POLITICO Playbook: Trump gets another primary challenger – Politico
HE’S RUNNING — “Joe Walsh to mount primary bid against ‘absolutely unfit’ Trump,” by Natasha Korecki in Chicago: “Joe Walsh, the flame-throwing conservative radio show host and former Illinois congressman, is moving toward challenging President Donald Trump in a Republican primary, calling the president an ‘unfit divider-in-chief’ and claiming that the party is craving an alternative.
“Walsh told POLITICO on Wednesday that he was confident he could secure the resources and support to mount a challenge against the president, and that if he ran, he would announce in short order. While Walsh on Wednesday would not yet confirm he would enter the primary, two sources who spoke to him said he was privately confirming he would announce his presidential bid this weekend.
“‘If I’m to do it, it’s going to happen soon,’ Walsh said. ‘I’ve been really surprised by the amount of anxiousness from people across the spectrum who want this president to have a challenge, because there’s just a real concern that he’s absolutely unfit.’” POLITICO
— IT SEEMS, SHALL WE SAY, UNLIKELY that anyone can gain traction in a GOP primary against this president, whose approval ratings among Republicans have remained rock steady for months. Just look at his Gallup numbers: If anything, they’ve gone *up* during his presidency, rising from the low to high 80s since 2017.
Some might argue that these numbers are soft, but there’s very little evidence for this proposition. That said, a tough primary has historically roughed up incumbents — think Jimmy Carter — so if Walsh could somehow capture lightning in a bottle, mayyyyyybe he might cause a little trouble for Trump.
Walsh certainly seems to understand the modern media landscape much better than former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who is apparently also running but does not seem capable of generating a headline and is wildly out of step with today’s GOP electorate.
ANOTHER GOVERNOR BITES THE DUST — “Jay Inslee drops out of Democratic presidential race,” by Daniel Strauss and Matthew Choi: “Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington pulled out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday, saying, ‘It has become clear I’m not going to be carrying the ball. I’m not going to become president.’
“Inslee ran on a platform that focused on combating climate change, and said he was encouraged by the enthusiasm he saw for the issue during his campaign. He made the announcement on MSNBC’s ‘The Rachel Maddow Show’ and said he was not ready to endorse another candidate at this time. …
“Inslee’s decision to drop out comes about a week before the deadline to qualify for the next Democratic debate. Inslee struggled to gain any real traction in the primary, and while he had met the donor threshold set by the Democratic National Committee for the September debate, he was nowhere near meeting the polling requirement. Ten of the remaining 22 candidates have qualified so far.” POLITICO
— REMINDER: Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson are still rocking this thing.
SPEAKING OF DEBATES — “ABC News announces details for third Democratic primary debate,” by Kendall Karson: “Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, ‘World News Tonight’ Anchor David Muir, ABC News Correspondent Linsey Davis and Univision Anchor Jorge Ramos will moderate the debate on Thursday and, if necessary, Friday. …
“For the two-night scenario, ABC News in accordance with the DNC will hold a selection event on Aug. 29 to randomly assign the candidates to a night. The format of the debate will be one minute and 15 seconds for direct responses to questions and 45 seconds for rebuttals.” ABC
ALEX ISENSTADT: “Trump and his Minnesota mini-me set out to flip the state red”: “For President Donald Trump, Minnesota is the one that got away in 2016. Now he’s fixated on flipping the state in 2020 — with the help of a provocative ex-radio host whose rantings earned him the nickname ‘mini-Trump.’
“Former GOP Rep. Jason Lewis is expected to launch his Minnesota Senate bid on Thursday with guidance from two of Trump’s top political lieutenants. After losing Minnesota by just 1.5 points, the president has told aides repeatedly in recent weeks that he’s determined to win the Democratic stronghold, which hasn’t gone for a Republican presidential candidate since 1972.
“Trump’s push reflects his broader reelection blueprint, which is focused on a cluster of Midwestern and Rust Belt states that were decided by razor-thin margins in 2016 and are likely to determine the outcome of the election. Hoping to offset what they concede will be deep deficits in metropolitan centers and suburbs, the president’s advisers are formulating a strategy geared toward amping up conservative turnout in rural areas.” POLITICO
Good Thursday morning. Sen. CORY GARDNER (R-Colo.) is 45 today, and for his birthday this year, he may be getting a popular former governor — John Hickenlooper — as his opponent. What a special treat!
HICKENLOOPER JUST ANNOUNCED that he’s joining the crowded Democratic Senate primary, despite previously saying things like “I’m not cut out to be a senator.” Denver Post
— OBSERVATION: This administration wants to make peace with North Korea, but it can’t even make peace between South Korea and Japan.
GREENLAND UPDATE, BECAUSE IT’S 2019 — NYT’S PETER BAKER and MAGGIE HABERMAN: “Trump Buying Greenland Seemed Like a Joke. Then It Got Ugly”: “Some former Trump administration officials in recent days said they were increasingly worried about the president’s behavior, suggesting it stems from increasing pressure on Mr. Trump as the economy seems more worrisome and next year’s election approaches. …
“At one point last year, according to a former official who heard him, he even joked in a meeting about trading Puerto Rico for Greenland — happy to rid himself of an American territory whose leadership he has feuded with repeatedly.” NYT
— SEN. TOM COTTON IN LITTLE ROCK: “Obviously, the right decision for this country. … You’re joking, but I can reveal to you that several months ago, I met with the Danish ambassador and I proposed that they sell Greenland to us. … I told the president you should buy it as well … He’s heard that from me and from some other people as well.” TBP
WSJ’S REBECCA BALLHAUS and NICK TIMIRAOS: “Officials See Few Options if Slowdown Hits”: “With short-term interest rates already low, the Federal Reserve has little room to cut borrowing costs to spur spending and investment as it usually does in a slowdown. Meantime, the federal debt is exploding, which could hamstring any efforts to boost growth with tax cuts or spending increases.
“Further complicating matters, Democrats and Republicans strongly disagree about how best to rev up the economy, with Democrats favoring higher spending and the GOP wanting lower taxes. Even within their own ranks there are disagreements about what course to take.” WSJ
THE PRESIDENT’S THURSDAY: Trump has just one thing on his public schedule, aside from his daily intelligence briefing. At 4:30 p.m., he’s due to present the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Celtics legend Bob Cousy. That’ll be in the Oval Office.
— THE OTHER NBA GREATS to receive this honor? Bill Russell, Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (hat tip: Worcester Telegram, which previewed Cousy’s White House trip).
POLITICO MAGAZINE’S MICHAEL KRUSE: “Why Is Andrew Yang Still in This Race?”
RUDY ABROAD — “Giuliani Renews Push for Ukraine to Investigate Trump’s Political Opponents,” by NYT’s Ken Vogel and Andrew Kramer: “Months after backing out of a trip to Ukraine amid criticism that he was mixing partisan politics with foreign policy, Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, has renewed his push for the Ukrainian government to pursue investigations into political opponents of Mr. Trump.
“Over the last few weeks, Mr. Giuliani has spoken on the phone and held an in-person meeting, in Madrid, with a top representative of the new Ukrainian president, encouraging his government to ramp up investigations into two matters of intense interest to Mr. Trump.
“One is whether Ukrainian officials took steps during the 2016 election to damage Mr. Trump’s campaign. The other is whether there was anything improper about the overlap between former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s diplomatic efforts in Ukraine and his son’s role with a gas company there.” NYT
THURSDAY LISTEN — A THAW ON CLIMATE CHANGE? … The latest episode of POLITICO’s Global Translations podcast dives into the evolution in attitudes toward climate action among some Republicans on Capitol Hill — a subtle but significant shift in tone that suggests the possibility of modest action this year. Interviewees include Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Francis Rooney (R-Fla.). Listen and subscribe
EPSTEIN LATEST — AP’S CURT ANDERSON in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: “Epstein may have gamed the system from beyond the grave”: “The will that Jeffrey Epstein signed just two days before his jailhouse suicide puts more than $577 million in assets into a trust fund that could make it more difficult for his dozens of accusers to collect damages. Estate lawyers and other experts say prying open the trust and dividing up the financier’s riches is not going to be easy and could take years.
“‘This is the last act of Epstein’s manipulation of the system, even in death,’ said attorney Jennifer Freeman, who represents child sex abuse victims. … By putting his fortune in a trust, he shrouded from public view the identities of the beneficiaries, whether they be individuals, organizations or other entities. For the women trying to collect from his estate, the first order of business will be persuading a judge to pierce that veil and release the details.” AP
BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “Casino mogul Steve Wynn linked to $43M purchase of Palm Beach estate,” by the Palm Beach Post’s Darrell Hofheinz: “The eight-bedroom, Mediterranean-style house stands on a 2.25-acre lot … has 274 feet of water frontage on both its west and east sides and is separated from its beach parcel by the coastal road. In all, the main residence and its poolside guesthouse have 33,069 square feet of living space, inside and out. The estate was sold by a company associated with the family of Venezuelan banker and polo patron Victor Vargas.
“Wynn, a billionaire art collector who for years served as chairman and CEO of Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts, is not new to Palm Beach. Last summer, he sold a mostly vacant lot at 1350 S. Ocean Blvd. for $20.27 million. He had owned that Billionaires Row property for about four years.
“In February 2018, Wynn resigned from Wynn Resorts amid allegations of sexual misconduct — including coercing some female employees into sexual activity — over many years. He denied the allegations. He also resigned last year as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.” Palm Beach Post
VALLEY TALK — “Big Tech, a Conservative Provocateur and the Fight Over Disinformation,” by NYT’s Nicholas Confessore and Justin Bank: “The Western Journal is not quite a household name. Until recently, some of its most prolific writers used pseudonyms. Though it publishes scores of stories each week about national politics, the company has no Washington bureau, or any other bureaus. Indeed, it rarely dispatches reporters into the world to gather news firsthand.
“In the parallel universe of Facebook, though, The Western Journal has been among the most popular and influential publications in America, shaping the political beliefs of more than 36 million deeply loyal readers and followers. In the three years ending in March, according to a New York Times analysis, Western Journal Facebook posts earned three-quarters of a billion shares, likes and comments, almost as many as the combined tally of 10 leading American news organizations that together employ thousands of reporters and editors.” NYT
YIKES — “Ex-GSA Official Had Sex With White House Staffer on Govt. Agency Rooftop: Investigation,” by NBC 4’s Scott MacFarlane: “The report details multiple violations of federal policies prohibiting or limiting alcohol consumption in federal offices, by high ranking officials of the GSA in 2017. … [Brennan] Hart’s employment with the agency ended in March 2018, several weeks after the inspector general interviewed him about the incident. The report redacted the name of the White House staffer involved.” NBC 4
BOOK NEWS — Election expert Rick Hasen has a new book coming out, “Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy.”
Asked why he wrote the book, Rick says, “I don’t think folks realize how norm-based and tenuous are our rules for peaceful transitions of power and acceptance of election results by the losers of the election. Internal and external forces, and not just Trump, have eroded trust in how we conduct our elections and count ballots, and we cannot take it as a given that losers will accept the 2020 results (whether that’s Trump who might lose narrowly in Wisconsin or Democrats who might complain about voter suppression costing them Georgia).” $27.50 on Amazon … Book summary
— ANOTHER DEPARTURE from MIT’s Media Lab: J. Nathan Matias’ post on Medium
— BERNIE VS. THE PRESS … FAIZ SPEAKS! — “Team Bernie: The Press Has a ‘Personal Bias’ Against Him and Find His Supporters ‘Annoying,’” by The Daily Beast’s Maxwell Tani and Gideon Resnick: “‘I wish I could check at the outset of every reporter’s “story” about Bernie Sanders, I would love to ask them, “What do you personally think of Bernie Sanders?”’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir said in an interview with The Daily Beast. ‘For whatever reason, he gets under their skin. He draws an emotional chord in a different way that ends up impacting and affecting the bias, I think, or at least the way in which stories are crafted and written about him in particular is different.’” Daily Beast
— Ryan Gallagher will be a senior tech reporter at Bloomberg, based in Edinburgh. He currently is an investigative journalist at The Intercept.
— Matt Joseloff is now a coordinating producer for “Morning Joe.” He previously worked at CBSN.
TRAILER DU JOUR — “Lionsgate Drops ‘Bombshell’ Trailer: Margot Robbie, Charlize Theron & Nicole Kidman Take On Roger Ailes,” by Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at email@example.com.
SPOTTED: T-Mobile CEO John Legere at Joe’s on Wednesday.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Mattie Duppler, president of Forward Strategies and senior fellow at the National Taxpayers Union, and Drake Springer, director of video and creative production at Stand Together, welcomed Leila Madelyn Springer last Thursday. She came in at 5 lbs, 5 oz. The couple are House Republican Conference alums, where they met working for Cathy McMorris Rodgers in 2014. Instapic… Another Instapic
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), now a partner at Nelson Mullins. How he thinks the Trump presidency is going: “The great thing about a participatory democracy is the jury gets to render a verdict — at the presidential level — every four years. The way politics is now, you receive too little credit from your detractors and too much praise from your supporters because objectivity has been replaced with relativism.” Playbook Plus Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Paul Singer is 75 … Montana A.G. Tim Fox … National Review editor Rich Lowry is 51 … Brittany Baker, special assistant to NEC Director Larry Kudlow … Jess Allen, an NYU Law student and Obama WH alum, is 3-0 … Thomas Midanek … Steve Kroft is 74 … Steve Kornacki, national political correspondent for NBC and MSNBC, is 4-0 … Morton Dean is 84 … Jennifer Loven, managing director at Glover Park Group … Steve Brill, CEO of NewsGuard (h/t wife Cynthia) … Tom Edsall is 78 … Sabrina Siddiqui, VP at Forbes Tate Partners … Jen Nedeau Helm, partner manager for government, politics and advocacy at Facebook … Robin Wright, New Yorker writer and joint fellow of the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Wilson International Center … former Rep. Thad McCotter (R-Mich.) is 54 … former Rep. Bud Cramer (D-Ala.) is 72 …
… Luke Russert … Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association … Fox Business News producer Natalie Apsell (h/t Steve Brusk) … Nick Mildebrath, VP at Convergence Targeted Communications, is 31 … Chris Lapetina … Pat Eltman (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Bill Cortese … Jim Strader … Sward Tondoneh … Jillian Hershner … Bill Turenne Jr. … Eleanor Strom of Google … Sinclair’s AnnaMaria Di Pietro … WJLA anchor Nancy Chen … Selena Strandberg … Katie Gordon … Matthew Barnes … Claire Stein-Ross … Pema Levy of Mother Jones … Chad Connelly … Mory Fontanez … Katie Bloodgood … Nick Greene … Jordan Goldes … Rob Borden … Megan Paulsen … Chris Pumphrey … Alyssa Palisi … Mac Flores … Brystol English … Julia Rothwax … Hailey Arends … Martin Fitzgerald … Axios’ Gigi Sukin and Stef Kight … Ryan Patmintra … AP’s Nebi Qena … KB … Alexis Rubin, who works at the NICU at Children’s National Hospital (h/t Joe Kildea)
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