Paul Ryan's congressional district has been a battleground

While Paul Ryan has been reliably reelected since he joined the House in 1998, Democrats had been optimistic that their prime candidate this year could unseat him. Ironworker and Army vet Randy Bryce (often referred to by his twitter moniker @Ironstache) is viewed as a good match for this industrial district. He's well-funded and well-organized, too; he raised $2.1 million this last quarter, outraising Ryan for the 3-month period and putting his total haul at about $4.75 million. Schoolteacher Cathy Myers is also running in the Democratic primary.

The DCCC recently put the race in their red-to-blue program, which directs resources to the country’s most competitive takeover opportunities for the party. 

The district has been a competitive battleground. 

  • In 2008, Obama won it, 51 percent to 48 percent. 
  • In 2012, with Ryan on the ticket, Mitt Romney only won this district by five points, 52 percent to Obama’s 47 percent. 
  • In 2016, the margin for Trump was 10 points; 52 percent to Clinton’s 42 percent. 

Republicans do have some time to find a Ryan replacement. The filing deadline in Wisconsin is June 1. 

And they’ll have to find an alternative. Currently, the other significant Republican candidate who has filed to run in Ryan’s district is Paul Nehlen, who Ryan trounced in the 2016 primary. Nehlen, who’s been identified as a white nationalist,  has been suspended from Twitter and disavowed by the Wisconsin Republican Party for anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric. You can read more about him here.

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Hoping to provoke Trump, Democratic candidate runs "Apprentice" ad on POTUS' favorite TV show

Damon Martinez was one of the 46 U.S. Attorneys fired by President Donald Trump early last year. Now he’s running for Congress and eager to provoke another confrontation with the president, running an ad on the president's favorite TV show featuring footage from "The Apprentice."

The New Mexico Democrat is running for an Albuquerque-area congressional seat. But this week, his ad will air in Washington, D.C. on Fox News' "Fox & Friends," a show Trump is known to watch often, as well on broadcast networks back home.

The ad dramatizes Martinez' firing as if it were an episode of the NBC reality show Trump once hosted, complete with a mock-up of the show's famous boardroom and an old clip from the show of Trump telling Martinez, "you're fired."

Martinez is running in a crowded primary in the Democratic-leaning 1st Congressional District, which Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., vacated to run for governor.

The unconventional ad strategy — most congressional candidates don't pay to run ads thousands of miles from their district's voters — seems intended to provoke a response and help Martinez standout with base voters ahead of the June 5 primary.


Andrew Rafferty

Romney taunts NBA star while cheering on Utah Jazz

Utah Senate candidate and noted "sport" enthusiast Mitt Romney was spotted gleefully taunting Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook during Monday's playoff game in Salt Lake. 

The 2012 GOP presidential nominee, sporting a custom Utah Jazz jersey with his name on the back over a collared shirt, jeered Westbrook from his near court-side seats as the All-Star guard made his way to the bench after picking up his fourth foul in the first half. 

Romney had a lot to cheer for as the Jazz won to take a 3-1 lead in the series. Westbrook, however, did not end up fouling out of the game. 

The former Massachusetts governor wasn't cheering quite over the weekend when he failed to capture the Utah GOP's Senate nomination at a convention. He will compete in a June primary against Utah state representative Mike Kennedy in the race to fill the seat of outgoing Sen. Orrin Hatch. Romney is still a heavy favorite to win the seat. 

A bipartisan ticket in FL-GOV?

Here's something that could shake up the field in Florida’s governor’s race and show us if voters are really so dissatisfied with partisanship that they’re willing to go for a bipartisan option: 

From the Tampa Bay Times--

Former Congressmen Patrick Murphy and David Jolly are exploring a bipartisan run for governor, a surprise move that hinges on polling Democrat Murphy has commissioned this week.

Murphy would run for the Democratic nomination as Jolly, a moderate Republican and prominent anti-Trump voice on cable news, would have no chance of winning a GOP primary.

The men have become friends over the past year as they've gone across the country on a town-hall style tour about gridlock and dysfunction in Washington.

Murphy, 35, lost a Senate race to Marco Rubio in 2016. Jolly, 45, lost his re-election bid the same year against Charlie Crist.

Democratic hopeful Andrew Gillum’s campaign responded to the “trial balloon” Tuesday morning: "We welcome anyone who wants to talk about Florida’s future. The contrast in vision and background between the three millionaires running against Andrew Gillum couldn’t be more clear.”

And here's Chris King campaign spokesman Avery Jaffe: "After five straight gubernatorial losses and eight years of Rick Scott, Florida Democrats deserve a fresh start and new leadership. If they join the race, we look forward to learning more about how the two former congressmen plan to do that not only in style, but also in substance."

Andrew Rafferty

Red state Dems breaking for Pompeo

Red state Democrats are breaking for President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state.

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, each up for re-election this November in states won by Trump, are the first three Democrats to announce support for CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s nomination. Their yes votes seemingly clear the path for his confirmation. 

Ten Democratic senators will be on the ballot this fall in red states. The other seven have yet to announce where they come down on what is a political dilemma for these senators. As First Read wrote last week: “Do they vote FOR his vote confirmation, risking alienating base Democrats they’ll need even in these red states? Or do they vote AGAINST him, and risk seeming like a partisan engaging in obstruction when they’re trying to tout their bipartisan credentials?”

Heitkamp was the first Democrat to announce her support for Pompeo last week, with Manchin and Donnelly pledging support on Monday.


Teacher pay mixes things up in AZ-GOV

It's a tricky time to be Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. 

Ducey, a Republican who is up for reelection, has drawn a primary challenger over his handling of teacher pay as educators in the state are planning a massive walkout protest. 

Former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett announced over the weekend that he will challenge Ducey after his "panic and flip-flopping" over the teacher pay issue. 

Ducey announced a plan last week to give teachers a 20 percent pay raise by 2020, a proposal that has been met with resistance from GOP lawmakers who are skeptical that the state will have the money to pay for the plan. 

Here's more on Bennett's challenge, from the Arizona Republic. 

Carrie Dann

Paul Ryan's former driver is running for his congressional seat

The new frontrunner in the GOP primary to replace Paul Ryan is back in the driver's seat. 

Bryan Steil, who announced his run over the weekend, is an attorney and a member of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents who has been active in GOP politics in the district. But he's also got a connection to the departing speaker of the House; he was his personal driver from 2003-2004. 

Democrats are enthusiastic about their leading candidate, ironworker and Army vet Randy Bryce (often referred to by his twitter moniker @Ironstache.) Bryce, who's posted impressive fundraising hauls, outraised Ryan in the last quarter. Schoolteacher Cathy Myers is also running. 

The district has been a competitive battleground. In 2008, Obama won it, 51 percent to 48 percent. In 2012, with Ryan on the ticket, Mitt Romney won it by just five points, 52 percent to Obama’s 47 percent.

In 2016, the margin for Trump was 10 points; 52 percent to Clinton’s 42 percent. 

The primary is August 14. 

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.