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Hullabaloo


Monday, June 26, 2017

 
My way or the highway

by digby



























2018 is going to be a real thrill. The bully in chief won by raking down 16 other Republicans in a primary and he's going to do the same to members of the party who buck his agenda. Or that seems to be the plan anyway:
A new campaign by top White House allies targeting the GOP’s most vulnerable senator over health care sends a loud message to those resistant to the Trump agenda: We’re coming after you.

America First Policies, a White House-backed outside group led by the president’s top campaign advisers, has launched a $1 million attack against Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, who on Friday announced that he opposed the Senate’s recently unveiled Obamacare repeal plan.


That included a Twitter and digital ad campaign targeting the senator, including a video that accuses him of “standing with” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a reviled figure in conservative circles.

“Unacceptable,” the video says. “If you’re opposed to this bill, we’re opposed to you.”

America First Policies is set to expand its campaign early this week with TV ads that will go after the Nevada senator.

The offensive aims both to punish Heller and to sway his vote, and it is a stunning act of political retaliation against a member of the president’s own party — one who faces a perilous path to reelection in 2018. Senior Republicans, many of whom are deeply worried about Heller’s political standing and increasingly nervous about the midterms, were shocked and spent the weekend measuring the possible fallout.

Those close to the White House say the attack is an outgrowth of President Donald Trump’s mounting frustration over his stymied legislative agenda and anger at Capitol Hill Republicans whom he sees as unhelpful.

In a Saturday tweet, Trump hinted at his displeasure after multiple senators expressed concerns with the bill: “I cannot imagine that these very fine Republican Senators would allow the American people to suffer a broken ObamaCare any longer!”

By targeting Heller, America First Policies is telegraphing to recalcitrant Republican lawmakers — even those trying to navigate treacherous political waters at home — that they will be punished if they don’t go along with the Trump agenda. Other Republicans could soon face similar attacks.

Brian Walsh, president of America First Policies, said after Heller’s Friday news conference that the group’s senior leadership — including former Republican National Committee chief of staff Katie Walsh, Trump fundraiser Tommy Hicks, and Nick Ayers, a longtime top strategist for Vice President Mike Pence — determined that “it was time to make a strong statement."

“For the greater part of a decade the GOP has promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, taken dozens of votes to do so, now, with the ability to keep that promise on the horizon, legislators are wavering,” Walsh said. “Sen. Heller's decision to walk away is unacceptable and sends the wrong message to the rest of the senators who are still working to get to ‘yes.’”

Within 90 minutes of Heller’s announcement, the group had mobilized. Determined not to let the news fade on a summer Friday afternoon, Brad Parscale, the digital director on Trump’s presidential campaign who now works with America First Policies, directed an anti-Heller Twitter offensive aimed at ginning up anger among Trump supporters. Spending just over $100,000, the organization encouraged people to tweet at Heller and his staffers, created algorithms that tied Heller with Pelosi, and promoted a “HellerVotesYes” hashtag.


For America First Policies, the move represented something of an about-face. During the House health care debate this spring, White House officials said the group was too passive and should have pressured Republicans who opposed the repeal effort. As Congress entered the summer months, the group promised a more muscular effort to promote the president’s agenda.

The anti-Heller move, however, rankled allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who keeps a close eye on his party’s 2018 plans and is deeply sensitive to attacks on his members. Several McConnell political advisers said they received no warning and vented that it was a serious misstep, especially with the party holding just a two-seat majority.

It sounds like they've got a big fight on their hands. Hooray for the good guys, right?

Wrong:

Heller’s team was also blindsided and infuriated by the barrage, said one adviser to the Nevada senator. But, fearful of further antagonizing the White House, they refrained from hitting back.

I will still be surprised if the moderates are the ones to stop this atrocity. Far more likely to be the wingnuts, who are being given cover by the Koch brothers.

Who knows? Maybe they'll push too hard and a whole group of "moderates" will fall out. But that would be a real change of pace for the Republican Party. None of the so-called moderates have ever bucked the leadership.