SHUTDOWN WOULD BE ON GOP WATCH. Hours away from the GOP’s government shutdown, DSCC spokesman David Bergstein released this statement:

“It was hard to imagine how Mitch McConnell could make the GOP-controlled Congress even more toxic for their Senate candidates, but that’s exactly what their shutdown would do. Republicans would rightfully bear responsibility – just ask their colleagues ready to pass a bipartisan agreement like Senators Graham and Rounds. In the months ahead, voters won’t remember the blame game but they will know that if the government shuts down, it was on Republicans’ watch.”

From Jennifer Rubin: Republicans are fooling themselves if they think they have a shutdown leg up.

MCCONNELL THE “NEW BOOGEYMAN.” The National Journal takes a look at how toxic the leader of the Republican Party has become and how he may factor in the midterms:

  • In a break from the anti-Trump messaging that defined last cycle, Democratic strategists predict that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could in some races prove a more potent villain than the president, particularly in places where Trump easily defeated Hillary Clinton.
  • The reasoning cited for McConnell’s sudden usefulness in campaigns beyond a Republican primary: Trump’s approval rating is better than average in several GOP-leaning states, while Congress—and, by extension, McConnell—is far more disliked.
  • McConnell attacks could also assume a higher profile in Democrats’ top offensive target, Nevada, where Rep. Jacky Rosen is challenging Republican Sen. Dean Heller. The Republican leader has already percolated in Heller’s primary race against frequent candidate Danny Tarkanian.
  • Three-fourths of Nevada voters know who McConnell is, and his favorability is 40 points underwater, according to a Nevada Democratic strategist who cited statewide focus groups and polling. While Trump energizes the Democratic base and is also unpopular, the strategist added, Nevadans view McConnell and congressional Republicans with much more hostility.
  • McConnell rifts have already begun to define GOP primaries, the first test of how messaging against the majority leader could play out. McConnell has given Republicans leeway to avoid pledging support for him, saying that he will not be on the ballot in any state.

ICYMI: MITCH MCTURTLE. Nevada Democrats debuted their new 2018 mascot:

REPUBLICANS’ “WEEK FROM HELL.” That’s how the National Journal described another week of Republican recruitment failures, intraparty primary battles, and “eye-popping fundraising numbers” from Senate Democrats.

ANOTHER WEEK, ANOTHER RECRUITMENT FAILURE. From former Governor Tim Pawlenty’s announcement that he wouldn’t run for Senate in Minnesota to the continued fallout over Congressman Cramer’s decision to not run in North Dakota, Republicans continue to struggle with candidate recruitment. Do read this handy CNN roundup of the GOP’s failures to recruit top-tier candidates in Montana, Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Indiana.

DEMS “STOCKPILING HUGE SUMS” FOR MIDTERMS. Dems continue to post “fundraising totals commensurate with the supercharged energy that the party base is experiencing in the age of Trump.”

Jacky Rosen raised $1.56 million and has $1.8 million cash on hand, with an average campaign donation of $63.
Bill Nelson raised $2.4 million and has $8 million cash on hand from more than 30,600 donors.
Elizabeth Warren raised $2.88 million and has $14.6 million cash on hand. 98 percent of donations were $100 or less.

DSCC OUTRAISES NRSC *AGAIN.* For the 9th consecutive month, the DSCC outraised the NRSC, bringing in $5.8 million in December and ending the year with $19 million cash on hand.

BRUTAL” FIGHT IN #AZSEN IS “NEW BATTLEGROUND FOR TRUMPISM.” Nowhere is the GOP civil war more evident than the Arizona Republican primary.

From The Hill:

  • Republicans hoping to hold on to the Arizona Senate seat currently held by Sen. Jeff Flake (R) face an increasingly tumultuous primary environment, with firebrand former sheriff Joe Arpaio entering the race from the right and Rep. Martha McSally trying to win over President Trump’s supporters without alienating more moderate general election voters.
  • McSally doesn’t have a clear path in the late August primary for the seat that opened up when Flake announced his retirement in the face of poor poll numbers.
  • Arpaio’s entry changes the calculus of a race that could become one of the more brutal primaries in the country.
  • McSally did not endorse Trump during his presidential bid. She warned that Trump’s controversies would “hand the gavel” of the House majority over to Democrats during a private meeting in June, according to a recording obtained by Tucson Weekly.
  • The race could also become extremely expensive, especially if outside groups begin to play in the long primary. Conservative groups, including the Club for Growth, Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, have opposed McSally’s candidacy.

From BuzzFeed:

  • The Arizona primary has similar players [as the Alabama Senate special election]: in McSally, a McConnell-backed candidate courting Trump, and in Arpaio and Ward, fringy culture warriors asserting themselves as the truest Trumpers.
  • Republicans partial to McSally worry that Arpaio and Ward and the Trump-heavy politics of the moment will force her too far to the right in the primary, making it difficult to move to the center and beat Sinema in a general election.

TAX SCAM UPDATE: FEW WAGE INCREASES, MORE LAID OFF WORKERS. A report from CNBC finds that “few large US companies say they’ll use tax savings to boost wages” and, when pay increases have occurred, they’ve “been few and far between.” Meanwhile, Republicans have largely abandoned their efforts to bring back manufacturing jobs – for example, Carrier has laid off more than 1,500 employees in the last year.

SCOTT USING GOVERNOR’S OFFICE TO “GRANDSTAND. Two examples, one self-serving Governor who uses his office to “make governing a perpetual campaign.” Last week, theAssociated Press reported that Governor Scott’s cell phone was the “bottleneck” in response time to providing aid after Hurricane Irma. One individual said she believes Scott was “grandstanding to boost his likely Senate campaign.” And Scott is still experiencing blowback for his “conversion… to become an environmentalist in time for the 2018 election” when he pulled his PR stunt and ‘prevented’ Florida from being included in the list of offshore drilling sites.

NEW: SCOTT LIED ABOUT OFFSHORE DRILLING BAN TO BOOST POLITICAL AMBITIONS. Today, Floridians learned that their state may not be exempted from the Trump administration’s offshore drilling plans. Scott’s political stunt has shone a spotlight on his spotty environmental record and his penchant for using his office to benefit himself.

GOP SOLUTION TO NUMBER OF UNINSURED RISING: TAKE AWAY MORE HEALTH CARE. The percentage of Americans without health insurance rose this year, the first increase since the implementation of the ACA, but Republicans aren’t fazed. In fact, they’re scheming behind the scenes to strip away coverage for individuals receiving health care through their jobs – which covers roughly half the country.

IN – WIBC: Sen. Donnelly Urges President To Re-Up Opioid Crisis Declaration
(MORE) IN – WBIW: Donnelly Releases 2017 Annual Report Highlighting Work on Behalf of Hoosiers
MI – Livingston Daily: Stabenow tours Howell businesses, talks skilled trades worker shortage
MO – Kansas City Star: Despite flu, McCaskill plays key role in sending surveillance bill to Trump’s desk
MT – Billings Gazette: Sen. Tester visits Billings union hall, looks for input on possible federal infrastructure bill
NV – Las Vegas Review-Journal: Rosen sponsors bipartisan bill to prevent return of earmarks
(MORE) NV – News 4: Congresswoman, Senate candidate Jacky Rosen defends Nevada’s cannabis law
PA – PennLive: Pa.’s Bob Casey, 49 other Senators endorse resolution to restore net neutrality rules
WV – Metro News: Manchin signs letter asking for extension of opioid declaration
(MORE) WV – WVNews: Sen. Manchin questions VA Secretary about Clarksburg facility
(EVEN MORE) WV – Manchin releases #IKnowJoe video on his bipartisan work to protect coal miners’ health care and pensions
WI – Wisconsin State Farmer: Sen. Baldwin urges Senate leadership to strengthen dairy MPP


Lauren Passalacqua

Ben Ray

David Bergstein

Courtney Rice

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