Government union cash comes at high price for Dems

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On the roster: Government union cash comes at high price for Dems - Pence wades in to Michigan gubernatorial primary - Trump says he would’ve faced school shooter unarmed - SupCo spares DREAMers, takes pressure off Congress - L8R H8TRS

GOVERNMENT UNION CASH COMES AT HIGH PRICE FOR DEMS

What is becoming of the Democratic Party? 

In California, the state party withheld its endorsement for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, one of the most effective members of the Senate for the Blue Team. 

In Illinois, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is withholding its endorsement for seven-term Rep. Dan Lipinski, because of his pro-life views and other culture war content. 

And in the rest of the country, pro-gun Democrats are already feeling intense pressure from the party’s base to repudiate long-held stances. 

Unlike when the Tea Party revolt seized the GOP eight years ago, these moves to favor ideological purity among Democrats seemed to actually be coming from the top down. So what gives? 

After all, smart Democrats know that in order to win back the House and even keep the Senate status quo they will need lots of candidates like Lipinski, Feinstein and pro-gun Sens. Joe ManchinHeidi Heitkamp and others. 

There are many reasons for this leftward lurch, not the least of which is that many Democratic activists have come to see cooperation as capitulation in the era of #resist. 

But arguments at the Supreme Court today illuminate another reason for this ill-timed infighting for the Blue Team. 

Let’s let our colleague Bill Mears explain, “Mark Janus has worked for years as an Illinois state employee, and pays about $550 annually to the powerful public-sector union known as AFSCME. While not a member of the union, he is required under state law to hand over a weekly portion of his paycheck – which he says is a violation of his constitutional rights. ‘I work for Health and Family Services, and I'm forced to pay money to a union that then supports political causes that I don't agree with,’ Janus told Fox News. Now, Janus' free-speech fight is before the Supreme Court, which holds arguments in the appeal on Monday. And the political and financial stakes are huge for the broader American labor union movement, which already has begun sounding the alarm about the consequences should the justices rule for Janus.”

While it sounds like Janus would certainly love to have his $550 back, what is at stake in the case is nothing less than the central pillar of the Democratic Party’s finance and ground game operations. 

Over the past 40 years the private sector has become overwhelming non-union while the government work force has become increasingly unionized. Right-to-work only works for the private sector, and national unions have responded by switching their focus to maximizing membership in the still-protected space of government. 

The ongoing teacher strike in West Virginia is only the latest reminder of the power that these unions hold today. They are so powerful among Democrats because they provide an extraordinary amount of campaign contributions taken from the dues of groups like the one to which Janus must pay.  

And while these contributions and campaign foot soldiers are crucial to Democratic efforts, their outsized influence can have an extorting effect on outside priorities. 

Just as the alignment of certain cooperate interests tends to mean that Republicans are disproportionally focused on issues of deregulation and, yes, labor laws, Democrats have found themselves feeling beholden to those interests that succor them. It only stands to reason. 

The problem with benefactors in politics, though, is that they make it harder for politicians and parties to court voters in the broader electorate. That’s exactly why the benefactors give the dough: They want the politicians they support to do things even when they are unpopular. 

There is much concern among Democrats about how an expected defeat in Mr. Janus’s case would affect the party’s chances. Those fears are well founded seeing the taproot for campaign funds on the state level snipped off would be a good reason for alarm.

But if the court does indeed throw open the doors to an estimated five million government workers who are currently compelled to pay dues there might be some positive consequences as well.

Parties generally do better when they are more focused on attracting new voters than expending energy on placating the ones they already have. And if Democrats want to win back the blue-collar voters from the parts of the country with strong ties to trade unions, it might be helpful for them to consider their priorities.

It’s no coincidence the Illinois and California are among the states with the most powerful government worker unions and are also among the states where Democrats seem the most intolerant of moderation. 

It is possible that Democrats will slip the snare on the Janus case and end up with some way to keep the cash flow flowing, but if they do they should remember that they will also be keeping some very demanding paymasters in power. 

THE RULEBOOK: TAKE NOTE
“Divide et impera [divide and command] must be the motto of every nation that either hates or fears us.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 7

TIME OUT: ‘PLACES THE BLACK DOG CALLS HOME’ 
“He is what the land and the country are all about, the heart and soul of it personified and what it means to be here, and he said it all in plain English,” said Bob Dylan of his friend Johnny Cash. And, in our opinion, he was quite right. Today marks what would have been Cash’s 86th birthday, and the legend of “The Man in Black” has only grown since his death 15 years ago. Cash’s personal story of youthful hardship, stunning success, followed by heartbreaking failure and, ultimately, redemption is about as American as they come. And when he shared his music, he was always speaking to the broken hearted, the defeated and those who might give up hope. And they believed he cared. Not many international recording stars could do prison tours so secure in the knowledge that inmates would greet them so warmly. But they knew what Cash knew when he said this, “They’re powerful, these songs. At times they have been my only way back, the only door out of the dark, bad places the black dog calls home.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
38.2 percent 
Average disapproval: 57.2 percent 
Net Score: 
-19 points
Change from one week ago: down 1.6 points 
[Average includes: USA Today/Suffolk: 38% approve - 60% disapprove; CNN: 39% approve - 56% disapprove; Marist College: 40% approve - 53% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 37% approve - 58% disapprove; Gallup: 37% approve - 59% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 40.2 percent
Democratic average: 47.2 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 7 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage down 2.8 points  
[Average includes: Marist College: 46% Dems - 39% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 53% Dems - 38% GOP; IBD: 46% Dems - 41% GOP; Monmouth University: 47% Dems - 45% GOP; Fox News: 44% Dems - 38% GOP.]

PENCE WADES IN TO MICHIGAN GUBERNATORIAL PRIMARY
Politico: “Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Michigan on Friday in a visit that combines official duties and political fundraising, according to multiple Republican officials familiar with the trip. … Pence will first hold an official event with America First Policies … to tout recent tax cut legislation, and will then speak at an event hosted by the Great America Committee PAC. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, the front-runner in the Republican primary for governor, said Pence’s visit was the latest move by national Republicans to counter efforts by Democratic organizations planning to pour money into the state to boost their candidates.”

Harris looks ahead to 2020 - The Hill: “Sen. Kamala Harris is increasingly positioning herself for what is expected to be a crowded Democratic primary for the White House in 2020. The former California attorney general, who is just at the beginning of her second year in the Senate, is taking positions that could endear herself with the Democratic base while allowing her to stand out from a group of Democrats who might seek the progressive mantle. Harris voted against a Senate immigration bill backed by centrists from both parties earlier this month, waiting until the last minute to break with other liberals such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who both backed the measure. … ‘She’s looking to be a champion of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party,’ said Jack Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College in California, saying that Harris ‘has a chance at getting a lot of support.’”

GOP Gov. Greitens ostracized by fellow party members -
 Politico: “Republican governors don’t have any advice for Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens. Fellow GOP leaders at the National Governors Association winter meeting this weekend didn't try to give Greitens any cover as he faces an indictment and likely investigation in his state's Republican-controlled legislature. And they shied away from saying whether the first-term GOP governor should resign or fight the charges. ‘That's all up to him,’ said Vermont Gov. Phil Scott. … ‘That's up to him,’ Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said when asked whether Greitens should step down. Greitens was indicted by a grand jury in St. Louis last week over a charge of invasion of privacy stemming from an extramarital affair. … Meanwhile, Greitens, a former Navy SEAL who was thought to have aspirations to run for president, faces increasing pressure from fellow Missouri Republicans to resign.”

State senator to announce plans to run against Sen. Roger Wicker - WashEx: “Republican Chris McDaniel could announce Monday his plans to challenge incumbent Sen. Roger Wicker in Mississippi's June 5 GOP primary. … A McDaniel spokesman declined to elaborate on the event, tellingly headlined: "It's Time to Drain the Swamp." … The filing deadline to run for office in Mississippi is Thursday. … In 2014, McDaniel narrowly defeated Cochran in round one of the Republican primary but was forced into a runoff because he did not garner more than 50 percent of the vote. In the runoff, two weeks later, the incumbent recovered to win in a photo-finish.”

TRUMP SAYS HE WOULD’VE FACED SCHOOL SHOOTER UNARMED
USA Today: “While urging governors to work with him on new school safety measures, President Trump again attacked officers Monday for not entering a Florida high school building and somehow engaging a gunman who killed 17 people dead with a military-style rifle. ‘I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too,’ Trump told a group of state governors gathered at the White House for talks on multiple issues. Trump singled out a sheriff's deputy assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and described the lack of action by him and others during the Feb. 14 shooting as ‘frankly, disgusting.’ But he also added that ‘you don't know’ how anyone would react until they're tested. Noting that local law enforcement officials had received warnings about the shooter's behavior, Trump said, ‘the only worse job is they didn’t nab this guy earlier.’”

Many governors open to considering changes on gun laws - WaPo: “A growing bipartisan number of state governors have joined calls for a reconsideration of gun laws and school safety… The impact of the shooting rippled through the winter meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington this weekend, as state leaders expressed willingness to consider new limits on gun ownership and stepped up efforts to address mental-health factors. But most said they were opposed to President Trump’s proposal to allow more teachers to be armed. … Individual governors said they would be open to raising the age limit for the purchase of long guns to 21, a measure opposed by the National Rifle Association, or said they believed there should be better ways for family members or others to take concerns about unstable individuals to a judge and have weapons confiscated.”

Congress returns with guns on top of the agenda - WSJ: “Lawmakers return to Washington on Monday to find a familiar contentious issue—guns—taking a priority over spending and immigration legislation that were expected to preoccupy their time for the next several weeks. … While no bills are assured of moving forward, even debating and voting on gun legislation will be politically fraught for many lawmakers of both parties just eight months before midterm elections. Congress is most likely to consider a measure from Sens. John Cornyn (R., Texas) and Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) that would encourage states and federal agencies, including the military, to submit criminal-conviction records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. … The most immediate question is whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell(R., Ky.) will bring up the bill—known as ‘Fix NICS’—on its own, without the concealed weapons provision.”

SUPCO SPARES DREAMERS, TAKES PRESSURE OFF CONGRESS
USA Today: “The Supreme Court refused Monday to review a federal judge's order that the Trump administration continue a program protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. The denial leaves in place the popular DACA program, which has protected some 690,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation and enabled them to get work permits. The program had faced a March 5 deadline for congressional action set by Trump last summer. Two federal courts have ruled the administration's action was illegal. The justices could have agreed to hear the case this spring, leapfrogging a federal appeals court based in California that has been sympathetic to the cause of immigrants. They also could have overruled federal District Judge William Alsup without a hearing.”

Senate debates short-term fix - The Hill: “The Senate is weighing a short-term fix for ‘Dreamers’ as lawmakers struggle to break a stalemate that has stalled the chamber's debate. The hunt for a fallback option comes ahead of the March 5 deadline created by President Trump’s decision to end the immigration program and amid fresh questions about what, if anything, can clear Congress and win over the White House. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is in talks with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) about a plan to tie a three-year extension of protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients with roughly $7.6 billion in border security. … Passing a years-long immigration stopgap is no one’s first choice for restoring protections from the Obama-era program, which the Trump administration announced it was ending last year. Democrats largely refused to touch the idea during the Senate’s debate, while GOP Sen.Marco Rubio (Fla.) referred to it as ‘Plan Z.’”

PLAY-BY-PLAY 
Glitches bedevil new tax law Politico

Trump’s personal pilot on the short list to run Federal Aviation Administration 
WSJ

Lewinsky reflects on her place in history, Clinton’s ‘gross abuse of power’ - Vanity Fair

Ivanka sides with her dad against sexual misconduct claims WaPo

Mona Charen: ‘I’m Glad I Got Booed at CPAC’ NYT

AUDIBLE: #WERK
“I work more than any human being that you have ever known in your life. Every day, every single day, I work more than anybody you will ever know.” – West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice when asked by the Charleston Gazette-Mail about his whereabouts during legislative sessions.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“…I wanted to share that your support for the NRA is obvious both in what you've said and not said in the past 10 days. Two examples: From the February 16th column in the ‘From the Bleachers’ section, in your response to Mr. Welch, you state that the NRA is the powerhouse it is today because of the strong feeling their supporters have for gun rights, but that they are not the cause of those feelings. … You do not seem concerned that the NRA's website is full of rhetoric blasting ‘gun-hating political elitists’ and the ‘corrupt media.’ In February 23rd's column you rightly differentiate between blame and accountability, and admonish that casting blame has never solved a problem. As an example, you use the Broward County Sheriff's comments placing blame on the FBI and gun manufacturers, though it turns out that his own deputy was also to blame because he waited outside while the shooter rampaged through the school. Again though, you fail to comment on another obvious example of placing blame rather than working for a solution. The comments made by Wayne LaPierre at CPAC this past week, saying liberals hate the Second Amendment and hate individual freedom were inflammatory and entirely unhelpful in the search for a solution to the problems. It is your column, Mr. Stirewalt, yours to write as you please. However, you have repeatedly claimed to strive for fairness in your work. It appears you may have a blind spot though. And while that is your right, it doesn't go unnoticed by those of us who see blame and solutions on all sides.” – Wendy Kirkpatrick, Upper Marlboro, Md.

[Ed. note: I can always tell when I’m getting close to the good stuff when I get reproofs from multiple sides of an issue. Just as I have gun rights activists saying that I am a tool of the gun grabbers I now have you saying that I am a supporter of the NRA. And while I might take those contradictory accusations as evidence of fairness, I should also remember that it is possible that I am just plain wrong – or at least not making myself clear. On Friday, we were talking about the need to focus on solutions, rather than disqualifying the opinions of others. You may think that the NRA and the gun industry should not have a voice in this discussion, just as many on that side might say that those who don’t take an absolutist view on the Second Amendment do not merit consideration. That’s certainly their right, but it is not likely to produce any better outcomes. Organizations like the NRA thrive when their members feel persecuted and afraid. It’s sort of like how Democratic lobbyists were secretly thrilled when the Republicans took power last year. It meant that their clients were going to be much more nervous about changes that could affect them and ready to fork over fatter fees. A debate about guns that says the millions of members of the NRA are disqualified for being somehow accessories to mass murder would be no more fruitful than one in which the proponents of gun control were disqualified for their constitutional views. I understand that feelings are quite hard about this issue and understandably so. But we should start with the not at all unreasonable supposition that every decent American wants to prevent mass murders of children. That part shouldn’t have to be re-litigated every time these tragedies occur. Plus, it lets people off the hook too easily. If I refuse to listen to someone, I’m not only able to leave my own thinking unchallenged, but I also give them permission to tune me out as well.]

“Hi Chris, I'm back again for another comment proving that I continue to read your excellent essays on our Republic. This one caught my eye: ‘If credentials really mattered that much in politics [John Kerry] would have gotten elected.’ So true. And if they really mattered that much Hillary Clinton would have gotten elected. The beat goes on…” –Bill Panagakos, Santa Fe, N.M.

[Ed. note: And George H.W. Bush would have won a second term!]

“It is an interesting proposal to increase the number of the members of the House to better serve the voters. But then I think as taxpayers can we afford more staff personnel for each new member, parking spaces, funding for budgets, lifetime benefits, etc... all decided by our current Congress to make it happen somehow while restraining from sweetening their own situation in the process... YIKES! I think you get the point. Would there ever be sufficient benefit for the increase? Your Halftime Report is fresh and is a bright spot standing out and apart from so much clutter.” – Jay Collier, San Antonio 

[Ed. note: Thanks for saying so, Mr. Collier! One of the reasons that members of the House have such outsized staffs and services is that they are too powerful or, to look at in a way more favorable for them, their jobs are too big in trying to serve the needs of 750,000 constituents. We would hope that having more members of Congress would deflate the egos and make constituent services more manageable. 

“Rasmussen may or may not be right this time around, but there have been times in the past when they were spot on and all the other learned pollsters were wrong. So would it not be reasonable for you to include their numbers (50-49 favorable today!) on your Scoreboard along with the substantially more anti-Trump numbers the others have divined?” – Stephen Leonard, Boise, Idaho 

[Ed. note: Octavia a two-year old Pacific octopus who lives at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, N.J. successfully chose the winner of this year’s Super Bowl. And it’s probably a good thing for her that she chose the Eagles, given the local fan base in Camden. They would have served her wood roasted on a bed of arugula if she had picked the Pats. But Octavia’s selection doesn’t mean that she is going to replace Terry Bradshaw on the analyst desk next year. When we look at pollsters, it’s not enough just to say who was right or wrong. We want to know how or why. Public opinion research requires us to make some guesses based on past historical performance, demographic changes, etc. But it also requires us to use standard, repeatable techniques for reaching those conclusions. The polls we use are from entities that not only have reasonable track records in terms of performance but also use up-to-date, reliable methodologies for reaching those conclusions.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at 
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

L8R H8TRS
NBC4: “A United Airlines flight from New Jersey to Tampa was unable to take off on time Sunday evening after a passenger escaped the plane by opening the emergency exit door and jumping off using the inflatable slide, a witness and the airline tell NBC 4 New York. United Airlines Flight 1640 was parked at the gate at Newark Liberty International Airport when the passenger popped a chute and slid down, according to law enforcement sources. When officers got to the scene, the panicked passenger was yelling that he didn’t belong on the plane because it was the wrong flight, according to the airline and the Port Authority said. … Despite the claim he was on the wrong flight, Port Authority said he was ticketed to be on the plane to Tampa.”

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.