Politics

Cruz Says He Offered to Aid Trump Campaign

By Christina Flom
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To hear Donald Trump tell it for the last year, Senate Republicans were weak, dumb losers, and not just the ones he ran against for president. He infamously called Sen. John McCain “not a war hero” and tweeted that Sen. Jeff Flake was “a very weak and ineffective senator … Sad!” He lambasted Sen. Mark Kirk as “dishonest” and a “loser,” and told an Atlanta rally that he wished Republican leaders in Washington would “just please be quiet” so he could win the race by himself.

He tagged Sen. Lindsey Graham “a disgrace” and “one of the dumbest human beings I have ever seen.” Sen. “Little Marco” Rubio was “just another Washington, D.C., politician” with “the biggest ears I’ve ever seen.” Sen. Rand Paul was “truly weird” and Sen. “Lyin'” Ted Cruz was not only dishonest, but by Trump’s suggestion, his father was involved in the Kennedy assassination.

So imagine the irony if those useless slobs in the upper chamber, 22 of whom will share the ballot with Trump in November, actually help him win the White House on Election Day. That emerging possibility is a reversal from the assumption leading up to this point in the cycle, which said that Trump’s coattails would determine the fates of Senate Republicans, and not the other way around. If Trump did well, the thinking went, they would do well. If he tanked, he would take them down with him like passengers on the Titanic.

But as Trump’s poll numbers tumbled through the summer, the Republicans running for re-election worked to build their own brands, with their own paths to victory, independent of their erratic nominee. The result is now a class of Republican Senate candidates who are nearly all more popular than Trump, with many who have built robust campaign operations of their own, above and beyond Trump’s scattershot approach to Election Day.

[The Down-Ballot Shuffle, a Ticket-Splitting Revival]

An analysis last week by The Washington Post showed Senate Republican candidates overperforming Trump by an average of 4 points in competitive states. Only Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin and Rep. Todd Young in Indiana are polling worse than Trump.

In critical swing states like Arizona and Florida, “Not a War Hero” McCain and “the Biggest Ears I’ve Ever Seen” Rubio are not only pulling ahead of their Democratic rivals, they’re also outpolling Trump by double digits. So is Rob Portman in Ohio, where Portman has built a massive turnout operation to get his own voters to the polls, no matter what the Trump campaign does or does not do on Election Day. Ohio is now tied for Trump and Clinton, but a major Portman victory could deliver just enough persuadable voters to the polls to give Trump a margin of victory.

In Georgia and Utah, two states that should be easy wins for Trump but are dangerously close contests instead, Sens. Johnny Isakson and Mike Lee are way out ahead of their rivals. If Trump wins those states, he may have them to thank for bringing Republicans to the polls who might not have bothered otherwise.

So how would a Trump White House work with a Republican Senate if the party defied expectations and won them both? It’s hard to imagine President Trump being able to bury the hatchet with senators he maligned along the way, who could then chair committees, allocate funds, and hold the votes for whatever agenda Trump has in mind. They might not forgive him for the things he said, and he might not forgive them for some insults they hurled in the heat of the campaign.

[Senate Republicans Leave Trump Meeting With Little to Say]

After months of being called “Little Marco,” Rubio snapped and called Trump a small handed, orange-hued “con artist.” Sen. Ben Sasse described Trump as one half of “the dumpster fire” that the election has become. Mike Lee said Trump “scares me to death,” while Ted Cruz, after the Your-Father-Helped-Kill-Kennedy bit, called Trump a “sniveling coward” and “a narcissist the likes of which I don’t think this country has ever seen.”

But it’s possible that all of those insults and nasty words about Trump during the primary were just politics masquerading as conviction.

On Friday, Ted Cruz endorsed Trump after declaring at the Republican convention that he was “not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and father.” But Cruz apparently is in the habit of supporting people who could be in power in the near future.

Even if Republican senators hold their own, the question remains whether voters who come out for their senators will also vote for Trump, split their ticket or skip the top line altogether. Ticket-splitting reached a 92-year low in the 2012 elections, but as Walter Shapiro pointed out here this summer, ticket splitting may not be dead, it might just be sleeping. The 2016 election will answer that question once and for all.

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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Politics

Trump's Debate Sniffles Spark Speculation

By Christina Flom
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Election Guide
Click here for ratings on every race in the country.
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Politics

By Toula Vlahou
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A star-studded event in Washington today will award $1 million in college scholarships to outstanding young people, as decided by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Ballerina Misty Copeland, singer Ashanti, model Damaris Lewis, retired football player Andre Reed and ABC’s Paula Faris will celebrate the six young finalists at the 69th annual Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Youth of the Year gala. One of them will be honored as the Youth of the Year.

At the National Building Museum at 6 p.m., a blue carpet will roll out for the finalists, celebrities and members of Congress, including House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wisc., Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., and Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Len Morris, the filmmaker of “The Same Heart,” will participate in a panel discussion about how a small financial transaction tax on Wall Street trades could serve as an investment in the future. (1 p.m., Capitol Visitor Center)

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and "Saturday Night Live" comedian Maya Rudolph will take part in a discussion on the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act. (10 a.m., 1 Constitution Ave. NE)

The National Gallery of Art hosts a press preview for the reopening of the East Building, which now includes 12,250 square feet of new space, a reinstallation of the permanent collection of modern art, and three exhibitions. (8:30 a.m., 6th Street & Constitution Avenue NW)

The Federalist Society hosts the annual "Supreme Court Preview," a panel discussion on the court's docket, its current composition and its future. (Noon, National Press Club)

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and former Rep Steve Stockman, R-Texas, took to Twitter on Monday to share their pre-debate views on Hillary Clinton. Their expectations: lying and potential insanity. Drinking game tonight:every time Hillary lies take a shot 🍸will b drunk 😵 in 15mins #Debates2016 @JaredWyand @realDonaldTrump @PrisonPlanet — Steve Stockman (@SteveWorks4You) September 26, 2016

Tonight's biggest post #debate question: Inquiring American minds will want to know, was Hillary on her meds or off her meds? — Steve King (@SteveKingIA) September 26, 2016

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., 50.

Have any tips, announcements or Hill happenings? Send them to AlexGangitano@cqrollcall.com.

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Democrats Katie McGinty of Pennsylvania and incumbent Michael Bennet of Colorado lead in new polls in Senate races in their respective states.

McGinty has a 3 point lead over incumbent Pat Toomey, 49 percent to 46 percent among likely voters in a CNN/ORC Poll. Bennet maintains a much larger advantage in the Colorado race, with a 53 percent to 43 percent lead over Republican challenger Darryl Glenn.

One point separates presidential nominees Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump in those states, 42 percent to 41 percent. Colorado and Pennsylvania are shaping up to be key states in the presidential election as the findings are well within the margin of error of the poll.

Clinton holds a strong lead in both states over white college gradates, 11 points in Pennsylvania and 16 points in Colorado. White non-college graduates favor Trump by 19 points in Pennsylvania and 22 points in Colorado.

Both states are split over who is better prepared to handle terrorism, but Clinton holds an 8 point lead in Colorado on handling immigration.

The CNN/ORC Polls in Colorado and Pennsylvania were conducted by telephone Sept. 20-25. The Colorado poll included interviews with 1,010 adult residents of the state, including 784 who are likely to vote in November. In Pennsylvania, interviews were conducted with 1,032 adult residents of the state, including 771 likely voters. The margin of error in each state is 3.5 percentage points.

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Former WWE executive Linda McMahon may have been pinned for the three count twice in failed runs for Senate in Connecticut but she hasn't tapped out when it comes to fundraising for Republicans.

McMahon lost races for Senate in 2010 and 2012 to Connecticut's Democratic senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.

But according to the Center for Responsive Politics, she and her husband, WWE CEO Vince McMahon, are 78th on its list of so-called "mega-donors." Linda McMahon says that she has made most of the couple's contributions and her husband wants "no part of it."

During the presidential primary, McMahon gave $10,000 to a super PAC affiliated with fellow former businesswoman Carly Fiorina and $550,000 to America Leads, a super PAC affiliated with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Recently, McMahon held a fundraiser and spoke on behalf of Sen. John McCain. She is also supporting Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Rep. Todd Young, who is running for Senate in Indiana.

WWE has occasionally tangled with politics: WWE hall of famer and 16-time world champion Ric Flair supported Mike Huckabee for president in 2008 and considered running for governor of North Carolina. Former world champion Kurt Angle also supported Sen. Marco Rubio for president this year.

WWE hall of famer Jesse Ventura famously ran for and won his race for governor of Minnesota as a Reform Party candidate

Of course, the McMahons also have a longstanding relationship with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who hosted two Wrestlemanias and engaged in a "Battle of the Billionaires" in which Trump shaved Vince McMahon's head. Linda said while Trump wasn't her first choice, she supports him now.

But when asked if she will run for office again, she said "Never say never" but she said she has no plans to run for office again. Or put another way, "no chance in hell."

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For anyone following gun control (or gun safety) as political issue, it would be easy to dismiss 2016 as just another year where a whole lot happened, but nothing changed.

There have been 224 mass shootings in the United States so far this year, including the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and the July attack on Dallas police officers. After every major incident, Washington followed the now-familiar script of outrage, calls from Democrats for gun restrictions, denial from Republicans that guns are the problem, and then, as usual, gridlock.

But as Election Day gets closer, an incremental, but important shift has modified gun safety as a usually partisan campaign issue. A handful of Republicans in must-win Senate seats are now running on their willingness to embrace even modest gun reforms, while outside interest groups are crossing the aisle to reward those Republicans for doing it.

The highest profile Republican who may be changing the rules on guns is Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, who is locked in a dead-heat race in Pennsylvania against Katie McGinty. Toomey blazed into the Senate in 2008 as an unapologetic conservative and former president of the Club for Growth with an A rating from the National Rifle Association. So it was striking when he joined Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School to sponsor legislation to expand background checks for firearms purchases.

Toomey joined Democrats this year on a similar bill after the San Bernadino shootings and voted over the summer to cross check gun purchases against the terror watch list.

The Washington politics on guns may be complicated for Toomey, but attitudes on the issue at home in Pennsylvania are unambiguous. A PPP poll of the state in August showed 85 percent of all voters in the state in favor of background checks on all gun purchases, including 80 percent of Republicans.

[Gun Control Meets Congressional Dysfunction]

The issue is usually a potent partisan issue for Democrats, who typically portray Republicans as puppets of the gun lobby, but Toomey's decision to sponsor and vote for gun restrictions has made that almost impossible for Katie McGinty, especially after PACs led by Gabby Giffords and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed Toomey in recent weeks.

The Bloomberg PAC, Independence USA, is running nearly $750,000 of ads in the Philadelphia suburbs, where he has to perform well to win reelection. An especially powerful ad features the daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary's principal, who was killed protecting children at her school.

“Pat Toomey crossed party lines to do the right thing," she says.

[Democrats 'Not Worried' About Punishment for House Sit-In, Hoyer Says]

In an op-ed for CNN, Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly praised both Toomey and Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk as principled on the issue that nearly cost her her life when she was shot by a constituent at a town hall meeting.

The endorsement came at a pivotal time for Kirk, who has trailed behind Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth and must have support from cross-over Democrats in the state, which is even more in favor of tougher gun laws than the rest of the country. Kirk has long been on the outs with the NRA. More important for Kirk is Gifford's praise as an independent pragmatist, the brand Kirk has been working to push.

[Gun Compromise Faces Challenges From Right and Left]

In all-important Florida, guns have become a crucial issue in that state's Senate race. Sen. Marco Rubio said the Pulse night club shooting so moved him that he decided to run for another term.

Last week, Eric Garcia reported that Rubio introduced legislation to notify the FBI if the subject of a federal terrorism investigation in the last 10 year tries to buy a gun. Rubio's opponent, Rep. Patrick Murphy, dismissed the bill as Rubio's effort "paper over" a weak record, but it's astonishing, nonetheless, to see a conservative Republican introduce a gun bill less than two months before Election Day.

In 1994, the assault weapons ban was blamed as the reason dozens of Democrats lost their seats. In 2016, a similar decision by Republicans may be the reason some Republicans keep their jobs. If that's the result, 2016 will end up being the year the politics of guns changed, no matter what legislation ended up passing on Capitol Hill.

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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