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How the Nashville mayor's resignation could hurt Phil Bredesen

Nashville mayor Megan Barry is out, resigning as part of a plea deal about a month after admitting to an extramarital affair with her bodyguard. 

And it could have repercussions in a much bigger contest in November — the Senate battle to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker. 

Here's why: A Tennessee observer reminds us that Democratic Senate frontrunner and former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen was a big booster of Barry's during her mayoral run, issuing a rare endorsement of her in August 2015. (A former Nashville mayor himself, Bredesen had declined to endorse in the previous two mayoral races.)

"I have watched Megan Barry in the council, and openness and coalition building is what she does, and she does it very well, and it is what we need to keep doing here in Nashville," he said during that contest. 

In a statement Tuesday, Bredesen said Barry's departure was "in the best interest" of the city.

“Megan Barry has done what she needs to do in the best interest of Nashville and I respect her for it," he said.  "Now, we all need to rally around Mayor Briley so that he can effectively lead our city and continue without interruption to build on its great success.” 

Still, with Barry's ouster reverberating around the state, it's a good bet the Republican Marsha Blackburn may resurface Bredesen's past support for the disgraced mayor in TV ads. And if the #metoo movement comes up in this race, Bredesen may find himself on the wrong side of the issue. 

 

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Michael Flynn to campaign for MT-SEN candidate

Troy Downing, one of four Republicans vying for a chance to face off against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in Montana, announced Friday that Michael Flynn will campaign for him.

Flynn also recently campaigned for Omar Navarro, a Republican running against Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who has been pushing for Trump’s impeachment. (Navarro isn't a threat to Waters, whose district is very heavily Democratic and majority-minority.) 

Carrie Dann

Race to replace Issa is getting pricey already

Not a whole lot in southern California comes cheap, and that includes TV air time.

So it's no surprise that the race to replace Rep. Darrell Issa in California's 49th congressional district is expensive. But the competitiveness of the race — and its crowded contest in an unusual top-two nonpartisan primary — is making it particularly pricey, perhaps even setting it up to be the most expensive House race in the country. 

According to ad buying group Advertising Analytics, $1.4 million has already been spent on the airwaves, with another $1.5 million booked through the primary on June 5. 

Backers of Democrat Sara Jacobs, the granddaughter of the billionaire founder of Qualcomm, account for nearly half the spending so far. Her campaign has spent about $900,000 on TV ads so far, while advocacy group Women Vote!has spent an additional $670,000 on her behalf. 

Another rival Democrat, Paul Kerr, has spent just over $1 million.

Other Democrats in the race include businessman Doug Applegate and Mike Levin. 

Republican spending hasn't ramped up so much yet. Candidates Kristin Gaspar and Brian Maryott are each spending a bit less than $250,000. GOP Assemblyman Rocky Chavez is viewed as a frontrunner in the race, but has spent little on his campaign so far. 

Carrie Dann

Trump backs Blackburn: 'I will be there to campaign with her!'

As departing Republican Sen. Bob Corker has continued to praise the Democrat running to replace him, President Donald Trump is making clear that he's firmly in Republican Marsha Blackburn's corner. 

"@MarshaBlackburn is a wonderful woman who has always been there when we have needed her," he tweeted. "Great on the Military, Border Security and Crime. Loves and works hard for the people of Tennessee. She has my full endorsement and I will be there to campaign with her!"

Trump won Tennessee by 26 points in 2016, winning 92 of 95 counties. But Democratic candidate and former governor Phil Bredesen is still well-regarded in the state, and one early poll has shown him with the lead. 

Corker, who has at times been an ally and a thorn in the side of the president, has donated to Blackburn's campaign but has also said he will not campaign against Bredesen. 

"I worked very closely with him for years, and he was a very good mayor, very good governor, very good businessperson and look, I'm not going to campaign against someone who, you know, I've been a friend with and worked with," he said Wednesday. 

Andrew Rafferty

Republicans blitz 'High Five Heidi' Heitkamp on day marking iconic celebratory gesture

Only in politics can National High Five Day be seen as a chance to go after a top 2018 target.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee used the occasion Thursday to blast incumbent Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp for greeting Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer during a failed vote to advance legislation that would ban nearly all abortions after 20 weeks.

“While today is National High Five Day, Senator Heidi Heitkamp celebrated back in March when she gave a big high five to her DC boss, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, after voting against North Dakotans,” the NRSC claims.  (The vote and high five in question actually took place in January, not March.)

But a thorough fact check from Politifact of the interaction — that takes into account the definition of a high five — ruled the pair engaged in “an awkward hand waving-turned-holding” and not a celebratory hand slap.  And the greeting, which staffers for both Democrats said was NOT a high five, happened before the final vote count.

The North Dakotan is one of ten Democratic senators up for re-election in states Trump won in 2016. She is a top target for the NRSC, which in March dubbed her "High Five Heidi" in an ad slamming her for the abortion vote, support for Obamacare, and vote against tax cuts.

 

New third party candidate could be a headache for Rauner in IL-GOV

Things were already looking tricky for Bruce Rauner, the Illinois Republican governor who barely avoided losing his March 20 primary to conservative challenger Jeanne Ives. 

But this news isn't going to make life any easier for Rauner in his attempts to ward off Democratic candidate (and billionaire) J.B. Pritzker: there could be a third candidate in the race, who says he'll run as a Conservative Party candidate. 

From the Chicago Tribune: 

Sen. Sam McCann of Plainview announced he’ll run under a new Conservative Party label and criticized Rauner in a video for helping Chicago Democrats control the state.

In a statement, McCann said “the Republican Party under Rauner was unrecognizable to me.”

(snip)

But it could be difficult for McCann to get his name onto the November ballot. He needs the valid signatures of 25,000 voters who did not already sign or circulate candidacy petitions for the March primary. Normally, candidates file twice the number of signatures just to be safe.

In a statement, the Rauner campaign called McCann "the worst kind of political opportunist." 

"McCann’s unethical record speaks for itself: he failed to pay his taxes, racked up massive debts, lied about serving in the Marine Corps, and used his campaign account as a personal piggy bank, even buying himself an SUV," said Rauner communications director Will Allison. “Public service should not be for personal gain and Sam McCann's new ‘campaign’ is just a thinly veiled attempt to profit off of politics."

Carrie Dann

A look at the ads in AZ-8

With Arizona's Eighth Congressional District special election coming up in less than a week, here's a look at some of the ads running in the lead-up to the contest. 

The race — which has been a surprisingly competitive contest in a traditional conservative stronghold — pits Republican state Sen. Debbie Lesko against Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, a physician. The winner will replace Trent Franks, who resigned amid an investigation into sexual harassment allegations after an aide said he tried to pressure her into carrying his child. 

Ads from Lesko and the NRCC have largely focused on immigration, saying Tipirneni "would make you pay for illegal immigrant health care" and that Democrats in Washington would "block border security" and "force taxpayers to fund health care for illegals." (A robo-call from Trump himself reportedly also includes the suggestion that "illegal immigrants will pour right over your border" if Democrats win the House.) 

Tipirneni, on the other hand, has painted Lesko as a "politician" and "more of the same," also referencing her record on taxes. 

And she has taken some heat for an ad that — among other things — references a potential FEC violation involving a Lesko campaign transfer as "a federal investigation into illegal money laundering." The Arizona Republic called that "linguistic license" in a fact check that accused the Democrat of "stretching the truth." 

Andrew Rafferty

Poll: Cruz, O'Rourke locked in tight race in Texas

Sen. Ted Cruz may be headed for a Texas showdown this November.

The Lone Star State Republican is locked in a statistical dead heat with Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, according to a new Quinnipiac Poll released Wednesday. The poll found Cruz leading O’Rourke 47 to 44 percent, within the poll's 3.6 percent margin of error.

Democrats have been hopeful that Texas’ changing demographics will soon give them a shot at winning a Senate seat in the traditionally red state. And Cruz, a firebrand conservative and 2016 presidential hopeful, is a top target.

The poll found O’Rouke leading among independent (51-37%), Hispanic (51-33%), and black (78-18%) voters. Cruz leads among male (51-40%) and white (59-34%) voters, as well as those over the age of 65 (50-43%).

Forty-seven percent of respondents said they approve of the job Cruz is doing, compared to 46 percent who disapprove, and his favorability rating remains slightly above water, 46 to 44 percent.

O’Rourke enjoys a favorability rating of 30 percent, compared to just 16 percent of respondents who said they disapprove.  A majority of Texas voters (53%), however, don’t know enough about the Democratic congressman to form an opinion of him.

“The key may well be independent voters. O'Rourke's 51 to 37 percent lead among that group is key to his standing today,”  Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll, said in a statement announcing the results. “But Texas remains a strong GOP state so O'Rourke will need the independent strength to pull the upset.”

You can read the full survey of 1,029 Texas voters, conducted April 12 to 17, here.

Kucinich's ties to Syria's Assad roil gubernatorial fight for Ohio Democrats

With just three weeks left to go in Ohio’s gubernatorial primary, the state’s last Democratic governor is warning that one of his own party’s candidates for the job is tied to “some of the most despicable people imaginable,” saying Democrats will lose if they nominate him.

Former Gov. Ted Strickland tore into Dennis Kucinich after financial disclosures showed that a group tied to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad paid the former congressman $20,000 for a speech last year. Kucinich also met with Assad last January.

“The people of Ohio need to know ... Dennis has been a cheerleader for that regime and Assad himself,” Strickland said on a conference call organized by Kucinich’s main Democratic opponent, Rich Cordray, the former director of Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.

Strickland, who is backing Cordray in the May 8 primary, accused Kucinich of trying to hide the payment, and called on the former Fox News commentator to release the details of every paid speech he gave since leaving Congress.

Kucinich’s campaign has defended his participation in what was billed as a peace conference, providing a transcript of the outspoken progressive's remarks to the Cincinnati Enquirer, in which he said overthrowing Assad “would destroy Syria.”

Kucinich has the support of a group aligned with Bernie Sander, while the senator himself notably refused to offer his own endorsement in the race. Most other Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have lined up behind Cordray.

Frank Thorp V
Leigh Ann Caldwell

Corker praises the Democrat who wants to replace him

WASHINGTON — Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., isn't running for re-election but he had many words of praise Wednesday for the Democratic candidate who is trying to replace him. 

Phil Bredesen, the former Democratic governor, is running in a tight race against Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn for the open Tennessee senate seat.

Corker has donated money to Blackburn but said he won't campaign against Bredesen.

"I worked very closely with him for years, and he was a very good mayor, very good governor, very good businessperson and look, I'm not going to campaign against someone who, you know, I've been a friend with and worked with," Corker told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. 

In candid comments, Corker said Bredesen is receiving the support of Republicans in the state. 

"Will Bredesen have cross-over appeal? No question. I mean, we have significant Republican fundraisers who are hosting fundraisers for him today, so there's no question he's going to have cross-over appeal," Corker said. 

Blackburn's campaign spokesman Abbi Sigler didn't react specifically to Corker's comments, but said, "Phil Bredesen will be a solid vote for Chuck Schumer and Obama, Clinton-era liberal policies, and Tennesseans are not interested in that."

Blackburn entered the race after Corker, who was fed up with President Donald Trump and politics, said he wouldn't run for re-election. But Corker openly floated changing his mind, even after Blackburn had declared her candidacy. 

Corker added on Wednesday: "I usually don't give money to candidates I don't plan to vote for, but we'll see."

Vaughn Hillyard contributed to this story. 

New project aims to frame progressive messaging on economy, corruption and Trump

A new research project spearheaded by a coalition of progressive pollsters and advocacy group leaders released their first findings Wednesday.

Called the Navigator Project, the group’s goal is to release monthly research designed to help progressive campaigns and advocates use language that resonates better with voters.

On a call with reporters, Jeffrey Pollock, President of the Global Strategy Group and a lead pollster on the project, said that given the pace of the news cycle during the Trump administration, it is increasingly important for progressives to get their messaging right.

“We thought there was a vacuum for the right language,” said Pollock.

In this month’s survey, respondents were asked how they felt about the economy, corruption and Trump’s behavior in office.

Pollsters on the project said that although there is a general perception that the economy is doing well, there is concern about the future, and 67 percent of respondents said that “wealthy people at the top” are benefitting more than middle-class and working people. A majority — 56 percent — of respondents also said the GOP tax bill was passed to benefit wealthy donors rather than to help the economy more generally.

Some criticisms of the president landed more than others. Respondents were more concerned with descriptions of Trump being reckless or abusing his power for personal gain than they were with complaints that he is lazy or spends too much time on the golf course.

On the call, partners in the initiative said Democratic candidates should tailor the information from the survey depending on what kind of district they are in. But, Pollock noted that the perception of people “at the top” benefitting more from America’s economic success resonated everywhere.