Republicans are losing 2018 midterm money wars

WASHINGTON–Here are the stories our DC insiders are talking about in this week’s “Inside Politics” forecast, where you get a glimpse of tomorrow’s headlines today.

1) GOP’s $$$ worries

There is considerable grumbling among senior Republicans about the midterm elections prognosis, and in this case it has little or nothing to do with President Trump. At least not directly.

CNN’s John King reports that for months, more seasoned members of the party’s leadership have been warning younger members about what’s needed when running in such a difficult climate. Those warnings include urgent appeals to raise more money; resources for ads and research and staff are always important, but all the more so in a midterm climate where Republicans know the wind is in their face.

But a new wave of fund-raising reports filed in recent days show way more Republicans on the short end of the money chase, especially in races viewed as critical to the 2018 battlefield.

On the Senate side, Missouri was one source of GOP grumbling.

Josh Hawley is the GOP candidate against Sen. Claire McCaskill — one of the Democratic incumbents viewed as vulnerable this year.

“Hawley has $$ problems, as do all of the challengers,” one veteran GOP strategist said in an email exchange. “Ted Cruz is the #1 GOP fund-raiser and [he] has been out-raised the last three quarters.”

The GOP grumbling isn’t limited to Senate races.

In the 88 House races CNN ranks as the most competitive, consider this significant difference:

*40 Republican incumbents in these races have been out-raised by their Democratic challengers.

*Only two Democratic incumbents in this group were out-raised by GOP challengers.

The numbers are feeding talk, even at this late date, that there could be a few more GOP House retirements in the offing.

A second well-placed GOP source said he knows of a handful of House Republicans who are “on the retirement fence. The only way to separate (those seriously considering retirement) from jittery nervous nellies is [to] look at cash on hand.”

2) Pruitt’s lobbying problem

The bad headlines keep coming for embattled EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt. The latest is from POLITICO, where Eliana Johnson is reporting on Pruitt’s latest involving lobbying, his landlord and his place of employment.

“Contrary to Pruitt’s public denials about the lobbyist who was giving him a cut rate deal on rent, [he] had business before the EPA during the time [Pruitt] was living in the home,” Johnson reports. “The lobbyist firm filed a report on Friday that indicated that that lobbyist was lobbying the EPA during that time. So Pruitt looks like he’s caught in another difficult situation at a time that his leadership of the agency is already under scrutiny. I’m not sure how long this can last, but the Trump administration already has three nominees before the Senate that need confirmation so it would be really difficult for them to add a fourth.”

3) Iran deal deadline looming

The Trump administration is facing a May 12th deadline. The White House has to decide whether it will walk away from the deal altogether. Big factors in the decision may be discussions President Trump will have with two world leaders, French president Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel. Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev tells us those aren’t the only two to watch.

“Between Macron’s visit and Angela Merkel’s visit Friday, a lot of ground will be covered in terms of the European leaders. There are a couple other things I watch for: any phone calls from Theresa May and interaction with the Israelis and Saudis, perhaps the Chinese, and any of that paperwork that the European political directors and national security advisers have been trying to put together with the US,” Talev says.

4) CIA director nominee dilemma

President Trump’s pick to become the next CIA director is facing many questions from senators about the destruction of CIA tapes from 2005 that show terrorism suspects being waterboarded. The CIA has declassifed a memo that absolves nominee Gina Haspel of responsibility for the destroying of the tapes — but as CNN’s Manu Raju explains, the controversy isn’t a closed chapter just yet.

“She has not alleviated concerns from Republicans and Democrats alike on this committee. She said she was simply ordered to carry out the destruction of the tapes. She wrote a cable that she did not think would be sent to CIA field officers to destroy the tapes. She thought it was going to go through the proper channels, but her superior at the time moved forward without her knowledge. The CIA is trying to push back declassifying sections of a report from 2011 to say that she did nothing wrong. But nevertheless, members still have a lot of questions,” Raju reports. “They want more records declassified and it’s going to be a big sticking point [at] her confirmation hearing next month to determine whether or not she gets the job.”

5) Trump’s tariffs — good or bad?

One of President Trump’s big campaign promises was all about trade and putting tariffs in place to try to level out the playing field against international competitors like China. But these proposals have some people worried about a trade war. Internally, there are a few different schools of thought inside the White House. The Weekly Standard’s Michael Warren explains:

“Publicly the White House is saying, ‘Look, these [tariffs] are a tool, a means to an end in order to get China to behave properly.’ Fair but free trade is the line, publicly, but there is a view within the White House — Peter Navarro is sort of the loudest voice in the White House on this — that tariffs are actually good, that they can help reduce foreign investment and increase domestic investment,” Warren explains. “That is not a view held by the vast majority of people in the White House. But there is one issue here: one very important person is receptive to [this], and that’s President Trump.”