Trump bolsters 3 Republicans seeking open House seats

The White House is racing to address one of the Republican Party’s biggest challenges of the midterm election: the massive number of open seats created by an exodus of GOP House members.

President Donald Trump on Thursday will host a Washington fundraiser for three Republican candidates vying for seats that have been vacated by retiring GOP incumbents: Jay Webber of New Jersey’s 11th District, Ross Spano of Florida’s 15th District, and Carol Miller of West Virginia’s 3rd District.

Trump has also recorded a robocall for Miller, a state legislator who is locked in a competitive race with Iraq war veteran Richard Ojeda. The call is expected to be released to southern West Virginia voters this week, according to a Republican official.

Senior Republicans are deeply worried about the quantity of open seats they’ve been forced to defend — something they say has made it harder to preserve Continue reading “Trump bolsters 3 Republicans seeking open House seats”

Mitt makes his move

A sleepy Utah Senate race was always a small playing field for a former presidential nominee. Now, Mitt Romney is going national again.

After spending most of the past year quietly tending to his own race, Romney is using his formidable national profile and expansive political network to elect embattled Republicans across the country. Weeks before his virtually assured election to the Senate, the 2012 Republican standard-bearer is issuing endorsements, appearing in TV ads and fundraising for hopefuls up and down the ballot.

The burst of campaign activity is a stark reminder that the 71-year-old Romney will arrive in D.C. as much more than a typical freshman senator — and shows how he plans to use his prominence to reward allies and forge relationships.

Romney is going to bat for candidates for offices ranging from the state legislature to the U.S. Senate. Among those getting help is Rep. Continue reading “Mitt makes his move”

‘We’ve never seen anything like this’: GOP overwhelmed by Democratic cash

A deluge of Democratic spending in the final days of the battle for the House has triggered recriminations among Republicans and forced the party to lean on its biggest patron to salvage their majority.

Since the end of July, Republican candidates in the 70 most contested races have reserved $60 million in TV ads, compared to $109 million for Democratic hopefuls, according to figures compiled by media trackers and reviewed by POLITICO. The disparity is almost certain to grow, as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg makes good on plans to spend nearly $80 million to help Democrats flip the House.

“From Democrat candidates to outside groups, we’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Brian Walsh, president of the pro-Trump America First Action super PAC. “They are dumping in cash by the truckload.”

Desperate for help, Republicans are turning to their go-to benefactor: Las Vegas casino mogul Continue reading “‘We’ve never seen anything like this’: GOP overwhelmed by Democratic cash”

Hurd splits with top political aide weeks before election

Texas Rep. Will Hurd, one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the country, has abruptly parted ways with his top political adviser just weeks before the midterm election.

Hurd has split with Josh Robinson, who for years had served as the congressman’s top strategist.

Robinson confirmed his departure in an email, saying that his Beltway-based political consulting firm, RedPrint Strategy, was no longer working for Hurd. Robinson declined requests to explain the reason for his exit.

“RedPrint is honored to have worked with Congressman Hurd in helping him win his first race and hard fought reelection. RedPrint is proud to have put Congressman Hurd in the position he is currently in which is headed for another victory. His team has made a decision to move in a different direction and I wish him the best of success.”

Robinson is a longtime party operative and formerly served in top Continue reading “Hurd splits with top political aide weeks before election”

‘Phenomenally large breasts and tight buttocks’: Beto’s 1991 moral-crusading musical review

In the 1990s, Beto O’Rourke was arrested twice and played in a punk rock band. But before all that transpired, the Democratic Texas Senate candidate was, at least briefly, a moral crusader.

As a 19-year-old freshman at Columbia University, O’Rourke reviewed the Broadway musical “The Will Rogers Follies” for the Daily Spectator, the university’s student newspaper. Writing under the byline Robert O’Rourke, he panned the performance as “one of the most glaring examples of the sickening excesses and moral degradations of our culture.”

He went on to bemoan the bevy of “perma-smile actresses whose only qualifications seem to be their phenomenally large breasts and tight buttocks.”

The review in the Oct. 10, 1991 edition of the Spectator, which according to an archive search was the only article he wrote for the newspaper, offers another glimpse of the former life of the Texas Senate candidate, who’s given incumbent Sen. Continue reading “‘Phenomenally large breasts and tight buttocks’: Beto’s 1991 moral-crusading musical review”

GOP to hold 2020 convention more than a month after Dems

The Republican National Convention will be held Aug. 24 to 27, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina, according to a senior party official familiar with the decision. The timing is more than a month after the Democratic convention, from July 13 to 16.

The site of the GOP convention had been previously announced, but the party now has a date as well. Democrats have not yet decided a location for their presidential convention.

Traditionally, the party of a sitting president running for a second term schedules its convention after the opposition party.

House GOP super PAC cuts off support for Bishop, Coffman

Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with House GOP leadership, is cutting off support for two Republican incumbents, Michigan Rep. Mike Bishop and Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman, according to a person familiar with the group’s plans.

The super PAC will cancel its planned TV advertising for both members, a move that comes as the party refocuses its funds on races that leaders feel confident they can win. The organization had $2.8 million in TV advertising reserved for Coffman and $2.1 million for Bishop.

Party officials say both incumbents are trailing Democratic challengers ahead of the midterm elections, and both are expected to be significantly outspent during the final weeks leading up to Election Day.

“CLF will continue to run strong field operations in these districts and will continue to conduct polling and evaluate races across the country as we do everything we can to protect the Republican Continue reading “House GOP super PAC cuts off support for Bishop, Coffman”

Kushner’s mission improbable: Winning over wealthy Trump skeptics

Jared Kushner huddled behind closed doors with some of the Republican Party’s most powerful donors at a midtown Manhattan hotel earlier this month.

The mission: convince them that the Trump White House isn’t a mess.

While the administration raced to extinguish that day’s firestorm — President Donald Trump’s denial of Hurricane Maria’s 2,975-person death toll — Kushner insisted that the circuslike perception is wrong. Real work is getting done. There are serious people in the White House who are following an actual process, he said, and low-performing staffers had been replaced.

The appearance before the secretive American Opportunity Alliance donor conference, previously unreported, sheds light on the latest addition to Kushner’s expansive portfolio: ambassador to the GOP money set, a contingent that remains wary of the administration and its never-ending tumult. The 37-year-old Trump senior adviser has attended at least four donor gatherings since August, and those close to him Continue reading “Kushner’s mission improbable: Winning over wealthy Trump skeptics”

George W. Bush to fundraise for GOP candidates

Former President George W. Bush is hitting the fundraising circuit for a handful of Republican House and Senate candidates, joining the party’s push to maintain its congressional majorities.

Bush has maintained a low profile since leaving office in 2009. Yet as the midterm campaign season enters its final weeks and the party braces for the prospect of a Trump-fueled wave, Bush — who has been critical of the president — is putting his muscle behind Republicans in heated races.

Bush’s tour will begin Wednesday morning, when he holds a closed-door event in Fort Worth for GOP Rep. Will Hurd, a second-term congressman who faces the hurdle of seeking reelection in a West Texas district that Trump lost in 2016.

Then, on Friday, Bush will travel to Florida to hold a pair of events for Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is in a pitched battle for a Senate seat. One of Continue reading “George W. Bush to fundraise for GOP candidates”

Inside the GOP’s rescue mission for Ted Cruz

With a string of polls showing GOP Sen. Ted Cruz’s lead slipping, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick showed up in Washington on July 25 to deliver an urgent plea to White House officials: Send President Donald Trump.

Patrick, who chaired Trump’s 2016 campaign in the state, made the case that a Trump visit was needed to boost turnout for Cruz and the rest of the Texas Republican ticket. The lieutenant governor soon got his wish: Trump announced on Twitter late last month that he was planning a blowout October rally for Cruz, his former GOP rival.

The previously unreported meeting comes as senior Republicans grow increasingly concerned about the senator’s prospects in the reliably red state, with some expressing fear that an underperformance could threaten GOP candidates running further down the ballot. Cruz’s Democratic opponent, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, has raised barrels of cash, closed the polling gap and emerged as Continue reading “Inside the GOP’s rescue mission for Ted Cruz”

Pence to hit 3 Democratic Senate candidates in TV ad buy

Vice President Mike Pence is going on the air in three Senate races — not so much to pump up Republican candidates but to tear down Democratic incumbents.

Pence rips Montana Sen. Jon Tester, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly over a range of highly charged partisan issues, from opposition to the GOP tax bill and Obamacare repeal to support for sanctuary cities and Planned Parenthood funding.

With Republicans facing headwinds going into the November midterms, the party is waging an intense slash-and-burn campaign aimed at disqualifying Democratic candidates. The TV spots paint Tester, Heitkamp, and Donnelly — all of whom face the burden of running for reelection in states that President Donald Trump won by double digits — as profoundly out-of-step with their constituencies.

“President Trump has been delivering for Montana every day — without much help from Sen. Jon Tester,” Pence says in the Continue reading “Pence to hit 3 Democratic Senate candidates in TV ad buy”

Former Sen. Jon Kyl to replace McCain

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has selected former Republican Sen. Jon Kyl to fill late Sen. John McCain’s vacant seat, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the decision.

The Arizona Republic first reported the pick.

Ducey will appoint Kyl, who served three terms alongside McCain and became the Senate minority whip before retiring in 2012, to replace McCain until a 2020 special election to decide who holds it for the final two years of McCain’s term. McCain, who died a week ago after a battle with brain cancer, won his final six-year term in 2016.

Kyl’s selection is likely to receive praise from allies of both President Donald Trump and McCain. Kyl has helped direct Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, through the Senate ahead of his confirmation hearings this week. The former senator also had a close relationship with McCain.

Cindy McCain, the late senator’s wife, tweeted her Continue reading “Former Sen. Jon Kyl to replace McCain”

Trump and Arizona governor spoke following McCain’s death

President Donald Trump and Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey spoke by phone this week — a conversation where the subject of the state’s vacant Senate seat arose, according to four people familiar with the discussion.

The discussion came as Ducey weighs whom to appoint to the seat following the death of the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, who passed away last week.

One person familiar with the details of the call described it as wide-ranging, and said it included discussion of the proposed border wall, health care and the Senate vacancy. Trump, this person said, congratulated Ducey on his Tuesday primary victory.

The two also discussed McCain’s funeral arrangements.

Ducey, who faces a serious reelection challenge, has remained tight-lipped about whom he will select to the fill vacancy.

The White House decline to comment.

“We have stated repeatedly that we would not discuss an appointment to the seat vacated by Continue reading “Trump and Arizona governor spoke following McCain’s death”

‘Tough decisions have to be made’: House Republicans prepare for pain

With a massive field of vulnerable House incumbents to defend and limited resources to go around, Republicans are readying for a painful round of political triage — deciding which lawmakers are worth trying to rescue, and which ones need to be cut loose to fend for themselves in November.

GOP officials say as many as 45 Republican-held seats are at serious risk, making it impossible to salvage each one in the costly scramble to protect the party’s 23-seat minority— especially those members who have waged sluggish campaigns and posted lackluster fundraising totals.

“This is the time of year when tough decisions have to be made,” said Ken Spain, a longtime former top National Republican Congressional Committee staffer. “There are likely going to be a number of unhappy Republican members of Congress in the coming weeks.”

Behind the scenes, senior party strategists have begun polling to determine which incumbents may Continue reading “‘Tough decisions have to be made’: House Republicans prepare for pain”

‘The race has tightened’: Cruz allies sound alarm about Texas Senate race

Republicans are sounding the alarm about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s closer-than-expected reelection contest, with an influential conservative group racing to his aid.

The Club for Growth, a Washington-based anti-tax group, is drawing up plans for a major TV ad campaign boosting Cruz — the first such intervention by a Republican outside group in this race. The move comes as Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, an online fundraising behemoth who has attracted national support, continues to narrow the gap in polling.

David McIntosh, the Club for Growth’s president, said on Tuesday the organization is planning a seven-figure-plus offensive targeting O’Rourke. McIntosh was speaking from Texas, where he is meeting with pro-Cruz donors who could help fund the effort.

“In the last five weeks, it’s become clear that the race has tightened,” said McIntosh.

Republican officials once saw Cruz, a failed 2016 presidential candidate, as safe given Texas’ conservative tilt, and in public, Continue reading “‘The race has tightened’: Cruz allies sound alarm about Texas Senate race”

McSally ‘pink tutu’ ad hammers Sinema

Arizona Senate hopeful Martha McSally hasn’t locked up the GOP nomination just yet — but she’s turning to the general election with a searing new TV ad hammering Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema for “protesting us in a pink tutu” rather than serving in the military after 9/11.

“While we were in harm’s way in uniform, Kyrsten Sinema was protesting us in a pink tutu and denigrating our service,” McSally says in the commercial, which includes footage of Sinema in a pink outfit.

The ad, which is being released on Thursday, is designed to contrast the two candidates on national security. It highlights McSally’s military record, and in it McSally notes that she “led air strikes against the Taliban and was the first woman to fly a fighter jet in combat.”

“The world is a dangerous place,” she concludes. “We need strong leaders who understand the threat and respect our Continue reading “McSally ‘pink tutu’ ad hammers Sinema”

Trump irks GOP by praising three candidates in one Senate race

In Arizona’s Republican Senate primary, front-runner Martha McSally is airing ads featuring a video clip of President Donald Trump calling her “the real deal.” Her main challenger, Kelli Ward, is circulating mailers featuring a photo of her smiling alongside the commander-in-chief. The third-place candidate, Joe Arpaio, carries the rare distinction of having received a criminal pardon from Trump: The ex-sheriff recently sent a video of the president praising him to potential donors.

None of the three actually has Trump’s endorsement. But all of them are acting like they do — and the president seems just fine with it, even if many in his party are not.

The president’s decision so far to withhold his endorsement has led to a total muddle, prolonging the GOP slugfest in one of the most important Senate races in the country and allowing the presumed Democratic nominee, Kyrsten Sinema, to get a free pass.

Continue reading “Trump irks GOP by praising three candidates in one Senate race”

GOP skirts disaster in Ohio

It took over $3.5 million, visits from the president and vice president, and a late endorsement from the sitting governor, but Republicans appeared likely to eke out a victory in a House special election Tuesday night seen as a bellwether for the November midterms.

The potential victory gave President Donald Trump bragging rights after his last-minute trek to the central Ohio district provided GOP candidate Troy Balderson a much needed lift. And though the outcome was too close to officially declare a winner, Balderson’s lead at the end of the night averted an embarrassing outright loss for his party, which would have generated a crush of bad headlines about the GOP’s fading prospects and the growing likelihood of a blue wave in the fall.

Yet warning signs abound following a razor-thin outcome in a district that Republicans have held for over three decades. Trump won there by double digits Continue reading “GOP skirts disaster in Ohio”

Democrats surging on eve of pivotal special election

WESTERVILLE, OHIO — The entire Republican Party machinery has converged on this suburban Columbus district for a furious 11th hour campaign aimed at saving a conservative House seat and averting another special election disaster.

But in the final days of ahead of Tuesday’s election, signs were everywhere that Democrats are surging — from recent polling to the private and public statements of many Republicans, including the GOP candidate himself. The district has been reliably red for more than three decades, but the sheer size of the Republican cavalry made clear how worried the party is about losing it.

At a Saturday evening rally, President Donald Trump tried to juice conservative excitement for mild-mannered Republican candidate Troy Balderson while foisting a Trumpian nickname upon 31-year-old Democratic hopeful Danny O’Connor: “Danny boy.” Earlier in the week Vice President Mike Pence made the trek, while Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., recorded Continue reading “Democrats surging on eve of pivotal special election”

At Ohio rally, Trump seeks to head off blue wave

LEWIS CENTER, OHIO – President Donald Trump on Saturday implored his supporters to turn out for Republican congressional candidate Troy Balderson, as the party raced to fend off an embarrassing special election loss that could portend a November wave.

During an hour-long rally in a sweltering high school auditorium, the president repeatedly lavished praise on Balderson, a state legislator who suddenly finds himself in a neck-and-neck contest for a House seat that Republicans have held for over three decades.

“Troy Balderson, he’s the guy,” Trump said before calling the candidate onto the stage.

Looking to gin up the packed crowd, the president described Balderson as “really smart” and a “really hard worker.” And he tore into Balderson’s 31-year-old Democrat opponent, Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor, calling him a pawn of Democratic leaders and giving him a Trumpian nickname: “Danny boy.”

“You got to get out, because they want Continue reading “At Ohio rally, Trump seeks to head off blue wave”