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Secret memos show a campaign’s internal thinking

BY Domenico Montanaro, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  July 29, 2014 at 9:36 AM EDT
Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Michelle Nunn tours the Second Harvest food bank in Valdosta, Ga., on April 17. Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Michelle Nunn tours the Second Harvest food bank in Valdosta, Ga., on April 17. Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • The inside of a campaign doesn’t always look so great
  • VA reform looks on track for passage, but will border be dealt with?
  • U.S. continues to pressure Russia; more sanctions expected
  • The latest White House climate report

Nunn too smart: A detailed campaign strategy plan for Democrat Michelle Nunn, running in the key Georgia Senate race that could have implications for Senate control, showed a campaign worried their candidate was a “‘lightweight,’ ‘too liberal,’ not a ‘real Georgian,’” the conservative National Review reported Monday. The campaign document was posted online briefly back in December, according to National Review’s sources. Much of what’s in the memos are pretty standard political strategic fare, but they provide a rare glimpse for the public into the machinations of a political campaign, which are not always pretty. The most potentially damaging areas of the memo have to do with the campaign’s concern that the nonprofit she headed, the Points of Light Foundation, gave “grants to problematic entities” and “service awards to inmates, terrorists,” including a group accused of having links to Hamas. A fundraising plan made the calculation that “Michelle’s position on Israel will largely determine the level of support here” from Jewish donors. Campaigns are all about bringing forward the best package possible of a candidate. They present them as idealized versions of reality. They’re more like scripted dramas based on a true story than the unvarnished truth. There’s a reason for that, of course — it’s easier to win that way. It’s too easy to offend and not build alliances otherwise. This is not likely to determine the outcome of this race, but it’s the beginning of the test Nunn faces this summer and into the fall.

Congress – House GOP border bill details coming: Back in Washington, in the body Nunn and her Senate Republican opponent David Perdue are trying to get to, there are now just three days (counting today) for Congress to get a host of issues dealt with before lawmakers leave for their five-week recess Friday. Still on the table — the highway bill, the border bills and VA reform. Expect VA reform to be dealt with in the House Wednesday, the same day the full House will likely vote on Speaker John Boehner’s lawsuit against President Barack Obama. House Republicans are expected to unveil the details of their border bill Tuesday with a vote probably Thursday. (The outlines of that bill were released last week.) That doesn’t leave much time for something to get to the president’s desk before the agencies say they will run out of funding to deal with the unaccompanied children crisis at the border. The White House endorsed the Senate Democrats’ plan, which cut out $1 billion from the president’s original request and does not include eliminating the 2008 child-trafficking law that requires the children to go through the immigration court system thereby slowing deportations. But it’s not clear — even if something passes the Senate — that the two sides can agree on the 2008 law, especially before Friday. Don’t miss that Hillary Clinton told John Harwood, filling in on NPR, that changing the 2008 child-trafficking law “should be looked at as an overall package.” By the way, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., were on NewsHour Monday night after brokering their deal on the VA. They said they expect their bill to pass easily, but believe they will be back needing to ask for more money in the near future. “Frankly, between you and me, I think we are going to be back discussing this next year,” Sanders told NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff.

U.S. keeps up pressure on Russia: A day after revealing satellite imagery it says is evidence Russia fired rockets into Eastern Ukraine, the U.S. says it “has concluded that Russia violated a landmark arms control treaty by testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile,” the New York Times and other outlets report. Meanwhile, this comes as “the United States and European Union plan to impose new sanctions against Russia this week, including penalties targeting key sectors of the Russian economy, the White House said Monday,” AP reports. The Washington Post calls them “significant new sanctions … including against key economic sectors that the Europeans have resisted targeting in the past, the White House said Monday.”

Climate report: The White House released a report Tuesday that puts the cost to the United States of not curtailing carbon pollution at $150 billion a year. Each decade the U.S. fails to reduce greenhouse gases linked to climate change will make it 40 percent more expensive to achieve the administration’s target level, according to the report from Mr. Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. “We know way more than enough to justify acting today,” CEA chairman Jason Furman told reporters. The report coincides with the start of two days of public hearings held by the Environmental Protection Agency in four different cities — Washington, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Denver — on their proposed plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants. The administration is trying to play the long game on climate change, but with where this midterm election is playing out, the environmental moves are putting red-state Democrats in an uncomfortable spot. To that point, there will be plenty of political activity around the 11-hour hearings, including rallies sponsored by the United Mine Workers of America, Americans for Prosperity and the Environmental Defense Fund, among others. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, from coal-rich Kentucky, will hold a press conference in Washington with the “Congressional Coal Caucus” on Wednesday, while Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., will speak Tuesday before hosting a news conference with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the Senate Budget Committee holds a hearing Tuesday on how the costs of climate change affect the budget. Across the rotunda, officials from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission testify before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee about how the proposed regulations could compromise the nation’s electricity grid.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, which created NASA. What event almost ten months earlier prompted the creation of NASA? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to for guessing Monday’s trivia: Where did Johnson announce he was increasing the number of American troops in South Vietnam from 75,000 to 125,000? The answer was: During a news conference at the White House.

LINE ITEMS

  • President Obama travels to Kansas City, Missouri, Tuesday night and will give a speech on the economy Wednesday at the Uptown Theatre.

  • Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., will introduce legislation Tuesday to limit the NSA’s ability to collect phone data.

  • Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is no longer holding up State Department nominees, after the FAA lifted its short-lived ban on flights by American carriers into Tel Aviv. Cruz said in a statement, “Thankfully, in response to widespread criticism, the Administration has now reversed course and lifted its ban on flights to Ben Gurion International Airport.”

  • An unusual bipartisan pairing came together Monday to condemn the actions of Hamas. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., put out a resolution “denouncing the use of civilians as human shields by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in violation of international humanitarian law.”

  • The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Virginia district court ruling that struck down the commonwealth’s gay marriage ban in February. The 4th Circuit joins the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down a similar ban in Oklahoma earlier this month.

  • Later Monday, North Carolina’s attorney general announced that the state will stop defending its ban on same-sex marriage.

  • The Mayday “super PAC” initiated a $12 million advertising campaign Monday to elect Democrats and Republicans who want to curtail the influence of big donors.

  • The Washington Post’s Dan Balz examines Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander’s old school style of politics and the struggle he faces against the far right in his re-election bid.

  • When Kansas voters go to the polls for the August 5 primary, conservatives are likely to realize “they are not in Mississippi anymore,” Alexis Levinson writes in Roll Call.

  • Reproductive rights advocates are abandoning the term “pro-choice,” which they say is antiquated and overly polarized, for this election season in favor of more inclusive messages about “women’s health” and “economic security.”

  • Secret spending and a shared political consultant are behind the success of two unlikely Republican nominees — David Perdue in Georgia and Bruce Rauner in Illinois.

  • A Bluegrass Poll of the Kentucky Senate race has Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell up 2 points, 47 percent to 45 percent over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

  • Bill Clinton will head to Kentucky again to stump for Grimes in August.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama is also stepping into the campaign ring to help out fellow Democrats.

  • Natalie Tennant, the Democratic Senate candidate for West Virginia, shuts off the power at the White House in her first television ad during this campaign.

  • Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown is struggling in his campaign to unseat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

  • Following this weekend’s Virginia Senate debate, Sen. Mark Warner and Republican challenger Ed Gillespie spoke with Judy Woodruff individually.

  • Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s group, Everytown for Gun Safety, will run multiple versions of an ad calling for Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte, Jeff Flake and Dean Heller to back Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s gun legislation.

  • If Mr. Obama chooses the executive action route to immigration reform, there is little Republicans will be able to do to stop him.

  • Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Texas, saved a boy choking on a chicken nugget during his flight back to Texas Friday.

  • Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, was tired of seeing blank walls on the way to his office, so he made it his mission to spruce up the Dirksen Senate building with images of Washington.

  • President Richard Nixon’s Oval Office tapes reveal Tricky Dick’s fascination with the mating habits of pandas.

  • 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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