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It’s the latest chapter in a slow-building 2024 shadow primary. By throwing themselves into House races, potential candidates are currying goodwill with lawmakers and activists, testing out campaign themes and introducing themselves to voters around the country who will eventually determine the party’s next presidential nominee.

And there is another reason why House races are attractive playground for those looking to run: It’s a way to put themselves out there without poking the eye of former President Donald Trump, who has made clear that he’s interested in a comeback bid.

“They’re trying to figure out, how do you lay the groundwork without being seen as maybe trying to push the president out of the way?” said former Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, a past NRCC chair, who noted that several of the potential candidates previously served in Trump’s administration. “Until President Trump decides what he’s going to do, I think they can be helpful in House races in their own ways and keep focused on that and not run afoul of the big elephant in the room.”

Likely 2024 candidates are interested in more than just House races. As the midterm election nears, would-be contenders are certain to engage in Senate and gubernatorial contests, too. Glenn Youngkin, the GOP nominee in this year’s race for Virginia governor, has received support from Cruz, Haley and others.

But the stakes are particularly high in the closely divided House, with Republicans appearing to be early favorites to win the speaker’s gavel given their broad control of redistricting and the historical tendency for the party out of power to gain seats in a president’s first midterm election.

“They recognize that the House majority is within our reach and want to be able to point to the money they raised and candidates they backed to help Republicans when we win the House,” said Dan Conston, the president of Congressional Leadership Fund, the principal pro-House GOP super PAC.

The presidential hopefuls are following a well-worn playbook. Richard Nixon barnstormed the country for down-ballot candidates during the 1966 midterms, when Republicans saw sweeping gains in the House. Nixon used the election to jump-start his successful presidential bid two years later.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, supported dozens of Republicans during the 2010 election, when Republicans captured 63 seats and seized control of the House. Two years later, Romney became the GOP nominee.

The importance of Romney’s across-the-map campaigning during the 2010 midterms “cannot be understated,” said Matt Waldrip, a former Romney chief of staff and longtime confidante.

“There is no better way to understand the issues facing the voters around the country and to forge relationships with those fighting for the same ideals as you than getting in the bunker with them during their election campaigns,” said Waldrip.

Much of the focus is on House races taking place in states key to the presidential nominating process. A plethora of prospective candidates rallied behind Iowa Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks while House Democrats weighed whether to overturn her razor-thin, six-vote win in the 2020 election. (The challenge was ultimately dropped in March.) While Cotton raised money for Miller-Meeks’ legal fund, Pompeo used an Iowa trip to accuse Democrats of trying to “steal the seat.”

Haley, meanwhile, posted no fewer than a half-dozen tweets in support of Miller-Meeks and directed supporters to fill the congresswoman’s coffers.

The chit-building extends to New Hampshire, where several potential White House aspirants have been in touch with Republican Matt Mowers, who is likely to wage another House campaign after falling short in 2020. Mowers has hosted virtual events this year with Pompeo and Cotton benefiting down-ballot candidates and the state party.

Special elections are also drawing interest. After Trump endorsed Louisiana Republican Julia Letlow in her race for a vacant seat earlier this spring, several potential hopefuls reached out to McCarthy and his team to help the now-congresswoman. After backing Letlow, Haley has provided a surge of 11th-hour support for Mark Moores, a Republican running in this week’s special election for a New Mexico seat. The former ambassador has cut robocalls, sent get-out-the-vote-themed text messages, and raised tens of thousands of dollars through online fundraising.

Getting involved in congressional contests is particularly crucial to the former Trump administration officials looking to remain in the spotlight without the platform of holding high office right now. Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is embarking on a cross-country fundraising swing, endorsed Letlow and headlined a Texas fundraiser for a McCarthy political outfit earlier this month. Pence is expected to headline another event for the minority leader this summer.

Pompeo has become an outspoken advocate for House Republicans since departing the State Department. During a swing through the Midwest this spring, Pompeo stopped in Iowa to bolster home-state Rep. Ashley Hinson and Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon, whose home media market spills into neighboring Iowa.

Haley has been among the most active of any of the potential candidates, using a newly created political action committee, Stand for America, to buttress candidates. She recently traveled to Texas to attend an event for freshman Rep. Beth Van Duyne and has been sending out emails and text messages raising money for House Republicans.

Some of the potential White House hopefuls are helping House candidates whose political profiles match their own. While Haley has been highlighting her support for female contenders, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was the special guest at an event for a fellow northeastern Republican, Rep. Andrew Garbarino of New York. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, an outspoken Trump critic, is expected to campaign for vulnerable Republicans running in battleground districts, as he did during the 2020 election.

The hope is that their support will pay off down the line — and that when it’s their turn to run in four years, House Republicans they backed will return the favor with endorsements of their own. Sitting members of Congress maintain networks of donors and supporters who can be critical in swaying presidential primary contests.

“The House,” said former Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, a former NRCC chair, “is going to be a great base to have.”



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Guinea declares end to latest Ebola outbreak

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“I commend the affected communities, the government and people of Guinea, health workers, partners and everyone else whose dedicated efforts made it possible to contain this Ebola outbreak,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Based on the lessons learned from the 2014–16 outbreak and through rapid, coordinated response efforts, community engagement, effective public health measures and the equitable use of vaccines, Guinea managed to control the outbreak and prevent its spread beyond its borders.” The U.N. said it will continue to provide post-illness care.

The CDC welcomed the news in a statement.

“I commend the government and first responders in Guinea for ending the country’s Ebola outbreak,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “Our heartfelt sympathies are with the people who lost loved ones to this disease. CDC remains committed to supporting survivor programs and helping strengthen global preparedness and response capacities that can prevent or extinguish future Ebola outbreaks.”

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Hard-line judiciary head wins Iran presidency amid low turnout

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In initial results, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei won 3.3 million votes and moderate Abdolnasser Hemmati got 2.4 million, said Jamal Orf, the head of Iran’s Interior Ministry election headquarters. The race’s fourth candidate, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, had around 1 million votes, Orf said.

Hemmati offered his congratulations on Instagram to Raisi early Saturday.

“I hope your administration provides causes for pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the economy and life with comfort and welfare for the great nation of Iran,” he wrote.

On Twitter, Rezaei praised Khamenei and the Iranian people for taking part in the vote.

“God willing, the decisive election of my esteemed brother, Ayatollah Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, promises the establishment of a strong and popular government to solve the country’s problems,” Rezaei wrote.

The quick concessions, while not unusual in Iran’s previous elections, signaled what semiofficial news agencies inside Iran had been hinting at for hours: That the carefully controlled vote had been a blowout win for Raisi amid the boycott calls.

As night fell Friday, turnout appeared far lower than in Iran’s last presidential election in 2017. At one polling place inside a mosque in central Tehran, a Shiite cleric played soccer with a young boy as most of its workers napped in a courtyard. At another, officials watched videos on their mobile phones as state television blared beside them, offering only tight shots of locations around the country — as opposed to the long, snaking lines of past elections.

Balloting came to a close at 2.a.m. Saturday, after the government extended voting to accommodate what it called “crowding” at several polling places nationwide. Paper ballots, stuffed into large plastic boxes, were to be counted by hand through the night, and authorities said they expected to have initial results and turnout figures Saturday morning at the earliest.

“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders, and the lower participation in Western democracies. After a day of amplifying officials’ attempts to get out the vote, state TV broadcast scenes of jam-packed voting booths in several provinces overnight, seeking to portray a last-minute rush to the polls.

But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

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Apathy greets Iran presidential vote dominated by hard-liner

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“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders and the lower participation in Western democracies. But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord. Former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also blocked from running, said on social media he’d boycott the vote.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

Khamenei cast the first vote from Tehran, urging the public to “go ahead, choose and vote.”

Raisi, wearing a black turban that identifies him in Shiite tradition as a direct descendant of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, voted from a mosque in southern Tehran. The cleric acknowledged in comments afterward that some may be “so upset that they don’t want to vote.”

“I beg everyone, the lovely youths, and all Iranian men and women speaking in any accent or language from any region and with any political views, to go and vote and cast their ballots,” Raisi said.

But few appeared to heed the call. There are more than 59 million eligible voters in Iran, a nation of over 80 million people. However, the state-linked Iranian Student Polling Agency has estimated a turnout will be just 44%, which would be the lowest since the revolution. Officials gave no turnout figures Friday, though results could come Saturday.

Fears about a low turnout have some warning Iran may be turning away from being an Islamic Republic — a government with elected civilian leadership overseen by a supreme leader from its Shiite clergy — to a country more tightly governed by its supreme leader, who already has final say on all matters of state and oversees its defense and atomic program.

“This is not acceptable,” said former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who sought to change the theocracy from the inside during eight years in office. “How would this conform to being a republic or Islamic?”

For his part, Khamenei warned of “foreign plots” seeking to depress turnout in a speech Wednesday. A flyer handed out on the streets of Tehran by hard-liners echoed that and bore the image of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020. A polling station was set up by Soleimani’s grave on Friday.

Some voters appeared to echo that call.

“We cannot leave our destiny in the hands of foreigners and let them decide for us and create conditions that will be absolutely harmful for us,” said Tehran voter Shahla Pazouki.

Also hurting a moderate like Hemmati is the public anger aimed at Rouhani over the collapse of the deal, despite ongoing talks in Vienna to revive it. Iran’s already-ailing economy has suffered since, with double-digit inflation and mass unemployment.

“It is useless,” said Ali Hosseini, a 36-year-old unemployed resident in southern Tehran, about voting. “Anyone who wins the election after some time says he cannot solve problem of the economy because of intervention by influential people. He then forgets his promises and we poor people again remain disappointed.”

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