The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll is filled with signs that the government shutdown damaged the GOP’s ability to win back the Senate, while giving Democrats an outside chance at contesting the House.
— The most important poll numbers in the battle for Congress are the president’s approval rating and the generic Congressional ballot. President Obama‘s approval numbers inched up to 47%, Democrats now hold an eight-point lead (largest since Oct. 2009) on their version of the generic ballot, and Obamacare approval got a bounce despite its implementation problems. Voters blame Republicans for the shutdown over Obama by a whopping 22-point margin.
— Context is important. The Democrats’ +8 edge, if it holds, probably wouldn’t be enough to retake the House. Dems held larger advantage in the wave years of 2008 (D+12) and 2006 (D+15), facing a more favorable landscape. In the Senate, nearly every competitive race is taking place in a world apart, in states Mitt Romney comfortably carried. Regardless, even in deep-red states, running as a member of the House won’t be easy. (We’re looking at you, Steve Daines, Bill Cassidy and Tom Cotton.)
— The biggest loss for Republicans is their opportunity cost. The GOP could have used the disastrous health care exchange launch as a lesson to convincing soft Obamacare supporters that the law wasn’t working. In the GOP-friendly Senate battlegrounds, the message would have found a receptive audience. Instead, there’s anecdotal evidence voters are now blaming the exchange problems on the shutdown itself.
If the midterms were held today, it would still be a status quo election with probable Democratic House gains and the party holding a slightly-smaller majority in the Senate. But all bets are off if there’s a debt default. That’s why Republicans are scrambling to make a deal.
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As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
"The House voted Thursday to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security. The bipartisan measure passed easily by a vote of 386-41, with nine Republicans and 32 Democrats voting in opposition. If the bill makes it through the Senate, it would be the first-ever reauthorization of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since it was created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks." Among the provisions it contains is a mandate that the Senate confirm the Secret Service director. It also boosts funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative by $195 million per year.
In remarks scheduled to be delivered today at the American Federation of Teachers' summer conference, President Randi Weingarten "likens U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to a climate-change denier" and "says the Trump administration's school choice plans are secretly intended to starve funding from public schools. She calls taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, tuition tax credits and the like 'only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.'" The pro-voucher Center for Education Reform said teachers should "consider inviting Weingarten’s resignation."