Texas tussle stretches Senate map

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On the roster: Texas tussle stretches Senate map - I’ll Tell You What: Say cheese - Bredesen: Dem Senate takeover not possible - Dems: VA pick says he opposes Trump privatization plan - Rocky got stoned

TEXAS TUSSLE STRETCHES SENATE MAP
 
Republicans were ecstatic last week when Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced that he would take the plunge and seek the Senate seat held by Democrat Bill Nelson

Even if Scott doesn’t end up winning having a mega-rich candidate with statewide name recognition running against an incumbent previously assumed to be safe will divert much-needed resources from other races. 

Now it’s Democrats’ turn to expand the map. 

new poll of Texas voters from Quinnipiac University shows Rep. Beto O’Rourke nipping at the heels of freshman Sen. Ted Cruz. Cruz leads by only 3 points and trails O’Rourke among independents by a vast 14-point margin.

We have not seen a ton of polling out of Texas this year because, frankly, very few news organizations saw this as a competitive contest, but this snapshot shows a Texas contest that’s at least as close as the one on the other side of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. 

And, like Florida, Texas is a terribly expensive place to run for statewide office. Two of the nation’s ten largest media markets, Dallas and Houston, are in Texas. And with more than 28 million residents spread out over an area larger than France, retail politics are tougher than overcooked brisket. 

We have written before about the surprising success O’Rourke has been having against incumbent Cruz. The Democratic primary turnout was better than usual and O’Rourke has already proven to be a fundraising juggernaut. 

At the beginning of this week O’Rourke reported $6.7 million in fundraising for the months of January, February and March, beating Cruz by about $3.5 million for the same period. 

In a normal year, Cruz’s haul would have been more than enough for a sitting senator in a red state, even a big one like Texas, but compared to O’Rourke’s performance Cruz’s numbers should be troubling for Republicans. 

More worrisome for the incumbent is that O’Rourke has not even started spending in earnest, declaring last week that he was sitting on $8 million war chest. 

Now these numbers can be misleading because Cruz will be able to tap into the vast network of pro-Republican outside groups that can be counted on to dump money on The Lone Star State as the race heats up. But for now, Cruz will have to shepherd his limited resources in ways that O’Rourke will not need to.

Cruz faces considerable headwinds. There are obvious lasting resentments from his 2016 presidential campaign and he has never been a favorite of the moderate Republicans who populate key suburbs around the state’s largest cities. 

O’Rourke’s principle advantages are that he is a telegenic, charismatic campaigner who has so far managed to navigate the space between his party’s liberal base and the persuadable voters on whom he will rely in his effort to pull off an upset.

Most significant here, though, is how little known O’Rourke is. The Q Poll shows that 53 percent of voters say they haven’t heard enough about O’Rourke to make up their minds about whether they like him or not. That’s compared to the 10 percent who say they are unsure about Cruz. 

O’Rourke has a big advantage in being largely unknown since he is able to run as something of a blank slate. The fact that so many voters say that they prefer him to Cruz but still haven’t made up their minds about what kind of guy O’Rourke is tells us a great deal. He is obtaining the benefits of being a generic Democrat in a year when Democrats are generally favored. 

This also, however, represents Cruz’s best opportunity to stave off what would be a political catastrophe. Since O’Rourke is not well defined in the minds of voters, Cruz has the chance to do it himself if he can get the resources to act before O’Rourke can bolster his own image.

Negative ads work, or otherwise you wouldn’t see so many of them. But there are considerable downsides.

First, there is always some blowback to the candidate on the attack. Negative ads tend to drag down the attacker as well as the attack. For a candidate like Cruz who already has high negatives with voters, it can be dangerous. 

Second, affective attack ad campaigns are awfully expensive. 

As one would expect of a party with high voter intensity, Democrats are outpacing Republicans when it comes to grassroots donations from individual donors. That frees up national and institutional fundraising to divert to other contests. 

Republicans, conversely, will likely be more dependent on institutional donors to rescue candidates like Cruz. And every dollar sent to keep Texas red will be a dollar Republican groups can’t use to try to defeat the four most vulnerable Democrats or defend the two Republican seats, Arizona and Nevada, that look the most vulnerable. 

Cruz is still more likely than not to win, but what Republicans have to hope is that a victory does not come at too high a price.  

THE RULEBOOK: LESS DISQUIETUDE, PLEASE 
“If those who are inclined to consult their jealousy only, would exercise it in a careful inspection of the several State constitutions, they would find little less room for disquietude and alarm…” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 61

TIME OUT: THROUGH EVERY MIDDLESEX VILLAGE AND FARM
History: “On this day in 1775, British troops march out of Boston on a mission to confiscate the American arsenal at Concord and to capture Patriot leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock, known to be hiding at Lexington. As the British departed, Boston Patriots Paul Revere and William Dawes set out on horseback from the city to warn Adams and Hancock and rouse the Minutemen. … The Boston Patriots had been preparing for such a British military action for some time… Patriots in Charlestown waited for a signal from Boston informing them of the British troop movement. As previously agreed, one lantern would be hung in the steeple of Boston’s Old North Church, the highest point in the city, if the British were marching out of the city by Boston Neck, and two lanterns would be hung if they were crossing the Charles River to Cambridge. Two lanterns were hung, and the armed Patriots set out for Lexington and Concord accordingly.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
40.4 percent 
Average disapproval: 54.4 percent 
Net Score: 
-14 points
Change from one week ago: down 1.8 points 
[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: 39% approve - 54% disapprove; Gallup: 39% approval - 55% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 44% approval - 54% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 39% approve - 57% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 52% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 41.8 percent
Democratic average: 46.8 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 5 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage down 1.4 points  
[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: 44% Dems - 39% GOP; ABC News/WaPo: 47% Dems - 43% GOP; NBC News/WSJ: 47% Dems - 40% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 46% Dems - 43% GOP; CNN: 50% Dems - 44% GOP.]

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: SAY CHEESE
This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss the passing of First Lady Barbara Bush, her beautiful life and legacy. Plus, it’s book club day! The duo discuss Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules To Life: An Antidote To Chaos.” We hope you did your homework! LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

BREDESEN: DEM SENATE TAKEOVER NOT POSSIBLE
NYT: “President Trump won 92 of Tennessee’s 95 counties in the 2016 election, making this state a seemingly daunting target for Democrats hoping to flip a seat in the Senate. But a decade before that commanding victory, another politician won an even bigger landslide. The state’s Democratic governor, Phil Bredesen, swept all 95 counties to win a second term. Now Mr. Bredesen is running for the Senate seat being vacated by a Republican, Bob Corker, and his track record makes him the rarest of Democrats: not an incumbent but nonetheless a formidable candidate in a solidly Republican state, allowing his party to go on the offensive in an improbable place. ‘There have to be hundreds of thousands of people who voted for me and voted for Donald Trump,’ Mr. Bredesen said in a recent interview after meeting with a group of doctoral students from the Bredesen Center, a partnership between the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory that is named for him.”

GOP leaders sound alarm over Blankenship - Politico: “Senate Republicans are escalating their attacks on West Virginia Senate GOP candidate Don Blankenship, increasingly worried that the coal baron and ex-prisoner will blow a winnable race against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. Republicans see West Virginia as a prime pickup opportunity in November, given President Donald Trump’s huge popularity there. But they say the multimillionaire Blankenship, running in a tight three-way primary against Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, is indefensible as a candidate after serving a year in prison for conspiring to violate mine safety violations. Twenty-nine miners died at his company’s Upper Big Branch mine in 2010. ‘Wasn’t he convicted of a crime?’ Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said in an interview Tuesday. ‘That sort of background doesn’t lend itself to public office, in my view. Being convicted of a crime is a real liability.’” 

Republican House incumbents lagging on fundraising - Politico: “Democratic challengers outraised Republican incumbents in 43 districts in the first quarter — matching the number of GOP incumbents outraised in the final quarter of 2017. Republicans hoped that the party’s recently enacted tax reform law might open donor wallets, but the numbers aren’t bearing that out for incumbents. Meanwhile, Democratic enthusiasm continues to translate into cash flow. Incumbents outraised by general-election challengers: Forty-three Republican incumbents trailed at least one Democratic challenger in first-quarter fundraising. Of that group, four Republicans were outraised by multiple Democratic opponents. … Four House Democrats were outraised by Republican challengers in the first quarter, including Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-08), who is facing a self-funding Republican in one of the few Trump-Democratic districts on the map.”

DEMS: VA PICK SAYS HE OPPOSES TRUMP PRIVATIZATION PLAN
WaPo: “Ronny L. Jackson, President Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, is privately pledging to Democratic senators that he would oppose efforts to privatize veterans’ health care in his bid to lock down bipartisan support to lead the agency. But Democrats are far from being won over by the veteran White House physician, who began his gantlet of courtesy meetings on Capitol Hill this week ahead of his April 25 confirmation hearing. They remain unpersuaded that Jackson, a one-star Navy admiral, can successfully fend off a conservative push to outsource more veterans’ care away from VA and are seeking a more firm commitment publicly that he would block such efforts. ‘He was convincing enough to me for now, but I want to see him after he talks to the American Legion and Disabled American Vets and Paralyzed Veterans of America and the VFW and all,’ said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who met with Jackson on Tuesday.”

Pompeo’s secret trip to North Korea casts shadows over confirmation - AP: “President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, is facing so much opposition from Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the panel could be forced to take the unusual step of sending the nomination to the full Senate without a favorable recommendation. On Wednesday, the committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, became the latest to announce his opposition, raising concern that Pompeo failed, in their private conversation, to disclose his recent trip to North Korea to meet with President Kim Jong Un. News of Pompeo’s visit ricocheted on Capitol Hill after it was made public late Tuesday, but if it was intended to shore up support among wavering senators, it appeared to have the opposite effect among Democrats. Another key member of the panel, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., also announced Wednesday he would vote no.”

DANA PERINO: FOR BARBARA BUSH, LOYALTY WENT BOTH WAYS
Fox News: “The first time my husband, Peter McMahon, met Barbara Bush, he was hooked. We were invited to have lunch with President George H. W. Bush and the former First Lady in Houston in 2010. It was a special treat, especially for Peter who had become an American citizen in 2006. After we ate, the president and I sat talking, well, gossiping really, and Peter and Mrs. Bush walked in the garden outside with their two dogs. As we said our goodbyes, Peter got in the car and said, ‘I think I have a new crush.’ … He continued to describe her - she’s charming, smart, hilarious, engaging....a thesaurus couldn’t do Barbara Bush justice. … As a former staffer for her son’s presidency, Mrs. Bush knew me as someone loyal to him and to her entire family. She seemed to trust me, and that meant the world. Perhaps that was part of her success as one of America’s beloved First Ladies. Barbara Bush didn’t have to rule with an iron fist - one look of disapproval could melt you. Around her you were on your toes and alert - I learned to come ready with some new bit of information about what was going on in politics and television or with a recommendation on a new book she might like.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Freedom Caucus looks to squeeze McCarthy Politico

Sen. David Perdue: Trump's North Korea policy is succeeding Fox News

Eli Lake: ‘With Trump, Bill Clinton Déjà vu’ - Bloomberg

DOJ wants more time to release Comey memos - Bloomberg

Koch network pushes immigration legislation - Politico

Never mind… Trump back to opposition to trade deal aimed at reining in China NYT

Sessions proposes crackdown on opioid drug makers - WaPo

AUDIBLE: **ZAP**

“With all due respect, I don’t get confused.” – U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley fired back Tuesday in response to White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow claimed she was “confused” when she announced there would be new sanctions on Russia. Kudlow learned his lesson quickly, telling the NYT, “She was certainly not confused. I was wrong to say that — totally wrong.” 

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Your Halftime Report today included a description of the federal court proceedings in New York City concerning Michael Cohen’s records. Surprisingly (at least to me), you made no mention of the disclosure during that hearing that one of Cohen’s three clients is Sean Hannity. Last week, he spent a substantial amount of time condemning the FBI raid on Cohen’s office without disclosing his connection to Cohen. I’m wondering if you consider that to have been an ethical lapse on his part and, if so, what do you think Fox News’ response should be?” – Geoff Yudien, Davis, Calif.

[Ed. note: We did include the news about our colleague in Monday’s note. It certainly would have been a lapse for us to fail to mention the matter. I’m not certain I would have thought it germane if it had been a broadcaster at another network, but because Sean is an employee of the Fox News Channel, I felt obliged. A good ethical test is always to begin with the question of whether you would benefit personally by a choice. In those instances that a real or even just perceived benefit would redound to you, you have to consider the matter with greater scrutiny. And on close calls, you are obliged to choose the course that does not do any good for you. I have been impressed and pleased by the way in which my colleagues in the news division have addressed this subject. They have been at pains to be transparent and forthcoming, which is pretty much all you can ask in matters like these. And I assure you that if Sean’s involvement turns out to be material in this matter or relevant to the larger political narrative, you will read about it here.] 

“Hi Chris: Loved your article but I feel compelled to stand up for my state regarding your last comment about Illinois being corrupt and ungovernable. My view is that we aren’t any more corrupt than any other state… we’re just better at catching the crooks since we’ve had more practice. Four of our last seven governors have gone to jail.  Oh, and for your Cardinals fan – ‘Go Cubs!’” – Dani Marquardt, Carol Stream, Ill.

[Ed. note: You know, of course, Ms. Marquardt, that this means war! I can see by the time stamp on your email that you were writing during a period of deep sorrow after the Cubs’ heartbreaking loss to the vastly superior Cardinals at Wrigley Field on Tuesday. As for corruption, I will match West Virginia’s record against any state’s, except Illinois. The rest of us are all just amateurs compared to the professionals that Chicago sends to Springfield. In conclusion, on behalf of my youngest man child: Boo Cubs.]

“Chris – I’ll Tell You What would happen if election day became a holiday in California.  A large number of the civic minded denizens in the Golden State would most likely take a vacation day on Monday and enjoy the 4-day weekend in the mountains, beaches or other desirable locales.  Our November weather is quite nice.  I predict that voter turn-out would be worse.  It’s just the way things are here in the very inwardly focused state.  As a native of California I can say that if I hadn’t been born here, there’s no way I’d live here.” – Jerry Waltner, Thousand Oaks, Calif.

[Ed. note: Would it be unkind of me to submit, Mr. Waltner, that I wouldn’t particularly like to have those people voting anyway? I know that I too often find myself making analogies to ecclesiastical things, but I think there is a parallel between voter participation and churchgoing many denominations and churches have ascribed their declining attendance to barriers to entry. Some change their doctrines to be more modern or politically correct. Some replace hymns with power ballads. Some put in climbing walls or cappuccino machines. But in the end, it is about the message. Just like churches, governments should put no unnecessary barriers between the people and the process. But, neither should they chase new converts in such a way that debases the core values. I tend to think that if people cannot be troubled to go and vote once a year or even every other year then we ought to leave them alone. As some notable Canadians once said, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”] 

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ROCKY GOT STONED
Indianapolis Star: “Firefighters at Wayne Township [Ind.] Station 82 opened the door early Friday morning to a one-of-a-kind request for help: A frantic woman, distressed because her pet raccoon was stoned off of too much weed. The raccoon, according to Wayne Township Fire Dept. PIO Capt. Michael Pruitt, had been exposed to ‘too much’ of someone else’s marijuana, and its owners were worried it was overdosing. Not knowing what to do, they brought it to Station 82. ‘The raccoon was very lethargic,’ Pruitt said. ‘She started explaining what had happened. There wasn’t really much we could do, it was just the sort of thing that was going to take time.’ … Ultimately, Pruitt said, the raccoon’s owners took the animal home to sleep off its high. ‘We hope that everything worked out with the raccoon,’ Pruitt said. ‘We’d be sad to hear that it didn’t.’”

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.