SUPREME WATCH … OPIOIDS … AIRLINE SEAT SIZE … SENATE 2016: DEEP DIVE … ONE PERSON, ONE VOTE … NDAA MARKUP … WISCONSIN PRIMARY … TRUMP’S MENTOR: THE UNTOLD STORY … and other news of the week.
Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Will Stone, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala and Kayla Baca)
SUPREME WATCH Politico: “Sen. Chuck Grassley certainly isn’t avoiding the topic of the Supreme Court vacancy these days on the Senate floor. On Thursday, he gave another lengthy floor speech in defense of his position to deny hearings and votes on nominee Merrick Garland, insisting the Democratic “pressure” campaign is futile. REID WORLD RESPONDS “Nothing says the pressure is not getting to you like taking to the Senate floor to declare that the pressure is not getting to you – twenty-three times,” says Reid spokeswoman.
OPIOID PLANS: Looks like President Obama might have an anti-drug addiction bill to sign later this year. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy writes in InJo: “The President’s own proposals to combat opioid addiction demonstrate that there is ample opportunity to reach a bipartisan consensus, and the Senate’s recent work to combat opioid addiction shows bicameral legislative interest. …House Committees should complete work on legislation in April, and …bring these bills for a vote on the House floor in May.”
SENATE KEEPS SQUEEZE ON FLIERS Politico: “The chamber rejected an effort by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to require minimum seat sizes on airlines on Thursday. WashPost: “The FAA would have had 180 days to come up with regulations on the width, padding and leg room each seat should provide. The measure, proposed as an amendment to an FAA reauthorization the Senate is considering, also would have required airlines to prominently display on their websites just how much space they allowed for each passenger.”
SENATE SEATS UP FOR GRABS IN 2016 (A DEEP DIVE) The Fix: “Even before they were forced to decide whether to support Donald Trump and whether to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Senate Republicans had their work cut out for them to keep control of the chamber they won in 2014. They’re defending 24 of the 34 seats up in 2016, and seven of those are in states that voted for Obama not once but twice.
The map hasn’t changed much since March. Eight of the top 10 Senate races most likely to change parties in November are Republican held, and UVA electoral experts Larry Sabato and Kyle Kondik think if Trump is the Republican candidate, it will move nearly every race on this list (and then some) closer to Democrats’ reach. There’s some reshuffling in the top 10 as some candidates get ready to post strong fundraising numbers, while others not so much. But for the most part, the takeaway is that Democrats have more than one path to win back the Senate. The Fix Rankings:
10. Missouri (Republican held): Missouri may be the sleeping giant on the Senate map. One of Democratic Party’s most interesting recruits this cycle, 34-year-old Secretary of State and Afghanistan veteran Jason Kander, is hoping to prove Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R) double-digit 2010 election was just a fluke. Kander is expected to report solid fundraising numbers in the first quarter of the election year, proving he can play with the big guys (though at the end of 2015, he was still some $3 million short of Blunt’s cash). And despite Kander’s obvious appeal, Missouri is an increasingly difficult lift for Democrats. It’s a state that has voted for the Republican candidate for president since 2000, though it’s an open question how voters here will tolerate a Donald Trump or Ted Cruz as their candidate. A Democratic win here would be an upset, but it’s possible. (Previous ranking: 10)
9. Colorado (D): After failing to get a top recruit, Republicans have yet to figure out who is most likely to challenge Sen. Michael F. Bennet, one of the most — if not the most — vulnerable Senate Democratic incumbents this cycle. This state’s swingy nature in a presidential year — it’s split evenly in the past four elections — keeps it on the top 10 list for now. (Previous ranking: 8)
8. Arizona (R): Perhaps more than other Senate Republicans on this list, Sen. John McCain’s attempt to win a sixth term is increasingly complicated by one of the two men he’ll probably share a ballot with in November: Trump or Cruz. McCain has expressed concern in no uncertain terms about both men, and early on Trump returned the favor by wondering out loud whether McCain is a war hero. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D), is his likely challenger whose fundraising numbers are not far off from McCain’s. (Previous ranking: 9)
7. New Hampshire (R): New Hampshire is still the clash of the titans as the state’s popular Democratic governor, Maggie Hassan, tries to take out the state’s popular Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte in a race that could decide the fate of the Senate. Both have tried to be as visible as possible in the opioid epidemic, which polls show is the top issue in the state, and both can tout success in that category. What has the potential to make this race slightly less competitive is Hassan’s ties to a disgraced prep school teacher, who admitted to sexual misconduct while Hassan’s husband was principal at the time. Republicans are closely watching how she handles it to see whether they can make it a potentially damaging campaign issue in November. (Previous ranking: 6)
6. Ohio (R): Ohio is a state where presidential politics will factor in heavily — if not be the dominating factor — in its contested Senate race. And that’s not great news for Sen. Rob Portman (R) is ahead in the fundraising race; he started this year with some $10 million more than his Democratic challenger, former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, and he had another great first few months of 2016 fundraising. But Portman will probably have to use much of that money to boost his name identification and build his individual brand enough to counter someone like Trump being the candidate (Trump came in second in Ohio’s primary to Ohio Gov. John Kasich). Meanwhile, Strickland is freed from his primary and has little to no presidential drama of his own with Hillary Clinton as his party’s likely candidate. A recent Quinnipiac poll found Strickland narrowly leading Portman, 44 to 42 percent. (Previous ranking: 7)
5. Pennsylvania (R): Perhaps nowhere is the effect of Trump’s potential candidacy as clear as in the swing state of Pennsylvania. If Trump is the candidate, the state goes from leaning Republican to a potential Democratic pickup, according to Sabato and Kondik, who this week shifted the race to a toss-up. But supporters of Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R) are comforted by how he can continue to raise money while Democrats muddle through a competitive April primary that is vexing the Democratic establishment. Former Democratic congressman Joe Sestak is trying to avenge his hairpin loss to Toomey in 2010, but most of the party’s brass have put their money behind Katie McGinty, the former chief of staff to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D). The intraparty spat blew open this week when the Democrats’ Senate arm put in $1 million of its precious resources to try to help McGinty over the finish line. Still, as with many of the states that top our list, the fact that Pennsylvania went for Obama twice will make it difficult for Republicans to hang onto it in a presidential year, no matter how perfect of a campaign their incumbents run. (Previous ranking: 5)
4. Nevada (D): This is one of the two offensive opportunities for Republicans, who are hoping to replace retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D) with a Republican. They have a top candidate in Joe Heck, a brigadier general and doctor who has won reelection to Congress in a swing district three times. Democrats are defending Reid’s seat with their own first-choice candidate, former Nevada attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto, who would be the first Latina elected to the Senate. Barring any misstep from Cortez Masto, we’re not going to bet heavily against the formidable Democratic Reid machine, which is probably singularly bent on protecting the senator’s 30-year legacy. (Previous ranking: 4)
3. Florida (R): The race to replace outgoing Sen. Marco Rubio (R) is messy on both sides and is likely to remain that way until the state’s August primary. Republicans are in a seven-way primary. On the Democratic side, Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D) hopes for a relatively easy path to the general election have been stymied by Rep. Alan Grayson (D), a controversial and unconventional liberal congressman who has dragged Murphy into a nasty primary battle. Official Democratic Washington is doing what it can to help Murphy: Obama and Biden recently endorsed Murphy, and Reid has called on Grayson to drop out. Whatever happens in both sides’ August primaries, Florida has gone for the Democratic presidential candidate each of the last two cycles — and could mirror the hard-fought presidential race in the state again in 2016. (Previous ranking: 3)
2. Wisconsin (R): What was once a double-digit lead for Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R) challenger, former Democratic senator Russ Feingold, may now be a five-point race, according to a new Marquette University poll. Johnson’s campaign is also heartened by the fact that in Tuesday’s presidential primary, an eyebrow-raising 1.1 million voters turned out on the Republican side, about 10,000 more than Democrats. They hope their extensive and possibly underestimated ground game perfected during Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) two elections and a recall can bring out those voters again in November. The Koch brothers are also getting into the race with a $1 million ad campaign for Johnson. Despite all that good news for Republicans, Feingold remains the guy to beat. And as we learned Tuesday, Wisconsin Republicans aren’t particularly enamored with the increasingly likely idea of a Trump presidency, a scenario that would make Johnson’s reelection efforts even more difficult. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Illinois (R): Illinois is and is likely to remain the best pickup opportunity for Democrats this cycle. Sen. Mark Kirk is the Republicans’ most vulnerable incumbent, thanks mostly to math: Obama won the state by 16 points in 2012. As such, Kirk is doing everything he can to appeal to moderate voters. He is pro-abortion rights, pro-same-sex marriage, and he recently broke ranks with party leaders and said Obama’s Supreme Court nominee deserves a hearing, even urging his Republican colleagues to meet with Judge Merrick Garland. He also has a dramatic story to tell, returning to Congress in 2013 after having a stroke less than a year earlier. But so does his challenger, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D), a double amputee war veteran who sailed through her primary last month. Some polls show a tight race this early on. But the state’s blue politics in a presidential year with a potential Trump or Cruz on the Republican ticket means it will be tough for Kirk to hang on. (Previous ranking: 1)
THE SUPREMES 8 – 0 DECISION … ONE PERSON, ONE VOTEThe Atlantic: “The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously turned back a legal effort to reinterpret the “one person, one vote” constitutional rule Monday, ruling that states may rely on total population when drawing their legislative districts. The case, Evenwel v. Abbott, … challenged the apportionment of Texas Senate districts. Many observers … noted that Evenwel’s interpretation would redraw the American political map in favor of a whiter, older, and more conservative electorate.”
REFORM SEASON HAS BEGUN MorningD: “Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Tuesday proposed an overhaul of the military command structure that’s been in place since 1986, but resisted calls to put the Joint Chiefs chairman in the chain of command or combine several of the regional combatant commands. Carter’s proposals … comes as SASC John McCain (R-AZ) is preparing to release his own plan to overhaul the Goldwater-Nichols Act, which established the current military command structure. ELEVATE U.S. CYBER COMMAND “Cyber Command chief Adm. Michael Rogers says the DOD’s cybersecurity program is “mature” enough to be elevated to its own unified combatant command linking the missions of multiple segments of the armed forces. [That] would also allow the military’s cyber effort to be part of a budget prioritization strategy afforded to other combatant commanders.”
NDAA MARKUP: The Senate Armed Services Committee will begin marking up the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday, May 11,and walled off the next two days, with the aim of finishing the bill by Friday, May 13. Subcommittees will vote on their individual portions of the bill on Monday and Tuesday of the same week. SASC will once again hold its markup behind closed doors, though the committee typically takes a vote to close the meeting. Half of the six subcommittees will also plan closed markups. AND DON’T FORGET HASC: House Armed Services plans to hold its NDAA markup on Wednesday, April 27, with subcommittees meeting on April 20-21. A HASC spokesperson says the committee plans to release a detailed markup schedule Tuesday, along with a bill number for the House version of the NDAA.”
PAUL RYAN VIDEO SURE LOOKS A LOT LIKE A 2016 CAMPAIGN AD New Paul Ryan video, “Politics These Days” — 43-sec. video Mike Ricci (@riccimike), comms. director for Speaker Ryan, replies: “Nope, but thanks for the clicks!”
BOOM — “Charles Koch Is Privately Committed to Getting Paul Ryan Nominated In Cleveland,” by HuffPost: “Koch is confident House Speaker Paul Ryan could emerge from the Republican National Convention as the party’s nominee if Donald Trump comes up at least 100 delegates shy, he has told friends privately. Koch believes Ryan would be a ‘shoo-in’ at a contested convention.”
INSIDERS PREDICTION Politico: 90% predict contested Republican Convention
IS THIS THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR TRUMP? Roll Call Rothenblog: “For months, Donald Trump has led in polls, eventually piling up enough delegates to become a serious threat to win the Republican nomination in Cleveland in July. But now it appears that the wealthy businessman and reality television star’s candidacy is in jeopardy, the result of months of crude and childish comments, narcissistic behavior and contradictory policy pronouncements — as well as a more concerted effort by adversaries to deny him delegates. No, Trump’s true believers certainly won’t desert him. … but that universe of Trump enthusiasts has not grown as it should if their candidate really was closing the deal on the Republican nomination. He appears to have made little effort to understand government, learn from history or process the complexities of public policy. And he makes so many mistakes because he does not think about issues before pontificating about them. Each time he opens his mouth, he either says something controversial or demonstrates his lack of knowledge and amateurish approach to government. … But the real prospect of a Trump nomination — and what that would mean for the presidential race and for the fight for the Senate and House — has helped motivate some Republicans to rally around alternatives they otherwise would dismiss. …No wonder we hear one Republican’s name more frequently: Paul Ryan.”
WISCONSIN The Fix: The Wisconsin primary is in the books. Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders won solid victories even while Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton remain the clear delegate leaders heading into New York’s primary on April 19. … This election … was the first since the state’s 2011 voter-ID law went into effect. Since Scott Walker signed the law five years ago, it has been winding its way through the courts; last spring, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge against it, effectively upholding it.
ADMITTING THAT VOTER ID HELPS The Fix: “Voter ID laws have swept across the United States in recent years, following big GOP gains in the 2010 and 2014 elections. With Republicans now more powerful in the states than they’ve been since the Great Depression, it has been a priority for them from coast to coast. The stated purpose of these laws, of course, has always been that they prevent voter fraud; you need to have ID to verify your identity for other things, after all, so why not voting? And polls generally show a strong majority of Americans agree. But as any voter ID opponent will tell you, there are so few cases of documented voter fraud that it’s not clear there’s actually an ill that’s being cured. Instead, Democrats allege that these laws are clearly aimed at disenfranchising minority voters, in particular, because they are less likely to have the proper IDs. And minority voters, of course, heavily favor the Democratic Party. A POWER GRAB … Freshman Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI.) “I think Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up,” Grothman said, before volunteering the following: “And now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.” It wasn’t the first time that Grothman has suggested as much. Back in 2012, when he was a state senator, he also predicted voter ID could have helped Mitt Romney win his state. Asked if it could make the difference in a close race, Grothman agreed that it could. Perhaps the most well-publicized example of this belongs to then-Pennsylvania state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R), who said even more clearly in a 2012 speech that voter ID would help Romney carry his state. “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: done,” Turzai said while listing his legislature’s accomplishments.”
“How Joseph McCarthy Henchman Roy Cohn became Donald Trump’s Mentor.” “In the formative years of Donald Trump’s career, when he went from a rich kid working for his real estate-developing father to a top-line dealmaker in his own right, Cohn was one of the most powerful influences and helpful contacts in Trump’s life. Interesting read from Politico Magazine
BERNIE’S INTERVIEW The Fix: “Bernie Sanders sat down with the New York Daily News editorial board on Monday, seeking its endorsement in the upcoming April 19 Empire State primary. It did not go well for the senator from Vermont. Time and again, when pressed to get beyond his rhetoric on the evils of corporate America and Wall Street, Sanders struggled. Often mightily. (The Daily News published the full transcript of the interview so you can check it out for yourself.)”
$15 MINIMUM WAGE AP “California and New York acted Monday to gradually push their statewide minimum wages to $15 an hour – the highest in the nation [Federal minimum has been $7.25 since 2009]- as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders again seized on wage disparity.”
THE BIGOTS WILL LOSE Salon: “Change is painful for those who don’t want it, and a lot has changed in the last twenty years. The LGBT movement in particular has made enormous strides. In almost every corner of the country, LGBT Americans are treated equally under the law, as they should be. But there are still pockets in which morality and culture remain stuck in the Bronze Age. ENTER NORTH CAROLINA AND MISSISSIPPI In North Carolina, a special session passed a law … to undercut any attempts at the municipal or county level to protect LGBT Americans from discriminatory policies. …the business community has already responded, bigotry is bad for business. Which is why PayPal reacted to this law by dropping its plans to build a global operations center in Charlotte, N.C. NOT TO BE OUTDONE Mississippi followed North Carolina’s bigotry with its own sweeping anti-LGBT legislation this week … arguably the broadest discriminatory law in modern American history. It allows individuals and institutions with religious objections (loosely defined) to deny counseling services, adoption services, foster care, wedding products, medical treatment, employment and housing to LGBT people. It also enables employers to use religion to determine workplace policies on grooming, bathroom access, and dress code. “ “It gives protection to those in the state who cannot in a good conscience provide services for a same-sex marriage,” said State Sen. Jennifer Branning. “I don’t think this bill is discriminatory. It takes no rights away from anyone.” ACTUALLY, THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THE LAW DOES. It provides legal cover for those who want to practice discrimination. Discriminating in the name of one’s religion (under the cloak of ‘religious freedom’) doesn’t make it any less discriminatory.”