the winner will face Republican Beth Van Duyne, who won her primary for the Dallas-area open seat.

TX-32: Republican Genevieve Collins won the Republican nomination outright, avoiding a runoff, and will face freshman Democratic Rep. Colin Allred in November.

SEE YOU LATER Bloomberg officially called it quits on Wednesday, ending his half-billion-plus presidential campaign with little to show for it. Bloomberg huddled early Wednesday morning with his closest advisers in one of his Manhattan offices. Alongside campaign manager Kevin Sheekey, chair Patti Harris and adviser Howard Wolfson, Bloomberg reviewed the final results from the biggest night of the Democratic primary, POLITICOs Sally Goldenberg and Chris Cadelago reported. They saw no path to success. He then opted to drop out of the race and throw his support and potentially his vast resources behind Biden.

More: Bloomberg aides said it was still unclear how hed be involved in Bidens campaign. Advisers on the all-staff call said they are working on a plan for how they'll wind down the campaign. The advisers stressed they built their massive operation to continue the fight against Trump in battlegrounds regardless of whether hes the nominee.

Elizabeth Warrens team is considering ending her campaign. An aide to Warren told POLITICOs Alex Thompson that she was spending Wednesday with her team to assess the path forward. [Campaign manager Roger] Lau wrote [in an email to staff] that [t]his decision is in her hands, and its important that she has the time and space to consider what comes next.

Top allies of Warren and Bernie Sanders are also discussing ways for their two camps to unite and push a common liberal agenda, with the expectation that Warren is likely to leave the presidential campaign soon, The Washington Posts Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan wrote. Warren allies also talked with Bidenworld, Linskey and Sullivan reported.

TAKING STOCK After a rough Super Tuesday, Sanders is changing his strategy. The decades-long refusal to air negative TV ads is out. Spots highlighting former President Barack Obamas praise of him are in, POLITICOs Holly Otterbein wrote (heres the Biden attack ad, hitting him over social security, and heres the ad featuring Obama). After facing questions for weeks about whether Sanders would shift his message to broaden his base, Sanders campaign co-chair, Rep. Ro Khanna, said his candidate will work to appeal more to older voters and mainstream Democrats.

More from Holly: Sanders aides still very much see a path to victory, however. They believe he has a shot at winning five of the six states that vote next week, including Michigan and Washington, which have the days largest delegate hauls.

Team Bidens response to the change in tune from Sanders? Remember the last primary. Framing Sanders as a divisive party outsider who won't accept defeat, the Biden campaign pointed to his bitter Democratic primary fight four years ago with his party nemesis, Hillary Clinton. That ended with a chaotic nominating convention and Donald Trumps election months later, POLITICOs Marc Caputo and Natasha Korecki wrote.

NEXT ONE UP Michigan is the biggest prize in next Tuesdays primaries, both in terms of how many delegates are awarded and for its political value. It was Michigan where Sanders engineered a primary day miracle four years ago, upsetting Hillary Clinton and imprinting his populist agenda on the industrial Midwest, POLITICOs David Siders and Holly wrote. But Super Tuesday laid bare the full force of the momentum Biden drew from winning South Carolina, prompting moderate Democrats to coalesce around him and persuading many undecided voters to break his way.

HOW HE DID IT Bidens support on Super Tuesday was a primary coalition he and other Democrats have yearned to build for a year, fusing domination among black voters with strong support from whites that crossed over class lines, POLITICOs Laura Barrn-Lpez wrote. Latino voters were, however, a particularly strong group for Sanders.

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE Trumps relationship with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is souring in the crucial swing state. DeSantis is no verbal knife fighter, something Trump expects from his inner circle, and the onetime Fox News stalwart has ceased appearing on the cable channel, POLITICO Floridas Matt Dixon writes. And with Election Day just eight months away, his pick to lead the Republican Party of Florida resigned on Tuesday after failing to deliver crucial get-out-the-vote infrastructure. DeSantis defenders cast the chatter as a sour-grapes narrative.

DELEGATE HEADCOUNT Before Bloomberg (and Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar) dropped out, they did manage to win delegates to the national convention. So what happens to their delegates? It is a lot more difficult than simply adding their totals to Biden, I wrote but it is a complicated dance that will only really matter if someone else cant secure an outright majority.

WHAT GIVES? Bloomberg essentially ran out the clock on transparency for his financial records after he asked for (and was granted) extensions on filing his public disclosure forms, the Center for Public Integritys Dave Levinthal wrote, dropping out before submitting it.

ENDORSEMENT CORNER Congressional endorsements continue to pour in for Biden. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) backed him, as did Florida Reps. Kathy Castor, Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch, Illinois Mike Quigley, Robin Kelly and Bill Foster and New Jerseys Andy Kim. (This is Kims third endorsement of the cycle, having previously backed Cory Booker and then Buttigieg.) Sarah and Heather Caygle also have more on the celebration among some House Democrats on Bidens surge (and Sanders speedbumps) on Super Tuesday.

THE ENFORCERS? The deadlock at the Federal Election Commission could soon come to an end. Trump nominated Texas attorney Trey Trainor to be a FEC commissioner. That itself is not new; Trainor has been nominated in the past, and the Senate has let his nomination languish. But this time, the Senate is poised to take action. The Senate Rules Committee will hold a hearing on Trainors nomination on March 10, the first step toward Trainor actually being confirmed (the movement was first reported by the CPIs Levinthal, who has been all over the FECs trials and tribulations for awhile now). Democrats are, however, furious at the break in tradition, which typically sees a bipartisan pair of nominees put forward, Roll Calls Kate Ackley wrote.

But if Trainors hearing goes smoothly, and he is eventually confirmed, there would once again be a quorum at the FEC. The countrys chief election watchdog has languished without one for more than six months, being unable to take action on a bevy of things (heres what I wrote back in December about the lack of a quorum). But some campaign finance-focused groups are not happy about the movement on Trainor. Reopening the Federal Election Commission with a nominee who does not think we should enforce the nations campaign finance laws will only make matters worse, Meredith McGehee, the executive director of Issue One, said in a statement. (Trainor, generally, has fought for less campaign finance regulation, having publicly questioned the value of disclosing donors.)

The Institute for Free Speech which was founded by former FEC commissioner Bradley Smith and argues against many campaign finance-related restrictions on First Amendment grounds praised Trainor as a well-qualified practitioner.

THE SENATE MAP Democrats are poised to land a major recruit in the battle for the Senate: Term-limited Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who had previously (and adamantly) denied that he was going to run. In recent days, Democrats are starting to believe the two-term governor could jump in the race to challenge GOP Sen. Steve Daines, a move that would expand the Senate map for Democrats by giving them another battleground target in their bid to take back the chamber, POLITICOs James Arkin and Marianne LeVine reported. Bullock has not yet indicated publicly an interest in the race, and it is not a done deal that Bullock will run, according to multiple Democratic sources. (The New York Times Jonathan Martin first reported Bullocks apparent change of heart.)

We have some polling numbers in the Georgia special Senate election, with Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) battling it out. The University of Georgia School of Public & International Affairs poll has Collins at 21 percent to 19 percent for Loeffler. Democrat Matt Lieberman is at 11 percent and the DSCC-endorsed Raphael Warnock is at 6 percent, with a handful of other candidates below him (1,117 likely general election voters; Feb. 24-March 2; +/- 2.9 percentage point MOE).

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) is raising some big cash for his new colleagues. The first-term senator is hosting three events Sunday and Monday, benefiting six Senate Republicans on the ballot this year and one GOP challenger, James reported.

We approached, but did not quite hit, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions worst nightmare as he hopes to return to the Senate in Alabama. Trump retweeted an AP tweet announcing that Tommy Tuberville, Sessions rival for the nomination, advanced to a runoff on Wednesday morning. He followed it up with a quote-tweet of the POLITICO story saying Sessions finished well short of a majority in a primary: This is what happens to someone who loyally gets appointed Attorney General of the United States & then doesnt have the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt. Thats not exactly a Tuberville endorsement, but it is getting awfully close to one.

THE GOVERNATORS A race I neglected to mention in Wednesdays Score, because the primary was entirely uncompetitive: North Carolina governor. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest emerged from his primary fairly easily and will face Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in whats expected to be one of the most hotly-contested gubernatorial races this year.

WAY DOWN BALLOT The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee announced that it raised $2.6 million in February, its best February ever.

THE OUTSIDE GROUPS Tom Lopach, a former Bullock aide and former DSCC executive director, was named the president and CEO of the Voter Participation Center and Center for Voter Information.

A message from the Partnership for America's Health Care Future:

Creating a one-size-fits-all new government health insurance system like Medicare for All would mean serious consequences for patients. We cant afford to have everyones income taxes doubled to start over with a Medicare for All system that would put politicians in charge of health care. Get the facts.

CODA DYSTOPIAN HEADLINE OF THE DAY: Bloomberg attracted few votes but his ads still grabbed the attention of many kids, from The Washington Post.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of Morning Score misstated the DLCC's fundraising record. This February was the best February the committee has ever had.

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Cuellar holds off primary challenge, and other late calls - Politico

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