U.S. ELECTION WRAP: GOP Congress Must Save Itself, Analysts Warn

Trump campaign and tone changes may be too late for vulnerable Republican Senate and House candidates. Can a GOP-controlled Congress be saved?

Is 'Regret' a Turning Point for Donald Trump?

The Donald Trump campaign reboot might be too late for a Republican Party grappling with how to preserve its control of Congress.

  • As the GOP presidential nominee debuts a soft side and overhauls his campaign, down-ballot alarm bells are growing louder. A new batch of Senate races appear at risk and many House seats look increasingly vulnerable
    • North Carolina’s Senate race is “no longer a lock for Republicans,” Cook Political Report’s Jennifer Duffy said today in a blog post
    • Senate contests in Missouri and Arizona are also cause for concern, in addition to the already well known vulnerable races in N.H. and Pennsylvania, Weekly Standard’s Jay Cost said during the magazine’s podcast yesterday
      • “All of these guys need to have a message ready set to go after Labor Day,” Cost, an elections analyst, said. They shouldn’t necessarily denounce Trump, but start making the argument that reluctant Clinton voters should also support down-ballot Republicans in order not to give the Democratic nominee the power of a Democratic-led Senate
  • Political scholar Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute is pessimistic that the Trump knot many candidates find themselves in can be untangled.
    • “The only way out for these people, if there is a way out” is to launch an “enormous effort to get the Koch brothers and their allies to double and triple down in the vulnerable states to get Republicans to turn out,” Ornstein said in an phone interview
    • The second approach is to “pretty much write off Trump” by Labor Day and appeal to voters as a “check” on a Hillary Clinton presidency, he said, adding that he’s skeptical that many GOP candidates can get out of the “extremely difficult position” of having to court Trump voters without alienating “everyone else”
  • The Republican Party has only itself to blame for the current predicament, according to Ornstein, who co-authored the 2012 book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, an overview of Washington partisanship that was highly critical of Republicans
    • The “elite” GOP worked hard to delegitimize the political process without thinking it would also affect them,’’ he said. They also “played footsie with an angry populist base”

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SPOTLIGHT ON N.C.

  • In N.C., GOP incumbent Sen. Richard Burr is seeking re-election for the first time in a presidential campaign year, in a state where demographic changes are affecting politics
    • RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Burr with just 1-point lead over Democratic rival Deborah Ross; Clinton has a 2-point advantage over Trump in the state; if Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party’s Jill Stein are included, Clinton has a 4.3-point edge
      • Democrats can win with a coalition of urban whites and blacks, rural black voters and well-educated transplants, according to political analysts
      • Burr was first elected in 2004, when N.C. was still dependably Republican in presidential elections, and then had the advantage of winning a new term in the GOP wave year of 2010
    • Trump spoke yesterday in Mecklenburg County, which includes Charlotte and is N.C.’s most populous county; non-Hispanic whites are <50% of the population in Mecklenburg, which has been trending Democratic
      • In 2012, President Obama won 61% in Mecklenburg compared with 48% in N.C.; in 1988 and 1992 presidential election elections, Mecklenburg voted slightly more Republican than the rest of N.C.

TICKET-SPLITTER HOPES

  • On the House side, many Republicans “will need to win over not just ardent supporters of Donald Trump -- many of whom might have considered themselves Democrats decades ago --but also traditional Republican voters who may be considering abandoning their party’s presidential nominee for the first time,” Cook’s David Wasserman wrote today in a blog post, citing Deep Root Analytics, a micro targeting firm co-founded by Republican strategist Alex Lundry
    • The firm has identified two groups of likely ticket-splitting voters: 16.2 million “Reluctant Republicans” and 14 million “Disaffected Democrats”
    • The highest ‘Reluctant Republican’ districts are MN-02, MN-03, and VA-10 -- all GOP-held, highly educated suburban seats where Trump is on track to receive abysmal shares of the vote,’’ Wasserman wrote.
    • “Meanwhile, the highest ‘Disaffected Democrat’ districts are MI-01, MI-07, and MN-08 -- all fairly rural, blue-collar seats where Democratic candidates may actually need to outperform Hillary Clinton in some places to win”
    • “The most competitive races will ultimately go to the candidates who can identify these groups effectively, focus in like a laser, and communicate with them relentlessly”: Wasserman
    • Meanwhile, Trump is debuting an advertising push in Pa., Ohio, N.C. and Fla.
    • His campaign today released its first ad of the general campaign; the spot contrasts the GOP nominee and his Democratic rival on immigration, border security and Syrian refugees; see full story by Bloomberg’s David Knowles here
    • The Trump campaign’s lack of yard signs and other advertising merchandise is leading supporters to spend their own cash on such items, Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs and Sahil Kapur reported

A NEW TRUMP?

  • Trump and his running mate Mike Pence visited flood-ravaged Baton Rouge, La., this morning as news hit that campaign chairman Paul Manafort was resigning; see full Bloomberg story here
    • Trump’s move to visit victims of catastrophic rainstorms that have left at least 11 people dead and 30,000 forced to flee rising waters follows his expression of “regret” last night for comments that may have caused “personal pain”
    • See Bloomberg story on Trump’s week of changes
  • David Gergen, a former adviser to U.S. presidents from both parties, told CNN it remains to be seen whether Trump is truly toning down his abrasiveness
    • After 15 months, we “shouldn’t be swayed by one night”
    • Trump’s new team is responding to events in the news more rapidly, Gergen said, adding that it was “very smart” to send Trump to Louisiana, especially given the criticism about President Obama being on vacation
  • Trump is set to hold an event in Dimondale, Michigan, later today; he stumps in Fredericksburg, Va., tomorrow night and Akron, Ohio, on Monday night
  • As for the departure of Manafort, Trump’s son, Eric, said his father didn’t want the distraction that stemmed from the former campaign chairman “looming” over the campaign
    • “I think my father didn’t want to be, you know, distracted by, you know, whatever things Paul was dealing with,” Trump said in excerpts of interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” set to air Sunday
    • Manafort resigned after coming under heightened scrutiny of his prior consulting for pro-Russian former president of Ukraine
  • Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said Manafort’s departure is “a clear admission that the disturbing connections between Donald Trump’s team and pro-Kremlin elements in Russia and Ukraine are untenable”
    • “But this is not the end of the story. It’s just the beginning. You can get rid of Manafort, but that doesn’t end the odd bromance Trump has with Putin. Trump still has to answer serious questions hovering over his campaign given his propensity to parrot Putin’s talking points,” Mook said in statement
  • Clinton posted a video via Facebook on “Why do Trump and Putin sound so much alike?”
  • Stuart Stevens, a Republican strategist who has been highly critical of Trump, had a caustic reaction to the Manafort resignation, Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur reported
    • “Working with Putin is one thing, working with Steve Bannon is another. Manafort is wise to walk away,” Stevens wrote in an e-mail. “A guy has to protect his reputation.”

HILLARY CLINTON

  • Clinton today called La. Gov. John Bel Edwards about the flooding, the Democratic nominee said in a Facebook post
    • “My heart breaks for Louisiana, and right now, the relief effort can’t afford any distractions. The very best way this team can help is to make sure Louisianans have the resources they need,” Clinton wrote
    • The former first lady has no scheduled campaign events today
    • Clinton is in Martha's Vineyard, where Bill Clinton, is celebrating his 70th birthday, according to aides 
  • Clinton Foundation will stop accepting contributions from corporations and foreign entities including governments if Hillary Clinton is elected president
    • The foundation will only take donations from U.S. citizens and independent charities if the former secretary of state wins, former President Bill Clinton told staff as he outlined several changes to the group’s operations, some of which will take place even if his wife loses; corporate charities will also be barred from giving to the foundation
    • See full story by Bloomberg’s Jennifer Epstein here
  • Clinton told investigators that former Secretary of State Colin Powell advised her to use a personal e-mail account, New York Times reported, citing notes FBI gave Congress earlier this week
    • Powell responded by saying he has no recollection of the conversation recounted by Clinton to FBI agents, as documented by journalist Joe Conason in a forthcoming book, Politico reported

ENDORSEMENTS/DENUNCIATIONS

  • Former Mitt Romney aide David Nierenberg, president of Nierenberg Investment Management, is backing Clinton
    • Said his conscience “will not let me vote for” Trump; Clinton “knows her stuff,” he wrote in op-ed for CNBC

FUNDRAISING

  • Fundraising deadline tomorrow: National party committees and many super-PACs will join Clinton and Trump in filing detailed campaign fundraising reports by midnight tomorrow that will detail contributions and spending for July
    • Most candidates and committees file electronically with the Federal Election Commission; Senate campaign committees are exempt from the electronic filing requirement and submit paper reports to the Senate public records office in Washington

ETC

  • Bloomberg’s Esmé E. Deprez and photographer M. Scott Brauer made a 3,000-mile bus trip from Philadelphia to Los Angeles to hear what riders had to say about the country and the election ahead; see story here
  • The 2016 presidential race is wrecking Facebook friendships, Politico reported
    • While Facebook doesn’t have data about how many people have been unfriended, Politico cites anecdotal evidence of people growing uncomfortable with political discussions on social media
    • “People want to tune out the other side on social media and would prefer to watch Olympic memes and videos of squirrels riding water skis,” Vincent Harris, a Republican digital strategist, told Politico

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS

SENATE

  • FL: Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said yesterday that GOP must be united “or we are going to face the catastrophic reality of a Hillary Clinton presidency, which is unacceptable,” Sun-Sentinel reported
    • Rubio mentioned Trump, his former rival, “only once,” when he said that the Republican presidential nominee, unlike Clinton, would appoint Supreme Court Justices who share judicial philosophy of the late Antonin Scalia
    • Rubio, favored to win Aug. 30 primary vs. developer Carlos Beruff, said that his likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Patrick Murphy, has “never achieved anything meaningful in his life” and that Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson is “literally insane”
  • IN: National Republican Senatorial Committee aired TV ad linking Democratic ex-Sen. Evan Bayh to Clinton and saying he “voted to allow Social Security benefits for illegal immigrants while pushing higher taxes on Social Security for Hoosier seniors”
    • Bayh’s campaign cited 2014 Politifact analysis regarding May 2006 Senate vote on Social Security and undocumented immigrants and noted that Bayh wanted to repeal the portion of Clinton administration’s 1993 economic recovery plan that increased level of income subject to Social Security taxes
    • Indiana Republican chairman Jeff Cardwell in statement asked “where does Evan Bayh really call home?” following CNN report that Ind. election officials listed him as “inactive” voter after failing to reach him at Indianapolis condo he owns
    • Republicans say Bayh in recent years has lived primarily in Washington and lost touch with Indiana voters; Bayh’s campaign says he’s a “Hoosier” who voted in person in May election
    • Republican nominee is Rep. Todd Young; GOP Sen. Dan Coats isn’t seeking re-election to seat Bayh held from 1999-2011
  • OH: National Republican Senatorial Committee in TV ad said Ohio lost 350,000 jobs when Democrat Ted Strickland was governor from 2007-11 and that he “drained the state’s rainy day fund” and wasted money
    • Strickland, who’s seeking to unseat Republican Sen. Rob Portman, served as governor during the worst national economic downturn since the Great Depression and his campaign says the recovery began under his watch
    • Republican Sen. Rob Portman released TV ad with Barry McCaffrey, a retired Army Gen. and former Clinton White House anti-drug czar, saying that Portman played “essential role” and “did the hard work” on new law combating opioid and heroin epidemic
    • Portman ad shows him and McCaffrey at President Bill Clinton’s signing of drug control bill in 1997

HOUSE

  • FUNDRAISING: House Majority PAC, a super-PAC aiding Democrats in House races, had more than $13.6m cash-on-hand at end of July after raising about $1.5m that month, according to FEC filing
    • Donald Sussman, who operates hedge fund Paloma Partners, gave $1m; National Association of Letter Carriers gave $150k
    • Democrats need a net gain of 30 seats to overturn House Republican majority, now 247-186 with two vacancies in Democratic districts
  • AZ-05: Former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones gave her Republican campaign $250k more yday, 12 days before primary, according to FEC filing today
    • Jones has primarily financed her own campaign with >$1.9m, including most recent contribution
    • Jones, who made unsuccessful bid for governor in 2014, among four Republicans seeking strongly Republican district of GOP Rep. Matt Salmon, who isn’t seeking re-election
  • FL-02: Republican urologist Neal Dunn received political donations this month from Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, according to FEC filing yday
    • Mary Thomas, a lawyer who’s also seeking GOP nomination, received contributions from Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Justin Amash of Mich., leaders in strongly conservative Freedom Caucus that’s pushed Republican leaders to take a harder line in negotiations with Democrats
    • Ex-federal prosecutor Ken Sukhia, the third Republican in the race, released TV ad comparing Thomas and Dunn “slinging mud at each other” with his “actual record” of combating terrorism and illegal immigration and defending the fishing industry and school choice
    • GOP primary key race in district that includes part of Fla. Panhandle and added more Republicans in court-ordered redistricting; Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham isn’t seeking re-election
  • FL-05: Ex-state Sen. Al Lawson said at Democratic primary debate yday that Rep. Corrine Brown “violated public trust” and “should not be in this race” after her indictment last month in fraud scheme involving education charity, WJXT-TV reported
    • Brown, who’s seeking 13th term, said “just because someone accuses you doesn’t mean that they have the facts,” and the government’s prosecution is a “political witch hunt”
    • Watch entire debate HERE; LaShonda “L.J.” Holloway, a former congressional aide who founded a health-care advocacy firm, was third Democrat competing in debate
    • Changes in redistricting made FL-05 a Jacksonville-to-Tallahassee district, superseding its current configuration from Jacksonville to Orlando while keeping its heavily Democratic tilt
  • NY-03: Republican state Sen. Jack Martins is asking a federal court to move general election to Dec. 6 following its order for new GOP primary on Oct. 6, according to New York-based State of Politics blog and documents posted on SUNY Buffalo Law School’s New York Election News blog
    • Court said Martins and former fraud investigator Philip Pidot must compete in new Republican election after Pidot was left off ballot for original June primary, which Martins won without opposition; former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi won contested Democratic primary
    • Martins’s lawyers also asking court alternatively to rescind order for Oct. 6 primary; they said in legal filing that “voter confusion” is likely as a result and there are “equal protection problems inherent” in allowing Suozzzi to “run a general election for more than four months” while giving Republican nominee much less time to prepare
    • District includes northern Long Island and part of Queens; Democratic Rep. Steve Israel isn’t seeking re-election
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