A Better Bogeyman Than Trump?

National Journal: “In a break from the anti-Trump messaging that defined last cycle, Democratic strategists predict that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could in some races prove a more potent villain than the president, particularly in places where Trump easily defeated Hillary Clinton.”

“The reasoning cited for McConnell’s sudden usefulness in campaigns beyond a Republican primary: Trump’s approval rating is better than average in several GOP-leaning states, while Congress—and, by extension, McConnell—is far more disliked.”

Schumer Slams Cotton In Meeting with Trump

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “told President Trump this week that there will be no deal on Dreamers if hard-line conservative Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is involved,” Politico reports.

“Schumer also told the president that he was not being well served by White House staffers during negotiations over the fate of 700,000 young immigrants who face potential deportation if no deal is reached to protect them.”

“Trump grew defensive during the private exchange.”

House Vote Sets Up Shutdown Battle in Senate

“The House approved on Thursday night a stopgap spending bill to keep the government open past Friday, but Senate Democrats — angered by President Trump’s vulgar aspersions and a lack of progress on a broader budget and immigration deal — appeared ready to block the measure,” the New York Times reports.

“The successful 230-to-197 vote in the House, where the bill’s chances had appeared in question until shortly beforehand, provided only a faint glimmer of hope that a crisis could be averted before much of the government exhausts its funds at midnight on Friday.”

“But in the Senate, at least a dozen Democratic votes will be needed to approve the measure on Friday, and there is little chance those will materialize. Democrats are intent on securing concessions that would, among other things, protect from deportation young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, increase domestic spending, aid Puerto Rico and bolster the government’s response to the opioid crisis.”

North Carolina Gerrymandering Ruling Is Blocked

The Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina does not have to immediately redraw congressional maps that a lower court ruled unconstitutional, the Washington Post reports.

Rick Hasen: “What this means is that it is very unlikely that even if the Supreme Court agrees with the lower court that this is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, there will be time to consider the issue in time for the 2018 elections. This is especially true because the Court did not expedite things in this order, and it will take a few months before the Court decides whether to hear the case, and that means either a remand after the other partisan gerrymandering cases are decided this term or setting the case for argument (almost certainly next term).”

Porn Star Claimed She Spanked Trump

New York Magazine: “There are new details about the president’s alleged relationship with adult-film star Stormy Daniels. According to a report by Mother Jones, Daniels once claimed that the president made her spank him with an issue of Forbes magazine.”

“The information came from an email exchange between two campaign consultants who worked with Daniels back in 2009, when she was considering running for Senator of Louisiana (one of her potential campaign slogans was “Stormy Daniels: Screwing people honestly.”)”

Democrats Hold Big Lead In Congressional Ballot

A new Pew Research survey finds that 53% of registered voters say they will vote for or lean toward the Democratic Party’s candidate for Congress in their district, compared with 39% who say they would vote for or lean toward the Republican Party’s candidate.

The educational divide is particularly interesting:

A substantial majority (70%) of registered voters with a postgraduate degree say they would vote for or lean toward the Democratic candidate. A smaller majority (58%) of those with a college degree say the same. By contrast, those with a high school degree or less education are more divided (45% support the Democratic candidate, 48% the Republican candidate).

Among whites, the education divide is even wider. By roughly two-to-one, a majority of whites with a postgraduate degree say they support the Democratic candidate over the Republican candidate (65% vs. 29%). Among whites with a high school degree or less education, the reverse is true: 65% support the Republican candidate, compared with just about a quarter (28%) who prefer the Democratic candidate.

A new Quinnipiac poll finds Democrats leading the generic congressional ballot, 50% to 39%.

Midterm Math Looks Similar to 2006

Amy Walter: “In fact, when you look more closely at the kinds of districts Republicans are defending in 2018, they don’t look much different from those they had to defend in 2006. For example, there are about as many competitive GOP-held seats in play today in districts with a slight GOP lean (PVI of R+1 to R+5) (23) as there were right before the election in 2006 (22). And, while it’s true that there are few “low hanging fruit” type of districts for Democrats to pick-off (just 23 districts held by Republicans voted for Hillary Clinton), there weren’t many easy lay-ups in 2006, either. Back in 2006, Republicans held just 18 seats won by Democrat John Kerry in the previous presidential election. By the election of 2006, just 15 GOP-held seats (or 27 percent of the total number of GOP-held competitive districts), were in districts that had a slight Democratic lean (a PVI of Even to D+8). Today, of the 40 most competitive seats held by Republicans, 10 (or 25 percent), have a slight Democratic lean (Even to D+5).”

“The 2018 map is not easy for Democrats, but it’s not any more challenging than the one Democrats faced in 2006. Midterm elections are a referendum on the party in power, not the party out of power. However, the dislike for the Democratic party among GOP partisans is more intense today than it has ever been. The question is whether that antipathy to Democrats will be enough to match the anger and opposition to Trump among Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters.”

Shutdown Grows More Likely

“With less than 36 hours to avoid shutdown of nonessential government services and no solution in sight, congressional leaders spent Thursday offering their spin on who will be to blame if a deal cannot be struck,” Roll Call reports.

“Notably missing amid the rhetoric — Republicans pointing to Democrats as the issue and the minority saying the majority is at fault — were predictions leaders had made in recent weeks that there would be no government shutdown.”

TPM: “The threat of a government shutdown seems to be growing by the minute as a raft of Senate Democrats announced they won’t back a one-month extension of government spending on Thursday, while House Speaker Paul Ryan’s promise he can pass the plan in his chamber looks increasingly uncertain.”

No One Will Say Where Trump Inaugural Funds Went

“Nearly a year after President Trump’s inauguration, the committee that raised a record $106.7 million for the event has not disclosed how much surplus money it still has or provided a final accounting of its finances,” USA Today reports.

“While the committee must report names of donors who give at least $200, election law does not require an accounting of the spending. And there are few restrictions on how leftover funds are used.”

Trump Ordered Bannon to Limit Testimony

President Trump “personally made the decision to curtail the testimony of former chief White House political strategist Steve Bannon before the House Intelligence Committee,” Foreign Policy reports.

“Trump acted to limit Bannon’s testimony based on legal advice provided by Uttam Dhillon, a deputy White House counsel, who concluded that the administration might have legitimate executive privilege claims to restrict testimony by Bannon and other current and former aides to the president.”

“But Dhillon has also concluded that Bannon and other current and former Trump administration officials do not have legitimate claims to executive privilege when it comes to providing information or testimony to special counsel Robert Mueller.”

Trump Said to Be ‘Furious’ with His Chief of Staff

Trump associates said the president “was furious” with White House chief of Staff John Kelly “both for what he said and for the tone he used” in describing some of his campaign proposals as “uninformed,” which Trump thought “made it appear he was a child who had to be managed,” according to the Washington Post.

“One Trump associate who spoke to the president Wednesday night said Trump thought Kelly’s comments made him look bad and that he was giving in to Democrats.”

“The president, this person said, particularly disliked the word ‘uninformed’ which appeared in news reports and has chafed for weeks at the characterization of him as not intelligent and flighty in the best-selling book about his presidency by author Michael Wolff.”