BREAKING: CHRISTIE ENDORSEMENT BAD NEWS FOR SENATE GOP. Here’s our statement from Communications Director Sadie Weiner on today’s news: “The Republican party is cementing their transition to the Party of Trump with Christie’s endorsement today, and no one is more nervous about it than vulnerable Republican Senators and Senate candidates. As establishment support begins to coalesce behind Donald Trump, Senators who already faced daunting re-election chances in November will now have an even harder time re-writing their records and distancing themselves from Trump who they’ve all promised to support anyway should he win the nomination. Voters in Senate battleground states all around the country will soundly reject Trump, his policies and his downballot colleagues in November.”
EARLIER THIS WEEK: TRUMP IS “NIGHTMARE SCENARIO” FOR GOP. Aside from all of the terrible press they are getting across the country, vulnerable GOP senators are facing the growing possibility that Donald Trump will be at the top of their ticket in November. Donald Trump’s commanding victory in Nevada made it even more likely that these GOP Senators will be forced to answer for the controversial nominee that they’ve all sworn they would back. It is certainly a bad time to be a Republican Senator.
The Hill: Nightmare builds for Senate GOP
It’s a bad time to be a Senate Republican.
Justice Antonin Scalia’s death has put Supreme Court politics at the top of the Senate agenda — to the detriment of vulnerable Republican senators running for reelection in blue states.
Donald Trump has coasted to big victories in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, strengthening his position as the pole-setter in the Republican presidential race
It’s a nightmare scenario for GOP senators clinging to their majority.
“I think they’re very concerned if they’re up for reelection,” said former New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg (R).
NEW POLLS SIGNAL MORE TROUBLE FOR VULNERABLE GOP SENATORS. The Republican incumbents who stood with their party to block a Supreme Court justice have been slammed by home state press, and now they’re losing in the polls, too. Pew found the majority of Americans (56 percent) want the Senate to do their job and hold both a hearing and vote on a Supreme Court nominee. PPP surveyed voters in battleground states and found vulnerable Senators’ obstruction is damaging their already fragile re-election chances:
NH: 59 percent of voters – and 60 percent of independents – think the seat should be filled this year; and 51 percent of voters are less likely to support Ayotte in November because of her obstruction.
PA: 57 percent of voters – and 60 percent of independents – think the seat should be filled this year; and 52 percent of voters are less likely to support Toomey in November because of his obstruction.
OH: 58 percent of voters – and 70 percent of independents – think the seat should be filled this year; and 52 percent of voters are less likely to support Portman in November because of his obstruction.
WI: 62 percent of voters – and 67 percent of independents – think the seat should be filled this year; and 53 percent of voters are less likely to support Johnson in November because of his obstruction.
BONUS: In Ohio, Quinnipiac University came out with a poll this week that showed Ted Strickland holding a two point lead over Rob Portman. Strickland maintains his lead despite having more than $3.8 million in outside group spending against him.
AND… In Wisconsin, a poll from Marquette University shows Russ Feingold leading Ron Johnson 49 percent to 37 percent. Feingold has consistently held a double-digit lead over the vulnerable incumbent.
GOP SENATORS LITERALLY RUNNING FROM PRESS ON SCOTUS QUESTIONS: Huffington Post reported on the uh, interesting, tactics GOP Senators are employing to avoid discussing their Supreme Court obstruction.
Republican senators are finding themselves in the hot seat for promising to block President Barack Obama’s potential nominee to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
…Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said she had to “go vote,” even though she could have talked as she walked to an elevator down the hall. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) didn’t even let HuffPost get the full question out before saying, “I don’t do hallway interviews.” Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) said he had to “run to a meeting” and disappeared into an elevator. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) listened to the question and, with a blank look, said, “I’m not doing any interviews.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where majority support is needed to advance the nomination — attempted to shield himself from cameras by raising “a binder to cover his face” while exiting the Senate chamber on Wednesday.
…Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, a vulnerable GOP senator who has also pledged to keep the Supreme Court seat vacant until the next president enters the White House, told a reporter to “move back so that my elevator can go down.” Reporters are sometimes invited inside members-only Senate elevators to conduct interviews.
Asked by a Politico reporter whether he supported holding hearings on a Supreme Court nominee, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) gave a reasonable — if not entirely true — excuse:
Do you think there should be SCOTUS hearings? Tillis: “I’m running late” (he’s actually early)
REPUBLICAN SENATORS CONTINUE TO TAKE HEAT FOR FAILING TO DO THEIR JOBS. Republicans endured a second week of scathing editorials and headlines for declaring they won’t even hold a hearing on the still-be-named nominee:
New York Times Editorial: Senate Republicans Lose Their Minds on a Supreme Court Seat
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial: Sen. Ron Johnson should break ranks on court nominee
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial: Courting disaster: Senate obstructionists reject the Constitution
Chicago Sun-Times Editorial: Republican leaders bow to extremists on Court pick
Scranton Times-Tribune Editorial: Toomey strict obstructionist
WISN : “53% of Wisconsin voters say they are less likely to vote for Johnson because of his refusal to consider a nominee.”
WKOW: “Johnson’s comments came before a report that President Obama is considering Nevada Republican Governor Brian Sandoval…”
FIFTH SENATE CANDIDATE HASN’T EVEN ENTERED PRIMARY, BUT BLOODBATH ALREADY UNDERWAY. GOP insider Carlos Beruff hasn’t even officially launched his Senate campaign, but when he does he will become the fifth candidate in what is already a heated primary battle. Beruff, a businessman with baggage, may not be a candidate yet, but he is already drawing fire from his new GOP rivals. Ron DeSantis immediately hit Beruff for his ties to Charlie Crist, launching a website CharlieCristRepublican.com. David Jolly said that Beruff “might think he is a big deal…but nobody on I-4 has ever heard of him.” With yet another candidate entering the GOP primary field, look for things to get even messier down in Florida.
BLUNT TESTS OUT FIVE DIFFERENT EXCUSES IN JUST TWO WEEKS. It’s only been two weeks since news of Senator Roy Blunt’s undisclosed draft deferments broke, but in that time Blunt has come up with five different excuses for misleading Missourians. Check out the full list from the Missouri Democratic Party.
DSCC OUTRAISES NRSC BY $2 MILLION IN JANUARY. The DSCC raised $5.8 million in January, outraising the NRSC by a whopping $2 million despite being in the minority. The DSCC outraised the NRSC 10 out of 12 months in 2015 and by more than $10 million for the year. The DSCC has $13.6 million cash on hand.
IN THE STATES
ILLINOIS – A poll in Illinois shows Tammy Duckworth with a strong lead over her primary challengers. She has 52 percent of the vote, while her two primary challengers only have 10 percent. Duckworth also went up on the air this week, with “Driven,” an ad that highlights her path to public service. Watch here.
MORE ILLINOIS – VoteVets is also up on TV with a new ad, “Blackhawk,” highlighting Duckworth’s service record in contrast for Senator Kirk’s votes against veterans program. Watch: https://youtu.be/kOAWRx7FQ1E
ALABAMA – This week, the New York Times reported that Senator Richard Shelby has effectively shut down the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs as he faces a primary challenge at home. Shelby’s committee is the only committee in the Senate that has not acted on a nominee during this Congress.
ARIZONA — KGUN9 investigated problems at the Tucson VA, and spoke with a veteran who was disappointed with Senator McCain’s response to his complaints. He said that McCain has “never really truly done anything to get involved…basically he’s done nothing.” Watch here.
INDIANA – National Republicans’ pick for the Indiana Republican primary nearly failed to actually get on the ballot, kicking off an intraparty firestorm. The animosity between the Stutzman and Young campaigns was clear at the ballot eligibility hearing, and now both campaigns are on the air in Indiana to attack one and other ahead of their primary.
COLORADO – Republicans already have an uphill battle in the Colorado Senate race, facing a 13-person primary chock full of second and third tier candidates. Now, the rise of Donald Trump is further damaging the GOP’s chances in the state. See the memo from the Colorado Democratic Party here.
NORTH CAROLINA – Deborah Ross released “Who Says,” her first ad of the campaign, which emphasizes that she will be a voice for all North Carolinians.
TWEET OF THE WEEK – This week’s Tweet of the Week goes to Huffington Post’s Jennifer Bendery for showing how ridiculous GOP obstructionism is: “@jbendery: The Senate will vote Thursday to honor Antonin Scalia by passing a resolution. Not quite the same as voting to replace him, but ok.”