Will Hurd

At the Races: Quite a year already

By Stephanie Akin, Bridget Bowman and Simone Pathé 

Welcome to At the Races! Each week we’ll bring you news and analysis from the CQ Roll Call team that will keep you informed about the 2020 election. Know someone who’d like to get this newsletter? They can subscribe here.

The year in Political Theater: Our favorite 2019 podcasts

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One has not quite lived until Werner Herzog tells you on your own podcast: “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no ... You are wrong.” Lesson learned: Don’t argue with headstrong German filmmakers about 19th Century Russian poets. 

That was just one of the many highlights of 2019’s Political Theater podcast. Of course we also examined the world of politics, what it means to be a member of Congress, the effect of President Donald Trump on the journalism, and the advice a respected and garrulous former member of Congress for the newly elected.

How House members who are most vulnerable in 2020 voted on impeachment
Supporters say Ukraine actions crossed a line; opponents see dangerous partisan precedent

Top row from left: Democratic Reps. Jared Golden, Collin C. Peterson, Anthony Brindisi and Max Rose. Bottom row from left, Republican Reps. Chip Roy, Brian Fitzpatrick, John Katko and Fred Upton. (Photos by Tom Williams and Bill Clark)

It’s not clear how impeachment will impact the battle for the House in 2020, when every seat is on the ballot. But lawmakers in both parties will have to explain to voters about why they did, or did not, vote to impeach President Donald Trump.

That’s a particularly delicate task for members of Congress in competitive races. Lawmakers in swing districts break with their parties on occasion, but Wednesday’s impeachment vote fell almost entirely along party lines.

The impeachment holiday gift catalog
John Bolton may be counting his book deal money, but he needs to think about future sales too

For John Bolton’s holiday gift, Shapiro has some free advice: Testify before the House Intelligence panel and watch your future book sales soar. (Win McNamee/Getty Images file photo)

OPINION — Flush with the holiday spirit, I have decided to hand out my presents early. Of course, given the economics of 21st-century journalism, I am offering the only gifts that I can afford — free advice.

Luckily, with the House Judiciary Committee kicking off impeachment hearings this week, Washington is filled with troubled and misguided souls in both parties who would benefit from my sage and selfless counsel.

In the West, an outsize role for Texas in the 2020 elections
Battles for Senate and numerous House seats will drive interest in Lone Star State

Sen. John Cornyn’s reelection and a handful of House seats where Republicans have retired make Texas one of the key states to watch next year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

If there’s an abiding lesson from 2016, it’s that national public opinion in the presidential race is not as important as the votes of individual states. Republican Donald Trump won by taking 304 electoral votes to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s 227, even as Clinton beat him by 2.9 million votes and 2.1 percentage points nationally.

In 2020, Democrats will be looking to recapture states Trump won that went for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. And many of those states will also be prime battlegrounds in the fight for control of the Senate, where Democrats need a net gain of four seats to take a majority (three if they win the White House and the vice president can break 50-50 ties), while Republicans need a net gain of 19 seats to retake the House.

Trump impeachment makes for tricky messaging for Democrats
As public hearings start, Democrats have to cut through complicated issues

House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., speaks to reporters in the Capitol last month. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats begin the public portion of their push to impeach President Donald Trump this week with what they say is a powerful case that the president used his office for personal political gain — but they face a high-stakes challenge to convey that to a sharply divided public.

The House Intelligence Committee has its first impeachment hearings scheduled for Wednesday and Friday following weeks of closed-door depositions. The witnesses testifying in the open come from the same roster of unknown diplomats and bureaucrats who in their private interviews detailed complex matters of foreign diplomacy that are unfamiliar to most Americans.

Trump has GOP critics in Congress — but many of them aren't sticking around
What happens to these critical voices after they leave?

Florida Rep. Francis Rooney, who’s been critical of Trump, is not running for a third term. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

While there has been significant Republican criticism on Capitol Hill of President Donald Trump’s actions toward Syria and the Kurdish people there, overall the GOP has become synonymous with support for Trump.

The few members of Congress who have strongly and consistently criticized the president are not sticking around past 2020, raising questions about what kind of credibility their voices will have with their peers, what platform they’ll have outside of Congress, and how the GOP will function in a post-Trump world.

Democratic polls show competitive House races in Texas
Surveys are early sign of Democratic groups’ willingness to spend in Lone Star State

Democrats are targeting GOP Rep. Michael McCaul in Texas’ 10th District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A handful of Republican-held House seats in the Texas suburbs represent fertile ground for competitive races in 2020, according to recent Democratic polling. 

The surveys in six GOP districts, shared first with CQ Roll Call, are a sign that Democratic outside groups are willing to spend resources in the Lone Star State, where party leaders believe they can make gains next year. The polls were commissioned by House Majority Forward, the nonprofit arm of House Majority PAC, a super PAC tied to the chamber’s Democratic leadership.

McCarthy ‘not concerned about any retirement’ except Hurd’s
Minority leader predicts Trump will carry more districts held by Democrats than he did in 2016

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks to the media at the U.S. House Republican Member Retreat in Baltimore on Friday. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

BALTIMORE — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the only Republican seat that will be open in 2020 due to a member of his conference retiring that he’s worried about losing is Rep. Will Hurd’s in Texas’ 23rd District. 

“That’s a tough seat. Will Hurd is an exceptional person,” the California Republican told reporters Friday morning as House Republicans kicked off the second day of their conference retreat here. 

Retiring lawmakers will face tough market on K Street
‘K Street is not hungering for former members,’ senator-turned-lobbyist Norm Coleman says

In most cases, it’s congressional staff members who K Street really clamors for. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

K Street recruiters are poring over the list of 21, and counting, lawmakers planning to exit Congress, but the lobbying sector may offer a shrinking supply of big-money gigs heading into the 2020 elections. 

As more House members and senators consider making their escape from Capitol Hill, the realities of the K Street economy and the well-worn revolving door will be among their considerations, say insiders at lobbying firms and downtown headhunters.