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Republicans splinter over social justice

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  May 12, 2014 at 9:13 AM EDT
Protestors urge a raise in the minimum wage outside the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center April 29 in Washington, DC. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Protestors urge a raise in the minimum wage outside the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center April 29 in Washington, DC. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Romney, Paul break off from base on two issues
  • Democrats close or up in key Southern states
  • Rubio’s climate comments
  • What about Democrats and the Benghazi panel?

GOP cracks on minimum wage, voter ID: Two high-profile Republicans are splitting with the party on the minimum wage and voter identification requirements. Mitt Romney, who proposed tying the minimum wage to inflation during his 2012 presidential run, said, “I part company with many of the conservatives in my party on the issue of the minimum wage. I think we ought to raise it, because frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay. And I think communicating that is important to us.” Just one Republican — Bob Corker, R-Tenn. — voted with Democrats to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour last week. Meanwhile, another Republican who is likely to run for president, Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Republicans should back off their voter ID push because it is alienating black voters. “Everybody’s gone completely crazy on this voter ID thing,” Paul told the New York Times. “I think it’s wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it’s offending people.” These are always going to be difficult issues for party leaders. It’s easy for Romney to speak out; he’s not running for anything again (he says). And Paul doesn’t exactly swim in the GOP mainstream.

Tight Senate contests in Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky: A trio of NBC News/Marist polls released Monday show Democrats keeping Senate races in Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky competitive despite President Barack Obama’s low approval ratings in all three states. In Arkansas, a top Republican target this cycle, Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor holds an 11-point lead, 51 percent to 40 percent, over GOP Rep. Tom Cotton among registered voters. That’s despite just 34 percent of Arkansans approving of the president’s job performance. (Pryor also held a 10-point lead in a New York Times/Kaiser poll released last month.) The results also show Democrats tied, as they hope for upsets, in Georgia, where Michelle Nunn runs close to all five of her potential GOP opponents, and Kentucky, where Alison Lundergan Grimes trails Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell by a single point. The president’s approval rating in Kentucky is at 32 percent, while in Georgia it’s slightly better at 41 percent. The toughest matchup for Nunn appears to be businessman David Perdue, who leads the GOP primary race set for May 20 with 23 percent support. He’s followed by Rep. Jack Kingston at 18 percent, former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel at 14 percent and Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey each with 11 percent. The bottom line is the surveys, taken together, are a dose of good news for Democrats. For one, the negative feelings toward Mr. Obama in these three states do not appear to be causing a significant drag on the Democratic candidates. Republicans need to gain six seats to take control of the Senate, a goal that becomes much more difficult without Arkansas. And if Democrats can keep Georgia and Kentucky in play, it could force Republicans to spend resources in those states that might be needed elsewhere.

Down in the Bayou: The outlook is not as rosy for Sen. Mary Landrieu, where a new Louisiana poll by Southern Media & Opinion Research has the Democrat up just 36 percent to 35 percent over GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy. But more troubling for Landrieu is that she gets just a 39 percent positive rating and a 58 percent negative. Her negatives have increased 30 points over the course of a year and a half, according to the survey. Two other Republican contenders combined for 11 percent. Since there is no primary in the Bayou State, all of the candidates will be on the ballot in November. If no candidate clears 50 percent on Election Day, then the top two finishers will face off in a December runoff (aka the Louisiana Limbo), which, depending on the outcomes in other states, could also determine control of the Senate.

Rubio denies humans to blame for climate change: Marco Rubio, a possible 2016 contender, said on ABC’s This Week that he does not believe humans have contributed to climate change. “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy.” The L.A. Times points out, “A National Climate Assessment released by the White House last week found that Rubio’s home state of Florida is one of the most vulnerable to rising sea levels and changes in temperatures and storm patterns.” Rubio sees it as hokum. “Our climate is always changing,” he said. Meanwhile, he said he thinks he has the experience to be president. “I do,” he said. “I mean, but I think that’s true for multiple other people that would want to run.” It’s another piece of evidence of Rubio watching his right flank after his support of immigration reform — and that he’s still seriously considering running for president.

Benghazi — Do Democrats join the select committee? Democrats appear to still be undecided on whether they will join the newly formed select committee on Benghazi, although Xavier Becerra’s comments on Fox Sunday seem to indicate at least some Democratic participation is likely. Asked if Democrats would join, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House said, “If it’s a fair, open and balanced process then absolutely. But we don’t want to see reckless irresponsible handling of an affair that took the lives of four brave Americans.” Rep. Trey Gowdy, the former prosecutor leading the new committee, softened his “trial” remarks. Last week, he said of the Obama administration, “I can’t end a trial simply because the defense won’t cooperate.” But asked if he saw himself as the prosecutor and the Obama administration as the defense, Gowdy replied, “No sir. For 16 years I spoke in trial metaphors, and perhaps I need to get out of that habit.”

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1963, President John F. Kennedy sent federal troops into Birmingham, Alabama, following the bombings there and the riots that resulted. What was the name given to the troops’ mission? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia, and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to EmGusk (@EmGusk) and Graham H. Morris (@GrahamHMorris) for guessing Friday’s trivia correctly. The answer was: 2 – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Also a belated congratulations to Timothy Krzywisseau (@tkrzywic) for guessing Thursday’s trivia correctly.

LINE ITEMS

  • $474 million was spent on four failed Affordable Care Act exchanges in Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada and Maryland, Politico reports.

  • The Washington Post reports that Joni Ernst, a Republican candidate for Iowa’s open Senate seat, has surged in the polls following two very unique campaign ads.

  • Speaking to Tampa Bay area Democrats Saturday, former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist called Gov. Rick Scott a “fraud”. Scott is criticizing Crist for wanting to visit Cuba.

  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., is facing some tea party backlash of his own. He was “heckled and booed” at an event over the weekend, the Washington Post’s Jenna Portnoy, fresh off the Christie beat for the Newark Star-Ledger, reports.

  • A top spokesman for Speaker John Boehner is leaving to represent thousands of health care providers as head of communications at America’s Health Insurance Plans.

  • Mr. Obama congratulated Michael Sam, a former University of Missouri football player who, by being drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the NFL draft, becomes the first openly gay NFL player. Obama called Sam being drafted “an important step forward in our Nation’s journey.”

  • Arkansas issued its first marriage license to a same-sex couple over the weekend, after a judge overturned the state’s gay marriage ban on Friday.

  • Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana is publicly criticizing the National Football League for suing a New Orleans restaurant for trademark infringement.

  • Service Employees International Union, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and
    MoveOn.org have all launched campaigns to rally for midterm candidates who support the Affordable Care Act.

  • Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s approval rating slipped to 44 percent in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll out this weekend, while his three percentage point lead over state Sen. Jason Carter is within the margin of error.

  • In an op-ed in the New York Times, Sen. Rand Paul objects to Mr. Obama’s judicial nominee for the First Circuit Court of Appeals over his support for using drones against American citizens.

  • Thanks, in large part, to the pro bono efforts of the Alliance Defending Freedom and its 40-plus staff lawyers and $40 million budget, courts are now leaning more toward loosening restrictions on religion in public places.

  • 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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