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DSCC FRIDAY TAKEAWAYS: VULNERABLE GOP SENATORS ON DEFENSE OVER TRADE – RON JOHNSON TRUSTS THE AYATOLLAH – SABATO MOVES WI-SEN TO LEANS DEMS – ROTHENBERG SAYS BENNET IN “STRONG SHAPE”

VULNERABLE GOP SENATORS ON DEFENSE OVER TRADE. The Hill reports that vulnerable Republican Senators are feeling the heat over their positions on trade as they head into uphill reelection battles next year. While this issue may cut both ways in both parties, the fact is that voters in states represented by Rob Portman, Pat Toomey, Mark Kirk, Ron Johnson, Kelly Ayotte, Richard Burr & others feel strongly that trade deals like this have hurt their economies and cost them jobs.

SO NATURALLY, KARL ROVE TO THE RESCUE. Hoping to stop the bleeding, a new shadowy Karl Rove group is up on the air to defend vulnerable Senators for taking positions on trade that will cause problems for them back home.

RON JOHNSON THINKS AYATOLLAH IS MORE TRUSTWORTHY THAN PRESIDENT OBAMA. After Johnson refused to push back on claims that President Obama is a “Muslim terrorist” and shamefully using the threat of ISIS to benefit his campaign, Ron Johnson had another solid week of crazy. At a recent town hall in Wisconsin, Johnson took it to a whole new level when said that he thinks the Ayatollah might be more trustworthy than President Obama.

WAS JOHNSON LYING THEN OR NOW? A panicked Johnson tried to refute his statements on trusting the Ayatollah and immediately called the stories false, but it wasn’t the first time he’d made these claims. Johnson made very similar comments on a radio show.

JOHNSON STILL PANICKED OVER TOMAH VA FAILURE. In yet another attempt to save face this week, Johnson feigned outrage over the VA Office of Inspector General’s plan to deal with the problems that have plagued the Tomah VA. But after weeks of excuses and refusal to accept responsibility, Johnson’s credibility is questionable at best.

JOHNSON’S OUTRAGEOUS STATEMENTS, FEINGOLD’S STRENGTH MOVES WISCONSIN TO LEANS DEM. After a few weeks of outlandish statements from Ron Johnson and a strong early campaign from Russ Feingold, Sabato’s Crystal Ball moved the Wisconsin Senate race from toss-up to leans Democratic.

Some highlights from their analysis:

“We’re moving Wisconsin to Leans Democratic and making Johnson the explicit underdog — an unusual position for an incumbent, especially this early in the cycle.

“Former Sen. Russ Feingold’s (D) long-expected decision to challenge Sen. Ron Johnson (R) in a 2016 rematch crystallized for us that Johnson is the most vulnerable incumbent senator in the country.”

“The GOP is overextended on next year’s Senate map, period.”

AND FINALLY, WISEN’S CONTRASTING HEADLINES THIS WEEK.

The Cap Times: Russ Feingold is running to restore our economic well being

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Ron Johnson called ‘most vulnerable incumbent Senator’ in the country

THREE PINOCCHIOS FOR MARK KIRK. Since no week of the 2016 cycle would be complete without an update on the latest outlandish statement from Mark Kirk – this week, the Washington Post gave three Pinocchios to Kirk’s repeated claim that Nelson Mandela dismantled South Africa’s nuclear program.

ROTHENBERG: BENNET STRONG. Rothenberg writes this week that despite Republicans’ best efforts to “keep alive the perception” that the Colorado Senate race is in play, “even knowledgeable Republicans wouldn’t tell you the Colorado Senate race is close to a tossup now.” With Michael Bennet in strong shape heading into 2016, and Republicans unable to find a candidate to run for the seat, the GOP’s 2016 map continues to shrink.

IN THE STATES:

ILLINOIS – KIRK TERRIFIED OF TAKING ON DUCKWORTH. Kirk described Duckworth as a “war hero” who “has a great story to tell because she’s given a lot to this country” as he explained that he’d rather face another Democratic challenger.

COLORADO – BENNET FIGHTS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES. The Denver Business Journal reports that Michael Bennet introduced a tax-break bill to help small businesses grow and thrive.

ALASKA – PRIMARY TROUBLES BREWING FOR MURKOWSKI. Roll Call and the Alaka Dispatch News reported this week that Lisa Murkowski is facing a serious primary threat from the right as state Sen. Mike Dunleavy considers entering the race.

OHIO – PORTMAN GETS A PRIMARY CHALLENGER. The Columbus Dispatch reports that Don Elijah Eckhart will challenge Rob Portman in the Republican primary.

NEW HAMPSHIRE – AYOTTE ON DEFENSE OVER GUINTA SUPPORT. Ayotte’s late in the game flip flop on Frank Guinta this week didn’t fool anyone. Her longstanding support of the embattled congressman makes it abundantly clear that her flip flop has everything to do with her tenuous reelection.

Also – don’t miss KellyAyotte.com. Trust us.

PENNSYLVANIA – TOOMEY CHANGES HIS TUNE ON TRAIN SAFETY. Politico reports that Toomey was forced to drop his sponsorship of a bill that delayed implementation of critical railroad safety technology after the deadly crash in his own backyard.

INDIANA – ISLAND OF MISFIT GOP CANDIDATES. Brian Howey takes a look at the jockeying going on as the GOP nomination fight heats up. With two Republicans already in and several more eyeing the seat, this piece describes the various GOP contenders as… “A House contrarian,” someone who has “a penchant for undisciplined use of social media,” and a guy who won “The ‘Worst Week In Washington’ designation” over the 2013 shutdown.

TWEET OF THE WEEK: This week’s tweet of the week comes and possible the cycle thus far comes from Senator Ron Johnson:@SenRonJohnson: “I do not trust the ayatollah. I want to trust our president. He needs to be more forthcoming.http://1.usa.gov/1Lb0WXS

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