Summertime Madness (The Note)

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • RECORD NUMBER OF AMERICANS DISAPPROVE OF THEIR LAWMAKER: Three months before the midterm elections a record number of Americans in the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll disapprove of their own representative in Congress - a potentially chilling signal for incumbents that marks the depths of the public's political discontent, according to ABC's GARY LANGER. Just 41 percent in this national survey approve of the way their own representative in the U.S. House is handling his or her job, the lowest in ABC-Post polls dating back a quarter century, to May 1989. Fifty-one percent disapprove - more than half for the first time. The result, extending a drop from last October, turns on its head the old chestnut that Americans hate Congress but love their Congress member.
  • THE GRIMMEST SCORE IS THE GOP'S: A mere 35 percent express a favorable impression of the Republican Party, a number that's been lower just twice in polls since 1984 - 32 percent last October, just after the partial government shutdown in a Washington budget dispute; and 31 percent in December 1998, immediately after the impeachment of Bill Clinton. The Democratic Party is seen favorably by more Americans, 49 percent in this poll. The Democrats' 14-point advantage in favorability may look like an edge in the midterms, and indeed it may make them less vulnerable than they'd be otherwise. But other elements factor into election math, including turnout (which customarily favors the Republicans); the number of open Senate seats each party has to defend, higher this year for the Democrats; competitive House seats, which as noted are few; the quality of individual candidates; and the presence or absence of an overarching theme that can galvanize voters in one party's favor, which has yet to emerge.
  • TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama has a full day of events at the Africa summit ending with a news-conference, ABC's MARY BRUCE notes. This morning, he delivers remarks and participates in a session entitled "Investing in Africa's Future." This afternoon he participates in a session on "Peace and Regional Stability," followed by a session on "Governing the Next Generation." And this evening the president caps the three day summit with African leaders by holding a news conference.


ABC's JEFF ZELENY: It's been expensive and far from pretty, but the mainline GOP establishment is on the verge of completing its primary season victory lap against Tea Party insurgents. Sen. Pat Roberts had the scare of his political life in Kansas, complete with plenty gaffes of his own making, but his seven-point win is more than enough to finish a near-perfect run for Republican incumbents in 2014. There's just one more to go: Sen. Lamar Alexander in Tennessee. He faces primary voters on Thursday, the culmination of a race for which he's prepared mightily. If Alexander wins, as he's expected to do, the GOP incumbent protection plan will have been a full success and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell's prediction from five months ago will have come true: "I think we are going to crush them everywhere."

ABC's RICK KLEIN: All due credit to the NRSC for fending off primary challengers this year, with only Tennessee's voting Thursday standing in the way of a clean establishment sweep in Senate races. And the scorecard shows only three House primary losses - none due to exclusively or even primarily tea party energy or organizing. So the tea party is dead, right? Wrong. We've said it before, and we've said it again: The Republican establishment won the battles by changing the contours of the battlefield. The GOP and its candidates moved toward the tea party to neutralize challenges, not the other way around.


CAN THE LONE BLACK REPUBLICAN IN CONGRESS FIX THE GOP'S DIVERSITY PROBLEM? As the lone Republican African-American in Congress, some have looked to Sen. Tim Scott as the GOP's answer to attract black voters. But the South Carolina senator says his message for voters is colorblind. "I hope what I provide is an opportunity to have a serious conversation with voters everywhere - black voters, white voters, old voters, young voters, conservative voters, liberal voters," Scott told "The Fine Print's" JEFF ZELENY during an interview in Charleston, S.C. The GOP has struggled to diversify its ranks and expand across demographic blocs. But Scott said there's "an opportunity for us to continue to make progress." "For me, it started on the local level and working my way through a system that reinforces the fact that I understand and appreciate my voters and their views," Scott said of his own path to elected office. WATCH:



SEN. PAT ROBERTS BEATS BACK PRIMARY CHALLENGE FROM OBAMA COUSIN. Three-term incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts has defeated his tea party challenger, radiologist Dr. Milton Wolf in Kansas GOP Senate primary, reports ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE. It was still quite a tight outcome in the night's marquee race, with Roberts besting Wolf by less than eight points. With 73.6 percent of precincts reporting, Roberts bested Wolf 48.2 percent to 40.8 percent, according to the Associated Press. Roberts, 78, served in the House from 1981 to 1997 and has served in the Senate since then. Wolf is a second cousin of President Obama on his mother's side, but is a fierce critic, making his opposition to both the president and the Affordable Care Act a hallmark of his unsuccessful campaign. Wolf, a first-time candidate, consistently hit Roberts for being a creature of Washington who had lost his ties to Kansas and he got support from national tea party groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund, Tea Party Express, and the Madison Project. But, in the end it wasn't enough to knock out the incumbent.

CONGRESSMAN AND FORMER SANTA CLAUS IMPERSONATOR LOSES GOP PRIMARY. GOP Rep. Kerry Bentivolio became the third incumbent to fall this cycle, losing his primary for Michigan's 11th district to foreclosure attorney David Trott, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. With 64.5 percent of the vote in, Trott bested Bentivolio 66.1 percent to 33.9 percent, according to the Associated Press. Bentivolio-a former reindeer farmer and Santa Claus impersonator-was somewhat of the "accidental congressman" and far from your traditional incumbent. He was propelled into Congress in 2012 after former Rep. Thaddeus McCotter was disqualified for having forged signatures on his campaign petition and ultimately resigned his seat. Bentivolio, who had widely been considered a long-shot to win the Republican primary, was the other option. Despite Bentivolio's incumbency, Trott was always a serious opponent. A multimillionaire known as the "foreclosure king" in this suburban Detroit district, he led the conservative Bentivolio both in polling and fundraising and he tried to tack to the political center.

A LOOK BACK - PUBLIC OPINION AND NIXON'S DOWNFALL. Forty years after Richard Nixon resigned the presidency, observers are re-examining how the White House, the courts and the Congress handled that crisis, according to ABC's GARY LANGER. An additional element worth considering is the weight of public opinion. In January 1973, boosted by the Vietnam cease-fire, Nixon held a powerful 67 percent job approval rating in Gallup polling. By the start of that April, as the last combat troops left, but with Watergate clouds darkening, it was 57 percent. At the end of April, after Nixon took to television to announce the resignation of two of his closest (and most complicit) aides, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, it was 48 percent. Down 19 points in three months - and counting. By early August, with Nixon's secret tapes disclosed and ordered released, his approval rating hit 31 percent - less than half what it had been earlier that same year. By October, and the Saturday Night Massacre, it was 27 percent, and there it stayed, more or less, for nine more painful months 'til he quit.

THE CLINTONS' SUMMER VACATION DOES NOT SOUND RELAXING AT ALL. For many Americans, summer is the season of backyard barbecues, bonfires at the beach and unforgettable family vacations. But for the Clintons, never ones to be ordinary, this summer has been anything but, ABC's LIZ KREUTZ notes. Since the release of her memoir, "Hard Choices," in early June, Hillary Clinton has been on an epic nationwide book tour and press blitz. Over the past 58 days, she has made more than 77 appearances, including book signings, speaking engagements and media interviews, across roughly 15 states and four foreign countries. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, has also kept his own rigorously packed schedule, which has included trips on behalf of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation to Europe, Southeast Asia and Australia. This past weekend, the Clintons took off to vacation in Amagansett, New York, a beach town on Long Island - meaning perhaps the most energetic duo in politics, soon to be grandparents, and possibly the next couple to call the White House their home, finally carved out time to relax, unplug, put an end to the book tour and retreat back into life as private citizens.

DC COMMUTERS VENT ABOUT AFRICA SUMMIT GRIDLOCK IS A 'MESS'. A city known for its gridlock on Capitol Hill has seen much of the same on the roads this week, even with Congress out on summer recess, notes ABC's ELISE WIDERLITE. The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit means traffic troubles and headaches for many commuters heading into the city because of numerous road closures, restricted parking and traffic detours. The traffic delays, of course, gave many commuters plenty of time to turn to Twitter. There were even memes created specifically about the summit-related traffic. To prevent further frustration in the coming days, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management urged many agencies and employers to consider allowing their employees to telecommute to alleviate the traffic congestion and road disruptions.


5-YEAR-OLD MAYOR OF MINNESOTA TOWN LOSES RE-ELECTION BID TO 16-YEAR-OLD. This year's brutal campaign season has claimed another incumbent casualty, but the ousted mayor of Dorset, Minnesota, still has decades to plot a comeback, notes ABC's ALISA WIERSEMA According to the Associated Press, Bobby Tufts, who is just 5 years old, lost his bid for a third term as mayor of the tiny tourist town to an older candidate - 16-year-old Eric Mueller, this past Sunday. Despite the loss, Bobby stepped down from his post gracefully - and even endorsed a future candidate. "It was fun, but it's time to pass on the vote," Bobby told the Associated Press. "I'm gonna let [my brother] James do it. He's 2." During his time as mayor, Bobby's major achievements ranged from raising money for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley in Fargo, North Dakota, to moving ice cream to the top of the food pyramid. Bobby was first elected in 2013 at age 3 when his name was drawn from a ballot box at the annual Taste of Dorset festival.


"HOW TO REALLY TURN THE ECONOMY AROUND," a USA Today Op-Ed by Charles Koch, chairman and CEO of Koch Industries and the financier of a variety of conservative groups and causes. "For years, Washington politicians have said that our economy is turning the corner. They said it in 2011, in 2013 and again last week - every time they report a quarter with 4% economic growth. But each time, the economy has turned sluggish again. Like most Americans, I am deeply concerned about our weak economic recovery and its effects on millions of families. Opportunity, especially for the young and disadvantaged, is declining. High underemployment has become our new norm. The effects of underemployment are not just economic, they are also social and psychological. Real work is an important part of how we define ourselves. Meaningful work benefits both us and others. Those who lack real jobs often end up depressed, addicted or aggressive. Today, opportunities for such work are not what they should be. We need a different approach, focused less on politics and more on basic principles."


PROGRESSIVE GROUP SNUBS CUOMO, ENDORSES ALTERNATIVE DEMOCRAT IN N.Y. GOVERNOR'S RACE. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee yesterday endorsed Zephyr Teachout for New York Governor, marking the first time the PCCC has weighed in on the primary. "Zephyr Teachout and Andrew Cuomo are exact opposites. He is embroiled in the biggest corruption scandal in years, and she is a crusader against corruption," PCCC co-founder Stephanie Taylor said in a statement. "He is a corporate Democrat serving big-money donors, while she is an economic populist. For us, the choice is clear. Zephyr is the right candidate for New York. Zephyr Teachout would be a transformational governor of New York - open, honest, populist."


?@jeffzeleny: "I actually have an open mind on immigration," @SenRandPaul tells Iowa crowd. "There is some immigration reform Republicans should be for."

@emilyrs: Second time Rand mentions Hillary: mentions that she, President Obama and Democrats "aren't good" on the issues of privacy

@mckaycoppins: Rand Paul says Obama "sounds more like a king. It sounds more like he's going to give royal edicts."

@KObradovich: Rand Paul: If we're the party of the 4th amendment, I think we grow the party. #iapolitics

@lizzyguyton: . @SenScottBrown take questions at "NH Speaks" town hall in Salem #nhpolitics #nhsen

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