In assessing Washington’s current dysfunction and stagnation, “the political environment couldn’t be more conducive for a viable third-party presidential bid,” provided it’s someone “who can win over elements in both the Republican and Democratic parties.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) has “made new Democratic friends with his opposition to repealing Obamacare and persistent criticism of Trump. He’s been touting the type of compassionate conservatism that George W. Bush championed, but that has fallen out of vogue among Republicans in recent years. His recent book, Two Paths: America Divided or United, reads like a playbook of someone considering a future presidential run.
“Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) would be another intriguing third-party possibility who regularly won Democratic voters in his two gubernatorial campaigns, played a key role in scuttling GOP efforts on repealing Obamacare, and could make history running to be the first Hispanic president.”
“The biggest obstacle for any independent candidacy is the electoral college. It’s a lot easier to see an outside candidate cobbling together a narrow plurality of the popular vote than seeing a third-party candidate win 270 electoral votes. There are 269 electoral votes in states that are either safely Republican or safely Democratic, according to the Cook Political Report’s electoral college ratings, making it very difficult to pull together a majority.” (National Journal)
CHARLOTTESVILLE AND BEYOND. President Trump “was quickly hit by a fresh backlash — including from prominent Republicans — after his Trump Tower news conference” on Tuesday when he blamed “both sides” for racially-charged violence in Charlottesville.
“’We must be clear,’ House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted on Tuesday afternoon. ‘White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.’
“Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said the white supremacist rally organizers are ‘100% to blame’ and that it’s dangerous to put some of the responsibility on the counter-protesters.”
“Later Tuesday, the White House circulated a talking-points memo to congressional Republicans emphasizing many of Trump’s assertions during the impromptu news conference.” (Politico)
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been publicly silent so far over … Trump’s latest remarks on Charlottesville, is privately upset with the President’s handling of the episode” and “released a statement Wednesday morning ahead of a rally in Lexington similar to the one that turned violent in Charlottesville over the weekend.”
McConnell: “The white supremacist, KKK, and neo-nazi groups who brought hatred and violence to Charlottesville are now planning a rally in Lexington. Their messages of hate and bigotry are not welcome in Kentucky and should not be welcome anywhere in America. We can have no tolerance for an ideology of racial hatred. There are no good neo-nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms. We all have a responsibility to stand against hate and violence, wherever it raises its evil head.” (CNN)
ANOTHER REELECTION RALLY. Meanwhile, Trump will host a rally for supporters on Aug. 22 at the Phoenix Convention Center, his “first in the West” since taking office. (AP)
POLL. A Monmouth University poll (Aug 10-14; 805; +/- 3.5%) conducted during the timeframe violence erupted in Charlottesville, VA indicates that 41% of Americans surveyed approve of President Trump’s job in office, compared to 49% who disapprove. “It is not clear yet what impact the events in Charlottesville and the president’s response had on his rating as this unexpectedly occurred while we were in the middle of interviewing for this poll,” Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said.
The results are “nominally” better than “his 39%-52% rating in July,” according to the findings.
On temperament, 49% “see it as a good thing if President Trump’s behavior makes career politicians in Washington feel uncomfortable, while 39% say this is a bad thing.” With regard to Congress, “52% feel that Trump’s treatment of the Republicans in Congress has made it difficult for them to pass major items on his agenda, compared to 39% who disagree that his behavior has hampered his legislative program.” (release)
DEFINING AMERICA. “The statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, was the focus of an emotional debate in the state’s Republican primary election weeks before it became a flashpoint in the nation’s struggle over race.”
“Now the fight over ‘traditional America’ is throwing a spotlight on the Republican Party’s struggle with race in the age of Trump. The deadly white supremacist rally against removal of the Lee statue served as a painful example of the uncomfortable alignment between some in the party’s base and the far-right fringe. But despite the party’s talk of inclusiveness and minority outreach, it’s clear white fears continue to resonate with many in the GOP base. Politicians willing to exploit those issues are often rewarded with support. One big beneficiary, critics say, has been the president himself.” (AP)
ALABAMA. Trump and McConnell “went all in for their man Luther Strange in the Alabama Senate race — but the two GOP leaders will need a lot more to put him over the top after Strange’s second-place finish in Tuesday’s opening round of balloting.”
“Trump gave his full-throated support to Strange. The president effectively bet that his own coattails in Alabama would more than compensate for the baggage Strange carries as the candidate of the D.C. establishment. Alabama was critical to the president’s rise, home to an Aug. 2015 rally that was seen as a key early moment in his campaign. A Strange loss would be seen as an embarrassment for Trump.”
“McConnell has even more riding on the race than Trump. The Senate leader has made the Alabama race his top political priority, a decision borne in part out of a desire to protect besieged incumbents like Strange. Yet it is also reflects McConnell’s desire to keep bomb-throwing insurgents like Moore, who has vowed to oppose McConnell, out of his conference.” (Politico)
NEW HAMPSHIRE. Neighbors of Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, “say he harassed them in a land dispute and threatened to use his ‘political clout’ to make their lives ‘a nightmare.’” (Boston Globe)
NEW MEXICO. Doña Ana County Republican Party Chairman Roman Jimenez “resigned Tuesday after publishing a Facebook post criticizing ‘violent, leftist protesters,’ the day after a woman was killed when clashes erupted at a right-wing rally.’” (CNN)
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Republican opposition to the GOP health care bill swelled to near-fatal numbers Sunday as Sen. Susan Collins all but closed the door on supporting the last-ditch effort to scrap the Obama health care law and Sen. Ted Cruz said that "right now" he doesn't back it. White House legislative liaison Marc Short and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of the measure's sponsors, said Republicans would press ahead with a vote this week." Collins said she doesn't support the bill's cuts to Medicaid, while Cruz said it wouldn't do enough to lower premiums.