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Democrats Might ‘Roll The Dice’ Hoping Trump Or Cruz Is On Ballot

By Simone Pathe, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON—Democrats are optimistic that a Donald Trump or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz nomination will expand the map in their favor. But because of how long the GOP nominating contest could take, and how early some congressional filing deadlines are, Democrats may need to take a leap of faith on candidates before they know whether the GOP nominee will put certain states in play.

“I’m telling potential candidates, ‘There’s a chance that our party is going to win the lottery. … It might be worth rolling the dice because it turns out the Democratic nominee in some of these states that are not competitive right now may be worth a lot,’” one Democratic consultant said.

It’s no secret that Republicans are worried Cruz or Trump at the top of the ticket could cost them down-ballot races. But with Cruz and Trump surging in the polls, what was once a just-in-case scenario is now less hypothetical.

“It seems likelier than not that some Republican member of Congress — especially since we’ve seen the rise of straight ticket party voting — who currently aren’t on people’s endangered lists become endangered real fast,” said one Democratic consultant.

“It would be a mistake to not field strong candidates in districts that would otherwise be out of reach,” said Democratic consultant Achim Bergmann, a veteran of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“When I was at the committee in 2006, people were not expecting it to be such a strong year for Democrats,” he said. Only later in the cycle, after Hurricane Katrina, for example, “then the wind started to blow at our backs. We were past filing deadlines and we wanted to expand the map. We did, but there were candidates that were not strong enough,” said Bergmann, noting the party could have picked up even more seats had they had stronger candidates in place.

So far this cycle, Democrats point to at least two states whose filing deadlines have passed where the party missed opportunities to expand the map: Illinois and Ohio. As Nathan Gonzales pointed out last year, the fact that Democrats didn’t field stronger candidates in Illinois’ 12th and 13th Districts means the party will have to make up for it elsewhere, likely in less friendly territory.

No one faults the DCCC for lack of trying. The committee has to maximize its resources where it has the best opportunities, and convincing a Democrat in a red district to run for Congress isn’t an easy sell. “They’re human beings that need to be convinced there’s an opportunity. It’s a lot of work to run for Congress,” Bergmann said.

Playing in more districts has been the DCCC’s presidential-year strategy all along, well before Cruz and Trump burst onto the scene. In January 2015, the committee publicly committed to expanding the battlefield to nearly 70 districts. The party needs to win 30 seats to control the House. Trump and Cruz haven’t changed the committee’s recruitment strategy, a DCCC aide said, but they could help expand the map further, even if neither becomes the nominee.

The DCCC expects GOP-leaning districts in states with diverse populations such as Virginia, Nevada, Colorado, Florida and New York could become more competitive.

In Florida’s 7th District, for example, Democratic businessman Bill Phillips is challenging 12-term Rep. John Mica. “That seat’s going to look a lot more interesting with the wrong Republican nominee,” one Democratic consultant said.

Consultants outside the DCCC went further, identifying several red seats the party could flip blue if Trump or Cruz became the nominee and the party had a good candidate in place.

But in several of those places, time is running out.

National Democrats were hopeful about a recruit in Kentucky’s 6th District, but sports radio host Matt Jones ultimately passed on the race. Although the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rates the district Safe Republican, Democrats point to the 2015 gubernatorial race, when Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway carried the district, to argue the party can put it in play — with the right candidate. Recruitment is ongoing in the district, but the filing deadline is Jan. 26.

©2016 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump (L) and Senator Ted Cruz speak simultaneously at the Fox Business Network Republican presidential candidates debate in North Charleston, South Carolina, January 14, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill

Ryan Is A Boehner ‘Mini-Me’ To Some Conservatives

By Simone Pathe, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Just weeks after Republicans won control of the House in 2010, John A. Boehner celebrated his 61st birthday with a cake with green frosting.

It was actually a double celebration. That same day, Nov. 17, 2010, he was elected speaker-designate by the Republican conference with unanimous support — a present he never enjoyed again.

That unified Republican vote included at least seven current members of the House Freedom Caucus.

Off Capitol Hill, where tea party activists had been rallying conservative voters to the polls weeks earlier, support for Boehner’s speakership was tepid.

“We were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt at first,” Joe Miller, Alaska’s 2010 GOP Senate nominee, told CQ Roll Call last week. After losing the general election to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who waged a write-in campaign to win re-election, Miller continued his tea party activism, and he now hosts a daily talk radio show.

“On the fundamentals, (Boehner) appeared to be right,” Miller added.

In fact, some tea party supporters found the Ohio Republican to be the best of the available options.

“When John Boehner was elected speaker following the historic tea party wave of 2010, it was another major victory for the grass roots. We fought incredibly hard for Mr. Boehner to be the speaker, instead of the establishment Republicans’ big-spender, Rep. Pete Sessions,” California tea party activist Christina Botteri told Breitbart News in September.

Other tea party sympathizers just didn’t know much about Boehner, House leadership or how the process worked in Washington.

“I would have to say that because a lot of us had never been really active in GOP politics, we didn’t have an opinion back in 2010,” Randy Bishop, a Michigan-based host on Patriot Voice Radio, told CQ Roll Call.

Fast-forward to this fall. Conservative blogs have claimed victory over Boehner’s resignation. “Conservatives Inside and Outside the House Caused Boehner’s Downfall,” blared a Breitbart headline the day Boehner announced his resignation.

“As (tea party activists) became more engaged in the political process, and knowing more of what’s going on in Washington, obviously we started becoming very upset with Boehner,” Bishop explained.

Miller said Boehner’s rhetoric was fine at the beginning, “but his rhetoric did not match his actions.”

“Although as a person and as a political figure he has not changed, his political philosophy — attitudes about him have changed, ” Miller said, “and that’s largely the perception that he’s a compromiser.”

Wisconsin Rep. Paul D. Ryan, who officially joined the speaker’s race on Oct. 22, is being dogged by the same perception.

Before his name came up for speaker, Ryan, even more so than Boehner in 2010, had his admirers on the tea party right.

Former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was an early supporter of Ryan’s budget plan, even suggesting that he’d make a good presidential candidate.

Leading up to the GOP presidential convention, the tea party had been expecting to be left out in the cold — until Mitt Romney added Ryan to his ticket.

“The Ryan pick gives the tea party a seat at the table, and that’s why I’m so encouraged,” tea party supporter Allan Olson the Christian Science Monitor in 2012.

Based on surveys of its supporters, the Tea Party Express called the Wisconsin Republican a “strong tea party choice” after Romney picked him for his No. 2.

“We have been polling our members for the last couple of months, and Paul Ryan, along with Senator Marco Rubio, have had the strongest support from Tea Party Express supporters across the country,” then-Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer wrote in a statement at the time.

“Ryan is a strong fiscal conservative, and he has used his Chairmanship of the House Budget Committee to address the serious financial woes facing the country,” Kremer continued.

Miller admired Ryan’s economic views and his willingness to take on Social Security.

“I certainly considered him an ally before — and he has done some good things,” Miller said.

Even Bishop, the talk radio show host from Michigan, was comfortable with Ryan back in 2012.

“When Romney picked Ryan in 2012 as his vice president, we were willing to vote for anybody but Obama,” Bishop said, admitting that he has a Romney-Ryan T-shirt in his closet.

Not that he’d be caught dead in it now. “Paul Ryan is a ‘Mini-Me’ of John Boehner,” Bishop said.

Other right-wing activists and political commentators shared that sentiment this week.

Ryan is “Boehner 2.0,” Laura Ingraham tweeted on Oct. 20.

Writing in Breitbart on Oct. 21, Neil Munro highlighted the areas where conservatives fear that Ryan would fall more in line with the Republican establishment and Democrats.

“But if he gets the job, he’ll likely push for goals that are very unpopular in the GOP’s base — passage of a trans-Pacific free trade treaty, a rollback of stiff jail sentences and a bill to increase the inflow of wage-cutting foreign labor. All three goals are top priorities for the Democratic Party and the GOP’s big donors,” Munro wrote.

Palin soured on Ryan as early as 2014, calling his budget a “joke” on her Facebook page. Meanwhile, her fellow Alaskan Miller pointed to recent votes Ryan has taken in Congress to explain the tea party’s disaffection with him these days.

“He was always championed as being an up-and-coming bright star — articulate, smart and willing to address the hard issues,” Miller said. His votes — most recently for a continuing resolution that funded Planned Parenthood — “badly tarnished him,” Miller added, calling Ryan “a tool of the establishment.”

So what does the tea party grass roots want to see in leadership?

Confrontation, Miller said. And not just to push their priorities on Capitol Hill. “We need that level of confrontation to embolden the base, too,” Miller said.

For his part, Miller has not yet ruled out running for office in Alaska again.

Photo: Paul Ryan is seen by some on the right as Boehner 2.0, as the broadcaster Laura Ingraham called him on Oct. 20. (REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

4 Times Paul Ryan Broke Ranks With GOP

By Simone Pathé, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — When Wisconsin Rep. Paul D. Ryan ran for vice president on Mitt Romney’s ticket in 2012, he was known as an Ayn Rand-inspired conservative policy wonk who advocated turning Medicare into a voucher program.

A year later, in December 2013, he was heralded as a compromiser for crafting a budget deal with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., that averted another government shutdown.

If Ryan runs for speaker, as many colleagues have urged, he’ll have to negotiate the legacies of both of those reputations.

Ryan was elected to Congress in 1998, and since President Barack Obama has been in office, the Wisconsin Republican has supported him 17 percent of the time — slightly less often than the average House Republican, according to CQ‘s Vote Watch.

It’s expected Ryan won’t settle for the speaker’s job unless he garners near-unanimous support. But past votes and positions he’s taken on key social and fiscal issues could rankle conservatives who still want to see change in their party’s leadership.

Here are four of those potential trouble spots from the nine-term member’s past.

ENDING DISCRIMINATION

Ryan diverged from fellow GOP lawmakers in voting to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation — which the 45-year-old chalked up to “a generational thing.” In 2007, Ryan was one of 35 members of his party who voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

“They didn’t roll out of bed one morning and choose to be gay. That’s who they are,” Ryan told the Fiscal Times in 2010, explaining his support for the measure.

In 2013, Ryan again sounded supportive of ENDA, while Speaker John A. Boehner opposed bringing such a vote to the floor. Boehner told CQ Roll Call through a spokesperson the measure would be a job killer.

Ryan’s spokesperson said in an email to CQ Roll Call at the time, “Congressman Ryan does not believe someone should be fired because of their sexual orientation. That said, any legislation to address this concern should be narrowly crafted to guard against unintended consequence.”

BAILOUTS

Back in 2008, when the subprime mortgage crisis threatened to derail the economy, Ryan split from his fellow fiscal conservatives in voting for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Much to the chagrin of fiscal hawks, TARP allowed the Treasury to buy mortgage assets from banks in attempt to rescue the financial sector. Ryan was one of just 91 House Republicans to support the measure.

“This bill offends my principles,” Ryan said on the floor when explaining his vote. “But I’m going to vote for this bill in order to preserve my principles, in order to preserve this free enterprise system.”

Also in 2008, Ryan voted to provide up to $14 billion in loans to domestic automakers. In a statement released after his vote, Ryan pointed to the “mounting hardships throughout Southern Wisconsin,” including the “imminent closure” of a General Motors plant in his hometown of Janesville.

IMMIGRATION

If conservatives want to tie Ryan to Boehner, they can use immigration to do it.

True to his wonkish roots and fiscal background, Ryan has taken a more pro-business approach to immigration than many of his party’s most conservative members would like.

“It doesn’t work for national security. It doesn’t work for economic security,” Ryan told Reuters in 2013 about the country’s existing immigration system.

His more moderate approach includes supporting a pathway to earned citizenship for America’s undocumented immigrants.

“At the end of the day, if everybody else in line who came here legally and did everything right is through the system and a person then, after an exhaustive period, after a probationary period, after a green card, not consuming any government benefits, wants to get in line like everybody else for citizenship, we should allow that person to do that,” Ryan said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in 2013. “That’s earning the right to become a citizen,” he added.

Ryan met privately with Democratic lawmakers to talk about an immigration overhaul, according to a 2014 Politico report. In 2013, New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer specifically sought out Ryan, and the two met at least five times to discuss the two chambers’ approach to overhauling America’s immigration laws.

BUDGET DEAL

Days before the end of 2013, Ryan and Murray, leaders of their chambers’ respective budget committees, reached a deal that raised the limit on discretionary spending above sequester levels and kept the government open.

Two months earlier, congressional stalemate over the budget had shut down the government for 16 days.

Republicans were split 169-62 when the House passed the Ryan-Murray budget. Conservative members, as well as outside groups such as Heritage Action for America and the Club for Growth, opposed the deal for fear it wouldn’t cut enough from government spending.

At the time, Ryan counseled his party “not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” hailing the compromise as a step in the right direction.

Photo: U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) walks on Capitol Hill in Washington October 20, 2015. (REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)