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GOP hit with two more House retirements, bringing total to 25

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision not to run for re-election, followed shortly after by an announcement from Florida Rep. Dennis Ross, brings the total number of House GOP retirements to 25.

That’s compared with only nine House Democrats who announced they will not seek another term.

Dozens more House GOP have resigned, announced runs for other offices or left for jobs in the Trump administration. 

As our colleague Dante Chinni writes, it’s “the highest number of retirements for a party in power for decades, surpassing the numbers in the wave election years of 2010, 2006 and 1994.”

Bottom line: The map only continues to get more difficult for Republicans defending their congressional majority.

Ross cruised to re-election in 2016 in a district that has been solidly Republican. But keeping Ryan’s seat in the GOP’s column may be a bigger challenge, especially considering what a symbolic victory it would be for Dems to claim the outgoing speaker’s seat.

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Andrew Rafferty

Bernie Sanders: Establishment Dems 'don’t generate excitement'

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday said establishment Democrats “don’t generate excitement” while touting the success of progressive candidates in the 2018 midterms.

“We all want to win. The question is what constitutes electability,” Sanders said on "Meet The Press."

Progressive candidates had an impressive showing last Tuesday in state's like Pennsylvania and Nebraska. Some members of the party, however, worry nominating more liberal candidates could hurt Democrats' chances in the general election. 

"Establishment Democrats don’t generate excitement," the progressive icon said. "And I think when you have progressive candidates...We have seen voter turnout go up because the people in their communities know that it’s time to stand up and fight."

Mark Murray

Here are the media markets with the most political ad spending so far

We are well into midterm season, which means there's already been a lot of spending on TV ads around the country.

As of May 16, here are the ad markets that have seen the most TV and radio advertising so far in 2018, according to Advertising Analytics:

1. Chicago, IL: $44.0 million

2. Pittsburgh, PA: $15.1 million

3. Los Angeles, CA: $12.0 million

4. St. Louis, MO: $8.7 million

5. Indianapolis, IN: $8.4 million

6. Philadelphia, PA: $7.4 million

7. Tampa/St. Pete, FL: $7.4 million

8: Atlanta, GA: $7.4 million

9. Satellite: $6.9 million

10. San Diego, CA: $6 million

Andrew Rafferty

Red state Dems take another tough vote on Trump nominee

One of the side effects of President Donald Trump’s cabinet departures continues to be the awkward position red state Democrats have been put in when approving their replacements.

Four of the ten Democratic senators up for re-election this year in a state Trump won in 2016 voted to approve Gina Haspel as CIA director despite concerns about her role in the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.  The other six have found themselves on the receiving end of a barrage of political attacks from opponents who criticized them for voting against the 33-year veteran of the agency.

The recent departures of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and David Shulkin as head of veterans affairs have given these vulnerable Democrats two choices: 1) oppose Trump’s replacement and risk being portrayed as obstructionists or 2) approve the pick and potentially lose support from their liberal backers.  

Five Democrats in the group voted to approve Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month. But perhaps none of the 10 took a more direct hit than Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who was directly targeted by Trump for his objections to Ronny Jackson’s nomination to head the VA. Earlier this month Tester released an ad touting his work to support veterans after taking heat from the president.

TN-SEN: New poll shows Bredesen is more popular among independents than Blackburn

A new poll from Vanderbilt University shows that former Democratic governor Phil Bredesen is more popular among independent voters than GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn: 69 percent of independents say they support Bredesen compared to 44% for Blackburn.

It’s not just independents who view Bredesen favorably.  According to the poll, Bredesen has a 52 percent favorability score among Republican voters while Blackburn hovers at 23 percent favorability among Democratic voters.

The November election is months out and partisanship could ultimately bring voters back to their home base by the time voting booths open. But the Vanderbilt poll helps explain why Blackburn is finding herself in a tougher race than anticipated in a state as red as Tennessee.

The poll also suggests that Bredesen’s strategy of running as a moderate and distancing himself from the national party could be paying off.

Bredesen was quick to capitalize on the poll findings Thursday morning, tweeting out the results and adding “it’s like I've said from the beginning— my campaign is open to anyone who’s tired of the hyper-partisan squabbling in Washington and is ready to get things done for Tennessee.”

The Vanderbilt poll was conducted April 26- May 8, and the margin of error is +/- 3.6 percent. 

Carrie Dann

Rick Scott's ad pitch so far

On Tuesday, we wrote that Rick Scott and his allies are currently besting Bill Nelson on the Florida Senate airwaves by a ratio of almost 50-1. 

So what's his pitch? 

According to Advertising Analytics LLC, Scott's campaign itself has placed nearly $7 million in ads on the air already. That includes relatively small airings (so far) of Spanish-language commercials, mostly in South Florida. 

But the most spending — already $1.2 million for a total of more than 2,700 spots aired to date — has been Scott's pitch for term limits. 

"In Washington, they say term limits can't be done. That's nonsense. We don't work for them, they work for us," he says in the straight-to-camera ad. 

Term limits are also mentioned in his second-most aired spot, in which he compares Washington to a failed business. 

Key takeaways from last night's primary results

Last night’s round of primaries may not have been the most high-profile contests of the year, but they still gave us some important storylines to watch going forward, First Read notes.

Primary battles in Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon and Pennsylvania showcased the strength of Democratic women and progressives, while also proving that having “Congress” attached to a candidate’s name is a major hurdle.  

Here are some of our top takeaways:

  • It was a good night for Democratic women, especially in Pennsylvania. The Keystone State currently does not have any female members in its congressional delegation. Now four women have a shot to head to Washington. And in one of the night's biggest surprises, former Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford fell to progressive Kara Eastman in Nebraska. 
  • Being a member of Congress is NOT an asset. Rep. Raul Labrador lost his GOP primary bid for governor of Idaho, GOP Rep. Lou Barletta delivered an underwhelming victory in Pennsylvania's Senate primary, and Ashford lost to Eastman. 
  • Progressives had a good night. Along with Eastman, two members of Pittsburgh's chapter of Democratic Socialists of America defeated incumbent state representatives. National Republicans said the results showcase that Democrats have a primary problem. “Kara Eastman makes socialist Bernie Sanders look moderate by comparison," the National Republican Congressional Committee said in a statement. 

Check here for more analysis of last night's results.

Mark Murray

Here are the top 10 most expensive midterm races so far

Earlier this morning, we looked at the ad spending in the top Senate battlegrounds across the country.

But what is the most expensive race of 2018 so far? Try the gubernatorial contest in Illinois between wealthy Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and wealthy Democratic opponent J.B. Pritzker, where a whopping $66 million has already been spent on TV and radio ads, per Advertising Analytics. 

Here are the most expensive contests of 2018 in terms of ad spending through May 13: 

  1. Illinois Governor: $66.3 million
  2. Indiana Senate: $16.0 million
  3. Florida Governor: $15.2 million
  4. Wisconsin Senate: $14.2 million
  5. Ohio Governor: $12.9 million
  6. PA-18 race: $11.9 million
  7. Georgia Governor: $10.5 million
  8. West Virginia Senate: $9.6 million
  9. Florida Senate: $8.9 million
  10. Pennsylvania Governor: $8.9 million 

SOURCE: Advertising Analytics

Mark Murray
Carrie Dann

The five midterm primaries to watch Tuesday night

Four states will be holding primaries Tuesday — Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon and Pennsylvania. But unlike last week, these races won’t garner that much national attention. 

Still, there are three primaries with implications for the control of Congress — as well as another two with interesting storylines — that we’ll be watching. Here are the five races:  

RACES WE’LL BE WATCHING IN NOVEMBER

PA-1: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., is the vulnerable incumbent here in Pennsylvania’s revised congressional map, and the Democratic race to take him on in this Philly-area district features frontrunner Scott Wallace (his grandfather was FDR Vice President Henry Wallace) and Navy vet Rachel Reddick (who’s backed by EMILY’s List). 

The Wallace-vs.-Reddick primary has been negative over the airwaves, with Reddick attacking Wallace for previously being registered to vote in Maryland and for owning a home in South Africa. Meanwhile, Wallace – who has more money to spend in Philadelphia’s expensive media market — has fired back at Reddick, criticizing her for moving back to the district from DC and for being a past registered Republican. 

PA-7: Talk about ideological diversity in the Democratic primary for the open competitive seat vacated by Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa. On the right of the Dem spectrum is Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli — the frontrunner due to his name ID — who hasdeleted past tweets praising Trump and criticizing progressives. In the middle is former Allentown city solicitor Susan Wild (who’s backed by EMILY’s List). And on the left is pastor Greg Edwards (who’s supported by Bernie Sanders). 

Huffington Post says this primary has become "a microcosm of the factional battles that have consumed the Democratic Party since the 2016 presidential primary. Lehigh Valley Democrats will get the chance to choose from a cautious Clintonian, a Sanders-style populist and a conservative Democrat hailing from the margins of the contemporary party." 

NE-2: In a true Democratic establishment-vs.-progressive battle, former Democratic Congressman Brad Ashford has a primary race against liberal Kara Eastman. Per the Omaha World-Herald, Ashford wants to build upon the Affordable Care Act, while Eastman wants “Medicare For All”; Ashford supported TPP, while Eastman opposed it; and Ashford has campaigned on compromise, while Eastman says the district needs a fighter.

The winner will take on incumbent Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., who narrowly beat Ashford in 2016, 49 percent to 48 percent. 

RACES WITH INTERESTING STORYLINES

PA-6: Democrat Chrissy Houlahan — an Air Force veteran and one of Democrats’ favorite recruits nationwide — is unopposed in this district, which after redistricting looks like a "Likely D" seat. Assuming she wins in November, Pennsylvania would no longer be the largest state without a woman in its congressional delegation. 

PA-14: Remember Rick Saccone, who lost to Democrat Conor Lamb in the PA-18 race? Well, he’s running for Congress again, in the revised 14th district. And Republican primary challenger Guy Reschenthaler is airing this TV ad against him: “Saccone already lost a safe Republican seat. Even President Trump called Saccone ‘weak.’”

Image: Tuscaloosa Election Coverage
Voters wait in line at the Bobby Miller Activity Center on Nov. 6, 2012 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Dusty Compton / Tuscaloosa News via AP file

Trump to headline fundraiser for Marsha Blackburn

President Donald Trump will head to Nashville, Tennessee on May 29th to headline a fundraiser for Marsha Blackburn’s Senate campaign.

According to the invitation, ticket prices start at $2,700 for the general reception and go as high as $44,300 for a private roundtable with President Trump.

The fundraiser announcement comes just a few weeks after Trump endorsed Blackburn on Twitter, exclaiming that “She has my full endorsement and I will be there to campaign with her!”.

Trump won Tennessee by 26 points in 2016 and his popularity in the state has remained at 50 percent since his election, roughly 10 points higher than the national average.

Despite the President's popularity in Tennessee, recent polling shows former Governor Phil Bredesen, a Democrat who won every county in the state in his 2006 re-election, leading Blackburn in the general election.

Trump’s stop in Tennessee six months out from the November election is a sign of just how competitive this race is expected to be. And he is not the first big name to make an appearance in the state. In April, Joe Biden hosted a fundraiser for Bredesen. 

Mark Murray

Senate Majority PAC boosts Manchin in WV-SEN

With the general election now set in West Virginia’s Senate race, Senate Majority PAC — the Democratic Senate super PAC — is airing a statewide TV ad touting Sen. Joe Manchin’s, D-W.V., work to combat opioids. 

Manchin faces state AG Patrick Morrisey in November. 

Here's the ad: