- The Washington Times
Monday, July 17, 2017

There is much talk that the Democratic Party is scrambling to assume a proper war footing, craft a snappy message and raise a lot of money before election season begins. But election season has already begun. The 2018 midterms are clearly on the radar — with four specific Senate battles already brewing in center stage, complete with sword rattling.

“The midterms are still 15 months away, but these campaigns are already locking horns in the summer heat,” writes David Catanese, senior politics writer for U.S. News & World Report, who points out that Republicans hold a “spindly” 52-48 majority in the U.S. Senate.


“Democrats need to flip only three seats for a takeover. Their problem is they’re carrying far more vulnerable incumbents in the cycle than Republicans are, including 10 in states carried by President Trump last year,” says Mr. Catanese, who adds that the GOP candidates appear to be keeping their powder dry as Mr. Trump dukes it out with a hostile news media and partisan critics.

“Democrats meanwhile, are trying to seize the moment early in order to defy the difficult odds later,” the analyst reasons.

Here are the four important Senate races cranking up and making some noise: In Nevada, it’s Sen. Dean Heller, Republican, vs. Rep. Jacky Rosen, Democrat. In Texas, Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican, is being challenged by Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Democrat. West Virginia will pit Sen. Joe Manchin, Democrat, against one of two Republicans: Rep. Evan Jenkins or state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Then there’s Ohio, which will feature Sen. Sherrod Brown, Democrat, against either state treasurer John Mandel or prominent businessman Mike Gibbons.

GRASSROOTS CONSERVATIVES: IT’S COMPLICATED

The tea party is still very much intact in America’s heartland, and a rare poll of 3,200 “grass-roots conservatives” in all 50 states could supply news the Republican Party can use.

The brief but significant survey asked respondents to rank what — or who — is the biggest contributor to annoying gridlock in Washington. Was it President Trump, the news media or the political establishment?

The dreaded establishment came in first, followed by the media and the president. Meanwhile, a majority — 51 percent — predicted that Congress will continue to obstruct and block Mr. Trump’s efforts to move forward.

The survey was conducted by the Convention of States Project, a 2-million-member volunteer group allied against big government.

SAY AMEN, SOMEBODY

A group of historic churches in New Jersey is defending their right before the Garden State’s Supreme Court to participate in a historic preservation grant program to help repair their aging but much loved and very noteworthy buildings. But there’s pushback.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing Morris County — which created the helpful program — and seeks to bar the churches from receiving funds to shore up their aging timbers. The Wisconsin-based activist group is described as “a state/church watchdog and voice for freethought (atheism, agnosticism, skepticism).” It claims that church use of the grants violates the New Jersey Constitution.

“Historic buildings are an important part of our country’s fabric, from Boston’s Old North Church where Paul Revere hung two lanterns to the Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor until his death,” counters Hannah Smith, senior counsel at Becket, a nonprofit public interest law firm which is filing a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the program and churches.

“Whether a historic building is used for religious or secular purposes should make no difference to whether the building gets public restoration funds,” she notes.

A CULTURAL MOMENT

Four members of the newly founded National Association of Diverse Consultants will introduce themselves at the National Press Club in the nation’s capital Tuesday.

The organizers say they are “dedicated to providing services that bring forth the cultural competency necessary in today’s rapidly growing and diverse society,” and represent political consultants, pollsters, lobbyists, consultants and vendors for assorted media services.

On hand for the big reveal: Chuck Rocha, founder and president of Solidarity Strategies; Madalene Mielke, founder and principal of Arum Group; Carol McDonald, senior strategist at 76 Words; and Albert Morales, senior political director at Latino Decisions. All four groups are described as Democratic strategy organizations.

WHEN NOTHING BURGERS ARE SOMETHING

“Nothing burger” is the favorite term among journalists, meant to signify that certain political events are insignificant or meaningless despite scandalous underpinnings. Both former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s missing email scandals and Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian official have been deemed nothing burgers by assorted journalists, politicians and strategists.

Now, however, there’s a real Nothing Burger. On Tuesday, Z-Burger — a restaurant with four locations in and around the nation’s capital — will offer the nation’s first actual Nothing Burger.

“Washingtonians will get a chance to eat a real Nothing Burger,” said company founder Peter Tabibian, who explains that the Nothing Burger is just that: a plain burger on a toasted bun, and he’s handing them for free.

“For years when someone ordered a plain burger, I have always yelled out the order as a ‘Nothing Burger’ to my cooks, so I think that I actually invented the term,” Mr. Tabibian said.

POLL DU JOUR

63 percent of U.S. voters say President Trump’s agenda has focused on items of importance to average Americans; 91 percent of Republicans, 67 percent of independents and 38 percent of Democrats agree.

48 percent overall say Mr. Trump’s attitude toward Russia does not present a national security threat; 85 percent of Republicans, 56 percent of independents and 11 percent of Democrats agree.

44 percent overall are not concerned that Mr. Trump is “too friendly” toward Russia; 79 percent of Republicans, 51 percent of independents and 11 percent of Democrats agree.

40 percent overall approve of the job Mr. Trump is doing; 79 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents and 7 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Monmouth University Poll of 713 registered U.S. voters conducted July 13-16.

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