Daniel Strauss

Daniel Strauss is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He was previously a breaking news reporter for The Hill newspaper and has written for Politico, Roll Call, The American Prospect, and Gaper's Block. He has also interned at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and The New Yorker. Daniel grew up in Chicago and graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in History. At Michigan he helped edit Consider, a weekly opinion magazine. He can be reached at daniel@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Daniel

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie plans to formally challenge Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) as early as next week, according to The New York Times.

Gillespie, now a lobbyist, had previously strongly hinted that he would challenge Warner, who has amassed an impressive $7.1 million war chest for his re-election.

Gillespie is considered a top-tier candidate among the potential Republican bench but still, it is likely an upward battle for him to defeat Warner.

A September Quinnipiac poll found Warner with 61 percent job approval and 22 percent disapproval. Even 52 percent of Republicans in the poll approved of the job he's doing as senator.

According to the Times, Gillespie doesn't seem to be planning to run a tea party-style campaign. Instead he'll try run shake off a number of high profile GOP losses in 2013 including for the governor's office and attorney general. But to do that, Gillespie will have to win over tea partiers and far-right voters in the state that are skeptical of his candidacy because he was a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. Gillespie is conservative on a number of other issues though, including abortion.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) used Republican challenger Bruce Rauner's proposal to lower the state minimum wage to compare the GOP candidate to Montgomery Burns, the evil wealthy nuclear power plant owner in the cartoon The Simpsons.

In a fundraising email sent out by Quinn's reelection campaign on Thursday, Quinn said Rauner, a private equity executive, and the rest of the GOP gubernatorial primary field "have all the compassion of C. Montgomery Burns."

"Putting more money into the pockets of those who are living paycheck to paycheck is not only the right and decent thing to do, it's good for the economy," Quinn said. "Everyday people don't admire the extra money they earn in the bank - they spend it in the local community, creating more jobs."

Quinn's fundraising email came a day after news broke that Rauner, on a local radio show, argued that Illinois's minimum wage should be lowered from $8.25 an hour to $7.25. That comment was met with negative pushback and Rauner quickly apologized saying he's actually for tying the state's minimum wage to the national minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 an hour.

President Barack Obama and national Democrats have proposed raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and Quinn wants to raise Illinois's minimum wage to $10 an hour. The other three candidates in the GOP primary do not support raising the minimum wage but have not said it should be lowered either.

"As long as I'm governor, I will never stop fighting until we raise the minimum wage in Illinois," Quinn continued in the email.

To former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) passed "the test" with an exhaustive press conference responding to new details about the George Washington Bridge scandal.

Reacting to the presser, Brown, speaking on Fox News on Thursday, said Christie's response was "refreshing."

"So, yes, it was refreshing. I think he certainly addressed it, and he's not done," Brown said. "Obviously, he still has to do his due diligence, and that's what you're looking for in a leader, I don't care if it's Democrat or Republican. He did pass the test."

Brown went on to say that he expected Christie to survive the scandal.

"So as long as he continues to do his job and do it well like he's done and take the blame, like he's done, I think he'll, obviously, move forward and move through it pretty well," Brown added.

Democrats were far less forgiving. The Democratic National Committee panned the press conference as an ego trip for Christie.

"Chris Christie needs to focus less on his ego, and more on the people of NJ," DNC Communications Director Mo Elleithee said in a statement on Thursday.

The Democratic National Committee was quick to blast New Jersey Gov. Chris Chistie's (R) exhaustive press conference responding to the George Washington Bridge scandal by arguing that it was just an ego trip for him.

The statement, by DNC communications director Mo Elleithee, came just a few minutes after Christie's hour-plus long conference.

Elleithee said "it’s clear that Chris Christie absolutely created and fostered a culture in his office where this type of conduct was considered appropriate."

"Today’s spectacle by the Governor has left many questions still unanswered," Elleithee continued.

"But there’s one thing that was crystal clear today — Chris Christie needs to focus less on his ego, and more on the people of NJ."

Here is Elleithee:

For nearly two hours today, Chris Christie stood up and repeatedly made himself out to be the victim. He lauded himself for swift action in firing staffers for lying to him. And he argued that this was not reflective of the culture he’s created in his office.

But Chris Christie is not the victim. The people of New Jersey who trusted him are.

He didn’t take ‘swift action’. He ignored questions and responsibility for more than 120 days, until his administration was finally caught red-handed.

The fireable offense should not be that his team lied to him — it’s that they took actions that hurt the people of New Jersey.

And it’s clear that Chris Christie absolutely created and fostered a culture in his office where this type of conduct was considered appropriate.

Today’s spectacle by the Governor has left many questions still unanswered.

But there’s one thing that was crystal clear today — Chris Christie needs to focus less on his ego, and more on the people of NJ.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has asked his two-time campaign manager, Bill Stepien, to remove his name from the running to be chairman of the state's Republican Party and has also asked him to step down from his consultancy role with the Republican Governors Association.

Christie made the announcement at a news conference on Thursday. Stepien, a longtime adviser to Christie, had previously been said to have survived the fallout of revelations that top Christie aides seemed to have been involved in the New Jersey bridge scandal. Christie said he could not have someone at the top of his political operation who he did not "have confidence in."

"As a result, I've instructed Bill Stepien to not place his name in nomination for state party chairman and he will not be considered for state party chairman and I've instructed him to withdraw his consultancy with the Republican Governors Association."

Christie said by 7 p.m. on Wednesday night Stepien was asked to withdraw his name for chairman and step down from the RGA.

Stepien has been a longtime confidante of Christie, the chairman of the RGA. Christie mentioned Stepien's work for him in his announcement on Thursday.

"There’s no doubt that Bill has been one of my closest advisers for the last five years," Christie said.

This post was updated.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) called the scandal surrounding the closure of the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey "deeply troubling."

"The communications that were revealed yesterday were deeply troubling. There is an important investigation under way at the state level that I will continue to monitor closely," Booker said in a statement on Thursday. "In the Senate's Commerce Committee, we have asked the Transportation Department for information to get to the bottom of the lane closures. I am awaiting and will evaluate additional facts."

Booker's statement came in response to newly surfaced emails from high level staffers in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) administration suggested that they were involved in discussions to close lanes of the bridge in September.

Booker's colleague, Sen. Bob Menendez (D) called the new revelations "troubling" and "disturbing."

(H/t: Mike O'Brien)

The Political Director for the Madison Project, a conservative outside group, called Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) a "tool" after the junior senator from Kentucky took a very subtle jab at the Senate Conservatives Fund.

Ryun's dig is in response to Paul, in a Politico profile of Senate Conservatives Fund executive director Matt Hoskins, saying that the outside group's tactics are "unusual."

"I would say it doesn't create a lot of extra happiness around here when people are opposing people in a primary," Paul said.

Paul's comments are perhaps one of the more direct (although far from aggressive) criticisms he's made of SCF. Other critics have been far more vocal about SCF and The Madison Project, among others, for spending resources attacking Republicans rather than Democrats. In the same article, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who's been the target of SCF called the group "very destructive."

The "McConnell machine" Ryun mentions is a reference to Paul being endorsed by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who founded what would become SCF, in the 2010 Republican primary. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) endorsed Republican Trey Grayson over Paul in the primary.

The Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate who said the state's minimum wage should be lowered is now backtracking.

A day after an interview surfaced in which equity investor Bruce Rauner, one of a handful of Republicans in the gubernatorial race, said that the minimum wage should be lowered by a dollar rather than raised, he backtracked.

"I made a mistake. I was flippant and I was quick," Rauner said in an interview with The Chicago Tribune. "I should have said, ‘Tie the Illinois minimum wage to the national wage and, in that context, with other changes in being pro-business, I support raising the national minimum wage.’ I’m OK with that."

Specifically, Rauner argued that Illinois' minimum wage should be lowered from $8.25 to $7.25. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. That proposal contrasts with calls by Gov. Pat Quinn (D), who Rauner is hoping to replace, to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour. President Barack Obama and national Democrats have also called on raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

But going forward, Rauner said he plans to push for linking Illinois minimum wage to the national minimum wage.

"I will advocate moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage," Rauner said. "I think we've got to be competitive here in Illinois. It's critical we're competitive. We're hurting our economy by having the minimum wage above the national. We've got to move back to the national."

Rauner's three opponents in the Republican primary, state Sen. Bill Brady, Illinois state Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Kirk Dillard, do not support raising the minimum wage but have not argued that it should be lowered.

The Democratic Governors Association (DGA) was quick to bash Rauner, even after he apologized.

"They say a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth. In the case of Bruce Rauner, he showed his true colors when he said that Illinois' minimum wage needs to be cut," DGA spokesman Danny Kanner said in a statement. "Only a right-wing billionaire would think it's right to take thousands of dollars a year from working people who live on the brink of poverty. Forget his insincere apology today - the real Bruce Rauner would force thousands of Illinoisans into poverty if he had the chance, and voters won't soon forget."

The Sun-Times reported that Rauner's income was $53 million in 2012.

Former California state Sen. Tony Strickland (R) is waiting on the sidelines in case there's an opening in Congress.

The Republican congressional candidate is positioning himself to immediately run for Rep. Buck McKeon's (R-CA) congressional seat if McKeon decides not to seek re-election. But he's trying to do it without anyone noticing.

Here's the background: In April, Strickland filed for a rematch against Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA) in California's 26th Congressional District. Strickland previously ran against Brownley in 2012 and lost 52 percent to 47 percent. But in December, Strickland for Congress quietly refiled to run in the 25th Congressional District, McKeon's district. Rumors have been swirling over the past year about whether the 75-year-old chairman of the House Armed Services Committee will run for re-election, but he still hasn't publicly made a decision.

Strickland's campaign, when pressed, wants to make clear that none of this is by mistake. He meant to refile for the 25th District after initially filing to run in the 26th District.

"He's not running in 26," Strickland spokesman Jeff Burton told TPM. "If Chairman McKeon decides to retire then Tony would certainly consider running to replace him."

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A super PAC supporting Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) reported raising $1.5 million in 2013.

The Fund for Louisiana's Future raised $725,000 in the second half of 2013, fundraiser and attorney Charlie Spies, who is associated with the super PAC, confirmed to TPM on Wednesday. That brings the Fund's total haul to $1.5 million with $1.3 million cash on hand.

Vitter is currently mulling running for governor later this year. In December, Vitter sent out a fundraising email where he described the support he's gotten about the prospect of running for governor.

"Many good friends and supporters have encouraged me to run for Governor in 2015 -- to bring my focus and leadership to the challenges we face as a state," Vitter wrote in the December fundraising email.

The fundraising numbers were first reported by The Advocate.