By Chris Stirewalt, ,
Published May 25, 2018
On the roster: Fox News Power Rankings: Dem divides emerge - I’ll Tell You What: Limping towards November - Report: Cohen took cash to set up White House talks - Ryan losing ground in bid to block immigration vote - You had one job…
FOX NEWS POWER RANKINGS: DEM DIVIDES EMERGE
After a long and bitter fight, national Democrats got their way in Texas’s 7th District where moderate Lizzie Pannill Fletcher held off a challenge from liberal activist Laura Moser.
It was a blow out win for Fletcher over a candidate who had been in an open war with her state and national party through much of the campaign.
Incumbent Republican John Culberson has plenty to worry about in this suburban Houston district. This race remains a “Toss Up” for sure.
But Tuesday’s primaries did not run so smoothly for Democrats elsewhere. Accordingly we have some updates to our Fox News Power Rankings. Remember, this is our five-category rubric for sorting midterm races. Contests for Senate, House and governor fall into “Likely Republican,” “Lean Republican,” “Toss Up,” “Lean Democrat” and “Likely Democrat.”
Georgia Democrats downgrade their chances
In the battle of the Staceys, it wasn’t even close.
In their gubernatorial primary, Georgia Democrats overwhelmingly nominated Stacey Abrams, the proud progressive, African American former state House minority leader from Atlanta over her rival, Stacey Evans.
Republicans, on the other hand, were less decisive. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle won 39 percent of the vote, but fell short of the majority he needed to avoid a July 24th runoff with second-place finisher, Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
The remaining third of the vote went mostly to former state Sen. Hunter Hill and businessman Clay Tippins. Finishing a disappointing fifth place was the driver of the “deportation bus,” Michael Williams. Given the geographic and ideological distribution of voters backing Hill and Tippins, Cagle should have relatively little trouble sealing the deal in July.
But whether it’s Cagle or Kemp, it looks like Democrats have taken themselves out of the running with a pick who can’t compete statewide in Georgia. As we discussed in length on Tuesday, Georgia’s electorate may reflect shifting demography that in time will make Democrats more competitive, for now, the shrinking white majority looks increasingly aligned with the GOP.
For that reason we are shifting Georgia’s gubernatorial race from a “Lean Republican” to “Likely Republican.”
You can’t win a Kentucky Derby without a thoroughbred
Fayette County Kentucky is a little blue dot in an ocean of deep red. Its county seat, Lexington, is a college town, which helps Fayette hold out against its increasingly Republican neighbors.
But even so, it’s not exactly Berkeley. Hillary Clinton just cleared a majority in Fayette County just two years ago and Barack Obama won by a single point four years before that.
That’s why national Democrats were excited about the candidacy of Lexington Mayor Jim Gray. The state’s 6th Congressional District takes in not just Lexington and its suburbs, but also the state capital of Frankfort as well as much of the Bluegrass Region, including Bourbon, Clark and Madison counties. Gray, a moderate with a track record of working cooperatively with Republicans, looks like a good bet to knock out Rep. Andy Barr.
Barr flipped the district from blue to red in 2012, defeating longtime Democratic incumbent Ben Chandler. Barr is a pretty typical Chamber of Commerce-style conservative Republican, and seemed to be a pretty good fit for the district. In 2014 and 2016 Democrats put up palookas against him, letting him coast to easy victories.
Democrats saw opportunity in the district, which offers both core Democratic strength with lots of government workers, academics and young voters but also Republican weak spots for this cycle, particularly well-educated female suburbanites.
But that would require a candidate like Gray who could thread the needle. But Democrats on Tuesday went another direction, tapping Amy McGrath, and it wasn’t even close. McGrath is a former Marine pilot whose campaign pitch is that she has returned home to Kentucky to bring the fight against Republicans in Congress.
Her opening salvo was a defense of ObamaCare and her stated reason for getting in the race is to fight Trump and his agenda. It was a message that obviously resonated with the district’s Democratic base. There, like in many places across the country, liberal activists believe that now is the time for bold strokes and that, if anything, their party is going too soft against the president.
That all may be so, but we think that Kentucky Democrats have fallen into the same trap in the 6th District that they have previously in nominating candidates who make an emotional connection with their base but will scare off the moderate suburbanites they would need in a winning coalition.
That’s why we are downgrading Democrat chances in the district from a “Lean Republican” to “Likely Republican.”
For the same reasons listed above, we are also shifting the race for Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District from a “Toss Up” to “Lean Republican.” That’s the race where liberal insurgent Cara Eastman upset former Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford last week. That was a blow to Democratic hopes since incumbent Republican Don Bacon had only narrowly defeated Ashford in 2016, a better year for Republicans.
THE RULEBOOK: HAPPY DAYS
“Happily for America, happily, we trust, for the whole human race, [the leaders of the Revolution] pursued a new and more noble course.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 14
TIME OUT: ICONIC LOVE
AP: “Pop artist Robert Indiana, best known for his 1960s ‘LOVE’ series, died at his secluded island home off the Maine coast having never found the type of lasting love that was celebrated by thousands through his iconic work. The artist’s endearing image of LOVE is instantly recognizable around the world. Couples have their photo taken at the LOVE sculpture in Philadelphia… ‘In some ways he was perhaps seen as the proverbial one-hit wonder because ‘LOVE’ was so immensely iconic and immensely huge in pop culture,’ said Dan Mills, the director at Bates College Museum of Art. … [Barbara Haskell] compared the image to ‘American Gothic,’ the painting by Grant Wood of a man with a pitchfork and a woman in front of a farmhouse. … [Indiana] told The Associated Press in 2009 that he moved to his house [in Maine] … when he needed a place to go after his lease ran out [in] New York City. His desire for solitude was legendary.”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 41.2 percent
Average disapproval: 54 percent
Net Score: -12.8 points
Change from one week ago: down 0.6 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 42% approve - 54% disapprove; CBS News: 40% approve - 55% disapprove; CNN: 44% approve - 51% disapprove; IBD: 38% approve - 56% disapprove; Pew Research Center: 42% approve - 54% disapprove.]
Control of House
Republican average: 41.8 percent
Democratic average: 48.4 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 6.6 points
Change from one week ago: no change
[Average includes: CNN: 47% Dems - 44% GOP; CBS News: 50% Dems - 41% GOP; Pew Research Center: 48% Dems - 43% GOP; Monmouth University: 49% Dems - 41% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 48% Dems - 40% GOP.]
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: LIMPING TOWARDS NOVEMBER
This week held another night of primaries getting the country one step closer to 2018 midterms. Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt take a look at the matchups and what’s to come. Plus, Dana’s sister is in town which means tales of cats, water bugs and tiny steaks to follow. And Chris takes on some Vice Presidential trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
REPORT: COHEN TOOK CASH TO SET UP WHITE HOUSE TALKS
BBC: “Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, received a secret payment of at least $400,000 (£300,000) to fix talks between the Ukrainian president and President Trump, according to sources in Kiev close to those involved. The payment was arranged by intermediaries acting for Ukraine’s leader, Petro Poroshenko, the sources said, though Mr. Cohen was not registered as a representative of Ukraine as required by US law. Mr. Cohen denies the allegation. The meeting at the White House was last June. Shortly after the Ukrainian president returned home, his country’s anti-corruption agency stopped its investigation into Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. A high-ranking Ukrainian intelligence officer in Mr. Poroshenko’s administration described what happened before the visit to the White House. Mr. Cohen was brought in, he said, because Ukraine’s registered lobbyists and embassy in Washington DC could get Mr. Poroshenko little more than a brief photo-op with Mr. Trump. Mr. Poroshenko needed something that could be portrayed as ‘talks.’”
Cohen’s business partner to cooperate with government for plea deal - NBC News: “A business partner of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has agreed to cooperate with the government as part of a plea deal, according to a person with direct knowledge of the proceedings. Evgeny Freidman, 47, who is known as the Taxi King, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a low-level felony in Albany County Court, in upstate New York, for stealing nearly $5 million in state taxes and has agreed to cooperate in state or federal investigations. The deal, in which he will pay the state $5 million but avoid jail time, was first reported in The New York Times. For years, Freidman, a Russian immigrant, has managed Cohen’s taxi medallions, which give owners the right to operate New York City yellow cabs.”
Trump son in law gets permanent security clearance after long delay - NYT: “Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, has been granted his permanent security clearance, a person briefed on the matter said on Wednesday, ending a period of uncertainty that had fueled questions about whether Mr. Kushner was in peril in the special counsel investigation. Mr. Kushner’s F.B.I. background checks had dragged on for a year. White House officials were adamant that the lengthy process was not unusual for a government official who has a complicated financial history and many foreign contacts. But the delay became a distraction and, with the special counsel investigating some of Mr. Kushner’s meetings with Russian officials, it left open the question of whether investigators had uncovered evidence that made him a security threat. That was not the case, the person said, adding that Mr. Kushner’s clearances were approved by career officials after the completion of the F.B.I. background check and that the president was not involved in the process.”
Giuliani opposed to Trump meeting with Mueller - WSJ: “Lawyers for President Donald Trump are increasingly skeptical of letting him give an interview with prosecutors running the Russia investigation, but are thinking through how to prepare him for the possible high-stakes session nonetheless. Rudy Giuliani, one of the president’s outside lawyers, said in an interview Tuesday that he is currently opposed to letting Mr. Trump field questions from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Noting the perils of talking to prosecutors, Mr. Giuliani said that were the president to testify he could ‘talk himself into becoming a target.’”
DEMS RELY ON ROSEN TO BEAT HELLER IN NEVADA
Politico: “Democrats’ slim hopes of taking back the Senate this fall rest with a former synagogue president serving her first term in Congress taking on a battle-tested Nevada Republican who’s won four statewide elections. ‘No pressure there,’ said Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) with a chuckle. Democrats are banking on Rosen to deliver in one of their few shots at picking up a Republican-held seat this fall. The Senate map is stacked in favor of the GOP, and if she can’t beat Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Democrats are almost certainly staring at two more years in the minority. … Rosen popped up on Democrats’ radar after being elected president of her local synagogue — the largest Jewish temple in the state — in 2013. Three years later, she prevailed in a district that President Donald Trump carried by a point. And now Rosen is itching to take on Heller, who has adopted a guarded political strategy of late after stumbling through a brutal legislative fight last fall over the GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
Feinstein shifts in views for re-election bid - LAT: “Dianne Feinstein built one of California’s most successful political brands by standing up to her party’s liberal wing. … That centrist formula propelled Feinstein to the U.S. Senate two years later, and after one tough race, she’s coasted to reelection pretty much ever since. More than a generation later, California has moved left, becoming one of the nation’s bluest states. At 84 and seeking a fifth full term in November, Feinstein has moved left as well, though not far enough for some Democrats. She still gets boos from her party’s progressive wing. But on a series of issues, Feinstein is changing long-held positions, at times overriding her time-tested instinct for centrism. Most surprising, Feinstein recently announced quietly that she no longer supports capital punishment — a dramatic reversal of the position she embraced during that iconic appearance at the 1990 convention.”
Trump backing no help to California gubernatorial candidate - Politico: “When President Donald Trump threw his endorsement Friday to John Cox, a little-known businessman running for California governor, he also gave House Republicans a potentially significant lift in their effort to maintain control of Congress. … The president’s intervention is considered especially significant as Cox failed to secure the California Republican Party’s endorsement, splitting activists’ support at the state party’s convention this month with another Republican, state Assemblyman Travis Allen. In recent polls, Cox is running far behind California’s Democratic lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, but he is locked in a tight race with former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for second place — and a spot on the November ballot.”
Battle heats up over new Maine voting system - AP: “Lawyers for the Maine Republican Party are ready to tell a federal judge why ranked-choice voting shouldn’t be used in the GOP primary on June 12. The GOP is suing Democratic Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to prevent the use of the new voting system to decide Republican winners. The GOP wants the winner to simply have the most votes, and the lawsuit seeks to halt vote tabulation after the first round. Under the new system, voters rank candidates from first to last, and there can be multiple rounds of tallies until there’s a majority winner. Election officials are proceeding with implementing the new voting system, and it’ll be used in the Democratic primaries regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit.”
Pelosi heads to Chi-town June 1 - Chicago Sun Times: “House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., hits Chicago on Friday afternoon June 1 to bolster Chicago area House Democratic candidates. Pelosi and Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., are the names behind a noon fundraiser at the East Bank Club to benefit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats political operation. The DCCC top Illinois Democratic nominees who are challenging Republicans are on the invitation: that’s Sean Casten, aiming at Rep. Peter Roskam; Lauren Underwood, looking to defeat Rep. Randy Hultgren; and Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, trying to tackle Rep. Rodney Davis in the 8th, 14th, and 13th Congressional Districts. The tab ranges from $33,900 to $2,500, according to an invitation obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.”
Trump campaign hires Chris Carr to help 2018 races - Politico: “President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign has tapped veteran GOP strategist Chris Carr to serve as political director, a move aimed at helping to bring order to the Republican Party ahead of the 2018 midterms. The hire, news of which was provided first to POLITICO and is set to be made public Wednesday, comes less than six months before the election, at a time of widespread angst in the party. … He has been charged with helping to coordinate Republican activities and will work as an intermediary between Trump’s political operation and GOP campaign committees and candidates, according to people briefed on the move. He will also work with White House political director Bill Stepien.”
RYAN LOSING GROUND IN BID TO BLOCK IMMIGRATION VOTE
Politico: “Speaker Paul Ryan’s last-ditch effort to stop Republican moderates from forcing votes on immigration proposals is running smack into a familiar roadblock: conservative opposition to a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. The Wisconsin Republican and his top lieutenants have been playing shuttle diplomacy between conservatives who oppose any vote on a bipartisan solution for Dreamers, and moderates who are demanding one. Leaders of the factions will convene Wednesday afternoon to continue talks in hopes of coming to an agreement that would stop a discharge petition filed by moderate Republicans and Democrats. Conservatives have resisted allowing moderates to vote on a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who came here as kids — just as they had in past negotiations with House Republicans. They’ve adopted that stand even though President Donald Trump himself backed a plan to give more than 1.8 million Dreamers a path to citizenship.”
Bipartisanship on VA bill timely for vulnerable candidates - Roll Call: “Some of the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbents will be scoring big legislative victories just in time for the Memorial Day parades. The most timely outbreak of bipartisanship will come with passage, expected Wednesday afternoon, of a bill designed to improve health care access and options for veterans, known as the VA MISSION Act. Sen. Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican facing perhaps the most difficult electoral challenge in 2018, said he expected to hear plenty about veterans health care over the weekend. … Sen. Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat who serves as ranking member on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, worked alongside Chairman Johnny Isakson of Georgia to help craft the legislation with their House counterparts.”
Congress passes ‘Right to Try’ bill - NYT: “Congress gave final approval on Tuesday to a bill that would allow patients with serious illnesses to try unproven experimental treatments, sending the measure to President Trump, a strong supporter of the legislation. By a vote of 250 to 169, the House passed the same ‘right to try’ bill that was approved in August by unanimous consent in the Senate. The bill would, in effect, allow dying patients to bypass the Food and Drug Administration and obtain an ‘investigational drug’ with the approval of their doctors, if the drug manufacturer agrees to supply it. On at least three occasions in the past four months, Mr. Trump has urged Congress to pass the bill. ‘Patients with terminal conditions, and terminal illness, should have access to experimental treatment immediately’ and ‘should not have to go from country to country to seek a cure,’ he said in January in his State of the Union address.”
House passes bill easing bank regulations - The Hill: “The House on Tuesday passed a bill to loosen federal regulations on the banking sector, securing an election-year legislative accomplishment that is likely to be touted by members of both parties. The 258-159 House vote sends the bill to President Trump, who has pledged to sign it. The bill was opposed by only one Republican, while 158 Democrats voted against it. ‘We’ve been losing a community bank or credit union every other day in America, and with it the hopes and dreams of millions,’ said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. ‘But today, that changes. Help is on the way.’ The legislation represents the first significant overhaul of the banking rules passed by a Democratic Congress in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.”
Bipartisan prison reform bill passes in the House - Politico: “A bipartisan prison reform bill backed by President Donald Trump sailed through the House on Tuesday — but it could be left to languish in the Senate amid internal Republican squabbles over the scope of the legislation. The bill, which would provide training programs for prisoners with the goal of reducing recidivism rates, easily passed the House in a 360-59 vote. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has signaled he’s unlikely to bring up the bill in the Senate unless Republicans can resolve their differences. Now, supporters of the House measure are hoping Trump will use his bully pulpit to nudge Senate opponents to the negotiating table. Trump held a White House summit Friday on the bill, instructing lawmakers to resolve their differences and send him something he can sign into law.”
Senate reaches agreement on the handling of sexual harassment - Axios: “Senators Roy Blunt and Amy Klobuchar, the heads of the Senate Rules Committee, have come to a conclusion about reform on reporting sexual harassment on Capitol Hill, NBC reports, that could eliminate the ‘cooling off period’ before a victim’s sexual complaint can move forward and require lawmakers ‘to personally pay out of pocket for any settlement reached.’ Why it matters: Since the beginning of the #MeToo movement, Congress has been a focal point in calling for change in how sexual harassment is reported. There hasn’t been a time set for a vote, but Sen. Blunt said it ‘would be great if we could get this done before the Memorial Day break.’”
Trump demands changes to White House comms team with Kelly’s approval - Politico
Farenthold faces new controversy after being illegally hired to new lobbying job - USA Today
Greitens’ campaign spending big on TV ads to fight impeachment - Kansas City Star
AUDIBLE: IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?
“The only thing I’d ask if you show up, show up with an open mind and closed lips.” – Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., speaking about Thursday’s briefing on an FBI informant involved in the investigation of Russian contacts with the president’s campaign, today on “The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino.”
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Chris, I hope you will rethink your dismissal of the concern from a reader who objects to reporting each school shooting as ‘the worst since…’ All these school shooters are young, white men. They do not live in notably violent neighborhoods. They DO seem to come largely from the cultural group that is into video gaming, some obsessively. In that world, keeping score competitively is a very big deal. Obviously no balanced kid is inspired to shoot up his school to ‘win’ a competition in his head, but these are not balanced kids—not an Eagle Scout among them. Isn’t it possible that reportage that feeds the twisted competitive impulse is at least a small contributing factor?” – Joanna Wragg, Bonita Springs, Fla.
[Ed. note: Not dismissing! I certainly share that concern, as I discussed with the issue of identifying these killers by name and showing their pictures. I would caution you, though. What you say rings true, but we also ought to be careful about stigmatizing kids who seem “unbalanced.” Your adolescence may have been different than mine, but I quite often felt out of balance, out of place and out of sorts. Growing up is tough, and it’s particularly tough in a culture that is as corrosive as ours is currently. Just as it is unhelpful to turn the means of murder into the singular cause of the crimes, it is damaging to engage in suspect profiling to such a point that we dehumanize a rather large category of young men. Guns will not be banned, but neither will socially awkward, depressed teenage boys.]
“Hi Chris, Not to seem overly combative, but as you ran down Mueller’s list of achievements, I can’t help but notice that you failed to mention his and James Comey’s embarrassingly mishandled anthrax investigation in the aftermath of 9/11. It’s a wonder the man was chosen at all given that the only time he was ever given a case of this magnitude, he spent 3 years trying to pin it on the wrong man. Boy that sounds familiar. In any case, I am surprised at the patience the public has with this investigation, but I am not sure that the masses understand once Mueller sends his report to the House, there is going to be a debriefing period, a debating period…the overarching influence of this will likely run into the 2020 elections which, regardless of the findings, signals a sad state for our democracy.” – Sean White, Trinity, Fla.
[Ed. note: When I was talking about Robert Mueller’s career, in was in the context of an allegation from a reader that the former FBI director had taken the position of special counsel for personal enrichment. I was trying to explain, perhaps unsuccessfully, that there’s nothing in Mueller’s track record to suggest that he would abuse the public trust for personal gain. I can’t find evidence of corruption. You point to the failures of the FBI under Mueller’s leadership to come to a swift resolution of the post-9/11 anthrax spot. I’ll grant you certainly that the agency muffed that one, but again, I’m not seeing corruption there. The FBI has done a lot of unsavory things over the agency’s decades in existence. While the worst abuses occurred under J. Edgar Hoover, the federal police have done wrong enough for us to always demand reasonable oversight and accountability. What I can’t find with Mueller though – and I’m sure it’s not for lack of trying on the part of the Trump administration – is evidence that he is corrupt. I’m willing to be convinced, but so far no one has made a good argument that he is a bad guy. As for what Mueller will do, it may help your general understanding to know that he will never make a presentation to Congress. The law governing these kinds of investigations have changed since the prosecutorial shoe was on the other partisan foot 20 years ago. Mueller will present his findings to the deputy attorney general in secret. Rod Rosenstein will then decide whether to tell Congress that the matter has concluded, explaining why no further action will be taken or, he can make a presentation to Congress himself. Mueller is working for an audience of one. That’s why Trump and his defenders are more focused on Rosenstein than Mueller. If they can impeach Rosenstein’s character to a sufficient degree, they can discredit his recommendations, at least among Trump’s most credulous followers.]
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YOU HAD ONE JOB…
The Wichita Eagle: “The four letters making up the stands of the new, student-built bike rack at the University of Kansas can be read two ways — but only one was intentional. The other way that some are reading the bike rack is, well, a little-bit CRAP-py. When facing ‘the right way,’ the metal bike stand reads PARC — an acronym for Prairie Acre Ribbon Classroom. The architecture students who designed it even posted a photo of the bike stand before ‘creative minds’ got to work. ‘PARC Bike rack handy for stopping by for a break from your ride,’ the photo caption says. And yes, it really does read ‘PARC.’ The same can’t be said for those who read the acronym from the other direction. C-R-A-P. … The photo posted on May 13 quickly caught Lawrence residents’ attention. One person replied that it was legendary. Another just said ‘Oops.’ … Regardless, Michael Branden said ‘It’ll make a fine bike rack. Crap a diem!’”
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.