OFF TO THE RACES: If at first you don’t succeed, change the laws instead
AL-SEN: Alabama is working to change its special election laws. From the Montgomery Advertiser: “The bill, sponsored by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark and coming after last year’s special election for U.S. Senate, would allow a governor’s appointee for a Senate vacancy to serve until the next general election in the state, rather than have the governor call a special election. The appointee would go through regularly scheduled primaries for that contest… The bill does not address other offices in the state. Clouse said the bill aimed to save the state the costs of a special election, saying last year’s contest for U.S. Senate cost the state $11 million. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 other states use the methods outlined in Clouse's bill.” The bill now goes to the Senate.
FL: A potential big development in Florida: “Florida voters will decide this fall whether 1.5 million felons will get their voting rights back. Floridians for Fair Democracy, led by Desmond Meade, of Orlando, successfully gathered more than 799,000 certified signatures in their years-long petition drive, just a week before the deadline to reach the required total of about 766,000. Because of that, the state on Tuesday certified the initiative for the Nov. 6 ballot.”
FL-SEN: Immigration activists in Florida aren’t happy with Bill Nelson’s shutdown vote.
KS-GOV: Independent Greg Orman is officially in the race, prompting Democrats to worry that he’ll pull votes from their side.
PA-7: Don’t miss Rep. Pat Meehan’s interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, in which he tries to defend his conduct towards a younger female staffer whom he said he called his “soul mate.” (He says he’s still running for reelection.)
PA-18: After his tweets and a visit to the district, Trump has officially endorsed Rick Saccone in a statement. Meanwhile, Mike Pence will campaign for him on February 2.
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And the Congressional Leadership Fund will put $1.5 million in ads on the air to back Saccone.
IL-GOV: “Billionaire investor J.B. Pritzker and state Sen. Daniel Biss tried to change the dynamics of the Illinois Democratic governor’s race Tuesday night, attacking each other during the first televised debate and relegating businessman Chris Kennedy largely to the sidelines. Still, it was Kennedy, a first-time candidate from an iconic Massachusetts political family, who had one of the forum’s most memorable moments. Asked to say something nice about Pritzker, Kennedy instead repeated his go-to line of attack, calling his opponent a “poster child of all that’s wrong with the corrupt system in our state.”
TN-GOV: In-state tuition for immigrants in the country illegally is splitting the Tennessee gubernatorial field. (Diane Black skipped the forum where the issue came up.)
UT-SEN: A new Salt Lake Tribune poll shows Mitt Romney with 64 percent of the vote, compared to just 19 percent for Democrat Jenny Wilson.
WV-SEN: Manchin is in, but he’s warning Democrats. The New York Times: “Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia told colleagues on Tuesday that he intended to run for re-election this year after all, ending an anxiety-making flirtation with retirement and easing Democratic fears that the most conservative Democrat in the Senate was about to effectively hand his seat to a Republican. In an interview, Mr. Manchin said he repeatedly expressed his frustration to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, and other colleagues, telling them that “this place sucks,” before finally signaling Tuesday morning to Mr. Schumer’s aides that he would file his re-election paperwork before West Virginia’s deadline on Saturday.”
TRUMP AGENDA: Details on Michael Flynn’s year-old FBI interview
An NBC exclusive, from Carol Lee: “A year ago today, Donald Trump’s newly sworn–in national security adviser, Michael Flynn, met privately in his West Wing office with FBI investigators interested in his communications with Russia's ambassador, without a lawyer or the knowledge of the president and other top White House officials, according to people familiar with the matter.”
Jonathan Allen asks: Has Trump backed himself into an immigration corner? “If Trump can't come to an agreement with Democrats in Congress by March 5, he'll have to decide whether to infuriate immigration hard-liners by unilaterally extending the DACA deadline or risk further energizing Democrats and alienating moderate Republicans by leaving Dreamers vulnerable to deportation.”
Leigh Ann Caldwell has the latest on the immigration fight: “Now that the government has reopened, the hard part begins. New promises are pushing Congress to move forward on divisive immigration issues like DACA and border security with almost lightning speed for a deliberative body that is used to a glacial pace. And while leaders of both parties in the Senate have agreed on a process, they remain miles apart on the details of a solution.”
And Chuck Schumer is acknowledging that there is no iron-clad guarantee that Senate Republicans will allow a vote on immigration in two weeks, though he says Democrats will keep Mitch McConnell’s “feet to the fire.” (Schumer also has rescinded his original offer to Trump on border wall funding.)
The New York Times notes that a bipartisan group of senators is trying to dislodge the Senate from its current rut — on immigration and other issues. “In sidestepping Senate leaders of both parties, members of the group have taken it upon themselves to not only quickly resolve an immigration dispute that has long defied answers, but also prove that the Senate’s frozen legislative gears can still turn.”
Mike Memoli reports: “Former Vice President Joe Biden publicly lamented that top elected leaders didn’t do more to inform the public about Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, candidly calling the political dilemma facing President Obama “tricky as hell” and seeming to put some of the blame on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.”
ICYMI: Sen. Tammy Duckworth is pregnant, which means that she will become the first senator to give birth in office.