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Elise Stefanik’s impeachment performance gives boost to 2020 opponent

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Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York earned high praise from President Donald Trump after going to bat for him in Friday’s impeachment inquiry with former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. 

But Stefanik also seems to have inadvertently offered a fundraising boost to her 2020 Democratic opponent, which shows that going all-in for Trump can be a double-edged sword for lawmakers seeking reelection. 

During Friday’s impeachment hearing, GOP Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, sought to yield a portion of his time to Stefanik. But House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff wouldn’t allow it, citing House impeachment rules.

The rules give the committee’s chair or ranking member 45-minute blocks to ask witnesses questions and they’re only permitted to delegate time to their counsels and not other members. With that said, members are each allotted five minutes to question witnesses immediately after these respective 45-minute periods expire. Stefanik was given an opportunity to question Yovanovitch later in the hearing.

In spite of the rules, Nunes sought to portray the incident as Schiff unfairly silencing a female lawmaker.

In remarks directed at Schiff, he said: “You’re gagging the young lady from New York?”

Stefanik then chimed in: “This is the fifth time you have interrupted a duly-elected member of Congress.”

The New York lawmaker also tweeted about the incident, stating: “Once again, Adam Schiff flat out REFUSES to let duly elected Members of Congress ask questions to the witness, simply because we are Republicans. His behavior is unacceptable and he continues to abuse his Chairmanship.”

Stefanik’s performance earned high praise from Trump and has made her a virtual overnight celebrity within the GOP. Trump in a tweet on Sunday referred to Stefanik as a “new Republican Star.”

Later on Sunday, Stefanik tweeted: “Thanks, @realDonaldTrump & EVERYONE for the outpouring of support! I will continue to work hard to pursue the truth on behalf of my constituents. The Radical Left will continue their sick attacks on me but I’m proud to represent the people of NY21.”

Stefanik’s 2020 opponent raised $1 million since Friday’s impeachment hearing

Stefanik, who is 35 and entered office in 2015, has garnered a reputation as a political moderate and previously was an aide to former President George W. Bush before working on then-GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign in 2012. Romney has emerged as one of the harshest GOP critics of Trump in Washington since he was elected as a senator for Utah. 

In short, Stefanik has close ties to the establishment wing of the Republican Party that has often found itself at odds with Trump and his administration. Stefanik has also not held back from criticizing Trump in the past on various issues, including his divisive decision to pull US troops from northern Syria early last month, for example. 

The New York lawmaker — who is the only Republican woman on the House Intelligence Committee and the youngest of the 13 women members of the GOP in the House — described Trump’s Syria retreat as a “misguided & catastrophic blow to our national security interests.”

But Stefanik has also voted in line with Trump roughly 90% of the time, according to an analysis from FiveThirtyEight. And as of Friday, Stefanik’s political fate seems decidedly more closely linked to Trump, who won her district (New York’s 21st congressional district) by 14 percentage points in 2016 — even as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won New York overall. Comparatively, former President Barack Obama defeated Romney there by six percenatage points in 2012.

Recent history has shown that Republicans experience mixed results when they tie their candidacies to Trump, who is among the most controversial presidents of the modern era. 

Meanwhile, Stefanik’s 2020 Democratic opponent, Tedra Cobb, raised $1 million since Friday’s hearing and went from having roughly 5,000 Twitter followers the day before the hearing to roughly 250,000 followers as of Monday afternoon.

 

Prior to the bump she got over the weekend, Cobb’s campaign had raised $656,000 in 2019 thus far. 

Stefanik, who defeated Cobb by 14 points in 2018, has raised roughly $1.3 million, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.

Cobb may have benefited from getting mentioned in a tweet by George Conway, a staunch critic of Trump who is also husband to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. In the tweet, Conway referred to Stefanik as “lying trash” as he urged people to donate to Cobb.

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