DRIVING SENATE RACES: ACROSS THE MAP, GOP PRIMARIES INTENSIFY. As GOP primaries across the country heat up, the Associated Press reports on a common, problematic factor: “insurgent primary candidates are trying to lay claim to President Donald Trump’s mantle, and knock out the establishment choices.” In West Virginia, Indiana, and Alabama, candidates are trying to out-Trump each other. In Nevada and Arizona, primary challengers to current Republican Senators are threatening their re-election chances. It’s why the National Journal calls them the “must-see Senate primaries” of the cycle.

#WVSEN STAYS NASTYMorning Consult takes a look at the latest back and forth between Congressman Jenkins and Attorney General Morrisey – bottom line: the attacks are still flying. Jenkins says “Morrisey is breaking his promise to the West Virginia voters,” while Morrisey’s spokeswoman said “’It’s really sad how desperate Evan Jenkins has become.’”  

AS ROKITA ANNOUNCES #INSEN RUN, “NASTIEST RACE IN POLITICS CAN OFFICIALLY BEGIN.After months of shadow campaigning, Congressman Rokita officially announced his intention to run for U.S. Senate, starting an “intraparty feud” with Congressman Messer and four other already-declared candidates. Rokita’s entrance into the race was less than graceful – the Indy Star’s Matthew Tully described the campaign rollout as “stuffed with baloney.” Want to know more about the “rancor”-filled GOP primary and Congressman Rokita? We’ve got you covered.

GOP CANDIDATES CAUGHT: TRUMP V. MCCONNELL: The 2018 matchup that “threatens GOP’s 2018 Senate prospects” pits the President against the Majority Leader – a dynamic that will only inflame the GOP’s widespread primary problems. Take a look:

NEW THIS AFTERNOON: Politico: GOP Senate candidates lukewarm on McConnell.
“An informal survey of more than half a dozen Republican candidates in key states such as Montana and Arizona revealed lukewarm support for McConnell to continue as majority leader if Republicans control the Senate after next year’s midterms. Many candidates said they would either want someone else to be their leader, or declined to answer whether or not they would back McConnell remaining in the job.

Some Republican hopefuls positioning themselves as outsiders running against the Washington establishment echoed Trump’s criticism of McConnell.” 

Talking Points Memo: Trump-McConnell Feud Threatens GOP’s 2018 Senate Prospects.
“The ongoing public feud between President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) threatens to spill over onto the 2018 elections, leaving Republicans with a series of nasty primaries that could hurt them in races across the country and damage their slim majority.

The public spat with Trump threatens the size of his majority, complicating the elections of both incumbents and challengers as well as dividing an unhappy donor class. And the more they fight, the worse Republican strategists say things will go for the party next fall.

Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Dean Heller (R-NV), by far the two most vulnerable Republicans facing reelection next fall, are both facing threats from the populist right by candidates who’ve slammed them for not showing enough loyalty to Trump.” 

The Hill: Senate primaries: How far will Trump go for revenge?
“Speculation is growing that President Trump will buck his own party and back primary challengers to two incumbent GOP senators seeking reelection in 2018, an exceedingly rare event that would deepen divisions within a party that is already struggling to govern despite controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress. 

The White House is closely watching Senate races in Arizona and Nevada, where Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) have attracted pro-Trump primary challengers. A couple of other challengers in Arizona with close ties to Trump are still weighing bids and have visited the White House in recent weeks.

It’s a sign that Trump’s allies may be preparing for battle against Republican incumbents and giving a green light for the right to go on the attack.

There is some worry that the infighting could lead the White House to be more aggressive in going after incumbents if the current lawmakers can’t get Trump’s agenda passed anyway. 

That would be a drastic move that political operatives around these races are bracing for.”

The Washington Times: Heller challenger Danny Tarkanian sides with Trump on McConnell’s handling of legislation.
“Count Danny Tarkanian among the insurgent GOP primary challengers that are siding with President Trump in his public feud with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Mr. Tarkanian recently announced his bid to unseat Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, a fellow Republican, and said Thursday the president was right to call out Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, over his inability to muster enough support for a bill to do away with Obamacare.”

#NVSEN “MOST LIKELY TO SWITCH PARTIES IN 2018.” As CNN reports, “it’s one of the earliest races to take shape – and it’s all bad news for Heller.” The entrance of Danny Tarkanian in the Republican primary demonstrates just how far Heller’s support in the state has eroded and foreshadows what “could turn out to be a vicious fight before the general election.” Republicans who were furious at Heller for his flip-flopping and “health care gymnastics” now have a candidate to support. Read the Nevada Democratic Party’s memo on Tarkanian’s entrance here.

PRO-TRUMP DONOR PLEDGES TO SPEND THOUSANDS AGAINST FLAKE. Heller isn’t the only Republican Senator feeling the heat from his own party. After publicly criticizing Trump (despite voting with him 95% of the time), Flake has drawn the ire of pro-Trump Republicans, causing Robert Mercer, a pro-Trump mega donor, to pledge $300,000 to a super PAC supporting Flake’s GOP primary opponent. It’s the latest sign that Flake’s all talk, no action media tour has angered his base. 

**A Different Map – What Music Do Americans Love the Most [NYT] **

FROM THE DSCC: WHAT TO WATCH OVER THE CONGRESSIONAL RECESS. With recess underway, here are three dynamics to watch that will have big implications for 2018 Senate campaigns.

  1. GOP Primaries Will Get Nastier. GOP recruitment failures and infighting are giving way to nasty primaries in Nevada, Indiana, Montana, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
  2. Health Care Remains Top of Mind for Voters. If, and when, GOP Senate candidates encounter voters over the recess, they’re sure to face even more fallout over their toxic health care agenda.
  3. The Heat is on Senators Heller and Flake. Heller and Flake are both in damage control mode this recess. They’ve hurt their standing with GOP base voters, as well as the moderate, independent voters who will ultimately decide their elections.

The bottom line: this August recess is shaping up to preview the GOP infighting and backlash against the Republican candidates that has, and will continue to, dominate the 2018 Senate campaigns.

Read our full memo here.

YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT THIS ON THE TRAIL: GOP TRIGGERING “DOUBLE-DIGIT PREMIUM INCREASES.” A new, nonpartisan study has found that the instability and “mixed signals” coming from the Trump administration and Republicans are “triggering double-digit premium increases on individual health insurance policies.” As the Health 202 put it, “everything is volatile under Republican rule.” Every Republican running for Senate owns these expensive rate hikes, which will impact voters as they prepare to go to the polls next fall.

QUICK CLIP – DSCC Chair Van Hollen: GOP-Only Approach “Not A Recipe for Success”


IN #WISEN, NICHOLSON STUMBLES RIGHT OUT OF THE GATE. The Journal Sentinel reports Nicholson has been forced to pull his first ad after drawing complaints for violating federal rules and inappropriately using footage of a veterans cemetery. From the report: “A National Cemetery Administration official said the use of filmed footage of veterans cemeteries in political ads is ‘incompatible’ with a federal policy requiring these cemeteries be treated with dignity and respect.”

#OHSEN EDITORIAL: “MANDEL’S POLITICAL OPPORTUNISM IS SHOWING AGAIN.” It hasn’t occurred to Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel that “Ohioans did not elect [him] to run seemingly 24-7-365,” opines the Editorial Board. “That Mandel’s political ambitions know no bounds is evidenced by his willingness to push the limits of decency and propriety.” Some examples:
          Mandel sided with members of the alt-right who believe date rape is fake over the Anti-Defamation League, “stun[ing]” Republicans.
          Every work trip Mandel “took in the last year was at least in some part related to politics,” according to a report from the AP.
          Mandel spent nearly $2 million in taxpayer funds on self-promotional TV ads that aired right before he announced his campaign for Senate.

DESPITE “PR TOUR,” SCOTT’S PROMISES “RING AWFULLY HOLLOW.” Governor Rick Scott has been traveling up and down the state to promote his efforts combatting the opioid epidemic, but his actions tell a different story. Scott helped craft the toxic Republican health care bill that would have gutted funding for treatment and has signed off on state budget cuts to mental health and drug treatments. As the Orlando Sentinel points out, “this simply wasn’t a priority. [Scott and his cronies] were more worried about finding money for Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida and staging the same old gun debates they rehash every year” than truly tackling the problem.

FL – Miami CBS: Nelson Urges Tougher Sanctions On Venezuela, Including Some Oil Imports
(MORE) FL – WJHG: Senator Bill Nelson traveling across the Panhandle to hear from locals
MI – WLUC: Senator Stabenow announces more than $3.5M to expand double up food bucks
MO – MissouriNet: McCaskill’s crackdown on prescription drug price gouging heads to president
OH – WDTN: Senator Sherrod Brown visits Ohio to launch program
WV – Metro News: Manchin to visit flooded communities in northern W.Va. 

An in-kind suggestion to Republicans trying to avoid reporter’s health care questions over recess.

 Lauren Passalacqua

Ben Ray

David Bergstein

Courtney Rice

Justin Lavoie

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DSCC Statement on GOP Triggering “Double-Digit Premium Increases”

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