AGAINST THE GRAIN

Dems Flex Muscles on GOP Turf

With Trump as a millstone, Republicans are worrying about retirements and recruitment in both chambers.

Rep. Fred Upton
AP Photo/Cliff Owen
Josh Kraushaar
Add to Briefcase
Josh Kraushaar
May 14, 2017, 6 a.m.

Des­pite hold­ing all the av­en­ues of power in Wash­ing­ton, it’s not a happy time to be a Re­pub­lic­an of­fice­hold­er. Pres­id­ent Trump’s sus­pi­ciously timed fir­ing of FBI Dir­ect­or James Comey has all but guar­an­teed a me­dia and polit­ic­al firestorm that will last in­def­in­itely, and pre­vent le­gis­la­tion from get­ting through Con­gress. It also threatens to knock down Trump’s already-weak job-ap­prov­al rat­ings, mak­ing vul­ner­able Re­pub­lic­ans even more nervous about their reelec­tion pro­spects.

If the polit­ic­al en­vir­on­ment turns so omin­ous that Re­pub­lic­ans de­cide not to stick around, it will be a warn­ing sign of a sig­ni­fic­ant wave elec­tion. Two up­com­ing spe­cial elec­tions in Geor­gia and Montana will of­fer an early test of the pub­lic’s polit­ic­al mood; both are highly com­pet­it­ive des­pite be­ing con­tested on Re­pub­lic­an turf. But in the com­ing months, Re­pub­lic­an of­fice­hold­ers and po­ten­tial re­cruits will also be read­ing the tea leaves to de­cide wheth­er to run in 2018. Their de­cisions will go a long way in set­ting the stage for the midterms.

Fol­low the two Rs: re­tire­ments and re­cruit­ing. On the House side, will a slew of Re­pub­lic­ans re­tire in­stead of run­ning the risk of los­ing power? Already, Flor­ida’s Rep. Ileana Ros-Le­htin­en, rep­res­ent­ing the most Demo­crat­ic House seat held by a Re­pub­lic­an, an­nounced she’s not run­ning for a 15th full term. If any oth­er battle-tested Re­pub­lic­ans rep­res­ent­ing swing dis­tricts fol­low suit, it makes the Demo­crat­ic path to the ma­jor­ity easi­er. Giv­en the rough en­vir­on­ment shap­ing up for Re­pub­lic­ans, open seats in swing ter­rit­ory are ripe for the pick­ing.

Two mem­bers are worth watch­ing closely: In Michigan, Rep. Fred Up­ton, who en­gin­eered the com­prom­ise that al­lowed Trump’s health care bill to pass through the House, is rumored as a pos­sible re­tir­ee. If he leaves without pur­su­ing a Sen­ate cam­paign, it’s clear that Michigan’s polit­ics will be less fa­vor­able to Re­pub­lic­ans than last year. And in Cali­for­nia, Rep. Dana Rohra­bach­er, whose Or­ange County seat used to be in the cen­ter of the state’s con­ser­vat­ive heart­land, saw his dis­trict be­come Clin­ton ter­rit­ory last year. His his­tory of pro-Rus­sia sen­ti­ments makes him a par­tic­u­larly in­vit­ing tar­get, and his lean bank ac­count sug­gests that he’s not pre­par­ing for a 16th term.

So far, only six House Re­pub­lic­ans have an­nounced their re­tire­ments—be­low the typ­ic­al churn in a bad polit­ic­al year. But if a flurry of mem­bers head for the exits in the next couple of months, the odds of a Demo­crat­ic wave will in­crease.

On the flip side, the fa­vor­able polit­ic­al en­vir­on­ment is draw­ing a strong con­tin­gent of Demo­crat­ic can­did­ates in­to races in typ­ic­ally con­ser­vat­ive ter­rit­ory. A former Baylor foot­ball star (Colin Allred) and a top State De­part­ment of­fi­cial (Ed Mei­er) have an­nounced cam­paigns against long­time Rep. Pete Ses­sions in Texas. In Illinois, Ir­aq war vet­er­an Maura Sul­li­van is mulling a run against Rep. Peter Roskam, who hasn’t faced a tough race in years. Politico’s Marc Cap­uto re­por­ted that a fe­male Army ma­jor who worked on coun­terter­ror­ism ef­forts (Corinna Robin­son) is plan­ning a run against fresh­man Rep. Bri­an Mast in a south Flor­ida dis­trict that com­fort­ably backed Trump.

These are the type of can­did­ates whose bio­graph­ies should al­low them to over­come the lib­er­al bag­gage of the na­tion­al party. House Demo­crats failed in 2016 be­cause they didn’t even try to re­cruit in many of these dis­tricts where Hil­lary Clin­ton made in­roads; now they are emer­ging or­gan­ic­ally be­cause of Trump’s troubles.

The cal­cu­la­tions for Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell are dif­fer­ent. Be­ne­fit­ing from a his­tor­ic­ally fa­vor­able map, Mc­Con­nell is ex­per­i­en­cing mixed re­cruit­ing res­ults.

In Mis­souri, Rep. Ann Wag­n­er is plan­ning to enter the Sen­ate race in Ju­ly, ac­cord­ing to two sources fa­mil­i­ar with her plans, and has seen private polling show­ing her already lead­ing Sen. Claire Mc­Caskill. Of­fi­cials from both parties agree that Mc­Caskill is the most vul­ner­able Demo­crat up for reelec­tion. Re­pub­lic­ans also scored a re­cruit­ing vic­tory when Rep. Evan Jen­kins of West Vir­gin­ia an­nounced his cam­paign against Sen. Joe Manchin, though his vote on health care will be used against him by Demo­crats. And Flor­ida Gov. Rick Scott is quietly pre­par­ing for a show­down against Sen. Bill Nel­son; he dined with D.C. re­port­ers this week to brand him­self as a Re­pub­lic­an re­former. Be­cause of his im­mense per­son­al wealth, he can af­ford to wait longer to pre­pare for a bruis­ing cam­paign.

But giv­en the nu­mer­ous op­por­tun­it­ies—Demo­crats are de­fend­ing 10 seats in states that Trump won—the lack of com­par­able re­cruit­ing is glar­ingly slow. Re­pub­lic­an of­fi­cials are already fret­ting about Ohio Treas­urer Josh Man­del’s un­der­whelm­ing cam­paign against Sen. Sher­rod Brown, which he launched in Decem­ber. And few top can­did­ates have stepped up in the Rust Belt states that swung to Trump in the pres­id­en­tial elec­tion.

“The en­vir­on­ment is really bad for Re­pub­lic­ans right now, and that will weigh heav­ily for any­one con­sid­er­ing any race,” said one seni­or Re­pub­lic­an strategist. “The one thing that Re­pub­lic­ans can con­trol is the qual­ity of their can­did­ates and qual­ity of cam­paigns be­ing run. Right now, neither are ad­equate.”

What We're Following See More »
KIM CALLS TRUMP A “DOTARD”
North Korea Threatens H-Bomb Test Over Pacific
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"North Korea said on Friday it might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean after President Donald Trump vowed to destroy the reclusive country, with leader Kim Jong Un promising to make Trump pay dearly for his threats. Kim did not specify what action he would take against the United States or Trump, whom he called a 'mentally deranged U.S. dotard' in the latest bout of insults the two leaders have traded in recent weeks."

Source:
INFORMS CONGRESS RE: EXECUTIVE ORDER
Trump Makes Good on Promise of New North Korea Sanctions
3 days ago
THE LATEST

President Trump this afternoon announced another round of sanctions on North Korea, calling the regime "a continuing threat." The executive order, which Trump relayed to Congress, bans any ship or plane that has visited North Korea from visiting the United States within 180 days. The order also authorizes sanctions on any financial institution doing business with North Korea, and permits the secretaries of State and the Treasury to sanction any person involved in trading with North Korea, operating a port there, or involved in a variety of industries there.

SOUTH KOREA WILL SEND AID
Trump Promises More Sanctions on North Korea
3 days ago
THE LATEST

In response to a reporter's question, President Trump said "he’ll be looking to impose further financial penalties on North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic tests. ... The U.N. has passed two resolutions recently aimed at squeezing the North Korean economy by cutting off oil, labor and exports to the nation." Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that South Korea's unification ministry is sending an $8m aid package aimed at infants and pregnant women in North Korea. The "humanitarian gesture [is] at odds with calls by Japan and the US for unwavering economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang."

Source:
HIGHLIGHT ISSUES FACING KIDS
FLOTUS to Speak at UN Luncheon
4 days ago
THE LATEST
PRESSES CASE FOR REFORMS
Trump Meets with UN Leaders
4 days ago
THE LATEST

President Trump on Tuesday night met with UN Secretary Guterres and President of the General Assembly Miroslav Lajcak. In both cases, as per releases from the White House, Trump pressed them on the need to reform the UN bureaucracy.

×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login