The Briefing, Vol V, Issue 22

A happy Memorial Day to all of our readers.

This week:

  • Republicans hold on to keep House seat in Montana
  • Dems face serious problem: Unacceptable to many voters
  • Mandel emerges as consensus GOP Senate candidate in Ohio

A difficult week for the Trump administration seemed likely to produce the Democrats’ first big victory of 2017. It didn’t.

In the end, the Republican candidate won Thursday’s special U.S. House election in spite of his own best efforts. And in electing him, the voters in Montana not only dampened Democratic spirits, but also tamped down the media narrative that White House’s problems are bringing down the entire Republican Party.

This is not to say that Republicans can rest easy. They appear more likely to lose the upcoming special election in Georgia. And even in the cycle of the 2010 Republican wave, the opposition party didn’t start winning elections of any sort until November of 2009, and won their first special election to Congress in January 2010.

So there’s no reason to think the Republicans are out of the woods just because they’ve mostly kept Democrats to “moral victories” so far.

House 2018

Montana-At Large: Republican Greg Gianforte’s surprising victory in Montana speaks volumes about how badly Democrats are struggling to win, even in the most favorable environment possible.

The race, which on paper should have been an easy Republican hold, was expected to be very close early last week, fueled in part by the recent turbulence in the Trump administration. But after Gianforte allegedly body-slammed a political reporter on election eve, it seemed like a lost cause for Republicans. The millions of dollars Republicans and outside groups had poured into the race (not to mention a million from the candidate himself) seemed likely to go for naught.

Under those circumstances, a Republican defeat would have been easy enough to explain. The intemperance of the candidate, GOP leaders would have said, spoiled a race that otherwise they would have won.

But it didn’t happen that way. Gianforte won right after he was charged with misdemeanor assault for giving a reporter a beating bad enough to break his glasses.

How to explain the result? Surely, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s insistence on holding an all-mail election played a role. He believed it would help Democrats, and so did the state Republican Party chairman, who objected strenuously and claimed this would set back the party’s aim to make Montana a reliably Republican state. In the end, it meant that most votes had been cast and sealed before it even happened.

But this can’t explain everything. Although there is no complete breakdown of the statewide early vote versus the vote on election day itself, the AP did provide a tally for some of the state’s largest counties. And within those, the shift toward Democrat Rob Quist between the early vote (the vast majority of ballots cast, before the incident) and the election day vote was was only about five points — not big enough that it would have won him the race if applied statewide, nor to convincingly demonstrate that the alleged assault was the reason.

Montana is not exactly easy for Democrats to win — although in recent history, they have a very good track record, except when it comes to the presidential ticket. Still, there were very high hopes for this race, especially after Trump’s bad week, and even more so after Gianforte’s incident. It’s quite a letdown, after many Republicans had assumed a loss, that Democrats end up instead with just another moral victory, like so many before it.

Other recent Democratic losses have been a lot easier to explain. In 2010, they lost the House and several Senate seats because of a perception that Democrats, then firmly in charge of Washington, were ideologically out of control, symbolized most by the passage of Obamacare. In 2014, they lost again because of the fruit of their labor.

But when Democrats are completely out of power, and voters are quite clearly (according to the polls) unhappy with the Republicans who are in power, it stands to reason that they should should be winning. So what explains their continued inability to win?

There are some parts of America where voters have simply come not to trust Democrats. And the party’s local candidates, for all their efforts to make themselves electable — perhaps by moderating their positions or embracing a populist-type theme reminiscent of Trump of Bernie Sanders — they have the party’s unpopular national leadership flying above them like an albatross wherever they go. As one voter told a reporter on the scene, “I don’t care what they say… a vote for Quist is a vote for Pelosi.”

And to add insult to injury, the Democratic candidates who try to take more moderate positions on at least one issue — abortion — are also subjected to an intramural pummeling by the likes of DNC Chairman Tom Perez. This was how Democrats defeated themselves in the less important but nonetheless high profile Omaha mayor’s race — over an issue that has nothing to do with the mayoralty of Omaha.

As much as Democrats complain about Trump’s unpalatability, they’re the ones that lost to him in a head-to-head, and they keep losing even as his approval rating craters. They aren’t ready yet to accept that the Democratic Party, in recent years, has come to stand for many things that heartland voters who were once more open to voting Democratic just don’t and won’t accept.

South Carolina-5: There will be a lot less drama in the race to replace Mick Mulvaney, to be held on June 20. The parties are not spending big, and what polls there are (there is one, from a a conservative PAC) suggests a large double digit lead for Republican former state Rep. Ralph Norman over Democrat Archie Parnell.

Georgia-6: This race, also to be held June 20, remains very close, with Democrat Jon Ossoff perhaps enjoying a small lead over Republican Karen Handel three weeks out. At this point, Democrats are left pinning all of their hopes on Ossoff for the win that breaks a stubborn Republican dam. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee publicly made another seven-figure commitment for the final days, and will have burnt more than $5 million by the time it’s over.

Senate 2018

Ohio: Having gained the endorsement of Republican Sen. Rob Portman, it appears increasingly likely that Treasurer Josh Mandel will be a consensus Republican nominee for Senate and run a rematch against Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown. Mandel ran a respectable race in a difficult environment in 2012, and there is evidence that the state has become more Republican, but it will be an uphill climb to unseat Brown.

Conservatives Find New Star in Montana: Outsider Military Businessman Files Against Tester

“I want to be part of the solution preserving the Last Best Place. I’m tired of the dysfunction and the anger that we’re seeing, and I think I have some interesting perspectives.” – Troy Downing, Associated Press

When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015, the media and political pundits around the globe never gave him a chance. Today, as we approach the two-year anniversary of the famous announcement, he now is our Commander in Chief.

The 2016 election proved that Americans are tired of the status quo, and has unleashed the potential for political outsiders to win statewide elections across the country, something conservative grassroots activists have been trying to accomplish for decades. It’s beginning to look like the conservative crusade against political insiders is finally paying off, as more people that have enjoyed private sector careers are running for office and gaining a lot of traction.

On May 8th, business owner Troy Downing became the first Republican outsider to file to run against U.S. Senator Jon Tester in 2018.

“I want to be part of the solution preserving the Last Best Place. I’m tired of the dysfunction and the anger that we’re seeing, and I think I have some interesting perspectives,” he told the Associated Press.

Downing would certainly bring a unique perspective, as the only candidate in the race so far that has never served as an elected official. He has however, served his country as a member of the United States Air Force. Following the September 11th attacks, he enlisted in the Air Force and served 2 tours in Afghanistan. Before his time overseas, he began his career as a research scientist. He launched a technology startup that later merged with Yahoo!.

He’s now the CEO of AC Self Storage Solutions, a business that acquires and manages self-storage properties with various locations across the nation.

The experienced business owner will likely be focused on bringing smaller, more limited government to Montana. He will understand the importance of reducing taxes and burdensome regulations to spur the economy and create more jobs. And as an avid outdoorsman and hunter, he should be a very strong advocate for Second Amendment rights.

Senator Tester is certainly vulnerable. He won his seat in 2006 by less than one percentage point, 3,562 out of 406,505 votes. In 2012 he increased his margin slightly, defeating Republican Denny Rehberg by 3.7%.

Tester was able to sneak into office at a time when Republicans didn’t have much to celebrate, but now, that’s all changed.

Donald Trump won Montana by 23 points, a margin wider than Mitt Romney and John McCain’s margin of victory combined. Montanans made their voices loud and clear in the 2016 election that they are ready to give political outsiders a chance. A rock-solid conservative grassroots movement was built, that has the potential to propel other individuals from the private sector into positions as elected officials.

With so many other political outsiders across the nation jumping ahead as favorites over their insider counterparts, Downing could join a 2018 class of elected officials ready to bring a fresh perspective to Washington that will help the new Administration on its quest to “drain the swamp.” If Republicans can unite behind Troy Downing the same way they did for Donald Trump, he can and will pose a legitimate threat.

As a Veteran, business owner, and outdoorsman Downing is the picture-perfect candidate to take down the Democratic incumbent senator that’s been an elected official for nearly two decades.




Bug, Or Feature?

Definitely worse than a fly.




Conservative Intel has partnered with Pat Cross Cartoons!

Pat loves drawing, America, and the Big Man upstairs. His work aims to combine these three elements into a petri dish and see what happens. We hope you will find his work thought-provoking, insightful, profound, and maybe, just maybe, a bit humorous.

We encourage you to visit his website and like his Facebook page!

Conservatives Find Their Candidate for U.S. Senate in Michigan

“She’s a skilled public speaker, and she’s an outsider who can lambaste ‘The System’ and Stabenow’s role in it… Epstein takes any gender issue off the table. She has the potential to be the toughest Republican Stabenow has ever faced in her 42-year career in elective office.” – Bill Ballenger, MIRS News 5/22/17

Lena Epstein announced her candidacy for United States Senate today. She’s a third-generation business owner. Epstein began her employment at Vesco Oil Corporation at the age of 16, and since then has worked almost every job possible, viewing the company from all angles. Vesco Oil Corporation is a supplier of automotive and industrial lubricants that prides itself on being environmentally conscientious. Currently, at the age of 35, she serves as General Manager and Co-Owner of Vesco Oil Corporation. The company’s annual revenue exceeds $175 million. The automotive industry that southeast Michigan was once known for tanked a decade ago, putting many people out of work and forcing some businesses involved in the industry to close their doors. Vesco Oil Corporation remained competitive and survived the economic crisis. It continues to employ hundreds of people in Motor City after over 70 years of being in business. Although Michigan’s economy is on the comeback, it still has a lot of room to grow. Epstein indicates manufacturing jobs will be a priority in a video featured on her website that launched today. After working in the auto industry for her entire adult life, she certainly knows what it takes to make Detroit the undisputed automobile capital of the world once again.

The video provides good taste of what her campaign will be focused on. One of the key tenants is securing our border, the same campaign promise that convinced many voters to flock towards Donald Trump immediately following his announcement as a candidate for president. The Trump Administration would certainly welcome a strong ally in the Senate on an issue that’s received a lot of pushback from Democrats.

Epstein is not just another career politician or lawyer. As a business owner, she follows in President Trump’s footsteps as the ultimate political outsider. This could benefit her greatly, especially if she wins the Republican nomination and takes on Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow, a career politician of over four decades. Bill Ballenger, is one of the most respected political pundits in Michigan, and his ability to forecast elections is second to none. “She’s a skilled public speaker, and she’s an outsider who can lambaste ‘The System’ and Stabenow’s role in it,” Bill Ballenger said to MIRS News. “Epstein takes any gender issue off the table. She has the potential to be the toughest Republican Stabenow has ever faced in her 42-year career in elective office.”

Earlier this year, before Epstein announced, Ballenger compared her potential to that of Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin business owner that had very little name I.D. before he ran for U.S. Senate in 2010. He became the Tea Party favorite and took on Russ Feingold, a 3-term Democratic Senator and won. Ballenger believes Epstein could be the new, fresh face with financial resources Republicans have been searching for.

The Tea Party might not be as strong as it once was, but the Donald Trump movement has taken the nation by storm, especially in Midwestern states like Michigan. Conservatives have been fighting since the Reagan era to elect another president that will take the concept of small, limited government seriously, and make real changes in Washington D.C. The conservative movement was finally successful in the 2016 presidential election. What better way to continue to drain the swamp than to use this momentum to send one of Trump’s most loyal supporters and advocates from Michigan to fight alongside him in Washington D.C.?

Epstein might be a political outsider, but she’s no stranger to what it takes to win a general election. She got married last fall, but chose to put her honeymoon on hold after she was named a Michigan state co-chair for the campaign, so she could devote herself completely to winning the state for Donald Trump. She worked closely with the other Trump co-chairs, campaign staff, coalition leaders, the RNC, Michigan Republican Party, and grassroots activists to turn Michigan red for the first time since 1988. She began supporting Donald Trump early on, before the Michigan primary, putting her reputation as a business owner and Republican activist on the line to fight for the candidate she believed in. Sometimes people publicly commit to a presidential candidate for the sake of using the title to benefit themselves. This was never the case with Lena Epstein. She didn’t try to hide in the background, she was on the frontline taking on the most difficult of tasks. As co-chair for the “Michigan Women for Trump” coalition, she became the public face for female voters in Michigan that supported Donald Trump at a point in the campaign when the media was painting a picture Trump might lose the election because of women turning their backs on him. The media was wrong, and it was leaders like Lena Epstein that helped make history November.


Trump Still Bulletproof?

The Briefing, Vol. V, Issue 21 – This week:

  • Elections soon to test Trump administration’s early woes
  • Dems hope this time, things are…different?
  • Dem dark-horse candidate takes the lead in Virginia governor primary

House 2017

Just as President Trump’s plane reached its cruising altitude, leaving the country on his first foreign trip as president, the New York Times and Washington Post struck with two highly negative stories — one on what President Trump said in his meeting with Russian officials, and another on one of his top aides (apparently his son-in-law, Jared Kushner) being a “person of interest” in the Russia election investigation.

It sounds pretty bad, right? And yes, there are some very subtle indications in the polls that all of the negative media coverage is taking its toll. (It should be noted, however, that Trump’s high-30s approval rating more or less mirrors his favorability rating on election day, when he won.)

Then again, we’ve seen this happen before. We saw it throughout the 2016 election. Candidate Trump was somehow bulletproof, to the delight of his fans and the outrage of his detractors. It just didn’t matter what he said. He famously declared that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. Surely he’ll never do that, but who can doubt that he was right? He moved from one negative story to the next without suffering politically, defying every reasonable-seeming prediction that this time he’d gone too far — this one would end his campaign.

Now it’s this one will end his presidency, just four full months in. But no matter how bad things look, no one can safely just assume that this time things are different, after everything we’ve recently experienced. In the last 12 months, Americans have been forced to accept that the impossible is now routine.

How much are the Trump administration’s current troubles going to afflict Republican candidates down-ballot? Or will they at all? As we’ve noted before, we’ll get a much clearer idea pretty soon.

This week, on May 25, the ballots will be counted in Montana’s House special election. Just over three weeks later comes the much more anticipated runoff in Georgia’s Sixth District between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.

A loss in Montana would be absolutely crushing for Republicans. A loss in Georgia, although less unexpected would be very bad. Victories in both, on the other hand, might once again cast doubt upon the idea (discredited once, at least with respect to the 2016 election) that Democrats can now successfully use Trump controversies to drag down his party’s down-ticket candidates.

Georgia-6: If there’s a fair test of how much trouble Trump’s current woes are causing the Republican Party, this is it. This contest, in a Republican district whose voters were not necessarily too keen on Trump in 2016 (although he did win it, barely), remains the race to watch.

Outside of candidate spending, both parties spent about half a million dollars on this race in the last seven days. Those numbers are sure to ramp up in the last four weeks of the campaign for the June 20 runoff election.

Montana-At Large: This race, to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in the U.S. House, will be the next shoe to fall. In just the last seven days, the Republican National Committee has dumped more than $700,000 into this race. Paul Ryan’s SuperPAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, has spent $176,000, and the NRCC has dumped in $450,000 during the same timeframe, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also spent a quarter million on behalf of Republican Greg Gianforte. Other smaller players have pitched in tens of thousands as well.

During the same period, Democratic outside money in this race has been pretty much non-existent, although the Democrats’ candidate, musician Rob Quist, has a well-funded campaign. (So does Gianforte, who is self-funding.) The Montana Democratic Party spent only $17,000 last week, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund spent $20,000 on Quist’s behalf.

The outside money seems to be saying Democrats don’t especially like their chances in this one, but Republicans are still running scared in the current environment and leaving nothing to chance. Various polls have suggested a tightening race. A Republican loss in Montana, even more than in Georgia’s Sixth District, would be devastating for the party, giving new power to the storyline that the Trump administration’s woes are dragging down the entire Republican Party. It would also make Sen. Jon Tester seem pretty safe in his re-election bid next year.

South Carolina-5: The conservative candidate in the GOP primary to replace Mick Mulvaney, Ralph Norman, narrowly won the runoff by 221 votes. After the recount, he is the clear favorite in the June 20 general election, which is to be held on the same date as the vote in Georgia.

Republicans cast more than twice as many votes in their primary as Democrats did in theirs when they chose former Goldman Sachs attorney Archie Parnell as their nominee. That isn’t necessarily indicative of anything, but at least it doesn’t provide obvious evidence of a Democratic groundswell. And it’s a lot better than the situation in Georgia, where voters supporting Republican candidates just barely outnumbered those supporting Democrats.

Utah-3: Just what Republicans need — another special election! But in this case, Democrats really won’t figure much when voters go to the polls in the Provo area to pick a replacement for Rep. Jason Chaffetz. Chaffetz will be quitting his House seat and the chairmanship of the House oversight committee on June 30.

Although there’s a lot of controversy over how the election will be held and who makes the decisions about it (Utah has no law on the matter and has apparently never held a special House election to fill a vacancy outside of the regular election day), it appears there will a primary in August followed by a general election in November.

Governor 2017

Virginia: Former Rep. Tom Perriello, D, the young dark-horse progressive candidate in the race, is finally polling ahead of the state’s establishment favorite, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, D, just three weeks before the primary. The race has been moving in his direction ever since it started, and at this point he should be considered the favorite.

On the Republican side, former RNC Chairman and 2014 Senate candidate Ed Gillespie has a commanding lead and should win the nomination without difficulty.

Governor 2018

Idaho: The conventional wisdom is that Russ Fulcher will drop out of the governor’s race for Raul Labrador, who endorsed him in 2014, to run for Labrador’s northern and western Idaho seat. If so, that will help unify the conservative side of the primary equation, in a state where Ted Cruz won 45 percent of the presidential primary vote. With Fulcher still in the race, it’s a bit of a muddle. But in a three-way race against Lt. Gov. Brad Little and self-funding developer Tommy Ahlquist, Labrador’s chances are much better. 

House 2018

Florida-27: A poll from a Republican firm shows Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera with a commanding 57 percent in the primary for the swing-y Miami seat being vacated by Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen.

Even if the poll is somewhat self-interested, the lead for the primary is so large (understandably, since the other potential candidates are quite low-profile) that it’s hard to chalk up to bias. If Lopez-Cantera chooses to run, the nomination is probably his, although the seat itself could easily go to the Democrats even in a non-wave election. This Republican poll shows him with a modest lead over this most likely opponent, Democratic State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, 41 to 34 percent. Ros-Lehtinen only won with 55 percent in November, and Hillary Clinton carried the district with nearly 59 percent of the vote.

It should also be noted that the same poll showed both Sen. Marco Rubio, R, and Gov. Rick Scott, underwater in terms of favorability within this district’s boundaries. It seems evident that it will take a particular kind of candidate — not just any Republican, and not even just any Cuban Republican — for Republicans to have much of a chance to hold this seat after the next election.


Next up? Kool-Aid.




Conservative Intel has partnered with Pat Cross Cartoons!

Pat loves drawing, America, and the Big Man upstairs. His work aims to combine these three elements into a petri dish and see what happens. We hope you will find his work thought-provoking, insightful, profound, and maybe, just maybe, a bit humorous.

We encourage you to visit his website and like his Facebook page!


It makes as much sense as you think it does.




Conservative Intel has partnered with Pat Cross Cartoons!

Pat loves drawing, America, and the Big Man upstairs. His work aims to combine these three elements into a petri dish and see what happens. We hope you will find his work thought-provoking, insightful, profound, and maybe, just maybe, a bit humorous.

We encourage you to visit his website and like his Facebook page!

Billionaire and 2018 Democrat Candidate for Governor J.B. Pritzker Using Shady Tactics to Save Thousands in Taxes Prior to Election

J.B. Pritzker is a billionaire. He’s a venture capitalist, business owner, and as of recently, a 2018 Illinois gubernatorial candidate. Billionaires that run for public office already have a leg up on their competition, but apparently the advantage isn’t enough for Pritzker.

He appears to be saving a lot of money, but not by spending less on his campaign. In fact, he just dumped $7 million into his campaign fund last month after he announced. Pritzker has found some very creative and shady ways to save massive amounts of money on his property taxes, ways that never even cross the mind of the average homeowner. Since he’s willing to game the system when it comes to his personal finances, it’s beginning to call into question his ability to lead and manage the budget of an entire state.

The billionaire lives in a mansion on Chicago’s Gold Coast with his wife and their two children. According to the Chicago Sun Times, they bought the mansion for $14.5 million in 2006, and spent an additional $11-$25 million more fixing it up.

For many Americans, living in a house worth even half that much couldn’t happen in our wildest dreams. But apparently for the Pritzker’s, one mansion wasn’t enough. They later bought a smaller mansion next door from a retired banker, Burton Gordon for $3.7 million.

You’re probably wondering, what’s wrong with that? This is the United States of America, Pritzker has worked hard to earn his fortune, and even if he wanted to buy 10 mansions all in the same neighborhood, we shouldn’t judge him.

That might be true, but there’s something very strange going on with the mansion next door. Although Pritzker fixed up the outside of the house, documents filed with Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios show little attention has been given as of late to the inside. The documents state the mansion has “no functioning bathrooms or kitchen” and Pritzker’s lawyers argued it should be considered “vacant and uninhabitable.”

So the house they recently purchased that looked as though it could be used to house guests or staff, had now fallen into so much disarray that Pritzker’s own lawyers were saying it was unsuitable to have people live in it. Berrios agreed with the lawyers and the 6,387 – square – foot home that was assessed at $6.25 million just last year has now been assessed at just $1.1 million.

The Chicago Sun Times analysis showed Pritzker has saved $230,000 in property-tax breaks and refunds. The property taxes dramatically dropped from $117,087 to $19,719. That, coupled with partial refunds for taxes he had paid in previous years totaling $132,747 reach that $230,000 figure.

Additionally, he’s saved another $42,934 because of a drop in the assessment of the mansion next door Pritzker actually lives in from $14.1 million to $12.1 million.

The County Assessor will stick with the lower assessments again this year, so he can expect to save more money.

The assessment of Pritzker’s actual home seems suspicious, since he refused to let the company he hired inside because of “security concerns” and they were only given photos to base the interior assessment on.

That’s a pretty nice sum of money to keep in the bank for the guy that just announced he’s running for governor last month.

Although Pritzker’s three other democratic opponents also live in Cook County, he stands alone in receiving tax cuts as a result of an appealed assessment. On the Republican side, Governor Bruce Rauner has not received any property tax breaks either.

According to the assessor’s spokesman Tom Shaer, the policy of dropping assessments on homes that are “vacant and uninhabitable” is supposed to give the homeowner money, encouraging rehab.

In the case of Pritzker, this seems unlikely since it appears the billionaire has done little to repair the interior of the home in the years that he’s owned it. His campaign says he does plan to rehab the mansion ‘someday’, but if that day does come you can be confident in the fact it will wait until after the campaign.

Illinois voters on both sides of the aisle should not take any of this lightly. Although Pritzker didn’t engage in anything illegal to save on his property taxes, he’s certainly gaming the system and finding unconventional ways to help fund his campaign. They should be asking themselves if they can trust somebody that manages their own money in this way to be responsible and transparent with the budget for the state. Will his shady practices when it comes to saving on his personal taxes translate into statewide tax increases and budget gimmicks as the governor of Illinois? Pritzker might believe that spending massive amounts of money on his campaign will help him win the election, but it’s time for voters to speak out and stand against this man before he’s put in charge of the entire economy.


Photo credit: Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune

DNC Unity Tour Claims First Victim

The Briefing, Vol. V, Issue 20 – This week:

  • First victim of the DNC Unity Tour
  • Do voters care about the Comey firing? We’ll find out soon.
  • Freedom Caucus’ Labrador announces for governor


Democratic discord: For obvious reasons (it happened the same evening as James Comey’s firing), the result in the Omaha mayor’s race did not get the attention it deserved. But it was a very big deal because of the buildup that had preceded it.

In an environment where Democratic voter turnout has been unusually strong in by-elections, and the DNC had made this race a national focal point with a high-profile visit by its Bernie Sanders “Unity Tour,” Democrats came up far short against a GOP incumbent who had seemed vulnerable.

And it happened because top Democratic leaders turned the race into an intra-party battle over the party’s uncomfortable position on abortion.

No one can know for sure whether Heath Mello would have won if not for national Democrats’ interference. But his seven-point loss in Tuesday’s runoff was a disappointment after the incumbent — Jean Stothert, the first Republican mayor of Obama elected this century — received less than 44 percent of the vote in the non-partisan primary on April 4, and only about 1,400 more votes than Mello.

National Democrats obviously sensed an opportunity after this result, because they scheduled a stop on the DNC Unity Tour, in which the party’s new leadership and Sen. Bernie Sanders have been running around the country, trying to show that the party’s fences have been mended after last year’s bitter presidential primary and the many allegations of vote-rigging.

The problem is that when Sanders and DNC Deputy Chairman Keith Ellison showed up in Omaha to stump for Mello, the party’s highly influential abortion industry activists went nuts. Mello, it turns out, had sponsored and voted for pro-life bills during his time in the state legislature. This is what occasioned DNC Chairman Tom Perez’s subsequent declaration that pro-life candidates are not welcome in his party.

Fast forward a few weeks, and Democrats lose a potentially winnable election. As Mello was giving his concession speech, state party chairwoman was cursing Perez’s name in a conversation with reporters: “It’s astounding that our party chairman would say pro-life Democrats are not welcome,” she said.

It’s a truly amazing result that illustrates local Democratic candidates’ struggles to win in Red states and culturally conservative locales. If not for the Comey firing, we might be discussing little else besides the Democrats’ continued and unimproved inability to learn from their losses.

Recall that in 2006, Democrats took advantage of an otherwise favorable environment to win a House majority in part by recruiting suitably moderate candidates in the states and districts where they were likely to fare better with voters in the heartland. The party now appears to be as far from embracing this strategy as it ever has been. And Democrats are also quite long way from the unity they are trying to project.

Comey firing: The big story last week — the dominant story on every television show and in every publication — was obviously the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

It’s a tricky issue for Trump. He seems genuinely not to have anticipated the blowback it has created. Democrats, after all, wanted Comey skinned alive right up until the moment he was fired.

But they have successfully raised questions about the timing of his firing, some of which Republicans are also asking, based on the FBI director’s role (potentially peripheral or central, depending on who the next director is) in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Generally, the polls show that most voters disapprove of the action, and with only 29 percent approving, this demonstrates that even many of Trump’s ardent supporters feel that way. Still, it’s a lot harder looking at such polls to say how much people care.

The Russia investigation may well be the Democrats’ Great Pumpkin — something that will never amount to anything real, but which inspires the little hope that Democratic partisans have left at the moment.

Still, it is a real investigation, and something that Trump feels quite annoyed by. As Trump’s communications shop awkwardly tried to put it, they’d rather have it done right and quickly so that it’s behind them and no longer threatening Trump’s agenda. Comey’s firing is thus an obstacle to that goal. As they often say in Washington, the cover-up is worse than the crime. Many people have, rightly or wrongly, interpreted the Comey firing as a cover-up.

Another consideration: Many people watching this issue will make their judgment based on President Trump’s choice of Comey’s replacement, which is likely to come down soon. The Democrats’ clamoring will continue either way, but if he chooses a partisan hack or a longtime supporter for the post, it’s going to be a lot more trouble with people who are less partisan. Various mainstream media reports suggest that Trump understands the gravity of the situation and is not taking it lightly — this minor crisis may prompt him even to reshuffle some top staff.

The question we’ll be most interested in, of course, is the electoral fallout, if there is any. If the ongoing Beltway freakout is truly contagious and felt by the voting population, it could prove hazardous to Republicans’ health. If, on the other hand, it is limited to the chattering classes, it will be forgotten within a few weeks.

We will know soon enough: There are two special House elections coming up very quickly to test how much traction this has with actual midterm voters. The first is in Montana on May 25, and the second is the runoff in Georgia’s Sixth District on June 20.

In the Georgia race, Republican Karen Handel has taken President Trump’s side, arguing that Comey’s firing was overdue.

Governor 2018

Florida: Former Rep. Adam Putnam, R, disappeared from the national scene seven years ago when he left his House seat to run for Florida Agriculture Commissioner. He won, and has held that office ever since. Now he’s announced he’s running for the soon-to-be vacant governor’s office. He’s the first top-shelf Republican candidate to do so, but probably not the last. Democrats’ strongest candidate in the field by far is former Rep. Gwen Graham, daughter of former Gov. and Senator Bob Graham, who announced May 2.

Idaho: Conservative Rep. Raul Labrador, R, has finally announced what people in the Gem State long expected: He’s running for governor. And in the GOP primary, whose winner is nearly certain to become governor, he has to be considered the favorite.

In 2014, there were already rumors that Labrador might challenge the now-retiring incumbent, Gov. Butch Otter, R. But he declined, instead endorsing Otter’s conservative challenger, Russ Fulcher, who is in fact running again.

Despite any potential split among conservatives, There’s likely to be a split on the moderate side as well. Lieutenant Gov. Brad Little, R, and developer Tommy Ahlquist, R, have also both announced already.

Democrats currently have no serious candidates in the race. Barring an exceptional entry, they likely won’t be relevant at all.

Senate 2018

West Virginia: In some states, top-flight candidates are shying away from contentious races — perhaps a sign that they are worried about their party’s prospects in Trump’s first midterm. Not so in the Mountain State, where their battle for the Senate seat of Democrat Joe Manchin is definitely uphill, no matter how much support Trump has there.

Rep. Evan Jenkins, R, a former Democratic legislator who was first elected to the U.S. House as a Republican in 2014, has announced he is running for Senate — a risky move for a safe House incumbent who hasn’t even served long enough (five years) to become vested in his House pension. With his early announcement, Jenkins is trying to force Attorney General Patrick Morrissey, R, to announce or decline early as well. A sharp contest between two of the state’s top Republicans would be unusual given what we’ve seen so far in 2018, but West Virginia is perhaps an unusual state right now.

The state’s ongoing realignment, as dramatic as it has been since 2010, does not preclude the election of the right sort of Democrat. And Manchin, who was added to the Senate Democrats’ leadership team, has been careful not to antagonize the White House, voting for nearly all of his cabinet nominees. You could call him Trump’s favorite Senate Democrat.

Manchin’s personal popularity will be tried by fire next year in a state that gave Trump 68 percent of the vote and re-elected their relatively new Republican legislative supermajority, but which at the same time picked a relatively conservative billionaire Democratic governor, Jim Justice, with 49 percent of the vote.






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