With Kevin Robillard, Zach Montellaro, Daniel Strauss and Scott Bland
The following newsletter is an abridged version of Campaign Pro’s Morning Score. For an earlier morning read on exponentially more races — and for a more comprehensive aggregation of the day’s most important campaign news — sign up for Campaign Pro today. (http://www.politicopro.com/proinfo)
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INVISIBLE MAN — “Trump invisible in race to replace Chaffetz,” by Campaign Pro’s Elena Schneider: “Down in Alabama, Sen. Luther Strange is trumpeting President Donald Trump’s endorsement in a blizzard of TV ads before his special election. In Montana, Donald Trump Jr. stumped for Rep. Greg Gianforte — twice. In Georgia, a handful of GOP candidates rushed to tie themselves to the president’s agenda, including one who stood in a swamp and promised to drain it in a TV ad.
But the first rule of Utah GOP politics in the age of Donald Trump, so far, is that you do not talk about Donald Trump. And that’s exactly what three Republicans are doing in the race for ex-Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s district, a heavily conservative, Mormon tract of Utah where contenders have praised some of Trump’s policies — but rarely say his name. … Trump’s popularity improved after the election, but Trump still lost the Utah primary to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by more than 50 points. And when Trump carried the state over Hillary Clinton, Evan McMullin, who ran as a conservative alternative, came away with 20 percent of the electorate.” Full story here.
SINGLE ISSUE — “How does a progressive Democrat try to unseat a Republican? Step one: Don’t talk about single-payer healthcare,” by the Los Angeles Times’ Sarah D. Wire: “Congressional candidate Katie Hill was sitting around a kitchen table with a local activist group last spring when one of the attendees asked her a question: Will she have to ‘soft pedal’ her stance on any issues to unseat Republican Rep. Steve Knight in the 25th District? … After getting assurances that the video would only be available to a private group, Hill said one of the issues she can’t discuss directly is single-payer healthcare. ‘I shouldn’t go into the district and talk about single-payer, right? Like, that word by itself is going to be something that just immediately turns off a lot of people,’ Hill said. ‘But, if I talk about how we need to make sure that everybody has access to healthcare and that it’s affordable for everybody and how having a government option [is needed] at the very least, that is something people can really get behind. It’s more about the way we talk about things than being very far apart on issues.’”
— “The video … shows the delicate line some Democratic candidates are walking as the national party goes after the more than 30 seats it needs to win back control of the House. The idea of a single-payer healthcare system, in which the government pays for a base level of healthcare for all citizens, has been growing in popularity in party circles … Hill said in an interview that she believes the country will eventually have single-payer healthcare, but using the term puts off people in a district with a large number of conservative voters.” Full story.
2020 WATCH — “Castro launches political group ahead of possible 2020 run,” by Campaign Pro’s Scott Bland: “Former Obama Cabinet secretary Julián Castro has formed a new PAC as he steps up his political activity and considers a possible run for president in 2020. The new group is called ‘Opportunity First,’ a favorite catchphrase of Castro’s since his days as mayor of San Antonio, though it is also similar to President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ slogan. The group will support candidates for federal, state and local office and could finance other political activities for Castro, who has already lent a hand to several congressional and gubernatorial candidates around the country since the end of the Obama administration.” Full story.
Days until the 2017 election: 89.
Days until the 2018 election: 453.
DAILY ROLL TIDE — “Strange releases late ads touting Trump endorsement” by Campaign Pro’s Daniel Strauss: “Sen. Luther Strange’s campaign rolled out a late ad blitz highlighting President Donald Trump’s endorsement on Thursday morning, less than a week before the special Senate primaries in Alabama. … “President Trump says Luther Strange is the best conservative to pass our agenda,” says the narrator in Strange’s new 30-second television spot, while Trump’s tweet appears onscreen. “Tweeting, ‘Luther Strange has done a great job representing the great people of the great state of Alabama. He has my complete and total endorsement!’” … The radio ad focuses on Brooks, one of Strange’s top rivals in the primary. “Brooks keeps attacking our president,” the radio narrator says, before playing quotes of Brooks saying, “I don’t think you can trust Donald Trump with anything he says.”” Full story.
— “Contenders in Alabama GOP Senate race won’t defend McConnell against Trump,” by POLITICO’s Seung Min Kim: “President Donald Trump is eviscerating Sen. Mitch McConnell over the lagging Republican agenda, and none of the three main candidates in the increasingly nasty Senate GOP primary in this state are taking the majority leader’s side. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said in an interview on Thursday that he found it ‘baffling’ that Trump would go after McConnell yet endorse Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), which ‘helps ensure nothing will get done.’
But ‘no question’ that Trump’s criticism was fair, Brooks added: ‘Mitch McConnell, if he’s not gonna get the job done, needs to resign so someone else can try to get the job done.’ Even Strange, a member of McConnell’s rank and file, noted that he himself has also said, ‘Mitch, get back to work.’” Full story.
— A Cygnal/L2 poll released Thursday found Moore leading, per Campaign Pro’s Daniel Strauss: “Moore took 31 percent in the poll, followed by Strange with 23 percent. Brooks placed third with 18 percent, while a handful of other candidates were all in the single digits.” Full story.
— Phil Robertson endorses Roy Moore for Senate: Moore’s campaign announced the endorsement on Thursday. Earlier in the week he was endorsed by Chuck Norris. Per the campaign on Thursday: “Today the Judge Roy Moore for U.S. Senate campaign announced the endorsement of Duck Commander Phil Robertson. “I have been an admirer for some time of Judge Roy Moore. He judged with a good understanding of the constitution and the law, but he also understands natural law and who gave us our rights to begin with, Almighty God.”
RUNNING BUDDIES — “Pritzker announces state Rep. Stratton as running mate,” by the Chicago Tribune’s Rick Pearson: “Democratic governor candidate J.B. Pritzker has picked new state Rep. Juliana Stratton to be his running mate for the 2018 nomination, the campaign announced Thursday. … The pick comes as Cook County Democratic Party leaders are set to hear from candidates for governor at their slating meetings Friday in advance of endorsing a ticket for the 2018 primary. Stratton was elected to the state representative post last year after forces supportive of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner backed then-Democratic Rep. Ken Dunkin for re-election. Dunkin was handily defeated in the 2016 Democratic primary.” Full story.
MAIN(E) EVENT: Paul LePage appears to be inching towards Senate run: Maine Gov. Paul LePage sounds increasingly like he’ll mount a 2018 challenge Sen. Angus King, the Maine Sun Journal writes, and said this week he’s discussed running with his wife. “During a radio interview Thursday, the governor indicated that the only declared major party challenger — state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn — likely can’t win.
‘I don’t see it in the cards for him,’ LePage told friendly radio hosts during his weekly appearance on Portland’s WGAN. … The governor acknowledged on Bangor-based WVOM radio last week that it is ‘very, very hard to knock off an incumbent,’ which is why potentially competitive challengers are wary of taking on the assignment. Nonetheless, LePage said he is ‘really starting to discuss this with my wife,’ Ann. LePage, who is barred from seeking a third term as governor, claimed recently that he’s getting ever more pressure to jump into the contest.” Full story here.
— Iowa businesswoman will challenge Rep. Steve King: Businesswoman Leann Jacobsen announced on Thursday she’ll challenge GOP Rep. Steve King in Iowa’s 4th congressional district this cycle. In an announcement video, Jacobsen says that King is “a politician who is mostly interested in playing politics and getting headlines for himself.”
— Bolton endorses Kevin Nicholson in Wisconsin: Ex-U.N. Ambassador John Bolton endorsed Republican Kevin Nicholson in the Wisconsin Senate primary on Thursday. Bolton has endorsed 11 candidates for office so far this cycle. Nicholson and others he’s endorsed receive funds from Bolton’s national security-focused PAC.
AD WATCH — Northam, Gillespie launch new ads: Campaign Pro’s Kevin Robillard reports, “Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam is up with his first television ad of the general election, a positive biographical spot. … The ad is running on broadcast and cable TV in the Norfolk, Charlottesville, Richmond and Roanoke markets as part of a $100,000 buy. Republican Ed Gillespie started airing ads earlier this month. Polls have shown Northam and Gillespie tied, or given Northam a small lead.” Gillespie released two new ads on Thursday, one focused on ethics reform and one focused on immigration. Read more here and here.
CODA — QUOTE OF THE DAY: “These kind of deadlines create these expectations and then it becomes a crisis, and then somebody has to have failed.” — Trump ally Newt Gingrich, speaking to Fox News about why he thinks Republicans shouldn’t give themselves a deadline on tax reform.