As Marco Rubio looks to recover from a disappointing performance in New Hampshire, the race to replace him in the Senate continues to unravel into one of the most unwieldy on the competitive map. While it’s clear Rubio will be happy to leave the Senate behind, his exit put a seat in a presidential battleground in jeopardy and could help Democrats net enough for a majority in the next Congress.
— The seat is as close to a must-win as Democrats have in the party’s quest to regain the majority after losing it in 2014. Needing at least four seats to win control, or five if Republicans win the White House, we ranked Florida fourth in our latest rankings of the 10 seats most likely to flip party control. There have been developments on both sides this week in one of the only races with primaries in both parties.
— The New York Times reported Thursday it uncovered emails and marketing documents showing Rep. Alan Grayson (D) had highlighted his status as a member of Congress to entice potential investors in his hedge fund, something the congressman disputed in an interview with the Times. But an email last year from his now former campaign manager showed his top advisers pleaded with him to close his hedge fund, worried it would make the “progressive crusader,” as he’s called in his first TV ad, look like a hypocrite. While that story should help the DSCC’s endorsed candidate, Rep. Patrick Murphy, the Republican field continues to grow.
— Carlos Beruff, a wealthy homebuilder closely connected to Gov. Rick Scott, is likely to enter the race against Scott’s lieutenant governor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera. The primary also includes two members of Congress, Freedom Caucus founding member Ron DeSantis and David Jolly, and defense contractor Todd Wilcox. The latest entrant is already making waves, as Republicans attempt to tie him to former GOP Gov. Charlie Crist, who is now running for Congress as a Democrat, and Democrats try to cut into his outsider profile.
Rubio could still have an outsized role in this race and the fight for Senate control. Thanks to fewer ticket-splitting voters, a Republican winning the White House in November would likely preserve the Senate majority for the GOP.
— Kyle Trygstad
Former President George W. Bush will make his first appearance on the campaign trail on for his brother former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) at a rally on Monday in North Charleston, South Carolina. The former president was widely expected to join his brother ahead of the Feb. 20 primary in the state “which has a sizable number of U.S. military facilities and military veterans who have supported the former commander-in-chief.” (Reuters)
LONE STAR PUSH. “Bush is so far the only candidate in Texas — Republican or Democrat — with a notable television advertising presence.
From today through Feb. 29, his Right to Rise USA super PAC has already booked more than $2.2 million worth of TV ads on major network affiliate stations in Texas’ top three markets: Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. It also ask reserved airtime in Austin. (Center for Public Integrity)
HELPING HAND. As the South Carolina primary date approaches, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) “will be using his reputation as a military hawk to convince South Carolinians that only one candidate has what it takes to win the White House.”
Graham: “I wish I were still in it, but I’m really impressed with Jeb on so many different issues. He’s clearly done his homework.” (The State)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) “repeatedly challenged the trillion-dollar policy plans of” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) “at their … debate on Thursday night and portrayed him as a big talker who needed to ‘level’ with voters about the difficulty of accomplishing his agenda. Foreign affairs also took on unusual prominence” and Clinton bashed Sanders’s “past criticism of President Obama.” (New York Times)
Clinton “remained calm” in the debate and “behaved like someone … with every reason to be confident and little to fear but her own missteps.” (New York Times)
AFRICAN-AMERICAN, WOMEN’S VOTE. Al Sharpton “is meeting with Hillary Clinton next Tuesday in New York City, along with National Urban League president Marc Morial and NAACP president Cornell Brooks.” (Politico) Sharpton met with Sanders earlier this week.
Clinton “hired Zerlina Maxwell, a well-known political analyst and writer, to join its digital outreach team. … Maxwell will be focused on a range of policy and cultural issues, including feminism and gender inequality.” (BuzzFeed)
Clinton released a new TV ad Friday “featuring a testimonial from Reverend Anthony Thompson of Charleston, South Carolina, who lost his wife in the Charleston massacre.” In the spot, Thompson praises Clinton’s gun control proposals. (release)
FAMILY FUN-DRAISING. Clinton “is planning an intense family fundraising spree to Democratic strongholds in February that could net millions of dollars. … Hillary, Bill and Chelsea Clinton have 32 fundraisers scheduled this month … a considerable investment of time. … Hillary Clinton will raise money in Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia, Illinois, Nevada, California and South Carolina in February. … Bill and Chelsea Clinton will headline events in Michigan, Ohio, Rhode Island, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Nebraska, New York, Colorado, Florida and London, England.” (CNN)
A wealthy friend of former President Bill Clinton (D), Ron Burkle, hasn’t yet given any money to Clinton this cycle. “He even made a small — by billionaire standards — donation to Republican hopeful Marco Rubio, and reportedly held a fundraiser for the GOP’s John Kasich.” (NBC News)
EARLY PAC BOOST. The pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA Action “is making its first significant foray into the 2016 primary, launching a radio campaign in South Carolina and spearheading a $4.5 million effort to drive early turnout of African American, Latino and female voters in states that hold primary contests in March.” Priorities USA “originally planned to hold its fire for the general election.” (Washington Post)
Clinton campaign bought $2.4 million in TV airtime across 18 states. (Morning Consult)
BUZZ FACTORY. “A federal judge has ordered the State Department to make four additional releases of Hillary Clinton’s emails between Saturday and the end of February.” (Politico)
“Investigators with the State Department issued a subpoena to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation last fall seeking documents about the charity’s projects that may have required approval from the federal government during … Clinton’s term as secretary of state. … The subpoena also asked for records related to Huma Abedin.” (Washington Post)
NEVADA ENDORSEMENT. U.S. Senate candidate and former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) endorsed Clinton on Thursday. (Las Vegas Sun)
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), meanwhile, said a contested Democratic convention “would be kind of fun.” (CNN)
FOREIGN POLICY NETWORK. Clinton’s network of foreign policy “advisors is so large, officials in the Clinton campaign cannot offer a definitive estimate of its size. ‘Several hundred’ is the stock answer. … Despite its unwieldiness, this network of policy experts has become one of Clinton’s most important weapons against” Sanders. “Not only does her phalanx of surrogates routinely bash the Vermont senator for his views on foreign policy, their vast breadth has created the impression that Clinton has locked up the Democratic Party’s entire stable of foreign-policy hands.” (Foreign Policy)
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) will host a press call Friday on what the Clinton camp is calling “the Commander-in-Chief gap” between her and Sanders. (release)
Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) campaign released a wave of attack ads hitting real estate mogul Donald Trump (R), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D).
The first anti-Trump ad “rips Trump for attempting to seize the property of an Atlantic City, N.J., woman who lived next to one of his casinos so he could create a parking lot and for his stated support for eminent domain in certain cases. Trump responded to the ad during a campaign rally in Baton Rouge on Thursday night, calling the spot ‘so false.’” (Washington Post)
The anti-Trump spot has “small children mess around with a plastic version of the candidate (‘he pretends to be a Republican!’) and smash a ‘lousy’ doll house, yelling ‘eminent domain,’ as their horrified parents watch.” The ad is airing on South Carolina TV.
The anti-Rubio spot features a “Conservative Anonymous” group, “admitting that they were fooled by a political ‘pretty boy.’” It was also slated to air on TV. (Washington Post)
The ad was pulled by the campaign because it featured an actress who previously appeared in softcore porn. (BuzzFeed)
Cruz’s campaign also released an ad mocking Clinton for her email troubles, parodying a scene from the cult-hit movie “Office Space.” (MSNBC)
WITH OBAMA. Cruz “told an auditorium of conservative and evangelical voters that Marco Rubio and Donald Trump have adopted the position of President Barack Obama on gay marriage.”
“Even though both oppose gay marriage, each said they would abide by the ‘law of the land’ last year.”
Cruz: “Those are the talking points of Barack Obama.” (Politico)
NOT MY POLLS. “Cruz denied all knowledge of robocalls being made in South Carolina on Thursday after Donald Trump accused the Texas senator’s ‘people’ of ‘doing very sleazy and dishonest ‘pushpolls’ on me.’”
Cruz: “I have no idea. We had nothing to do with them. I don’t know what they were. We had nothing to do with them. So I had read reports of what is being said but somebody else is doing them, not us.” (Politico)
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) “is betting his campaign on the Midwest and relocated Midwesterners. The problem with this plan: The next places to vote in the Republican presidential primary are South Carolina, Nevada, and a host of mostly Southern states on March 1. … Of the March 1 states in the South, he has staff only in Tennessee and Alabama, campaign strategist John Weaver said.” But Kasich is betting on strong performances in Michigan, Ohio, and Mississippi to keep him afloat. (Wall Street Journal)
DONOR GET. “Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, who had backed” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), and was courted by the campaign of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), “threw his support to … Kasich.” (Wall Street Journal)
NEW STRATEGIST, NEW ADS. “A post-primary donation infusion allowed [Kasich’s] campaign to buy statewide TV advertising in South Carolina beginning Friday.” (Wall Street Journal)
Kasich “tapped prominent Republican media consultant Rex Elsass to help oversee his TV ad campaign. … Elsass has long been close to the Ohio governor, most recently helping him in his 2014 reelection campaign. He had been working for” Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) “presidential bid, but signed on with Kasich after the Kentucky senator dropped out last week.” (Politico)
Kasich’s two new TV ads are below. One, “Healing,” focuses on Kasich’s loss of his parents in a car accident, and how “I was transformed. I discovered my purpose. I discovered the Lord. I believe the Lord put us on this earth to use the gifts that we’ve been given to bring about a healing.” The second spot, “100 Days,” says in his first 100 days in office, Kasich would “cut taxes to create jobs, freeze regulations, enforce a balanced budget plan and secure the border.” (release)
The Tax Policy Center released a stark analysis of Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) tax plan on Thursday. “Rubio’s plan would increase the budget deficit by almost a trillion dollars a year. Rubio’s tax cuts would overwhelmingly accrue to the rich. The highest-earning one percent would take home 40 percent of the benefit. The lowest-earning two-fifths of the country would see its income rise just over one percent from the Rubio tax cuts, while the richest one percent would see its income rise by almost 9 percent.” (New York Magazine)
“Rubio would replace today’s income tax with a so-called progressive consumption tax. … [H]e would still tax wage income at various rates but eliminate all taxes on individuals’ savings and investment income. For businesses, he would let them immediately write off all investments but eliminate their interest deductions.” (CNN)
GOING NEGATIVE. After promising to run a more aggressive and less stilted campaign, Rubio attacked Trump for his use of obscenity. He described awkward questions from his sons, age 8 and 10, who watched a news clip where a word from a interview with real estate mogul Donald Trump (R) had been bleeped out.
Rubio: “The commentator said it was another word for cat,” Mr. Rubio said in an interview on Thursday aboard his campaign plane, which touched down here for a rally. “My boys wanted to know, … ‘What was the word?’ I said, ‘I can’t tell you.’” (New York Times)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) offered some sharp criticism of President Obama at Thursday’s presidential debate, saying if elected he would “absolutely” have a better record on race relations than his predecessor.
Sanders: “What we will do is say, instead of giving tax breaks to billionaires, we are going to create millions of jobs for low-income kids so they’re not hanging out on street corners.” (New York Times)
In an interview with MSNBC that aired Thursday evening, Sanders went even further, promising to use his presidency to do what Obama couldn’t and close the gap between Congress and the American people. (NBC News)
CALLING HIS BLUFF. As Sanders competes with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) for black voters, civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) questioned the intensity of Sanders involvement in the 1960s movement.
Lewis: “I never saw him, I never met him. I was chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years — 1963 to 1966. I was involved in the sit-ins, the freedom rides. … I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton.”
Lewis, along with the political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus, endorsed Clinton on Thursday and will campaign for her next week in South Carolina. (Huffington Post)
Meanwhile, “Sanders’ campaign released a powerful ad featuring the daughter of Eric Garner, who died on Staten Island after a New York City police officer put him in a chokehold in 2014.” Garner’s mother, however, has endorsed Clinton. (CNN)
MISSING IN ACTION. Sanders only cast one vote on the Senate floor in 2016, making him the most absent senator running for president. Overall though, he still has a better record than Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) who has caught flak for missing votes. “In the last 12 months (Sanders) missed 47 of 304 votes, according to data compiled by GovTrack, a government transparency website. Rubio, in that time period, missed 115 votes, the data show.” (Boston Globe)
BECOMING A TARGET. Republican super PACs have begun attacking Sanders, a sign they are beginning to take his candidacy seriously. The nonprofit America Rising Squared released a digital ad on Thursday linking Sanders to former Cuban President Fidel Castro. The super PAC Future45 is releasing an ad that will run nationwide reiterating that Sanders wants to raise taxes.
MODERATE MAN. A “deeper look at (Sanders) quarter-century record in Congress reveals more of a conventional Democratic lawmaker.” Although he “campaigns as an independent who describes himself as a Democratic socialist,” Sanders “votes regularly for standard Democratic fare and has fallen in line with the party on everything from a major tax-and-budget deal to health care reform and bank regulation.” (Politico)
And Progressive Voters of America, a “PAC affiliated with … Sanders has made numerous donations to mainstream and conservative Democrats, as well as one national party group. … In recent years, its contributions have ticked up and shifted toward the more moderate wing of the Democratic Party.” (International Business Times)
KEEPING IT SMALL: “When it comes to raising money from small donors, (Sanders has) already far exceeded Barack Obama’s total in 2007 and almost matched the sitting president in his reelection bid in 2011.” (National Journal)
ECONOMIC CHANGE. Sanders is tying together campaign finance reform and Wall Street reform in his TV ads. “More than half of all occurrences of his broadcast commercials-mention financial reform and campaign finance reform. But quite often, it’s both. ‘It’s called a rigged economy, and this is how it works,’ he says in the intro of the animated ad he just relaunched in South Carolina.” (Cook Political Report)
CHOOSING SIDES. Sanders said in an interview he thinks Obama and Vice President Joe Biden should remain neutral in the Democratic primary. (NBC News)
Meanwhile, Moveon.Org’s political action arm, which has endorsed Sanders, created a petition urging superdelegates not to “thwart the will of the people” by supporting a different candidate than the majority of voters in their state. (Politico)
UNDER COVER. Sanders’ Secret Service nickname is Intrepid, meaning “characterized by resolute, fearlessness, fortitude and endurance.” (Huffington Post)
The Club for Growth is out with a new ad in South Carolina, slamming real estate mogul Donald Trump (R) for his past bankruptcies and his tax and health care plans. It’s part of a $1.5 million ad buy from the group and will begin running on Saturday. (Politico)
Meanwhile, the Trump campaign pulled a negative ad on Wednesday that hit Sen. Ted Cruz (R-FL) for spreading false information about retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (R) during the Iowa caucuses. Trump’s campaign manager “made the decision after seeing that Mr. Trump’s more positive-focused tone in New Hampshire appeared to help him at the end.” (New York Times)
CLEAN SWEEP. Exit polls from New Hampshire show that Trump’s “appeal transcends key demographic boundaries.” He won double-digit pluralities in every age group, among men and women, in every income group and among “rural residents, city-dwellers and suburbanites.” (National Review)
ROAD TO SOUTH CAROLINA. Republican officials in the state say they have yet to see a strong ground game from Trump. But it may not matter in the end, the very same South Carolinian Republicans acknowledge — because the billionaire real estate tycoon has “rewritten all the rules” on campaigning here. And maybe … he doesn’t need the face-to-face interaction with residents that once boosted candidates like” former Presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. (Politico)
Meanwhile, Trump “took aim at two rivals ramping up assaults on him” at a Louisiana rally, saying former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) brother, George W. Bush, led the country into “quicksand” and described a new ad by Cruz as “all crap, they’re lies.” (New York Times)
GROWING THE TEAM. Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, “is expanding the Trump team to include top advisers from the campaigns of” former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) “who have dropped out and … Carson, who has struggled to attract support. He has also expanded the Trump campaign’s current roster of 150 employees in 20 states.” (Wall Street Journal)
MONEY TROUBLES. Proceeds from an impromptu fundraising Trump held for veterans last month have just started to make their way to the dozen groups who were promised donations. “While one nonprofit said it received a check immediately after the event, most of the groups said they hadn’t heard from the Trump foundation about payment for weeks.” (Wall Street Journal)
RESOLVING DIFFERENCES. Trump came to a settlement with Univision after the network pulled out of carrying the Miss USA pageant, an event that Trump had a stake in at the time. “Univision said it canceled the July 12 telecast because it could not remain in business with a presidential candidate who had offended many Hispanics.” Trump sued for $500 million last summer. The settlement terms are confidential. (CNN)
Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), “who dropped out of the Democratic presidential race last year, ruled out an independent White House bid Thursday.” Webb said through a spokesman: “I don’t see the fundraising trajectory where we could make a realistic run.” (MSNBC)
“The Democratic National Committee has rolled back restrictions introduced by presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 that banned donations from federal lobbyists and political action committees.” (Washington Post)
JOINT APPEARANCE. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) “will headline an Ohio Democratic Party dinner on March 13, two days before Ohio’s primary election.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
The NRSC “doesn’t want to discuss the top of the ticket, even after the revelation last year of its detailed memos outlining strategies for running beneath every potential presidential nominee. In an hourlong breakfast Thursday hosted by The Christian Science Monitor, NRSC Executive Director Ward Baker and Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) avoided questions about how presidential front-runner Donald Trump could affect the 24 seats they must defend this cycle.”
“Reporters pushed for details about strategy changes in the event that Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz are nominated. In return, the media were given a list of local factors the committee hopes will play in their top races: an unpopular mayor in Chicago, … economic recovery under a GOP governor in Florida, … and the possibility of Guantanamo Bay prisoners being transferred to Colorado.”
Baker: “It would be malpractice for our committee and the great staff we have for them not to be prepared for whoever the nominee is. … But no matter who the nominee is, they will be better than the undeclared socialist or the socialist of the Democratic communist party.”
“Asked whether the committee was concerned about any primaries,” Baker said they’re “confident all its incumbents will survive primary challenges, including Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). “Baker said he was confident that any nominee who emerged in Indiana and Colorado would be well-positioned against Democratic challengers.” (Hotline reporting)
Sen. Richard Shelby (R) “said on Jan. 29 that he’d halt his [Senate Banking Committee’s] work until later in March: ‘I have a primary, you know.’” (Bloomberg)
MONEY: “Five outside groups, including some whose donors can remain anonymous, are spending money to help” Shelby. “The outside spending is a sign that powerful special interests, some with ties to Republican strategist Karl Rove and billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, are doing more than just making donations to Shelby’s campaign: They are producing and airing their own TV and radio ads, stuffing mailboxes with fliers and investing as much money as they want in the March 1 primary.”
“That extra attention is unusual because Shelby started the campaign season with more than $19 million, more than all four of his primary challengers combined. But at a time when political outsiders have upended establishment GOP candidates around the country, the outside interest groups clearly want to prevent that from happening in Alabama.”
Groups “include the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund and the National Association of Realtors Congressional Fund, both of which publicly disclose their donors. … One Nation spent $140,000 on radio ads that credit Shelby for supporting legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and pause the Syrian refugee program. … Citizens Super PAC, run by former Senate Republican political operatives, spent $309,000 on TV and online ads supporting Shelby.”
A report filed Thursday shows another group, Citizens for a Sound Government, “is spending $413,000 in the Alabama Senate primary.” (Montgomery Advertiser)
“Seven Republicans hoping to take on Sen. Michael Bennet (R) in November shared a crowded stage Thursday night at the University of Denver in the first candidate debate in the race.”
“Instead of focusing on policy, the candidates tried to differentiate themselves through dry humor or wit, backgrounds in the military or business, and their political careers or the lack thereof.”
Former Aurora Councilman Ryan Frazier (R), “a strong public speaker, came across as having the most polished agenda.” Frazier “talked about being raised by a single mother who worked multiple jobs to provide for her children, and said he could relate to people from all socioeconomic backgrounds.”
Former state Rep. Jon Keyser (R) “said the national security issues facing America are personal, recounting the capture and kill missions he went on in Afghanistan and Iraq after graduating from the Air Force Academy.”
Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha (R) “was able to distinguish himself as a political outsider. … [He] talked about his grown children and a guarantee that he will leave office if he is ineffective.”
State Sen. Tim Neville (R) focused on the work he has done in the General Assembly. Neville: “I have the record. I’ve been doing that at the State Senate. I have run legislation that would defend second amendment rights, be pro-life, be limited government and reduce regulation in Colorado.”
El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton (R) “emphasized that she is the only one who has held an office that was elected by voters in an entire Congressional district, emphasizing her years on the State Board of Education.”
El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn (R) “said he’s the only candidate who will be ready to go on day one when it comes to issues of national security.” (Colorado Springs Gazette)
“Wealthy land developer” Carlos Brueff (R) “still hasn’t said if he intends to run for the U.S. Senate, but potential GOP rivals and Democrats are already taking aim at him.”
“One GOP camp has already begun anonymously circulating previously reported stories to reporters about Beruff’s tenure at Medallion Homes. … That line of attack comes just days after” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) “publicly blasted Beruff as a ‘Charlie Crist Republican.’”
Meanwhile, Democrats “are trying to make a pre-emptive strike to block Beruff from pitching himself as an outsider,” putting “out a statement” that called him a “longtime Republican insider with a collection of influential political appointments and a long history of trading money for influence.” (Bradenton Herald)
During Thursday’s Christian Science Monitor breakfast, NRSC leaders suggested Chicago’s unpopular Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) could be a possible drag for Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-08).
NRSC Executive Director Ward Baker: “I think people understand, do you want typical Chicago politics, do you want someone that is going to be a failure, like Rahm Emanuel, or do you want Sen. Kirk that represents Illinois? … I read Rahm Emanuel’s book and he says in his book he created Tammy Duckworth.”
Columnist Lynn Sweet suggested that Sen. Mark Kirk (R) has “been allied with GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) — who is also very unpopular at present — though not in the sub-basement where Emanuel is.” Asked if Rauner will be a drag on Kirk, the NRSC pivoted back to Duckworth.
Sweet also defended Duckworth, who she says has power more popular allies: “President Barack Obama did a big, deliberate show of support for Duckworth on Wednesday, when he invited her to fly to Springfield with him on Air Force One. And he’s popular in Illinois.” (Chicago Sun-Times)
A fundraising email from former Rep. Baron Hill’s (D) campaign played up the idea that his party’s ballot challenger to Rep. Todd Young (R-09) could land him a vulnerable general election candidate in Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-03). Hill’s campaign hopes to play up the idea that Democrats could repeat their unusual 2012 victory, in which then-Rep. Joe Donnelly beat the more conservative candidate that emerged from the GOP primary.
From the email: “Young’s stumbling to meet this basic hurdle has led to some Indiana Republicans publicly questioning the strength of his campaign. This is just like what happened four years ago when the GOP was left in disarray in their primary, which helped fuel Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly’s victory. With your help, we can win.” (release)
PUSH-BACK: Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tully criticized Democrats over the ballot challenge, writing that the “scuffle over whether Young collected the 500 petition signatures needed … has once again exposed just how little the Indiana Democratic Party has to offer.” Tully: “They might win a battle here and there with this strategy. But when it comes to the big picture, all the intellectually bankrupt party is doing is reminding of us how much it has lacked in big ideas, or any ideas, for years.” (Indianapolis Star)
CALENDAR: Vanderburgh County will host Stutzman and Young at a forum tonight. (TriStateHomepage)
Former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) at an event with Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards and former Nevada Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley. (release)
ENDORSEMENTS: The Latino Victory Fund endorsed Masto for Senate Thursday.
A fundraising pitch from actress Eva Longoria, a founder of the LVF, highlighted the possibility of a first Latina senator. Longoria: “Catherine Cortez Masto can break that glass ceiling as Nevada’s next senator. … I am proud to stand beside Catherine.” (release)
Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) responded to Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s (R) proposal to limit outside spending in their race Friday. Hassan requested the addition of a $15 million spending cap by the campaigns themselves. A statement from Hassan’s campaign said she’s “made clear that she wants the campaigns to work together to reach an agreement on a strengthened pledge.” (release)
Ayotte responded, calling the Hassan’s rebuttal a “refusal.” Ayotte said Hassan’s “decision to totally change the intent of the People’s Pledge is an attempt to kill it.” (release)
Democrats say the puzzle is “why Ayotte’s campaign would want to take a pledge,” noting it usually only happened when someone is “legitimately scared about being outspent,” something doesn’t usually happen for Republicans. “Signing the pledge would be an opportunity to cut off the Koch brothers, whose Americans for Prosperity network hit the airwaves against Hassan before she even got in the race.”
Republicans “think that the pledge will resonate with New Hampshire voters. … Ayotte faces one of the most competitive re-election fights in the country and has recently tried to stake out more moderate positions on issues such as the administration’s clean power plan, for example, to appeal to independent voters.”
“As Democrats were quick to paint Ayotte as a hypocrite on Thursday, Republicans salivated, waiting to call out Hassan for breaking with her previous criticism of outside spending — and with her party’s liberal standard bearers.” (Roll Call)
Former Ohio Gov. Richard F. Celeste (D) said he “considers one of his successors, [former Gov.] Ted Strickland (D), a friend,” but on Thursday backed Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld (D).
“Celeste declined to detail what he sees as Strickland’s potential shortcomings, simply saying Sittenfeld embodies ‘a breath of fresh air that gives our party its best chance’ of defeating” Sen. Rob Portman (R).
Celeste: “P.G. Sittenfeld is one of the most gifted and exciting political talents to come along in years. … I’ve been especially impressed with P.G.’s willingness to take on the gun lobby and fearlessly push common-sense gun safety reform.” (Columbus Dispatch)
Former Gov. Ed Rendell (D), who serves as chairman of former gubernatorial candidate Katie McGinty’s (D) campaign, said former Rep. Joe Sestak (D) wouldn’t be a bad choice for the race against Sen. Pat Toomey (R).
Rendell: “I made it clear when I signed on with Katie that Joe would be a good senator. … If he wins the primary, I will do everything I can for him.”
“Sestak would seem like an ideal candidate for either party: A decorated Navy officer and Harvard graduate who grew up in Philadelphia’s blue-collar suburbs, the eldest son in a Catholic family with seven siblings.”
“Despite his outsider status within his own party, Sestak is a tireless campaigner of the old-fashioned, barnstorming variety. Most days, he wakes up at dawn, eats a quick breakfast and doesn’t stop to eat again until near midnight.” (PennLive)
Sen. Ron Johnson (R) launched digital ads Thursday night, timed with the Milwaukee presidential debate, tying former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) to his party’s presidential contenders. The sponsored Twitter posts called Feingold “America’s most famous undecided voter,” pushing the Democrat for not endorsing between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D).
A fundraising pitch from the campaign took it a step further, asking whether Feingold would support “a fellow professional politician nobody trusts” or “a self-admitted Socialist who shares his far-left ideology.” (release)
FUNDRAISING: Feingold picked up endorsements from the United Automobile Workers, Service Employees International Union, Laborers International Union of North America, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Friday. (release)
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, launched a leadership PAC Thursday “to support lawmakers who can bring forward ‘new ideas and priorities’ that can be adopted by the wider Democratic Caucus.” (Politico)
CA-17: Former state Sen. Elaine Alquist (D) endorsed former Obama administration official Ro Khanna (D) over Rep. Mike Honda (D). (release)
CA-44: The Service Employees International Union California State Council is backing state Sen. Isadore Hall (D). (release)
IL-15: The Club For Growth will launch a television today hitting Rep. John Shimkus (R) for breaking his term limits pledge and calling for the election of state Sen. Kyle McCarter (R). The 30-second spot, which will air on broadcast and cable, calls Shimkus “one of the most liberal members of Congress.” (release)
The buy is about $275,000. (Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette)
MD-08: 2012 IN-06 candidate Don Bolling (D) will run for the seat. (Montgomery County Sentinel)
Former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan (D) endorsed Kathleen Matthews (D) in the race for Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s (D) seat. (release)
WA-07: State Rep. Brady Walkinshaw (D) announced endorsements from three more state lawmakers: State Reps. Eric Pettigrew (D), Steve Kirby (D), and Drew Hansen (D). (release)
“Some leading Pinal County Democrats and Republicans say a mailer sent out recently by the Sheriff’s Office is nothing more than political propaganda promoting” Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu (R). "The mailer touts accomplishments of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office but also prominently features several photographs of Babeu." According to multiple sources, "it appears the mailer was mainly sent to registered Republicans in the county — a point a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office disputes." (Casa Grande Dispatch)
Navy veteran and nurse Carla Spalding (I) will leave the GOP primary to run as an independent. (Vero Beach Press Journal)
The Transport Workers Union endorsed former Rep. Brad Schneider (D) in the race for Rep. Bob Dold's (R) seat. (release)
Schneider faces Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering (D) in the Democratic primary.
2014 congressional candidate Harold Painter (R) will run for Rep. John Delaney’s (D) seat. "Painter ran an unsuccessful campaign for the 6th District in 2014, receiving 16.5 percent of the Republican primary vote." (Frederick News-Post)
The Sierra Club is backing businesswoman Angie Craig (D) in the race for Rep. John Kline's (R) seat. (release)
Former lieutenant governor nominee Lucy Flores (D) is leading the Democratic field by double digits, according to a Public Policy Polling survey she released (Jan. 13-14; 529 LPVs; +/- 4.3%). Flores takes in 29%, followed by education nonprofit executive Susie Lee (D) at 9%, former Assembly Speaker John Oceguera (D) at 7%, and state Sen. Ruben Kiheun (D) at 6%. The poll was commissioned by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. (release)
The Republican Party of Palm Beach County is hosting a meet-and-greet with Rep. Lee Zeldin (R) on Saturday. (release)
Former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi (D) said he is leaning toward a run for Rep. Steve Israel's (D) seat. Suozzi held an event with more than 150 supporters Wednesday. (Island Now)
The New York Working Families Party endorsed 2014 gubernatorial challenger Zephyr Teachout (D). (release)
Notably, in 2014, the party spurned Teachout in the governor's race when they supported Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who pledged to back its agenda. Cuomo said his campaign would help Democrats win a Democratic majority in the state Senate, a feat that didn't happen.
MEANWHILE. Dutchess County Republicans are backing businessman Andrew Heaney (R). (Poughkeepsie Journal)
The Dutchess County Conservative Party is supporting his primary opponent, former Assemblyman John Faso (R). (release)
Onondaga County's Democratic Committee members Thursday endorsed former senatorial director Colleen Deacon (D). (Syracuse Post-Standard)
Deacon faces former Navy prosecutor Steve Williams (D) and Syracuse University professor Eric Kingson (D) in the Democratic primary.
“The N.C. Supreme Court won't rehear a redistricting case in which a majority of justices upheld the state's congressional and General Assembly district lines drawn in 2011. The court Thursday denied a petition by attorneys for plaintiffs who unsuccessfully sued in overturning about 30 districts. Those lawyers argued the court erred in its December decision by failing to use accurately a U.S. Supreme Court decision involving Alabama districts while examining North Carolina maps. ... The decision doesn't change a Greensboro federal court decision last week which strikes down two congressional districts. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to block that ruling, which requires new lines by Feb. 19." (AP)
Tech executive and former state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner (R) is “seriously considering” getting back into California politics.
Poizner: “I want to head back into either running another startup company or getting into public service again. … In my core, I’ve always searched for ways to be disruptive in a positive way, so I’m considering my options … and looking for a way to contribute again in a bold way.”
He last ran in the Republican primary for governor in 2010. (Politico)
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s (R) fundraising committee, Florida Grown, brought in $144,925 in contributions in January.
“The latest haul brings total money raised to more than $4.1 million, with total expenditures now at about $891,000, for a cash-on-hand balance of about $3.2 million.”
“Disney, Florida Phosphate and U.S. Sugar Corp. tied for top contributor, chipping in $25,000 each.” (Florida Politics)
“A federal judge is set to take up a refugee relocation group’s bid to block” Gov. Mike Pence’s (R) “order barring state agencies from participating in the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana.”
“The judge will hear arguments Thursday in Exodus Refugee Immigration’s request for a temporary injunction blocking Pence’s order until the Indianapolis-based nonprofit’s lawsuit is resolved.” (AP)
ALL IN A NAME. Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry (D) “recently changed the name of his political committee from ‘Henry for Mayor’ to ‘Henry for Indiana,’” fueling speculation he could be former state House Speaker John Gregg’s (D) running mate.
Gregg’s communications director Jeff Harris: “I would not read too much into it. … We have not settled on a running mate yet. We still have quite a way to go before making that selection.” (Fort Wayne News-Sentinel)
WEIGHING IN. Brian Howey wrote about Pence’s recent shift in running mates.
“One of the most unusual political transitions took place this week when Gov. Mike Pence pivoted from” Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann (R), “who is set to resign, to former Republican chairman Eric Holcomb. While all the principals in this saga did their best to dispel speculation that this was a rift shift between Pence and Ellspermann over LGBT civil rights, those rumblings continue.”
“Holcomb’s elevation to lieutenant governor pairs up two campaign trail ‘happy warriors’ — the new ‘Hanover Heavyweights’ — with both Pence and Holcomb creating the friendly countenance that make them both eminently likable, even by those who disagree with their policies. Pence is facing a tough re-election rematch against … Gregg, and not only did he need an ‘all-in’ running mate NOW, his selection of Holcomb tends to confirm speculation of a serious fissure within the Indiana Republican Party, divided by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the subsequent fix, and Pence’s decision to duck the civil rights expansion that died in the Indiana Senate last week.”
“There are two ways to look at the new Pence/Holcomb team. First, it is a political marriage based on realities on the ground. LGs and veeps are often chosen for their political impacts. The second is that it might give Holcomb an inside seat to advocate for the tolerance missing in the Pence administration, despite the governor’s repeated declarations that Hoosiers don’t discriminate. Across a wide spectrum of the business and millennial wings of the GOP, many believe that Pence couches a latent brand of intolerance within the guise of religious freedom. Many believe that Pence has not intellectually come to grips with these contradictions.” (KPC News)
Gov. Charlie Baker (R) doesn’t think he will endorse again for the presidential race after his pick, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), dropped out earlier this week.
Baker: “If you look at the general terrain with respect to endorsements overall, it’s pretty hard to make a case that endorsements mattered very much for anyone from anybody. The outsider factor was more important than almost anything.” (New Boston Post)
Lt. Gov Pete Kinder (R) and Gov. Jay Nixon (D) “credited Ferguson on Thursday with pressing ahead with policing and court reforms despite a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit alleging that the St. Louis suburb routinely violated residents’ rights and misused law enforcement to generate revenue.”
“The civil rights lawsuit, filed Wednesday, came a day after Ferguson essentially rejected a settlement agreement with the DOJ by adding seven amendments to a proposal reached after months of negotiations. The plan sought to vastly improve police and municipal court practices in Ferguson, the town where 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, was fatally shot by white officer Darren Wilson in August 2014. Wilson was cleared of wrongdoing.”
Kinder, in a statement: “[The city’s leaders] are making a good-faith effort to adopt reforms to correct past problems. But the Justice Department demands would force the city to stop providing basic services to residents to pay for mandated wage hikes.” (AP)
Kinder had a harsher condemnation in an interview with KMOX: “The DOJ responded like an emperor handing down decrees from on high. … This is antithetical to the American form of government.” (KMOX)
Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas (R) said he is “seriously considering” running for governor.
Gatas: “[I’ve been] talking to people, but before we make the commitment to get in we’ve got to make sure that all the ducks are in a row. … No timeline yet.” (WMUR)
Gov. Pat McCrory (R) “campaigned for the $2 billion bond package Thursday at the UNC School of the Arts, saying that the state needs to improve buildings on college campuses to prepare students for 21st century jobs.”
“McCrory has been traveling around North Carolina to urging voters to pass the bond package, which will appear on the March 15 primary ballot.”
“If voters approve the bond package, the UNC system would receive $980 million, and the N.C. Community Colleges would receive $350 million for their building projects. The UNC School of the Arts would receive $10.9 million to renovate the Siemans Library and its Performance Place.” (Winston-Salem Journal)
THANKS, OBAMA. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin (D) “said Thursday his agency has launched an examination of Blue Cross and Blue Shield to determine the cause of ongoing technology problems that have prevented thousands from buying or verifying health insurance this year.”
“Dallas Woodhouse, the leader of North Carolina’s Republican Party, predicted that the ACA’s mounting problems here and around the country would end Goodwin’s career as an elected official. Woodhouse also said the ACA would doom the political aspirations of state” Attorney General Roy Cooper (D).
Woodhouse: “Wayne Goodwin – along with Roy Cooper – is simply trying to save face, pass blame and cover his tracks after his steadfast support for the disastrous ObamaCare plan and roll out in North Carolina. … But now with skyrocketing premiums and Blue Cross recently announcing it will probably have to leave the marketplace due to ObamaCare, Goodwin and Cooper will have to face the music from voters come November.” (Charlotte News & Observer)
State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (R) “expressed concern Thursday that, in addition to legalizing natural marijuana, [a proposed] measure would delete synthetic cannabinoids from the list of Schedule 1 drugs after several years of efforts to outlaw the substances.”
Stenehjem: “This will not be a healthier, safer state if we go the route Colorado and Washington have gone. … And eliminating the synthetics is irresponsible, and I just have to question if that’s really what they intend to do.”
State Rep. Rick Becker (R) “said he supports decriminalizing marijuana to an infraction so violators can’t be imprisoned for it.”
Becker: “Legalizing it entirely is not in my platform, but if the people speak and that’s what they want, I would support that.”
Businessman Doug Burgum (R) “said he is open to decriminalization of marijuana. As for full legalization, he said he’s ‘open to reading the language on recreational use.’” (Bismark Tribune)
The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips, a writer for The Fix, praised Gov. Kate Brown (D) for her response to the Oregon standoff.
“As the drama deescalates, it’s becoming clear that Oregon officials’ insistence that the FBI end the lawlessness helped end things decisively (if not, at one point, violently).” (Washington Post)
Brown herself responded to the end of the standoff, giving “thanks for the peaceful, if tense, finish to militants’ 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge — addressing a development that became certain only minutes before a previously scheduled press conference.”
Brown: “The challenge is really moving forward. … The healing will take a lot of time. And I think that is our first mission, to support the Harney County community as they heal and to give them the resources and the tools they need to recover.” (Oregonian)
“James Valente, a Brattleboro lawyer and former vice chair of the Vermont Democratic Party, filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office alleging campaign finance violations by” Lt. Gov. Phil Scott’s (D) campaign in an ad.
“Valente, in a written complaint filed in late January, said the video failed to meet various requirements, including an audio or text statement at the end indicating who paid for the spot.”
“Scott’s campaign acknowledged the misstep and responded quickly, inserting the typical disclaimer that Scott’s campaign had paid for and authorized the ad.”
“Another allegation was that Scott improperly shot part of a TV ad in his Statehouse office. … [A Scott spokeswoman] said the restriction did not apply to officials including the lieutenant governor.” (VTDigger)
Businessman Jonathan Johnson (R) said he agreed with the state Republican party, who is suing over a law signed by Gov. Gary Herbert (R) that “allows candidates to bypass state conventions and gain access to primary ballots by collecting signatures.”
Johnson: “A candidate can pay someone to gather signatures for him, run an expensive media campaign, and avoid debates. … It’s an incumbent protection plan. It’s a rich man’s plan.”
Herbert says he will attend his state convention and collect signatures. Johnson says he won’t collect signatures and plans to make his case at the convention. (KUTV)
Former Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant (R) “traveled to the Pasco Red Lion … with an argument for Benton County Republicans to absorb. Turn out to vote here in greater numbers and you will elect a governor.”
It is the “boa constrictor” used by former Sen. Slade Gorton (R): “Pile up Republican majorities in counties around the state and squeeze the liberal heartland of Seattle-King County. He fell about 3,000 votes short in 2000.”
“The Bryant variation, his strategy for defeating” Gov. Jay Inslee (D), “is to build the GOP vote everywhere, a lot in places like Benton County but also a percentage or two even in spots like the 34th District in West Seattle.” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) “has vetoed both the right to work and prevailing wage bills.”
State Senate President Bill Cole (R) “issued a statement Thursday saying he was ‘not surprised,’ but ‘disappointed’ with Tomblin’s decision.”
Cole: “From the beginning, I have said the Senate is committed to doing what is necessary in order to move our state forward. I believe both of these bills, the West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act and the repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law, accomplish this goal.” (West Virginia Metro News)
ON TO THE SENATE. The controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act is headed to Cole’s senate after the House of Delegates passed it by a 72-26 margin.
“The bill (HB 4012) establishes a legal process for courts to follow when determining if a person’s religious beliefs are being violated. Because businesses and individuals could argue that civil rights laws, including local nondiscrimination ordinances, violate their religious beliefs, civil rights advocates argue that the bill could be used to refuse services to LGBT people, women and others.” (Charleston Gazette-Mail)
Gov. Scott Walker (R) said he thinks the Republicans could still win his state in November, even if real estate mogul Donald Trump (R) was at the top of the ticket.
Walker: “There’s no doubt it will be a challenge.”
“Walker has not endorsed a candidate for president, but he has not ruled out doing so before the April 5 Wisconsin primary.” (KPVI)
" I have a primary, you know. " Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), on why he is halting work on the Senate Banking Committee, which he chairs, Bloomberg, 2/12.
Despite a narrow victory in Iowa and a historical defeat in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton rolls into next weekend’s Nevada caucuses with a 394-44 delegate lead, thanks to super delegates in states across the country who have already backed her.