Senate Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL wants to flip the chamber in 2022. But one potential obstacle keeps coming up time and again: multiple DONALD TRUMP-inspired candidates who might sweep their GOP primaries but go on to lose in the general election.
Take Georgia: While Trump is all but begging NFL legend HERSCHEL WALKER to run against Democratic Sen. RAPHAEL WARNOCK, McConnell views Walker’s complicated personal history as a vulnerability. A recent AP story detailed Walker’s record of threatening and violent behavior — including once allegedly holding a pistol to his then-wife’s head and threatening to “blow [her] f—ing brains out.” (Walker has spoken openly about having dissociative identity disorder.) JOSH HOLMES, the GOP leader’s political right-hand man, tweeted a link to the article, writing: “This is about as comprehensive a takedown as I’ve ever read. My lord.”
But their troubles don’t stop with the Peach State:
— In Missouri, former Gov. ERIC GREITENS is hugging Trump’s big lie about the 2020 election in hopes of winning the GOP nomination for retiring Sen. ROY BLUNT’s seat. But Greitens also has major vulnerabilities: In 2018, he was forced to resign after being accused of sexually assaulting a woman, tying her up and taking nude photos of her in order to blackmail her into silence. (Greitens admitted to an affair, but denied the blackmail accusation.) If he wins the primary, senior Republicans worry that they can kiss goodbye what should be a safe seat.
— In Pennsylvania, Republicans are similarly worried about the crop of GOP hopefuls looking to succeed Sen. PAT TOOMEY. None of the major Republican candidates have ever been elected to public office, and every one of them lags behind the race’s top Democrats in fundraising, as the Philly Inquirer recently reported.
— In Arizona, Democratic Sen. MARK KELLY has a formidable fundraising war chest, and Gov. DOUG DUCEY — the Republican whom folks here in Washington see as most electable — is thus far sitting on the sidelines as the former president vows never to endorse him and several Trumpian Mini-Mes jump into the race.
SO WHAT TO DO? (IF ANYTHING.) HERE’S WHERE IT GETS INTERESTING … Earlier this year, McConnell said he would back candidates who can win, signaling his willingness to put his thumb on the scale in 2022. After the 2010 and 2012 cycles, when GOP candidates like CHRISTINE (“I’M NOT A WITCH”) O’DONNELL and TODD (“LEGITIMATE RAPE”) AKIN spurred national mockery of Republicans, the NRSC started stepping in to boost the strongest GOP candidates and kneecap those who could snag the nomination but tank the party.
But Sen. RICK SCOTT (R-Fla.), who now chairs the NRSC, has been very clear that he has no intention of meddling in 2022’s primaries. Scott, we’re told, remembers his first gubernatorial run in 2010, when the Republican Governors Association backed his primary opponent, BILL MCCOLLUM, over him. Ever since, he has felt strongly that GOP voters should choose whom they want — much to the chagrin of some institutional Republicans.
Defenders of Scott’s hands-off approach argue that wading into primaries simply doesn’t work, and point to the NRSC’s recent history spending a ton of time and money backing people like Georgia Sen. KELLY LOEFFLER over then-Rep. DOUG COLLINS (and losing the seat to Warnock), or Sen. LUTHER STRANGE in Alabama while boxing out MO BROOKS — yet still somehow leaving room for ROY MOORE to clinch the nomination. (Moore, who was accused of sexual molestation, lost the seat to Democrat DOUG JONES.)
“Chairman Scott has made clear that the NRSC will not spend one minute attacking other Republicans,” NRSC spokesperson CHRIS HARTLINE said in a statement. “We’ve focused all of our attention on attacking and defining these radical Democrats from Day 1. And we’re not going to stop.”
That means meeting with candidates like Walker, who we’re told has spoken with Scott multiple times about his interest in running for Senate.
To be fair, all it takes for a GOP majority is flipping one seat. And we could still see McConnell and his political team — which didn’t respond to our requests for comment — get involved where the NRSC doesn’t.
But with such a narrow path, and with the calendar hurtling ever closer to 2022, the whispers among Republicans are growing, and every race that comes into play will cost money and time — making their path to the majority more difficult still.
SCOOP — Our own Alex Isenstadt writes in: GOP Rep. BILLY LONG appears to be teasing a Missouri Senate run with the backing of former senior Trump adviser KELLYANNE CONWAY. Long, who’s been rumored to be a candidate, has sent out an Aug. 11 save-the-date invitation for a “Birthday Celebration and Special Announcement.” Conway is listed as the special guest.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — As Trump continues to expand his post-White House operation, he’s added TAYLOR BUDOWICH as director of comms for Save America, Trump’s PAC. He’ll be joining deputy director of comms MARGO MARTIN and LIZ HARRINGTON, who replaced JASON MILLER as Trump’s new spokesperson.
Budowich previously worked as a senior adviser to DONALD TRUMP JR. and KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE, and as a senior comms advisor to RON DESANTIS’ 2018 Florida gubernatorial campaign.
JOE BIDEN’S THURSDAY:
— 10 a.m.: The president and VP KAMALA HARRIS will receive the President’s Daily Brief.
— 11:45 a.m.: Biden will sign the Dispose Unused Medications and Prescription Opioids Act and the Major Medical Facility Authorization Act of 2021 into law in the Oval Office.
— 1 p.m.: Biden and Harris will receive their weekly economic briefing.
— 4 p.m.: Biden will speak from the East Room about the next steps in vaccinating Americans and tackling the delta variant of Covid-19.
HARRIS’ THURSDAY: The VP and SBA Administrator ISABEL CASILLAS GUZMAN will also take part in a virtual meeting with small business owners to talk about the infrastructure bill and helping small businesses.
Principal deputy press secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE will brief at 1 p.m.
THE HOUSE will meet at 10 a.m. Texas state representatives will testify before an Oversight subcommittee on voting rights and restrictions in Texas at 10 a.m. House GOP leaders will hold a presser at 9:45 a.m. to discuss Biden and Speaker NANCY PELOSI’s leadership.
THE SENATE will meet at 10:30 a.m. to resume consideration of the motion to proceed to the INVEST in America Act.
BIDEN’S BIG BIF VICTORY — The coverage: NYT, WSJ, WaPo, CNN … See some details of the package here … Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER is doing an early victory lap for his two-track approach, though he has acknowledged that more work — and disagreements — lies ahead. Indeed, the drama isn’t over — which leads us to the next item …
SINEMA’S F-U TO THE LEFT — Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) threw everyone for a loop Wednesday night when she said she’d vote for the bipartisan infrastructure framework, but opposes the $3.5 trillion Democrats-only reconciliation bill.
The left, as you can imagine, went nuts.
— Rep. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-N.Y.) took to Twitter with a threat to torpedo the BIF if Sinema becomes a problem on reconciliation: “Good luck tanking your own party’s investment on childcare, climate action, and infrastructure while presuming you’ll survive a 3 vote House margin especially after choosing to exclude members of color from negotiations and calling that a ‘bipartisan accomplishment.’”
— Rep. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-Mich.) tweeted a story about a 4-year-old going missing in an Arizona flash flood, and wrote: “Sinema seems not to care that her own state is flooding, the west is burning, and infrastructure around the country is crumbling. Sinema is more interested in gaining GOP friends and blocking much needed resources, than fighting for her residents’ future.”
Remember: Pelosi has a slim margin in the House and is already dealing with a Transportation chair who feels jilted and wants to put his own stamp on the bill.
THE VIEW FROM 1600 PENN — “Biden ignores the ‘shiny objects’ and nears a bipartisan win,” by Laura Barrón-López and Chris Cadelago: “It was, the White House stressed, a testament to the president’s political skill and persistence. Despite constant fits and starts, grumbling from many in his party, and predictions that negotiations would fall apart, Biden refused to give up on working with Republicans.
“‘Maybe I’m an ironic person to say it, but it turns out that [decades’] worth of expertise and relationships and pattern recognition are really helpful to getting a big result like this done,’ Transportation Secretary PETE BUTTIGIEG said in an interview. ‘This was a team that was not distracted, the president was not thrown by the different kind of drama of the day, or the shiny objects.’”
THE WHITE HOUSE
NEW — Following Harris’ trips to Guatemala and the U.S.-Mexico border (and a surge in migrants), the Biden administration is out this morning with a new “Root Causes Strategy” to address the reasons why people flee the Northern Triangle for the U.S.
— It has five pillars: addressing economic inequality; fighting corruption; promoting “respect for human rights, labor rights and free press”; cracking down on violence, gangs and criminal organizations; and fighting gender-based, domestic and sexual violence.
— Harris, in the release: “We will build on what works, and we will pivot away from what does not work. It will not be easy, and progress will not be instantaneous, but we are committed to getting it right.”
POLITICAL JARGON WATCH — “Biden’s new weapon against Covid-19: Don’t call it a mandate,” by Sarah Owermohle, Adam Cancryn, Natasha Korecki and Erin Banco: “The White House is readying its most aggressive action to date on Covid vaccinations. But it’s trying to avoid one word: mandate.
“President Joe Biden is due to issue a directive Thursday requiring some 2 million federal employees to attest they’ve received the shot or submit to weekly testing … The move would avoid the kind of top-down order Biden has resisted using for months to contain the virus. But it would give federal departments and agencies discretion to force certain employees to show proof of vaccination.”
JOE ON THE ROAD — “Biden stays close to home as he plots blue-collar focused presidential travel,” by CNN’s Kevin Liptak: “Biden has embarked upon a relatively limited travel radius inside the United States as president, focusing his visits to states that can be visited in a day and don’t require an overnight stay. Aside from Pennsylvania and Delaware, where he frequently spends weekends, Biden’s top-visited states are Ohio and Michigan …
“[A] pattern has emerged in each of Biden’s trips that underscores his attention toward blue-collar workers. … It also [is] a sign he is hoping to avoid what he’s said was a major mistake during the Obama administration: a failure to sell what the President had accomplished during his first years in office. Visiting swing districts — and even some areas where he lost in the 2020 election — marks a departure from former President Donald Trump, who mostly traveled to places where he was popular and could draw large crowds for his rallies.”
THE SISYPHUS CAUCUS — “Democrats craft revised voting rights bill, seeking to keep hopes alive in the Senate,” by WaPo’s Mike DeBonis: “Several key senators huddled inside Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s office on Wednesday to hash out the details of the bill, which is expected to at least partially incorporate a framework assembled by Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.), who expressed qualms about the previous bill, known as the For the People Act. They emerged saying a new product could be released in a matter of days.”
SETTING DOWN A MARKER — “House passes first $67B in funding bills amid bid to bolster government spending,” by Caitlin Emma and Jennifer Scholtes: “House Democrats passed their first two spending bills Wednesday as the next government shutdown threat looms nine weeks away, an attempt to display unwavering ‘unity’ … The more than $67 billion the bills would provide for federal agencies is a sum far higher than Democrats will be able to pass through the Senate.”
NOMINEE TRAVAILS — “Republicans Threaten to Block Two Biden Nominations Over Russian Nord Stream 2 Pipeline,” WSJ
JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH
WHAT BENNIE THOMPSON IS PLANNING — “Jan. 6 select-panel Dems confident they can corral ex-Trump aides,” by Andrew Desiderio and Nicholas Wu: “That doesn’t mean they’re close to hauling in big names from the ex-president’s turbulent final days. Lawmakers on the Jan. 6 select committee describe their probe’s reach as still undefined, saying in interviews that they have yet to formalize the confines of an already closely watched and fast-moving investigation. …
“House Democrats are making clear that the select panel’s work won’t simply retrace the steps of others. … The committee is still mulling whether the Republicans on the committee will be able to hire their own staff. … The select committee is likely to pursue former White House officials such as then-chief of staff MARK MEADOWS and other close aides who were with Trump while the Capitol was being attacked on Jan. 6. It’s unclear if the Justice Department’s new guidance would apply to them.”
GIVING PEOPLE MONEY WORKS — “Pandemic Aid Programs Spur a Record Drop in Poverty,” by NYT’s Jason DeParle: “The huge increase in government aid prompted by the coronavirus pandemic will cut poverty nearly in half this year from pre-pandemic levels and push the share of Americans in poverty to the lowest level on record, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of a vast but temporary expansion of the safety net.
“The number of poor Americans is expected to fall by nearly 20 million from 2018 levels, a decline of almost 45 percent. The country has never cut poverty so much in such a short period of time.”
ANOTHER DELAY FOR MIGRANTS — “White House not planning to lift Covid border restrictions this month,” by Sabrina Rodríguez and Anita Kumar
FED NOT FREAKING OUT — “Fed’s Powell downplays delta variant’s threat to the economy,” AP: “‘What we’ve seen is with successive waves of COVID over the past year and some months now,’ [Fed Chair JEROME] POWELL said at a news conference, ‘there has tended to be less in the way of economic implications from each wave. We will see whether that is the case with the delta variety, but it’s certainly not an unreasonable expectation.’”
STARTING A VAX TURNAROUND? — @cyrusshahpar46: “Wednesday just in: +754K doses reported administered over yesterday’s total, including 498K newly vaccinated. This is the highest daily number of newly vaccinated reported since 7/1. >2/3 of eligible (12+) have received at least one dose. Picking up the pace, let’s do this!”
THE LATEST MANDATES — “Cuomo mandates COVID vaccine — or weekly tests — for NY state workers,” N.Y. Post … “Google and Facebook lead the way with Covid-19 vaccine mandates. Will corporate America follow?” Recode
THE UNION SUPPORT — “Federal Worker Unions Back Vaccine Mandates Amid Local Backlash,” Bloomberg
THE UNION RESISTANCE — Reuters’ @davidshepardson: “Postal union @APWUnational opposes mandatory vaccines for federal employees.” Their statement
SHOW, DON’T TELL— “CDC reversal on indoor masking prompts experts to ask, ‘Where’s the data?’” by WaPo’s Joel Achenbach, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Ben Guarino and Carolyn Johnson: “In the text of the updated masking guidance, the agency merely cited ‘CDC COVID-19 Response Team, unpublished data, 2021.’ Some outside scientists have their own message: Show us the data.”
HILLBILLY WHO? — “J.D. Vance Is Notorious in Washington. In Ohio, Voters Are Still Looking Him Up,” by Sheehan Hannan in London, Ohio, for POLITICO Magazine: “A candidate who built his national brand as a voice of the Appalachian region, and who campaigns as a populist trying to represent salt-of-the-earth Ohio voters, just isn’t all that well-known among those salt-of-the-earth voters yet—at least not as a political candidate. …
“Most voters, with some prompting, possessed a sometimes-vague knowledge (or loathing) of him as someone they had seen on the news, or whose life story had been made into a movie on Netflix. Almost none knew much about him as a politician, and those Republicans that did had learned about him recently from Fox News or directly from his campaign. And to observers here, that makes his chances at a Senate seat look very different than they might look from Washington.”
ANNALS OF INFLUENCE — “Washington’s Oil Lobby Pivoted on Climate Change—and Made No One Happy,” by WSJ’s Timothy Puko and Ted Mann: “[I]n March, the group signaled an about-face. It released its ‘Climate Action Framework,’ a set of new policy prescriptions to lower emissions and support cleaner fuels. The core of the plan called for two policies API had opposed for years: more regulation on methane … and a price on carbon …
“Even by the standards of Washington, it was a remarkable shift. And it made nobody happy. Democrats’ embrace of alternative energy and skepticism of the oil industry continue unchanged. Republican allies, long a bulwark for the industry, feel alienated.”
2020 POST-MORTEM LISTEN — “What the NBC/WSJ poll got wrong in 2020 and what we’re doing to fix it,” the latest episode of NBC’s “The Chuck ToddCast”
A PERFECT PHONE CALL — “As Trump pushed for probes of 2020 election, he called acting AG Rosen almost daily,” by WaPo’s Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett: “The personal pressure campaign, which has not been previously reported, involved repeated phone calls to acting attorney general JEFFREY ROSEN in which Trump raised various allegations he had heard about and asked what the Justice Department was doing about the issue. …
“Rosen told few people about the phone calls, even in his inner circle. But there are notes of some of the calls that were written by a top aide to Rosen, RICHARD DONOGHUE … Donoghue’s notes could be turned over to Congress in a matter of days, they added, if Trump does not file papers in court seeking to block such a handover.”
MORE LIKE THE MINUS TOUCH, AMIRITE — “Texas loss alarms Trump advisers worried about party clout,” by Alex Isenstadt: “[SUSAN WRIGHT’s] loss Tuesday night sent shockwaves through the former president’s inner circle. Many privately concede the pressure is on them to win another special election next week in Ohio …
“More broadly, losses could undermine his standing in the Republican Party, where his popularity and influence has protected Trump’s relevance even as a former president barred from his social media megaphones. Some in the former president’s orbit worry that he’s been too prolific in endorsing candidates running in contested primaries.”
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS — “Anti-Vaxxer Naomi Wolf Joins Trump’s Doomed Tech Suit,” by The Daily Beast’s Adam Rawnsley
SPOTTED: Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a Phish show in Arkansas on Wednesday night. We totally get the sunglasses. We too would be embarrassed to be seen at a Phish show. Pic
MEDIA MOVE — Elana Zak will be head of newsletters at POLITICO, a newly created role. She most recently has been senior editor of programming at CNN Business.
STAFFING UP — The White House announced three new nominations: Jainey Bavishi as assistant Commerce secretary for oceans and atmosphere, Chavonda Jacobs-Young as undersecretary of Agriculture for research, education and economics, and Thea Kendler as assistant Commerce secretary for export administration.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Alexis Weiss is joining Walmart as director of technology comms, heading comms for the U.S. tech and core services: retail and emerging technology organizations and based in San Francisco. She most recently has been SVP for corporate and reputation at Edelman, and is an NBC and CNN alum.
TRANSITIONS — David Colberg is now VP of global government affairs and public policy at Alteryx. He most recently was senior director of government affairs at Palo Alto Networks. … Curtis Kincaid is joining the Blockchain Association as director of comms. He previously held strategic comms roles with the Consumer Technology Association.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Elizabeth Ellis, director of outreach for the JPMorgan Chase Institute and JPMorgan Chase PolicyCenter, and Brendan English, principal product designer at LearnZillion, welcomed Emma Ellis English on July 4. She joins big brother JD.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) … NBC’s Peter Alexander … White House’s Herbie Ziskend … Ja’Ron Smith of the Center for Advancing Opportunity … Ken Burns … WaPo’s Carol Eisenberg … Sheila Dwyer … Jim Hake of Spirit of America … Kelsey Brugger … CNN’s Kristin Fisher … Rick VanMeter … Laura McGann … Alexah Rogge … Chris Carr … Rob Hennings … Lise Clavel … Katherine Lugar of the American Beverage Association … Tom Kimbis … Laura Nichols … Bloomberg’s Aaron Kessler, Ellie Titus and David Westin …Garance Franke-Ruta … former Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) and Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) (7-0) … Caitria Mahoney … Washington Lt. Gov. Denny Heck … Bill Pascoe … former Sens. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) and Nancy Kassebaum Baker (R-Kan.) … Marilyn Quayle … POLITICO’s Olivia George … Charles Hoskinson … Lyndsay Polloway of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce … Nathan Sell of the American Cleaning Institute … Nate Rawlings (4-0) … Denver Mayor Michael Hancock … Reuters’ Joanna Plucinska … POLITICO Europe’s Jacopo Barigazzi … Karl Douglass … former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn
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