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Democrats are focusing on Speaker Mike Johnson, aiming to undermine control of the House of Representatives in 2024

Democrats see an opportunity to make Speaker Mike Johnson a central part of their strategy to overturn control of the House of Representatives in 2024. House Representative Susan DelBene, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, claims that Johnson's track record is problematic: "We may have a new face, but extremism is still present. In fact, it might be even more radical."

She acknowledges that voters may not know who Johnson is, but DelBene believes that the more people learn about the Speaker, the more he can become a liability for Republicans nationwide.

Mike Johnson's rise marks a new stage in the alliance between white evangelicals and the Republican Party. ANALYSIS Mike Johnson's rise marks a new stage in the alliance between white evangelicals and the Republican Party. "While he may be unknown to people, I think every day a lot is becoming known about where he stands and how extreme he is," said DelBene. "You know, someone who wanted to overturn the 2020 election, someone who wants to see a nationwide abortion ban, someone who wants to cut social security and healthcare."

Turning the Speaker into a Political Brand Republicans have, for many years, run ads linking vulnerable Democrats to then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi. However, Republican Party strategist Ken Spain says that Democrats find it challenging to do the same for Johnson. "He's an unknown entity to the vast majority of American voters. He is less defined and, therefore, doesn't represent a political vulnerability, at least not yet."

Spain claims that the new Speaker faces pressure to avoid any hint of the drama that led to his election last month after three other candidates failed to unite the party to secure the gavel. "The only way the Speaker becomes a political vulnerability is if the majority cannot function. And we've already felt that over the last few weeks. If this continues to spread into 2024, it could become incredibly problematic."

New Speaker Departs from the Business-Aligned Republican Leadership Model Johnson belongs to a different wing of the Republican Party than his predecessors. Speakers John Boehner, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy had close ties to the Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, and corporate donors, which was key to accumulating large campaign funds. However, Johnson is closer to ordinary and evangelical circles.

"He is more aligned with this emerging wing, the more populist blue-collar party. This means he has fewer contacts or close ties to the business community. However, at the same time, he has already become a relatively successful fundraiser," notes Spain.

This connection became evident immediately. The new Speaker raised $1 million in just the first few days after winning the gavel.

But House Representative John Duarte, a California Republican and head of the DCCC, says that Johnson has big shoes to fill. "Kevin McCarthy was undoubtedly the king of Republican fundraising. As majority leader, minority leader, and as Speaker. So, I'm not sure we can expect the same from Mike Johnson right away, but he has done an excellent job with speeches, interviews. I mean, he's a very personable guy."

McCarthy raised about $500 million through his own accounts, his outside super PAC, the NRCC, and donations to the Republican House campaign during the 2022 midterm cycle. The Congressional Leadership Fund, an outside super PAC that raised most of this money and helped recruit and support Republican candidates, says Johnson can "pick up the baton" from McCarthy and insists that the playing field hasn't changed with Johnson as Speaker.

Republicans Running in Swing Districts Praise Johnson's Style, Downplaying Content The battle for the House will occur in roughly 60 out of 435 House districts. Mike Garcia, another California Republican running in a high-profile race, acknowledges that Johnson is to the right of him. "So, he's definitely more conservative than I am. He's more conservative than many conference participants. So, his personal position on things doesn't matter as much as what the legislative agenda looks like and what we're going to do that they're going to knock us over with."