Don't look now, but the Senate GOP is having a helluva Primary season

On the roster: Don’t look now, but the Senate GOP is having a helluva Primary season - NYT pounds Hillary over foundation - Trump reaffirms border wall - Audible: Whatever could he mean? - Drop the drone, take the cannoli

Today is a big day in the story of the GOP’s bid to hold the Senate.

In order to keep control, Republicans need to limit their net losses in November to three seats – four if Donald Trump mounts a comeback win and the tiebreaking vote in a 50-50 Senate belongs to a Republican vice president.

Priority number one in these biennial battles for Senate control used to be having enough money to compete. But the lesson of the past six years, especially for Republicans has been that the candidates matter more. After failing to deliver strong challengers or protect incumbents from primary defeats and coming up short in 2010 and 2012, the Senate arm of the GOP got busy.

And with today’s Senate primaries in Arizona and Florida, the Republican establishment will be almost home for Senate candidate selection in 2016 – something that wouldn’t have seemed likely back in February when primary season began.

If the limited polling data is right and Sens. John McCain and Marco Rubio are re-nominated today, that will mean that after seven months of primaries, no incumbent has been unseated. Rubio was a double dip for the party – an incumbent protection effort that started out as a recruitment since Rubio had abandoned his seat for his ill-fated presidential run.

The last vulnerable Republican senator to still face a primary, Kelly Ayotte, is considered on strong ground in her Sept. 13 contest.

In the one state where Republicans have high hopes of turning a blue seat red, Nevada, the party fathers got their preferred candidate in Rep. Joe Heck, avoiding a repeat of the 2010 debacle that let the now-retiring Harry Reid skate that cycle.

The party also got its man for the competitive Indiana seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Dan Coats. Rep. Todd Young’s nomination didn’t seem like a sure bet in a state that four-years ago saw shoo-in Sen. Richard Lugar get bounced out by a primary challenger who went on to lose in November.

Republicans always knew 2016 would be tough on the Senate side, if only by virtue of the fact that they had won so many places in their 2010 wave. Republicans are defending 24 of the 34 seats on the line this year.

What they did not know is that their party’s nominee would be going into Labor Day weekend trailing by 7 points nationally and with even bigger deficits in some of the states with Senate races.

A new poll out this afternoon from Monmouth University sort of sums it up. The good news for the GOP: Incumbent Pat Toomey is doing 4 points better than Trump in the Keystone State. The bad news: Trump is down by 8 points to Hillary Clinton.

But as Sen. Rob Portman has shown in Ohio, 4 points isn’t the limit. Portman leads by 8 points in Monmouth’s most recent poll there even as Trump trailed by 4 points in the presidential. It’s a stout enough margin that national Democrats are cutting off struggling Ohio nominee Ted Strickland.

There’s no question that Republican chances to hold the line in Florida, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Indiana, Nevada and elsewhere will depend a great deal on either Trump keeping up his recent improvements in national polls and closing the gap with Clinton or the party finding a way to more explicitly separate its Senate candidates from their presidential nominee and capitalizing on mistrust for Clinton.

If you start hearing more praise for Trump from Mitch McConnell, it will be the former. If you start hear ads that sound like “don’t give her a blank check,” it will be the latter.

But either way, you have to at least give Senate Republicans credit for figuring how to stop making the errors within their control.

Much has been said about the marvelous career of Gene Wilder, who died Monday at age 83. And Wilder’s comic gifts found their fullest flower in collaboration with director Mel Brooks in “Blazing Saddles” and, most magnificently, “Young Frankenstein,” which includes what may be the single funniest scene in motion picture history. But did you know it almost didn’t make the final cut? Mental Floss has the story of a tragedy averted: “In addition, the ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ number was nearly axed as well. Brooks reportedly felt that having Dr. Frankenstein and his monster tap dance to an old Irving Berlin song seemed ‘too crazy.’ Hearing this, Wilder—who though it brilliant—snapped and came ‘close to rage and tears’ before Brooks unexpectedly changed his tune. ‘I wanted to see how hard you’d fight for it,’ said the director, ‘And I knew if you fought hard enough, it was right...You did, so it’s in.’”

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Average of national head-to-head presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump
: Clinton +7.6 points
Average of national four-way presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump vs. Johnson vs. Stein: Clinton +7 points
Generic congressional vote: Democrats +4.2

With new emails pointing to special favors for Clinton Foundation donors during Hillary Clinton’s tenure at State, NYT pens: “[T]hat the question arises yet again points to a need for major changes at the foundation now, before the November election…The Clinton Foundation has become a symbol of the Clintons’ laudable ambitions, but also of their tangled alliances and operational opacity. If Mrs. Clinton wins, it could prove a target for her political adversaries. Achieving true distance from the foundation is not only necessary to ensure its effectiveness, it is an ethical imperative for Mrs. Clinton.”

[The FBI is set to release notes from its investigation into Clinton’s mishandling of state secrets as soon as Wednesday, reports CNN.]

Hillary looks for Trump psych outs in debate prep - NYT: “Hillary Clinton’s advisers are talking to Donald J. Trump’s ghostwriter of “The Art of the Deal,” seeking insights about Mr. Trump’s deepest insecurities as they devise strategies to needle and undermine him in four weeks at the first presidential debate, the most anticipated in a generation. Her team is also getting advice from psychology experts to help create a personality profile of Mr. Trump to gauge how he may respond to attacks and deal with a woman as his sole adversary on the debate stage.”

WashEx: “A top aide in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign said Tuesday that his candidate has been ‘remarkably consistent’ with his immigration policies, including building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The remarks from Jason Miller, senior communications adviser for the Trump team, came moments after a tweet by the Republican nominee about his border wall proposal. From day one I said that I was going to build a great wall on the SOUTHERN BORDER, and much more,’ Trump tweeted early Tuesday morning. ‘Stop illegal immigration. Watch Wednesday!’…The Republican nominee is set to give an immigration speech Wednesday night in Phoenix. Miller said Trump would ‘give a little more broader vision of what we're going to do about the illegal immigration problem.’

Wasserman Schultz looking for redemption in primary - WashEx

When do polls start to be predictive? - RCP

Trump enlists veteran Florida strategist as battleground states coms guru - WaPo

Trump campaign chief takes advice from Pat Caddell - WaPo

Meg Whitman hits the trail for Hillary - Denver Post

Trump surrogate apologizes for Hillary in blackface cartoon tweet - The Hill

Trump surrogate Rick Perry hakes his two-step to “Dancing With the Stars” - Texas Tribune

Maine Gov. LePage considers resignation amid uproar over comments on race - Portland Press-Herald

“No one can make that commitment because you don’t know what the future’s going to hold in your life, personally or politically.” – Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., when asked by CNN if he would commit to serving a second full term through 2022 if he is re-elected.

“No surprise here.... Obamacare is imploding!  It was fairly obvious from the start that the ACA was just an interim step to the endgame......socialized medicine!!  It's like Obama and Jonathan Gruber (errrrrrr) and Hillary all agreed "OOOOKay....we'll do it your steps....but, make no mistake....we will socialize medicine eventually!" Looks like sooner rather than later will be sooner than we thought!” – Natalie Denton, Laguna Woods, Calif.

[Ed. note: The cardinal virtues of ObamaCare in the eyes of many supporters of the legislation was that it would do two things regardless of how well the specific provisions worked: the law would 1) establish a federal duty to provide health insurance to every citizen and 2) so shatter the status quo that it could eventually be replaced with something more akin to other systems in place elsewhere in the West. This was a heckuva a big risk to take, but one Democrats see as close to paying off. If America in 2020 has either a subsidized government-run insurance program open to all or a “single payer” system, history will remember Obama’s gambit of a controlled demolition as one of the canniest wagers in Washington history.]

“In your report today, you stated that recently, Trump has opened the door to illegals being granted citizenship!  That's a total lie and you know it.  Trump has absolutely, positively said that under no circumstances should law-breaking illegal immigrants ever be granted citizenship.  Even on Hannity during his talking on "softening" his stance, he talked about legal status....not citizenship. Correct the record!!” – Donna Hill, Tyler, TX

[Ed. note. Ms. Hill, I looked for any reference to a path to citizenship and Trump’s positions. I didn’t find anything on Monday, but on Aug. 22, we referred to his longstanding support for what critics call “touchback amnesty.” And you are right about that one: we used shorthand that suggested Trump favored an expedited pathway to citizenship rather than “going to the back of the line.” We should have been clearer: Trump’s proposed “amnesty” is only for the permanent legal status as U.S. residents of current illegal immigrants. Thanks for bringing it to our attention!]

“I thank you so much for your witty reference to Charles McCarry.  He is undoubtedly one of the best and most unrecognized authors of our generation.  You are a well read and erudite young man.  Please keep up the great work! Best of Health and Happiness to you and yours.” – Rupert Surcouf, Gretna, Louisiana

[Ed. note: Very kind of you to say, Mr. Surcouf – especially the part about me being young! For my money, McCarry’s “Shelley’s Heart” belongs in the pantheon of great American political fiction with Billy Lee Brammer’s “The Gay Place” and the kingfish of them all, Robert Penn Warren’s “All The King’s Men,” a particularly useful volume in 2016. Happy reading and all best to you and yours, as well!]

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ArsTechnica: “[Jennifer Youngman of The Plains, Va.] had just returned from church one Sunday morning and was cleaning her two shotguns … on her porch. She had a clear view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and neighbor Robert Duvall’s property (yes, the same Robert Duvall from The Godfather). Youngman had seen two men set up a card table on what she described as a ‘turnaround place’ on a country road adjacent to her house.  … ‘…I was cleaning away … and I heard the ‘bzzzzz,’’ she said, noting that she specifically used 7.5 birdshot. ‘I loaded my [20-gauge] shotgun and took the safety off, and this thing came flying over my trees. …I blasted it to smithereens.’  …  ‘They got in their fancy ostentatious car—I don’t know if it was a Range Rover or a Hummer—and left,’ she said. … ‘[Duvall] is a national treasure and they should leave him the [expletive] alone,’ she said.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.