If you’re looking for a signs of an emerging schism between the establishment and tea party within the GOP, look no further than the mounting crop of primary challengers to Republican Senate incumbents. In 2010 and 2012, tea party activists picked their most vulnerable targets, like Lugar, Hatch and Bennett. Now they’re going after the entire establishment.
— With state senator Chris McDaniel‘s campaign against Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, half of the 12 Republican senators up for reelection now face threats from the right. A seventh, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, is worried enough about a primary that he voted against the government-funding compromise.
— While most of the upstarts are clear underdogs, McDaniel is the closest to actually winning a Senate seat. The state legislator’s well-orchestrated entrance was designed as much to put pressure on Cochran to retire. The Senate Conservatives Fund and Club for Growth each blasted endorsements out within minutes of his announcement. One conservative operative involved in the race called him “the Jim DeMint of the Mississippi state legislature” and expects him to be more formidable than any of the other conservative Senate challengers.
— McDaniel and his allies read the political tea leaves in Mississippi effectively. Cochran only raised $53,000 in the third quarter, a telltale sign the longtime appropriator is heading to the exits. If Cochran does step down, McDaniel would become an early frontrunner as the conservative candidate, with national fundraising assets behind him. Mississippi, after all, is a deeply Republican state with a very conservative primary electorate.
It’s striking that the Club for Growth, which traditionally focuses on the House, has now endorsed more candidates for the Senate (2) this cycle. The Senate Conservatives Fund is now officially opposing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, backing his tea party challenger Matt Bevin. With House Republicans already marching in line with the base, outside groups are working to reshape the Senate more to their liking.
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President Trump is taking heat for another series of tweets, this one aimed at the co-hosts of Morning Joe. “I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore),” Trump wrote. “Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came … to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!” In a tweet, Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) said of Trump's statement, "This is not okay." NBC public relations chief Mark Kornblau said it's "beneath my dignity to respond to the President of the United States."
"Congressional investigators now want to interview Keith Schiller, President Donald Trump’s longtime bodyguard-turned-White House aide, as part of their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, sources familiar with the investigation told ABC News. Schiller, the former head of security for the Trump Organization who now serves as the White House director of Oval Office operations, is one of several Trump associates on the House Intelligence Committee’s witness list in its ongoing investigation into Russian election interference."
"After eight months of grinding urban warfare, Iraqi government troops on Thursday captured the ruined mosque in Mosul from where Islamic State proclaimed its self-styled caliphate three years ago," and the Iraqi military expect the entire city to be retaken in a matter of days. "Their fictitious state has fallen," said an Iraqi military spokesman.
"The move puts to death the long-suffering tie-up between Walgreens and Rite Aid, which was originally announced in October 2015 ...The new deal was designed to alleviate the FTC's concerns about the market overlap between Walgreens and Rite Aid and the bolstered bargaining power a full acquisition would have given Walgreens. Rite Aid said it had to ditch the original deal after regulators privately 'led the company to believe that the parties would not have obtained FTC clearance to consummate the merger.'"