With Sen. Lamar Alexander‘s (R-TN) Thursday primary win, every GOP Senate incumbent has successfully navigated an increasingly treacherous primary landscape. So what, if anything, should we take away from a cycle that saw five of them dip, unusually, under 60% in those nominating contests?
— First of all, the data: Those five sub-60% GOP showings equal the number from both parties in 2010, a tumultuous anti-incumbent year. There’s simply been a sharp uptick in competitive Republican primaries in the last three elections. The House, which gives us more data, shows this well. The number of GOP incumbents running essentially unopposed has fallen from around 80% to a little over 50%, while the number getting under 60% or 70% has climbed. In 2014, 1-in-5 House Republican incumbents got less than 70% in their primaries, and more than 1-in-10 got less than 60%.
— Of course, elections exist to crown a winner, and you can’t argue with Senate Republicans’ perfect record this year. In the House, there’s ample evidence that weaker-than-usual primary results can bring stronger challengers out of the woodwork, which seems to have happened to Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) this year, for example. The six-year Senate cycle makes that more difficult.
— There’s no question that the environment is riper for challengers now, though, starting with fundraising. An entire anti-incumbent fundraising apparatus now exists to push challengers closer even to popular incumbents like Alexander (though the return on investment may not be as high). That money may simply ensure some level of competition no matter what. But it’s a reality the establishment has to handle, not an excuse, and it’s tempting to wonder whether there are more viable 2016 and 2018 challengers out there who have watched some current GOP challengers with fatal flaws get around 40%, and think, “I could do better.”
In turn, that raises another question: What’s the overlap between the type of challengers who have in the past succumbed to inside pressure not to challenge Alexander et al, and the type of challengers the GOP anti-incumbent financial industry will support? We may find out in 2016 and beyond. For now, though, Senate Republicans have managed to achieve their first electoral objective of the year.— Scott Bland
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."