GOP not taking any chances in Kansas Senate race

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • National Republicans sending Roberts some help
  • McDonnell found guilty on corruption charges
  • Kerry, Hagel talk strategy with NATO allies
  • The ‘Bill factor’ in the midterms

Roberts getting reinforcements: National Republicans are reportedly sending in the cavalry to help Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who is locked in a tough re-election fight against independent candidate Greg Orman. Orman’s chances got a boost Wednesday with Democrat Chad Taylor’s announcement that he was withdrawing from the campaign. But Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, and supporter of Roberts’, added another layer of intrigue on Thursday, declaring that Taylor had not met the standard for withdrawal and his name would remain on the November ballot. One poll taken last month shows Orman leading Roberts by 10 points in a head-to-head matchup, so even if Taylor’s name remains on the ballot, Republicans are not taking anything for granted. Jonathan Martin of the New York Times reported Thursday that the “National Republican Senatorial Committee is sending Chris LaCivita, who has served as a political troubleshooter in past Republican campaigns, to counsel Mr. Roberts and help oversee his campaign.” Morning Line confirms that LaCivita will be flying in this weekend. The Washington Post notes that’s not the only shake-up with Roberts’ campaign, with executive campaign manager Leroy Towns stepping down from his post. Republicans need to gain six seats to take back the Senate in November, and for a long time thought they would only have to defend two seats — Kentucky and Georgia. Now they’re having to pour resources into Kansas, which could come at the expense of other targets on the party’s list. And while the developments in Kansas have slightly altered the landscape, Republicans are still playing on mostly favorable turf this November.

New Arkansas poll: In another sign of the volatile landscape this cycle, a new CNN/ORC poll released Friday found Republican Tom Cotton leading Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor 49 percent to 47 percent among likely voters in the Arkansas Senate race, within the survey’s four-and-a-half percent margin of error. Among registered voters Pryor holds a nine point advantage, 47 percent to 38 percent. Polls show Republicans with a clear enthusiasm advantage this year, but how that translates to Election Day is one of the key wildcards this year. Pryor has long been seen as one of the most endangered incumbents this cycle, but he has managed to keep the race tight even though only 34 percent of Arkansas voters approve of the way President Obama is handling his job.

‘Guilty’: Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell being found guilty on corruption charges after what was a wild trial was remarkable for a lot of reasons — not only has Virginia NEVER had a governor convicted (wouldn’t Illinois and Louisiana love to have that record?), but he was once a Republican rising star, who largely withstood the allegations of free Rolexes and Ferrari rides in the public’s eyes for a long while. It wasn’t until September of last year that his approval rating dipped below 50 percent among Virginians (which happened to be right in the middle of the McAuliffe-Cuccinelli gubernatorial campaign). The ruling was also somewhat surprising because of Virginia’s lax ethics rules when it pertained to gifts. It’s all why the Washington Post’s Laura Vozzella writes that the ruling “reverberated far beyond the courtroom, shaking a state capital that takes enormous pride in its place in American history and reputation for clean government.” That may be one reform that comes of this, which Democrats were (very quickly, by the way) promising yesterday.

Getting a strategy: Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are pressing nine other NATO countries in addition the U.S. to join a coalition to fight the Islamic State. (The countries: the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Germany, Canada, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark.) “We have the technology, we have the know-how,” Kerry said. “What we need is obviously the willpower to make sure that we are steady and stay at this.” Just what the U.S. is calling for is unclear. President Barack Obama has repeatedly said he won’t commit to more ground troops in Iraq. But Kerry in a New York Times op-ed last Friday wrote, “Airstrikes alone won’t defeat this enemy. A much fuller response is demanded from the world.” With Congress back on Monday, could this mean laying the groundwork for some kind of use of force authorization ask from the White House against the Islamic State? Kerry joins President Obama in Wales Friday. President Obama is expected to speak at an 11:30 a.m. ET news conference before departing for Washington early in the afternoon.

The Clinton factor: While everyone is focused on what Hillary Clinton will do in 2016, don’t look beyond this election so quickly and what BILL Clinton is doing. Friday, for example, he’s in Florida stumping in Miami for Charlie Crist, the once critical former Republican governor trying to win again as governor — this time as a Democrat. Flying below the radar, Clinton has been to Kentucky twice for Alison Lundergan Grimes and will be in Iowa next week for the Harkin Steak Fry. Maggie Haberman writes in Politico that Clinton has done “more than 20 events for Democratic hopefuls from Florida to Kentucky to Rhode Island as the party’s most sought-after surrogate and rainmaker. … [I]t’s President Barack Obama whom many campaigns are steering clear of, and Bill Clinton who is in high demand.” So much so, in fact, that Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — the group tasked with electing Democrats to the House — said there are 70 districts where Clinton would be big help.

What a week: For a short week, it sure felt like a long one. Remember, Labor Day was this past Monday. There was the second beheading of an American journalist, the NATO summit, the Justice Department’s Ferguson police investigation announcement, Kansas and the McDonnell ruling. By the way, the most thoughtful piece of the week comes courtesy of Tom Edsall, the veteran former Washington Post political reporter, writing in the New York Times about the causes of poverty. It’s worth the read (and not just because Edsall was one of our authors’ professors).

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1975, a Secret Service agent foiled an assassination attempt against President Gerald R. Ford. Who tried to kill President Ford? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Yvonne Gibney (@Lillyvonne228) for guessing Thursday’s trivia: How did President Eisenhower respond to the Little Rock Nine incident? The answer was: Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne to restore order in Little Rock and allow the students to be enrolled in the school.

LINE ITEMS

  • A federal appeals court in Chicago ruled that gay marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana were unconstitutional Thursday, upholding the lower court decisions for the two states. Same-sex marriage in Wisconsin will not go into effect for another few weeks, while Indiana currently has a stay on the ruling.

  • In response to the plethora of gay marriage rulings in federal courts this year, 32 states are now asking the Supreme Court to take up the issue in the coming term.

  • A federal judge in Ohio blocked cuts to early voting and called for Buckeye State officials to create more polling places before the general election in November. The judge stated that these reductions in accessibility would disproportionately affect minorities and the poor.

  • The White House announced Thursday that hackers breached the security of HealthCare.gov, but did not steal any personal information.

  • Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., says President Obama needs to be prepared to use his veto power if Republicans take control of both chambers in November.

  • In an op-ed for TIME, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul claims he is “not an isolationist” and “would have acted more decisively and strongly against ISIS” if he had been in President Obama’s place.

  • Louisiana Senate candidate Bill Cassidy has joined the ranks of Republicans attacking incumbents for their position on amnesty. Cassidy’s new campaign ad claims, “Mary Landrieu represents Barack Obama; I represent you.”

  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., is leading former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown by only 3 percentage points in a new poll commissioned by the conservative PAC American Crossroads.

  • Alison Grimes’ campaign is now attacking Sen. Mitch McConnell for his poor committee meeting attendance. The latest ad from the Democratic challenger says, “He only showed up 7 percent of the time. If you did that you’d get fired; so should he.”

  • For the first time, a federal judge said Thursday that BP bears primary responsibility for the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. BP could now face up to $18 billion in new civil penalties.

  • With less than 9 weeks left until Election Day, congressional Democrats are urging the president to delay any executive action on immigration.

  • Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is urging Majority Leader Harry Reid to move toward imposing sanctions on Venezuela — even if that means bypassing Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, who has objected because of jobs in her state coming from Citgo. Earlier this week, Rubio joined Landrieu’s GOP challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy, in writing an op-ed challenging her on the issue.

  • Halfway through his Mexico trip, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told reporters that it’s not his job to answer questions about how to address the immigration crisis until he chooses to seek the GOP nomination for 2016.

  • Meanwhile, the New York Times’ Michael Barbaro reports, Christie seems to have left some of “his Jersey-ness back in Jersey,” adopting a quieter, more polite tone when meeting people in Mexico.

  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy does not want the government to tell him how to roast his s’mores.

  • The Hill’s Peter Sullivan lays out the top eight gaffes during this year’s Senate campaigns.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

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