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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann
WASHINGTON — For more than a decade, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has exerted a tremendous amount of influence and control over her Democratic caucus.
But she’s now facing arguably her toughest challenge yet, with some House Democrats — fueled by recent developments — demanding to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump that Pelosi opposes for now.
“During a weekly Democratic leadership meeting in Pelosi’s office on Capitol Hill, Reps. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Joe Neguse, D-Colo., all argued for launching an impeachment inquiry if former White House counsel Don McGahn failed to testify at a planned hearing Tuesday before the Judiciary Committee,” per NBC’s Heidi Przbyla, Alex Moe and Rebecca Shabad.
“It was a big debate and was long and very emotional,” one source inside the Democratic leadership told NBC.
“This isn’t about politics at all. It’s about patriotism. It’s about the strength we need to have to see things through,” Pelosi responded to her Democratic critics, according to Politico.
But just consider all of the news over the last 24 hours that’s emboldening House Democrats:
Oh, and let’s not forget Rep. Justin Amash’s, R-Mich., tweetstorm from over the weekend that Trump engaged in impeachable conduct, or Tom Steyer’s TV ad arguing that the president has been running circles around House Democrats.
“[Trump’s] defying you. He’s laughing at you. And he’s getting away with it,” the ad goes.
Bottom line: Pelosi is facing a potential breaking point, as more and more Democrats want to run through a door that the speaker has tried to keep closed – at least for now.
How does she stop this? Does she take control of the process? Or does she get run over?
Bluegrass State of mind
Before there was Donald Trump, there was Matt Bevin — a controversial conservative who shocked the polls and political world when he won Kentucky’s gubernatorial election in 2015.
And today brings us the Democratic primary for the right to challenge Bevin in the fall for his re-election, featuring state Attorney General Andy Beshear (son of former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear), former state Auditor Adam Edelen and House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins.
The wild card is Adkins, who could benefit from the Edelen-versus-Beshear fight.
Bevin, who’s facing his own primary challenge today from underdog Republicans, is relatively unpopular and thus vulnerable in the fall. But incumbency, a low unemployment rate and the state’s rural-versus-urban divide could help him.
Sounds like another Republican we know…
2020 Vision: Trump continues to elevate Joe Biden
Campaigning in Pennsylvania last night, President Trump talked a lot about Joe Biden.
“Don’t forget Biden deserted you. He’s not from Pennsylvania. I guess he was born here but he left you, folks. He left you for another state. Remember that, please,” Trump said.
(For the record, Biden moved from Pennsylvania to nearby Delaware when he was a boy.)
More Trump: “The previous administration what they did to our country, they should be ashamed of themselves. [Applause] Sleepy Joe said that he’s running, to quote save the world, well he was, he’s going to save every country but ours. And remember he said a week ago, China is not a competitor. China is not a competitor.”
And here was Trump on Biden’s crowd size at his recent campaign launch in Philadelphia: “It’s no wonder that when Joe Biden announced he’s running for president, by the way, by the way, by the way, we have thousands of people, so… Now they said he had 600 people. No, not very good. Not very good. I’d say 150. And that was on an announcement, right? I’d say 150 people.”
(For the record, Biden’s crowd size was estimated at around 6,000.)
On the campaign trail today
Beto O’Rourke remains in Iowa, hitting a town hall in Tipton before attending his CNN town hall in Des Moines at 10:00 pm ET… And Bill Weld participates in a Kennedy Institute Conversation in Boston.
The Lid: Pennsylvania polka
Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at Trump’s potential troubles in Biden’s backyard of Pennsylvania.
Data Download: The number of the day is … $6 million
That’s the amount of money that’s been spent on TV and radio ads so far in the 2019 race for Kentucky governor, according to Advertising Analytics.
The biggest overall spender has been Adam Edelen’s campaign at $2.1 million, while a pro-Edelen Super PAC has kicked in an additional $1 million.
Edelen’s Democratic rival, Andy Beshear, has spent $1.3 million over the airwaves.
And incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has spent $480,000.
Total ad spending
- Adam Edelen campaign (D): $2.1 million
- Andy Beshear campaign (D): $1.3 million
- Kentuckians for a Better Future (pro-Edelen Super PAC): $1.0 million
- Rocky Adkins campaign (D): $911,000
- Matt Bevin campaign (R): $480,000
- Robert Goforth campaign (R): $234,000
- Putting Kentucky First (pro-Bevin Super PAC): $94,000
- Ike Lawrence campaign (R): $24,000
Tweet of the day
ICYMI: New clips you shouldn’t miss
The backup border funding plan for DHS would take millions from TSA and other agencies, NBC’s Julia Ainsley reports.
Black voters aren’t forgetting past broken promises as they weigh their choices for 2020, writes the Washington Post.
Kris Kobach has submitted a list of conditions — including 24/7 access to a government jet — if he becomes the country’s “immigration czar.”
Don’t miss POLITICO’s Stephen Shepard on what professional pollsters are saying about trends in the industry as a huge presidential election approaches.
And Alabama Public Television refused to air an episode of children’s program “Arthur” that included a same-sex marriage.
Trump agenda: GOP vs. Justin Amash
Republicans are trying to figure out what to do after one of their own, Justin Amash, said the president has engaged in “impeachable conduct.”
The Washington Post writes on Trump’s tendency to make himself a central character in every story — political or otherwise.
A new report finds that Betsy DeVos used her personal email in “limited” circumstances.
A federal judge is denying Trump’s bid to block his financial records from Congress.
2020: Hey, big spender
Trump is outspending all of his Democratic rivals on Facebook.
Here’s what we learned from Trump’s appearance in Biden’s backyard last night.
The RNC outraised the DNC in April.
Bernie Sanders is trying to make a pitch to black voters in the Deep South.
Beto O’Rourke says he’d do a Fox News town hall.
It’s special election day in Pennsylvania.
And here’s what to watch for on primary day in Kentucky.
Carrie Symonds: Will Boris Johnson’s girlfriend support ‘Bozzie bear’ at BBC TV debate
FRONTRUNNER Boris Johnson is on route to make it through to the BBC’s live Tory leadership debate tonight. Will his girlfriend Carrie Symonds be there to cheer on ‘Bozzie Bear’ as he faces questions from the public?
Trump’s worst enemy as he kicks off his re-election bid may be himself
CHARLESTON, S.C. — On the surface, Chris Moody and Steve Neal don’t have much in common, except for this: They’re excited about voting for President Donald Trump again in 2020.
Moody, a white 24-year-old day-care worker and recent Marshall University graduate from Charleston, West Virginia, is something of a walking billboard for the president’s re-election. He strolled into the King’s Leaf Cigar Lounge here Saturday wearing a T-Shirt bearing an impressionistic version of Trump’s visage and these words: “If Trump is not your president this is not your country. You are not a tree. Move.”
He is very tapped into a powerful sentiment stoked by Trump and shared by many of his voters — that Trump is under constant and unfair attack from Democrats, the media and establishment forces in Washington.
“I can’t stand the way people talk about him,” Moody said.
Neal, a black 49-year-old automotive finance consultant who uses his sparkling white Lexus to drive Uber routes on the side, said his support for Trump is a source of ribbing inside his family of hard-core Democrats in this Charleston and that he seldom talks about his politics unless he’s asked.
“My vote speaks strong enough for itself,” Neal said.
These two types figure to factor heavily into Trump’s success or failure as he seeks a second term in the presidency that few would have predicted possible when he first descended an escalator at his namesake Manhattan skyscraper four years ago without ever having won a single vote for any office.
Now the undisputed center of the political universe, Trump is set to kick off his re-election campaign Tuesday at Orlando’s Amway Center having redefined the Republican Party, the tenor of American public discourse and perceptions of the country at home and abroad. He’ll do so with the shadow of a possible high-stakes House impeachment looming over his shoulder — a prospect that carries peril for him in its potential to publicize special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings in painful fashion and, conversely, one that offers the hope that he can rally new voters to his side in the name of defending his presidency from overzealous opponents.
Because while Trump has formed the most loyal base of supporters in modern history, he has also alienated and mobilized large swaths of the electorate, from liberal city-dwelling Democrats to ex-Republican suburbanites turned off by his crass manner, hard-line positions on social policy, and views of executive power and nationalism that rattle pillars of Western democratic governance.
The biggest challenge facing Trump on the electoral battlefield is turning the energy of his own base into the kind of wave that brings out new voters. While a big part of that will come down to the efficacy of a cutting-edge data operation focused on adding to his base by finding and turning out supporters who don’t normally vote, some of it will hinge on the evangelism of people like Moody and Neal who were there for him last time.
In that way, Trump may be his own worst enemy.
Neal said he’s pleased with the economy and having “more of a strong arm” on foreign policy. But the “stupid stuff” Trump says makes it so difficult to advocate effectively on his behalf that Neal doesn’t really try.
“The problem is Trump’s whole persona,” he said.
Modern history and more recent polling suggest Trump has little margin for error in a nation sharply and bitterly divided in its political loyalties. Like George W. Bush, Trump managed to win a first term while losing the popular vote, and public and private surveys show that he has his work cut out for him if he is to claim victory again.
In the last week, polls from Fox News and Quinnipiac University have shown Trump trailing a series of Democratic rivals — with former Vice President Joe Biden leading by 10 points and 13 points, respectively.
More troubling, at least from a public relations perspective, the recent reporting of internal Trump polling from March by ABC News and the New York Times showed him behind Biden in nearly every important swing state. Biden held double-digit leads in Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — states that collectively account for more than his margin of victory in 2016 — and NBC reported Sunday that Trump has cut ties to two people who were involved in his polling operations in the aftermath of the data becoming public.
The campaign’s top pollster, Tony Fabrizio, said the numbers amounted to a “worst-case scenario” involving a bad turnout model, suggesting they don’t reflect the actual state of the race.
The modeling is particularly important when it comes to Trump because his strategy is necessarily built around changing the set of people who show up to the polls in 2020 — and he’ll be trying to do that at the same time Democrats are working to counter him both with a surge of their own and by locking down past Trump voters who have been turned off by his presidency to this point.
Trump’s approval rating has been in negative territory for almost the entirety of his presidency, and the most recent tabulation by the number-crunchers at FiveThirtyEight.com pegs it at 42.6 percent. But his allies say he is in great shape as he gears up for the Orlando rally and the race ahead of him.
And Chris Wilson, a veteran Republican pollster and political data analyst, said he doesn’t put much stock in the traditional surveys he’s seeing now because they base their turnout models on recent elections — which may not reflect the reality of 2020 if Trump is successful in targeting and turning out new voters.
“I’m very skeptical of any survey today drawing their sample by asking people whether or not they’re going to vote,” he said. He recently conducted polling, based on voter-data modeling, that showed Trump in much better position — including holding small leads in Florida and Wisconsin — in key swing states.
The other factor that’s impossible to measure right now is the effect of Trump’s campaigning against his eventual Democratic opponent, Wilson said.
“Donald Trump is going to have several months, five or six, to make the nominee entirely unpalatable,” he said.
Trump’s penchant for personal attack may ultimately rally his own base and depress excitement among Democrats, but there’s also a risk that it could have the opposite effect.
After years of Twitter feuds and spoken insults of everyone from world leaders to professional athletes, there’s a bit of a social stigma attached to Trump in certain circles that could make it harder for him to reap the benefits of the full-throated support from his army of partisans.
Moreover, the president’s comportment can alienate voters who are comfortable with his policies.
While that matters less in Moody’s home state of West Virginia and Neal’s South Carolina, where Trump is sure to win handily, it could be a significant factor in the handful of swing states that will determine who sits in the Oval Office come January of 2021.
Tom Oestreich, 64, of Tucson, Ariz., said in an interview with NBC News that he chose Trump because he couldn’t vote for Clinton. He would have voted for former Vice President Joe Biden in 2016 had Biden been the Democratic nominee, he said, but he now sees the Democratic front-runner as “tripping” on the campaign trail and “a little bit too old.”
A self-described moderate Republican, Oestreich said he is leaning toward Trump because of the state of the economy and his handling of foreign policy but is bothered by what he describes as the president sounding like he has “a fifth-grade education.” He’s giving a second look to South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
“I’m not crazy about Buttigieg, but he’s got a great pedigree, a great resume,” Oestreich said of the Rhodes scholar and Afghanistan War veteran. “If it comes down to the two of them … there’s a very good possibility I could vote for him.”
Democrats believe they have a shot at turning Arizona in their favor for the second time since Harry Truman won it in 1948, in part because Trump carried the state by only three-and-a-half percentage points in 2016 and in part because they captured a Senate race there last year for the first time since 1988.
But as has been the case since early in his first presidential run, Trump can count on unflinching support from a loyal base that is more than willing to take on anyone who stands in his way — whether that means Democrats or wavering Republicans. Many of them cast him as their champion in almost epic terms.
“I think he’s doing good,” Trump voter Kitty Klipstine of Dayton, Ohio, said in an interview for Hardball’s “The Deciders,” which will air on MSNBC at 10 p.m. ET Monday. “It’s just he’s fighting Congress, fighting both parties, really, which is a shame because the Republicans should back him all the way.”
Like Klipstine, Roger Carey of Ankeny, Iowa, is proud of the job Trump has done and sees any shortcomings as a function of the resistance he’s met in Washington.
“I like that he has accomplished the things that he ran on,” Carey said. “I like that he wants to support our borders, guarding our borders. Positive things for the country — would like to see Congress back him, though, and get things done.”
The trick for the president is to convince anyone who agrees with Carey — but didn’t cast a vote for Trump last time around — to back his bid to hold on to the job.
— Maura Barrett reported from Boone, Iowa, and Cal Perry reported from Dayton, Ohio
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