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The tea party may have been defeated in primaries, but it drives the Republican agenda

BY Domenico Montanaro, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  August 13, 2014 at 9:09 AM EST
Salvadorian immigrant Stefany Marjorie, 8, watches as a U.S. Border Patrol agent records family information on July 24 in Mission, Texas. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Salvadorian immigrant Stefany Marjorie, 8, watches as a U.S. Border Patrol agent records family information on July 24 in Mission, Texas. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Border crisis is latest example of GOP watching its right flank
  • ‘Amnesty’ becoming a 2014 issue
  • Clinton-Obama to hug it out on Martha’s Vineyard
  • Obama calls Missouri shooting ‘heartbreaking,’ urges calm
  • Races set in Conn., Minn., Wis.

The tea party still wields power where it counts: It’s pretty safe to say that if Republicans approached this election cycle the way they did in 2010 and 2012 and didn’t intervene in primaries to beat back tea party opponents, there would be more establishment losses. Sens. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, for example, won their primaries last week with less than 50 percent of the vote. How do you think those races might have turned out in the last two cycles? But we’ve noted before that in many ways the tea party has already won. They may not be having success winning primaries this year, but they are, in large measure, driving the issue agenda on the trail and the legislative agenda on Capitol Hill. The New York Times notes that the latest example of this is over the unaccompanied children at the border: “The Republican Party pumped tens of millions of dollars into defeating Tea Party candidates in the midterm primary season, exerted pressure to cut off funding to conservative Tea Party-affiliated political action committees, and even turned to Democrats to pass crucial laws and neutralize conservative rebels. Mr. Boehner said he went along with a government shutdown in October to show his fractious conference the political cost of intransigence. Then, with just hours remaining in the summer legislative session, the rebels stormed back — and on the issue where Republican elders believe they have wrought the most political damage. That has given the Obama administration new ammunition as it presses toward executive actions that Republicans say would precipitate a constitutional crisis and amount to abuse of presidential power.”

Nothing motivates Republicans quite like ‘amnesty’: There have been plenty of examples of Republicans using the issue in primaries and against Democratic opponents — from Kentucky to Alaska, of all places. Republicans in Arkansas, Michigan and New Hampshire have been running ads against their Democratic opponents accusing them of supporting “amnesty.” One thing continues to be clear: nothing motivates the GOP base quite like “amnesty.” By the way, we crunched the numbers of where the 37,000 unaccompanied children who have been sent to holding facilities in various states are being sent, and it turns out nearly two-thirds of them, about 24,000, have been sent to states President Barack Obama won in 2012. Could that tell something about where they’re welcome and where they’re not?

Clinton backs down from Obama criticism: Speaking of political civil wars, get ready to see a whole lot more of this dance over the next two years. After Hillary Clinton appeared to take a direct shot at President Obama’s foreign policy in an interview with The Atlantic, Obama World began pushing back. Obama political adviser David Axelrod tweeted, “Just to clarify: ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ means stuff like occupying Iraq in the first place, which was a tragically bad decision.” The issue of Iraq split the two Democratic rivals in 2008, and Clinton’s vote for the war was the sharpest dividing line that helped Obama draw a distinction with her and propel him to the nomination. All that could have made for an awkward meeting Wednesday night in Martha’s Vineyard, when the president and his former secretary of state are slated to meet at a party at the home of Vernon Jordan, a former Bill Clinton adviser. Trying to put the flames out ahead of that meeting, Clinton called Obama Tuesday to smooth things over. “Earlier today, the Secretary called President Obama to make sure he knows that nothing she said was an attempt to attack him, his policies or his leadership,” Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement. “Secretary Clinton has at every step of the way touted the significant achievements of his presidency, which she is honored to have been part of as his secretary of state. While they’ve had honest differences on some issues, including aspects of the wicked challenge Syria presents, she has explained those differences in her book and at many points since then. Some are now choosing to hype those differences but they do not eclipse their broad agreement on most issues. Like any two friends who have to deal with the public eye, she looks forward to hugging it out when she they see each other tomorrow night.”

Obama weighs in on Missouri shooting: The situation in Ferguson, Mo., where there have been days of outrage since police shot and killed a black teenager, appears to not be under control yet. There was another police shooting in a chaotic scene in which police said a man pulled a handgun on an officer, and the FAA has imposed a no-fly zone after a helicopter was shot at. On Tuesday, President Obama urged calm, making his first public comments since Brown’s shooting. He called Brown’s death “heartbreaking,” but called for “understanding.” “I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions,” Obama said in a statement, “but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding. We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.” The Department of Justice continues to monitor and is running a concurrent investigation of the shooting.

2014 – About last night: There were elections in three states Tuesday — Connecticut, Minnesota and Wisconsin. In Connecticut, Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy ran unopposed, but will now face off against Republican former ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley (no relation to the former House speaker). Foley was expected to easily win Tuesday’s contest, and will now enter into one of the most competitive races for governor this year… In Wisconsin, the governor’s race is now set between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke. With the retirement of Wisconsin Rep. Tom Petri, there was a fairly close four-way fight to pick up the Republican nomination for Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District, but conservative state senator Glenn Grothman was able to come up with the win… In Minnesota, Mike McFadden, the CEO of an investment banking firm, easily won in the Republican primary, and will now face incumbent Democratic Sen. Al Franken in November. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is also now set to battle local county commissioner, Jeff Johnson, to keep his seat. Former Minnesota House member and talk radio host Tom Emmer will face Joe Perske, the Democratic Mayor of Sartell, Minn., in the race to replace retiring Rep. Michele Bachmann. Overall last night, again no incumbents lost. In House races, they went 19-for-19 in the three states.

‘Dude,’ where’s my Senate seat? With Democratic Sen. John Walsh dropping out of the Montana Senate race in light of a plagiarism scandal, a petition has gained steam to try and get actor Jeff Bridges to run. The petition gained more than 1,000 signatures over the weekend on change.org. Reality check, though: No one thinks this is likely. Democrats don’t appear to be recruiting Bridges — even though they’d be thrilled if he ran, considering where the race stands at this point. For his part, Bridges seems mildly entertained by the notion more than anything else. He said his wife told him, “Don’t even think about it.” But don’t start mixing those White Russians…

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1950, President Harry Truman gave military aid to the Vietnamese regime of Bao-Dai. How many years later did the U.S. send troops into Vietnam? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. No one guessed Tuesday’s trivia: What did Eisenhower increase the minimum wage to? The answer was: $1/hour.

LINE ITEMS

  • The U.S. has sent an additional 130 advisers to northern Iraq to help prepare the evacuation of Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar.

  • Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., used government money to pay for a private plane to take her to a campaign fundraiser, CNN reports. Landrieu’s campaign spokesperson says the campaign has reimbursed her Senate office for the cost of the flight since discovering what it called a billing error.

  • Kentucky Democrats are urging the president of the state’s coal association to press for Sen. Mitch McConnell’s wife, former labor secretary Elaine Chao, to step down from the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which is pouring $50 million into the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” initiative.

  • After a string of court victories for same-sex marriage advocates, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District may deal them a loss, with media coverage suggesting that the two GOP-appointed judges on the three judge panel were skeptical of the unconstitutionality of same-sex marriage bans during oral arguments. But far from a setback, the loss could beckon a final showdown before the Supreme Court.

  • Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., wants Mr. Obama to seek congressional approval for airstrikes in Iraq.

  • The White House on Wednesday will announce a partial reversal of its ban on registered lobbyists serving in government, specifically on them serving on advisory boards and commissions, after a judge ruled against the administration.

  • Although there is support for a campus safety bill in both chambers of Congress, the current proposed legislation has a few conditions that will likely make it impossible to pass.

  • Iowa GOP nominee Joni Ernst, who just six months ago was a second-tier Senate candidate, is running on her “farm girl charm” personality against the more policy-oriented Bruce Braley.

  • In spite of the ongoing fraud case against him, Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., is still running for re-election, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is not letting people forget the charges against Grimm in a new ad.

  • The House campaign committee’s independent expenditure air war has begun.

  • Arizona Republican Martha McSally’s new ad this week touts her military record. The spot references McSally’s fight with the Pentagon over female officers being forced to wear Muslim garb while serving in Saudi Arabia.

  • Michigan is losing a collective 134 hours of service, and consequent seniority, next year when four senior members of its delegation retire.

  • Next month is the deadline for 300,000 people who bought subsidized health insurance under the Affordable Care Act to prove that they are U.S. citizens if they don’t want to lose that insurance.

  • When Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul thinks of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, one word comes to mind: “Bridges.”

  • In 20 separate legal battles, Christie’s administration is fighting public record requests to turn over documents like Christie’s out-of-state travel receipts or records about the departure of staffers after the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. It’s likely the largest backup in public records requests since the state’s public record law took effect in 2002.

  • From Maine on Tuesday, Christie heads to the deep south Wednesday to campaign for Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant.

  • The team challenging Chris McDaniel’s runoff loss to GOP Sen. Thad Cochran has listed its lead lawyer and his wife as irregular votes that should be tossed out.

  • Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is giving advice to the South Carolina Democratic party and its top donors to boost Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen.

  • 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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