Let’s, for a moment, look past tonight’s Nebraska Senate primary. Regardless of whether anti-establishment favorite Ben Sasse (R) wins or loses, the conservative groups at his side (Senate Conservatives Fund and Club for Growth, among others) have an important month ahead of them. And by the looks of things, things aren’t poised to break in their favor.
— The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the Club had pulled out of its fight against Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID 02), whose primary against attorney Bryan Smith (R) occurs next week. The Idaho race was arguably the main House showdown within the Republican Party this year, and the incumbent looks poised to win a T.K.O. before anyone starts counting ballots.
— Things look worse for conservative challengers in Kentucky, where a Matt Bevin (R) victory over Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) would, at this point, register as one of the biggest political shockers in years. Remember when Bevin was the raison d’etre of some conservative activists and the Senate Conservatives Fund? (Notably, the Club never endorsed him.)
— That leaves conservatives rallying around state Senator Chris McDaniel (R) in Mississippi, in his matchup against Sen. Thad Cochran (R). Expect an almost fervent amount of attention on that race between now and the June 3 primary ““ the operatives plotting against the incumbent know he might be the only chance they have left to knock off a current officeholder. Cochran is still viewed as the favorite and is up in the polls, but conservatives consider it still very winnable.
Regardless of tonight’s results or the outcome of the Mississippi contest, expect some soul-searching among the leaders of the “conservative establishment” after this month’s slate of races. There’s a growing recognition that 2014 is going to be a lot different than the tea party-infused years of 2010 and 2012.
— Alex Roarty
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Will he or won't he? That's the question surrounding Donald Trump and his on-again, off-again threats to bring onetime Bill Clinton paramour Gennifer Flowers to the debate as his guest. An assistant to flowers initially said she'd be there, but Trump campaign chief Kellyanne Conway "said on ABC’s 'This Week' that the Trump campaign had not invited Flowers to the debate, but she didn’t rule out the possibility of Flowers being in the audience."
NBC's Lester Holt hasn't hosted the "Nightly News" since Tuesday, as he's prepped for moderating the first presidential debate tonight—and the first of his career. He's called on a host of NBC talent to help him, namely NBC News and MSNBC chairman Andy Lack; NBC News president Deborah Turness; the news division's senior vice president of editorial, Janelle Rodriguez; "Nightly News" producer Sam Singal, "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd, senior political editor Mark Murray and political editor Carrie Dann. But during the debate itself, the only person in Holt's earpiece will be longtime debate producer Marty Slutsky.
"The House passed legislation late Thursday that would prohibit the federal government from making any cash payments to Iran, in protest of President Obama's recently discovered decision to pay Iran $1.7 billion in cash in January. And while the White House has said Obama would veto the bill, 16 Democrats joined with Republicans to pass the measure, 254-163."
In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shunning traditional debate preparations, but has been watching video of…Clinton’s best and worst debate moments, looking for her vulnerabilities.” Trump “has paid only cursory attention to briefing materials. He has refused to use lecterns in mock debate sessions despite the urging of his advisers. He prefers spitballing ideas with his team rather than honing them into crisp, two-minute answers.”