Senate GOP works to avoid, what they call, political damage in Kansas, Alabama

By Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

After dealing with primary nightmares for the better part of a decade, Senate Republicans are preparing to deal with a couple of high-profile intraparty fights in 2020 that could help determine whether the GOP holds on to the upper chamber.

As Jordain Carney writes, Republicans are facing two daunting primary fights in Alabama and Kansas that could shake up the battle for the Senate. The two states should be safe GOP seats, but have emerged as early headaches for the party as they face insurgent bids from Judge Roy Moore and Kris Kobach, who are viewed as wholly unelectable by most national Republicans after blowing what should have been easy victories in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Although Republicans say they feel good about their chances to hold onto the chamber in 2020, contentious fights in the two states could help expand Democrats’ path back to the majority. They need four seats to wrestle away control.

“We don’t need to be having any problems, it’s not a state we can stumble in. The map for the majority is OK, but if you have to start diverting resources to Kansas it complicates things,” one GOP operative said, adding that Alabama is also viewed as a “must-win state.”

The two states are key stepping stones for the Democratic path back to the majority, along with other races in Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, and Maine. But candidacies by Moore and Kobach carry with them a certain amount of disdain in GOP circles, particularly those led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The Senate Leadership Fund, a group led by McConnell allies, blasted campaign announcements by the two, indicating it will oppose both and ensure they do not reach the general election.

Two others who aren’t enthused by runs from either are retiring Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), whom Kobach is running to replace, and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who told The Hill he has huddled with President Trump to figure out the best course of action to defeat Moore and avoid a 2017 situation.

“It seems to me that if you have just lost a statewide race that the chances of you winning, running again for another statewide race would be very difficult,” Roberts said, pointing to Kobach’s gubernatorial loss in 2018. “[But] Kris Kobach once he makes up his mind, makes up his mind.”

On the Democratic side, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) still hasn’t given up hope that multiple lower-tier Democratic presidential candidates will drop out and run for Senate in key states on the 2020 map.

As Alexander Bolton reports, in the wake of Rep. Eric Swalwell’s (D-Calif.) decision to drop out of the presidential race, Schumer is hoping former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) will take the hint and launch Senate bids in their respective states, all of which could become tough, competitive races if they were to do so. Of the three contests, only one — Colorado — is expected to be considered a top-tier Senate contest as Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) is believed to be the most vulnerable Senate Republican up for reelection.

A GOP official told The Hill he fully expects any one of those candidates to reconsider a Senate run, a sign that no one is closing the door on Schumer landing another prize recruit ahead of 2020 as Democrats have struggled to land top-tier recruits in multiple races, including Iowa, Georgia and Texas.

Josh Kraushaar, National Journal: For some, a presidential campaign is no résumé builder.

The Tennessean: Former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) won’t run for Senate, saying it’s not his calling. (Thank the Lord)

> Former Vice President Joe Biden is set to deliver a speech in New York on Thursday in which he lays out his foreign policy vision for the U.S. and he heavily criticizes Trump for his administration’s international policy decisions.

According to a senior Biden campaign official, the former vice president will lay out a vision based on three pillars: repair American democracy and strengthen the coalition of democracies operating around the world, boost the middle class through the global economy, and put the United States “back at the head of the table” in mobilizing global action against threats such as Iran and climate change. Biden, if elected, is also prepared to go beyond the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Iran nuclear deal, both signed by the Obama administration when he was vice president, the senior official said.

“It’s not enough to go back to Paris, as important as that is,” the official said. “He would, but he would then build on it in very substantial ways to get other countries to actually increase their own commitments.”

After the speech, the former vice president is slated to hold a fundraiser in New York.

The Hill: Democrats warn push for border crossing decriminalization will prove costly in 2020.

NPR: South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg unveils plan to counter systemic racism.

During an interview with The Associated Press, the mayor said of his proposal, “This is my entry, as specifically as possible, about what we can do across all these different areas of American life where the black experience is very much like living in a different country.

Politico: Being governor was once a solid path to the presidency. Not this time.

Elsewhere in the political world … Amy McGrath, a Democrat who is running for Senate in Kentucky against McConnell, flip-flopped in a matter of hours over whether she would have voted “aye” on Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. After saying in an interview that she probably would have voted for him, she reversed course on Twitter shortly after (Courier-Journal) … Justice Democrats announced Wednesday a trio of new endorsements, including candidates who are challenging Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) and Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) (The Hill).

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