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How Trump's tariff plan could shake up the midterms

Republicans may disagree about some of the nuances of their 2018 strategy, but one constant had been this: Talk about the strength of the economy and tax cuts, tax cuts, and more tax cuts.

But Donald Trump’s proposal to enact stringent tariffs on steel and aluminum — which most economists say would drive up the costs of steel-dependent products and spark damaging retaliatory measures from trading partners — has Republicans worried that the administration will end up spiking their top midterm talking point.

“Such action could very well undercut the benefits of the pro-growth tax reform we fought to get on the books,” Sen. Orrin Hatch said, according to Politico.

The conservative Club for Growth added in a statement today: “Tariffs will also harm the pro-growth effects of the tax cuts, stall the economy, incite a trade war, and help hand the election to the Democrats.”

And/but: While the consequences of tariffs could hurt the GOP nationally, the move is very popular in a race that’s surely on the president’s mind: Next week’s special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th district, where the steel industry looms large.

Both Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb said in a weekend debate that they support the tariffs.

“Unfortunately, many of our competitors around the world have slanted the playing field, and their thumb has been on the scale and I think President Trump is trying to even that scale back out,” said Saccone.

 

 

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Kailani Koenig

DNC head Tom Perez defends lawsuit against Trump and Russia

WASHINGTON – DNC Chairman Tom Perez on Sunday defended his committee’s lawsuit against President Donald Trump's campaign, the Russian government and WikiLeaks as worth whatever the cost it might take to pursue.

“I don't know the amount of money that it will take, but I will tell you, it's hard to put a price tag on preserving democracy,” Perez said on Sunday’s “Meet The Press.” “That’s why I concluded that it would be irresponsible of me not to do this.” 

The lawsuit, filed on Friday, alleges that the Trump campaign, the Russian government, and Wikileaks engaged in a conspiracy to damage Democrats during the 2016 presidential race.  

But some Democrats have expressed concern about whether the financial investment involved could take away from needed resources for the 2018 midterms. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill reportedly called it a “silly distraction,” while Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier called the lawsuit “not in the interest of the American people." 

Perez responded Sunday by saying, “I love those two Democrats. They're great people. We're working to help re-elect them and I disagree with them for the simple reason that preserving our democracy is priceless.”

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.