SLUGFEST! The week began with Mitch McConnell trying to enlist the White House to temper the GOP’s intraparty feud, got worse as Bannon doubled-down on his ‘season of war,’ and ended with McConnell’s allies “declar[ing] open warfare on Bannon.” Meanwhile, Republican primaries across the country have grown more divisive and the gulf within the GOP has continued to widen.

PENNSYLVANIA – Jeff Bartos, who “has close ties to the GOP elite,” took up Bannon’s pledge to not promise to support McConnell as Majority Leader and has called on the leading GOP primary candidate, Congressman Lou Barletta, to do the same.

TENNESSEE – Candidates are “fighting for the outside lane,” despite having deep ties to the establishment, turning this Senate primary into a “proxy war” between McConnell and Bannon.

NORTH DAKOTA – The Dickinson Press reports that declared candidate state senator Tom Campbell and his allies are “unhappy” that Republicans in the state are “continuing their efforts to recruit more candidates” in the race, and are openly talking of replacing the party chair in retaliation.

WEST VIRGINIA – Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Congressman Evan Jenkins are engaged in what’s been described as one of the nastiest primaries of the cycle. That trend continued this week, with both teams accusing the other of supporting abortion rights. Meanwhile, Breitbart has openly gone after Jenkins, accusing him of being backed by the establishment. 

FLAKE OUT, BUT “VICIOUS” PRIMARY REMAINS. Senator Flake’s sudden retirement is the latest proof point of the widening rift within the GOP and, while he may have opted out of a primary, one is all but certain to unfold. In a sign of what’s to come, a McConnell-backed group has vowed that far-right conservative candidate Kelli Ward will not be the nominee, while Bannon allies are already dismissing Martha McSally – take a look:

U.S. News: Razing Arizona: McSally Eyeing GOP Senate Battle.

  • Rep. Martha McSally is taking steps toward launching a challenge to Kelli Ward for Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat next year, a move that would set up another scorched-earth primary battle between establishment Republicans and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.
  • The two GOP sources say the winnowing field makes McSally, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel first elected in 2014, the front-runner to become the consensus candidate of lawmakers and donors… If she pulls the trigger on a campaign against Ward, it could set off another civil war reminiscent of the GOP Senate runoff in Alabama, in which Roy Moore defeated Sen. Luther Strange.
  • Just last week, Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News who’s attempting to launch a party insurrection in the 2018 midterms, traveled to the Grand Canyon State to endorse Ward… But while Ward has presented herself as an avatar of Trumpism, many Republicans view her as a fringe figure prone to making comments out of the mainstream, and fear a Ward nomination would hand the seat to Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who announced her Senate run last month.
  • McSally, though, could be an anathema to the Trump movement, and potentially to Trump himself… For Bannonites, a McSally candidacy would provoke a full-fledged intraparty war.
  • “If the McConnell establishment runs another ‘Never Trumper’ in Arizona like Martha McSally, expect the full weight of the president’s America First movement to come down upon her like a ton of bricks,” says Andy Surabian, an adviser to Trump-aligned advocacy organization the Great America Alliance and a close Bannon adviser.

Morning Consult: With Flake Leaving, Republicans Hope to Ward Off Bannon’s Insurgent.

  • Rep. Martha McSally, a comparatively moderate member of the House Republican Conference, is said to be considering a run, prompting some of Ward’s allies to pounce. Andy Surabian, senior adviser to Great America Alliance, a pro-Trump group whose affiliated PAC is backing Ward, needled McSally for refusing to endorse Trump during last year’s presidential campaign.
  • “If the McConnell establishment runs another never-Trumper like Martha McSally, expect the full weight of the president’s America First movement to come down upon her like a ton of bricks,” Surabian said in an interview Thursday, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
  • When asked about Surabian’s remarks, McSally political consultant Travis Smith said in an email, “Facts are stubborn things.” He pointed to a tabulation by FiveThirtyEight that showed McSally has voted in line with Trump’s position 96 percent of the time.

KTAR: Brewer Says “[Heiler] would be an excellent candidate”.

  • U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake’s decision to not seek re-election next year was expected to spark an influx of Republican lawmakers in the race, but there is one notable Arizona politician who is taking her name out of the ring: Former Gov. Jan Brewer.
  • But there is one person Brewer is cheerleading to enter the race: Arizona lawyer Jay Heiler. Heiler said in an interview with The New York Times earlier this month that he is considering a Senate run.
  • “I thought that [Heiler] would be an excellent candidate,” Brewer said, adding that Heiler is thinking “seriously about pulling the trigger.”

SENATE DEMS OUTRAISE GOP IN Q3. The Hill and Talking Points Memo took a closer look at Q3 reports and concluded “it’s clear whose side has the energy.” 

The Hill:

  • Senate Democrats in particular have kept up their high-dollar fundraising, with the party defending 10 seats in places that President Trump carried in November.
  • Meanwhile, Democratic challengers are also posting strong fundraising quarters that are on track with Republican incumbents’ figures. But GOP primary challengers looking to take on their party’s incumbents are still behind as they mount upstart challenges.
  • Four vulnerable Senate Democrats topped $2 million, with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) leading the pack with $2.9 million raised in the third quarter. She raised the second-most of any Senate incumbent or candidate, trailing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) by less than $50,000.
  • Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) raised $2.6 million, while Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) raised $2.4 million and Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) brought in $2.2 million.
  • While Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has yet to announce whether or not he’ll run for the upper chamber against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Nelson still raised nearly $1.8 million. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) each raised more than $1 million.
  • All GOP candidates are behind in fundraising compared with the Democratic senators they’re trying to unseat.

Talking Points Memo:

  • In both the Senate and House, Democrats are pulling money hand-over-fist in many of their most important races… Many Republicans are struggling to keep up — including some key incumbents in both chambers… It’s clear whose side has the energy — and big early fundraising is often an early sign of a party’s success in future elections.
  • Nine of the 10 Democratic senators from states President Trump won raised more than $1 million in the last fundraising quarter, easily outpacing most of their rivals. All 10 have at least $3 million stashed away, and seven of them have more than $5 million cash on hand.
  • On the flip side, the few Senate Republicans who might face real challenges posted less-than impressive hauls. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) was out-raised by his likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV). Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) decision to retire came after he was out-raised by Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who begins the Arizona Senate race with a big cash advantage over any of her likely opponents with $4.2 million in the bank.
  • Senate GOP challengers also struggled with fundraising. Only two Senate Republican candidates raised even half as much as the Democratic senator they’re hoping to take out next fall — Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey (R). Like many other Republican Senate candidates, they’ll have to spend much of that money to win primaries.

DSCC OUTRAISES NRSC… AGAIN. As first reported in Politico Morning Score, the DSCC outraised the NRSC for the 6th month in a row. The DSCC raised $4.4 million and has $15.7 million cash-on-hand.

IS MANDEL “LYING, HIDING, OR JUST PLAIN RECKLESS?” That’s what the Columbus Dispatch is asking after Mandel’s long list of offenses keeps growing, from siding with dangerous conspiracy theorists to misusing taxpayer funds for self-promotion: “it’s getting painful to watch a candidate for next year’s U.S. Senate race sink to such depths.”

SCOTT “CAUGHT UP IN A CONTROVERSY” OVER NURSING HOME SCANDAL.Calls for action [continue to] grow” this week as the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans called for an investigation into Governor Scott’s handling of the nursing home scandal that left 14 seniors dead after Hurricane Irma and his decision to delete voicemails he received asking for help. 

FEC LOOKING INTO “IMPROPER” CAMPAIGNING BY FAGG. The FEC is looking into a complaint filed by the American Democracy Legal Fund that alleges Russell Fagg’s exploratory committee was “improper” by operating like a campaign months before Fagg officially declared his candidacy.

GOP STILL SABOTAGING YOUR HEALTH CARE. Your weekly reminder that congressional Republicans and the Trump administration are actively sabotaging the country’s health insurance markets. Every Republican should support the bipartisan Alexander-Murray bill, which the CBO found would reduce the deficit by nearly $4 billion. If they don’t, it’s simply another demonstration that they’re looking out for their own political interests at the expense of hardworking Americans.

GOLDEN BOY JOSH HAWLEY’S FIRST PRESSER FLOPS: “THE FACTS SAY HE’S WRONG.” Attorney General Josh Hawley might be in need of some extra media training from the McConnell Industrial Complex. In his first media availability since launching his campaign two weeks ago, Hawley misled reporters about Senator McCaskill’s position on tax reform and, when he was called out, he seemed “flummoxed.”

Springfield News-Leader: Josh Hawley says Claire McCaskill is opposing Trump on tax reform. The facts say he’s wrong.

  • Hawley’s assertions directly conflict with McCaskill’s public statements and actions on the issue. She has said she’s interested in pursuing tax reform that helps the middle class, but she will not support a bill that doles out big rewards for the wealthy. McCaskill’s main complaint about the GOP proposal is that so far, it’s skimpy on details.
  • McCaskill went to the White House, along with a handful of other key lawmakers, to talk to Trump about tax reform last Wednesday. The night before, McCaskill attended a dinner with top White House advisers — including Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter — that focused on elements of possible consensus, including expansion of the child tax credit.
  • Pressed on what statements from McCaskill he was referring to, Hawley seemed flummoxed for a moment before citing part of a tweet she posted Oct. 20 about the GOP tax reform blueprint.
  • Asked about more controversial proposals now being floated by the GOP, Hawley hedged.
  • Hawley’s call with reporters marked his first extended interview on the Senate race since he first started considering it in August.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Hawley alleges McCaskill has ruled out tax reform. The record says otherwise. 

  • Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, in one of his first major media events as a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, on Wednesday slammed incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill for what he alleged was her pre-emptive dismissal of any GOP tax-reform proposal.
  • But in fact, McCaskill has previously offered tentative support of some concepts in the still-evolving Republican tax plan. She has been targeted by the White House as one of a handful of Democratic senators who might be pliable on tax reform, and she was one of six Senate Democrats who sat down with Trump on the issue last week.
  • McCaskill, a Democrat, has criticized Republican tax ideas she says will coddle the rich at the expense of the middle class. But she has said she could support tentative Republican proposals to, for example, raise the standard income tax deduction for middle-income families, raise the child tax credit and simplify the tax code.

FL – Tampa Bay Times: Bill Nelson lays into FEMA for slow hurricane response
MT – Flathead Free Beacon: Tester Blasts Plan to Increase Glacier Park Entrance Fee
(MORE) MT – Great Falls Tribune: Montana senator blasts USDA for ditching meatpacker ‘fair practice’ rules
ND – The Fence Post: Heitkamp, Ernst introduce bill to fix farm safety net
NM – KRWG FM/TV: Ahead Of President’s Speech, Heinrich Introduces Legislation To Invest $45B To Address Opioid Crisis
OH – Circleville Herald: Brown calls for passage of bill to keep Fentanyl out of Ohio
WI – Cap Times: Editorial: Tammy Baldwin and Bernie Sanders fight economic inequality and fiscal irresponsibility 


👀About that intraparty feud…

Happy Halloween!

Lauren Passalacqua

Ben Ray

David Bergstein

Courtney Rice

Justin Lavoie

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