Capitol Ink | First Hurdles

By Robert Matson

By Toula Vlahou

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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It might be time to dust off the government shutdown clocks.

A senior Democratic aide said Senate Democrats are expected to block the stopgap spending plan that's currently on the table.

Even if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can rally enough votes for his continuing resolution (he'll need more than a handful of Democrats given opposition from some members of his own conference), the legislation likely would not arrive in the House until Wednesday or Thursday, meaning that the House vote would be all-but-certain to take place on the verge of government funding expiring.

House Republican leaders have shown patience, and House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky has expressed support for the Senate-led proposal.

President Barack Obama believes Congress "has some more work to do" in crafting a CR that he is likely to sign, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday.

"It is too early for people to panic about a government shutdown," he said.

But he urged lawmakers to come up with a stopgap that can pass both chambers and garner Obama's signature without using all remaining days before the government would run out of money.

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, got the gears turning Sept. 22 for a key procedural vote Tuesday afternoon to stop a potential filibuster of the Republican spending package that's generally clean, but leaves by the wayside emergency funding for the lead-plagued water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

The inclusion of what Republicans described as a "down payment" on supplemental aid to flood-ravaged communities in Louisiana but not the Flint money drew the ire of Michigan Democrats, and it appears to be a key to Democratic opposition in the Senate.

“There is no reason why we cannot include assistance for Flint in the year-end government funding bill, along with aid to help victims of flooding in Louisiana. Families in Flint have waited far too long for help, and they still do not have safe water," Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters said.

A Senate-passed water resources bill is the vehicle for aid to Flint, but there won't be a conference report produced before the end of this September session.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas accused Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada of stalling and refusing to complete negotiations on what is a generally agreed-upon spending package.

Given the end-of-the week deadline, Cornyn said, "I don't know what the alternative is," to McConnell scheduling a vote on a plan without Reid's support.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said that talks would continue between Democrats and Republicans in an effort to strike a deal before the scheduled Tuesday afternoon vote.

"Oh sure, very constructive," Mikulski said of the discussions. "We're a work in progress."

As the release of McConnell's plan was imminent, Reid seemed particularly critical of the continuation of language in current appropriations law that blocks the Securities and Exchange Commission from compelling companies from disclosing so-called "dark money" campaign contributions.

"The president will accept no riders," Reid said. "If they want to get out of here, we've got Zika resolved. Do a clean CR and they can leave in 10 minutes."

The SEC provision being continued is not literally a new rider, but it has prompted outside campaign finance watchdog groups who are longtime adversaries of McConnell to accuse him of risking a government a shutdown.

"Our lawmakers can’t pass standalone legislation blocking democracy reforms, so instead they snuck a provision into today’s continuing resolution behind closed doors," said Dan Smith of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "That kind of politics is great if you’re raising money from special interest groups, but it shortchanges the American public."

How many of Reid's Democrats will join hands in opposition to the McConnell-led proposal over the campaign finance provision and the lack of dollars for Flint is sure to be the primary topic of discussion at Tuesday's caucus lunch which would take place just ahead of the vote.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said, "Yes, ma'am," when asked by a Roll Call reporter last Thursday if he thought Democrats would stand united, but hours later, he issued a statement saying that given the urgent need to get funds to fight the Zika virus in his home state, he would be on board.

"While I support the people of Flint, my priority is the people of Florida. This bill provides a clean $1.1 billion to help stop the spread of Zika virus with no political riders, and I will support it," Nelson said.

Just how many Democratic senators might join Nelson will not be known until they emerge from their weekly lunch minutes before the vote.

Bridget Bowman and John T. Bennett contributed to this report.Contact Lesniewski at NielsLesniewski@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter @nielslesniewski.

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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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President Barack Obama on Friday vetoed a bill that would allow families of the victims of terrorist attacks in the United States to sue foreign governments believed to be linked to the strikes, setting up a difficult election-year decision for congressional Democrats.

Obama cited concerns that the legislation, which passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, could prompt other nations to pass look-alike laws, leading to more lawsuits and inconsistent standards for what constitutes state support for terrorist attacks. Proponents, however, call it "narrowly" crafted to guard against such things.

Aides say Obama fully understands why convincing Democrats to block an override of his veto will likely be tough in an election year. "The president's not blind to the politics of the situation," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday.

"The president understands that the talking points that are being prepared for the proponents of this bill have … political upside," Earnest said. "But if we're focused on the substantive long-term impact on our nation's national security … that's what's driving the president's decision to veto this bill. Not because it's politically convenient. It's not."

The Senate's No. 3 Democrat, Charles E. Schumer of New York, a co-sponsor of the measure, called the veto a "a disappointing decision," predicting that it will be "swiftly and soundly overturned in Congress."

“If the Saudis did nothing wrong, they should not fear this legislation," Schumer said in a statement. "If they were culpable in 9/11, they should be held accountable. The families of the victims of 9/11 deserve their day in court, and justice for those families shouldn’t be thrown overboard because of diplomatic concerns.”

Obama used up every day he had under law from the time the House unanimously passed the bill, formally dubbed the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act,” to reject it. The move now sets up a decision for House and Senate leaders on when they will hold override votes.

“Now that we have received the veto message from the president, the Senate will consider [an override vote] as soon as practicable in this work period," said David Popp, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a statement on Friday.

McConnell said earlier this week that he believes there are ample votes in his chamber to override the veto.

On the House side, Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin told reporters this week that there are enough votes in the House to pass a veto override.

[Democrats Qualify Support for 9/11 Bill]

But the speaker appeared more nuanced in his stance than McConnell, saying: "I worry about legal matters.”

“I worry about trial lawyers trying to get rich off of this and I worry about the precedence,” Ryan said. “At the same time, these victims need to have their day in court.” Asked if the bill would get to the House floor this month, Ryan said the timing of such a vote depends on when the bill is taken up in the Senate.

Schumer told reporters earlier this week, “I think it will pass.”

“Look, the sooner, the better in my point of view,” he added, referring to the timing of the override votes.

Some have called the bill an attempt to allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for its alleged ties to the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Obama administration contends that many lawmakers share its concerns on the measure.

[GOP Mostly Powerless in Stopping Obama 'Midnight' Regulations]

Earnest said Tuesday that members will soon have to decide whether the “votes they cast in public reflect the views they’ve expressed in private.” He cited conversations White House officials have had for months with members about the legislation.

The coming override votes will pit national security and foreign relations against domestic politics. That’s because, should both chambers vote before leaving for an October break to campaign, those facing re-election will likely see no choice but to vote to erase Obama’s veto pen stroke.

“My message to the [Republican] caucus is going to be: Unless there are 34 people willing to fall on their swords over this, [it’s] probably not worth falling on your sword over,” Tennessee GOP Sen. Bob Corker said.

It takes two-thirds of the Senate to support an override, and a source involved in the effort to persuade enough senators to vote to sustain Obama’s veto said the White House’s strategy is constantly changing.

A bit more about the White House’s lobbying strategy came into view Thursday, when the heads of two major U.S. companies, Dow Chemical and General Electric, wrote congressional leaders, warning that the bill could spawn negative consequences and damage relations with countries such as Saudi Arabia.

[On Terrorism Bill, Senators Report Silence from White House]

Earnest acknowledged this week that White House officials face an uphill battle and difficult optics in front of an electorate that surely would side with families of 9/11 victims, who support the legislation.

Notably, however, even House Democratic leaders, who typically stick with Obama, sound ready to reject his veto despite sharing some of his concerns.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that there was no political significance to the optics of members voting on the JASTA bill after the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and avoided questions on how she would vote to override the veto.

“This is difficult,” Pelosi said. “I think it’s going to happen.”

Pelosi joined other members in saying that she hasn’t heard from the White House on an expected veto by the president, but that the administration knows what lies ahead.

“The White House has not asked me to do anything on this,” Pelosi said.

Rep. Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat, on Wednesday expressed support for the bill but echoed Obama’s concern that it could also open Americans up to litigation in foreign courts.

“I would rather be in our courts than the courts of a lot of other countries,” Becerra said. “Many of us are prepared to vote for it, understanding that the sovereign immunity principle, which could impact us in the future could have some results that we don’t like.”

Rema Rahman, Rachel Oswald and Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.Contact Bennett at johnbennett@cqrollcall.com. Follow him on Twitter @BennettJohnT.

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FOLSOM, Pa. — John McCain acted a candidate seeking re-election. He posed for pictures, told jokes during his speech, and urged everyone to vote.

Except the senator from Arizona wasn't campaigning in his home state — he was 2,000 miles away, in a working-class town near Philadelphia. The small rally at this local Veterans of Foreign Wars post wasn't about him — it was for Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey.

"We need, not just for the people of Pennsylvania, but for the people of the Arizona, this man back working in the United States Senate," McCain told the audience of a few dozen supporters, urging them to back his colleague.

"As you know, I'm running for re-election," McCain said later. "And I'm here for Pat Toomey because it's critical."

[Election Guide 2016: Pennsylvania Senate Race]

The former presidential nominee is a top surrogate for Republican candidates nationwide, able to bring star power and credibility to events that might otherwise go unnoticed. That was again the case here Friday. Some voters said afterward that they attended only because of McCain.

It's uncommon for a candidate to spend time in another state when they face their own race back home, in an election just 46 days away. The incumbent Republican is entering the home stretch of a competitive re-election campaign.

He faces Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in what, for now, is a second-tier Senate race but one that even Republicans worry could become a battleground if Donald Trump's presidential campaign stumbles.

[Election Guide 2016: Arizona Senate Race]

Toomey, for his part, said he was happy to have McCain in Pennsylvania. The first-term lawmaker said McCain approached him about helping with the campaign, and the two campaigns worked out the details to make it happen.

He faces Democratic nominee Katie McGinty in one of the year's marquee Senate battlegrounds.

"Senator McCain doesn't have a bigger fan in the United States Senate than me," Toomey said. "He's a hero to me, as he is to everybody in this room, and rightly so."

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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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By Toula Vlahou

How do you define success for colleges? For students, it’s fairly simple: to graduate on time with the skills and talents needed for a job of their choosing, and without unmanageable debt.

Yet for colleges, there seems to be as many definitions of success as there are colleges.

This has led to a crisis where a record number of students never finish college and are left with an unmanageable level of debt that they cannot pay off.

That’s what led us to look at this issue from a student’s perspective. What we found was a system of colleges and universities with no common goal of what defines success.

We have one group of schools consistently “ranked” as some of the best in the country. These schools are highly selective and graduate almost all of their students within four years. With abundant resources, they can tailor education programs to the aspirations of admitted students, most of whom come from wealthy or upper-middle-class backgrounds.

We also have a group of schools that rarely make it onto any college rankings list. With diminished resources, overwhelming percentages of students who attend these schools do not graduate in six years, let alone four. These colleges aren’t able to provide the same opportunities for their students and they serve disproportionate numbers of working-class and middle-income students.

In the months we spent looking into this issue, we found upwards of 100 elite colleges across the country with high graduation rates that serve strikingly small numbers of low-income and first-generation college students — far fewer than are qualified to attend. On the flip side, we also found a near equal number of four-year colleges — public and private schools — with dropout rates in the 80 percent range and higher.

One of the great tragedies in our higher education system is that a significant number of students are racking up student debt but aren’t graduating, leaving them without the degree needed to get a good job to pay off their loans.

We think this is unacceptable. That’s why we teamed up to tackle both ends of the college access and college completion problem so that colleges start meeting students’ definition of success.

We were surprised by how little has been done to address these dual problems. Yet the solutions we found are simple and well within affected schools’ capabilities.

Under our plan, selective, wealthy colleges that do a poor job of recruiting and admitting low-income students would have four years to boost low-income student enrollment or be required to pay a fee to participate in any federal student assistance program. High-access, low-performing colleges would have the option to get up to $2 million a year for four years to improve student outcomes. But if they fail to improve, they’d be cut off.

For schools already making strides to improve completion rates, including minority-serving institutions such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, additional competitive funding will be available

We know some colleges on both ends of the spectrum don’t believe change is possible. Some selective, wealthy colleges say there aren’t enough low-income students who meet the high academic standards these schools require for admission. But that simply isn’t true.

According to data from the College Board, every year up to 30,000 students who score in the top 10 percent of the SAT either enroll at less selective institutions than their scores would predict or don’t attend college at all.

On the other hand, some colleges with low graduation rates will point to a real lack of resources that keep them from better supporting their students, which we acknowledge is a large contributing factor.

But there also are low-cost, effective ways for schools to graduate more students without lowering academic standards. Just look at Georgia State, which has increased its graduation rate by over 20 percent over the past decade and entirely closed the achievement gap between Pell grant and non-Pell grant students.

Today, college access and completion rates reflect two different visions of success. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

By expanding access at resource-rich schools and improving graduation rates at under-resourced colleges, our ASPIRE Act can help make sure all students have a range of high-quality college options. We believe in a higher education system that reflects the fundamental American ideal of equal opportunity for all.

On Wednesday, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., introduced a major higher education reform bill they’ve been working on for more than a year.

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Until recently, Nate Silver was every Democrat's favorite polling analyst, a statistical oracle hailed for the preternatural accuracy of his Barack Obama victory projections in 2008 and 2012. But lately, the God-like aura that once surrounded Silver has been replaced by liberal dismay over his soothsaying.

The reason for the fall from grace is that Silver now gives Donald Trump a 40-percent chance of winning in November. The widespread skepticism that the bilious billionaire might be elected prompted an exasperated Silver to recently tweet, "Never seen otherwise-smart people in so much denial as they are about Trump's chances. Same mistake as primaries. Brexit."

Hillary Clinton, speaking to a union audience Wednesday, expressed her own form of incredulity when she asked rhetorically, "Why aren't I 50 points ahead?" Plausible answers range from "You're a badly flawed candidate yourself, Hillary" to "The news media, especially cable TV, can't get over its ratings-mad fixation with Trump."

But even the most euphoric Trump triumphalist would admit that the GOP nominee's realistic route to victory depends on a narrow passage along the electoral map. As an illustration, giving the GOP nominee almost all of the swing states (but not Pennsylvania) and one of Maine's four electoral votes would lead to an Electoral College verdict of Trump 270 and Clinton 268.

Such calculations serve as a reminder than the Electoral College consists of flesh-and-blood electors rather than disembodied numbers on a map. And even if the Republicans prevailed on Nov. 8, a handful of electors could cost Trump the White House.

[Disgruntled Activists May Target Electors]

Samuel Miles — a Quaker from Philadelphia and a brigadier general during the Revolutionary War — was the first faithless elector. In 1796, even though he was pledged to Federalist John Adams, Miles cast one of Pennsylvania's electoral votes for Thomas Jefferson, whom he judged less likely to plunge America into a war with France.

According to research by the advocacy group FairVote, 81 other electors in history have pulled a similar trick. In modern times, faithless electors have been motivated by ideology (votes for Barry Goldwater in 1960 and Ronald Reagan in 1980) and idiosyncrasy (an Alabama elector opted for home-town circuit court judge Walter Jones in 1956).

Normally, in a close election, party loyalty trumps any attempt by electors to jigger with the outcome. In fact, it is safe to say that there are few places in America where independent judgment is less prized than in the Electoral College.

But 2016 — in case anyone hasn't noticed — is not a normal election. Already, Baoky Vu, a Republican elector in Georgia, has taken himself off the ballot because he could not bring himself to vote for Trump.

And Politico reported in late August that a Texas GOP elector, Chris Suprun, a Dallas paramedic, also had deep reservations about backing Trump.

I spoke briefly by phone on Thursday with Suprun, who was about to participate in an all-day vigil for the first responders who died on 9/11. "The article is a mischaracterization of my statements," he said. "I got into this with all intentions of supporting the nominee of my party."

[Roll Call's 2016 Election Guide: President]

If there is already this much public ferment over the sentiments of Republican electors, it is easy to imagine the potential firestorm if, say, Trump ekes out a hairsbreadth victory on Nov. 8. Republican electors would be monitored hourly for any signs of maverick tendencies up until the moment they cast their paper ballots for president and vice president in their respective state capitals in mid-December.

Nothing that we have learned so far in this campaign suggests that President-elect Trump would be magnanimous and reassuring in the first weeks after the election. Maybe he would start talking idly about dropping a nuclear device on ISIS or suddenly announce that Donald Jr. would make a primo justice of the Supreme Court. It doesn't take much imagination to contemplate a wave of buyer's remorse sweeping through the reasonable wing of the Republic Party.

Also, remember that anti-Trump GOP electors would have choices other than making Clinton president. Under the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, if no candidate won a majority in the Electoral College, the House would choose the 45th president among the three highest finishers.

Three? Trump, Clinton and who else?

Going back to my original 270-to-268 electoral vote scenario, all it would take is for one Republican elector to write in a name like, well, Paul Ryan. (Yes, I know that you thought all saving President Ryan scenarios ended with no second ballot at the Cleveland convention).

In that case, the choice would rest with the Republican House voting by individual states. (Currently, the GOP controls 33 delegations, the Democrats 14 and 3 states are evenly split). Maybe Trump would still prevail, but I wouldn't rule out the election of a conservative Republican president who actually knows what the nuclear triad is.

For, in the end, Trump isn't just running against Clinton. He is also running against Samuel Miles and the powerful precedent he set in 1796.

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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Journalists beat the reigning champion lawmakers in the “Politicians v. Press Spelling Bee” at the National Press Club.

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the last politician standing, lost in round 12 by misspelling “jambalaya” with a “g”, while Art Swift of Gallup won for the journalists by correctly spelling “apothecary.”

The event kicked off about 30 minutes behind schedule due to late votes in the House. The politician team — all democrats — seemed eager to get started and defend reigning champion Rep. Don Beyer's, D-Va., title. Elimination came after players misspelled their second word.

In the third round, dubbed “Neighbors to the North,” the first participant struck out when a journalist received her second strike after spelling “Sudbury” incorrectly. She had previously misspelled “Frankfort” and let out a certain four letter word. (We won't spell it out.)

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., cringed.

Beyer was the first casualty of the politician team.

He misspelled the word “allomorph” during the fourth round entitled “Spelling and Grammar.”

[Word on the Hill: How Do You Spell Cloture?]

The competition was full of witty 2016 election anecdotes and playful banter from competitors at the podium.

“This is why you have staff,” Sen. Durbin said before he misspelled the word “cataphora,” leading to his elimination.

By the end of the fourth round, the press team had only five players remaining, 19 points, and the politicians had four players and 17 points.

[Jeff Flake Fears No Contest at Spelling Bee]

At the end of round five, team press was up 23 to 21 points.

Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., was the third member out when he misspelled, “congaree.” By the end of round six, the press had 27 points and four players and the politicians had 24 points and three players.

Members who struck out stayed for the outcome and cheered on their team.

By round eight, the press had 34 points and the politicians had 30. Just three players remained on both teams.

[Kaine Prepares to Defend Spelling Bee Crown]

By round ten, Rep. Mark Tanako, D-Calif., and Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., were out, leaving only Deutch.

This year was just the fourth annual spelling bee at the National Press Club in this century. The spelling bee started in 1914 but took a long break until 2013.

The spelling bee was sponsored by the education technology company Blackboard, Inc. and officiated by Jacques Bailly, former winner and official pronouncer of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Judges were 2015 co-champions Jairam Hathwar and Nihar Janga.

Throughout the Wednesday night competition, #NPCbee was the top D.C. trending hashtag.

Proceeds from the event went to the National Press Club Journalism Institute, which provides education opportunities to current and aspiring journalists.

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By Toula Vlahou