• Credit: Architect of the Capitol(NEW YORK) -- Democrats are celebrating another state legislative victory, with Patty Schachtner’s win Tuesday in a Wisconsin State Senate race becoming the 34th Democratic gain since President Trump was inaugurated last January.In the same time frame, Republicans have flipped just four state legislative districts from Democratic to Republican control.A medical examiner from St. Croix County, Wisconsin, Schachtner defeated Republican Adam Jarchow, a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, in a district that's been under Republican control for close to two decades.President Trump won District 10, which runs along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, by 17 points in the 2016 presidential election, and Schachter’s victory is generating anxiety among Republicans as the 2018 midterm elections grow closer.Democrats have flipped state legislative districts in nine different states since Trump’s inauguration, some in deep red states, including Oklahoma and Georgia, but their biggest gains came last November in Virginia, where they flipped 15 seats and nearly took control of the state House of Delegates.Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s Republican governor, took notice of Tuesday night’s result, urging his party to view it as a “wake up call” that they are not communicating their policies effectively to voters.Another powerful Wisconsin Republican, House Speaker Paul Ryan, told reporters Wednesday that the party should learn from the loss.“Typically we've held this seat, and we lost this seat last night. So yeah I think we should pay attention to it,” Ryan said.The warnings from Ryan and Walker come as Democrats are mounting attempts to take back both the House and Senate in Washington in November, a goal they're unlikely to meet if they can't make gains in state districts similar to the one Schachtner was able to win Tuesday night.Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, who has seen Democratic hopes bolstered in recent months by victories in Virginia, Alabama, and state legislative districts in Oklahoma and Washington state, tied the Republican loss to President Trump.“These results continue the trend we saw in 2017: Democrats are winning across the country. Voters are flat-out rejecting the Trump-GOP agenda that gives another giant tax cut to the top 1% and wealthy corporations, and they know that the Democratic Party is fighting for working families like theirs,” Perez said in a statement Wednesday.Despite the victories, Republicans focused on state legislatures are urging caution, and point to the massive gains the party has made in the past ten years nationwide as evidence that what Democrats are touting as a “trend” is not as widespread as they make it seem.“Right now Republicans are playing deep on Democrat's turf after picking up 1,000 seats during the previous decade. And so you're naturally going to have in the first-term election with a new president, you're going to have a regression to the mean from those all-time historic highs,” said Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee.“The question then becomes how much of that is going to be executed in a way that has an impact on the overall environment. Is that going to lead to flipping chambers, is that going to lead to a change in the overall environment?” Walter added.As 2018 nears, and President Trump’s role in helping Republicans win at the state and federal levels remains unclear, there is an acknowledgement that--- while he has proven he can turn out Republicans-- Trump’s appeal could be a dangerous double-edged sword.“I think that Trump's impact on the overall environment is that he is one of the greatest motivators in the history of American politics,” Walter said, “But obviously the people that don't agree with his policy proposals or don't agree with him personally or just happen not to
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  • Harry E. Walker/MCT via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Democratic operative Jim Messina, who headed up former President Obama’s successful 2012 re-election campaign, says he has met with representatives of 16 potential Democratic candidates who want to run against President Donald Trump. But he told ABC News' Powerhouse Politics co-host Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl, even more people want to throw their hat in the ring.“The good news for Democrats is there are 24 people thinking they could run for president. That’s a historic bench.”And he’s excited about the Oprah Winfrey buzz.“There’s a whole bunch of people trying to encourage her to run.”Messina was coy with the co-host, ABC News' Political Director Rick Klein, about specific candidates, but not about the questions he asks.“I ask them two questions. Number one, do you want to put your family through hell? And number two, what is your vision for the future?”Messina runs a strategic consulting group that advises political candidates and businesses here in the U.S. and all over the world.Messina admits he is obsessed with voters that voted for Obama and then Trump. His group just finished a long-term study analyzing those voters in battleground states. And he’s found a similar theme to the mantra Bill Clinton’s adviser James Carville coined in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid.”“The economy is the driver of almost every one of those votes. They [Obama and Trump voters] care about that more than anything else. And their biggest worry is the president’s tweets. And his ongoing back and forth. They think it distracts him from the kind of economic focus they want. Voters want an economic focus.”And Messina would get some late-night phone calls when he was running Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.“I got a call every 2-3 weeks in the middle of the night from this incredibly brilliant political operative named Bill Clinton. And President Clinton would say to me in his creative voice, ‘Jim, the only thing that matters is winning the economic argument about the future.’ And that is really true with these voters.”But with the strong economy and the stock market at an all-time high, wouldn’t that bode well for President Trump and spell trouble for Democrats?“I think Trump is a different case because he’s so divisive. Because he’s shown the inability to stick to his own message and talk about what he’s doing.”And Democrats need to win over independent voters. Despite a favorable map for Republicans, Messina thinks the large number of over 30 House Republicans not running for re-election means a chance for Democrats when there’s no incumbent.“These retirements really, really matter.”And keep your eye on the state governor races. Messina points to the Democratic victory in Virginia of Ralph Northam and feels good about Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida. But he cautions, “We’re Democrats, so we usually find a way to blow it. Certainly that was true in the last presidential election.”But he does give Trump credit for his latest move of cancelling his trip to the United Kingdom, where he would have met with historic protests, according to Messina who is consulting Britain’s Conservative Party.“President Trump has become the most divisive figure in the world.”“His domination in the media coverage here is true around the world as well. The week before the general election in the U.K. last year, President Trump was discussed on social media more than the two major candidates the week before their national election.”And Messina says there’s only one other place where Trump is more unpopular than London.“President Trump is about as popular in Mexico as charging more for beer," he said.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seemed to blame President Trump Wednesday for the delay in reaching a bipartisan deal to protect those who benefit from DACA."I'm looking for something President Trump supports," McConnell told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "He's not yet indicated what measure he's willing to sign.""As soon as he figures out what he is for," McConnell added, "then I will be convinced we're not just spinning our wheels but actually dealing with a bill that can become law."McConnell said that as far as a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government funded goes, "I'm certainly going to take up what the House sends us," insisting that he believes that a House-approved CR would have a good chance of passing the Senate.McConnell's comments come as President Trump and other Republicans have said that if the government is shutdown over the dispute, blame will fall on Democrats. House Speaker Paul Ryan, on Wednesday, admonished Democrats for withholding their votes on a continuing resolution, calling it "baffling to me that Democrats would be willing to block funding for our military over unrelated issues."On the same subject, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer there remains strong Democratic support to oppose a continuing resolution. Republicans are in charge, Schumer said, and blame for a government shutdown would fall on them."We hope to avoid it," Schumer said Wednesday. "We're going to do everything we can to avoid it, we hope we will. But if we don't, it's going to fall on their backs."Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urged her colleagues to vote against the GOP spending bill. Senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., continue to push their bipartisan deal on DACA. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, however, said Wednesday that deal "fell short of what [President Trump] was looking for."
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  • Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Trump's son, Eric, is dismissing accusations from some lawmakers and others of racism based on comments he reportedly made about African nations as "s---hole countries" during an immigration meeting with lawmakers last week."My father sees one color, green," Trump said in an interview Wednesday on Fox and Friends."That is all he cares about, he cares about the economy. He does not see race.""He is least racist person I ever met in my entire life," Trump added.Trump cited gains in the economy for African Americans as evidence his father is not racist and accused the media of covering the figures up."They will never report that African-American unemployment is the lowest it ever been," Trump said. "And they’ll go out and will call him racist. It’s very sad, it’s a race to the bottom. They stoop very, very low."The White House has similarly spent a week pushing back on claims the president is a bigot, after participants in a Thursday immigration meeting said Trump uttered a vulgar phrase about African nations and expressed preference for accepting immigrants from countries such as Norway."Frankly I think if the critics of the president were who he said he was, why did NBC give him a show for a decade on TV?" press secretary Sarah Sanders asked reporters on Tuesday. "Why did Chuck Schumer and all of his colleagues come and beg Donald Trump for money?" Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a searing speech on the Senate floor Wednesday morning, Sen. Jeff Flake denounced President Donald Trump for his sustained attacks against the news media, going so far as to compare his rhetoric to that of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.In Flake's remarks Wednesday, he pointed to Stalin, the Soviet Union's 30-year dictator as a seeming inspiration for Trump's attacks against the press, singling out a phrase that each used to refer to their interpreted opposition."It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies," Flake said. "It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase 'enemy of the people,' that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of 'annihilating such individuals' who disagreed with the supreme leader."Flake, long an outspoken critic of the president, said his speech coincides with the planned date of Trump's "Fake News Awards," which he announced in a Twitter post at the beginning of the month. Already delayed once, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called such a ceremony a "potential event" Tuesday and did not provide details about it when asked at the day's press briefing.“2017 was a year which saw the truth – objective, empirical, evidence-based truth – more battered and abused than any other in the history of our country, at the hands of the most powerful figure in our government, said Flake, R-Ariz., adding, "2018 must be the year in which the truth takes a stand against power that would weaken it."Last February, Trump drew widespread condemnation when he tweeted that the "FAKE NEWS media" was not his enemy, but rather "the enemy of the American people," a charge his critics felt took his disdain for coverage of his administration beyond his usual attacks.Flake characterized the president's attacks as "shameful" and "repulsive" Wednesday and accused him of inspiring autocratic leaders throughout the world — citing denials of news reports by heads-of-state in Syria, the Philippines, Venezuela, Myanmar and Singapore."This feedback loop is disgraceful, Mr. President," said Flake, addressing Trump. "Not only has the past year seen an American president borrow despotic language to refer to the free press, but it seems he has in turn inspired dictators and authoritarians with his own language. This is reprehensible."The speech was the senator's second such address targeting Trump from the Senate floor in the last three months.In October, Flake passionately decried what he called the "regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals" under the president as he announced that he would not seek re-election in 2018. An emotional Flake said at the time: "We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country," including "the flagrant disregard for truth and decency."The senator concluded his speech Wednesday by calling on his Senate colleagues -- whom he acknowledged have all likely faced news coverage they "felt was jaded or unfair" — to "stop excusing, ignoring — or worse, endorsing — these attacks on the truth.""For if we compromise the truth for the sake of our politics, we are lost," he said. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain has used the press to take aim at President Donald Trump's attacks on the media.The Republican senator from Arizona penned an op-ed for The Washington Post, condemning what he views as Trump's attempts to discredit the free press.The piece, which was published Tuesday night, was timed to coincide with the president's previously disclosed plans to hold his "Fake News Awards" on Wednesday, though it is unclear if those alleged awards will take place Wednesday or ever.McCain specifically mentioned Trump's use of the term "fake news" and the mock awards he has touted."Whether Trump knows it or not, these efforts are being closely watched by foreign leaders who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy," McCain wrote.McCain cited statistics about violence against journalists and the 262 cases of reporters being imprisoned worldwide, as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists."While administration officials often condemn violence against reporters abroad, Trump continues his unrelenting attacks on the integrity of American journalists and news outlets. This has provided cover for repressive regimes to follow suit," he wrote.McCain also noted that by using and legitimizing the term "fake news," it allows repressive governments in other countries to do the same, making the work for activists in those countries more difficult."Without strong leadership in the White House, Congress must commit to protecting independent journalism, preserving an open and free media environment, and defending the fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression," McCain wrote.He argued that journalists must be able to do their jobs freely. "Only truth and transparency can guarantee freedom," he said.On Jan. 7, Trump tweeted that "The Fake News Awards" would be "presented to the losers" Wednesday.When asked about the timing of the alleged awards during the daily press briefing on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said she would keep the media "posted on any details around that potential event and what that would look like."Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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