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Republican rift highlighted again this week

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Simone Pathe and Rachel Wellford  June 16, 2014 at 9:25 AM EDT

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Cantor on Sunday shows, shocked by loss
  • House leadership fight
  • McDaniel tries to project momentum in Mississippi
  • Romney back in the spotlight

GOP rift: The Republican intra-party divide will again be in focus this week with the House leadership race taking place Thursday to replace Eric Cantor and the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority confab Thursday and Friday. Lots of potential 2016 hopefuls — as well as conservative activists — will speak just as the leadership vote takes place. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the current House majority whip and favorite to replace Cantor as majority leader, speaks Friday. Cantor on ABC’s This Week Sunday, when asked if he was shocked by his congressional primary loss, said, “Absolutely…I don’t think anybody in the country thought that the outcome would be what it was.” He said tea party “frustration” that Washington Republicans haven’t been able to do more to stop President Obama was a reason for his loss. He also acknowledged, “There is a divide within our party.” That’s something other party leaders, like Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, deny. “I don’t think it’s divided at all,” Priebus said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Leadership fight latest: Republicans will get a sense of how divided they truly are with Thursday’s votes to name the next majority leader and majority whip. McCarthy appears poised to rise to the No. 2 leadership post behind House Speaker John Boehner despite picking up a late challenge Friday from Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador. FreedomWorks endorsed Labrador’s bid, saying the second term lawmaker is “the strongest leadership choice for constitutional conservatives” while McCarthy “represents more of the stale, failed leadership we have seen from Republicans in Congress.”

Whip drama: There is a scramble underway in the race for majority whip, where the real drama could be if McCarthy is elevated, between Reps. Peter Roskam, Steve Scalise and Marlin Stutzman. The Washington Post’s Robert Costa reports that Scalise, the chair of the Republican Study Committee, “has rapidly become the whip competition’s front-runner,” with his team saying they had “locked up more than 100 votes,” putting him in striking distance of the 117 majority of GOP members needed to win. As part of his pitch to colleagues, Scalise, who hails from Louisiana, has highlighted the fact that he would bring geographic diversity to the House Republican leadership team, with Boehner (Ohio) and McCarthy (California) coming from states President Obama won twice. Roskam, from Illinois, sought to counter that argument by sending his colleagues a letter Friday pledging to name someone from a “red state” as his chief deputy whip.

Mississippi momentum for McDaniel? A poll conducted for the Chris McDaniel campaign by WPA Research shows the tea party favorite up 49 percent to 41 percent over incumbent Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran ahead of the June 24 GOP primary runoff. Other polls have shown it a bit closer, but with McDaniel still ahead. Cochran is crisscrossing the state in a ramped-up campaign, the Jackson Clarion Ledger reports. “In short, he’s finally running a campaign,” the Clarion Ledger’s Geoff Pender wrote Saturday. “The campaign he should have been running since, oh, around last October. The type of shoe-leather ground game his opponent, tea party-backed Chris McDaniel, has been running since then.…Is it too late?” He’s raised about $370,000 since the initial primary and he’s getting outside support with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce putting in another $300,000. But stories like the one showing Cochran appearing to be unaware of Cantor’s race threaten to reinforce a narrative that Cochran is out of touch. Cochran’s campaign responded, saying the senator knew about it, but was annoyed that multiple people had already asked him about the outcome of a race he was not involved in.

Romney convention: Heavy hitters in the Republican establishment gathered in Deer Valley, Utah, this weekend for the third annual retreat organized by Mitt Romney. After morning yoga sessions and skeet-shooting outings led by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., new and old GOP blood (and big donors) discussed the future of the party, while 2016 hopefuls cast their nets. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., met privately with 20 Romney fundraisers and talked about expanding the GOP tent. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, too, met with Romney bundlers and spoke Saturday about a GOP that needs to unite around its agreements, not spar over its differences. A favorite with Romney donors, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, was at an event for his education foundation in Miami and could not attend, but at least one Democrat — former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer — showed up. (One 2016 hopeful that didn’t get great reviews, by the way, was New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.) The confab was proof enough that Romney, who has dismissed the idea of running again, is still trying to at least be politically relevant. Besides the influence he and his donors could wield over presidential nominations, all of his midterm election endorsements have actually ended in victory so far this cycle. Romney was also on Meet the Press, criticizing Obama and Hillary Clinton on foreign policy. Foreign policy has given Republicans like Romney an opening. Of course, it’s worth remembering that in 2008, while Romney criticized Obama for pulling troops out of Iraq too soon, he wouldn’t commit to putting them back in.

Iraq latest: The U.S. could open direct talks with Iran on what to do about the situation in Iraq, the Wall Street Journal reports: “The U.S.-Iran dialogue, which is expected to begin this week, will mark the latest in a rapid move toward rapprochement between Washington and Tehran over the past year.” Over the weekend, the U.S. moved some U.S. embassy staffers out of Baghdad and moved in some Defense Department personnel as well as Navy ships in the Persian Gulf. Militants from the insurgent Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, force bragged of executing Iraqi soldiers. Meanwhile, the White House is pushing the Maliki government to mend sectarian rifts.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1999, Vice President Al Gore formally announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000. How many times did Gore run for president? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia, and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Richard Karlinski ‏(@rkarlinski) for guessing Friday’s trivia: Aside from Thurgood Marshall, how many other Supreme Court justices have been black? The answer was: 1, Clarence Thomas.

LINE ITEMS

  • Eric Cantor’s defeater, Dave Brat, and his campaign are clearly overwhelmed following their upset win last week and a weak interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd.

  • Vice President Joe Biden begins a five-country tour of Latin America Monday. The trip will focus on America’s immigration policy.

  • Arizona is threatening to bring legal action against the federal government over the transportation of illegal immigrants who crossed the border in Texas to the border town of Nogales.

  • Jeb Bush will attend a fundraiser in Cincinnati Monday with RNC Chairman Priebus and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

  • Schweitzer, who attended Romney’s donor summit, said of the 2012 GOP nominee, “You are a fun guy, and you’re easy-going, and Obama is not. I’ve been in the room with him a little, too. He’s stiff as a board and you’ve got it going on.” Not sure that’s going to help him in a Democratic primary in 2016.

  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s book tour continues this week with stops in Toronto, Cambridge, Mass., Washington, DC, Seattle, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. On Tuesday Clinton will participate in a televised town hall moderated by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. Clinton will also sit down with Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier and Greta Van Susteren on Tuesday for a joint interview.

  • The Internal Revenue Service alerted Congress Friday that they have lost a series of emails from Lois Lerner, due to a computer crash in the summer of 2011.

  • More than $116 million dollars have been spent on Senate races since January by Democrats and Republicans.

  • Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., is getting air cover from Emily’s List in a high six-figure TV buy running through the end of June.

  • Sen. Thad Cochran and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor may have been hurt by transplants to DeSoto County, Miss., and Richmond, Va., respectively, who tend to view all politics through a “generic national lens,” writes the New York Times, since they’re not familiar with the accomplishments of incumbents in down-ballot races.

  • Indicted Congressman Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., is having trouble raising enough money to win re-election.

  • In the wake of Cantor’s defeat, Wall Street is lamenting the loss of one of its big supporters and mobilizing to protect the allies it still has in the GOP, with top corporate lobbyists fundraising for Cochran last week.

  • A candidate for mayor of Providence, R.I., mimicks filmmaker Wes Anderson in a new campaign ad.

  • The biggest event of the day… The U.S. soccer team takes on Ghana in its opening World Cup match at 6 p.m. ET. Go USA!

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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