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POLITICO Playbook: Republicans squeak by in North Carolina. Here’s what it means.

Original article published on Politico by Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer available here

Republican Dan Bishop celebrates his victory in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional special election in Monroe, N.C., on Tuesday, Sept. 10. | Nell Redmond/AP Photo


GOOD MORNING FROM CHARLOTTE. Millions of Republican dollars and a DONALD TRUMP and MIKE PENCE visit later, the Republicans found a way to hold onto a deep red House seat here in North Carolina, where DAN BISHOP, a Republican state senator, beat DAN MCCREADY, a Democrat who has never held elective office, by 2.08 percentage points, or fewer than 4,000 votes.

THIS DISTRICT WAS ONCE familiar and comfortable territory for the GOP, and an afterthought electorally. Republicans dominated almost everywhere, from Mercedes-lined, leafy Charlotte streets to rural farm counties. In other words, this is the kind of district that was built for a previous iteration of the GOP.

BUT IN THE TRUMP ERA, it has morphed into a battleground. The wealthy suburbs of Charlotte — Mecklenburg County — turned sharply away from TRUMP and the GOP and toward Democrats. And the exurbs and rural parts of the district have become redder, mirroring the reshaping of the Republican electorate, writ large.

THAT MADE THIS SEAT — North Carolina’s 9th District — a hell of a race. Republicans and Democrats spent lavishly, trying to match each other dollar for dollar in a race that attracted nearly $20 million in spending. And in the end, the 12-point margin that MCCREADY — an Iraq war vet with Duke and Harvard degrees — built up in Mecklenburg County was not enough to keep BISHOP from wrapping himself in everything TRUMP and keeping the seat in GOP hands. But just barely.

THERE IS A LOT TO SAY ABOUT REPUBLICANS having to fight out a district that was literally drawn for them to win, but a win is a win. Perhaps most notably, the NRCC and CLF — which were at war with each other last cycle — were able to spend money in a complementary fashion and erase McCready’s early lead.

BUT THERE ARE SOME LESSONS LEARNED HERE for the GOP and for Democrats. The Republican Party is becoming more and more of a rural party, anchored far away from the well-educated and middle-to-upper-class city suburbs. The House GOP coalition is a shadow of its 2010-to-2018 self. The party occupies far fewer suburban seats than ever before, having lost them in Dallas, Houston, Orange County, New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. They had to fight to keep this one in the suburbs and exurbs of the South, once the building blocks of their majority. More from Steven Shepard, Laura Barrón-López and Alex Isenstadt on the GOP’s fragile 2020 position

IF YOU’RE A REPUBLICAN thinking about running for office in anything resembling a competitive seat, would you take the plunge after seeing Bishop narrowly beat the well-funded McCready in this red seat here?

AND DEMOCRATS would like you to focus on the fact that they shouldn’t have been competing here, and keeping it close is a victory in and of itself. Well, there are no participation trophies in politics. Parties and candidates fight to win. Democrats didn’t raise and spend millions of dollars to keep it close here. They spent that money to win. And they didn’t.

REALITY: The political picture has been pretty stagnant for the GOP since November. Their political coalition is being reshaped by TRUMP, and they are squeaking by in previously comfortable environs. When it comes to control of the House, the question remains: Are there enough winnable seats for Republicans to get to 218?

SCENE … WE SPENT THE NIGHT at the McCready watch party in Charlotte, which was at the DoubleTree Hotel. After McCready lost, there were chants of “new maps.”

— MCCREADY, who came on stage late in the 10 o’clock hour, said this: “Our mission to bring this country together — this was never a mission that could be accomplished in a single election. We didn’t win this campaign tonight, but there is no doubt in my mind that our efforts over the last 27 months move our country forward.” McCready lost two consecutive elections, the first of which was marred by voter fraud. “Victory postponed is not defeat,” he said.

HMM … WATCH FOR THE DEEP DIVES … MCCREADY won rural Robeson County by 15 points last election. He won it by 1 percentage point this time around.

It’s Wednesday, and TODAY is Sept. 11. The president and first lady Melania Trump will participate in a moment of silence at 8:40 a.m. They will also participate in a Sept. 11 Pentagon observance ceremony at 9:30 a.m. at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.

— SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI and HOUSE MINORITY LEADER KEVIN MCCARTHY will lead a moment of silence on the House East front steps of the Capitol at 8:46 a.m.

A NEW LEADER IN THE CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT … “House Freedom Caucus picks Andy Biggs as new chairman,” by Melanie Zanona: “The conservative House Freedom Caucus has a new leader. The hard-line group has elected Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) to be the new Freedom Caucus chief, replacing the current chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). Meadows, a founding Freedom Caucus member and one of President Donald Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, will step down on Oct. 1 but is expected to remain on the group’s board.” POLITICO

BRYAN BENDER and NATASHA BERTRAND: “Senator seeks independent probe of military’s use of Trump resort”: “The top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has formally requested an independent investigation into the Air Force’s increased use of a commercial airport in Scotland and overnight stays at the Trump Turnberry resort.

“‘I am disturbed by the growing number of those in government willing to engage in questionable taxpayer funded travel to and lodging at properties owned by the president — properties from which President Trump can draw income at any time,’ Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, who is also a member of the Armed Services Committee, wrote in a letter on Tuesday to Glenn Fine, who is fulfilling the duties of the Pentagon inspector general.” POLITICO


— FOR THE RECORD BOOKS, via NYT’s Peter Baker: “No other president has had four national security advisers in his first three years in office.” NYT

— WSJ’S MIKE BENDER and VIVIAN SALAMA: “A predawn riser and a speed reader, known to consume hundreds of pages of intelligence reports on a daily basis, Mr. Bolton was often well-equipped to debate colleagues on sensitive policy matters that at times turned into shouting matches, according to senior administration officials.

“Mr. Bolton, for instance, engaged in a heated argument with Mr. Mulvaney during Mr. Trump’s trip to London earlier this year over Iranian policy, these people said. Mr. Mulvaney accused Mr. Bolton of trying to start a war and veering from Mr. Trump’s preferred path, the people said.” WSJ

— AP: “Inside Bolton’s exit: Mongolia, a mustache, a tweet”: by Jonathan Lemire, Zeke Miller and Deb Riechmann: “Trump does value disagreement and jockeying among his staff. But he came to believe that Bolton’s presence spooked foreign leaders. And he eventually grew weary of the national security adviser’s bureaucratic knife-fighting.”AP

— ELIANA JOHNSON: “Ultimately, it was hearing media accounts about how Bolton had advised the president to scuttle a meeting with Taliban leaders at Camp David that proved a breaking point for Trump … In the president’s telling, he had taken his own counsel in arriving at the decision to call off the meeting and end the negotiations, and he was infuriated to hear Bolton credited with influencing his decision.” POLITICO

— WAPO’S KAREN DEYOUNG, JOSH DAWSEY and JOHN HUDSON: “Among accumulated grievances that had been building for months, the president was annoyed that Bolton would regularly call on members of Congress to try to get them to push Bolton-preferred policies on Trump … Many on Bolton’s handpicked staff were seen as unnecessarily confrontational with other parts of the national security bureaucracy.” WaPo

— BURGESS EVERETT and ELIANA JOHNSON: “John Bolton’s gone — and Republicans want in”: “John Bolton’s ouster from the Trump administration creates an immediate void on President Donald Trump’s national security team as the president weighs critical decisions about the war on Afghanistan.

“It’s a vacuum that a number of Senate Republicans are eager to fill. Senators who have been trying to shape President Donald Trump’s thinking on foreign policy — especially the peace talks in Afghanistan — are now jockeying for more influence over the president’s thinking. With an interventionist hawk like Bolton out of the picture, Trump, who campaigned on winding down the United States’ engagement overseas, may be more inclined to limit foreign engagements.” POLITICO

— RUSH LIMBAUGH on Bolton’s ouster: “it might have something to do with somebody inviting the Taliban to Camp David. Whoever did that needs to have their head examined. Now, I can’t believe that Bolton would be the guy responsible for that. … He doesn’t suffer fools, and he’s not somebody that likes to accommodate the enemy. Whoever it was that came up with the idea of having these Taliban monsters up at Camp David, thank goodness that didn’t happen.” Mediaite

— FWIW, THE SHORT LIST … NYT’S KATIE ROGERS ET AL: “Who Could Replace John Bolton?”: Fred Fleitz, Keith Kellogg, Jack Keane, Robert Blair, Robert C. O’Brien, Charles M. Kupperman, Stephen E. Biegun, Brian H. Hook, Douglas Macgregor, Richard Grenell, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster (!), Ricky Waddell

— BLOOMBERG’S NICK WADHAMS: “Pompeo Is ‘Last Man Standing’ After Bolton Departs White House”: “Pompeo is now without peer on Trump’s national security team. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is weeks into his job, there’s no confirmed director of national intelligence and United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft was confirmed on Tuesday. Among the president’s advisers, Pompeo will have the biggest sway on decisions about brokering a deal with Iran, restarting talks with North Korea and finding a way to draw down forces in Afghanistan.” Bloomberg

THE NEXT THING … WAPO: “Trump pushing for major crackdown on homeless camps in California, with aides discussing moving residents to government-backed facilities,” by Jeff Stein, Tracy Jan, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker: “President Trump has ordered White House officials to launch a sweeping effort to address homelessness in California, citing the state’s growing crisis, according to four government officials aware of the effort.

“The planning has intensified in recent weeks. Administration officials have discussed using the federal government to get homeless people off the streets of Los Angeles and other cities and into new government-backed facilities, according to two officials briefed on the planning.

“But it is unclear how they could accomplish this and what legal authority they would use. It is also unclear whether the state’s Democratic politicians would cooperate with Trump, who has sought to embarrass them over the homelessness crisis with repeated attacks on their competency.” WaPo

2020 WATCH … RYAN LIZZA ON TEAM BIDEN VS. THE PRESS: “The first thing you notice at a Joe Biden event is the age: Many of the reporters covering him are really young. Biden is not. The press corps, or so the Biden campaign sees it, is culturally liberal and highly attuned to modern issues around race and gender and social justice. Biden is not. The reporters are Extremely Online. Biden couldn’t tell you what TikTok is.

“Inside the Biden campaign, it is the collision between these two worlds that advisers believe explain why his White House run often looks like a months-long series of gaffes. For a team in command of the Democratic primary, at least for now, they’re awfully resentful of how their man is being covered. And yet supremely confident that they, not the woke press that pounces on Biden’s every seeming error and blight in his record, has a vastly superior understanding of the Democratic electorate. This is the central paradox of Biden’s run: He’s been amazingly durable. But he gets no respect from the people who make conventional wisdom on the left.” POLITICO

— NEW POLL … “Elizabeth Warren is on the rise among Democratic voters, but she and other Democrats are less popular with the overall electorate, raising concerns about a bruising primary that could go on for the better part of the next year, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds. The survey also finds President Trump continuing to struggle, with economic concerns seemingly starting to affect his standing, leaving a cloudy picture about the 2020 presidential election.” NPR

— THE GOP PRIMARY … “Still on: Iowa, New Hampshire won’t nix 2020 GOP contests,” by AP’s Steve Peoples, Hunter Woodall and Meg Kinnard with a Manchester, N.H., dateline

— BUSINESS INSIDER will host a GOP presidential primary debate Sept. 24 with Joe Walsh and Bill Weld. No Trump, of course (so far!), but an invitation was also extended to Mark Sanford.

DEPT. OF MUDDLE: “Dems stumble on impeachment messaging,” by Kyle Cheney, Andrew Desiderio, Sarah Ferris and Heather Caygle

NAMING NAMES … WAPO: “Ex-Russian official thought to have spied for the U.S. was hiding in plain sight,” by Shane Harris and Ellen Nakashima: “A former Russian government official thought to have spied for the United States was hiding in plain sight, living in a suburban neighborhood an hour outside of Washington.

“The Russian Kommersant newspaper reported Tuesday that Oleg Smolenkov, whom it described as a ‘missing’ employee of the Russian presidential administration, was spotted in the United States.

“The paper reported that Smolenkov disappeared in 2017 during a family vacation to Montenegro and suggested he may have been an American agent who was spirited out of Russia after providing information linking Russian President Vladi­mir Putin to his country’s campaign to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” WaPo


PHOTO DU JOUR: The Tribute in Light rises above the lower Manhattan skyline on Tuesday, Sept. 10. Today marks the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. | Mark Lennihan/AP Photo

GARRETT GRAFF in THE ATLANTIC: “On 9/11, Luck Meant Everything”: “In researching my new book, The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11, I’ve spent the past three years reading and listening to thousands of personal stories from that Tuesday—stories from Americans all across the country and people far beyond our shores. In all those published accounts and audio clips, and in the interviews I conducted, one theme never ceases to amaze me: the sheer randomness of how the day unfolded, who lived, who died, who was touched, and who escaped.” $18 on Amazon

PUTIN STRIKES AGAIN — “Russia Orchestrated Chechen Rebel’s Murder in Germany, U.S. Officials Say,” by WSJ’s Bojan Pancevski in Berlin, Alan Cullison and Michael Gordon: “Russia was behind the murder last month of a former Chechen rebel in Germany, U.S. officials said on Tuesday, rekindling concerns that Moscow is ramping up an assassination campaign against the country’s perceived enemies abroad.

“The victim, a 40-year-old Georgian who once commanded forces against Russia during a Chechen uprising, was gunned down in a Berlin park on Aug. 23 on his way to a local mosque. Minutes later, German police arrested a Russian man attempting to leave the scene on an electric scooter after he discarded a pistol and silencer.” WSJ

TRADE BLINK … REUTERS/BEIJING: “China exempts some U.S. goods from retaliatory tariffs as fresh talks loom”: “China announced exemptions for 16 types of U.S. products from additional retaliatory duties, in a move that comes as trade negotiators from the two countries prepare to meet later this month to try and de-escalate their protracted tariff row.

“The exemptions will apply to U.S. goods including some anti-cancer drugs and lubricants, as well as animal feed such as whey and fish meal, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement on its website on Wednesday.” Reuters

VALLEY TALK — “Uber Lays Off Hundreds More Workers as It Struggles to Make Money,” by NYT’s Kate Conger and Mike Isaac: “Uber laid off 435 workers in its product and engineering teams on Tuesday, the company’s second round of cuts in recent months as it struggles to make money.

“The cuts, which total about 8 percent of Uber’s global product and engineering group, follow 400 layoffs in July from the marketing team. In a message to employees about the layoffs on Tuesday that was viewed by The New York Times, Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, said the company had gone off course as it grew and must streamline to regain its competitive edge.” NYT

MEDIAWATCH — “F.B.I. and 2 States Examine Ex-Fox News Host’s Real Estate Business,” by NYT’s Matthew Goldstein: “A former Fox News host whose real estate advisory business left behind a trail of angry customers is under investigation by two states and the F.B.I.

“Federal agents have begun talking to several customers and associates of the former ‘Fox and Friends Weekend’ host, Clayton Morris, and a onetime business partner, according to four people familiar with the matter. Civil investigators working with the Indiana and New Jersey attorneys general have also been gathering information, the people said.” NYT

— The BBC and Quibi are launching a new partnership that will be announced later this morning. It will create “Daily Essentials” news episodes five days a week, five-minute-long news shows designed for mobile.


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SPOTTED: U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich and Newt Gingrich at Cafe Milano. … Ronna Romney McDaniel talking on her cell phone at DCA on Tuesday night.

SPOTTED at Business Roundtable’s open house reception for its new office opening at 1000 Maine Ave. SW: Mike Sommers, Heather Podesta, Josh Bolten, Kevin Fromer, John Lipsey, Trevor Koenig, Pierce Scranton, Larry Di Rita, Jessica Boulanger, Alex Wescott, Alix Burns, Michael Allen, Peter Chandler, Liz Dougherty, John Collingwood, Todd Webster, Patrick Steel, Andrew Kovalcin, John Michael Gonzalez, Meredith McPhillips, Ylan Mui, Bradley Akubuiro, Michelle Mesack, Bruce Harris, Jessica Ditto, Gideon Bragin, Anna Taylor, Gary Gasper, Chuck Greener, Michelle Russo, Ed Gillespie and Juanita Duggan.

SPOTTED at a private cigar reception kickoff for the Congressional Black Caucus’ Annual Legislative Conference, hosted by LeRoy Nix, Cory Horton, John Mason and Bobette Gillette at Casa de Monte Cristo on Tuesday night: Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) and Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Glenn Wilson, Derrick Johnson, Yebbie Watkins, Lyndon Boozer, Willie Phillips, Arthur Sidney, Angela Rye, Hope Goins, Michael Hutton, Chasseny Lewis, Michael Reed, Ned Michael, Joyce Brayboy, Jennifer Stewart, Michael Williams, LaKeitha Anderson, Daniel Trope and Syd Terry.

SPOTTED at a Decatur House reception following a program with Ann Compton on Tuesday night celebrating the 50th anniversary of Pat Nixon becoming first lady, which brought Nixon administration alums to the White House Historical Association: Bill Allman, Jim Byron, James Cavanaugh, Red Cavaney, Jonathan Day, Muffy Day, Paris Dennard, Barbara Hackman Franklin, Hugh Hewitt, Bill Kilberg, Bobbie Kilberg, Marlene Malek, Patti Matson, Anita McBride, Stewart McLaurin, Betty Monkman, Pat O’Donnell, Terry O’Donnell, Gregg Petersmeyer, Jennifer Pickens, Jonathan Rose and Susan Porter Rose.

TRANSITIONS — Jennifer Skyler will be chief corporate affairs officer at American Express. She previously was chief communications officer at WeWork. … Jackie Kelly Jr. will be a senior federal affairs representative for FedEx. He currently is VP of legislative affairs at the American Trucking Associations. …

… Megan Moore is joining the Glover Park Group as a VP. She previously was a special adviser at the Federal Housing Finance Agency and a deputy assistant Treasury secretary. … Morgan Dwyer is now a deputy director for policy analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She previously worked on defense modernization in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Gary McElyea, director of state and local policy at Coca-Cola, and Alison Ebers, SVP/account director at Grey, welcomed Nora Marie McElyea. Pic … Another pic

— Dana Acton, legislative director for Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), and James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, welcomed Nathan “Nat” Benjamin Acton on Sept. 3. He came in at 7 lbs, 5 oz, and joins big sister Perri. Pic… Another pic

— Jennifer Becker-Pollet, legislative counsel to Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), and Adam Pollet, counsel for Eversheds Sutherland, welcomed Logan “Lolo” Sloane Pollet on Aug. 29. Pic… Another pic

BIRTHWEEK (was Tuesday): Jonathan Soros

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Maria Bartiromo, global markets editor and anchor at Fox News and Fox Business Network. What she’s reading currently: “I am reading Michael Pillsbury’s book on China called ‘The Hundred-Year Marathon.’ It is a very good explanation of China’s aspirations over the long term and how the U.S.-China relations fit in.” Playbook Plus Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, a partner at Paul, Weiss, is 62 … Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos and co-founder of Vox Media, is 48 … former Solicitor General Ted Olson is 79 … Ben Terris, political reporter for WaPo’s Style section … Syrian President Bashar Assad is 54 … WaPo fashion critic Robin Givhan … POLITICO’s Joe Schatz … Gloria Pazmino … Jon Meyersohn … Ian Solomon … Marit Babin Stout … Lee Verstandig … Liz Kennedy, SVP at the Recording Industry Association of America … Maura Hogan … Colleen Kearns … Arianne Price … Michael Hardaway, senior adviser/comms director for House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), is 38 (hat tip: Sarah Sinovic) … former Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) is 61 … Kara Nelson … Michael Maitland, COS for Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) (h/t girlfriend Daria Dieguts) … Jess Brammar …

… Shannon Roche, president and CEO of the Yoga Alliance (h/t Aaron Kissel) … Sammy Yaish … Clare Rizer … Paige Kerr … Jon Downs, a founding partner of FP1 Strategies … Sharon Gallagher (h/t Jon Haber) … Emily Esfahani Smith … Gordon Bronson of WeWork … Patrick Rheaume … NBC’s Pete Breen is 44 … Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is 51 (h/t Joe Dougherty) … Cyrus Artz … Walter Alarkon … DLA Piper’s Tom Boyd … Claude Marx … Becky Lee … Emy Lesofski … Robert Favela … Julie Goon, SVP of public affairs at Anthem … Amanda Hughes … Diane Tomb (h/t husband Mark) … Jose Fourquet … Sarah Weeldreyer … Elizabeth Feldman … Maya Spanderashvili … Kyle Gerron … Karen E. Watson … Brooke Hart, VP of communications and brand at Sierra Nevada Corp. … Bruce Koeppl … Leticia Reyes (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Rick Parnell

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