Madison Cawthorn, Aid to Ukraine and a Historic Summons

Welcome to The Back Booth, a weekend edition of The DC Brief. This is where TIME’s political newsletter every Saturday will feature a conversation between political professionals on the right and left, pulling the curtain on the conversations that take place in Washington when the tape stops rolling. Subscribe to The DC Brief here

It’s a rare day in Washington when someone’s colleagues subpoena a boss to testify about exactly what they did in an attempt to topple an election, undermine democracy, and keep a sitting president. who maintains against all facts that he has won the election. to vote.

But still…

This week, The DC Brief spoke to two pros in the political trenches about the astonishing invite — without one new box — for House minority leader Kevin McCarthy and four other Republicans to testify before the committee investigating the failed January 6 uprising, the drama unfolding in the Pennsylvania Senate race and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

from the right, Ethan Eilon is one of the Republican Party’s top tech leaders. He has worked for the political arm of the Koch track network, congressional races, and White House bidding. He tinkered with the rules for Republican National Committee delegates and helped the party arm its digital fundraising efforts.

On the left side, Jesse Ferguson is one of the silent forces in chambers where power has been negotiated, won or ceded over the past two decades. He had a hand in leading the House Democrats’ campaign ad efforts, serving as their political spokesperson and being one of Hillary Clinton’s most effective attack dogs as she pursued a return to the White House.

Both are now consultants. The conversation has been edited.

Elliott: Welcome to this week’s Back Booth. dr. Biden is back from Ukraine, which appears to be to hold† If you’re running in a swing district or statewide competitively, how do you position the seemingly endless stream of money going into that country? I mean, it looks like the current help package is almost… new debate or questions.

Ferguson: Americans are overwhelmingly behind Ukraine to defend themselves against Putin. Some people see it as the compassionate thing to do and others see it as the way to defend freedom and democracy. It is a faction of GOP politicians and GOP voters who would rather let Putin get away with this and stop worrying about defending democracy.

Eilon: The Biden administration has not led. They sat on the sidelines and watched this war unfold. In fact, recent polls show that the majority of Americans think Biden hasn’t been tough enough on Ukraine. That failure will be held in high esteem, and in line with voters’ views on the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The aid is important, that’s why it went as fast as it did, but it doesn’t make up for the leadership failures we’ve seen so far. Americans are already dealing with rising inflation rates and rising gas prices, and the situation in Ukraine has only made matters worse. I doubt voters will forget that.

Elliott: I’m curious what you think about the state of GOPs open antagonism from Madison Cawthron for the North Carolina primary† it looks beautiful epiceven by today’s standards.

Eilon: Given the recent press, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. Ultimately, when you’re talking about scandal, that means you’re not talking about what the voters or the state need, and I think you’re seeing frustration about that at the seams.

Ferguson: Yes. It’s like an orgy of opponents throwing them at him and I have no idea if he’ll get over the bump. I am far from an expert on GOP primaries; they never invite me into the cloakroom. Having people like him in Congress is a reminder of the risks that come when your candidates are more suited to right-wing social media than running a country.

Elliott: Sometimes the district gets the candidate it deserves. It happens on both sides. There are plenty of Democratic representatives who are legendary bad on client Services and staff therapy but keep coming back anyway.

Ferguson: In the long run, there are definitely some Democratic elected officials who may not have been good at those jobs. But in recent years — from the days of Scott DesJarlais to the days of Madison Cawthorn — the number of members of Congress who should not be members of Congress has tilted to one side.

Elliott: But when they spin a little, it seems like they always have enough money. Ethan, you’ve been to think a lot about the place of crypto in the campaign ecosystem lately. I’m curious what you see at the 30,000 foot level on that well of political money. (I admit: I don’t quite understand how) cryptocurrencies is real.)

Eilon: Actual cryptocurrency giving, which involves donating Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency directly to a campaign, is still in its infancy. Only a handful of committees accept it, and right now there is no massive endorsement from the political donors on either side of the aisle. It feels a bit like credit cards in mid/late 90’s politics. As with that arc, I think the adoption rate will increase quite dramatically as overall tech adoption continues to grow. For me that’s a when not a if

In the meantime, there has been a significant rise in political giving coming out of the crypto industry as a whole as players in that space seek to empower the people who have been champions in this field. That, and the fervor of its user base, will likely be the start of a race — especially in the next presidential nomination contests — for which candidates are the most pro-crypto.

Elliott: So, a subpoena for the potential future Speaker is not something you see every day. What happens next?

Ferguson: A live look at the minority leader’s response.

Eilon: I’m pretty sure what happens next is the Democrats lose the House.

Ferguson: Could be. Kevin McCarthy testifying under oath will not increase or decrease the chances of Democrats controlling the House next year. But he’s been trying to avoid this moment for over a year, leading to a reasonable question of what he’s trying to hide. On the other hand, the new January 6 tires may have already given up some of his secrets before he has to go under oath.

Eilon: My prediction with a lot of confidence: Dem agents say on TV afterwards that everything McCarthy said and did was wrong and bad, GOP agents say on TV that everything he did was good and great. The American people at home are turning down the volume, wondering again how Joe Biden, with Democrats in Congress, managed to make it harder to put food on the table and get gasoline into their cars at a rate that’s more than 40 years old. years has gone unseen.

Ferguson: There is a growing group of voters who are concerned about the crime in this conspiracy and about the long-term plan to undo elections. It fits the larger pattern of how the GOP has changed. It’s no longer about a town on a hill, it’s about a band of militants. There’s a reason the GOP didn’t want this investigation and has consistently tried to impede it — because they’re afraid of what it reveals.

Elliott: Gentlemen, these were some nice conversations. One last question: what does it actually look like in Pennsylvania? I just watched Hannity, except he begged his Pennsylvania viewers to think about general election eligibility—during an interview with contenders who clearly polled in the second row. Are Keystone State voters really on track to nominate someone with a track record of, say, divisive rhetoric† Senate Leader Mitch McConnell Already Has a Herschel Walker issue in Georgia. Could he also have a Kathy Barnette? issue in Pennsylvania?

Eilon: The mainstream media is always quick to reject outsiders who don’t fit the preconception of what a candidate of one party or the other should be. Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re wrong, but it seems voters are more open to people not conforming to what they’ve been told to expect than in the past. In any case, midterms are as much about country direction as they are about anything else. As things stand now, I wouldn’t describe McConnell as the one with the problem.

Ferguson: Ethan is right about this. Too often, candidates deemed ineligible in the Beltway are ultimately elected. Let me remind you of a gentleman named Donald Trump. Looks like the GOP is crazy about Barnette at the moment, but I’m not sure she’s more of a problem than Oz and others. In reality, several of the GOP candidates in Pennsylvania are quite far from the mainstream, especially in the high-profile suburbs. One of their real obstacles to winning the Senate is the good chance that the Democrats will have to reverse the Pennsylvania Senate seat this cycle.

Elliott: Thank you so much for your work on this.

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write to Philip Elliott at philip.elliott@time.com.

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