The Hill's Morning Report — Senate battlefield grows with 70 days until midterms

 

 

 

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⏰ 70 days until Nov. 6.

The Senate battlefield is expanding as Republicans seek to maintain or grow their slim majority in the upper chamber.

The election landscape is suddenly littered with unknowns as candidates in both parties find themselves on the defensive in states that were once assumed to be safe for the incumbents.

While most of the focus has been on the 10 Senate Democrats up for reelection in states President TrumpDonald John TrumpOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: study CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him Cohn: Jamie Dimon would be 'phenomenal' president MORE carried in 2016, there is also the possibility that an upset or two could be brewing elsewhere.

In Texas, new polling shows Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) running neck-and-neck with Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGrassley agrees to second Kavanaugh hearing after GOP members revolt FEC: Cruz campaign didn't violate rules with fundraising letter labeled ‘summons’ Cruz criticizes O'Rourke on Dallas shooting: Wish he wasn't 'so quick to always blame the police officer' MORE (R).

The latest: An Emerson College survey that puts Cruz ahead in the race by only 1 point, a statistical tie. Cruz still leads by 5.5 points in the RealClearPolitics average.

Earlier this month, the nonpartisan election handicappers at The Cook Political Report moved the race from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.” O’Rourke has matched Cruz in fundraising, Open Secrets reports.

Democrats have long dreamed about turning Texas blue and believe the demographic makeup of the Lone Star State may have finally reached a tipping point to make that possible.

RealClearPolitics: Can O’Rourke turn Texas blue?

Most Republicans are confident that GOP voters will turn out in Texas to deliver another term for Cruz. The Texas senator believes O’Rourke erred badly in backing the NFL players taking a knee for the national anthem. Cruz released a new ad on Monday highlighting O’Rourke’s position on the controversy.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, Democrats are spending to protect Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDems urge tech companies to remove 3D-gun blueprints Dem senators introduce resolution calling on Trump to stop attacking the press Booming economy has Trump taking a well-deserved victory lap MORE (D) in a state that hasn’t elected a Republican senator in more than 40 years.

Menendez is getting a tough fight from Republican Bob Hugin, a former CEO of a pharmaceutical company, who is spending millions of dollars of his own money.

Republicans on Monday gleefully highlighted a new six-figure ad buy the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee placed for Menendez.

    “With so many incumbents up in states President Trump carried, it should shock you to know the latest reservation is in New Jersey.” — National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director Katie Martin.

Menendez is still favored to win — the latest Quinnipiac University survey shows him ahead by 6 points. But it’s clear Menendez’s past legal troubles have dented his popularity in the Garden State.

LEADING THE DAY

*** Latest details about funeral plans for the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainAnother recession could hit US in 2019, says credit union association chief R-E-S-P-E-C-T: One legacy of Franklin and McCain is up to us To cure Congress, elect more former military members MORE (R-Ariz.) are described by The Hill, and TIME, and at https://www.johnmccain.com. ***

 

 

 

Carl M. Cannon: McCain and the messages that mattered.

 

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CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: ***Breaking overnight: Americans for Prosperity, the political arm of the network of groups helmed by Charles Koch, is putting $500,000 behind a new 30-second television and digital ad praising GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale (Mont.) for supporting a direct primary care bill that was vetoed by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D).

Rosendale is taking on Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterCBS Poll: Missouri, Montana Senate races in dead heats Dems play waiting game with Collins and Murkowski Watchdog groups to file complaint against Montana candidate alleging coordination with NRA MORE (D) in a state the president carried by about 20 points in 2016. Republicans have gone after Tester over his support for ObamaCare. A half-million dollars goes a long way on the airwaves in Montana. If Trump could pick one Democrat to lose reelection this fall, it would be Tester. ***

Primary voters head to the polls on Tuesday for elections in Arizona and Florida, both of which will feature hotly-contested Senate match-ups in November.

In Florida, Democrats are growing concerned that Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonJuan Williams: America warms up to socialism Dems gain momentum 50 days before midterms Jeb Bush campaigns with Rick Scott in Florida MORE (D) will lose his reelection bid to Gov. Rick Scott (R).

Democrats are more confident in Arizona, where the Senate match-up is expected to feature two female House members — Reps. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyKavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates McSally supports having Kavanaugh, accuser testify Poll: Sinema leads McSally by 7 points in Arizona Senate race MORE (R) and Kyrsten Sinema (D). Still, that race is expected to go down to the wire, assuming McSally triumphs over the field of conservative firebrands in the primary on Tuesday.

The Hill’s Max Greenwood takes you through what to watch for in Tuesday’s primaries, which also feature interesting House and gubernatorial races (The Hill).

The Associated Press: McCain’s death shadows Republican primary in Arizona.

The Wall Street Journal: How the president is remaking the Republican Party.

Meanwhile, there will soon be a new face in the Senate from Arizona replacing McCain. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) will appoint a Republican to fill in for McCain until a special election in 2020 determines who will serve out McCain’s final two years.

The Hill: McCain’s death marks decline of Trump’s GOP Senate critics.

More from the campaign trail … A new paper from The Brookings Institution says the GOP tax law is unlikely to have a big impact on the midterm elections (The Hill) … Judges struck down North Carolina’s Republican-drawn redistricting map, deeming the partisan gerrymander unconstitutional for the second time this year (The Hill) … Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) will run for reelection in 2019 (Lexington Herald Leader).

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TRADE: Trump on Monday announced a U.S.-Mexico trade deal following months of negotiations to recast the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which also encompasses Canada (The Hill).

"We will see whether or not we decide to put up Canada or just do a separate deal with Canada, if they want to make the deal." — Trump

The president’s Oval Office celebration left out several critical steps, including Canada’s role, and approval that must come from Congress.

 

 

Reuters: Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, arrives Tuesday in Washington to resume NAFTA discussions.

Reuters: Mexico’s president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who takes office on Dec. 1, says it’s important for Canada to be part of the deal.

Trump said a new agreement would no longer be called NAFTA, which sparked questions about the requirements of the law, which is a trilateral agreement signed in 1993 by former President Clinton.

The Hill: Fate of Trump’s tentative trade deal with Mexico could rest with congressional Democrats.

The New York Times: NAFTA questions remain about what’s legally permissible.

The Associated Press: Preliminary trade deal sparks confusion.

Tariffs: The Trump administration is offering U.S. farmers an initial $6 billion in government relief to weather effects of tit-for-tat tariffs (CNBC).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

ADMINISTRATION: FBI headquarters: A new inspector general’s report from the General Services Administration says Trump was more involved than Congress was told while trying to keep the bureau’s headquarters in place across from the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington, rather than see the headquarters move to Virginia or Maryland for added security (The Hill).

Pentagon: The likely naming of Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeTrump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Steady Kavanaugh proves to be a tough target for Democrats MORE (R-Okla.), 83, a Trump backer, to succeed McCain as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, could result in fewer outspoken checks on the Defense Department (Reuters).  

CFPB – student loans: The federal official in charge of protecting student borrowers from predatory lending practices quit after accusing the Trump administration of undermining the independence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its charge to protect the interests of student borrowers. Seth Frotman, the CFPB’s student loan ombudsman, sent a scathing letter of resignation to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyFinancial policymakers must be suffering from amnesia On The Money: Broad coalition unites against Trump tariffs | Senate confirms new IRS chief | Median household income rose for third straight year in 2017 | Jamie Dimon's brief battle with Trump Eight weeks out: Dems see narrow path to Senate majority MORE, who serves as the watchdog bureau’s acting director (NPR).

FEMA – recommendations: The Federal Emergency Management Agency and local Las Vegas authorities issued a report on Monday analyzing problems with communications and emergency response experienced during last year’s mass shooting, the deadliest in modern U.S. history. Fifty-eight people died and more than 850 were injured during a gunman’s rampage during a Harvest Festival outdoor concert near the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. The first-of-its-kind FEMA report said a “unified command post should be established among all agencies” for such large-attendance events in the future (The Associated Press).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley jeasley@thehill.com & Alexis Simendinger asimendinger@thehill.com. Suggestions? Tips? We want to hear from you! Share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!

OPINION

Why would Michael Cohen refuse a pardon? There’s precedent, by Professor Bernadette Meyler of Stanford Law School, opinion contributor to The Hill. https://bit.ly/2BRS8gj

Telling the truth may be the best legal option for President Trump, by Joseph Moreno, former national security prosecutor and opinion contributor to The Hill. https://bit.ly/2BPWLaL

WHERE AND WHEN

The House is out until after Labor Day. However, members of the House Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary committees will meet jointly today behind closed doors with Justice Department criminal division official Bruce Ohr, 56 (The Hill) … “Ohr has made a career of supporting and facilitating important cases that targeted Russian organized crime” (The New York Times).

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Lynn A. Johnson to be assistant secretary for family support at the Health and Human Services Department.

The president has lunch with Secretary of Defense James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Air Force outlines plan for biggest force since end of Cold War | Trump admin slashes refugee cap | Mattis accuses Russia of meddling in Macedonia's NATO bid It’s long past time to tie the president’s hands Mattis warns of Russian meddling in Macedonia's bid for NATO: report MORE. In the afternoon, Trump meets with Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, the International Federation of Association Football.

Vice President Pence talks by phone with President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan. In the afternoon, he’ll head to the Capitol to participate in the Senate’s weekly GOP policy lunch.

The White House Historical Association is in the second of four days of its “Presidential Sites Summit,” through Aug. 30, featuring national speakers, scholars, journalists, former officials and the largest-ever assemblage of descendants of presidents. Participants discuss a workplace that has defined every presidency: The White House. Summit sessions: Willard InterContinental hotel, Washington. Information HERE.

Invitation from The Hill: Sept. 12, newsmakers discuss “A Healthy Start: Infant and Early Childhood Nutrition,” featuring Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottHealthy business vs healthy people — how will this administration address the two? Washington turns focus to child nutrition The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — McConnell warns of GOP `knife fight’ to keep Senate control MORE (D-Va.), and Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Brandon Lipps from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Hill’s Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack kicks off a conversation about maternal, infant and early childhood nutrition, and progress toward the goal of healthier eating. RSVP HERE.

ELSEWHERE

> Catholic Church and attorneys general: In the wake of a bombshell report from a Pennsylvania grand jury, attorneys general from around the country are taking their own steps to investigate harassment and sexual abuse allegations inside the Catholic Church. Few states have the power to compel church authorities to open secret files, but some have already won cooperation agreements from bishops and archbishops (The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports).

> Glenn Greenwald, the bane of their resistance, by Ian Parker (The New Yorker). A leftist journalist’s bruising crusade against establishment Democrats – and their Russia obsession.

> Net neutrality: The Internet Association, Entertainment Software Association, Computer & Communications Industry Association, and Writers Guild of America West urged the reversal of the Trump administration’s decision last year to overturn net neutrality rules. They outlined arguments in a court filing on Monday (Reuters).

> Teachers: The costs of hiring substitute teachers in St. Paul, Minn., public schools soared to $6.7 million last year (up from $4 million in the span of four years), following the district’s hiring of a temp agency in 2014. The rise in teacher absences (the average St. Paul teacher asked for a substitute instructor 13 times last year) may be correlated to the availability of temporary substitutes, but other factors are being debated (St. Paul Pioneer Press).

> The Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics at Harvard University on Monday announced resident and visiting fellows for the fall, including former Rep. Joseph Heck (R-Nev.); former Democratic mayors Mitch Landrieu (New Orleans); Michael Nutter (Philadelphia); and Antonio Villaraigosa (Los Angeles); plus Amy Dacey, former CEO of the Democratic National Committee and former executive director of EMILY’s List; John Noonan, senior counselor for military and defense affairs for Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonGOP senators condemn 'vulgar' messages directed at Collins over Kavanaugh GOP turns its fire on Google Overnight Defense: Trump denies report he's looking at Mattis replacements | Inhofe officially gets Armed Services gavel | Trump revives shutdown threat MORE (R-Ark.); Brittany Packnett, vice president of national community alliances and engagement at Teach for America and co-founder of Campaign Zero; and Margaret Talev, senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg News.

THE CLOSER

And finally …    Who doesn’t love celebrating a birthday with diluted juice and leaf-eater biscuits? At the National Zoo, Tian Tian sat down on Monday with a natal-day cake made with panda-perfected ingredients to mark the big 2-1. Bear-y good wishes!