GOP STILL “ROILING WITH PRIMARY FIGHTS.” NBC describes how nasty primaries are dogging Republicans, from “ideological battles” in Arizona and Nevada, “grudge matches” in Indiana, to “free-for-alls” in West Virginia. And the Wall Street Journal notes that Republican “fundraising woes” continue to cloud prospects – from increasingly vulnerable incumbent Dean Heller to the GOP’s “star” recruit Josh Hawley.

UNEASE” IN #TNSEN AS CORKER RECONSIDERS RETIREMENT. Reports that Senator Corker’s reconsideration of retirement have “upended” the Tennessee Republican primary aren’t playing well for him, his potential primary opponent Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, or the GOP. From the National Journal:

  • The situation has placed Republicans in a precarious position, caught between an incumbent and a congresswoman who has drawn significant support from the party’s establishment and grassroots. Meanwhile, Republicans are airing concerns that a Corker-Blackburn race would squander valuable resources ahead of a legitimate general election challenge from former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen.
  • “It’ll tear our party apart, and it will make Alabama look like a daycare,” said one Blackburn ally, citing the neighboring state’s contentious Senate special election primary last year. “I’m not sure why Bob Corker wants to push us into the kitchen.”
  • Republicans predicted a race between the two Tennessee heavyweights would play out along Trump fault lines. Blackburn was a Trump surrogate in 2016, while Corker’s verbal sparring with Trump culminated in the president declaring that the senator could not get elected dog catcher.
  • Fueling the Corker push is a fear that Blackburn is too conservative and could put the seat—and by extension the GOP’s narrow 51-49 majority—at risk.
  • There is evidence that Bredesen may be siphoning off some Republican support. Colleen Conway Welch, the widow of the prominent late GOP fundraiser Ted Welch, is headlining a Feb. 22 fundraiser for Bredesen, according to an invitation obtained by National Journal.

CLASH OF ENDORSEMENTS IN #OHSEN. After Gibbons “pleaded” with the Ohio Republican Party not to endorse a candidate, the Party gave Renacci their blessing. Meanwhile, Senator Rand Paul, who has been a constant thorn in McConnell’s side, endorsed Gibbons.

INFIGHTING AND PETTINESS” CHARACTERIZE #INSEN PRIMARY. It’s no surprise that the Indiana Republican Senate primary is nasty – it’s gained notoriety as the “GOP’s nastiest primary” with attacks on the candidates’ wives and anonymous editing of each other’s Wikipedia pages. What’s different about this race, as Indiana’s NUVO points out, isn’t the “pettiness and incivility,” but rather “the sheer quantity and hysterical nature of [the] attacks.”

ANOTHER BAD HEADLINE FOR DIVA ROKITA: “PUBLIC MONEY FUELS… CANDIDATE’S PUBLICITY BID.” Congressman Todd Rokita has earned a “reputation for self-promotion” and the Associated Press’s latest reportconfirms it. While Rokita frequently rails against government spending, the AP found that, over the past 12 years, he has “spent roughly $3 million in public money on media campaigns… usually ramping up the spending before appearing on a ballot.” What’s more, Rokita spent $1.1 million in taxpayer money on such communications since joining Congress in 2011, which is “10 times more than Donnelly spent in the same period.”

Flashback: Revisit the leaked 8-page memo outlining, in great detail, the requirements for chauffeuring Rokita around his district. Highlights include transporting Rokita’s toothbrush and toothpaste and not talking to him.

KICK-BACK CRAMER ENTERS #NDSEN. After months of waffling, Congressman Kevin Cramer announced today that he will enter the North Dakota Senate race. But Cramer’s history of paying his family with campaign funds, and using his position to enrich himself, will “dog” him in the race. Our take:

Washington Republicans are in for a rude awakening now that they’ve tipped the scales for a Congressman who has shown time and again he’ll do what’s best for his own interests, whether it’s using campaign money to pay himself and his family hundreds of thousands of dollars or working to make health care more expensive. Voters will see right through Congressman Cramer and hold him accountable for a self-serving record that has hurt North Dakotans.

Be sure to read our primer on kick-back Cramer and the North Dakota Senate race.

“SHAREHOLDERS, NOT WORKERS, ARE FAR BIGGER DIRECT WINNERS” IN GOP TAX SCAM. While the debt increases and Americans see their health care costs rising, wealthy individuals, corporations, and health care companies are pocketing savings from the GOP’s tax scam and using the money for their own buybacks. As CNN Money reports, “it’s raining stock buybacks on Wall Street.”

American companies have lavished Wall Street with $171 billion of stock buyback announcements so far this year, according to research firm Birinyi Associates…

The amount of money allocated so far on bonuses and wage hikes pales in comparison with Wall Street’s buyback bonanza.

‘Our worst nightmare is coming true,” said Frank Clemente, executive editor of Americans for Tax Fairness, a group that fights for progressive tax reform. “We predicted that the lion’s share of the benefits of this tax cut would go to already-wealthy shareholders and CEOs, not to a company’s workers.’

A survey of Morgan Stanley analysts released last week found that just 13% of companies’ tax cut savings will go to pay raises, bonuses and employee benefits. 43% will reward investors with stock buybacks and dividends.

The tax-inspired buyback boom may just be getting started. Bank of America recently predicted that S&P 500 companies will use repatriated foreign profits to buy back about $450 billion of stock.”

GOP’S POLITICAL BAGGAGE GETS HEAVIER WITH $554 BILLION IN CUTS TO MEDICARE. Republicans already had to run on their unpopular agenda of higher health care costs and tax giveaways to the wealthy. Now they’ll have to add Trump’s budget – which calls for $554 billion in Medicare cuts and increases prescription drug costs for seniors, with 4.5 million older Americans spending about $1,000 more of their own money on health care costs – to the list. In case there was any doubt remaining, this makes it clear: the Republican Party is happy to sacrifice middle class families for billionaires, and every single Republican Senate candidate will have to answer for these toxic plans.

HAWLEY’S PAY-TO-PLAY? The Kansas City Star reports that, days before launching an anti-trust investigation into Google, Peter Thiel – a co-founder of PayPal and Facebook, two of Google’s direct competitors – donated the maximum contribution for a federal race to Hawley’s Senate campaign. Thiel had also previously donated $300,000 to Hawley’s campaign for Attorney General. It’s just the latest in a long line of concerns building among Republicans about Hawley’s viability.

HELLER MADE THOUSANDS OFF BUSINESS WITHOUT A LICENSE. Heller’s Smith Valley farm, which generated at least $169,000 in total income, has been operating for more than five years without a business license – until last week, that is, when the Reno Gazette Journal inquired about it. According to state law, “failure to obtain and renew a Nevada business license is punishable by up to $10,000 in fines, collectable by a district attorney or the state attorney general.” Heller should know better – he served as Nevada’s Secretary of State for over a decade – leaving Nevadans to ask: was he irresponsible enough to forget the laws he enforced or, worse, was he purposefully evading the law?

DOWNING’S “WITCH HUNT” TRIAL DATE SET. Remember Troy Downing, the Montana Senate candidate who declared that the “deep state” was “conduct[ing] a witch hunt against him” after his hunting violations and residency issues? Well, his trial date has been set for May 23, less than two weeks before the Republican primary.

ICYMI: Senator McCaskill’s investigation into the opioid industry sheds light into how “industry-funded groups fueled demand for drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin.” McCaskill’s report will enable Congress to hold these companies accountable.

MCKENNA TO RUN DSCC IE. First reported by Roll Call, Martha McKenna will be returning to the DSCC to run its 2018 Independent Expenditure. McKenna previously worked as the DSCC political director for the 2008 and 2010 cycles and as the IE director for the 2012 and 2014 cycles.

IN – WBIW: Donnelly Pushes for Action to Address Opioid Crisis, as Indiana’s Overdose Death Rate Rises by 28%
(MORE) IN – WBIW: Donnelly – Supported Legislation To Protect Amateur Athletes From Sexual Abuse Signed Into Law
MI – WSJM: Stabenow Slams Proposed Cut To Great Lakes Program
(MORE) MI – Detroit Free Press: Mich. senators want top university officials to review sex investigations
MO – Fox4: Missouri Sen. McCaskill visits Kansas City to talk rising ER costs with health care providers, advocates
(MORE) MO – Ozarks First: McCaskill Named One of the Most Independent Senators
(EVEN MORE) MO – InStyle: Senator Claire McCaskill on Her 36-Year Political Career and What’s Next
NV – Las Vegas Review-Journal: House OKs bill encouraging girls to explore computer science careers
(MORE) NV – KOH: Two Jacky Rosen Bills Pass House Unanimously
OH – Dayton Daily News: Senators press Trump to protect U.S. steel production
(MORE) OH – Dayton Daily News: Sen. Brown to push for pension relief in Dayton
PA – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Casey plans to take concerns about steel trade policy to the White House
TN – Times Free Press: Bredesen slams Trump plan to sell TVA power transmission lines
WI – Cap Times: Editorial: Sen. Tammy Baldwin delivers for state farmers
WV – AP: Manchin Leads Challengers With Funds for Senate Race


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