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Tester's first TV ad highlights his bills Trump signed into law

In the first TV ad of his re-election campaign, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is playing up the legislation that President Trump signed into law. 

Of course, Montana is a state that Trump won by 20 points in 2016, 56 percent to 36 percent. 

Eight months until Election Day 2016, Tester is the favorite in this red-state contest.

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Ex-Gianforte spokesman who blamed reporter for assault has new job

Shane Scanlon, who served as spokesman to Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont. during a 2017 special election in which the then-candidate assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, has a new role in Montana politics.

He’s now communications director for Matt Rosendale, the state auditor running for the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. in November. Scanlon confirmed his position in a call with NBC News.

Scanlon attracted attention for his personal role in the Gianforte story, in which he put out an initial statement blaming Jacobs for the attack, saying he “shoved a recorder in Greg’s face” and “grabbed Greg’s wrist” after the candidate tried to grab his phone recorder, pulling them both to the ground. “It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene,” Scanlon said at the time.

But a Fox News crew who witnessed the scene soon contradicted Scanlon, with one reporter writing that Gianforte “grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him” after Jacobs approached him with a question about health care. Audio of the incident revealed Gianforte screaming in rage at Jacobs and telling him to “get the hell out of here.”  

Gianforte later apologized to Jacobs and took “full responsibility” for the attack as part of an agreement to settle any civil damages. “Notwithstanding anyone’s statements to the contrary, you did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you,” he said in a letter, an apparent reference to Scanlon’s quote on behalf of his campaign.

Gianforte went on to plead guilty to misdemeanor assault in connection with incident and was sentenced to community service and anger management counseling.  Scanlon, however, has never publicly revised his account.

Jacobs, who had previously called Scanlon’s statement “defamatory,” declined to comment on his hire with Rosendale’s campaign. He told NBC News he has had no contact with Scanlon since the assault. 

Carrie Dann

Poll: Americans are pessimistic that the U.S. is living up to its key democratic values

Americans are mostly in agreement about the things that are most important to our democracy. The bad news is: They’re also mostly in agreement that the country is falling far short of those ideals.

An extensive new survey from the Pew Research Center finds that while huge majorities of Americans say that it’s very important for the United States that the rights and freedoms of all people are respected (84 percent), that elected officials face serious consequences for misconduct (83 percent) and that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed (82 percent), far fewer say that those tenets of democracy are a reality in America.

Overall, just 30 percent say elected officials are punished for bad behavior, and only about half believe all Americans are afforded equal respect and opportunities.

And only about a third of Americans or fewer say that government policies reflect the views of most Americans (36 percent), that people agree on basic facts even if they disagree on politics (34 percent), that government is open and transparent (30 percent), that campaign contributions don’t unduly influence politics (26 percent) and that the two parties can work together on issues facing the country (19 percent).

That pessimism is also reflected in how Americans view their elected officials overall. Just a quarter of Americans say they have a great deal (3 percent) or a fair amount of confidence (22 percent) in elected officials to act in the best interest of the public.

Among Republicans, confidence in elected officials has increased since the election of Donald Trump, while confidence has sunk among Democrats in the same period of time. In 2016, 32 percent of Democrats expressed confidence in elected officials, but just 17 percent say the same now. In the last two years, the percentage of Republicans expressing confidence in elected officials has risen from 22 percent to 36 percent.

Americans do mostly agree on the major responsibilities of a good citizen. Three-quarters (74 percent) say it is very important to vote in elections, and majorities cite paying taxes (71 percent), following the law (69 percent) and serving on jury duty (61 percent) as very important to being a citizen.

But they also still don’t have too much faith in the political wisdom of the voting populace at large. Fifty-six percent say they have little or no confidence at all in the American people's ability to make political decisions. That’s actually down from 2016, when 64 percent said the same.

 

 

Pew Research Center
Andrew Rafferty

Red state Dems end up split on Pompeo

The U.S. Senate confirmed Mike Pompeo as secretary of state Thursday with support from five of the ten Democrats up for re-election in red states this fall.

Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Bill Nelson of Florida voted for Pompeo. Each faces tough re-election campaigns in states Trump won, in most cases handily, in 2016. (Trump took each of the states by double digits with the exception of Florida, which he won by just one point.)

As we wrote earlier this week, the vote put these ten senators in a particularly awkward spot by risking alienating their base voters vs. being painted as obstructionist.  

Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats and is also up for re-election, and Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., also voted for Trump’s pick to head the State Department.  The final vote was 57 to 42, with all 50 Republicans who were present voting in favor.

 

Carrie Dann

Special elections have cost the parties more than $48.5 million

Major national Republican and Democratic party groups have spent at least $48.5 million on seven special elections since last April, an NBC News analysis of FEC records finds. 

The lion's share of that spending — which includes independent and coordinated expenditures for each of the races — came from Republicans, with a total of $37 million spent in total by the Republican National Committee, the NRCC, the NRSC and the two major super PACs affiliated with the House and Senate GOP (the Congressional Leadership Fund and the Senate Leadership Fund) .

Combined, those Republican groups spent over $20 million on two races alone: the Georgia election last June to replace now-former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and the Pennsylvania election to fill GOP Rep. Tim Murphy’s seat after he resigned amid scandal. Republicans narrowly won the former but lost the latter in a major upset when Democrat Conor Lamb prevailed in the GOP-friendly district.

Republicans won Tuesday’s special election in Arizona but dramatically underperformed past from GOP presidential results in the district. GOP party groups invested nearly a million dollars in ads and other expenditures in that race, while national Democratic groups did not get involved. 

Democratic Party groups — including the Democratic National Committee, the DCCC, the DSCC and the House Majority PAC — spent only about $11.5 million on independent expenditures and coordinated campaign expenditures in the same seven races.  That tally also includes a group called Highway 31, a super PAC largely funded by the campaign arm of Senate Democrats which spent over $4.2 million on Democrat Doug Jones’s victory in the Alabama Senate race.

It’s worth noting that the tallies of these expenditures — which include funding for spending on television and radio ads, mail and phone banking — don’t capture the full amount of party investment in each race, since both parties also support candidates financially in other ways not captured by the FEC records, such as transfers to state parties, polling and field staff. 

The DCCC, for example, has transferred well over $1 million to the individual state Democratic parties in the states where the contested special elections were held.

Expenditures for seven special elections since last April.
Vaughn Hillyard

Greg Abbott wants Blake Farenthold to pay for the special election to replace him

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott says that former U.S. GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold should cover the cost of the special election on June 30 to fill his seat.

Abbott says the $84,000 in taxpayer money that Farenthold used to settle a sexual harassment claim has not been paid back, and he should, therefore, be responsible for covering the cost of the election two months from now (plus a possible runoff in September).

More, from the letter from Abbott to Farenthold. 

"While you have publicly offered to reimburse the $84,000 in taxpayer funds you wrongly used to settle a sexual harassment claim, there is no legal recourse requiring you to give that money back to Congress.

I am urging you to give those funds back to the counties in your district to cover the costs of the June 30, 2018, special election. This seat must be filled, and the counties and taxpayers in the 27th Congressional District should not again pay the price for your actions.”

Tipirneni concedes in AZ-8

After saying last night that the race was "too close to call," Arizona Democrat Hiral Tipirneni has conceded to Republican Debbie Lesko in the House special election race. 

But she's already eyeing a rematch. 

"Now that nearly all of the votes have been counted, we know that the special election goes to our opponent. I congratulate Debbie Lesko on a hard-fought campaign, and wish her good luck in Congress," she said in a statement. "Our communities have shown the courage to demand more of Washington and more of our representatives. Now, on to November!"

Lesko won by only about a six-point margin, compared to margins of over 20 points in the district for Donald Trump and Mitt Romney in the last two presidential elections. 

Carrie Dann

Poll shows close race in TN-SEN

The race to replace Bob Corker is looking mighty close. 

Another new poll — this one from Mason-Dixon — shows former Democratic governor Phil Bredesen with a narrow lead over Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, 46 percent to 43 percent. Eleven percent of voters are undecided. 

That result, within the poll's margin of error, is particularly noteworthy in a state that voted for Trump by a 26-point margin and hasn't sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1990.

The poll finds that Bredesen, who was a popular centrist as governor, has about the same name recognition as Blackburn but a better favorability rating (43 percent positive/ 18 percent negative compared to her 35 percent positive/ 26 percent negative.) 

He's currently leading among independents (49 percent to 35 percent) and picking off about one-in-10 Republicans. 

The telephone poll of 625 registered voters was conducted April 17 through April 19.

Heitkamp up with first ad of 2018

When you come from a big family, your siblings sometimes join forces to poke fun at you. 

And if you're a United States senator, sometimes they do it in a campaign ad. 

Heidi Heitkamp is up with her first campaign ad of 2018 in a spot that features her siblings good-naturedly ribbing about her unusual methods of completing her designated chore as a kid (laundry) as well as her being "so good, it was almost annoying." 

Here's the ad, which is running statewide and online. 

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.