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Politics

Get the latest from Day 1 at the DNC

By Roll Call Staff
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Democratic Senate nominee Katie McGinty has apologized to Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey for calling him an "assh*le," saying that she regrets the language she used during an event in Philadelphia earlier Monday.

"I regret the language I used and apologize to Senator Toomey," McGinty said in a statement. "Our campaign is about moving Pennsylvania forward and we're going to continue to talk about the issues that are important to Pennsylvania families."

McGinty reportedly made the remark during an event in Philadelphia with Chris Shelton, president of the Communications Workers of America.

"'I'm going to borrow from Chris: Pat Toomey, he's an assh*le, damnit.' Katie McGinty riffing off CWA's Chris Shelton," read the tweet from The Hill's Alex Bolton .

McGinty is in Philadelphia participating in events at the Democratic National Convention. She is slated to address the convention Friday.

Her match-up against Toomey is one of the most competitive Senate races in the country, and potentially pivotal in the battle for control of the Senate majority in 2017.

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PHILADELPHIA — With his white-knuckle approach to speechwriting — making changes in the text until the final millisecond — Bill Clinton as president always courted disaster. And then transcended it.

He ad-libbed the first seven minutes of a 1993 speech to Congress on health care because the wrong speech had been inserted into the teleprompter. His 1997 State of the Union address somehow went into the teleprompter as a James Joycean single paragraph because Clinton had been tweaking the speech in the limousine on his way to the Capitol.

That is not — to put it mildly — Hillary Clinton's style. She is more likely to give her Thursday night acceptance speech while juggling bowling pins than she is to emulate the high-wire rhetorical acts of her husband.

But Hillary's orderly, unflappable approach brings with it a different kind of risk. She often gives the impression that her approach to campaigning is to check off boxes.

Remind the world that she's a grandmother for likability, check. Arouse women voters with talk of the glass ceiling, check. Reach out to Latinos with a Spanish-speaking running mate, check. Stress her years of advocacy for children's rights to show she has a heart, check.

It is her take on the New Deal Democratic coalition — run for president by offering a little something for every winnable constituency group. Putting it in baseball terms (and remember Hillary is a Cubs and a Yankee fan), it is creating an offense based entirely on hitting singles.

Running for president with an incumbent of your own party in the White House can be a daunting challenge. In the shadow of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush admitted his bafflement at "the vision thing. Al Gore in 2000 was the pretzel candidate — tying himself in knots trying to avoid a tarnished Bill Clinton while still claiming credit for the achievements of Clintonism.

Still, there is an inescapable mushiness to Hillary Clinton's vision. In her Sunday night "60 Minutes" interview along with Tim Kaine, she described her policy agenda in these stirring terms: "I think we can create more economic opportunity. I think we can improve education, make college affordable, deal with the myriad of issues that we confront."

You can see the bumper-stickers now: "Deal with the Myriad of Issues — Vote Hillary."

Later in the interview, Scott Pelley gave Clinton another chance to summarize her ambitions as president. But, again, Hillary opted for the warm and very fuzzy: "I care most about getting the economy working for everybody. Not just those at the top. I care deeply about rebuilding the ladders of opportunity that have been battered, and broken, and knocked over — so that people can get an education that'll equip them for the future."

Make no mistake, this is not Ted Kennedy being unable to articulate a coherent reason why he was running for president in his 1979 interview with Roger Mudd . But this is also not the crisp answer that might be expected from a well-rehearsed woman who will deliver the biggest speech of her many-faceted career Thursday night.

Even if she were not running against a bilious billionaire and apprentice authoritarian, Hillary Clinton brings obvious strengths to this campaign. Strengths like competence and professionalism.

The rollout of Tim Kaine as her running mate was a textbook political operation — devoid of leaks or hints of indecisiveness. Watching Clinton and Kaine in Miami Saturday, I thought of the slogan "Better Together," last used to keep Scotland as part of Great Britain.

The hacking of the internal emails of the Democratic National Committee and their release by Wikileaks was an embarrassment. But the Clinton campaign acted promptly to provide DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz with an exit strategy — straight out an open window. And the choice of Donna Brazile as the acting DNC chair was pitch perfect since the CNN commentator is well liked, soothing and experienced.

This convention is also the last time that Hillary has a chance to win the battle of False Equivalence. Her secrecy mania (the home-brew email servers), her greed (those Goldman-Sachs speeches) and her husband's questionable fund-raising for the Clinton Foundation have produced nods of agreement when Donald Trump mocks her as "Crooked Hillary."

For all of Hillary's missteps and for all the Clinton family's sense of entitlement, there is no comparison between the former secretary of state and the former reality-show host. Hillary does not threaten America's alliances, advocate war crimes, demean Muslims and Latinos, consort with white supremacists and display a total contempt for the norms of democracy.

It seems an open-and-shut case — and it is central to Clinton's need to win the votes of independents and Republicans appalled by Donald Trump.

But asked on "60 Minutes" about her image as someone who is unethical, Hillary quickly retreated to her familiar "vast rightwing conspiracy" tone of martyrdom. As she put it, "I often feel like there's the Hillary standard and then there's the standard for everybody else."

Yes, Hillary has been the victim of partisan witch-hunts from Whitewater to Benghazi. But she has also played fast and loose from her miraculous commodities trading record in the 1980s to her State Department emails.

In her battle against the most dangerous presidential candidate of my lifetime, it is vital to eliminate the counter-argument that "Hillary Is Worse." Sadly, though, I see no signs that this talented, dedicated and exasperating almost-nominee can pull it off.

Roll Call columnist Walter Shapiro is a veteran of Politics Daily, USA Today, Time, Newsweek and the Washington Post. His book on his con-man great-uncle was just published: "Hustling Hitler: The Jewish Vaudevillian Who Fooled the Fuhrer." Follow him on Twitter @MrWalterShapiro.

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You're with her but not actually with her in Philadelphia? Still writing constituent letters while your boss is at the convention? Good news for you, you’re not alone.

Here is the HOH calendar of Democratic convention fun this week in D.C..

Union Pub: $5 Hill Yes! Crush; $3 Dem Jell-O shot; $7 Jell-O Shot/Crush Combo.

201 Bar: New Liberty whiskeys available with titles: "Madam President," "First Dude" and "Feel the Bern."

Mission: $4 Tecate and $7 Madame president margaritas (blue).

Hawthorne: $4 Coronas , $7 Blue State Smash.

Union Pub: $1 Dem Jell-O shots during acceptance speech.

Mission: $6 El Jimador shots during acceptance speech.

Hawthorne: $4 Coronas , $7 Blue State Smash.

Anything to add? Email HOH@cqrollcall.com

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Gay rights — and the Republican Party's complicated relationship with the issue — is likely play a prominent role at this week's Democratic National Convention, with Donald Trump's stated embrace of the "LGBTQ community" still lingering in the air.

"I expect Democratic leaders to directly denounce his veiled attempt to suggest he's anything but an enemy of LGBT rights," said Eric Stern, the director of LGBT outreach for the Democratic National Committee during the 2004 presidential campaign. "It's firing people up, both people who are members of the community, and allies of the community. It's engaging us like never before."

Trump's comments during the closing night of the Republican National Convention, and the responding applause from the Cleveland audience, was considered a watershed moment for the GOP.

It was the first time a Republican presidential nominee has mentioned gay rights during a convention address, and it capped a series of GOP speakers who did the same in spite of a party platform that rejected many core principles of the LGBT movement.

[ 'Proud to be Gay' — A Different Message For The Republican Convention ]

But rather than disarm Democrats on the issue, as Fox news moderator Megyn Kelly suggested, Trump instead provided an opening for the party to present a more inclusive alternative, strategists said.

Democrats are expected to call attention to their historic support for gay marriage — the 2012 Democratic convention featured three openly gay members of Congress as speakers and a record number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender delegates hailing from all 50 states.

The party is also expected to call for more action on LGBT issues, including the passage of a civil rights bill and a rejection of laws that allow discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

David Mixner, a longtime Democratic strategist and an LGBT rights advocate who has worked on several presidential campaigns, acknowledged the historic nature of Trump's comments, but said it would take more than that to match the Democrats' record on gay rights.

"Look, we’re not fools," he said. "We know who's our friend and who's not. This has been one of the toughest years we have had with the religious freedom laws and outright unbelievable expression of homophobia by the Trump campaign."

[ Human Rights Campaign: Trump Would be Disaster for LGBT Americans ]

The GOP platform adopted during last week's convention preserved opposition to gay marriage and to bathroom choice for transgender people. It also adopted language considered an admonishment to gay parents, saying kids raised by a mother and father tend to be “physically and emotionally healthier.”

Trump's running mate Mike Pence is a conservative evangelical who as Indiana's governor opposed gay marriage and signed a law — later revised — that allowed business owners to refuse service to gay customers.

"Just saying the word gay or mentioning our existence doesn't erase the reality of the political histories of many of the speakers — or their attempts to undermine equality at every turn," said Jay Brown, communications director of the Human Rights Campaign, a leading LGBT-advocacy group.

Contact Akin at stephanieakin@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter at @stephanieakin .

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PHILADELPHIA — Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez is scheduled to speak at the opening night of the Democratic National Convention. But he had a little trouble getting there.

The Illinois congressman, who's a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton, got caught, with his family in tow, in a protest just outside the security perimeter for the Wells Fargo Center Monday evening.

Supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders chanted, "Hell no DNC, we won't vote for Hillary" and "Bernie beats Trump!" as bagpipes and megaphones blared. .@RepGutierrez is trying to get in to convention. He's a Clinton superdelegate. Daughter is wearing a Bernie sticker pic.twitter.com/S4i3IwvXoU — Simone Pathe (@sfpathe) July 25, 2016

Police estimated that several thousand protestors gathered outside the security perimeter into the evening on Monday.

Several protestors were seen being willingly led away by police for climbing over metal barricades. In some cases, protestors even reached out to police for a helping hand making it over the hurdles.

But the Philadelphia Police Department said Monday evening that they had made no arrests. They gave out disorderly conduct code violations to 55 people at the intersection of Broad and Patterson Streets near the Wells Fargo Center.

Buses from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority blocked roads, while protestors hoisted "Still Bernie" signs into the air and looped red roses through the thick metal fence separating them from the delegates and press passing by to get through security.

In Gutierrez's case, though, he was caught on the protestors' side of the fence and even after talking to several police officers and flashing his member ID card, he still had to loop back and forth through the protestors to find a way in.

"You're from Chicago?" one police officer asked him, upon seeing his card. "Yes!" Gutierrez said. That wasn't enough. The officer sent him back in the other direction.

Gutierrez may be a Clinton supporter, but his daughter was sporting a Bernie sticker, which the Illinois Democrat proudly pointing how his own family is a microcosm for the diversity within the Democratic Party.

Gutierrez wasn't exactly annoyed by the protestors. He celebrated it as a sign of Democracy. But he did express confusion by the protestors' grievances.

"Look, I was on the platform committee," he said. "I don’t know, Bernie Sanders said it was the most progressive platform that the Democratic party has ever endorsed. I’m really proud of that." Winding through the protestors to find another exit, each time Gutierrez saw a protestor's sign, he made the case for how his party had accommodated their demands, whether on trade, a $15-an-hour minimum wage or student debt.

"Bernie Sanders said he’s speaking tonight. I’m trying to get in there and listen to him speak, but I can’t even get into the convention," Gutierrez said.

He acknowledged, though, that leaked emails from the DNC criticizing Sanders was not helpful to the party.

"The DNC has to be an objective force to make sure that they don’t tilt Democratic voters one way or another." He added that Debbie Wasserman Schultz "did the right thing" by stepping down.

After some wrangling, Gutierrez and his family finally made it through the line of police officers, beyond the metal barricade and into the security perimeter.

Meanwhile, most protestors were oblivious to Gutierrez's struggle or even to who he was.

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PHILADELPHIA — Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was shouted down at her home state's breakfast Monday morning by angry Sen. Bernie Sanders supporters.

As the Florida Democrat entered the banquet room in downtown Philadelphia, her supporters started chanting "Debbie! Debbie!" They were quickly joined by angry boos, with several standing up and holding signs that said "EMAILS."

The signs referenced the controversy over roughly 20,000 leaked DNC emails that showed some staffers plotted and disregarded the Sanders primary campaign.

Wasserman Schultz announced Sunday that she would resigning as DNC chairwoman after this week's convention. She is still expected to address the convention Monday night.

But Monday morning was a preview of what could happen when she takes the convention stage.

Seth Alexander of Gainesville, Florida, who was wearing a Sanders t-shirt, started a "Shame!" chant as Wasserman Schultz spoke.

Alexander said the protest happened organically and that protesters were angry Wasserman Schultz was still at the convention.

"She is not welcome here. She does not deserve to be at this convention," Alezander said.

Elaine Geller of Hollywood, Florida, said the protest was "disgraceful." Geller was wearing a "Wasserman Schultz for Congress" t-shirt and started chanting "Debbie!" when Sanders supporters began to disrupt the chairwoman's speech. Geller said one of the Sanders supporters cursed at her and threatened to punch her.

Wasserman Schultz continued to speak despite the protest.

"We have so much to do and we have to make sure that we move forward,” she said.

“We know that the voices in this room that are standing up and being disruptive, that’s not Florida,” said Wasserman Schultz.

Contact Bowman at bridgetbowman@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter at @bridgetbhc .

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Months after he started calling him Lyin' Ted, Donald Trump appeared at a May rally in Indiana and suggested that Sen. Ted Cruz's father, Rafael Cruz, had been involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

"What was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death, before the shooting?" Trump asked. "It’s horrible.”

Incensed, Cruz responded by calling Trump a narcissist and a pathological liar. On Wednesday night, Cruz exacted his revenge and refused to endorse Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention meant to unify GOP support behind his nomination.

In front of 5,000 RNC Republican delegates and a television audience of millions, Cruz at first did what he was supposed to do and declared Trump the 2016 winner fair and square. "I want to congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination last night," Cruz said.

But as delegates waited for the endorsement, Cruz moved on to talk about conservative principles, devotion to family, and protecting the American dream. He spoke of a little girl who lost her father, a police officer, who died in the line of duty.

[ Ted Cruz Delegates Not Ready to Back Trump in November ]

"What if this is our last time?" Cruz asked. "Did we live up to the values we really believe? Did we do all we really could?"

He urged Republicans to "vote your conscience," but never urged them to vote for Donald Trump.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

Earlier in the day, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort indicated Cruz would endorse Trump. "We expect we'll like what we hear," Manafort said at a briefing. Cruz's former campaign manager, Jeff Roe, also seemed to expect an endorsement. "I think they'll be pleased with the speech," he said of the Trump campaign.

But if the Trump campaign really thought Cruz had forgotten about the way Trump had treated his father and his wife (when Trump tweeted out an unflattering picture of her next to his supermodel wife, Melania), they were wrong.

And if the Trump campaign believed an endorsement was coming from Cruz, they haven't been paying attention.

Since the day Cruz dropped out of the presidential campaign, it has been clear that his fight was only just beginning. Over the past several months, he has revamped his Washington operation to look a lot more like a White House-in-Waiting than a consolation prize.

He has hired a David Polyansky, a top adviser in the campaign, as his Senate chief of staff. He's also launching two political non-profits "to promote conservative principles," widely seen as laying the ground work for policies and messages for his next presidential run.

[ Welcome Back to the Senate, Ted Cruz! ]

At a barbecue lunch for his supporters earlier in the day, Cruz insisted he didn't know "what the future will hold." But to a person, the supporters I spoke with fully expected Cruz to run again.

"Back in 2005, my wife said Ted Cruz would be president, and I still see that in his future," said Brian McAullife, a Cruz delegate. Asked if he thought Cruz would run sooner rather than later, McAuliffe said, "That depends on how good a job Trump does as president."

But hard feelings against Trump have remained deep among other Republicans.

Regina Thompson, Cruz's Colorado state director and deputy director of an effort to unbind the delegates from Trump, said, "Personally, I will not support Trump. I can't adhere to this. I will write in Ted Cruz."

Chris Herrod, Cruz's Utah state director, said he's trying to get there with Trump, but he can't say yet that he'll vote for him. "Some of the things he's said and written in his books are very difficult," Herrod said. "But more than anything, I think it's the bullying that people have a hard time with. I agree with many of his policies, but you shouldn't be a bully."

Even Utah's Sen. Mike Lee, a close friend of Cruz's, led the effort earlier this week to unbind convention delegates from voting for Trump. When asked two weeks ago why he hadn't yet endorsed Trump, Lee listed Trump's comments about the Kennedy assassination as the first of many reasons.

"We can get into the fact that he accused my best friend's father of conspiring to kill JFK," Lee said.

As it became clear Wednesday that Cruz would not endorse Trump, a chorus of boos inside the convention grew to a roar, but Cruz didn't seem worried at all. He finished his remarks calmly and smiled as he left the spotlight, exiting into the darkness.

[ Ted Cruz Shares the GOP's Values ]

Did he just live up to the values he really believed in? Yes. Did he do all he really could? Yes again.

Is the Republican Party going to be united leaving this convention? Thanks to Ted Cruz and the rest of the Republicans who can't forgive Trump's sins, no. It won't even be close.

Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy covers national politics for The Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics. Follow her on Twitter @1PatriciaMurphy.

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CLEVELAND — Donald Trump's campaign thinks Connecticut is in play.

The state hasn't exactly been friendly territory for Republicans lately.

Take it from someone who'd know.

"Connecticut is an incredibly, incredibly blue state," said two-time GOP Senate candidate Linda McMahon, a delegate to the Republican National Convention.

But with Trump at the top of the ticket, McMahon thinks there's a chance her state will go red, and she credits her own two failed campaigns for awakening Republicans in the Nutmeg State.

[ Failed But Not Forgotten, Linda McMahon Keeps Hand in GOP ]

The co-founder and former CEO of WWE, McMahon has known Trump for 30 years — mostly through business. "We're not close social friends," she said, sitting in a private lounge on the fourth floor of the Quicken Loans Arena overlooking the convention floor.

As a northeastern Republican best known for her role in the entertainment business and for pouring nearly $100 million of her own money into her campaigns, McMahon's political trajectory wasn't all that different than Trump's.

On policy, too, she sees an affinity. She's fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

“He has said he’s a pro-life candidate, so we may be a little different on that," McMahon said of the GOP nominee. But he suspects there's not all that much room between herself and the New York real estate mogul on social issues.

This isn't McMahon's first convention, but it's a little different from what she's experienced in the past.

McMahon sat with a shawl over her shoulders — she'd had frozen yogurt for a late lunch, the leftovers of which she instructed an aide to toss — and it was icy in the lounge.

She recalled roaming the floors of both the Democratic and Republican conventions in 2000 and 2004 as part of WWE's "Smackdown Your Vote!" programming to encourage young people to vote.

It was almost time for her to get down to the floor for the delegations to cast their votes for the nominee.

This year is McMahon's first time as a delegate, and as a member of the rules committee, she'd been a strong supporter of delegates being bound to the candidate who won their state. Trump won Connecticut with 60 percent of the vote.

But she had to leave extra time to get down to the floor because of a still-healing foot surgery that rendered her reliant on a motorized scooter to get around.

That's meant no parties. After the convention programming each night, she's back to her room to ice her foot.

But McMahon's enjoying just being in Cleveland. She ran into Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker over dinner at the Ritz Carlton, and she was smitten when Dan Rather held the door open for her scooter.

And although she didn't start out backing Trump — she hosted two fundraisers for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at her house during the early part of the campaign — she's all in for Trump now.

Christie has campaigned for her in both 2010, when she ran against Richard Blumenthal, and in 2012, when she ran against Chris Murphy. Trump also supported those two campaigns, both of which she lost by 12 points.

During both of those campaigns, McMahon faced many of the same attacks Trump has — for ties to an entertainment business criticized as unsavory and for trying to buy political power.

During that first Senate campaign, McMahon didn't accept donations.

"I felt it was a bonus to use my own money because I said out-front I won’t be beholden to any lobbyists," she said. Trump made the same argument throughout the primary, and on Wednesday, he officially forgave all the personal loans he'd made to his presidential campaign.

Trump is funding 55 percent of his own campaign, according to the Center for Public Integrity .

Self-funding opened McMahon up to attacks that she was buying the election, she said. So when she ran two years later, she accepted donations. The problem was, no one wanted to give to her because they all knew she didn't need the money as much as other candidates.

McMahon is done running for office. Instead, she's helping other female Republicans like New Hampshire's Kelly Ayotte, Arizona's Martha McSally and New York's Elise Stefanik.

"I don’t have that desire to run again," she said. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

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