Playbook: Pence and McCarthy have 6-million-dollar day in NYC

 In Politics

PLAYBOOK EXCLUSIVE — VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE and HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER KEVIN MCCARTHY raised $6 MILLION for House Republicans Monday in New York City. They had private donor meetings in the city, in addition to a dinner at the Mandarin Oriental on Columbus Circle. That’s a lot of cash for one day. The money will benefit Protect the House — a joint fundraising committee established by Pence and McCarthy — former House colleagues — which benefits the NRCC, Great America Committee and roughly two dozen House Republicans with competitive races.

PENCE has unquestionably been a major political force for Senate and House Republicans this cycle, holding roughly two dozen events for lawmakers in 2018. And let’s, once again, be clear: SPEAKER PAUL RYAN won’t be around forever. Whoever replaces him will have to raise loads of cash. MCCARTHY is showing that he could be that guy. He and Pence already raised $5 million together in California this cycle.

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Good Tuesday morning. VOTERS HEAD TO THE BALLOT BOX today in Pennsylvania 18 — a district Donald Trump won by 20 points, where the Republican and Democrat are running neck in neck.

AS OF PUBLICATION TIME, outside groups had spent nearly $12.5 million for this Pittsburgh area seat. That’s a massive chunk of change. The bulk of the spending came from the NRCC, Congressional Leadership Fund, the RNC and America First Action — they combined for $9.3 million in spending. THE DCCC has directly spent $312,400, but a Democrat familiar with spending decision says the committee “invested” $1 million in the race. It transferred money to the state party as well.

IF REPUBLICAN RICK SACCONE WINS, it will be an expensive victory. If DEMOCRAT CONOR LAMB is victorious, Democrats will be able to say they picked off this seat at little cost — although Lamb spent $3 million. IF LAMB LOSES narrowly to Saccone, Democrats will undoubtedly catch grief for not doing more to help him win.

— QUICK READS: DCCC’s behind-the-scenes effort, via McClatchy … NYT EDITORIAL: “Democrats Can’t Win if They Don’t Run”

ELENA SCHNEIDER in PITTSBURGH: “What to watch in Pennsylvania”: “Democratic enthusiasm, once again: Democrats — from Virginia to Texas — have voted at historic rates in the last year. That continued enthusiasm in southwestern Pennsylvania is a key element to Lamb’s success: If the pattern of higher rates of Democratic turnout hold, the Monmouth poll shows his lead swelling to 6 points, versus just a 2-point advantage under a more conservative turnout scenario. …

“County by county: To win, Lamb needs to run up his totals in Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh bleeds into the suburbs — the bluest part of the 18th Congressional District. In particular, former state Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn said to watch the southern half of the district, which leans more conservative. … First electoral test of tax reform messaging …

“Do tariffs matter here? … The Republican cavalry: Republican outside groups are trying to pull Saccone across the finish line. Total outside spending in the race currently stands at $12.5 million, with the vast majority of that total, more than $10.6 million, coming from GOP-aligned groups. …

“The disappearing district: Not only is Tuesday’s election only for the remaining nine months of Murphy’s unexpired term, the 18th District won’t even exist next week, the filing deadline in Pennsylvania for the 2018 midterm elections.”

— SOMETHING TO WATCH — KEVIN ROBILLARD: “Republicans abandon tax cut message in Pennsylvania special election”: “[G]OP groups that once proudly declared the tax law would be the central fight of the midterms are now airing ads on so-called sanctuary cities and attacking Democrat Conor Lamb’s record as a prosecutor as they try to drag GOP state Rep. Rick Saccone over the finish line.

“The strategy shift has been dramatic. For the weeks of Feb. 4 and Feb. 11, roughly two-thirds of the broadcast television ads from Saccone’s campaign, the super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund and the NRCC mentioned taxes, according to a POLITICO analysis of data from Advertising Analytics. For the week of Feb. 18, that dropped to 36 percent, and to 14 percent the week after.

“Since the beginning of March, tax ads have been essentially non-existent. Only two are on the air now — one from the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action which briefly mentions the tax law, and a radio ad from a progressive group attacking Saccone for supporting the law.”

BUZZ … There has been lots of chatter behind-the-scenes about the possibility of WENDY DAVIS taking the helm of PLANNED PARENTHOOD. Cecile Richards, the longtime head of the organization, is leaving. Davis has a massive national political network, has honed her online and major dollar fundraising skills and is a widely sought-after Democratic surrogate. She also has a longtime connection with the group.

DAVIS, who spoke to ANNA at SXSW Monday afternoon for a live Women Rule podcast, left the door open to the Planned Parenthood gig, via REENA FLORES and Anna: “Planned Parenthood and the mission of Planned Parenthood — the healthcare provided by Planned Parenthood — is always going to be part of the core of who I am,’ she said. ‘I’m so proud that I’ve had an opportunity to travel all over this country and help Planned Parenthood affiliates to be successful.’

“While her comments were sparse on specifics, Davis added: ‘I’m going to continue to do everything I can to stand for the work that they do and obviously for women’s reproductive freedoms in general.’” … Listen to the full BONUS #WomenRule podcast where Davis also talked about the Democratic message in 2018 and what is happening on the ground in Texas

ANDREW RESTUCCIA and BEN WHITE: “Trump close to tapping Kudlow to succeed Cohn”: “After souring on [Larry] Kudlow because he publicly criticized the president’s decision to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, Trump is now leaning heavily toward tapping the CNBC contributor and former Reagan administration official to lead the National Economic Council, the people said.”

BREAKING OVERNIGHT — “U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis arrives in Afghan capital,” by AP’s Robert Burns in Kabul: “Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday he believes victory in Afghanistan is still possible — not necessarily on the battlefield but in facilitating a Taliban reconciliation with the Afghan government. Mattis spoke shortly before arriving in Kabul, where security concerns were so high that reporters traveling with him were not allowed to publish stories until his party had moved from the Kabul airport to the U.S.-led military coalition’s headquarters. That was the first such restriction on coverage of a Pentagon chief’s visit in memory.”

KYLE CHENEY: “House ends Russia probe, says no Trump-Kremlin collusion”: “The House Republicans also said that a 150-page report they prepared — without consulting their Democratic colleagues — contradicts the U.S. intelligence community’s firm conclusion that the goal of the Russian government effort was to boost Trump’s campaign.

“‘We don’t think that’s supported by the underlying data,’ Texas Rep. Mike Conaway, the Republican leading the probe, said in a phone interview. Conaway told reporters Monday that some Trump campaign figures may have shown bad judgment in meeting with Kremlin-linked figures but that the meetings had not amounted to collusion.”

****** A message from Business Roundtable: Tax reform is delivering for American workers. As a result of tax reform, hundreds of American companies have announced wage increases, bonuses, larger matches for retirement savings and increased medical and family leave benefits for their employees. Learn how tax reform is delivering for American workers at ******

SPEAKING OF THE MUELLER PROBE — “Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, says Robert Mueller is ‘not an unguided missile,’” by USA Today’s Kevin Johnson: “Despite unrelenting criticism from the White House on the course of the investigation into Russia’s election interference, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Monday offered unqualified support for special counsel Robert Mueller. ‘The special counsel is not an unguided missile,’ Rosenstein said in an exclusive interview with USA TODAY.

“‘I don’t believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel.’ … Appearing upbeat and at ease in his fourth-floor office, Rosenstein said oversight of the inquiry requires only ‘a fraction’ of his daily work. He estimated that less than 5% of his week is related to briefings or other matters involving Mueller’s investigation. …

“‘I believe much of the criticism will fall by the wayside when people reflect on this era and the Department of Justice,’ said Rosenstein, who did not refer to Trump directly. ‘I’m very confident that when the history of this era is written, it will reflect that the department was operated with integrity.’”

— @kylegriffin1: “Sam Nunberg just told @AriMelber that Robert Mueller’s team (in his voluntary interview) asked if he knew anything about payments to women: ‘It’s pretty obvious that they’re looking into this.’”

PRESIDENT TRUMP flies to California this morning. He lands in San Diego at 11:30 a.m. west coast time. He is visiting prototypes of the proposed border wall. The president then flies to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and talks to members of the military. After that, he flies to LAX and then to Santa Monica for an RNC event at a private home.

— L.A. TIMES: “President Trump will help his party raise $5 million at a fundraising dinner in Beverly Hills on Tuesday night, according to the [RNC]. The RNC said there are 90 expected attendees. Minimum contributions are $35,000, and guests can pay up to $250,000 each for a roundtable discussion and photo with the president.

“For comparison, then-President Obama’s outdoor concert with Jamie Foxx in 2015 raised $6.7 million and a more private event with 50 people raised more than $1.5 million on a single day in 2015. A 2016 fundraiser with A-list celebrities had similar ticket prices. The $35,000 price is in line with what Democratic donors paid to spend time with the president and notable guests, including John Legend, although some events had a smaller minimum.”

TRUMP GETS THE KID GLOVE TREATMENT — “Senate GOP leaders won’t try to block Trump’s tariffs,” by Burgess Everett: “Republicans have been freaking out about President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs all month. But don’t expect them to do anything about it just yet. GOP leaders are shying away from a direct confrontation with Trump over trade, and signaled Monday that they won’t try to pass legislation to override a president of their own party.

“They are instead hoping they can get the president to water down the tariffs as much as they can. Ultimately, they’re loath to risk a brutal showdown, even over an issue that’s provoked more GOP outrage toward Trump than any other one of his policies or controversies. So even though several senators are introducing proposals to stop Trump’s 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum, key Republicans are in no mood for a high-profile fight with Trump.

“‘That’s clearly a long shot. But we’re trying as best we can to persuade folks in the administration to scale this back to make it less harmful,’ said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 GOP senator. ‘I don’t think we can rely on Democrats. And moving something across the floor takes 60. And then you’d have to override a veto.”

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