Crowd of Colorado Democrats eye 2020 challenge to Gardner

With Kevin Robillard, Zach Montellaro and Daniel Strauss

The following newsletter is an abridged version of Campaign Pro’s Morning Score. For an earlier morning read on exponentially more races — and for a more comprehensive aggregation of the day’s most important campaign news — sign up for Campaign Pro today. (http://ift.tt/1rYrnXl)

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BUT IS IT TOO EARLY? — “Crowd of Democrats eye 2020 challenge to Gardner,” by Campaign Pro’s Elena Schneider: “As NRSC chairman, Sen. Cory Gardner is doing all he can to get his GOP colleagues across the 2018 finish line. But back home in Colorado, Democrats are already salivating about 2020 – when they’ll target Gardner in a presidential year in a state Donald Trump lost by nearly 5 points. What’s far from clear, however, is which Democrat will get the chance to take on Gardner, and whether the party’s deep bench will yield a prolonged and expensive primary battle that leaves the winner bruised ahead of the general election. ‘We could see a fairly broad primary, and I’ve heard whispers from a lot of different candidates who are interested in it,’ said Mike Melanson, a Democratic consultant in the state. ‘But the bottom line is that Gardner’s in a world of hurt.’ The latest maneuvering stems from Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s decision this week to return to his House race; he had previously planned to retire after a brief run for the open governorship in 2018.” Full story.

ABOUT LAST NIGHT — “Trump returns to familiar territory in Phoenix rally,” by POLITICO’s Matthew Nussbaum: “President Donald Trump was back in his natural element on Tuesday night, revving up a stadium of supporters in Phoenix, launching attacks on the media and defending last week’s response to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., the day after a scripted, sober address about an increased American military presence in Afghanistan. Trump seemed to be reveling in the crowd’s love from the moment he entered, clapping his hands as he made his way slowly to the podium, and before long he was enticing the crowd to rain boos on reporters.” Full story.

TRUMP V. MITCH — “Trump and McConnell Locked in a Cold War, Threatening the G.O.P. Agenda,” by The New York Times’ Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin: “The relationship between President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks, and Mr. McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises. What was once an uneasy governing alliance has curdled into a feud of mutual resentment and sometimes outright hostility, complicated by the position of Mr. McConnell’s wife, Elaine L. Chao, in Mr. Trump’s cabinet, according to more than a dozen people briefed on their imperiled partnership. Angry phone calls and private badmouthing have devolved into open conflict, with the president threatening to oppose Republican senators who cross him, and Mr. McConnell mobilizing to their defense.” Full story.

— NOW WATCH THE AD — The Senate Leadership fund, the super PAC that’s aligned with McConnell, cut a video yesterday slamming Kelli Ward, who is looking to best Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in the primary after failing to do so to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2016. The ad called her “Chemtrail Kelli” and said she is “not conservative, just crazy ideas.” President Donald Trump previously boosted Ward in a tweet that also slammed Flake. The ad.

Why does Trump World think they can win this battle with McConnell? Pollster Tony Fabrizio has been tweeting out polling snippets showing Trump remains much, much more popular with the GOP base than the majority leader and the Republican Congress writ large. In August, Trump’s favorability with GOP or GOP-leaning voters was +50 on net, while Congressional Republicans were just +8. Another tidbit found only 27 percent of GOP or GOP-leaning voters approved of McConnell, while 44 percent disapproved. Fabrizio, a Trump pollster, put out the polling even though it shows Trump also losing support: His net favorability fell 12 points among Republicans between June and August.

AND ONE MORE THING — “Senate candidate Roy Moore has said he doesn’t believe Obama is a natural-born citizen,” via CNN: “Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, a Republican candidate for US Senate, has cast doubt on former President Barack Obama’s citizenship repeatedly and as recently as December 2016, fueling the debunked ‘birther’ movement that sought to delegitimize Obama’s presidency. Moore, who started questioning the legitimacy of Obama’s citizenship back in 2008, last year told a meeting of the Constitution Party that he personally did not believe Obama was a natural-born citizen.” Full story.

Days until the 2017 election: 76.

Days until the 2018 election: 440.

Thanks for joining us! You can email tips to the Campaign Pro team at sbland@politico.com, eschneider@politico.com, krobillard@politico.com, dstrauss@politico.com and mseverns@politico.com.

You can also follow us on Twitter: @politicoscott, @ec_schneider, @politicokevin, @danielstrauss4 and @maggieseverns.

NEW THIS MORNING — Taylor joins open race for TX-03: State Sen. Van Taylor is launching his bid to replace retiring GOP Rep. Sam Johnson for his Plano-based seat just north of Dallas. Kevin Brannon will be the general consultant, Jeff Norwood will be handling media, Casey Phillips is serving as a senior adviser, and Jordan Powell is doing digital for the campaign.

CASH RACE — DSCC tops NRSC in July fundraising: “The NRSC raised just $2 million in July, according to a FEC filing. The committee spent $2.5 million in the same time period, leaving it with just $15.8 million on hand, down from $16.2 million at the end of June. The committee expected weaker fundraising because of the Senate’s failure to repeal Obamacare — CNN reported earlier this month that $2 million in promised donations disappeared after Arizona Sen. John McCain‘s dramatic late-night vote against the bill.” Full story.

O-HI-O NUMBERS — Poll finds voters don’t know Gibbons: A Remington Research Group poll conducted for Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel’s Senate campaign following an ad buy by rival Republican Senate candidate Mike Gibbons found that 81 percent of likely primary voters surveyed said they had no opinion of Gibbons, while 9 percent had a favorable opinion and 10 percent had an unfavorable opinion. Meanwhile, the poll found that 77 percent had a favorable view of Donald Trump and 15 percent said they had an unfavorable view. Another 8 percent said they had no opinion. The crosstabs did not list favorables or unfavorables for Mandel. Read the results here.

VIRGINIA NUMBERS — A poll from Roanoke College gives Democrat Ralph Northam a seven-point lead over Republican Ed Gillespie, 43 percent to 36 percent. The poll was conducted between August 12-19, with 599 likely voters and a margin or error of +/- 4 percent. Full results.

— “Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer to spend $2 million in Virginia governor’s race,” by the Washington Post’s Fenit Nirappil: “Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer’s organization plans to spend at least $2 million to elect Democrat Ralph Northam as Virginia’s next governor, with a focus on turning out millenial voters. … ‘This is the race of the year,’ Steyer said. ‘It seems like there is a struggle for the hearts and minds of Americans right now, and it’s taking place as much in Virginia as anyplace else in the United States of America.’” Full story.

KEYSTONE SUPER PAC — Republican Senate candidate Jeff Bartos now has a super PAC supporting his candidacy. The super PAC is called Keystone Priorities PAC and it’s being run by ColdSpark Media Partner Mark Harris. Harris, in an email confirming his role at the super PAC, said it already has over $1 million in commitments.

THAT’S A ‘NO’ — “Susan Wagle, Senate president, rules out bid for Congress or governor,” via The Wichita Eagle’s Jonathan Shorman: “Senate President Susan Wagle will not run for either governor or Congress, she said Tuesday after she had openly considered both races. Her decision not to seek either office appears to clear away, at least for now, the threat of a primary challenger for U.S. Rep. Ron Estes, who was chosen earlier this year in a special election. No one else has publicly mulled a primary run.” Full story.

NOT FOR US — “Republican moves to eliminate California’s top-two election system,” via The Sacramento Bee’s Angela Hart: “Frustrated that Democrats dominate elective office in California, a Republican eyeing a 2018 run against Sen. Dianne Feinstein wants to repeal the state’s top-two primary system that he says shuts out Republicans and disproportionately propels left-wing Democrats into office. ‘There’s no question more liberal candidates have been more successful,’ said Thomas Palzer, who is pushing an initiative for the November 2018 ballot to repeal a clause in the California Constitution that says regardless of party, the top two vote-getters in a primary election advance to a November runoff.” Full story.

GETTING THE NOD — Hutchison backs Scott Hammond in NV-03: Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison endorsed Republican Scott Hammond, whom he called a “proven conservative reformer,” in a crowded GOP primary for the House sea, left vacant by Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who’s running for Senate.

WEB WARS — DSCC releases “bumper flock” video ads: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is out with a series of six-second digital ads that will follow users across the internet to tell a full story, in this case about the dangers of Obamacare repeal. Here, here and here are versions of the ad targeting Nevada Sen. Dean Heller.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’m just a couple of haircuts away from equaling the number of staff departures by your WH colleagues. I get it. You are hard to work with.” — South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy tweeting at OMB Director Mick Mulvaney over his haircuts.

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