The Note: Solid math leaves little room for fuzzy figures, spin in GOP electoral calculations

Do Republicans believe the spin, or do they believe the math?

March 15, 2018, 6:03 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Do Republicans believe the spin, or do they believe the math?

It might be a ripple, it might be a wave, and it might be a tsunami. But what’s moving through the electoral landscape is not going to be solved by shaving off moustaches any more than it is by holding lots of campaign rallies featuring President Donald Trump.

Pennsylvania 18th Congressional District’s wake features a still-brewing legal fight to get Rick Saccone seated in Congress. That’s playing out alongside a pile-on about how bad Saccone and his facial hair might be, and ongoing discussions about who’s running in which district in the state.

Meanwhile, Democrat Conor Lamb finished with more votes. His party notched another special election where it vastly over-performed its presidential results.

Even in the unlikely scenario where Lamb winds up losing, Democrats have sought to assemble a deep field of Lamb-like figures across the map. They may not align with Democratic national messaging – a point of potential vulnerability – but many will be in a position to win.

The RUNDOWN with Emily Goodin

Republicans are doubling down on their anti-Nancy Pelosi, pro-tax cut messaging strategy that they used in Tuesday’s Pennsylvania special election, despite its failure to perform up to expectations.

“We’ll use her everywhere,” Corry Bliss, the executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund, said of the Democratic House leader.

The organization ran one of the more memorable campaign ads of the race, playing off Lamb's name to say “he’d be one of Nancy Pelosi’s sheep.” Lamb had to run an ad to counter the claim, saying he didn’t support Pelosi.

Republicans may have gotten a setback with the strategy Tuesday night, but most Democratic incumbents don’t have the luxury of saying they won’t support their leader.

And Republicans don’t have much else to run on against – the tax cut is one of their few legislative accomplishments and there are few choices for a Democratic boogeyman.

Democrats, of course, argue the GOP is running on a messaging strategy that failed in Pennsylvania and will fail in November.

Only election results will tell.

Conor Lamb, the Democratic candidate for the special election in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District, center, celebrates with his supporters at his election night party in Canonsburg, Pa., March 14, 2018.
Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo

The TIP with Jordyn Phelps

The president's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner was back on the Hill Wednesday for meetings on prison reform.

Kushner has made more than one trip to the Hill for this issue, and this meeting comes as the White House and its allies are getting closer to actually introducing a legislative vehicle to attempt to accomplish this priority.

Sources close to the White House tell ABC News that a Collins-Jeffries prison reform bill in the House — that could move forward as early as April — is expected to be the starting point.

In addition to meeting with Reps. Doug Collins and Hakeem Jeffries on Wednesday, a White House official said that Kushner also met with Sen. John Cornyn, who is expected to carry the legislative effort through on the Senate side after clearing the House.

Sources with knowledge of the effort says the White House settled on the goal of making headway on prison reform this year (without also addressing sentencing reform), so as to skirt the political risk of dividing the GOP in a critical election year over an ambitious criminal justice reform package.


  • President Donald Trump meets with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office at 11 a.m. The president then joins Prime Minister Varadkar at the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon on Capitol Hill at 12 p.m.
  • President Trump meets with Bill Gates behind closed doors in the Oval Office at 3:30 p.m.
  • President Trump delivers remarks and participates in the Shamrock Bowl presentation by Prime Minister Varadkar at the White House at 6 p.m.
  • The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence holds a hearing on the nomination of Army Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone to be director of the National Security Agency at 10 a.m.
  • Mayor Muriel Bowser delivers the 2018 State of the District address at 5:30 p.m.

    "We take no pleasure in having to constantly criticize Russia, but we need Russia to stop giving us so many reasons to do so." – U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley at a U.N. Security Council meeting Wednesday, before calling on Russia to fully cooperate with the United Kingdom's investigation into the March 4 poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergey Skripal.


    GOP leaders issue stern warning to lawmakers in wake of Pennsylvania special election. Republican leaders are delivering a stern warning to their incumbent lawmakers in the wake of the Pennsylvania special election – it’s time to get to work and run a real campaign. (Emily Goodin)

    Larry Kudlow to become Trump's next chief economic adviser. President Donald Trump has picked conservative economic commentator and former Reagan official Larry Kudlow to lead the National Economic Council, the White House confirmed Wednesday. (John Santucci, Katherine Faulders and Alexander Mallin)

    GOP shrugs off Pennsylvania special election results. House Republicans are deflecting the stinging results in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, discounting Conor Lamb’s strong performance as an aberration and not a bellwether heading into this fall’s congressional midterms.(John Parkinson)

    EPA spent more than $43,000 on a 'secure phone booth' for Scott Pruitt’s office. The Environmental Protection Agency spent more than $43,000 to install a private phone booth in Administrator Scott Pruitt's office, according to newly released federal records - more than the $25,000 the agency confirmed to ABC News it originally spent for the booth. (Stephanie Ebbs)

    Video shows Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin being heckled at UCLA event. In a video recently released by the University of California, Los Angeles, some of those gathered for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's scheduled talk on the U.S. economy began hissing before he even uttered his first word.(Matt Seyler)

    Sen. Sanders wants DoD to rein in 'excessive' contractor payments. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, in a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis first obtained by ABC News, criticizes the Pentagon for what he called "excessive" and "obscene" compensation to the nation's largest defense contractors. (Mariam Khan and Elizabeth McLaughlin)

    House passes STOP School Violence Act. As tens of thousands of students walked out of their schools to demand action to prevent gun violence on Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the first gun-related measure since the Parkland, Florida mass shooting last month. (John R. Parkinson)

    Students demand 'never again' as national walkout comes to Capitol Hill. “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the NRA has got to go,” several thousand students chanted loudly in front of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday demanding Congress pass gun control legislation. (Erica Y King)

    The Washington Post analyzes the difficulty President Obama had with leveraging his personal magnetism to help Democratic candidates, and how President Trump may be facing a similar struggle.

    The New York Times reports on House Democrats' rejection of a bill that would have given people suffering terminal illness the right to try experimental treatments.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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