NEW YEAR, SAME GOP PRIMARY PROBLEMS. Less than a week into 2018 and the GOP’s primary problems are on full display. As we wrote in a memo looking ahead to the midterms, 2018 isn’t shaping up the way the GOP hoped, and the nuclear-hot Trump-Bannon feud is the latest point of division. Take a look:
In WEST VIRGINIA, Congressman Jenkins and Attorney General Morrisey, who have been “tak[ing] shots at each other since announcing their campaigns last summer,” have begun “trad[ing] barbs” over Bannon’s endorsement of Morrisey, with Jenkins calling on Morrisey to disavow Bannon’s support.
In WISCONSIN, the “already vitriolic” primary between Kevin Nicholson and state senator Leah Vukmir has been “roiled” by the Trump-Bannon feud. Vukmir attacked Nicholson for having received Bannon’s endorsement; Nicholson reminded Vukmir that she had previously sought Bannon’s endorsement and was simply jealous that she didn’t receive it.
In NEVADA, perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian said he would continue to “welcome” support from Bannon, despite the feud.
Nevada Independent: Tarkanian sticks with Bannon, despite sharp criticism from Trump.
Reno Gazette Journal: Senate hopeful Tarkanian sticks with Trump, doesn’t split with Bannon after ‘treason’ spat.
HEADLINE: WI GOP SENATE CANDIDATES SPAR HOURS AFTER SIGNING ‘UNITY PLEDGE.’ That headline from the Wisconsin State Journal says it all. Anxious to head off what’s already “been an unusually contentious primary,” Wisconsin Republicans issued a plea for their two Senate candidates, Leah Vukmir and Kevin Nicholson, to sign a unity pledge, “but the comity was short-lived and the GOP contenders were sparring again hours later. The bickering illustrated what some party insiders fear — a contentious primary could fracture the Republican grassroots.” Republicans are bent on making Wisconsin competitive in 2018 – conservative groups have already spend $3.1 million against Senator Baldwin – but first they’ll have to overcome this “already vitriolic” primary.
MIKE BRAUN WAVES HIS WALLET AT “NATION’S NASTIEST” PRIMARY. For months, Republicans have worried about the ongoing “personal feud” between Congressmen Messer and Rokita in the Indiana Senate primary and how whichever candidate emerges will be “badly damage[d]” to take on Senator Donnelly. But now they have something else to worry about: multi-millionaire Mike Braun has pledged to spend $5 million of his own money to win the GOP primary, which can only “mean more problems” for Messer and Rokita.
DON’T JUST TAKE IT FROM US THAT IT’S ROUGH: Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, writing in a column picked up across the state: “It’s going to be interesting watching Luke Messer and Todd Rokita try to claim the outsider mantle since both went to an exclusive private school, are attorneys and spent much of their adult lives helping run the government either at the state or federal level.”
HELLER IS “DAMNED IF DOES & DAMNED IF HE DOESN’T.” That’s how Cook Political Report’s Jennifer Duffy described Heller’s predicament in the Republican primary where he faces Bannon-backed candidate Danny Tarkanian whose presence has “pressured” Heller to embrace Trump and tack to the right. After months of refusing to say who he voted for in the 2016 presidential election, Heller has now gone all in on the president, saying they now have a “much closer relationship.” The dilemma? “The more Heller appeals to the rural Trump fans who dominate the primary, the more ammunition he provides” to Rep. Jacky Rosen, who he’ll face in November.
LATEST SENATE RANKINGS PLACE NV & AZ AS “MOST LIKELY TO FLIP.” CNN’s latest race rankings highlight Nevada and Arizona as “prime pickup opportunities for Democrats” and place them at the top of their “Senate seats most likely to flip” list.
NEVADA – “There’s no easy way out of the box Heller is in. Danny Tarkanian, who’s lost all five of his races in Nevada — but won four of his five primaries — is challenging Heller from the right, charging that he’s insufficiently supportive of Trump.
Rep. Jacky Rosen, meanwhile, lies ahead in the general election, ready to seize on a favorable environment for Democrats in a state that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, and where Heller barely won — and did it with less than 50% of the vote — in 2012.
Heller’s gymnastics on health care helped earn him the top spot in our initial rankings. He’s still there as the calendar flips to 2018.”
ARIZONA – “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last month let slip what was already a poorly kept secret: Rep. Martha McSally is poised to enter the Republican primary here.
It’ll become fight in the GOP civil war of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon vs. McConnell, with Bannon aligning conservative outsider forces behind state Sen. Kelli Ward — a candidate many Republicans in Washington and Arizona see as a sure-fire general election loser.
Arizona is moving to the left… and Democrats landed their top target in Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.”
“For the past seven years, Scott has made governing a perpetual campaign — buying TV ads, paid for with high-dollar campaign contributions to the Let’s Get to Work fund he controlled, to promote his agenda and punish his enemies.
Scott is the first Florida governor with a permanent campaign fund during his entire time in office.”
One thing is clear: Scott has always “looked out for himself” while Floridians paid the price. He’s painted an unrealistically rosy picture of Florida’s economic recovery while 53.7 percent of Florida counties have fewer jobs than they did in 2007. And he’s attempted to rewrite history on his environmental record- only coming out against offshore drilling when it’s politically convenient, despite profiting from and repeatedly stating his support for offshore drilling.
IN THE STATES.
FL – Florida Politics: Bill Nelson threatens to block rollback of offshore drilling regulations
MI – MLIVE: Stabenow aims to improve wait times for veterans seeking medical care
MN – Roll Call: EMILY’s List Endorses Minnesota’s Tina Smith
MT – Missoula Current: From forest management to the arts, Missoula business community bends Tester’s ear
(MORE) MT – Sidney Herald: Trump signs Tester’s bill into law
(MORE) MT – Flathead Beacon: If you want accountability from Congress, better turn out the vote for Jon Tester
NV – KXNT: Rep. Rosen Returns Half-A-Million To U.S. Treasury
OH – WVXU: Brown’s Bill To Ramp Up Border’s Screening Process For Fentanyl
WI – WEAU: Baldwin urges Trump to sign Fentanyl bill
TWEET OF THE WEEK.