Welcome to the last Friday Takeaways of 2015. It’s been a great 2015 as the DSCC recruited an outstanding class of candidates who are ready to take back the majority and Senate Republicans put their special interest priorities on full display. Thanks for tuning in every week, and as we all get ready for an exciting 2016, we hope everyone has a cheerful, relaxing and meaningful holiday season. See you next year!
“TRUMP SHRAPNEL” ENDANGERING VULNERABLE GOP SENATORS. Vulnerable GOP Senators are worrying about the increasing likelihood that a Trump nomination could hurt their already slim reelection chances. Chris Matthews discussed the GOP’s Trump problem in a must-watch segment and the Washington Post highlighted Rob Portman’s attempts to avoid “Trump shrapnel.” But while Portman and others like Kelly Ayotte and Ron Johnson worry about Trump’s effect on their uphill reelection battle, they have still vowed to support Trump if he is the GOP presidential nominee.
…To see how the prospect of Trump becoming the Republican presidential nominee is altering the nation’s political calculus, look no further than Ohio. Or New Hampshire. Or Pennsylvania or Wisconsin or Illinois.
All are states where polls predict that Trump would struggle in a general election and where analysts believe the shrapnel from Trump atop the ticket would injure Republican lawmakers in difficult reelection fights, thus giving Democrats the Senate majority.
…For Portman — as well as for senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) — 2016 presents a far more daunting task than the one they faced in 2010, when they united conservatives under a “Stop Obama” banner and rode the tea party wave into office.
…“It’s really hard to see Republicans keeping the Senate if Trump is the nominee,” said Jennifer Duffy, a Senate analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “Portman and Ayotte could run perfect campaigns, their challengers could run lousy campaigns, and they’d still lose.”
ON THAT NOTE… Don’t miss this cartoon from the Concord Monitor that sums up Kelly Ayotte’s woes.
#PARTYOFCRUMP? Republicans don’t just have to worry about Donald Trump – Roll Call reported that Republicans are even more worried about Ted Cruz as the GOP nominee. As vulnerable Republican senators scramble to deal with their chaotic Presidential contest, they are also attempting to rewrite their own out-of-touch records, and it is clear that no matter who their nominee ends up being, top of the ticket woes will make their rewrite efforts even harder.
Republicans are worried a Donald Trump nomination could threaten the party’s chances of holding the Senate and winning seats in the House.
But they’re even more concerned about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who surpassed Trump in Iowa polling this weekend and has been gaining in national polls.
….Although House candidates are more insulated from the top of the ticket, at the Senate level, Cruz’s “firebrand” tone, and the way he’s “capitalizing on the politics of fear” risks alienating independent voters, one national Republican operative said.
VULNERABLE GOP SENATORS ARE BIGGEST LOSERS OF #GOPDEBATE. As Trump and the rest of the GOP presidential nominees outlined their reckless and dangerous positions, it was clear that the biggest losers of the night were GOP Senate candidates. With an out-of-touch presidential nominee at the top of the GOP ticket, down ballot Republicans will have no way to hide their records of voting against American families.
SPOTLIGHT ON ROY BLUNT’S LOBBYIST CAMPAIGN MANAGER, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST. Senator Roy Blunt’s deep lobbying ties made state and national headlines this week with a look at how his son, a registered lobbyist, is managing his father’s reelection campaign while continuing his lobbying work. Senator Blunt wouldn’t respond to reporters’ inquiries about this blatant conflict of interest, but an ethics watchdog confirmed that the “Blunts are deeper into these conflicts of interest than any other family on Capitol Hill.” Here’s a look at the headlines Blunt is battling:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Andy Blunt says there’s no conflict between his lobbying and running his father’s campaign
Kansas City Star: Andy Blunt insists there’s no conflict of interest
Springfield Business Journal: Andy Blunt: No conflict between lobbying work, father’s Senate campaign
DESANTIS PULLS FLORIDA GOP PRIMARY FURTHER TO THE RIGHT. This week, Ron DeSantis added the endorsement of Marsha Blackburn, who is heading the House special committee investigating Planned Parenthood, to his list of rightwing organizations and lawmakers who have touted his candidacy. Meanwhile, David Jolly, who has few endorsements, has been trying to gain ground by emphasizing his agreement with Donald Trump (We’re sure Jolly was ready to spin for Trump after Tuesday’s GOP debate). The Florida GOP Primary’s race to the right is becoming an all-out sprint, and whoever emerges as the party’s nominee will be unelectable to Florida’s general election voters.
JOHNSON’S “MUTUAL ADMIRATION” FOR TRUMP-LINKED THINK TANK. This week, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinelrevealed that Ron Johnson has close ties to the think tank that Donald Trump cited in his shameful call to ban Muslims from the country. Johnson has proclaimed that he is in a “mutual admiration society” with Frank Gaffney, the “conspiracy-peddling head of the think tank.” As this troubling link was revealed, Johnson faced headlines at home in Wisconsin for doubling down on his support of Trump if he becomes the nominee.
Wisconsin Radio Network: Johnson says he will support GOP presidential nominee
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Asked about Trump, Ron Johnson says he will back GOP nominee
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Sen. Ron Johnson’s Trump problem
WE AGREE – REPORT SAYS PAT TOOMEY IS *VERY* CONSERVATIVE. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote on a new report that highlights Pat Toomey’s record of working for Wall Street instead of Main Street Pennsylvania. The report shows that during his time in the Senate, Toomey has voted with Republicans 93% of the time and with the Koch Brothers 96% of the time. Toomey’s voted repeatedly to cut Pell Grant funding and let interest rates on student loans double and he’s proposed a plan to privatize Social Security all while protecting tax breaks for Wall Street multimillionaires. Pennsylvanians deserve better.
IN THE STATES.
ARIZONA – REMINDER: MCCAIN WOULD SUPPORT TRUMP. As Donald Trump campaigned in Arizona this week, it is important to remember that McCain has vowed to support Trump if he becomes the GOP presidential nominee. McCain reaffirmed his support of Trump even after Trump’s latest shameful policy proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country.
ILLINOIS – SEIU ENDORSES DUCKWORTH. SEIU Illinois announced the endorsement of Tammy Duckworth. The organization represents 150,000 Illinois workers.
OHIO – STRICKLAND ENDORSED BY JIM OBERGEFELL. Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the landmark gay marriage ruling,endorsed Ted Strickland this week. He touted Strickland’s strong record of fighting for equality, and bashed Rob Portman’s 45 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign.
FLORIDA – MURPHY GETS ANOTHER BIG ENDORSEMENT. Former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich endorsed Patrick Murphy this week.
TWEETS OF THE WEEK – This week’s tweet of the week goes to two excellent tweets. First is Politico’s Kevin Robillard for highlighting how hard Roy Blunt is trying to hide from speaking about the conflict of interest involving his lobbyist son running his reelection campaign:@PoliticoKevin: “Roy Blunt wasn’t eager to discuss his son. “I thought you were told I wasn’t going to talk to you about this.”https://www.politicopro.com/campaigns/story/2015/12/andy-blunt-missouri-senate-campaign-lobbying-083661 …”
Second is Andy Barr, spitting truth about the GOP debate, @bustipsover: “Imagine being Rob Portman or Pat Toomey or Mark Kirk watching this debate. Cc @dscc”