Rokita jumps into Indiana Senate race

With Zach Montellaro, Elena Schneider 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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IT’S ON — “Rokita enters Indiana Senate race,” by Campaign Pro’s Kevin Robillard: “GOP Rep. Todd Rokita will announce Wednesday morning that he is running against vulnerable Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in Indiana, joining an already contentious Republican primary and casting his campaign as another step toward fixing Washington, along with the election of President Donald Trump. ‘Indiana needs a conservative fighter who shares our values,’ the narrator says in Rokita’s campaign launch video. ‘That’s why Todd Rokita is running for United States Senate.’ … ‘Lobbyists, bureaucrats, politicians and the media — they’ve rigged the system. … It’s Sen. Joe Donnelly’s rigged system too,’ the narrator in Rokita’s video says. ‘On taxes, Obamacare, guns, life, even national security, Joe Donnelly is with them, not us.’

“But so far, Rokita has aimed most of his fire at fellow Republican Rep. Luke Messer, who announced his Senate run late last month. The pair have clashed over everything from Messer’s wife’s high-paid job in an Indianapolis suburb, to Rokita’s use of a prop plane for campaign purposes, to edits to Messer’s Wikipedia page.” Full story.

— GOP state Rep. Mike Braun also launched his campaign Tuesday, saying in a statement: “I made my career in the private sector. Our country needs more people who can tackle big issues from perspectives gained from running a business and not a career politician’s perspective.”

ANOTHER PRIMARY KICKOFF — “Tarkanian to challenge Heller in Nevada GOP Senate primary,” by Campaign Pro’s Kevin Robillard: “Danny Tarkanian, the son of a legendary Nevada college basketball coach who has run for office several times, announced Tuesday morning that he will challenge Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada’s Republican primary next year. Tarkanian announced his bid on ‘Fox and Friends,’ where he criticized Heller as a ‘Never-Trumper’ and said that his stance on the president helped Hillary Clinton carry the state. ‘So many people have contacted me in the past few months, saying, ‘You got to run against Dean Heller,’ Tarkanian said. ‘They understand, like I do, that we’re never going to make America great again unless we have senators in office supporting President Trump. Dean Heller wasn’t just one of the first Never-Trumpers in the state of Nevada, he was one of the most influential. He actually helped Hillary Clinton win the state of Nevada.’” Full story.

— Heller is taking Tarkanian seriously. Oftentimes, incumbents will ignore primary challengers. But Tarkanian’s high name identification from his repeated runs for office (and from his famous father and his own collegiate basketball career) make that impossible. Heller and the NRSC both acknowledged Tarkanian’s run in statements, with the NRSC promising to stand by their incumbent. “Danny Tarkanian is a perennial candidate who has spent millions of dollars on five campaigns over the last decade,” Heller spokesman Tommy Ferraro said. “Nevada voters have rejected him every time — including less than a year ago against Jacky Rosen. He’s wasted conservatives’ time and cost the Republican Party seats up and down the ballot.” The Heller campaign was also up with Google search ads about “Democrat Donor Danny Tarkanian,” who is “wrong for Nevada.”

DAILY ROLL TIDE — “Moore, Brooks ads tie Strange to McConnell,” by Campaign Pro’s Daniel Strauss: “Former Alabama chief justice Roy Moore and Rep. Mo Brooks have both released TV ads attacking Sen. Luther Strange by tying him to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. … Moore’s ad, called ‘Defeat the Deceivers,’ accused McConnell of spending millions to spread ‘lies about Roy Moore.’ … The ad shows an image of McConnell’s head surrounded by the heads of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Tim Kaine, Sen. John McCain, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Strange, Sen. Jeff Flake, and Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Brooks’ campaign released its own ad, called “Lap Dog,” which dinged McConnell for “spending millions helping his lap dog, Luther Strange, hijack our Alabama primary.” Full story.

Trump endorses Strange: Trump endorsed Strange in a tweet on Tuesday. “Senator Luther Strange has done a great job representing the people of the Great State of Alabama. He has my complete and total endorsement!” Trump tweeted. Strauss reports: “The endorsement is a coup for Strange and a blow to his competitors in the Republican primary for the special election for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat. Trump is highly popular in Alabama and the near dozen candidates competing for the nomination in the primary had been jockeying to closely associate with the president.” Full story.

— AROUND THE CORNER — “POLITICO Pro Q&A: AL-05 Republican Clayton Hinchman,” by Campaign Pro’s Daniel Strauss: “Rep. Mo Brooks did not have to give up his House seat to run in Alabama’s special Senate election. But another Republican, businessman Clayton Hinchman, decided that he would run for Brooks’ seat anyway. Hinchman, a retired Army Ranger who lost his leg in Iraq and now works for a defense firm based out of Huntsville, said he will continue running whether or not Brooks advances in the race for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ old Senate seat. … What’s been your problem with his tenure as a congressman? You have Congressman Brooks actively working against the Defense Appropriations Act, has actively worked to shut down the government and a lot of people here in our district felt that he was trying to prove a political point on the backs of the people. It didn’t do anything to help the deficit because he didn’t attack mandatory spending or the GDP. He was focused on making a political point and a lot of people were hurt by that.” Full story.

Days until the 2017 election: 90.

Days until the 2018 election: 454.

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.

STAFF NEWS — “Whitmer hires Ossoff manager for Michigan governor race,” by Campaign Pro’s Daniel Strauss: “Michigan Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is making a change at the top of her gubernatorial campaign, hiring Keenan Pontoni — who managed Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff’s House special election campaign earlier this year — as her new campaign manager. Pontoni replaces Jerid Kurtz, a former campaign manager for a number of House and gubernatorial campaigns.” Full story.

FOR YOUR RADAR — Pence joins leadership PAC with NRCC and California House members: Vice President Mike Pence’s leadership PAC, Great America Committee, indicated in a filing on Tuesday that it will fundraise with the NRCC and California House Republicans including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. By joining the fundraising agreement — which could signal an upcoming fundraiser — donors will be able to cut checks of more than $200,000 a piece to Pence and his cohorts, far larger than the $5,000 per-person limit on donating to Pence’s leadership PAC alone.

— Moderate “New Democrats” launch new outside group: A group of Democrats is launching a new combo-super PAC and 501(c)(4) organization called New Democracy today that will focus on expanding the party’s base using a pro-economic growth message. Democrats including Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and former Sen. Mary Landrieu are advising the group, helmed by strategist Will Marshall.

CASH RACE — “GOP donors withhold $2 million amid Senate failure on health plan, sources say,” via CNN’s Manu Raju: “Congressional Republicans’ failure to pass a health care bill is starting to hit them where it hurts: their pocketbooks. At least $2 million in contributions promised to the National Republican Senatorial Committee have failed to materialize because donors are expressing frustration with the Senate GOP’s inability to fulfill their central campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, according to two GOP sources familiar with the matter.” Full story.

NEW POLL IN VIRGINIA — “VCU poll: Northam leads Gillespie in Virginia governor’s race,” by Campaign Pro’s Kevin Robillard: “Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam has a 5-point lead over Republican Ed Gillespie in a new Virginia Commonwealth University poll of the state’s governor’s race. Northam has the support of 42 percent of likely voters, compared to 37 percent for Gillespie. Among registered voters, Northam’s lead is 39 percent to 33 percent. Libertarian Cliff Hyra has the support of 6 percent of likely voters and 8 percent of registered voters.” Full story.

COURT REPORT — Gillum cleared in email investigation: Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was cleared by a grand jury investigating “his office’s purchase of software used to send a handful of politically tinged emails to constituents, an issue that’s dogged his campaign for governor since it began,” the Tallahassee Democrat reports. Gillum’s office sent 106 email using the email system, of which four had political messages. But Gillum never personally used the software, the grand jury’s report says.

CODA — QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We are not surprised.” — The opening line of the Heller campaign’s response to Tarkanian entering the Nevada Senate race.

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