Associated Press/Theresa Wey

Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, tracking all things related to the 2022 midterm elections. You can expect this newsletter in your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday leading up to November’s election.   

Email us tips and feedback: Max Greenwood (mgreenwood@thehill.com), Julia Manchester (jmanchester@thehill.com) and Caroline Vakil (cvakil@thehill.com).  

CPAC gives spotlight to Hungarian PM

CPAC Texas, an offshoot of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, kicked off in Dallas on Thursday. The gathering of the conservative activists will feature major national and international speakers, including former President Trump. But on the first day, it’s a controversial European leader who will take the spotlight.

Who’s going to be there?: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will headline the event with a speech Thursday afternoon. His appearance has drawn criticism from those furious over the fact that a Republican convention is rolling out the red carpet for an autocrat, one who has criticized Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, maintained a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and implemented restrictive policies on immigration and LGBT rights in his country. Yet he has also supported former President Donald Trump — something not lost on the CPAC crowd.

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R ). Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R ),Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R ), Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance, Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R ) will speak on Friday.

Trump will close out the conference on Saturday evening.

You can view CPAC Texas’ full agenda here.

The conservative gathering comes as Trump continues to showcase his grip on the Republican Party amid a number of primary wins for his endorsed candidates. The former president has also been hinting at a 2024 presidential run announcement.

Ron takes a raincheck: Not all of Trump’s potential 2024 GOP primary rivals will be in attendance, though. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R ), who has typically come in second to Trump in hypothetical GOP primary polls, will not be attending the conference this time around. However, the governor did make news earlier on Thursday when he suspended Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren for refusing to enforce bans on abortion and transgender surgery. DeSantis also rolled out his first reelection campaign of the cycle on Wednesday.  

And it’s no surprise that former Vice President Pence will not be in attendance given his fraught relationship with Trump and disagreement over the direction of the GOP. Pence did not attend CPAC in Florida earlier this year and declined an invitation to the 2021 conference.

A primer on Tennessee’s primaries

Voters are heading to the polls today in Tennessee as the state holds its primaries for governor, Congress and state legislature, among others.

The unusual Thursday primary follows a busy Tuesday that saw races in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington.

Trump has made a handful of endorsements in the state, including for Gov. Bill Lee (R) and Reps. Charles Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), Mark Green (R-Tenn.) and Diana Harshbarger (R-Tenn.).

Here’s a primer on three races to watch for:  

  • The Democratic gubernatorial primary: For the first time in roughly 30 years, Lee will not be facing a GOP challenger, though three Democrats are vying to take him on: Memphis, Tenn. advocate Carnita Atwater, physician Jason Martin and Memphis council member JB Smiley Jr.
  • The GOP primary in the 5th Congressional District: After more than three decades in Congress, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) said he won’t be pursuing reelection after claiming that the state General Assembly was “dismembering” Nashville, adding “there’s no way, at least for me in this election cycle.” While one Democrat is vying for Cooper’s seat, the GOP primary has a crowded field of nine candidates.
  • The Democratic primary for state Senate District 19: Five Democrats are seeking to fill state Sen. Brenda Gilmore’s (D) seat, who will not be seeking another term after November. They include businessman Rossi Turner, former Metro council member Jerry Maynard, former Cooper aide Charlane Olivier, Nashville resident Barry Barlow and former Metro councilman Ludye Wallace. The seat, which covers Nashville, has drawn only one Republican challenger: Pime Hernandez.  

POLL WATCH

months before the November midterms. The poll, released on Wednesday, found that 38 percent of Americans would rather see Democrats control Congress in addition to 12 percent who said it did not matter but leaned toward Democrats.

In comparison, 34 percent said they wanted Republicans to control Congress in addition to 9 percent who said it didn’t matter but leaned toward the GOP.

That could offer some comfort to Democrats who are expecting headwinds ahead of November as the nation grapples with high inflation and the president continues to get bogged down by lagging approval ratings.  

Meijer speaks out after primary loss

Rep. Peter Meijer told Julie Mason on Julie Mason Mornings on SIRIUSXM’s POTUS channel 124 he had no regrets following his primary defeat by Trump-backed candidate John Gibbs.

“Not a one,” Meijer told Mason. “I would rather lose office with my character intact than stay reelected having made sacrifices of the soul.”

Meijer is one of ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Trump backed a number of primary challengers against those Republicans, who have seen mix results in their intraparty contests. Washington GOP Reps. Dan Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Butler, who both voted to impeach Trump, are projected to advance to the general elections.

Dems draw backlash: But in the aftermath of Meijer’s loss, many Republicans are blaming Democrats rather than Gibbs for the incumbent’s defeat. The Hill’s Max Greenwood reports that scrutiny over the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s efforts to elevate Gibbs, who has touted conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, is growing.

Concern is also growing over the ascension of various election deniers to their respective GOP nominations. The Hill’s Julia Manchester reports that Democrats, and some Republicans, argue these candidates won’t stand a chance when they face independent voters in November. But others warn not to count them out given Biden’s low approval ratings and the dismal national mood. 

AD WATCH

Incumbent Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, who is facing a tough reelection bid in Virginia’s second congressional district, rolled out a general election ad accusing her Republican opponent Jen Kiggans of being “too extreme” in limiting abortion access in Virginia.

The ad comes two days after abortion rights advocates saw an overwhelming victory in Kansas when a majority of voters rejected a ballot measure that would give the state legislature the authority to ban abortion. The win has given Democrats and abortion rights advocates hope that the issue of abortion access could play well for Democrats going into November.

Trump heads to Wisconsin

Former President Trump will be heading to the Badger State on Friday to hold a rally for his endorsed candidates, including Wisconsin GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels (R) and Adam Steen, who’s challenging Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R).

One person who won’t be attending though? Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), considered a key Trump ally. Johnson said in a statement last month that he wouldn’t be attending the rally given Trump’s support of Michels.

Another absent Ron: It’s an unusual move given that Trump’s rally would likely give Johnson a boost among Republicans, and the Wisconsin Republican’s Senate race is considered one of the most competitive for this election cycle.

Trump’s rally in Wisconsin follows a rally that former Vice President Pence held for his own endorsed candidate in the gubernatorial race, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R).

The former vice president campaigned for her on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press, further underscoring a Trump-Pence proxy war, though both campaigns told NBC News that they don’t see it that way. 

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Campaign page for the latest news and coverage. See you next week. 

Tags Bill Lee Donald Trump Jim Cooper Marjorie Taylor Greene Ron DeSantis Viktor Orban Vladimir Putin Volodymyr Zelensky
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