OVERNIGHT CAMPAIGN: One step forward, two steps back for GOP

Leading Republican presidential potentials are making plays to expand the party’s appeal and rehabilitate its image.

But progress on that front has been slow, as the comments of some often undermine the efforts of others.

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This week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) outlined his proposal to tackle poverty; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called in an op-ed for “compassion” in responding to the border crisis; Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) emphasized the need for government to support working families in a speech on the importance of strong family values; and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is slated to deliver a speech Friday to the National Urban League about school reform.

But in his Wednesday speech, Rubio also defended his opposition to gay marriage, stating traditional marriage “has proved to be of great benefit to our society, our nation and our people, and therefore deserves to be elevated in our laws."

That position puts him — and every other potential GOP presidential contender — at odds with the 55 percent of Americans that support gay marriage in a May Gallup poll.

And in his op-ed, Bush emphasized the need to change immigration law to make it easier to deport the tens of thousands of children who have illegally crossed the border over the past few months. That position, though widely shared within the GOP, has drawn heavy criticism from immigrants rights advocates and risks alienating Hispanics and appearing cold in the face of a humanitarian crisis.

Republicans have diagnosed their electoral problems, and are taking steps to correct them. But they'll have to tackle a tendency to take two steps back for every step they take forward.


SENATE SHOWDOWN

MT-SEN (WALSH): Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) told The Associated Press on Wednesday that his unintentional plagiarism of his master’s thesis may have been partially due to post-traumatic stress disorder developed from his time serving in the Iraq War. Walsh said that at the time of writing his thesis he was on medication and seeing doctors as he tried to cope with recent suicide of a fellow veteran. The New York Times revealed Wednesday that Walsh had copied more than a quarter of his thesis from other sources without proper attribution. 

WV-SEN (OPEN): Senate Majority PAC is launching a $200,000 ad buy on Friday attacking Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R), the frontrunner in the race to replace retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D). Capito is heavily favored over Democrat Natalie Tennant in the race, but the SMP buy is a signal Democrats haven’t given up on the race yet.

AK-SEN (BEGICH): A super-PAC backing Senate candidate Dan Sullivan (R) is on the air with an ad hitting Sullivan's primary foes, a sign he may not have as comfortable a primary lead as many outside Alaska have believed.

The spot, from Alaska’s Energy, America’s Values, features an local Alaskan woman who talks about how Joe Miller “troubles” her and expresses disappointment in Mead Treadwell for “the way he’s attacked Dan Sullivan.” The ad takes a shot at Begich, too, as the woman calls the senator “97 percent Obama.” “I think Dan Sullivan is the only candidate who can beat Mark Begich,” the woman says at the close of the ad. 

KS-SEN (ROBERTS): Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) released a new radio ad Thursday, slamming his primary challenger, Milton Wolf, for his “x-ray Facebook scandal” and for not showing up to vote in 28 elections on state issues. The spot’s narrator states that the difference between Roberts and Wolf “couldn’t be clearer” and that Roberts is the “Kansas choice,” touting his ranking as “one of the most conservative senators in the country.” Meanwhile, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) endorsed Roberts, praising him as a “conservative warrior.”

GA-SEN (OPEN): A Georgia superstar athlete is throwing in his support for Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn. Baseball legend and former Atlanta Braves player Hank Aaron wrote a fundraising letter for Nunn, in which he expressed that he’s “truly impressed” with Nunn’s “commitment to service, to helping Georgians empower themselves, and to making our state a better place.”

NC-SEN (HAGAN): Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) is receiving support from folk singer and Democratic activist James Taylor. Hagan’s campaign announced Thursday morning that her campaign is raffling off two tickets to one of Taylor’s concerts as well as a chance to meet him afterwards.

Crossroads GPS is out with a new spot criticizing Hagan for voting to raise the debt ceiling, saying future generations will be “forced to pay even more.” The ad is part of the $3.5 million buy Crossroads made in the spring. 

MS-SEN (COCHRAN): Conservative commentator Ann Coulter again lashed out at Chris McDaniel’s supporters for his continued refusal to concede his primary fight with Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), defending Cochran’s efforts to woo African American Democrats and urging them to take their energies elsewhere. “Yes, it's annoying to see a Republican appeal to Democratic voters to save his seat. But Thad Cochran is hardly Arlen Specter, who was a thorn in Republicans' side forever,” she writes.

BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

TURNOUT: A new Pew Research Center survey found that while voters are split almost even as to whether they’d vote for a Republican or Democratic candidate — 47 percent support or lean toward the Democrat and 45 percent say the same of the Republican in a generic ballot matchup — 45 percent of Republican supporters indicated they are more enthusiastic about voting this year than in previous elections. Only 37 percent of Democratic supporters indicated similar enthusiasm.

MI-3 (AMASH): Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) looks like he’ll coast to victory in his Aug. 5 primary despite angering business groups in his district and nationally.

Amash released a new ad Wednesday touting his “West Michigan values” and his congressional voting attendance record. “Justin has never missed a vote and explains every one,” the spot’s narrator says. “He defends our liberty and the Constitution.” 

MN-8 (NOLAN): The House Majority PAC and AFSCME are going on the air to defend Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.), the latest sign that Republican Stewart Mills's campaign is increasingly concerning Democrats.

The ad hits him for his inherited wealth and opposition to raising the minimum wage, calling him “out of touch.” 

NH-1 (SHEA-PORTER): Republican candidates former Rep. Frank Guinta and businessman Dan Innis clashed on issues ranging from the Patriot Act to raising gas taxes in their first televised debate Wednesday. 

CA-10 (DENHAM), CA-21 (VALADAO): President Obama highlighted two Democratic House hopefuls while speaking at a San Francisco Bay area fundraiser Wednesday. Obama called Michael Eggman and Amanda Renteria “two outstanding candidates and part of what it is that we’re just trying to build here and across the country.”

KS-4 (POMPEO): A new poll out Wednesday conducted by SurveyUSA for KSN-TV shows Rep. Mike Pompeo’s (R-Kansas) primary challenger gaining ground just two weeks before the GOP primary. The survey finds Pompeo leading challenger Todd Tiahrt by just 46 to 39 percent, a tightening in the lead from the last poll conducted in June that had Pompeo ahead by 17 percentage points. 

WV-3 (RAHALL): Republican candidate Evan Jenkins picked up the endorsement of HuntPAC, the political action committee of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, a reversal of its endorsement of Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) last cycle. HuntPAC praised Jenkins as a “pro-jobs” candidate, the same praise the group gave to Rahall in 2012. 

CA-52 (PETERS): A new poll out from the Democratic Majority PAC shows Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) slightly leading in his competitive race against Republican challenger Carl DeMaio. The survey from GBA Strategies, a Democratic pollster, found Peters with 48 percent to DeMaio’s 43 percent support. 

NE-2 (TERRY): Tea Partier Chip Maxwell announced Thursday that he won’t be challenging Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.). Democrats had hoped Maxwell would run, as he would pull conservative votes from Terry and give Democratic candidate Brad Ashford an opening. But Maxwell feared the same thing, and therefore announced he is looking toward a run in 2016 instead. 

NY-1 (BISHOP): Republican candidate Lee Zeldin picked up the endorsement of former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Thursday, who praised Zeldin as “exactly the type of new blood Washington so desperately needs.”

2016 WATCH

CLINTON: Hillary Clinton will have no problem gaining support in Florida, according to a new Quinnipac University poll out Thursday. Clinton claimed two-thirds of the Florida Democratic vote in the survey and topped her potential GOP challengers by margins of 7 to 21 percentage points. 

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is the leading GOP potential nominee, topping the field with 21 percent of the vote. But Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is closing that lead, having increased his support from a May survey from 11 to 18 percent.

Clinton also admitted in an interview that she “sometimes expect[s] more than perhaps I should” from the press. “ I’ll have to work on my expectations,” she said.

PAUL: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will travel to Iowa in the beginning of August on a three-day trip to rally volunteers at a series of new Victory offices opening in the state. Paul will be joined in the effort by several congressional and statewide candidates.

On Friday, he’ll announce a major school reform push during a speech to the National Urban League.

CHRISTIE: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R ) faced continued fallout over his suggestion that the Republican Governors Association, of which he’s chair, won’t spend money for New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino. Astorino was reportedly asked not to attend a Republican Governors Association meeting in Aspen this week, but went after other governors encouraged him to show up. A potential 2016 opponent of Christie’s, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R ), took advantage of the conflict, tweeting out a shot of himself and Astorino with the message, “Glad to be with my buddy @RobAstorino in Aspen.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY 

“Be smart, Mr. Vice President, and make a stop for some of our famous chili.”

—House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) advising Vice President Joe Biden on what to do during his Cincinnati visit