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Rep. Joe Cunningham endorsed by US Chamber of Commerce ahead of November election

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Joe Cunningham

South Carolina First District Representative Joe Cunningham

Charleston Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a rare show of support for a group which has traditionally favored Republicans ahead of elections.

Overall, the national chamber endorsed 23 freshman House Democrats, many of whom face tough reelection bids.

Others cited were Reps. Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne of Iowa, Andy Kim of New Jersey, Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico, Anthony Brindisi of New York, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, and Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, according to The Associated Press.

At least 29 Republicans are also being backed by the group.

The endorsement comes as the chamber is trying to expand where it can find allies for its message, recalibrating its tactics as the once-reliably pro-business GOP has taken a more populist, conservative hue on issues like immigration and trade reflecting the views of President Donald Trump and hard-right tea party adherents whose numbers in Congress have grown, the AP said.

Cunningham said in a statement he is honored to have the support of the group and will continue to promote pro-worker and pro-small business policies.  

"As our businesses recover and rebuild from this public health and economic crisis, I will continue to support policies that create jobs, promote growth and reignite our economy, and work with our local chambers of commerce to help small businesses flourish," Cunningham said.

The endorsement bodes well for Cunningham — bipartisanship is a major talking point of his campaign — as he faces a tough reelection bid against Republican challenger Nancy Mace, a state lawmaker from Daniel Island.  

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Earlier this year, the chamber said it spent six figures on digital ads opposing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., in a primary that the progressive lawmaker won easily.

Otherwise, all of the chamber's $2 million spent so far in the 2020 campaign on outside spending — money spent without coordinating with candidates — went to helping Republicans, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

So did all of the $40 million in outside spending by the chamber during the 2018 and 2016 campaigns. 

Notably, in 2018, the chamber endorsed Katie Arrington, the Republican state lawmaker who lost to Cunningham in the general election. 

Cunningham is a top Republican target in 2020 and represents a 1st Congressional District that Trump carried by 13 percentage points in 2016.

This battleground race could determine whether Democrats keep their majority in the House or whether Republicans can net the 18 seats they need to regain control of the chamber.

According to the latest quarterly federal fundraising reports, Cunningham has raised more than $3 million. It is nearly four times larger than what Mace has collected so far. 

Reach Thomas Novelly at 843-937-5713. Follow him @TomNovelly on Twitter. 

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