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Rep. Will Hurd's surprise retirement is big, bad news for the GOP

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Rep. Will Hurd
Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee meeting to organize for the 115th Congress on Jan. 24, 2017.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call file

WASHINGTON — For all of the attention on the divided Democrats on display at this week’s presidential debates, the GOP might have received worse news on Thursday.

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, announced he won’t seek re-election in 2020 – the biggest House GOP retirement since Paul Ryan’s in 2018.

It’s also the sixth House GOP retirement in just the last two weeks, per NBC’s Alex Moe.

Why the Hurd news is significant:

  • It makes it much more likely the GOP will lose the district in 2020 (Hillary Clinton carried it in ’16); the Cook Political Report has already moved it to Lean D.
  • It makes it that much harder for the GOP to win control of Congress – Republicans need to flip 18 seats, and losing Hurd’s TX-23 district raises the number to 19.
  • Like Ryan’s announcement in 2018, it sends the message to GOP donors and potential recruits that flipping the House might be out of reach for Republicans.
  • It eliminates more diversity for the GOP — Hurd was the sole African-American member of the House Republican caucus.
  • And when it comes to the immigration debate, it robs the GOP of their only member representing a district on the U.S.-Mexico border.

But there’s an even more significant story going on here: The non-Trump wing of the Republican Party wants out.

Think about the other GOP retirements we’ve seen — Reps. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., Martha Roby, R-Ala., and now Hurd.

And these Republicans parachuting out of the Republican Party underscore how vulnerable Trump really is, despite the growing economy.

The fewer Will Hurd-like members running in 2020 reduces the number of moderate/non-Trump Republicans who would eagerly go to the polls for those representatives – and then still hold their nose and vote for the president.

The Republican Party is getting smaller and smaller, and that isn’t good news for an incumbent Republican president.

Tweet of the day

Trump, tariffs and the Fed

Speaking of Trump’s weakness despite the growing economy, it’s important to start connecting the dots:

Here’s CNBC’s Steve Leisman: “Probably needs to be stated again: the president is increasing tariffs the day after the Fed Chair (whom the president chose) warned that tariffs represent the single biggest threat to the us and global economies. And he said it repeatedly.”

What the heck is going on here? Is Trump deliberating trying to juice the economy with lower interest rates – as we head into his re-election?

And if so, what does that say about the long-term benefits of the tax cuts that Trump and Republicans passed into law?

2020 Vision: Klobuchar says she’s qualified for the September debates

NBC’s Ali Vitalireports that Amy Klobuchar’s campaign says it’s met the 130,000-donor threshold to qualify for next month’s Democratic presidential debates in Houston.

She had already met the polling threshold.

This makes Klobuchar the eighth Democrat to have qualified for the September debates, joining Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke and Cory Booker.

On the campaign trail

Today: Warren, Buttigieg, O’Rourke, Julian Castro and Steve Bullock all stump in Nevada… Tim Ryan campaigns in Iowa… And Dr. Jill Biden also hits the Hawkeye State.

Saturday: Nearly the entire field participates in an AFSCME forum in Las Vegas – Michael Bennet, Biden, Booker, Castro, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Harris, Jay Inslee, Klobuchar, Seth Moulton, O'Rourke, Ryan, Sanders, Tom Steyer, Warren and Marianne Williamson.

Dispatches from NBC’s embeds

Sen. Cory Booker held a “Detroit Rise” event in Michigan, where he was still riding high from his debate performance on Wednesday night. NBC’s Gary Grumbach reports that Booker reminded the crowd of his criticism of Vice President Joe Biden.

“Booker: I'll tell you, didn't get much sleep last night everybody. I saw somebody brought a pack of Kool-Aid up in here (laughter). All I have to say is, what flavor is it (laughter)? There it is, there it is.”

And NBC’s Priscilla Thompson reports from Iowa, where Dr. Jill Biden, the former vice president’s wife, touted her husband’s performance.

“Dr. Jill Biden praised her husband’s debate performance in a room full of Iowa voters [yesterday]. ‘I think Joe did such a great job and I think you know, I saw in Joe what Tim said that what we want in a leader. It's his character and his strength,’ she said. ‘I think they were all great, but I think his character is what set him apart from all the other candidates in the race.’”

Data Download: The number of the day is … 117


That's the number of House Democrats now calling for an impeachment inquiry or impeachment vote against the president, according to a count by our NBC Capitol Hill team.

That includes 24 who have come out for impeachment since Robert Mueller testified publicly on the Hill last month.

One other member — Republican-turned-independent Justin Amash – has also called for impeachment.

The Lid: Making the cut

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we previewed who's in line to qualify for the next debate in September.

ICYMI: New clips you shouldn’t miss

Markets took a hit after Trump's tariff threat to China.

Bots have been wreaking havoc on social media during the Democratic debates.

Another claim by Trump's DNI pick, Rep. John Radcliffe, has fallen apart.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló's resignation becomes effective today, but no one is sure who will replace him.

Trump agenda: Dialing it back

Trump dialed back his attacks on "the Squad" last night in Ohio, but still repeated many of his familiar lines.

The budget bill is headed to the president's desk.

The Justice Department won't prosecute James Comey for leaking memos.

2020: Why doesn’t she have a plan for that?

Health care seems to be the one policy area where Elizabeth Warren HASN'T rolled out her own complex plan.

POLITICO looks at how Joe Biden's "family fortunes have closely tracked his political career."

The AP looks at how Biden is wrestling with Obama's legacy.

And many Democrats aren't happy with how the party is talking about Obama's tenure.