Republicans Will Need More Than The Economy To Hold The House

President Trump recently injected some reality into his 2018 “red wave” talk. He acknowledged at the Ohio Republican Party’s annual dinner that it will be “probably tougher” for Congressional Republicans to hold the House than the Senate in this year’s midterm elections. 

Trump would be correct. 2018 is a tale of two different midterm electionswith control of the Senate currently favoring Republicans and control of the House approaching nightmare status for the Grand Old Party.

History suggests that Republicans will lose the House. In midterm elections between 1934 and 2014, the president’s party lost, on average, 27 House seats, with the average first-term loss being 25 seats. Given that Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats for a majority in the House, this statistic alone is an ominous sign.

Adding insult to injury for the red team is the fact there are 43 open Republican House seats now without an incumbent on the ballot; a modern record. When combining these two items, it is easy to see why The Hill’s Reid Wilson contends that Republicans could lose anywhere from 72 House seats to as few as 10 or that election prognosticator FiveThirtyEight.com gives the Democrats a better than 71 percent chance to win control of the House.

There is still time for Republicans to flip the script, but the clock is ticking. Yes, Republicans could conceivably hold the House but one thing is pretty certain, they are going to lose seats in the lower chamber of Congress.

The primary issue for House Republicans is staring them right in the face. They have an enthusiasm gap problem. Democrats are beyond fired up. For them, 2018 is personal, and they are focused on one thing – taking down President Trump. This is best evidenced in a recent Fox News poll. According to the survey, 76 percent of Clinton voters are certain they will vote this fall. Among Trump voters that figure is only 67 percent. 

Read more from Ford O'Connell at The Hill

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5 Things We Learned From Tuesday's Primaries And What They Mean For November

Nominees for midterm election races were decided in three states Tuesday, and the results set up ideological showdowns between pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces that could determine control of the Senate and reveal how broad the appeal of progressive policies is.

On the Republican side, Rep. Ron DeSantis defeated Adam Putnam in the Florida gubernatorial primary, Rep. Martha McSally won the nomination for Jeff Flake’s Senate seat, and political novice Kevin Stitt secured the nomination for governor of Oklahoma.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum won the Democratic nomination to face off with DeSantis, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema easily won the Democratic primary for the Arizona Senate seat, and Democratic nominee Drew Edmondson leads Stitt slightly in polling for the Oklahoma governor’s race.

The night’s results do not clearly fit any one political narrative, with establishment candidates holding on in some races and insurgents pulling off big wins in others. If nothing else, the general election matchups will make for an interesting and intense Nov. 6.

“If you’re a political watcher, you’re in for a treat in Florida and Arizona,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “Florida is the main event, but Arizona ain’t too shabby.”

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at WJLA

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Steve Bannon's Open Revolt Against GOP Establishment Sputters

Steve Bannon entered the 2018 election cycle vowing to run primary challengers against nearly every Republican incumbent, looking to shake the party establishment to its core.

The establishment, however, appears to have won.

Mr. Bannon took his latest blow Tuesday in Arizona, where former state Sen. Kelli Ward, one of his earliest recruits, fell to Rep. Martha McSally, a more establishment-minded candidate, in the battle for the Republican nomination to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake.

Her loss followed similar failures by Bannon-backed candidates in Wisconsin, where his Senate pick lost in a primary this month, in Nevada, where his preferred Senate candidate dropped out and is running for a lower office, and in Alabama, where Roy Moore squandered a seat long held by Republicans in a special election late last year.

Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart, meanwhile, eked out a primary win in Virginia, and Mr. Bannon backed winners in Senate Republican primaries in Tennessee, West Virginia and Montana, where the candidates were established political figures before Mr. Bannongave them his blessing.

But political observers say Mr. Bannon usually came up short in races where tried to play kingmaker.

“The problem is that the ones that Bannon tried to mold or had a hand in molding wound up failing and the ones that were the best options to begin with or well-known in their states wound up winning,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican Party strategist.

Mr. O’Connell said the Trump world appears to have settled on a strategy of backing candidates they believe are best-equipped to win competitive general election races and when possible get behind Trump-like candidates.

Read more from Seth McLaughlin at The Washington Times

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Jeff Sessions’ Seat Grows Hot As GOP Senators Fan Flames

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ job appears increasingly in peril as key Senate Republicans who once dismissed the idea of his firing are now signaling his replaceability.

Until now, President Trump’s public ire at Sessions over his recusal from the Russia investigation had been seen as mostly symbolic. Sessions was protected by the conventional wisdom of Senate Republicans that any attempt to confirm his replacement during the ongoing probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller would be a political nightmare — or even a constitutional crisis.

Last year, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters that if Trump fired Sessions, “there’d be holy hell to pay.”

Now the South Carolina Republican, who has had Trump’s ear in recent months, has reversed course — a key signal that Sessions’ days could be numbered.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley told Bloomberg News that he could squeeze a confirmation hearing for attorney general into the jam-packed fall schedule that includes the hearing for Supreme Court hopeful Brett Kavanaugh. Earlier this year he said such a scheduling feat would be impossible.

That’s bad news for Sessions. The good news: He has the public support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who understands that the stakes may still be too high.

“I do not see Trump firing AG Sessions before the 2018 midterms because of the possible political blowback at the ballot box,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, adding that a post-election firing is “a real possibility.”

Read more from Kimberly Atkins at the Boston Herald

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Jeff Sessions Suddenly Looks Vulnerable

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been in plenty of public battles with President Trump, but this week's tense exchange between the two now have some thinking that Sessions may be on the way out.

Most Republicans continued to defend Sessions after his latest fight with Trump over Twitter, but a few cracks showed this time around — signs that the Senate is coming to grips with the idea of replacing Sessions in the near future.

One Trump ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., talked openly about the clock running out on Sessions after more than a year of Trump's obvious frustration with his attorney general.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who also warned last year that he wouldn’t hold a confirmation hearing for a new attorney general, signaled in an interview with Bloomberg News that he might be able to make time for a hearing.

Those reactions have some observers saying the writing is on the wall, and Sessions' career might be numbered in months.

Ford O’Connell, a political analyst and Republican strategist, told the Washington Examiner that he can’t imagine Trump firing Sessions before the midterms “because of the possible political blowback at the ballot box.”

“No need to insert another factor into the equation as Republicans fight to hold the House and Senate," he said. But after the election is a different story.

"Should Republicans hold the Senate following the midterms — the firing of Sessions is a very real possibility,” O’Connell said, pointing to Grassley and Graham’s recent comments.

Read more from Kelly Cohen at the Washington Examiner

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Trump Opponents Have Raised Nearly $2 Million In Legal Fees Through Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding sites have allowed millions of people to raise money for their causes, including a growing number of individuals ejected from President Donald Trump's orbit who have raised nearly $2 million from online donors.

In recent months, four people who found themselves on the wrong side of the law and the wrong side of the Trump White House have garnered tremendous public support with tens of thousands of mostly anonymous, small donors offering money to pay for lawyers fees, personal damages and lost income.

Former Trump allies, like Roger Stone or former campaign aide Michael Caputo, have also turned to crowdfunding sites to help them lawyer-up and navigate relations with Robert Mueller's special counsel and related investigations. However, these campaigns have been far less successful than those involving Trump's public adversaries.

Crowdfunding is a useful tool to fund political or personal causes on either side of the aisle. It just happens that the high-profile opponents of President Donald Trump have been the most effective in leveraging the public spotlight to raise large amounts of money for their personal, legal causes.

"This is all about getting Trump," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "These are not real charity cases. It just tells you how raw the emotions are on the side of the resistance."

"No one wants to be looking down the barrel of a special counsel investigation or federal prosecutors trying to throw you in jail," O'Connell said. "Maybe it becomes profitable later on, but right now you don't want to be forking over money to save your own hide."

Read more from Leandra Bernstein at WJLA

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Wyoming GOP Primary Tests The Limits Of Trumpism

His longtime attorney Michael Cohen had just pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts. His former campaign chairman Paul Manafort had just been convicted by a federal jury. But on Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump stood before a packed stadium in West Virginia.

Delivering his greatest hits—from leading “Lock her up!” chants to castigating Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as a “Russian witch hunt”—Trump brought in his full campaign spectacle to endorse Republican senate candidate Patrick Morrisey.

Despite mounting legal exposure in the Russia investigation, the White House confirmed on Tuesday that the president will spend 40 days campaigning for Republican candidates. However, within hours of the Cohen-Manafort fallout, halfway across the country, the Trump-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Foster Friess was defeated in a Wyoming primary, raising questions over the limits of Trumpism in this year’s midterm elections.

Friess’ loss to Wyoming’s state treasurer Mark Gordon seemed to mirror last fall’s messy election in Alabama: Trump’s preferred candidate Luther Strange was beaten out by the Steve Bannon-aligned Roy Moore. Even after Trump endorsed Moore in the general election, the candidate lost following accusations of sexual misconduct—handing a longtime GOP stronghold to Democrats.

Not all Republican operatives see Tuesday’s race as a loss for Trumpism, and many have been quick to note Trump’s success in getting West Virginia voters to reject the fringe candidate Don Blankenship.

“Primaries are different than general election. Trump has a lot more sway in a GOP primary, but this is a race where Mark Gordon was going to win anyway,” political analyst Ford O’Connell, a veteran of John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, told Observer. “You can’t win them all, but he’s had a pretty good track record after the flop in Alabama in terms of helping sway who the primary voters pick.”

“In the Senate races, Donald Trump is wanted because, essentially, he’s going to drive those races in terms of pickup,” added the campaign veteran.

O’Connell, however, thinks it’s unwise for Republicans to distance themselves from the president’s populist messaging and does not anticipate further disruptions from the Russia investigation.

“Some suburban Republicans, or Republicans in larger purple states may choose to keep Donald Trump at arms length, but running away from President Trump by anyone is a fool’s errand,” said Ford. “I also think you’re probably going to see the Special Counsel go dark until after the midterms because I think it was probably in their mindset to get these headlines wrapped up before labor day. It would be a little bit odd if the guy investigating election interference himself interfered with an election.”

Read more from Davis Richardson at Observer

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Trump Stops Short Of Killing Climate Rule. Here's His Pitch

"Did you see what I did to that? Boom, gone."

That's what President Trump said about former President Obama's Clean Power Plan last September at a rally in Huntsville, Ala.

Almost a year later, that rule still isn't officially dead — the proposal to repeal it hasn't been finalized. And the administration is expected to roll out its own version today, putting Trump in position to become the first president to enact greenhouse gas limits for power plants after Obama's rule was stalled in court. Trump is likely to tout his approach tonight at a rally in Charleston, W.Va.

So how will a president who has called climate change a hoax brag to his base about likely becoming the first commander in chief to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants?

His likely pitch: It's better than Obama's rule.

There's simply too much nuance for the average voter to swallow, said Frank Maisano, senior principal at Bracewell LLP. Yes, Trump could go down to West Virginia and say what's true of the market — natural gas is cheap and abundant, renewables are becoming more affordable, and coal will still be around a while longer, Maisano said. He added that Trump could also say what the administration believes to be true of policy — the Obama Clean Power Plan was illegal and reached too far into how states manage their electricity system.

Rather, the message should be one of jobs and economics, said Ford O'Connell, a GOP strategist and Trump backer. He said it won't matter that some sort of regulation will survive when the political alternative is Democrats being "hell-bent" on regulating and potentially ditching fossil fuels altogether, O'Connell said.

"President Trump should frame this move as an effort to unleash America's energy potential and to create more American jobs," he said in an email. "Strengthening the U.S. economy was Trump's chief campaign promise and on this front he is delivering."

Read more from Zack Colman and Robin Brander at E&E News

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Primary Challenge To Trump? It Could Help Him In 2020

President Trump could face a primary challenger in 2020. And a contested fight for the Republican nomination might be exactly what he wants.

Unlike George H.W. Bush or Ford, Trump's standing with the GOP base is strong. His approval rating in the GOP hovers around 90 percent.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said a primary challenge doesn't scare Trump because “nobody energizes the GOP base more than Donald J. Trump.”

The noise of a primary season is likely to energize the president, who will have a chance to try to define the slew of expected Democratic candidates as they try to appeal to their liberal base.

“Trump will insert himself in the Democrats' narrative and suck the oxygen from them,” O'Connell stated.

Read more from Bob Cusack and Ian Swanson at The Hill

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Trump Escalates Feud With Intelligence Officials

President Trump’s decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan has escalated his feud with former intelligence officials.

The move was widely seen as an effort by Trump to retaliate against one of his most fervent critics and it has triggered concerns about whether others in the national security community will be affected.

The move is one that legal analysts say is unprecedented — marking the first instance of a president unilaterally intervening in a security clearance case of a former, high-level official.

Experts agree that Trump, as commander in chief, is within his authority to make determinations regarding who has access to classified information.

But Trump’s decision triggered a debate on whether he crossed the line given the seemingly partisan nature of his move.

It sparked a maelstrom of criticism from former intelligence officials and Democrats, who accused the president of seeking to silence his political foes.

Some Republicans offered support for Trump’s move, however. There was also criticism of Brennan, who on social media and in cable television appearances has scorched the president with criticism.

Still, the move, whether perceived as a partisan stunt or to address national security concerns, could play well for the president among his base.

“Not only are you going after your political opponents who have wronged you, but you also are raising a substantive policy question about security clearances and who should have them when they leave the government,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said, calling it smart political messaging.

Read more from Olivia Beavers and Morgan Chalfant at The Hill

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