The Briefing, Vol. VI, Issue 9 – This week:
- 2018 Primaries begin
- Missouri governor’s sordid scandal and indictment
- Democratic Party stays away in PA-18 special
- Arizona-8 special primary: February 27 (to replace former Rep. Trent Franks, R)
- Texas primary: March 6
- Illinois primary: March 20
- Indiana primary: May 8
- North Carolina: May 8
- Ohio: May 8
- West Virginia: May 8
Tennessee: The decision by former Rep. Steve Fincher to back out of the GOP primary for Senate might actually help Sen. Bob Corker in the event he decides to un-retire. Fincher’s candidacy probably would have split the moderate vote against Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn.
Still, Blackburn remains the favorite even if Corker jumps back in. The main and overriding reason is that no one in the Republican establishment wants to cross President Trump by backing someone who accused him of “degrading America” and threatening to cause World War III. Corker’s now-famous comments on Trump, and Trump’s laser-like focus on ending his career, pretty much guarantee that Corker can’t come back into Republican politics — at least not for now.
Democrats are nearly certain to nominate former Gov. Phil Bredesen, D.
Wisconsin: As a bit of a black eye for Republican Kevin Nicholson, it was reported recently that his parents maxed out to the senator he hopes to challenge, Tammy Baldwin, D.
State Sen. Leah Vukmir, R, Nicholson’s rival in the primary, has exercised a full court press in gathering endorsements and attempting to influence both voters and the conservative media.
Pennsylvania-18: The March 13 special election for this seat, formerly held by disgraced former Rep. Tim Murphy, R, offers Democrats yet another chance to prove that their super-excited voting base is primed to create an electoral wave later in 2018.
The available polling suggests a very narrow lead for Republican Rick Saccone over Democrat Conor Lamb. This should trouble Republicans at least a bit, given that this seat was both Republican-leaning and pro-Trump in 2016.
Still, it is better to be ahead in the polls than behind. And polls aren’t the only indication that Saccone is going to win. You also need to follow the money. At the moment, the NRCC, the RNC, Americans for Prosperity, America First Action, Paul Ryan’s Congressional Leadership Fund, and the Club for Growth PAC are among the outside groups spending to help Saccone. On Lamb’s behalf it’s People for the American Way, Patriot Majority PAC, PA Common Sense, End Citizens’ United, and the Progressive Turnout Project. But there’s really no contest — the Republican money is much, much bigger. The Democratic Party’s official arm hasn’t spent a dime in weeks. The DCCC made its last ad buy (and it’s only one this calendar year) on February 1 — a relatively $300,000.
Republicans have so far held off special election challenges in Kansas, South Carolina, and Georgia in which the finishes were incredibly close. For now, a near win is all the Republicans need. But between now and November, they’re going to have to figure out something. The Democratic advantage in the generic ballot poll registered at 15 points in the recent Quinnipiac poll. Whatever you make of that number, it definitely translates to a Democratic takeover of the House.
The Dems may be withholding money just because they’re pessimistic about Lamb’s chances. It’s also quite possible Lamb’s failure to embrace gun control is costing him late financial support that his campaign really does need at the moment. In the current environment, Democratic money spent on Lamb’s behalf will cause another fracas like the one last year over Democratic Party support for pro-life Democrats. Another problem: It doesn’t help that Lamb’s friends are already talking about having him run in another district this fall after the court-ordered redistricting (designed to help Democrats) becomes official. In that case, why vote for him?
Missouri: Republican Gov. Eric Greitens’ initial reaction to his indictment was defiant. He described it as a political act. He surely will not be able to keep that up. And Republicans in the state would be unwise to tolerate it.
Yes, Missouri has shifted heavily toward the Republican Party in recent elections. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D, is the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent in the Senate for good reason. But if you’re looking to turn back a Republican realignment and set it back by as much as a decade, there are few better ways to do it than by hanging on to a bad apple governor.
Kentucky already had this experience when Gov. Ernie Fletcher was dumped from office after a single term in 2007. Greitens’ alleged crime is far more sordid, especially given the #MeToo age we live in. He admits to cheating on his wife with a married woman. But the accusation is that he threatened his mistress that if she went public with the affair, he would release compromising photographs of her.
Missouri’s Republican legislators need to think hard on this one. Yes, the governor will have his day in court and the presumption of innocence. But the standard of a criminal trial is not the same as the one that has to be invoked in politics. Do they really want their state party to be judged based on what a jury thinks of this tale of revenge porn?
Even though Greitens’ term lasts until early 2021, there is going to be a critical statewide election this year that could determine control of the U.S. Senate and Trump’s ability to appoint judges and justices for the last two years of his current term. Is it worth saving Greitens if it means throwing all that away?