In it, but not of it. TPM DC

It was supposed to be a blockbuster year for Democrats as they marched to retake the Senate, but the Democrats' are finding their job a little tougher than first expected.

In Florida, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL) has faced attacks for embellishing his resume and then, making matters worse, the incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) jumped back in the race. In Ohio, former Gov. Ted Strickland has struggled to make up a fundraising gap against incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and in Pennsylvania, Democrats ended up spending valuable resources –more than $1 million– boosting Katie McGinty in a primary against former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA).

If Democrats are having a harder time than expected in a few marquee races in 2016, none of it may matter in the time of Donald Trump.

This week, polls showed the Republican presidential candidate's campaign in free fall –high single-digit and sometimes double-digit deficits– that even the strongest senatorial candidates likely won't be able to weather.

In Pennsylvania, a Franklin and Marshall College poll found Clinton had an 11 point lead. In Florida, a Suffolk University poll found Clinton was up 6 points in a head-to-head match-up with Trump. In New Hampshire –where Democrats recruited a popular two-term sitting governor to run for the Senate– Clinton was up 15 points against Trump.

Those are margins that get very difficult for Republican senators to outrun, experts say.

"You cannot just withstand a blowout," said Rob Jesmer, a former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "I could see a scenario where we lose the White House and hold the Senate, but if Trump is just getting destroyed even if our guys can outperform the ballot at three to four or even five points, it is very problematic."

Democrats need five states to win the Senate majority back in November and four to tie it. They are most bullish on states like Wisconsin and Illinois, which seem to be trending blue. Their next best hope seems to be in New Hampshire and in Indiana, where the last-minute recruiting of Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) could be enough to bring Democrats to a tie in the Senate. If Clinton wins the White House, four seats will be enough to give them the majority on tie votes.

From there, however, the road to the majority relies heavily on hard races against incumbents in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania where the saving grace for Democrats may be that the presidential campaign will dominate the airwaves.

Read More →

Like he has done on many other issues, Donald Trump is fumbling and overplaying the typical GOP talking points on the supposed threat of voter fraud. But that hasn’t stopped the voting rights community from worrying that he might be further fueling the arguments used to justify voting restrictions pushed by Republican lawmakers across the country, even if Trump is speaking with only himself in mind.

“The whole aura of illegitimacy he is casting on the election in general ... he is feeding an already very hungry beast here with these kinds of accusations,” Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford Law professor who served on the Presidential Commission on Election Administration in 2012, told TPM.

Read More →

When Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) was facing an onslaught of outside spending in her member vs. member congressional primary in June, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was one of the only politicians in the GOP who swooped in to try to save her.

He recorded a robocall for Ellmers, who had been one of his earliest congressional supporters. It didn't work. Ellmers lost, but as the three-term incumbent watches Trump's campaign weather a near implosion, she says she's still not ready to give up on him.

Read More →

Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly said that North Carolina's motion had been filed with the Supreme Court. It had been filed to the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

North Carolina is asking the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to halt its ruling striking down the state's voter ID law, and other voting restrictions the state passed in 2013. The state filed a motion for a stay with the appeals court Wednesday, asking the court to block implementation of the ruling while North Carolina readies a petition for the Supreme Court to hear the full case.

Read More →

Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS) wasn’t on the ballot, but Tuesday’s elections suggested that even the state’s Republicans believe his Kansas experiment has been a failure.

The GOP primary was a bloodbath for Brownback’s buddies in the state legislature. Five far-right conservatives in Kansas’ House and six state senators lost their seats to Republican challengers. The losing incumbents included Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, an oft-ally of the governor. The hardliners were defeated by a wave of moderate Republicans, who were also victorious in a number of open elections Tuesday. The purge of Tea Party state lawmakers -- by Republican primary voters no less -- is being viewed in the state as a referendum on Brownback’s agenda on cutting taxes and shrinking government to minuscule levels.

Read More →

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) released a scathing statement Wednesday morning blasting House GOP leaders for the primary loss of fellow Freedom caucus member Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), a fifth generation farmer who found himself without a job Tuesday night after playing official agitator to his own party's leadership for years.

"At times, Tim’s commitment to fighting for smaller, more accountable government required him to stand up and say no to ‘business as usual’ in Washington," Jordan wrote in the release. "For this, he was punished by the same party insiders and special interests that Republican voters across the country overwhelmingly rejected at the ballot box throughout the presidential nomination process."

Read More →

Donald Trump's vision of a realigned U.S. foreign policy is already threatening to destabilize the current international system and force the world to reappraise America's role in it even before Trump sets foot in the Oval Office, some top U.S. foreign policy experts are arguing.

Trump's often disjointed and ill-informed remarks on international affairs are themselves troubling, but the deeper concern among experts is his disregard for security arrangements built on predictability and longstanding American commitments.

Phillip Lohaus, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, says that in his personal experience, as he has traveled abroad over the last year, "every conversation begins and ends with Trump."

"A lot of these people don't understand why a candidate would seek to change an international system that was designed by America and benefits America," Lohaus said. "They don't understand why we would undermine that when it is in our interest to keep things together."

Whether it's his backing away from America's NATO commitments, his softer posture toward Russia or his more bellicose approach toward nearly everyone else, Trump is unraveling the bipartisan foreign policy consensus that has held sway for decades -- and that is not going unnoticed abroad.

“He's done serious damage to our position abroad because clearly people wonder whether he reflects an underlying sense of isolationism on the part of the United States that even if he doesn’t win the White House is far more serious than anybody thought," said Dov Zakheim, a foreign policy adviser who has worked with Republicans on foreign policy from the Ronald Reagan administration to the Mitt Romney campaign.

Trump's worldview– including his insistence over the weekend that Russia would not invade Ukraine (even though it already occupied Crimea) and his declarations that he would "bomb the shit" out of ISIS without much consideration for civilian casualties–has alarmed traditionally hawkish, Republican-aligned foreign policy advisers and operatives and left leaders on both sides nervous that the world is beginning to reexamine the U.S.'s position on the world stage.

Outside of the broad reshaping of America's role, experts note that Trump is causing countries to begin discussing contingency plans just in case he's elected.

In Japan, Lohaus said he was stunned to see a reinvigorated discussion of building up of the country's military. Lohaus said noted serious discussions about amending the country's Article Nine, which dictates that Japan's only military force be for essential self defense, a post-World War II policy that has been credited with helping stabilize the region for nearly 75 years.

"They have to start thinking, 'Maybe we need to start thinking about ourselves,'" Lohaus told TPM.

Many security experts who spoke with TPM emphasized that Trump's words have introduced a real uncertainty among allies that the U.S. may not be as willing to help in a crisis as its past presidents have been.

"There are a number of places in the world where stability depends heavily on U.S. reliability and U.S. involvement and calling those into question can be destabilizing as other countries decide to look out for themselves," said Philip Levy, a senior fellow on global economy at the Chicago Council On Global Affairs.

Levy pointed out that as Trump has made demonizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership a cornerstone of his campaign, U.S. allies may give more consideration to a competing alternative – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership– which the U.S. is not a part of and would put China in the driver's seat of setting Asian trade policy. While Hillary Clinton has also come out against TPP and the path to approving the deal was always narrow, Levy noted that Trump's crusade against it in swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio have only made "the narrow window seem even narrower."

Read More →

A slew of post-convention polls has set the stage for the rest of the presidential race, and Donald Trump has a long way to go.

The first batch of top line numbers are in, and they show Hillary Clinton pulling away from the narrow lead she had over Trump going into last month’s conventions. Her lead, in polls taken in the last few days, varies from three to nine percentage points, depending on which poll you’re looking at.

Read More →

At some point, when gearing up to run for president for a second time, Hillary Clinton decided that she was not going to run away from the reality that she could be the first female presidential nominee of a major party ticket. Judging by the reception her achievement received in Philadelphia this week, it was a wise decision.

In interviews with TPM throughout the Democratic National Convention, Clinton delegates brought up -- often unprompted -- the historical nature of her nomination, a milestone her campaign has also embraced.

Read More →