Some top potential Senate candidates are turning down the opportunity to challenge vulnerable Senate Democrats.

In Pennsylvania, four-term Rep. Patrick Meehan (R) was considering, then declined, to challenge Sen. Bob Casey. Meehan would have been a bigger name than the two state lawmakers and one borough councilman who have jumped in so far to try to challenge Casey.

In Indiana, a state Trump won by 19 points, Rep. Susan Brooks (R) said she wouldn’t try to challenge Sen. Joe Donnelly (D)…

In Wisconsin, a state Trump won by less than a percentage point, leading potential challenger Rep. Sean P. Duffy (R) said he won’t run against Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D)… A couple of state lawmakers, a teacher, a Marine veteran and a businessman are all considering running, which could create a messy primary.

Republicans’ recruitment struggles in Montana is related to Trump but in a different way. Former representative Ryan Zinke (R) was thought to be Republicans’ strongest candidate to challenge one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators, Jon Tester, in a state Trump won by 29 points. Then Trump picked Zinke to be secretary of the interior, and it isn’t clear who will challenge Tester beside a first-term state senator who recently announced he’s in…

This is all playing out in the context of Democrats flush with momentum and money from a liberal base stoked to challenge Trump.

This WaPo report followed analysis from the New York Times on how a failing and flailing Republican Congress and White House are leaving GOP voters demoralized and –  you guessed it – hurting recruitment:

“Republican anxieties run deeper than just the House. The gloomy environment has hampered their recruiting in a number of Democratic-held Senate seats, alarming the Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, according to Republican officials who have spoken to him, who insisted on anonymity to describe those conversations.”

OUR TAKE: Republicans were supposed to be winning but can’t get any points on the board and the ramifications will be felt in the midterms. Health care was a disaster – they got nothing to show their base but are on the record – and caught on tape – supporting a bill to raise the cost of care for older Americans while giving insurance companies a tax break. The President’s volatility is a liability that is dissuading would-be challengers to take on a state-wide run. Among their “major” accomplishments are wiping away Americans’ internet privacy protections and allowing states to defund Planned Parenthood. This is bad for them and it’s going to get worse.

ON THE OTHER SIDE: DEMS POST “RECORD FUNDRAISING” IN 1ST QUARTER. WaPo’s look at Republican recruitment struggles included another major Q1 story: “Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2018 are also reporting record fundraising numbers for this time of year in their states.” Check out these stats:
Tammy Baldwin is “gearing up” with $2.2 million raised and $2.4 million cash on hand.
Sherrod Brown raised “an impressive” $2.4 million and has $5 million cash on hand.
Bob Casey brought in $2.7 million and 93 percent of contributions were under $100. With $3.8 million on hand leaves his challengers “nearly $4 million behind.”
Joe Donnelly had his biggest fundraising quarter since joining the Senate” raising $1.3 million, he has $2.55 million on hand.
Martin Heinrich raised $1.3 million – “more than any senator or candidate in the first quarter in a nonelection year in the state” – and has $2.5 million on hand.
Heidi Heitkamp raked in $1.6 million – “more than any other North Dakota senator or senatorial candidate has raised in the first quarter of a campaign off-year” – and has more than $2 million on hand.
Tim Kaine had his “biggest one-quarter haul” with $2.9 million raised and $5.5 million on hand. More than 15,000 contributors gave less than $100.
Claire McCaskill brought in $2.8 million thanks to a “surge in new donors” as 5,500 new donors from across the state gave to her campaign.
Bill Nelson is “in full swing” with $2 million raised and $3.6 million on hand. More than 4,500 individual donors contributed in Q1.
Jon Tester raised $2 million – “much of that money has come in small increments” with 85 percent of contributions $100 or less. He has $3.2 million on hand. 

DSCC LAUNCHES GOOGLE SEARCH ADS ON GOP HEALTH PLAN. Voters looking to meet with their Republican elected officials over recess will find some helpful information about their support for the devastating GOP health plan. The google search ads link to DSCC’s newly expanded digital healthcare hub – which features video of GOP lawmakers praising the toxic healthcare bill. The ads are running in Indiana, Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida and are part of a six-figure digital ad buy. Here’s a look:

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How it played in the states:
FL – CL Tampa Bay: DSCC uses Google Ads to hit Rick Scott on his support of Trump health plan
FL – Saint Peters Blog: National Democrats using Google ads to highlight Rick Scott’s support for unpopular GOP health care plan
FL – Tampa Bay Times: Democrats target Rick Scott over Obamacare replacement
NV – Las Vegas Review Journal: Heller has $2.6M for re-election as Dems target GOP with digital ads
OH – DSCC online ads target Tiberi
PA – PoliticsPA: DSCC Targets Kelly and Barletta in Google Ads

LIKE WE SAID, THEY OWN HEALTH CARE. Like we said when Republicans announced a plan that would make seniors pay as much as five times more for care and increase the costs of insurance for middle class families – GOP Senate candidates own this plan. Now, a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 61 percent of voters believe Trump and Republicans “are responsible for any problems with [the healthcare law] moving forward.” If any of these potential Senate candidates decide to run, this won’t be the last time they hear from us. 

FLAKE FLOPS AT TOWN HALL. Jeff Flake had a disastrous town hall – check out this supercut of the local TV news.  Even before Flake flopped, we took the opportunity to highlight his legislation selling out Arizonans’ internet privacy to big telecommunications companies. Flake has received a barrage of criticism for introducing the bill, but this should not be a surprise given his 100% voting record with Trump.

Check out the filter:


HELLER’S UNHAPPY HOMECOMING. If Dean Heller thought barring the media would make his recess easier, he was wrong. A leaked recording of an event with conservatives revealed his real feelings on the Trump administration – “incredible” – and town halls – “one of the boxes you gotta check.” Well, Dean’s doing a bad job of checking those boxes: he has the “weakest approval of the 10 most vulnerable lawmakers next cycle,” a 100% voting record with Trump while representing a state Hillary Clinton won, and cast the deciding vote on a bill that denies women and families access to lifesaving care through Title X funding (a move which is extremely unpopular in Nevada). The Reno News & Review sums it up best: “it’s almost as if Heller is trying to lose votes.”

SH*T KEVIN CRAMER SAYS. Kevin Cramer is fast gaining a reputation for saying absurd things, but he may have outdone himself when he defended Sean Spicer’s statement that “Hitler didn’t even use chemical weapons,” saying it was “not without some validity.” In typical Cramer fashion, rather than apologizing for his offensive remarks, he doubled (and tripled) down:

Grand Forks Herald: Kevin Cramer defends Sean Spicer over Hitler, chemical weapons remarks
CNN: North Dakota congressman: Spicer Hitler comment ‘not without some validity’
Mike McFeely: Cramer Just Can’t Help Trying To Be The Trumpiest Of All

FL-Miami Herald: Nelson, near Trump’s Palm Beach resort, calls for end to attacks on climate science
IN – Indy Star: Swarens: Don’t count out Joe Donnelly
IN – Tribune Star: U.S. Sen. Donnelly visits Saint Mary-of-the-Woods: Donnelly says visits all over Indiana keep him grounded and focused|
MI – WWMT 3: Sen. Debbie Stabenow tours auto supplier in Flint, lays out jobs plan
MN – CBS Minnesota: Klobuchar Pushes For Support On Bills Aiming To Curb Opioid Abuse
MO –CBS St. Louis: Mo. Democrat Sen. McCaskill Greeted By Support at Town Hall
PA – CBS Pittsburgh: Sen. Casey Holds Town Hall At Pitt To Address Public’s Concerns
VA – The Roanoke Times: Sen. Tim Kaine visits Ferrum College, Roanake VFW post to discuss education, veterans’ issues
VA – Washington Post: Tim Kaine is back at his old Senate job. It’s never seemed more important.

TWEET OF THE WEEK. Special thanks to the Arizona Republic’s Dan Nowicki for chronicling this moment from Jeff Flake’s really bad town hall:

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 1.46.51 PM 

Lauren Passalacqua

Ben Ray

David Bergstein

Courtney Rice

Justin Lavoie



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