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THE BIG SELL — “Koch network to launch multimillion-dollar tax reform push,” by Campaign Pro’s Kevin Robillard: “The big-spending Koch brothers’ network of political groups is set to unleash a multimillion-dollar push next year to sell Republicans’ just-passed tax reform legislation, which remains deeply unpopular with the American electorate. ‘We have a public that distrusts anything coming out of Washington, especially anything from the majority party,’ said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, the network’s grass-roots organizing arm. ‘We have a job that’s not that hard. We have to make sure people understand the benefits they’re going to receive from this legislation.’ … The network has yet to put a figure on how much it will spend to sell the plan, but it spent $15 million on similar efforts this year in the run-up to the bill’s passage by the House and Senate this week. The new push will include town halls with economists, members of Congress and accountants to explain the plan, as well as radio, television and digital advertising to remind Americans to look at their paycheck to see the benefits or calculators to show how much they’ll save. Phillips also said there will be more targeted efforts. For instance, he said, the groups might run digital ads on websites popular with young men who make less than $50,000 a year to remind them of the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate, which they disproportionately paid the penalty for. They could also carry out tax prep work in Latino communities to highlight how families are saving money, he added.” Full story.
— “It’s Trump’s economy now,” by POLITICO’s Ben White: “President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are about to own the U.S. economy in ways that could revive their party’s brand or make the next three years a political nightmare. The president and GOP leaders were all smiles on Wednesday, celebrating passage of a giant tax cut bill that will slash corporate rates and offer more limited relief to individuals. They are counting on the widely unpopular measure to produce a series of economic benefits including faster growth, fatter paychecks and a bigger, more productive labor force. … Essentially, Republicans are betting they can take the fairly strong economy Trump inherited from President Barack Obama and fix the remaining broken parts, which include a shrunken labor force, limited wage gains and stalled worker productivity. If they succeed, the GOP could start to reverse their big polling disadvantages in the 2018 midterm elections and set Trump up to win reelection in 2020 if he can somehow navigate the Russia investigations and avoid major foreign policy disasters.” Full story.
— “History suggests the GOP tax reform celebration will be short-lived,” by Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray: “[T]he just-passed tax reform bill starts out life as the least popular tax legislation going back to at least 1981. Tax HIKES in 1990 and 1993 got better reviews. … Only 14% expect that their taxes will go down. In reality, many more than 1 in 7 taxpayers will see at least a nominal decrease. This reality is what GOP lawmakers are banking on when they face the voters next year. But politics — and voters’ decision-making process — isn’t always based on reality. It is, however, always based on perception. And based on historical perception metrics, the short-term future doesn’t look quite so bright for the bill’s proponents. Even though voters won’t feel the full impact of this tax cut until they file their returns in early 2019, they should get a small increase in their net take-home pay when the IRS adjusts the withholding tables in the next few months. Will this be enough to turn around public opinion? History says no.” Full story here.
— And the NRSC is out with a digital ad celebrating passage, featuring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, NRSC Chair Cory Gardner and other GOP senators praising the bill direct-to-camera. Watch it here.
THE NEXT SPECIAL? — “Cochran’s future in the Senate in doubt,” by POLITICO’s John Bresnahan: “Sen. Thad Cochran, the chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, hasn’t presided over a hearing since early September. The Mississippi Republican has not given a speech on the Senate floor all year, and he’s introduced only two bills during that time, both of them minor. To the extent that Cochran weighs in on any issue, it’s in the form of an official statement from his office or the appropriations panel. He has stopped meeting with anyone about substantive committee business, including other senators or House members, according to several sources familiar with his activities. Cochran’s aides deny this is the case. The 80-year-old’s feeble performance has fueled expectations — among senators and aides who’ve witnessed his physical and mental decline firsthand — that Cochran will step down from the Appropriations chairmanship early next year, or resign from the Senate altogether. ‘The understanding is that he will leave after Jan. 1,’ said a Republican senator who serves on the Appropriations Committee. ‘That’s what most of us believe will happen.’” Full story.
— “Mississippi Senate primary poll: Wicker 49, McDaniel 33,” by Kevin Robillard: “Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker would start off a potential Republican primary against former state Sen. Chris McDaniel with a healthy lead, according to a new poll from Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy. Wicker has the support of 49 percent of regular GOP primary voters, compared to 33 percent for McDaniel. Eighteen percent are undecided. Among all voters, Wicker has a 47 percent approval rating, with 33 percent disapproving. Among Republicans, his approval rating is 70 percent, with just 16 percent disapproval.” Full story.
EARLY POLLING DATA — “Democrats’ 2018 advantage expands,” by CNN’s Jennifer Agiesta: “Among registered voters, 56% say they favor a Democrat in their congressional district, while 38% prefer a Republican. That 18-point edge is the widest Democrats have held in CNN polling on the 2018 contests, and the largest at this point in midterm election cycles dating back two decades. The finding follows several other public polls showing large double-digit leads for Democrats on similar questions. … Overall, 49% of registered voters who are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting for Congress next year, compared with 32% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independent voters who say the same.” Full story.
— “DSCC, GOP super PAC release competing Tennessee Senate polls,” by Kevin Robillard: “The GOP poll, conducted by WPA Intelligence for the pro-[Marsha] Blackburn Committee to Defend The President, has Blackburn leading a matchup with [Democrat Phil] Bredesen 43 percent to 34 percent, with 23 percent undecided. The same poll found Bredesen leading former Rep. Steven Fincher, Blackburn’s rival in the primary, 42 percent to 30 percent, with 28 percent undecided. … The DSCC’s survey, conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, found Bredesen with a 46 percent to 41 percent lead, with 13 percent of voters undecided.” Full story. Read the DSCC memo here. Read the GOP memo here.
Days until the 2018 election: 320
Upcoming election dates — Arizona 8th District special primary: Feb. 27. Texas primaries: March 6. Pennsylvania 18th District special election: March 13. Illinois primaries: March 20.
UTAH INTRIGUE — “Has Trump persuaded Orrin Hatch to block Mitt Romney’s Senate bid?” by The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins: “After months of quietly laying the groundwork for his own retirement, the 83-year-old Utah senator has signaled to Republican allies in recent weeks that he’s having second thoughts about leaving office when his term ends next year. Interviews with 10 people familiar with the situation — some of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly — suggest that President Trump’s efforts to convince Hatch to seek reelection have influenced the senator’s thinking. … Many Utah Republicans have grown impatient and aggravated with Hatch as he repeatedly postpones announcing his reelection decision. While it remains possible that Hatch will ultimately bow out — clearing the way for a Senator Romney — many in the state party now worry that a decision to run again would prompt an angry backlash from grass-roots conservatives and establishment elements alike, leading to a chaotic primary fight.” Full story.
MORE EARLY POLLING DATA — “Is Dianne Feinstein losing her grip on California Senate seat?,” by the San Jose Mercury News’ Casey Tolan: “A new poll found just 41 percent of likely California voters back the 84-year-old, five-term incumbent in her bid for re-election, six months before the 2018 primary. The poll, released Wednesday by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, put Feinstein still comfortably ahead of her closest rival, state Senate leader Kevin de León, who received support from 27 percent of voters. Nearly a third of respondents, 32 percent, said they were undecided. … A surprisingly high number of voters also say they have a negative impression of Feinstein — 42 percent, compared to 45 percent who think of her positively.” Full story.
ENDORSEMENT WATCH — CHC members endorse Democrat Mucarsel-Powell in Curbelo’s district: Former Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Linda Sanchez and current CHC whip Pete Aguilar are endorsing Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in FL-26 today, according to the Democrat’s campaign. She is running against GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who was recently rejected in a bid for membership in the all-Democratic CHC over policy and personal disagreements, including how hard to push for the DREAM Act. Mucarsel-Powell said she was “honored” to receive the endorsements in a statement that also noted her support for the DREAM Act and Obamacare, another point of disagreement between CHC members and Curbelo, according to POLITICO’s Heather Caygle.
— CAMPAIGN FINANCE NOTE — CHC’s political arm, BOLD PAC, already has a record amount of cash on hand heading into 2018 — nearly $3.8 million, according to its latest campaign finance report filed Wednesday.
THE COUNT — Census Bureau releases new population estimates, with hints on the next round of congressional apportionment: Idaho was the fastest-growing state in the country between July 2016 and 2017, according to the estimates, growing by 2.2 percent, while Nevada grew by 2 percent. Pennsylvania also passed Illinois as the fifth-largest state, according to the estimates. But both states would stand to lose congressional seats if they were reapportioned according to the current estimates, by our calculations, with 2020 reapportionment looming. Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia would all lose one congressional seat under the current estimates, while Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Oregon would all gain a seat and Texas would gain two. But there is plenty of time for things to change.
— An example of the volatility at play: The Providence Journal reports that Rhode Island “[comes] within 157 people of losing a seat” in the new estimates, and who knows what trends will change before the official 2020 count.
MONEY CHASE: Scott raises money for Black — Rep. Diane Black’s Tennessee gubernatorial campaign is hosting a fundraiser on Jan. 11 featuring Florida Gov. Rick Scott, according to an invitation obtained by Score. See the invitation here.
— Maverick PAC spreads the wealth: The pro-Republican Maverick PAC ended 2017 having donated $69,000 to candidates around the country, according to figures obtained by Score. The political organization plans to play a bigger role in 2018 than it did in 2017, according to a one page overview of the group’s work.
PRIMARY CONCERNS — “Allegations fly in N.M. Democratic gubernatorial contest,” by the Albuquerque Journal’s Michael Coleman and Dan Boyd: “Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat currently serving in Congress, and Jeff Apodaca, a former television executive and son of a former New Mexico governor, are both running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2018. And both have both been accused of improprieties in recent days. Lujan Grisham’s office came under fire first, when a transgender former intern named Riley Del Rey alleged earlier this month that she was discriminated against and fired from a 2015 Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute internship in Lujan Grisham’s Capitol Hill office. Apodaca on Monday called on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to investigate the accusation. Apodaca’s turn on the campaign hot seat came late Tuesday when Marianna Anaya, a communications organizer for the American Federation of Teachers, said Apodaca tried to kiss her while smelling of beer during a Wiffle ball game in Santa Fe earlier this year between staff from the state Democratic Party and the teachers union Anaya works for. Apodaca denied the claim — describing it as ‘absolutely false’ — and his campaign alleged the accusation was orchestrated by Lujan Grisham.” Full story.
COIN FLIP — “Virginia recount now tied with state House control in the balance,” by Robillard: “Control of the Virginia House of Delegates is set to be decided by a random draw, after a three-judge panel determined that a recount for a Newport News-area seat was now tied. A recount conducted Tuesday appeared to have given Democrat Shelly Simonds a one-vote win over Republican incumbent David Yancey, which would have tied Democrats and Republicans at 50 seats apiece in Virginia’s state House. But the judges determined there was an additional vote for Yancey that had been stricken in Tuesday’s recount. The contested ballot contained filled-in bubbles for both Simonds and Yancey — with a line through the bubble marked for Simonds. The judges determined the voter intended to vote for Yancey, leaving both candidates with 11,608 votes.” Full story. And here’s the actual ballot at issue.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We just passed one of the sh-ttiest bills that’s ever come in front of the Senate last night … so you know the country’s seen better days.” — Montana Sen. Jon Tester, to The Washington Post’s Ben Terris.