“In another sign of deepening divisions within the Republican party, President Trump blasted two sitting GOP senators who have criticized his response to the Charlottesville attack – whose support he needs to get his agenda through Congress.” Along with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), whose primary challenger got a shout-out from Trump, the president “used Twitter to go after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), saying he “falsely accused him of offering ‘moral equivalency’ between the KKK, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacist groups who counter-protested the hate groups.” (USA Today)
Graham responded in a statement: “Mr. President, like most I seek to move our nation, my state, and our party forward - toward the light - not back to the darkness. Your tweet honoring Miss Heyer was very nice and appropriate. Well done. However, because of the manner in which you have handled the Charlottesville tragedy you are now receiving praise from some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country. For the sake of our Nation — as our President — please fix this. History is watching us all.” (release)
Still, “Trump certainly has his defenders within the party, and remains very popular with the Republican base. Many activists were comfortable with his initial casting of blame for violence on ‘many sides,’ and feel strongly that no matter what he says, the media and Democrats won’t give him credit.
‘We are a very inclusive party,’ said Glenn McCall, the South Carolina Republican national committeeman, who is African American. He agreed with Trump’s assessment that both far-right and far-left agitators deserved equal blame.” (McClatchy)
Meanwhile back at the White House, Trump’s strategist Stephen Bannon blasted Democrats instead, saying, “The race-identity politics of the left wants to say it’s all racist. Just give me more. Tear down more statues. Say the revolution is coming. I can’t get enough of it.” (New York Times)
OUTSIDE HELP. America First Action announced on Thursday that Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski “has joined its team as a Senior Advisor and a Spokesman.” The group identifies itself as “the primary super PAC dedicated to electing federal candidates who support the agenda of the Trump-Pence administration.” (release)
POLLS. President Trump’s “job approval rating is at its lowest point since taking office with only 35% of Americans giving him a positive score,” according to a new Marist poll (Aug 8-12; 1009 adults; 3.1%) released on Wednesday. Meanwhile, “55% disapprove of the job he is doing which is his highest negative rating as president.” (release)
“Although still popular among his key constituency, notably, his job performance rating has dropped among strong Republicans from 91% in June to 79% now.”
On Charlottesville, a separate Marist poll (Aug 14-15; 1,125; 2.9%) with NPR/PBS indicates that 52% of respondents don’t believe President Trump’s response was “not strong enough,” compared to 27% who did. (release)
PENCE. Vice President Mike Pence has canceled “a scheduled trip to Richmond, in order to focus on White House strategy in Asia.
“Pence was set to attend a fundraiser in Richmond with Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee for governor, and to keynote an Americans for Prosperity volunteer summit at the Richmond Marriott, where Gillespie also is scheduled to speak.
“Pence is cutting a Latin America trip short in order to attend a Camp David meeting Friday with President Donald Trump that reportedly will focus on strategy in Afghanistan.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
RNC. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel suggested she’s willing to potentially lose votes within her party, saying, “We have no place in our party at all for the KKK, anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry — it has no place in the Republican Party. There is no home here. We don’t want your vote.” (CNN)
NEW HAMPSHIRE. New Hampshire Republican Party headquarters “was vandalized overnight Wednesday-Thursday, with a broken window and the word ‘Nazis’ scribbled in a hand-drawn heart on the rear wall of the Water Street building, a party spokesman said.” (WMUR)
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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.