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On the roster: A shocker in Wichita? - Tillerson tries to apply leverage in Moscow - Trump ready to keep ObamaCare subsidies flowing - Meet Alabama’s new governor - Try our new flavor: Biohazard Blast
A SHOCKER IN WICHITA?
Is a Kansas congressional district that has been bright-red Republican for 22 years and which President Trump carried by 27 points going to flip to the Democrats today?
But the fact that the president is involved in the race to replace his now-CIA Director Mike Pompeo in the House and the fact that it could even be close has people paying attention.
Now, they’re probably paying too much attention. Yes, part of the story in the race between Republican state Treasurer Ron Estes and previously little-known Democrat James Thompson has to do with what Kansas political insiders say is an enthusiasm gap favoring Democrats.
If that’s the case, and Republicans are feeling logy after a few months with their party in control in Washington, Democrats, now suffering political plagues that would make even pharaoh wince, could find hope for an exodus from minority status.
If a seat that went Republican by 31 points last year is even remotely competitive, prudence demands taking a closer look.
As is often the case, though, the political press is probably over-interpreting. Estes is part of a Republican administration in Topeka that ranks in popularity in the Jayhawker State somewhere between wheat fungus and Mizzou athletics.
Kansas Republicans have been in a funk for most of Gov. Sam Brownback’s tenure, including when his unpopularity seemed for a time to threaten the 2014 re-election of Sen. Pat Roberts.
Brownback, who has seen approval ratings in the teens and low 20s, was reportedly in the running for a Trump appointment to a U.N. post in Rome. Kansas Republicans probably only wondered why it couldn’t have been somewhere farther away.
If Estes, who Trump called “a wonderful guy” on Twitter today, loses, or wins in a nail-biter, it will be more about Brownback and less about Trump.
But just because reporters are over-interpreting today’s vote doesn’t mean that Republicans should ignore what’s happening in Wichita. Not only is the aforementioned enthusiasm gap a thing – this race shouldn’t even be close – but also tougher tests lie ahead.
There’s a contest in May to replace now-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in Montana’s state wide House seat, and gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey this fall. Those, like this Kansas dust storm, will provide clues about voter attitudes and partisan intensity.
But the big one comes a week from today, with the special election to replace now-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
Both parties have poured money into Price’s former suburban Atlanta House district. It’s easy to see why. Trump won in the district by less than 2 points and underperformed 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney by almost 13 points.
That election, which will likely set up a runoff vote between the top Republican and Democrat on June 20, is exactly the kind of test the Republicans fear could break their current coalition.
Needless to say, southern Kansas and suburban Atlanta don’t share much in common politically or demographically. Having a party that can accommodate both kinds of voters is crucial to the GOP maintaining its new post-Trump fusion of conservatism and populism.
For Democrats, if they cannot make inroads in the leafy lanes of suburbia, their claim to threaten the Republican House majority in 2018 will look a little silly.
House races are notoriously hard to poll so we are all groping in the dark a bit here, but in all of these special elections, leaders of both parties seem convinced that the ground may be shifting.
Remember always that in politics, you are only as good as the other guys think you are.
If Trump can take his first wholly successful week in office and turn it into something good, Republicans will benefit. But if Republicans start losing races, Trump won’t have the chance to succeed since members of his party will start fleeing from him in droves.
THE RULEBOOK: DIFFERENT TOOLS FOR DIFFERENT JOBS
“It is, that in a democracy, the people meet and exercise the government in person; in a republic, they assemble and administer it by their representatives and agents. A democracy, consequently, will be confined to a small spot. A republic may be extended over a large region.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 14
TIME OUT: HOW TOUCHING
NYT: “Fingerprint sensors have turned modern smartphones into miracles of convenience. A touch of a finger unlocks the phone — no password required. With services like Apple Pay or Android Pay, a fingerprint can buy a bag of groceries, a new laptop or even a $1 million vintage Aston Martin. And pressing a finger inside a banking app allows the user to pay bills or transfer thousands of dollars. While such wizardry is convenient, it has also left a gaping security hole. New findings published Monday by researchers at New York University and Michigan State University suggest that smartphones can easily be fooled by fake fingerprints digitally composed of many common features found in human prints. In computer simulations, the researchers from the universities were able to develop a set of artificial ‘MasterPrints’ that could match real prints similar to those used by phones as much as 65 percent of the time.”
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TILLERSON TRIES TO APPLY LEVERAGE IN MOSCOW
Politico: “… But some three months later, as the former ExxonMobil CEO heads to Moscow on his first trip as America’s top diplomat, it’s hard to believe Russian President Vladimir Putin once gave him an “Order of Friendship” award. As Washington and Moscow clash over Syria, [Rex Tillerson] has seized the moment to berate Russia and prove he’s no pro-Kremlin stooge. Along the way, Tillerson also is showing that, contrary to popular belief, he has plenty of influence on President Donald Trump and is increasingly coming into his own as secretary of state. ‘People who felt he was out of the loop were not doing their basic due diligence,’ a senior Trump administration official said. The stakes are high for Tillerson’s meetings Wednesday in Moscow, setting the tone for the future of the U.S.-Russia relationship under Trump.”
And an ultimatum is a piece of it - AP: “U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued an ultimatum to Russia on Tuesday: Side with the U.S. and likeminded countries on Syria, or embrace Iran, militant group Hezbollah and embattled Syrian leader Bashar Assad. As he embarked on a trip to Moscow following urgent meetings in Italy with top diplomats, Tillerson said it was unclear whether Russia had failed to take seriously its obligation to rid Syria of chemical weapons, or had merely been incompetent. But he said the distinction ‘doesn't much matter to the dead.’ ‘We cannot let this happen again,’ the secretary of state said.”
Eric Trump says sister Ivanka helped convince dad to strike - Daily Telegraph (U.K.): “‘It was horrible. These guys are savages and I’m glad he responded the way he responded.’ [President Trump’s middle son, Eric] added: ‘[Assistant to the President Ivanka Trump] is a mother of three kids and she has influence. I’m sure she said ‘listen, this is horrible stuff.’ My father will act in times like that. And by the way, he was anti doing anything with Syria two years ago. Then a leader gasses their own people, women and children, at some point America is the global leader and the world’s superpower has to come forward and act and they did with a lot of support of our allies and I think that’s a great thing.’”
TRUMP READY TO KEEP OBAMACARE SUBSIDIES FLOWING
NYT: “The Trump administration says it is willing to continue paying subsidies to health insurance companies under the Affordable Care Act even though House Republicans say the payments are illegal because Congress never authorized them. The statement sends a small but potentially significant signal to insurers, encouraging them to stay in the market. The future of the payments has been in doubt because of a lawsuit filed in 2014 by House Republicans, who said the Obama administration was paying the subsidies illegally. Without the subsidies, insurance markets could quickly unravel. Even more insurers could withdraw from the public marketplaces where more than 10 million Americans obtained coverage last year. The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to reduce deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for certain low-income consumers. The ‘cost-sharing’ subsidies, which total $7 billion a year, compensate insurers for these discounts.”
Club for Growth turns up heat on moderates - WaPo: “The conservative Club for Growth said Monday that it is targeting 10 moderate House Republicans with a $1 million ad campaign, offering a glimpse into the right’s strategy for pushing through a GOP health-care overhaul. The ads, set to begin Tuesday, come at the beginning of a two-week congressional recess — and after the latest bid to reconcile warring GOP lawmakers and resurrect the American Health Care Act fell short last week. But the Club for Growth sees a path to the bill’s passage: convincing more moderate — or less stridently conservative — Republicans to swallow a proposal favored by the House Freedom Caucus that would allow states to seek waivers of several Affordable Care Act insurance mandates.”
MEET ALABAMA’S NEW GOVERNOR
AP: “With Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley resigning one step ahead of an impeachment hearing related to an alleged affair, his successor becomes the state's second female governor and the first to rise through the political ranks on her own. Kay Ivey, the first Republican woman elected lieutenant governor of Alabama, was also the first Republican to hold that office for two straight terms. She entered the Old Senate Chamber for her swearing-in ceremony to a thunderous round of applause but bluntly stated the challenges ahead of her as the state's new governor in a brief speech. ‘Today is both a dark day for Alabama, yet also one of opportunity,’ Ivey said, adding that her ‘administration will be open, it will be transparent and it will be honest.’”
No passing lane: Trump faces familiar struggles on $1 trillion infrastructure plan - Politico
An unusual quiet falls on once-busy spot for illegal border crossings in Texas - LA Times
Donald Trump Jr. says he won’t run for N.Y. governor… this time - AP
AUDIBLE: ALWAYS CHECK YOUR SOURCES
“He said, ‘no, you actually won.’ And I was like, ‘no s--t.’ … We had to send someone out to Kroger's and they brought back two bottles of Korbel.” – Charleston [W.Va.] Gazette-Mail reporter Eric Eyre describing to the Poynter Institute his surprise at having won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for his work uncovering the dumping of hundreds of millions of highly-addictive painkiller pills in the state by drug companies.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Moscow, I am reminded of a Bob Hope show at the US Embassy. Hope announced that his arrival in Moscow was greeted with a 21 gun salute. He then offered it would have been more welcoming if they'd waited until his plane had landed.” – Michael Farrell, South Burlington, Vt.
[Ed. note: Hey-o!]
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TRY OUR NEW FLAVOR: BIOHAZARD BLAST
Livingston [Mich.] Daily Press & Argus: “Some 7,200 gallons of concentrated Mountain Dew syrup created a ‘huge foaming event’ and generated environmental concerns after it went down the drain, literally, at the Pepsi bottling plant on Mason Road in Howell last month… after a tank ruptured and sent the syrup through a floor drain and into the plant's internal sewer system… [Michigan Department of Environmental Quality official Carla Davidson noted] the high-sugar syrup can have a toxic effect on aquatic life if it ends up in rivers, lakes or streams. … Davidson said plant management attempted to treat the problem without outside intervention for two days, until the system became overwhelmed. The DEQ received a call to its Pollution Emergency Alert System line just before midnight on March 12, when the syrup, mixed with a large amount of waste water already in the system, created a ‘a huge foaming event’ and sent an estimated 56,000 gallons of sugary sewage flowing out of the system.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“I find it hard to believe that anybody, any adult in the Obama administration was not aware of the fact that the Syrians are not people you can rely on when they make a promise about weapons of mass destruction or anything else.”–Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.