Power Rankings: Dems make Texas interesting

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On the roster: Power Rankings: Dems make Texas interesting - Sen. Thad Cochran announces retirement - Trump says U.S. steel, aluminum industries ‘dead’ - Mueller subpoena list a who’s who of Trump world - So fast you couldn’t even see him

Texas is big, young, diverse and… still a Republican stronghold. But it’s not for nothing that Democrats keep their eye on this prize. 

When Rep. Beto O’Rourke announced that he was jumping in the race to try to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz it looked like more of a publicity stunt than a political strategy. 

President Trump beat his Democratic opponent in Texas by almost 10 points and Cruz, ahem, sailed to victory for his first term 2012 by a sweet 16 points. This shouldn’t be much of a race. 

And yet… 

Tuesday’s primary election in Texas has shown that Democratic intensity is astronomical in the Lone Star State. 

Democratic turnout for early voting went from 205,583 in the last midterm four years ago to 406,302 this time around. They blew right past Republicans even as the GOP managed to add about 50,000 new early votes. Lordy day.

The arrival of new Democratic voters on a scale that large suggests that there is some serious mojo working there.

Those of us old enough to remember Wendy Davis’ pink sneakers can attest to Democrats’ longstanding fixation on Texas. It has become almost as much of a political punchline as Republicans’ laughable efforts to try to win Pennsylvania in presidential elections. 

Republicans ought to remember, then, that Pennsylvania was a punchline right up until it was part of the most shocking upset in modern political history. 

The fundamentals are all still in place for Cruz to not only win, but win handily. But one thing is evidentially different this time around. Hispanic sentiment against Trump and his agenda is finally giving the Blue Team the rocket fuel it needs to be at least competitive. 

The other problem for Cruz is that the president and some of his policies, things like new tariffs which look unhappy to an export state like Texas, annoy many moderate suburbanites on whom Republicans rely. They were never so hot on Trump in the first place and have been getting some reminders of why lately.

The president’s relatively meager ratings with voters in the biggest Republican state in the union is a product of both of those trends – fired up Democrats and underwhelmed suburbanites – and is a big part of Cruz’s challenge. But the senator has also been dragging with him some wreckage from his own presidential run and the resentments it produced in his home state.  

We’re hardly arguing that Cruz is in crisis. In fact, renewed attention to his campaign as O’Rourke has mounted his charge, will help Cruz catch up on fundraising and perhaps sharpen the minds of reticent Republicans.

But for the reasons mentioned above we’re moving the Texas senate race from the “Likely Republican” to the “Leans Republican” category. 

(You can read the originals here.)

“The sober people of America are weary of the fluctuating policy which has directed the public councils.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 44


History: “In one of the most famous orations of the Cold War period, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill condemns the Soviet Union’s policies in Europe and declares, ‘From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.’ Churchill’s speech is considered one of the opening volleys announcing the beginning of the Cold War. Churchill, who had been defeated for re-election as prime minister in 1945, was invited to Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri where he gave this speech. President Harry S. Truman joined Churchill on the platform and listened intently to his speech. Churchill began by praising the United States, which he declared stood ‘at the pinnacle of world power.’ It soon became clear that a primary purpose of his talk was to argue for an even closer ‘special relationship’ between the United States and Great Britain—the great powers of the ‘English-speaking world’—in organizing and policing the postwar world.”

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Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
38.6 percent 
Average disapproval: 56.4 percent 
Net Score: 
-17.8 points
Change from one week ago: up 0.2 points 
[Average includes: Gallup: 39% approve - 55% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 38% approve - 60% disapprove; CNN: 39% approve - 56% disapprove; Marist College: 40% approve - 53% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 37% approve - 58% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 37.6 percent
Democratic average: 49.2 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 11.6 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage up 4.6 points 
[Average includes: USA Today/Suffolk: 47% Dems - 32% GOP; CNN: 54% Dems - 38% GOP; Marist College: 46% Dems - 39% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 53% Dems - 38% GOP; IBD: 46% Dems - 41% GOP.]

Fox News: “Republican Sen. Thad Cochran announced Monday he will resign from his post on April 1, amid health challenges, after serving 40 years in the U.S. Senate. Cochran, R-Miss., who sits as the chairman of the influential Senate Appropriations Committee, said he would ‘formally retire’ following the completion of the 2018 appropriations cycle. ‘I regret my health has become an ongoing challenge,’ Cochran said in a statement. ‘I intend to fulfill my responsibilities and commitments to the people of Mississippi and the Senate through the completion of the 2018 appropriations cycle, after which I will formally retire from the U.S. Senate.’ Cochran was first elected to the Senate in 1978, becoming the first Republican in more than 100 years to win a statewide election in Mississippi. He is the tenth-longest serving senator in U.S. history. Prior to joining the Senate, Cochran served three terms in the House of Representatives.”

Dems’ House campaign arm draws ire - Daily Beast: “In at least three Democratic primaries in contested districts, candidates eager to flex their progressive bonafides have gone after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for, what they see as, unfairly backing opponents too early in the process. Tensions were stoked further this week after a series of damaging leaked emails from the DCCC led progressive groups to accuse the committee of abandoning the ideological principles that are the bedrock of the party. The most high-profile clash is taking place in Texas’ 7th Congressional District where activist Laura Moser will compete against six other Democrats in Tuesday’s primary for a seat held by Rep. John Culberson (R-TX). The district, hugging Houston’s western suburbs, has been identified as prime real estate for a Democratic flip, as Hillary Clinton managed to win it in the 2016 presidential election.”

Dems lose their top recruit in California House contest - Fresno Bee: “Emilio Huerta, a Bakersfield attorney and the son of civil rights legend Dolores Huerta, is ending his campaign to replace Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Huerta shared his decision in an op-ed submitted to The Bee, in which he said he would instead focus on helping other Democrats win election to various levels of government office. At attempt Friday to reach Huerta by phone was not successful. This would have been Huerta’s second try at unseating Valadao. In 2016, Valadao beat Huerta by 13 percentage points in a district that favored former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over President Donald Trump by nearly 16 points. Huerta’s campaign raised about $100,000 in 2017, while Valadao ended the year with about $1 million on hand.”

What are the warning lights for House GOP? - Axios:Chris Krueger, managing director of Cowen & Co.'s Washington Research Group, said he sees four ‘glaring red flags for the House GOP majority’: The correlation between the president’s approval number and first-term midterm losses by the president’s party… CA + PA = half-way there: California is the citadel of the resistance, which has 14 House Republicans. … The new Pennsylvania redistricting map — and similar anti-Trump trend lines — could cost Rs as many as six seats. … Suburban danger zones: 2018 could make the suburbs great again for the House Democrats. … Trump Coalition Unique to Trump: This is the biggest wildcard.”

Fox News: “President Donald Trump added more fuel to a brewing global trade battle Sunday, tweeting in support of his planned import tariffs on steel and aluminum to help U.S. industries. ‘We are on the losing side of almost all trade deals. Our friends and enemies have taken advantage of the U.S. for many years. Our Steel and Aluminum industries are dead. Sorry, it’s time for a change! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!’  Trump wrote. Trump last week said he would impose tariffs on imported steel to protect a U.S. industry that employs about 140,000 Americans. Still, analysts say that by raising the price of steel, those same tariffs stand to hurt a far larger group of U.S. workers: the 6.5 million who work in industries that buy steel — from automakers to aircraft manufacturers to suppliers of building materials. Trump has vowed to this week impose 25 percent tariffs on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum, in the interest of protecting America’s national security.”

Trump doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Republicans in Congress on the tariffs -
WaPo: “Congressional Republicans are maneuvering to stop President Trump from levying harsh tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, arguing that the move runs counter to the core of their economic agenda and could even cause political problems heading into the 2018 midterms. ‘We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan,’ AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), said in a statement Monday. ‘The new tax reform law has boosted the economy and we certainly don’t want to jeopardize those gains.’ Members of the House Ways and Means Committee were also circulating a letter criticizing the tariffs, while high-ranking Senate Republicans voiced their own opposition.”


CBS News: Special Counsel Robert Mueller is seeking documents regarding the president and several of his closest advisers and campaign associates... Axios and NBC first reported the document subpoena, saying that investigators are looking for emails, text messages, work documents, telephone logs and other relevant documents dating back to November 1, 2015…. The document subpoena seeks documents and communications to or from the following people: Carter Page: a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign; Corey Lewandowski: Former Trump campaign manager; Donald J. Trump; Hope Hicks: former White House communications director; Keith Schiller: former director of Oval Office operations; Michael Cohen: Personal lawyer for Donald Trump; Paul Manafort: Former Trump campaign chairman who has been indicted for fraud; Rick Gates: Former Trump deputy campaign chairman, who pleaded guilty to fraud and lying to federal investigators; Roger Stone: Informal Trump adviser; Steve Bannon: Former chief White House strategist.”

Former Trump aide Nunberg says he will refuse to testify - Fox News: ‘Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg vowed Monday to refuse a subpoena from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team to appear before a grand jury this week as part of the Russia probe, defiantly claiming: ‘Let him arrest me.’ ‘Mr. Mueller should understand I am not going in on Friday,’ Nunberg told the Washington Post. Nunberg told the outlet on Monday that Mueller’s team requested records from him of conversations he had with outgoing White House communications director Hope Hicks, former White House strategist Steve Bannon, Trump attorney Michael Cohen, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and adviser Roger Stone. All worked with Nunberg on the campaign. ‘I’m not spending 80 hours going over my emails with Roger Stone and Steve Bannon and producing them,’ Nunberg said. ‘Donald Trump won this election on his own. He campaigned his ass off. And there is nobody who hates him more than me.’”

Trump-tied Arab businessman said to be in Mueller crosshairs - NYT: “George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, has hovered on the fringes of international diplomacy for three decades. He was a back-channel negotiator with Syria during the Clinton administration, reinvented himself as an adviser to the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, and last year was a frequent visitor to President Trump’s White House. Mr. Nader is now a focus of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller’s investigators have questioned Mr. Nader and have pressed witnesses for information about any possible attempts by the Emiratis to buy political influence by directing money to support Mr. Trump during the presidential campaign, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.”

Putin: Russia will ‘never’ extradite citizens accused by US - Fox News: “Russia will ‘never’ extradite any of the 13 Russians indicted by the United States for election-meddling, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, even as he insisted they didn’t act on behalf of his government. Putin’s comments in an NBC News interview airing Sunday illustrated the long odds that the Russian operatives will ever appear in U.S. court to answer charges of running a massive, secret social media trolling and targeted messaging operation to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. The United States has no extradition treaty with Moscow and can’t compel it to hand over citizens, and a provision in Russia’s constitution prohibits extraditing its citizens to foreign countries.  ‘Never. Never. Russia does not extradite its citizens to anyone,’ Putin said. For years, the Justice Department has supported indicting foreigners in absentia as a way to shame them and make it harder for them to travel abroad.”

State Dept. not stepping up on Russia meddling - NYT: “As Russia’s virtual war against the United States continues unabated with the midterm elections approaching, the State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million it has been allocated since late 2016 to counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections or sow distrust in democracy. As a result, not one of the 23 analysts working in the department’s Global Engagement Center — which has been tasked with countering Moscow’s disinformation campaign — speaks Russian, and a department hiring freeze has hindered efforts to recruit the computer experts needed to track the Russian efforts. The delay is just one symptom of the largely passive response to the Russian interference by President Trump, who has made little if any public effort to rally the nation to confront Moscow and defend democratic institutions.”

Daily Beast: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu … and Trump, who are close allies, will be meeting for the fifth time in a year that has seen their administrations buffeted by uncanny parallel challenges. On Monday, Nir Hefetz, Netanyahu’s former chief of staff and a close personal friend of both Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu, signed a plea agreement and turned state’s witness against the prime minister. Hefetz, who has just been released after two weeks under arrest, could have a devastating effect on Netanyahu... In early February, the police recommended he be indicted in two cases, one involving political favors allegedly granted to wealthy friends in exchange for lavish gifts, the other one in which Netanyahu is charged with attempting to ensure positive coverage in Yediot Ahronot in exchange for damaging the prospects of its top rival, a free tabloid owned by the Trump organization and Netanyahu backer Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas mogul.”

Italian populists makes gains, but can’t agree on government - Sky News: “Political parties in Italy have been claiming their right to form the next government following the election stalemate. The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement saw its support soar to become Italy’s largest single party, with approximately 31% of the vote. A coalition of the far-right League party and ex-prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia is set to win the most seats in the lower house of parliament. Despite overseeing a modest economic recovery, the ruling centre-left coalition came a distant third, polling at around 23% of the vote. … Luigi Di Maio, leader of the 5-Star Movement, said on Monday his party’s strong showing throughout the country means that it should run the next government. Just half an hour earlier Matteo Salvini, leader of League, made the same claim... It means a political headache for President Sergio Mattarella who has to choose someone to form a government…”

Merkel gets a boost, escapes populist effort to drive her out - AP: [German Chancellor Angela Merkel] spoke to reporters in Berlin a day after the center-left Social Democrats voted overwhelmingly to remain in a coalition with Merkel’s conservatives, giving her the support needed to secure a fourth term as the leader of Europe’s most powerful economy. Parliament is expected to meet March 14 to re-elect Merkel as chancellor, ending the longest time Germany has been without a new government after an election in its postwar history. … Merkel… faced her greatest challenge at home after deciding to allow over a million asylum-seekers into Germany since 2015. An anti-migrant party came in third in last year’s election, upending Germany’s traditional coalition calculus. The Social Democrats were initially reluctant to extend their coalition with Merkel, but eventually agreed to a deal that gives them control of the foreign, labor and finance ministries — three major portfolios — in return for supporting some curbs on immigration.

Trump’s DACA deadline passes under legal cloud, with urgency dwindling in Congress - Fox News

Trump targets New York Democrats on big infrastructure project - WaPo

Senate gets ready to roll back bank regulations - WaPo

“Whatever his final decision is, is what will happen. What he has said he has said; if he says something different, it’ll be something different.” – Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, discussing the president’s trade tariffs.

“As a conservative 34 year old who is employed as staff for Republicans with several others who fall in the so-called X-ennial generation, I take exception to your statement that Millennials as a group are quite liberal and not fond of the current administration. There’s a strong contingency of us who are not liberal and support the administration. The thing is, we’re busy working hard and fighting the good fight and simply don’t have time to protest and fuss and moan about things. Also, there’s a growing movement to exempt those of us born before 1985 from being Millennials and calling us xennials. That being said, I love the Halftime Report and I’ll Tell You What. I can count on you and your admirable knowledge of history to provide reasonable and thoughtful analysis. Thanks!” – Saundra Richartz, Republic, Wash.

[Ed. note: I don’t know why you want to get lashed up with my Gen X cohort! I mean music videos, Canadian tuxedos and Fruit Roll-Ups were cool and all but you should be happy right where you are. Aside from getting ready to step forward as the most powerful generation for both politics and culture, you guys are changing the world in a way that my generation did not have the opportunity to do. Gen X lived in the shadow of the aptly named “me” generation and we inherited a pretty badly broken political world and culture. As my generation steps into leadership roles from the House Speakership to academia to the executive suite we do so very much aware that we are straddling between two worlds. There’s no rewind button on this machine, nor is there a fast forward (that is a reference to cassette tapes). So what we really ought to do is truly enjoy the tune as it plays.]

“Hello, I just wanted to compliment the report on the new Pew Research Center study. As someone turning 21 this Wednesday, there isn’t a more depressing birthday present than to tell me 12% of Millenials self-identified as conservative and only 29% feel belief in a higher power is necessary. It is hard to pull away the fog of the future to see what Millenials act like in their 40s and 50s, but I am terrified of having to see my peers in elected office and business boardrooms if their current attitudes stay constant. I’m sure you could say everything will be fine and people eventually moderate...but am I the only one who finds your average 20-some year-old’s lack of personal-responsibility disconcerting? I just wonder if any of my friends who find themselves glued to politics in our current climate can see the forest or if they are too focused on the trees… So with the thoughts of my angry, angry generation weighing heavily on my mind this weekend, I eagerly await another halftime report next week! Thanks as always for the intellectual analysis!” – Jordan Stomps, Macomb, Mich.

[Ed. note: Take heart, Mr. Stomps. First, let’s remember that these generational definitions are inherently flawed. It seems unlikely that you would have more in common with people who are 16-years older than you at the other end of the Millennial span than you would with those who have just entered adulthood at age 18 or 19. While these classifications are arbitrary to a degree, they are useful in helping us compare and track trends over time. I hear you on the question of what you think is the poor character of the members of your cohort. But I would also remind you that when the Baby Boomers got to Woodstock and the riots outside the Democratic Convention in 1968 they did not look exactly like aspiring junior executives. Time does change us. You are very lucky to be a young man in a moment of history-bending change. That means that you will have amazing opportunities and also that you will get to see some astonishing things. As this unfolds you will be tempted to despair from time to time. But I would urge you to resist that temptation with all of your might. If you believe in the American experiment then you also have to believe that it can accommodate these disruptions. You are a very lucky man.]

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Cambridge [UK] News: “The winner of Cambridge’s 2018 half marathon has been disqualified after it was revealed he did not complete the race. According to official timings, an Andrew Rawlings was the first to cross the line at the event on Sunday (March 4). The runner, competing in the 45-49 years age category, finished in an impressive one hour, six minutes and 52 seconds. But organizers OSB Events now say that Mr. Rawlings didn’t win the race at all - in fact he never even started it. Another runner, known as just ‘Jack’, ran the race using Mr. Rawlings chip and number, breaking race rules. A spokeswoman for OSB Events told the News: ‘It’s illegal under UK athletics rules. He got disqualified. It’s very annoying but there is not a lot we can do about it.’ The spokeswoman was unable to comment on whether this would affect Mr. Rawling’s ability to run in future races.”

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.