Maybe it's time for Republicans to start rethinking their approach to Donald Trump.
The Donald has a convincing lead over former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — in Florida — according to a gobsmacking new St. Pete Polls survey.
Yeah, it's one poll, and I'm not terribly sure about the efficacy of a "web-based email" survey. But this much is clear: The more Trump looks like a legitimate threat in the GOP primary, the more he becomes just that. Enough of the party detests Trump that it remains incredibly unlikely that he could actually win the GOP nomination. But the clearer danger, at least for now, is that he'll have standing to hijack the primary process of a party he only recently joined.
Already, Trump has earned himself a leading role at the first Republican debate, and he'll have enough money to compete throughout the primary process — whether it's raised or dispensed from his personal fortune. And even if the field winnows quickly, allowing a few candidates to consolidate the anti-Trump vote, the prospects for him winning a few states — and certainly delegates from states where they awarded on a proportional basis — means that the prospects for Trump becoming a factor at the Republican nominating convention next year look a lot stronger than they did a few weeks ago.
The trouble for the veteran politicians in the Republican race is there's no good playbook for dealing with Trump. They thought he would have combusted on his own by now. When that didn't happen, Bush, Rick Perry, and some of the others moved from ignoring Trump to castigating him for outlandish and offensive remarks. None of it has arrested his ascent. It seems that establishment Republicans are bad anti-Trump messengers at a time when his supporters are the very people who most hate GOP insiders. That is, whatever makes him look less like a traditional GOP primary candidate reinforces his brand as an outsider and teller of inconvenient truths.
"This is not 2012, and Donald Trump is not Michele Bachmann. He has done some things that would have blown up other candidates, and yet his numbers keep growing," former Florida Rep. Joe Scarborough said on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Thursday. "The next question is what dynamic changes things? What can Donald Trump do to himself to actually start losing numbers? I don’t see what it is right now."
The answer seems obvious: Find conservatives outside the political establishment — perhaps outside of politics altogether — to start tearing him down. It won't work coming from the Florida guys who have fallen behind Trump in their own home state.
Here are 9 more things you should know to start the day.
1) The good news for Bush: Maybe endorsements do matter
Over time, a conventional wisdom has developed that holds that political endorsements have really limited value. And while that may be true both in general elections and when applied to most individual endorsements, one of my favorite political science professors argues in the Upshot that they're a great bellwether in the aggregate. Here's what UCLA's Lynn Vavreck has to say about them and why they augur well for the early leader in endorsements:
How powerful is this cycle of picking, proclaiming and promoting? Since 1980, the single best predictor of a party’s nominee is the number of endorsements from party elites — elected officials and prominent past party leaders — in the months before primaries begin, according to The Party Decides, a 2008 book by Marty Cohen, David Karol, Hans Noel and John Zaller. ...
There are two important things to know about the state of 2016 Republican endorsements today: Very few party leaders have endorsed a candidate, but among those who have, most have endorsed Jeb Bush. This combination tells us that elites are reluctant to jump on board, but also that Mr. Bush is looking like a strong contender. However, he is probably in a weaker position than Mr. Romney was at a similar point four years ago
2) The Clinton email box: Damned if they're released quickly, damned if they're fully vetted
Richard Leon, the federal judge who demanded that the State Department start rolling out Hillary Clinton's emails on a monthly basis, is furious at the agency's handling of documents, as Politico's Rachael Bade reports.
"Now, any person should be able to review that in one day — one day," the judge said, examining a request for just over 60 emails. "Even the least ambitious bureaucrat could do this."
Leon articulated what has been a major concern of State Department critics who contend that the agency is dragging out responses to FOIA requests to protect Clinton, who served as secretary of state during Obama’s first term. The judge’s complaints echoed those of Hill Republicans, who have accused the agency of slow-walking document requests in its Benghazi investigation to protect Clinton. …
One of them, Clinton’s former spokesman, Philippe Reines, for example, on Tuesday turned over 20 boxes of work-related emails taken in part from a personal email account, calling into question the extent to which top aides to the former secretary of state also engaged in controversial email practices.
Given that Leon is pushing the department to move faster at a time when the inspector general for the intelligence community is seeking Justice Department help in ensuring that all relevant agencies get to vet Clinton's emails for sensitive or classified information, it's easy to see that the department, which has become a proxy in the political fight over Clinton's communications, has few good options to avoid criticism for the pace of its disclosures. State either looks like it's stonewalling or rushing to get out information that might need more scrubbing for classified information.
Bade also picked out a storyline that will soon be emergent: Clinton's aides used personal email accounts for some work-related communications. Bloomberg's reporting shows that they at times relied on BlackBerry's instant messaging service, which may not keep records of text messages. Buckle up — this is going to be a long ride.
VIDEO: Hillary Clinton addresses her e-mail practices
3) Clinton intervention in UBS case coincided with rise in contributions
The Wall Street Journal investigative team of James V. Grimaldi and Rebecca Ballhaus serves up a report on Clinton's work on behalf of UBS at a time when its promise to keep clients' information private came in conflict with a Justice Department case against the bank.
Within months, Mrs. Clinton announced a tentative legal settlement—an unusual intervention by the top U.S. diplomat. UBS ultimately turned over information on 4,450 accounts, a fraction of the 52,000 sought by the IRS, an outcome that drew criticism from some lawmakers who wanted a more extensive crackdown.
From that point on, UBS’s engagement with the Clinton family’s charitable organization increased. Total donations by UBS to the Clinton Foundation grew from less than $60,000 through 2008 to a cumulative total of about $600,000 by the end of 2014, according the foundation and the bank.
4) Surprise: Top donors to Clinton's treasury weren't banks
With Vox's Soo Oh leading the data dive, we looked into which employers accounted for the most money in contributions to Hillary Clinton's campaign in the fundraising quarter that ended June 30. She collected $46 million from a wide range of sources, led by federal workers and a Florida law firm, Morgan & Morgan. The big investment banks were on her top 20 list but didn't feature all that prominently in the overall picture. Here's the story, and an easy-to-use table:
5) Koch brothers invest in data to help GOP causes
The Koch brothers are worried about the use of sophisticated data-gathering and analysis by Democrats. Their answer, as the Washington Post's Matea Gold details, is to throw a lot of money into replicating President Barack Obama's data operation so they can build their political clout on the ground.
They want to "create a permanent ground force powered by a vast trove of data, replicating the kind of infrastructure that helped President Obama win reelection," Gold reports. "Already, roughly 1,000 full-time staffers are working for Koch network organizations such as AFP, Concerned Veterans for America and the Libre Initiative — more than double the number four years ago, according to officials."
6) The fight over Planned Parenthood could lead to another shutdown
Republican leaders have scheduled a show vote next week on a proposal to defund Planned Parenthood, a reaction to conservative outrage over a series of videos that show the organization's workers talking about the price of fetal tissue. The videos have caused enough of a backlash that Clinton, a longtime supporter of the group, called them "disturbing" in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader this week. While Planned Parenthood still has the backing of most Democrats, it's now become the focal point of Sen. Ted Cruz's latest threat to shut down the government, as Politico's Burgess Everett reports.
With Democrats vowing to block the measure, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) won’t be able to get the 60 votes he needs to advance the bill next week, a result that likely won’t satisfy a conservative base itching for confrontation over abortion.
In a Wednesday interview, Cruz said the GOP should go as hard as it can to block funding for Planned Parenthood, including the same strategy he tried to use to defund Obamacare in 2013: force the issue by blocking funding in a government spending bill that must pass by Sept. 30.
Asked whether he would support such a maneuver again, Cruz replied: "I would support any and all legislative efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. We do not need a legislative show-vote."
The issue is that Planned Parenthood, as one of the nation's most prominent providers of a range of family planning services for women, is funded in part by federal grants. That imperils the appropriations bills that fund the government, because they are the best vehicle for any attempt to block money from going to the group.
Vox's Sarah Kliff has a great explainer on the Planned Parenthood videos.
7) Backlash against anti-gay comments hits NJ Rep. in the wallet
Congressman Scott Garrett has been the subject of intense pressure from colleagues who are angry that he's not using his post as an influential subcommittee chairman overseeing Wall Street to raise money for the party's candidates. When he was taken to task over it at a recent meeting, he replied that he didn't want to give money to the House Republicans' campaign arm because the National Republican Congressional Committee backs gay candidates. Now that's blowing up in his face, according to Bloomberg.
Earlier this month, in what financial lobbyists said was a sign of things to come, the Big 4 accounting firms and their trade association abruptly canceled a fundraising event for the New Jersey Republican. In addition, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has decided to stop making political action committee donations to Garrett, people familiar with the matter said.
Other firms are likely to follow suit, and some in the industry have debated whether to take a more drastic step and ask for their contributions back from Garrett, said the people, who asked for anonymity so as to not antagonize a lawmaker who oversees their industry.
It's kind of a double-whammy for Garrett in that the banks look good to their employees and clients for withholding money based on his antipathy toward gay candidates, and they get to show Republican leaders that they side with them over Garrett on the issue of where his campaign money goes — or doesn't go. That could imperil his ability to hold on to his subcommittee gavel, or advance on the committee, in the future. If Republican leaders and big banks want to marginalize him — and all signs are that they do — they have an opportunity to do it now.
8) Pennsylvania Rep. Chaka Fattah indicted on corruption-related charges
You've got to read the whole thing to get a full feel for the scope of corruption schemes the government alleges that veteran Philadelphia Democrat Chaka Fattah engaged in. The Philadelphia Inquirer has the story:
The 11-term Democratic congressman, who holds a seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee, was charged in a 29-count racketeering conspiracy indictment that alleges he channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay off an illegal $1 million campaign loan as well as the college debts of son Chaka "Chip" Fattah Jr.
In addition, federal authorities said, Fattah, 58, accepted bribes including stacks of cash, payments toward a Poconos vacation home, and college tuition for an au pair from a lobbyist seeking his help to land an ambassadorship with the Obama White House.
In a juicy twist, Fattah's the top Democrat on the subcommittee that oversees funding for the Justice Department — at least he was until he temporarily stepped aside after the indictment.
9) Rick Perry, populist Wall Street regulator
Yeah, you read that right. As Perry seeks traction in the Republican primary, he rolled out a series of Wall Street reform plans Wednesday that won high praise from Vox's Matthew Yglesias.
His proposals are aimed, overwhelmingly, at reducing the amount of debt in the financial system both by regulating big banks and by reducing the tendency of federal programs to encourage middle-class households to borrow heavily to buy houses. The total impact would be a financial system that is considerably less fragile, albeit one in which it is also easier for financial firms to make a quick buck by pulling the wool over consumers' eyes.