McCarthy’s enemies face blowback as primary threats mount and GOP donors close their wallets
Watch CNN’s coverage of the eight House Republicans who voted to oust former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on “Inside Politics Sunday with Manu Raju” at 11 a.m. ET.
Donors no longer want to contribute to their campaigns. Primary opponents line up to take them out. Some have been kicked out of caucuses on Capitol Hill.
The eight Republicans in the House of Representatives Who took the unprecedented step of removal Kevin McCarthy Many speakers face negative reactions, both in Washington and at home. It’s a sign that even four months after the historic move, emotions still run high within a GOP convention still reeling from McCarthy’s ouster.
Actors. Nancy Mays The governor of South Carolina and Bob Good of Virginia have arguably received the most incoming fire, as both now face serious primary threats as they prepare for re-election. And Rep. Matt Rosendahl, who recently He jumped into the U.S. Senate race in MontanaHe faces headwinds in GOP circles — in part because of his vote to impeach McCarthy — where top Republicans fear he will cost them a pivotal seat.
The GOP’s well-connected outside spending group plans to play in the races against Good and Mace, while McCarthy himself is widely expected to run as well, according to multiple Republican sources familiar with the matter.
Meanwhile, the Main Street Caucus and the Republican Governance Caucus, two center-right-leaning groups on Capitol Hill, have quietly dropped Mace from their ranks, multiple sources told CNN. Neither move has been announced, but sources say frustration with the congresswoman had been brewing throughout the months leading up to her vote for McCarthy.
“It really wants to be a one-person caucus. “We held her to it,” one House Republican told CNN.
For their part, both Mace and Good downplayed the threats and expressed no remorse for their votes. They also lean into an image of being outsiders to Washington, which they believe will fit well with the GOP base in their districts.
“I’m too busy working in the Lowcountry and helping to elect President Trump to worry about a Kevin McCarthy puppet,” Mace said of one of her primary opponents. “The D.C. swamp doesn’t want me back — it’s too bad. I don’t work for them, I work for the people of the 1st Congressional District and no one else.”
It is worth noting that Judd still has the support of his colleagues in the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, where he was recently located Raised to the position of president. But his controversial behavior, including his decision to back Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over former President Donald Trump for president, continues to anger some in the group, as CNN reported earlier.
Judd said he’s not worried about the impact of his vote for McCarthy.
“I think he should bring McCarthy in to campaign for him in the district,” Judd said of his primary opponent.
Good and Mace aren’t the only ones who find themselves targeted. Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee told CNN that some “very wealthy people” closed their wallets to him in the wake of his vote.
“They’ve been very nice to me in the past, and I hope we can mend fences,” Burchett said. “I can bring them back into the fold. But if I don’t, I’m still friends with them. I’m not vindictive.”
At least one Republican opponent had considered challenging Burchett, though he ultimately chose not to do so last week. However, Burchett – who said he “felt bad” for initially backing McCarthy in January 2023 – admitted he could face McCarthy-fueled opposition in the August primary.
“He’s got to do something with his $17 million, so it’s going to be eight of us that will probably feel the brunt of that,” Burchett said of McCarthy. Who left Congress At the end of last year. “I knew exactly what I was doing. I knew I would face opposition for it. I still believe it was the right thing to do.”
Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, a former chairman of the Freedom Caucus, told CNN that he faced some backlash, including some GOP donors giving him the cold shoulder.
But Biggs said the lawmakers — who became known as the “Gate Eight,” since Rep. Matt Gaetz Florida was their leader – they were ready to have a target on their back after they made their momentous decision To boot McCarthy In the middle of a congressional session.
“We knew this was a risk,” Biggs told CNN. “But I will do everything I can to help Bob and Nancy. You know, Nancy and I don’t agree that much. But we do agree on other issues. And I think she’s trying to represent her constituents.”
Since the Eight have become persona non grata in the Capitol, they now band together and pledge to help protect each other. There are also signs that the current Republican leadership team, led by House Speaker Mike Johnson, will have their support.
“McCarthy couldn’t beat us in Washington, D.C., on his home turf, where he has all the king’s horses and all the king’s men,” Gaetz told CNN. “Does he think he will beat us in away matches?”
But while Gaez saw a significant increase in fundraising in the fourth quarter of last year — raising $1.8 million, up from $770,000 in the previous quarter — others in the group took a hit. Rosendale posted its lowest numbers of the year in the fourth quarter, raising just $98,000.
McCarthy’s revenge tour is taking shape
Behind the scenes, McCarthy allies were quietly working to exact electoral revenge on the Gaetz Eight, trying to identify powerful primary opponents.
Brian O. Walsh, a GOP political consultant and McCarthy ally, launched efforts to recruit potential rivals, according to GOP sources familiar with the matter. Politico was the first to report this Walsh got involved.
While McCarthy himself has not yet been directly involved, many Republicans expect the former House speaker — who remains tied to a wealthy network of donors — to direct his powerful resources against Mace and Judd.
“If I were these people, one of the things that would scare me more than anything else is a deranged McCarthy,” one GOP lawmaker told CNN. “He’s the most prolific fundraiser ever, and you have a huge group of donors across the country who are outraged by what’s happening, and you have these idiots who caused this.”
Promising candidates include: Katherine Templeton, the lawyer and businesswoman who recently announced her bid against Mace, and John McGuire, the Marine and state representative who is challenging Judd. But sources close to both say they have never met McCarthy and insist they entered their races for other reasons.
However, there is still interest in the McCarthy world in helping them succeed: Jeff Miller, a longtime friend and advisor to McCarthy, has donated to McGuire’s campaign, said a source familiar with the effort.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a McCarthy ally, has officially endorsed McGuire, as well Tim SheehyWho Rosendale will face in Montana’s Senate primary.
When asked if he was concerned about being pursued by McCarthy or his allies, Rosendahl told CNN: “I’m not worried about anyone from California coming to Montana to campaign.”
But in other cases, recruitment efforts have been less successful. Some of McCarthy’s associates have inquired whether that is possible Mark Lamb, who is running for Senate in Arizona, will challenge Rep. Eli Crane, R-Gaetz Eight. But Lamb is close to both Crane and Gaetz, and is not interested in confronting Crane, according to a GOP source close to the situation.
Crane told CNN he hasn’t seen any backlash from his constituents in Arizona, saying, “My constituents are very supportive of that.”
But he also said he’s losing donors to his vote, even as he said he relies mostly on small donors to help build his campaign.
“Yes, that’s definitely a reality,” Crane told CNN of the loss of donors. “And I think anyone who was involved in that would have known that from now on.”
But Crane said he has no regrets. “I didn’t come here to be safe or to be chairman of the committee,” the freshman Republican said. “You came here to make a difference. And when you do that, sometimes it means the runway will be a little shorter and you might go home. But we need people here now who are brave.”
There is also an effort to find a veteran to take on Gaetz in his Florida district, which has a large military population, but no interested candidate has emerged yet, the sources said. Additionally, McCarthy’s camp sees the Gaetz as more difficult to defeat.
However, Mace – who has taken other controversial steps and seen a high level of staff turnover in recent months – is seen as the easiest to oust. McCarthy, who spent big money to help Mace win election, felt particularly burned by the congresswoman’s vote to impeach him, according to sources close to the former House speaker.
McCarthy has left the door open to support primary contenders against the Gaetz Eight, and has praised McGuire in public appearances. In an interview with CNN after his ouster, McCarthy attacked his opponents, saying there should be “consequences” and arguing that Mace did not deserve re-election. He echoed similar sentiments to reporters last week at Trump’s Nevada caucus watch party in Las Vegas.
“If you just watch her philosophizing and bumbling, I don’t think she’ll win re-election,” McCarthy told CNN. “I don’t think she probably earned the right to be re-elected.”
The Gaetz Eight team is at it again
However, Johnson has shown no hostility toward McCarthy’s rebels and is expected to support their re-election races. The House speaker on Friday even held a fundraiser for Burchett in his district, according to the Tennessee Republican, amid a broader swing across the state.
Republicans believe part of Johnson’s strategy is rooted in member management: Not only does he want to heal wounds within the conference, but distributing valuable messages to those members can help prevent them from behaving inappropriately.
To that end, Johnson announced last week that he plans to do so To donate to Rosendale’s Senate campaign, though he does not offer any endorsement after facing negative backlash over his initial plans to do so. It is worth noting that Rosendahl supported Aid package for Israel on the ground last week, even as other members of the Freedom Caucus protested against it because it had not been paid for.
“The Speaker has committed to sending a contribution to Congressman Rosendale, as he has done to his other colleagues and friends in the House, but has not made any endorsements in the Senate races,” said Greg Steele, communications director for Johnson’s political team.
Meanwhile, the House GOP campaign arm has a policy of protecting caucus members. And Gates Eight is no exception.
“We are an incumbent-led organization and support all House Republican calls,” a spokesperson for the Republican National Campaign Committee said.
CNN’s David Wright, Sam Fossum and Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.
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(tags for translation) Kevin McCarthy