Midterm surrogate season brings celebrities and 2024 buzz: The Note

Time for the famous (and famous-for-Washington) to get busy.

October 19, 2022, 6:04 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

It's time for the famous and famous-for-Washington to get busy on the trail.

On the GOP side, Sens. Tim Scott and Tom Cotton hit Ohio on Wednesday, ahead of Sen. Ted Cruz's trip on Friday, for Senate candidate J.D. Vance -- all following a succession of colleagues helping Republican Senate hopeful Herschel Walker in Georgia.

Also Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin campaigns for Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, a day behind former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard -- the onetime Democratic presidential candidate who is now backing far-right candidates -- in campaigning for the Republican ticket there.

For Democrats, President Joe Biden follows first lady Jill Biden onto the trail on Thursday in Pennsylvania, while Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg leads the Biden Cabinet in making official visits with a side of politics. Sens. Cory Booker and Jon Ossoff spent campaign time in North Carolina over the weekend, and former President Barack Obama makes a three-state battleground swing next week.

Arguably, they aren't even the biggest draws the party has to offer. The Dave Matthews Band is planning free get-out-the-vote concerts next week for Senate candidates in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania while Oprah Winfrey holds a virtual event with Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Thursday.

Given how active those surrogates are this cycle, there's nothing particularly shadowy about their own shadow campaigns -- mindful of their profiles and standing -- and nothing subtle about their motives in trying to tip the 50-50 Senate in either direction. But some choices, like Youngkin's to campaign with Lake, who baselessly denies the legitimacy of the last presidential election, risk a piece of their personal brands.

With the still-fresh memories of Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi drawing massive crowds for losing Democratic presidential candidates in years past, the limits of celebrity endorsements need no reminder. But the boldfaced names this cycle are a reminder about the stakes of 2022 -- and how things that happen this year can spill into 2024.

PHOTO: Pete Buttigieg, secretary of transportation, speaks during a press conference in Detroit, Sept. 15, 2022.
Pete Buttigieg, secretary of transportation, speaks during a press conference in Detroit, Sept. 15, 2022.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

President Joe Biden promised in remarks on Tuesday to sign legislation in January codifying Roe v. Wade -- if Democrats pick up enough seats in the midterm elections.

"I want you to remember that the final say does not rest in the court now. It does not rest with extremist Republicans in Congress," Biden said to an audience in Washington. "It rests with you," he said, "and if you do your part and vote Democratic leaders in Congress, we'll do our part. I'll do my part. And with your support, I'll sign a law codifying Roe in January."

For the president to accomplish what he's after, Democrats will not only have to maintain control of the House, they'll need to pick up two Senate seats to circumvent the filibuster -- over the objections of two current Democratic senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema -- in order for the legislation to pass.

For midterm elections in which the president's party historically loses seats, that is a tall order. Factor in Biden's low approval rating coupled with economic anxiety and fears of a recession and the scenario Biden would need to make this promise come to fruition seems unrealistic.

During his remarks, Biden also raised the specter of South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham's proposed national abortion ban after 15 weeks, with exceptions only for rape, incest and the mother's health.

"If Republicans get their way with a national ban, it won't matter where you live in America," Biden said. "So let me be very clear: If such a bill were to pass in the next several years, I'll veto it."

It remains to be seen if this effort to rally people on abortion access will be enough get out the vote for Democrats in the nation's biggest battlegrounds.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden addresses the Supreme Court's decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade, June 24, 2022, at the White House.
President Joe Biden addresses the Supreme Court's decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade, June 24, 2022, at the White House.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

The question of whether Democrats' gamble of focusing on potentially weaker Republican candidates during the GOP primaries results in an Election Day payoff is just weeks from being answered.

Earlier in the year, Democratic groups -- and in some cases, the Democratic candidates -- highlighted multiple Trump-endorsed candidates who were running for Republican nominations in what some observers said was a strategic move to boost potentially weaker choices in the general race. The list of targets featured three gubernatorial hopefuls -- Illinois' Darren Bailey, Maryland's Dan Cox and Pennsylvania's Doug Mastriano -- as well as congressional candidate John Gibbs of Michigan, who toppled anti-Trump incumbent Rep. Peter Meijer.

Democrats' involvement in New Hampshire's late-season primaries may have also factored into the successful campaign of Senate candidate Don Bolduc as well as House contender Robert Burns, despite both Republicans making it through without Trump's backing.

Out of those six races, FiveThirtyEight's analysis currently forecasts Gibbs as the candidate with the highest chance of winning in the general election, but that doesn't mean the former Trump administration official is on track for a victory on Nov. 8. While competing in a district that has a +2.7 partisan lean, Gibbs has a 31% chance of winning. Bolduc follows with a 16% chance of winning his race, while Burns and Mastriano follow with 5% and 4%, respectively. Both Bailey and Cox have an even lower shot at a win -- with less than 1% in their forecasts.

According to FiveThirtyEight, factors outside of Democrats' ads -- like fundraising prowess, endorsements and voter sentiments toward incumbents -- could have also gone into the relative strengths and weaknesses of each of these Republican candidates. That makes it difficult to pinpoint whether Democrats can claim responsibility for tipping the scales of the outcomes in either the primaries or the general elections of these races.

PHOTO: John Gibbs in an undated photo.
John Gibbs in an undated photo.
U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development

Power Trip

"Power Trip" follows 7 young reporters as they chase down candidates in the lead up to the midterms with George Stephanopoulos guiding them along the way.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Wednesday morning with ABC's James Longman as he explains the latest on the economic turmoil in the U.K. under Prime Minister Liz Truss. Then ABC's Ines de La Cuetara breaks down the concerns surrounding an Iranian climber who didn't wear her hijab at a competition. And, ABC's Will Carr reports on water contamination on a Hawaiian military base. http://apple.co/2HPocUL


  • At the White House, President Biden will deliver remarks on energy and gas prices at 1:15 p.m. ET, then will speak on the 2021 infrastructure investment law at 3 p.m. ET.
  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will brief at 12:15 p.m. ET.
  • Mike Pence appears at Georgetown University at 7 p.m. ET.
  • House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn campaigns with Democratic Senate nominee Cheri Beasley in North Carolina as Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin campaigns for GOP gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake in Arizona and Ohio Republican Senate nominee J.D. Vance appears with Sens. Tim Scott and Tom Cotton.

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back Thursday for the latest.

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