Cameron_joseph_profile2

Cameron Joseph

Cameron Joseph is Talking Points Memo's senior political correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He covers Capitol Hill, the White House and the permanent campaign. Previous publications include the New York Daily News, Mashable, The Hill and National Journal. He grew up near Chicago and is an irrationally passionate Cubs fan.

Articles by Cameron

A wealthy businessman who borrowed President Trump’s outsider message and bear-hugged the president has won the three-way primary to face Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) this fall, a crucial battle for Senate control.

Mike Braun, a former state representative who spent millions of his own money on the race, led the field with 41 percent of the vote when CNN and NBC called the race shortly after 8 p.m. EST.  Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) and Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) were both hovering just under 30 percent.

“From the beginning our message has been pretty simple – we need more outsiders and less career politicians in Washington. More folks that have done something in the real world,” Braun said in a statement after his win. “Senator Donnelly is just another career politician who has spent nearly his entire career in politics and government. When he’s in Indiana he acts like one of us, but in Washington he votes against us, against President Trump and in lockstep with the Democrats.”

Braun vastly outspent his opponents on the race, running ads highlighting his business record and one particularly effective spot with cardboard cutouts of Messer and Rokita where he asked voters if they could tell one from the other (spoiler alert: they couldn’t).

All three bear-hugged Trump in the conservative state — Rokita ran ads pledging to end Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “witch hunt” against Trump, while Messer called for Trump to get the Nobel Peace Prize.

Messer and Rokita attacked Braun for his past votes in Democratic primaries. But Braun’s strong ads and outsider brand were enough to push past the two longtime lawmakers and get over his

He’ll square off now against Donnelly in a state Trump won by 19 percentage points in 2016.

Most close to Donnelly preferred to face Rokita but weren’t strongly in favor of one candidate over the other, and see an opening attacking Braun on his business ties. As the Associated Press recently reported, Braun’s company buys many foreign products and he’s been accused of treating his workers poorly. Those attacks will go against the GOP’s ideological hits on Donnelly for voting against the GOP’s tax cuts and for his family company’s ties to Mexico.

Donnelly’s campaign focused on the positive, mentioning the bills he’s passed that Trump has signed and not mentioning Braun.

“It’s clear [Indiana voters] want a champion for working families in the Senate – one who’ll work hard and reach across the aisle to protect their access to affordable health care, defend Medicare and Social Security, and keep good-paying jobs here in Indiana,” Donnelly campaign manager Peter Hanscom said in a statement.

But Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody promised that “Hoosiers will come to understand why Rep. Braun funded his own primary campaign with the profits he made from importing auto parts from China at the expense of Hoosier workers: because he believes public office is his best opportunity to put his wallet first, and Hoosiers last.  ”

The race will be a key one in deciding whether Democrats have a shot at winning the Senate. Donnelly is one of 10 Democrats running for reelection in states Trump won in 2016, and one of five in states he won by a wide margin.

Read More →

This story was last updated at 11:30 p.m. EST to include the latest election results.

The first big multi-state primary election night of 2018 has come and gone, with major implications for the battle to control the Senate and a key swing-state governorship.

Republican voters in three states picked their nominees in three top Senate races — and their fear of a “dumpster fire” candidate didn’t materialize. Democrats, meanwhile avoided their own headache as former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau head Richard Cordray thumped former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) to set up a rematch against Attorney General Mike DeWine (R), this time for Ohio Governor.

But while Republicans avoided disaster in one key Senate race, they worsened their prospects in a key House election.

Here’s the full run-down of what happened in each state.

WEST VIRGINIA — GOP Senate primary, House primary

Republicans’ renewed panic that their voters might choose a man who just got out of jail for his role in the deaths of 29 mine workers to be the party’s nominee against Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) turned out to be overblown.

Party leaders were worried that Don Blankenship had the momentum heading into Tuesday’s election even though a GOP super PAC with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) dropped more than $1 million against him, and strategists closely following the race said he was as likely to win as West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) or Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) in the close race.

That alarm reached the White House:

But Morrisey won the race, with Jenkins in second place and Blankenship in distant third.

Democrats would obviously have loved to face Blankenship. But they’d also made it clear they’d prefer the hardline conservative Morrisey to Jenkins, a genial, more centrist candidate they think would give Manchin the toughest challenge. A pro-Manchin group has dropped more than $2 million to try to wipe out Jenkins.

In the race for Jenkins’ seat, West Virginia state Del. Carol Miller (R) won the primary and will be the favorite against populist Democrat Richard Ojeda.

NORTH CAROLINA: House GOP incumbents facing primaries

Rep. Rob Pittenger (R-NC) became the first congressional incumbent to lose reelection on Tuesday, falling short against a hardline preacher that gives Democrats an even better chance of capturing the GOP-leaning seat.

Pittenger lost his a rematch to minister and former Senate candidate Mark Harris (R), who is close with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and was a leading voice in the fight for North Carolina’s deeply divisive “bathroom law” that targeted transgender people.

But Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), an independent-minded Republican with a libertarian streak who is well known for bucking party leaders, defeated local county commissioner Scott Dacey, who spent nearly as much money as the longtime incumbent. He’s said he’ll retire after the next term.

 

OHIO — Gubernatorial primaries, GOP Senate primary, primaries for former Rep. Pat Tiberi’s (R-OH) seat, anti-gerrymandering ballot initiative

The big primary battles in this state were for governor — and Democrats would have had the bigger problem on their hands if the wrong candidate got through.

Eccentric former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) made a lot of noise in his bid against former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray (D). But Cordray spent much more money, had bigger-name supporters (not including Dave Matthews), and easily defeated Kucinich, who was damaged by his praise of Trump, meeting with Syrian dictator Assad, and repeated defense of Russian aggression across the globe.

On the GOP side, Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) defeated Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R), setting up a rematch of DeWine’s 2010 defeat of Cordray, who was seeking reelection as state attorney general.

Both parties also picked nominees for what will likely be the last hotly contested House special election of the year — and one where Republicans are deeply worried they might nominate a hardliner out of step with the suburban district long held by Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and give Democrats an even better shot at winning the GOP-leaning district. It appeared as of late Tuesday night that the establishment GOP candidate had eked out a win — a relief for them but no guarantee he’ll win in August.

Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) won his primary to face Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). But he had a surprisingly close race against businessman Mike Gibbons even though he had Trump’s endorsement and spent much more money than Gibbons.

The state’s voters also supported a ballot amendment to minimize partisans’ ability to gerrymander the state.

INDIANA — GOP Senate primary, primaries for two GOP House seats 

Braun, a wealthy former state rep. and businessman, won the primary to face Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), one of the country’s most endangered Democrats.

He defeated hardline conservative Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN). All three, like the West Virginia candidates, bear-hugged Trump — Rokita ran ads promising to help end special counsel Robert Mueller’s “witch hunt,” while Messer called for Trump to get the Nobel Peace Prize.

Donnelly’s allies had a slight preference to face Rokita, a prickly personality who has rubbed many establishment Republicans the wrong way. But they think that Braun’s business issues could give them some fodder in the fall in what will likely be a top Senate race regardless of the nominee.

Businessman Greg Pence, Vice President Mike Pence’s brother, won the primary for Messer’s seat, while state Rep. Jim Baird (R) won the primary for Rokita’s.

 

Read More →

National Democrats are jumping into a hotly contested House primary in California, trying to avoid the disastrous situation of being left without a candidate in the general election in a Democratic-leaning district.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has launched ads against a pair of Republicans running for retiring Rep. Ed Royce’s (R-CA) district, hammering local Republican lawmaker Shawn Nelson’s “hypocrisy” for taking a government pension after promising not to and slamming former California state Sen. Bob Huff (R) for backing “billions in higher sales taxes.” The organization is spending $300,000 on cable, radio and digital ads.

The goal: To knock them both down so that only one Republican emerges in the race and Democrats don’t get locked out in a crucial pickup opportunity in their battle for House control.

California’s unusual all-party “jungle primary” means the top two candidates in the June primary election advance to the general election, regardless of party. In the past, that’s allowed two Republicans to advance in two competitive districts while a crowded Democratic field divides voters between several candidates — something Democrats are seriously concerned may happen again.

In this district, which Hillary Clinton won by nine points, there are just three competitive Republican candidates and five competitive Democrats. That means if Democrats split up their votes relatively evenly and no front-runner emerges over the next month, they’re at real risk of two Republicans advancing and their party blowing a winnable race.

The DCCC notably doesn’t go after GOP front-runner Young Kim, a former Royce staffer, in their attacks.

This district is one of four where Democrats are seriously worried they might not get a candidate through because of the high number of viable candidates running on their side — they’re also worried about getting candidates through against scandal-plagued Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA), as well as the race for retiring Rep. Darrel Issa’s (R-CA) seat.

But national Democrats are facing a tough situation in trying to massage these races, as many past attempts to push out candidates or elevate one of their own over other Democrats have led to bitter responses from those candidates and a backlash against the party.

A move like this isn’t going to cause any problems for the DCCC, but it remains to be seen how well they manage these tensions going forward — especially if they feel they have to turn on one of their own in the race’s closing days to preserve their chance at a seat. Their early efforts to play in primaries haven’t always gone so well this year.

Read More →

The first big multi-state primary election night of 2018 is here, with major implications for the battle to control the Senate and a key swing-state governorship.

West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina voters head to the polls on Tuesday. Republican voters in three states will pick their nominee in top Senate races — with at least one possible “dumpster fire” candidate in the mix. But Democrats have their own worries in Ohio, where a well-known iconoclastic Democrat has an outside shot at winning his state’s gubernatorial nomination in spite of his strange defense of Russia, praise of President Trump and ties to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Here’s the full run-down of what to watch in each state:

WEST VIRGINIA — GOP Senate primary, House primary

Republicans feel renewed panic that their voters might be about to choose a man who just got out of jail for his role in the deaths of 29 mine workers to be the party’s nominee against Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) — a potential nominee referred to as a “dumpster fire” who can’t win the general election.

Don Blankenship has the momentum heading into Tuesday’s election even though a GOP super PAC with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) dropped more than $1 million against him, and strategists closely following the race say he’s as likely to win as West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) or Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) in the close race.

That alarm has reached the White House:

Republicans admit a Blankenship nomination would almost certainly end their chances of defeating Manchin in the fall in a state President Trump carried by 42 percentage points in 2016.

Democrats would obviously love to face Blankenship. But they’ve also made it clear they’d prefer the hardline conservative Morrisey to Jenkins, a genial, more centrist candidate they think would give Manchin the toughest challenge. A pro-Manchin group has dropped more than $2 million to try to wipe out Jenkins.

Republicans will also pick a replacement for Jenkins in his safely GOP seat.

INDIANA — GOP Senate primary, primaries for two GOP House seats

Republicans will also pick their nominee to go up against Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), one of the country’s most endangered Democrats, in a fight that’s become increasingly nasty in the closing weeks.

Indiana Republicans think self-funding businessman and former state Rep. Mike Braun (R) has the inside track on the nomination, but wouldn’t be surprised if hardline conservative Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) pulls off a win — and aren’t totally counting out Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN). All three, like the West Virginia candidates, have bear-hugged Trump — Rokita has run ads promising to help end special counsel Robert Mueller’s “witch hunt,” while Messer is calling for Trump to get the Nobel Peace Prize.

Donnelly’s allies have a slight preference to face Rokita, a somewhat prickly personality who has rubbed many establishment Republicans the wrong way. But they think that Braun’s business issues could give them some fodder in the fall in what will likely be a top Senate race regardless of the nominee.

Republicans will also pick replacements for Rokita and Messer — and one top candidate is businessman Greg Pence, the vice president’s brother.

OHIO — Gubernatorial primaries, GOP Senate primary, primaries for former Rep. Pat Tiberi’s (R-OH) seat, anti-gerrymandering ballot initiative

The big primary battles in this state are for governor — and Democrats have the bigger problem on their hands if the wrong candidate gets through.

Eccentric former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has made a lot of noise in his bid against former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray (D). Cordray has spent much more money and has bigger-name supporters (not including Dave Matthews, of course), and most Democrats think he’ll win. But they’re still a bit nervous that Kucinich could pull off an upset in spite of his praise of Trump, meeting with Syrian dictator Assad, and repeated defense of Russian aggression across the globe.

On the GOP side, Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) is the front-runner, but Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R) has real support as well and could pull off the upset. If DeWine and Cordray win, it’d set up a rematch of DeWine’s 2010 defeat of Cordray, who was seeking reelection as state attorney general.

Both parties will also pick nominees for what will likely be the last hotly contested House special election of the year — and one where Republicans are deeply worried they might nominate a hardliner out of step with the suburban district long held by Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and give Democrats an even better shot at winning the GOP-leaning district.

Republicans will pick their nominee for an uphill fight against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) has Trump’s endorsement and much more money than businessman Mike Gibbons, and is expected to win the nomination.

The state’s voters will also decide whether to support a ballot amendment that would minimize partisans’ ability to gerrymander the state, and are expected to pass it, as well as a choice to replace Renacci.

NORTH CAROLINA: House GOP incumbents facing primaries

Reps. Rob Pittenger (R-NC) and Walter Jones (R-NC) are both facing serious primaries once again, though both are expected to hang on for victory.

Pittenger is in a rematch against minister and former Senate candidate Mark Harris (R), who is close with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R). Pittenger barely won last time, but released an internal poll earlier this spring showing him with a big lead.

Jones, an independent-minded Republican with a libertarian streak who is well known for bucking party leaders, is in a tough race himself — and local county commissioner Scott Dacey has spent nearly as much money as the longtime incumbent, along with a small investment from a GOP super-PAC with ties to House leadership. But Jones has survived tougher challenges before and is expected to hang on.

We’ll keep you updated on the races as they get called.

Read More →

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) has suddenly launched into full-on attack mode against ex-con coal baron Don Blankenship (R) ahead of the primary, the latest sign that Blankenship is a real threat to win on Tuesday.

Morrisey’s campaign is out with a digital ad ripping Blankenship as a “convicted criminal” who will blow a winnable Senate race, the first paid media from one of Blankenship’s actual opponents highlighting his role in the deaths of 29 mine workers. The spot follows a weekend robocall and press conference warning the same.

“Twenty-nine miners killed at Upper Big Branch Mine, owned and operated by Don Blankenship’s company. Families devastated, children left fatherless, wives widowed,” the ad’s narrator intones. “Blankenship was convicted and sentenced to prison for willfully conspiring to violate mine safety standards.”

Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) have mostly trained their fire on one another throughout the campaign, letting a GOP super-PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) do the dirty work against Blankenship.

That seemed to be working a few weeks ago, when polls found Morrisey and Jenkins up by double digits. But in the past week Blankenship seems to have caught some momentum, terrifying national Republicans who believe he’d cost them any chance of defeating Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) if he’s their nominee. In recent days, a number of internal polls show him rising, though they disagree on who has the lead in the race.

That’s led to a last-minute scramble to stop him once again, culminating in a tweet from President Trump Monday morning begging voters not to back him.

The spot also highlights Blankenship’s legal residency in Nevada and warns that “liberal Democrats will easily defeat him.”

“A convicted criminal or a proven conservative: That’s your choice,” the ad concludes.

Read More →

Hey everyone, TPM’s senior political correspondent at your service. I’m excited to kick off a weekly(ish) series responding to your questions. Keep ’em coming, and thanks for reading! I’m very interested to hear what you guys are interested in.

Here’s a good question to kick off with, from Hive poster “noomn”:

So far, the predictions I’ve seen for the 2018 Midterms range from ‘Republicans lose a few seats but hold the House and Senate’ to ‘Grab your board because the Dem Wave will be large enough to surf’. Do you have any bellwether races that you are following to help navigate and make sense of whatever outcomes occurs?

I think it’s still too early to tell how large the Democratic wave is going to be, and whether it will break evenly over the map or have a much stronger impact in Democratic-trending, more diverse and suburban areas than it might in the rural, whiter, less-educated and more populist parts of the country that Democrats need on the Senate map. It’s clear to me from special elections and fundraising that Democrats have a huge enthusiasm gap across the country, but how that plays out race-by-race is anyone’s guess at this point.

As I wrote last summer, House and Senate Democrats are looking at very different maps this year. While Democrats need to do better everywhere to win at least one chamber of Congress, House Democrats need to sweep the suburbs, while it’s less important for them to win in rural areas that have trended towards the GOP for decades.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are defending a whopping 10 seats in states Trump won last year, including some really tough terrain — North Dakota, West Virginia, Indiana and Missouri, to name a few states. Many of those states are much poorer, whiter and less educated than the country as a whole.

On the Senate map, Indiana may be the most interesting to me as a bellwether precisely because it might be the most boring race. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) is a strong campaigner but doesn’t have the same powerful brand as some of his red-state colleagues, and Republicans don’t have any obviously fatally flawed candidates in their crowded primary field (they’ll pick the nominee Tuesday). So, in some ways, Indiana will be the best “generic Democrat versus Republican” test among the states Trump won. If Donnelly’s winning and former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) can win an uphill Senate battle in his state, Democrats have a real shot at the Senate majority. If they don’t win in those two states, it’s hard to see them getting there. In the unlikely event that Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) can beat Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), it would be a sign of a huge night for Democrats in which they’re romping in the House and winning both chambers.

I regularly ask my sources what few House races they think will decide the majority, and the district that everyone in both parties mentions is Rep. Mimi Walters’ (R-CA). She’s a strong campaigner in a GOP-leaning but Democratic-trending melting-pot district in Orange County. That race is going to be expensive as hell, and will likely be a good testing ground for how much the president hurts upscale Republicans.

Others Republican representatives in this bucket are Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), a member of GOP leadership and a key player in the Republican tax overhaul from a traditionally Republican district that Hillary Clinton won, and Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), who represents a very swingy Omaha district. If Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) is getting crushed early on election night in her Democratic-leaning district, it would portend big things for Democrats; if she’s hanging in there and has a close race, it won’t be a good sign for a Democratic takeover.

A few members to watch to see how well Democrats are bouncing back in more populist terrain: Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI), whose  district Obama carried by six points in 2008 and Trump won by the same margin last year, Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA) in northeastern Iowa, and Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL) in downstate Illinois.

And for one last potential canary in Republican’s coal mine, keep an eye on the special election for former Rep. Pat Tiberi’s (R-OH) seat in a suburban Columbus district this summer. If Republicans lose that, it’ll be another big alarm bell for the party.

You can submit a question for Cameron to answer in this thread in The Hive. 

Read More →

The nastiest Senate primary in the country rumbles to its madcap conclusion on Tuesday – and may yield a GOP nominee so deeply flawed he could make Roy Moore look good by comparison.

Coal baron Don Blankenship, who’s fresh off a one-year prison sentence for his role in failing to prevent a mine explosion that killed 29 workers, has spent the closing weeks of the West Virginia Senate primary flaying Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as “Cocaine Mitch” and attacking his “China people” family.

Blankenship’s high-profile war with national GOP leaders has eclipsed a sharp-elbowed fight between Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) that has left both with scars. Not to be left out, allies of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) have aired nearly $2 million in ads attacking Jenkins, the candidate they least want to face.

For Democrats, West Virginia’s primary has lived up to the state’s motto: Wild and wonderful. And it’s left GOP strategists hoping to defeat Manchin cringing and unsure who their nominee will be.

We’re all ready for this just to be over,” one top West Virginia Republican who’s unaligned in the primary told TPM. “It’s become really bitter.”

That alarm has risen to the top of the GOP, with President Trump himself urging West Virginians not to give Blankenship the nomination in a Monday morning tweet that compared him to Moore:

The race’s nasty tenor hasn’t helped Republicans as they hope to defeat Manchin in a state Trump won by a 41-point margin in 2016 and is a key battle in the war for the Senate.

The consensus in West Virginia is that Morrisey may be the slight favorite to be the nominee. He’s the only one who hasn’t faced a barrage of outside spending in the race, he doesn’t have Blankenship’s oversized baggage, and late endorsements from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) have helped him with some in the GOP base.

But a number of Republicans worry Blankenship has some late momentum. They think all three candidates could win — two sources said they’d seen separate polls showing all three in the lead in the last week — and argue that a Blankenship nomination would be a disaster.

It’d be like watching a dumpster fire in Morgantown roll down the hill,” one unaligned West Virginia operative told TPM. “It’d be an absolute shitstorm. McConnell and he don’t like each other, and Manchin and he really don’t like each other.”

National Republicans publicly say they’d be fine with either Morrisey or Jenkins as nominee. But while some like his hard-charging style, many others privately many worry that Morrisey’s history as a former lobbyist who ran for Congress in his native New Jersey before moving to the state make him a less electable candidate than Jenkins.

Manchin’s allies clearly agree — which is why they’ve dumped a huge sum on Jenkins’ head in the closing weeks of the race.

Jenkins’ team argues he’s survived the attacks and will win on Tuesday.

“While Patrick Morrisey, Don Blankenship and the anti-Trump Schumer PAC have spent millions on false attacks against us, West Virginia voters aren’t buying it — because they saw for themselves this week that Evan Jenkins is the only candidate who truly represents West Virginia values and can beat Joe Manchin the fall,” said Jenkins adviser Andy Sere.

But Jenkins’ allies privately admit the combined assault against him has hurt the underfunded candidate.

Anytime you face an amount of money like this it’s tough to overcome,” one source close to Jenkins told TPM.

Ads by a McConnell-aligned super-PAC ripping Blankenship clearly had some impact. A trio of public polls of the primary found him sinking into the teens a few weeks ago, 10 points behind his two rivals. But those were conducted before his counter-punches against McConnell began landing in earnest, and before Democrats unleashed their attacks on Jenkins that knocked him down.

Blankenship also may be experiencing the rare post-debate bump for a non-presidential candidate. Even his detractors say he handled himself well onstage in a debate that aired nationally on Fox News last week.

Blankenship’s got momentum right now,” said former West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Doug McKinney, a Jenkins backer. “People were surprised at what a good showing Don made at the three-way debate last week … I would not be too surprised if any one of the three of them wins.”

Democrats agree, though most think that Morrisey or Jenkins is still more likely to emerge.

“The race has become a lot more fluid in the final days here. It’s tightened up amongst all three of them,” said Mike Plante, who’s working on the Manchin-aligned super-PAC that eviscerated Jenkins. “The more people have learned about these candidates, the less they’ve liked about them.”

Blankenship avoided the line of fire during the debate face-off as Jenkins and Morrisey tore into one another. That’s a dynamic that’s carried through the race as the two more establishment candidates have focused their attacks on one another and avoided poking the bear and risking vicious attacks from the self-funding candidate.

That dynamic has national Republicans alarmed — including the White House. President Trump pointedly had Jenkins and Morrisey by his side at an official event the last time he was in his state, with Blankenship left out in the cold. And on Thursday, after meeting with Republican National Committee officials, Donald Trump Jr. let out a tweetstorm calling for West Virginians not to nominate Blankenship while comparing him to Moore:

After mostly focusing his ire on Jenkins, Morrisey has suddenly pivoted into an attack on Blankenship in the race’s final days, with a robocall released over the weekend and a Sunday press conference aimed squarely at attacking his opponent’s criminal past.

“Don Blankenship’s disrespect for the law and the people of West Virginia threatens to block our ability to advance conservative policies and imperils Republican chances of defeating Sen. Joe Manchin in the fall,” Morrisey said in a statement blasted out by his team on Friday. “Don’s continued flouting of the law demonstrates that he has learned nothing from his past legal troubles and his time in prison.”

Blankenship’s team is supremely confident he’ll win on Tuesday — and roll their eyes at establishment Republicans’ view that he can’t beat Manchin in the fall.

“How many times do they need to go down the road of ‘this person’s unelectable’ before they realize voters just don’t give a shit?” Blankenship spokesman Greg Thomas told TPM. “They said the same thing about Donald Trump.”

That GOP infighting has Republicans worried the wounds of the primary will be difficult to heal.

And the primary remains anyone’s to win. Just ask the campaigns.

“I’d rather be us than Jenkins, I’d rather be us than Don,” said Morrisey adviser Nachama Soloveichik. “But this will be close.”

This story was updated a 8:20 a.m. to include President Trump’s tweet on the race.

Read More →

Republicans are worried they might lose one more big special election right before the midterms – and a nasty proxy war between the establishment and hardline wings of their party isn’t making them feel any better.

Former Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH), a top GOP establishment figure, is fighting like hell to help his hand-picked successor, state Sen. Troy Balderson (R), win his Tuesday primary. But Tea Party conservatives led by former House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) have gone all-in to add another member to their bloc of hardliners, with most backing Melanie Leneghan in the crowded field.

Republicans both in the state and nationally are bracing for a difficult August special election in the GOP-leaning district, which includes parts of Columbus and its well-educated suburbs, as well as more rural territory. President Trump won the district by 10 percentage points in 2016, a smaller margin than in some other places Democrats have won special elections in the past year. And GOP strategists say a tough fight would get even harder if Leneghan is their nominee.

“It’s going to be competitive, like a lot of suburban Republican seats around the country, regardless of who the nominee is because of the blue wave that’s coming. Add into that a nominee that’s well outside the mainstream of the party and that’s a recipe for disaster,” said John Weaver, a senior adviser to Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R).

In an unusual move, Tiberi has spent almost a half-million dollars from his own campaign account to boost Balderson. He’s been backed by Defending Main Street, a centrist GOP group with Ohio ties, as well as another Republican super PAC that has ties to House GOP leadership.

On the other side is Jordan, who has come in hard for Leneghan, and the fiscally conservative Club for Growth, whose super-PAC has been spending heavily on ads attacking Balderson.

Tiberi is close to both former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who used to hold this House seat, and the race may be the final salvo in the long-running feud between Jordan and Boehner’s allies, many of whom have left or are leaving office. Jordan led the charge to force Boehner from the speakership in 2015, and he helped fellow hardliner Warren Davidson (R-OH) win Boehner’s old congressional seat. He compared this race to that primary.

We want someone who’s going to take on the swamp and help President Trump get done what we told the American people we’re going to get done,” Jordan told TPM. “Melanie’s the right person, she’s a fighter, she’s not afraid.”

Democrats have been outperforming their normal numbers in almost every special election this year, making previously safe districts look competitive. While Rep. Conor Lamb’s (D-PA) recent special election victory in a heavily conservative southwestern Pennsylvania district is their only actual House pickup, they’ve won some other major races across the country, and all signs point to a huge enthusiasm gap heading into the midterms. Another special election loss for Republicans would deal their party a psychic blow — as well as bring Democrats one seat closer to the majority (though whoever wins this election is in for a rematch in November).

“If we heaven forbid were to lose this, it sets the narrative of what might be coming even more. We’ve got to put ourselves in a position to stave off another PA-18,” said former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges. “Leneghan could be the kind of candidate who could force us into a real hard fight.”

National Republicans concede the August special election is shaping up to be a tough fight for them, and say a Leneghan nomination would further fuel their problems.

“It’s going to be a competitive race,” said one GOP strategist closely following the election. “The candidate that comes out of there would definitely affect how much attention is given by the national parties.”

Both Balderson and Leneghan have been bear-hugging Trump in the primary. But Leneghan is more closely aligned tonally to the president, while Balderson has long been a Kasich ally in the statehouse — an problematic position to be in given how unpopular the anti-Trump governor has become with the state’s GOP base.

Balderson’s vote to help Kasich expand Medicaid coverage in the state is particularly hurtful in the primary — and has been the focus of the Club for Growth Action’s $200,000 worth of ads attacking him.

His vote to expand Medicaid was definitely noxious to us,” Club for Growth Vice President Andy Roth told TPM. “Obamacare is not popular among Republican voters. Neither is John Kasich in Ohio.”

Democrats have a crowded primary field as well, though strategists say Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor is the front-runner in their race.

Columbus and its suburbs have trended toward Democrats for years, but this gerrymandered district shouldn’t be anywhere near competitive in a normal year. And Republicans say a loss there could portend bigger losses this fall.

“It’s big, there’s no question about it,” former Columbus Mayor Greg Lashutka (R) told TPM. “Losing that seat changes the equation.”

Read More →

Ex-con coal baron Don Blankenship has arguably hit a new low in his bid to face Sen. Joe Manchin (R-WV), going after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) “China family” in a new ad with just days to go until the GOP primary.

“Swamp captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people. While doing so, Mitch has gotten rich. In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars,” Blankenship says without providing evidence in what could be his final ad of the primary.

The racially charged remarks attacking McConnell’s Chinese-American wife,  Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and her family are the latest escalation in the war between the deeply controversial Blankenship and the Senate majority leader.

Blankenship, who’s still on parole for his role in failing to prevent a 2010 mine disaster that killed 29 of his workers, has been under attack from McConnell’s allies, who believe for good reason he’d be a disastrous nominee for the party in a winnable race.

He’s responded with a string of nasty attacks on McConnell, calling him “Cocaine Mitch” because of a 2014 story that said drugs had been found on a shipping vessel owned by McConnell’s in-laws and accusing him of a conflict of interest because his father-in-law is “a wealthy China person,” comments he’s since defended.

The self-funding Blankenship has trailed Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) in recent polls ahead of the May 8 primary, but still has an outside shot of actually winning the nomination.

McConnell’s office pointed TPM to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and former McConnell staff when asked for a comment. They didn’t immediately respond.

Read More →

Roy Moore refuses to go away.

The former Alabama judge and dumpster fire of a Senate candidate sent out a statement on Thursday saying that he might run for statewide office in Alabama once again.

“If the opportunity arises to make a difference, I will have no reluctance to again run for political office, including that of Governor,” he said in a statement.

Those remarks come after Moore’s Senate bid went down in flames last fall amidst accusations from multiple women of sexual misconduct — including many who said the incidents took place when they were teenagers.

It’s hard to see Moore even winning a primary in the ruby-red state — but his diehard supporters stuck with him through the last race, and might do so again in spite of his tremendous political baggage.

The statement comes as a clarification to his recent remarks that he had no plans to run for office, made at a press conference announcing a defamation lawsuit against some of his accusers.

Moore’s statement comes in the petulant tone familiar to those who covered the race that made Democrat Doug Jones a senator and gave his party an outside chance at winning back control of the upper chamber this fall.

Here’s Moore’s statement in full:

At a press conference on April 30, 2018 announcing the filing of a defamation lawsuit against my accusers, a reporter asked me if I had plans to run for public office again. ‘I have no plans at this time for running for anything,; I said. The reporter continued: ‘Not even Governor?’ I answered: ‘No.’

The Associated Press then sent out a story, picked up by Time Magazine, that misquoted me as saying I had ‘no plans to run for any office again, including that of Alabama governor.’

To clarify, as I said in my response, I have no plans at this time to run for office. Nevertheless, plans change. If the opportunity arises to make a difference, I will have no reluctance to again run for political office, including that of Governor.

Read More →

LiveWire