In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Three low-income Arkansans with pre-existing health conditions sued the Trump administration on Tuesday for giving their state the go-ahead to impose strict monthly work requirements on Medicaid and restrict the number of months for which the program will retroactively cover the health expenses of new enrollees. More plaintiffs may join the case in the months to come.

The lawsuit argues that the administration’s decision was arbitrary and capricious, violates the Constitution’s “take care” clause, and breaks with the original purpose of Medicaid by putting thousands of residents at risk of losing their insurance coverage.

Nationwide and in Arkansas, the vast majority of Medicaid recipients already work, and most non-working recipients are not able to work, either because of an illness or disability or the scarcity of jobs in their area. Yet the promotion of the rules has been a top priority of the Trump administration, despite data showing that similar requirements in other federal benefits programs failed to increase employment.

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PLATTEVILLE, WI — Mike North, the head of the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association, is enough of a dyed-in-the-wool Republican to spend his Monday morning at a campaign stop for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R). But when asked about how President Trump’s standing might effect his party this year, he immediately expressed concern over Trump’s ongoing trade wars.

The reality is a change in our marketplace has been discomforting for sure, to say the least. There’s a lot of heartburn about where prices are at right now. So that will be something that we’ll have to work through as we come through fall,” North told TPM at a Walker campaign event at Digman Construction, a small company outside small-town Platteville in the state’s rural southwestern corner.

North’s group is nonpartisan, and has endorsed candidates from both parties in the past. He said he thought most Republican-leaning voters are willing to deal with some short-term economic pain to give Trump some time to figure things out, and doesn’t think it’s fair that others who voted for Trump are now unhappy with him doing what he promised to do.

You don’t send a bull into a china shop and hope for a whole plate at the end,” North said.

But North admitted that plunging dairy prices, which have dropped 4 percent this year partly because of Mexico’s retaliatory tariffs on dairy in the trade wars Trump has kicked off, have put farmers in a tough position.

Are we seeing things that we like in the short term? Obviously, lower prices aren’t anything any farmer wants to see. But we’re all looking at this with a very long-term mindset,” he said.

Wisconsin is one of many midwestern states where Trump’s trade war is roiling local industries, and could boost Democrats’ prospects this fall.

And dairy isn’t the only GOP-leaning industry in the state that’s been shaken by Trump’s trade wars. Wisconsin’s corn and soybean farmers aren’t thrilled either, and one iconic Wisconsin company has taken a hit as well. Harley Davidson’s bottom line risks major damage from Trump’s steel tariffs. When the Milwaukee-based company said it will start making its motorcycles for the European market over there to sidestep fallout from Trump’s trade war, the president responded with a call to boycott:

Walker seemed well aware of the impact Trump’s trade wars might have on his own campaign. He quickly brought up the issue unprompted when talking to TPM after a meet-and-greet with supporters on the final day of his 21-stop bus tour through the state.

As you can imagine, you can hear in particular in rural parts still some concerns about agriculture, obviously more aimed at the national level in terms of where prices are, whether it’s for dairy or for commodities,” he said when asked about where the state’s mood was.

And the avowed Harley rider later brought up the company, while sidestepping a question about whether he was happy with Trump’s attacks on his hometown’s pride.

For me, I want Harley Davidson to succeed here in the state of Wisconsin. And one of the best ways for them to do that … is for the president to succeed in getting no tariffs,” he said. “There’s no tariffs, I’ve talked to Harley before. They want to make not only the bikes they make and sell in America, they want to make as many if not all their bikes here. But they need to have the help to do that.”

Walker said he supported Trump’s end goal of no tariffs between the U.S. and other G-7 countries — but implored the president that it needs to happen “sooner, rather than later.”

At least Walker addressed the question.

“We’ve got to go, we’ve got to go,” Senate candidate Leah Vukmir (R), who appears to be the slight favorite to win her Tuesday primary to face Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), said abruptly as soon as TPM mentioned Harley Davidson during a very brief interview after a rally in Racine with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) Monday afternoon. She hustled away across the parking lot, ignoring the repeated question.

Her primary opponent, former Marine Kevin Nicholson (R), has bear-hugged Trump all campaign as he sought to make hay out of Vukmir’s 2016 criticism of the then-nominee. But even he broke with Trump on this issue on the eve of their primary.

“No, I don’t want to see Harley-Davidson boycotted because I want to see them succeeding and selling into new markets without tariffs and that’s going to be the goal,” Nicholson said Monday on a local radio show.

Baldwin has joined many other Democrats to condemn Trump’s latest volley in the trade war, an issue that could split the GOP-leaning voters from their party this fall and give Democrats a chance for their first good midterm election in the state in a decade.

It’s unclear as of now how much Trump’s trade war will end up impacting GOP-leaning voters in the state. But polls and special elections in the state suggest that Democrats are positioned to bounce back after a rough decade in the state that culminated with Trump carrying Wisconsin by less than 23,000 votes in 2016. And there are signs that even some of the state’s most conservative Republicans aren’t thrilled with what the president has wrought.

A lot of people are still in support of what Trump did,” said North. “But maybe they disagree with the tactics he’s taken of late.”

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For a man who has fully embraced President Trump’s “America First” slogan, Rep. Kevin Cramer’s (R-ND) Senate campaign is using a surprising array of international images to sell his campaign.

The top Senate candidate’s website is replete with Getty stock images from around the globe, from Serbia to Indonesia, Hungary to the United Kingdom, to illustrate his made-in-America political views.

One notable shot: Cramer, a staunch ally of Trump who has campaigned heavily on a border-security crackdown, uses a stock image to illustrate the “Illegal immigration and sanctuary cities” section of his website.

The problem? It was taken by Hungarian photographer David Balogh, who has extensively photographed the Hungary-Serbia border crisis, where Hungary’s hard-right anti-immigrant government has erected a fence in response to the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis.

That’s far from the only odd image choice.

The photo illustrating Cramer’s opposition to the “Waters of the U.S. rule” (shown below) is actually waters of Indonesia. That Getty Stock image is of Lake Sentani, near Jayapura City, Indonesia — and far from Fargo.

His campaign’s latest press release on Medicare and Social Security featured an image of old man with a boy in a field. That happens to be a Getty Images photo taken in Serbia and titled “Cute grandfather and grandson going for a walk.”

And Cramer’s “Farm Bill” photo (below) is on Getty as “Man Driving a Tractor.” It appears this shot is from a British photographer.


This isn’t the first time Cramer’s drawn some notice for his use of stock images — one local veteran was unhappy enough about his use of an “Authentic Vietnam Veteran” stock image in a campaign web ad to write a letter to the Bismarck Tribune last month, and Cramer’s campaign was forced to apologize earlier this year for using a photo of him with two local Democrats without seeking their permission to be used in campaign information.

Cramer is running against Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) in a race strategists in both parties say is the GOP’s best chance at a Senate pickup this fall.

His campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) rode a late endorsement from President Trump to the slimmest of leads in his state’s gubernatorial primary, setting up a potentially drawn-out fight over who won and boosting Democrats’ chances at seriously contesting the seat this fall.

Kobach, a notorious immigration hardliner and fierce proponent of the unfounded theory that there’s widespread voting fraud, held a 191-vote lead over Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) after all election day votes were finally tallied Wednesday morning, out of more than 300,000 total votes counted. That’s a 40.6 percent to 40.5 percent edge, close enough that thousands of provisional and absentee votes could make the difference — and close enough that a recount appears likely.

Colyer had a slight edge for much of the race, according to public and private polls, and Trump’s Monday endorsement may have made the difference for Kobach, his ardent supporter. Kobach has authored a number of restrictive anti-immigration and voter identification bills for states around the country, and led Trump’s widely criticized Voter Fraud Panel, which failed to turn up any evidence supporting Trump’s claim that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election.

A Kobach win would Democrats a shot at swiping a governor’s mansion in the heavily Republican state, given his lightning-rod positions. There’s been scant public polling of the race, but one semi-recent survey from a GOP firm found him and Kansas state Sen. Laura Kelly (D) tied in the hypothetical race, while Colyer held a double-digit lead over her.

Kansas’ divide between moderate and conservative Republicans runs deep, and Democrats have won here before with a coalition of moderates and Democrats when the GOP has nominated hardliners — most recently with former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) in 2002 and 2006. The party also almost beat Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) in 2014, riding voters’ fury over Brownback’s deep tax cuts and the ensuing budget chaos in the state and falling just four points short in the GOP wave year. Colyer was Brownback’s lieutenant governor, and ascended to the governor’s mansion when Brownback was picked for an ambassadorship in the Trump administration.

If Colyer pulls out this close primary, it would be good news for Republicans hoping to hold the seat, though it would be an embarrassment for the president.

This general election will be complicated by Greg Orman, a well-known and self-funding independent candidate who could siphon off votes from Kelly. But this race is one to watch heading into the fall.

If Kobach hangs on that could also help down-ticket Democrats, who are gunning to take down Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) in the state’s most moderate and suburban district (Hillary Clinton carried it last election) and want to seriously contest a rural seat held by retiring Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS).

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Republican Troy Balderson appears to have barely squeaked by Democrat Danny O’Connor in a heavily Republican Ohio congressional district Tuesday, the latest warning sign that the GOP is headed into a brutal fall election season.

Balderson led over O’Connor by 50.1 percent to 49.3 percent,  a 1,766-vote lead, with all precincts reporting. That narrow edge came in a district anchored in suburban Columbus, Ohio that President Trump won by 11 percentage points in 2016 and hasn’t elected a Democrat in 35 years. While provisional ballots were still outstanding, that’s likely enough for him to avoid a recount.

That the election was close at all is the latest concerning sign for House Republicans as they look ahead to the fall midterm elections. Many top GOP strategists warned what the results suggest about the fall elections:

The final House special election before the midterms became the latest to shift significantly in Democrats’ favor in the Trump era, after victories by Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) and Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) as well as numerous other wins in legislative special elections and moral victories in other congressional special elections. The combined shift toward Democrats suggest a big surge for the party this fall.

Strategists in both parties admit that both candidates were fairly mediocre, making the Ohio race essentially a test of a generic Democrat versus Republican that didn’t have as many local vagaries as some other special elections.

Midterm elections will have higher turnout and could have slightly different electorates than these special election contests, and Democrats will need to win at least a few seats like this one if they’re going to get to a House majority in November.

Ohio Republicans argued that the race should be taken as a warning, but not a reason to panic.

“Anyone who doesn’t understand there’s increased Democratic enthusiasm isn’t being honest with themselves. There is. The question is, will it be enough? So far the answer has been no. They can make it close, but they can’t get over the hump,” former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges texted TPM as the final results rolled in Tuesday night.

But it’s a bad sign for Republicans that they keep having to fight this hard to hold onto seats that are normally slam dunks for their party. And it’s worth remembering that while Democrats ground out wins in a number of hard-fought special elections in 2010, they lost 63 seats that fall.

Republican outside groups spent more than $6 million combined to salvage Balderson’s prospects in the race after he was vastly out-raised by O’Connor.

And even as they celebrated victory, one of those groups warned it can’t be duplicated across the map in three months if some Republicans don’t up their efforts.

“While we won tonight, this remains a very tough political environment and moving forward, we cannot expect to win tough races when our candidate is being outraised,” Corry Bliss, the head of the big-spending Congressional Leadership Fund, warned in a Tuesday night statement. “Any Republican running for Congress getting vastly outraised by an opponent needs to start raising more money.”

The CLF closed with an ad from Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) strongly endorsing the candidate, a move that may have helped shore him up just enough in the more upscale, country club Republican parts of the district (Kasich, a frequent Trump antagonist, plays much better in those parts of the state). Though Trump came in to campaign with Balderson on Saturday, the rural parts of the district didn’t turn out in near the numbers as the suburban areas.

And while Trump claimed credit for the tight victory in a Tuesday night tweet, it’s likely Kasich who deserves the game ball for helping Balderson hang on in enough suburban territory to pull out the win.

These results may not be as good a sign for Senate Democrats, who need to win many heavily rural, downscale states to increase their numbers in the upper chamber. The suburban-rural splits were huge, with O’Connor over-performing normal Democratic numbers near Columbus and Balderson racking up strong margins in the district’s smaller towns and rural areas.

The two candidates aren’t done with one another: They’ll face off once again in November.

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Democrats are hoping they can pull off one more big special election upset on Tuesday night, shaving their magic number of seats needed to retake the House down to 22 and further panicking congressional Republicans ahead of the midterm elections.

Democrat Danny O’Connor and Republican Troy Balderson are in a neck-and-neck race to replace former Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) in a suburban and exurban district centered in Columbus, Ohio’s suburbs that no Democrat has held in nearly four decades and Trump carried by 11 percentage points in 2016.

Republicans remain a bit more confident they’ll pull this race off than Democrats, but the mere fact that this race is this competitive isn’t a good sign for the GOP’s chances come the fall. Republican outside groups have had to dump millions of dollars into the race to shore up Balderson, who O’Connor has crushed in the fundraising game. President Trump himself showed up on Saturday to help Balderson gin up GOP base enthusiasm (though it’s unclear whether Balderson actually wanted him there), and gave him one more boost Tuesday morning:

As I wrote last week, neither candidate is exactly an all-star — both have proven to be fine, if imperfect, candidates. Balderson struggled with fundraising and further proved this point by telling voters on election eve that “We don’t want someone from Franklin County representing us,” dissing approximately one-third of his district’s voters.

After saying all campaign that he wouldn’t back House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as speaker, O’Connor fumbled a question on MSNBC by admitting he’d support her on the House floor as speaker if she won the Democratic caucus nomination — and he took two weeks off the campaign trail for a trip to Greece right after winning his primary.

That makes this race essentially a generic Democrat-versus-Republican campaign that makes it a better test of where the electorate is in this more upscale, highly educated district. If Democrats are winning here, it’s the latest sign a blue wave might wash across the House map in November. If they just come close, that’s still an ominous result for the GOP, albeit one that gives Republicans hope they can grind out enough close wins in the fall to hang onto House control.

The race isn’t the only interesting one on Tuesday: Kansas will also pick its nominees for governor, an election that could be close this fall if the GOP nominates controversial former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R). Trump endorsed Kobach on Monday, boosting a voting rights opponent and immigration hardliner who has long embraced the president and possibly giving him enough lift to win his hard-fought primary against appointed Gov. Jeff Colyer (R). If that holds, Democrats are hopeful they can seriously compete in the fall election in a state where hardline conservatives’ dominance has turned off a number of suburban Republican voters.

Voters will also pick nominees for Michigan’s gubernatorial election, the GOP opponent for heavily favored Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), nominate candidates in a handful of key House races in Kansas and Michigan, as well as hold elections in Missouri and Washington.

Polls close at 7:30 p.m. EST in Ohio, and 9 p.m. in all of Michigan and Kansas. Washington is vote-by-mail.

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President Trump threw his support behind controversial Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s gubernatorial bid on Monday, the latest move from the president that could end up hurting his party’s chances of winning a major 2018 race.

It’s no shock that Trump embraced Kobach, an early and ardent support (and the head of his conspiracy theory-driven “election integrity commission”), with a Monday morning tweet calling him a “fantastic guy.” But a Kobach endorsement could give him the needed boost to win a hard-fought gubernatorial primary on Tuesday — and put the race at risk for the GOP, the latest time Trump has stepped in and made things harder for his party in a key race, following endorsements in Florida and Georgia that undercut his party’s more moderate candidates.

Kobach is in a tight race with Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), a more establishment candidate who became governor when Sam Brownback was given an ambassadorship in the Trump administration.

The deeply polarizing Kobach has faced a bevy of legal issues stemming from his efforts to curtail voting rights in his state as well as his involvement in the Trump-backed national commission that unsuccessfully sought to confirm Trump’s baseless claims that millions of people had voted illegally in 2016.

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Despite predictions of a “blue wave” in this November’s midterm elections, Democrats face a brutal Senate map, and have to fight to hold onto control of 10 seats in states that voted for President Trump. One of the closest and likely one of the most expensive races is going down in Florida, where Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who has represented the state since 2001, is facing the toughest challenge of his career from Gov. Rick Scott (R), a close Trump ally.

“This is really a clash of the titans,” Republican political strategist Rick Wilson told TPM. “They both have run multiple statewide races and they’re good at it.”

The latest Mason-Dixon poll of likely voters showed a tight race, with Scott slightly in the lead and with 9 percent of voters undecided. Over the past few months, despite Republicans’ poor performance on a generic ballot nationwide, Mason-Dixon found that Scott has climbed in the polls while Nelson has “remained static” — numbers reflected in other public polling.

National Democrats acknowledge the state is going to be a huge money drain for them, but say they’re confident Scott can be defeated.

“Look at Rick Scott’s past electoral performance,” David Bergstein, the national press secretary of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), told TPM. “In Republicans’ two best cycles in modern political history, in 2010 and 2014, Scott dramatically outspent his opponents and never won by more than a point. He barely eked out victories in favorable years, and this is not a favorable year for him.”

Scott has been pouring what Wilson dubs “an assload of money” into his campaign, buying gobs of airtime in the expensive state. The Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC has swooped in to help Nelson with a massive TV buy set to begin after Labor Day, a $23 million investment on top of the $2.2 million the PAC already spent earlier this year. That’s nearly a third of its total ad budget for the campaign cycle just for Nelson, a sign of the supreme importance the group is putting on holding this seat.

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Four cities filed a lawsuit on Thursday accusing the Trump administration of violating the “Take Care” clause of the Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act by chipping away at the Affordable Care Act in ways that have depressed health insurance enrollment and driven up costs for both individuals and taxpayers.

The complaint from the cities of Columbus, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Chicago charges President Trump with the “premeditated destruction” of parts of the ACA. They are suing to force the administration to restore the funding that was slashed for outreach and enrollment assistance, extend the 2019 open enrollment period, and steer people towards comprehensive ACA plans and away from skimpy short-term plans that do not cover pre-existing conditions.

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Democrats are hoping they can pull off one more special election stunner next Tuesday — and further panic House Republicans as they head into the home stretch of the 2018 midterm elections.

Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor (D) has closed hard on Ohio state Sen. Troy Balderson (R), pulling into a virtual tie in recent polling in a Republican-leaning district centered in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio.

The race is the latest special election in a district that’s proven much more competitive for Democrats than it would have been in previous years, and the final beta test for the parties to work out their messaging before November’s crucial midterm elections. President Trump carried the district by 11 percentage points, other Republicans have won it by even wider margins, and it’s long been held by establishment-minded Republicans: Former Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) held the seat for years, and an earlier version of the district was long held by now-Gov. John Kasich (R).

But in the Trump era, seats like this are in play. The district stretches from the edge of Columbus out through rural territory to Zanesville and other parts of central Ohio, and is the highest educated and wealthiest in the state. If O’Connor wins there next Tuesday, it’s the latest sign of a fierce suburban backlash against the president and his party — one that could very well hand Democrats control of the House next year. And even if he falls just short, that’s not a good sign for Republicans heading into November.

The fact that it’s a close election sends the message: In a solidly Republican district, there are obviously a lot of people that are second-guessing the vision of the current Trump Republican Party,” former Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Leland told TPM.

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