Power Up: Beto-mania leaves some Texas Democrats feeling jilted

TGIF, PEOPLE! And please join me in welcoming the newest member of the Power Up team whose byline you’ll be seeing starting on Tuesday: Brent Griffiths 👏 Tips, comments, recipes? Reach out and sign up. 

BREAKING OVERNIGHT: “Forty-nine people are dead and more than 20 are seriously injured after a heavily armed gunman clad in military-style gear opened fire during prayers at a mosque in the center of Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday,” The Post’s Isaac Stanley-Decker reports.

  • “A second mosque was also targeted in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a well-planned ‘terrorist attack’ making for ‘one of New Zealand’s darkest days.’… Portions of the ghastly attack at the downtown mosque were broadcast live on social media.
  • “Before the attack, someone with apparently advance knowledge of unfolding events posted links on Twitter and the message board 8chan to a manifesto, as well as to a Facebook page where the individual promised that the attack would be streamed live. The Twitter posts included images of weapons and ammunition, as well as the names of perpetrators of past mass-casualty shootings.”

The People

‘HE HAS TO PLAY NICE WITH OTHERS’:  Atop a table. Perched on a chair. Talking with his hands. It was hard to miss the freshly announced presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke amid the non-stop media coverage of packed house parties, halls and diners in Iowa. He’s always pictured surrounded by throngs of excited voters.

The rock star treatment of a candidate currently polling at 5% among likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa caused some proverbial eyerolls back in Texas. There’s still resentment simmering among some Democrats there about the former congressman who catapulted to national prominence during his failed 2018 Senate bid against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz  — and a perception he failed to use his newfound star power to buoy other candidates running in the state.

Disappointed: Democratic leaders, grassroots activists, and officials around the Lone Star State who spoke with Power Up praised O’Rourke for his raw political talent and performance against Cruz. But some described as O’Rourke’s commitment to propping up down-ballot candidates as underwhelming.  

  • “It was frustrating for a bunch of candidates to see all of this enthusiasm for this one person at the top of the ticket but not to see a lot of that trickle down,” a Democratic operative in the state told us of this past cycle, before crediting O’Rourke for changing outsider perceptions about Texas’s potential to turn blue.

Enthusiasm for Beto was on full display during the 2018 race: Turnout last year surged to a historic 8.3 million voters.  Republicans managed to maintain their majority in the Texas legislature but Democrats picked up 12 seats in the Texas House and two seats in the Texas Senate, along with two Democratic newcomers to Congress, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher and Colin Allred, who beat Republican incumbents. 

But the announcement that O’Rourke would be campaigning this week for an Iowa state Senate candidate as part of a three-day swing through the state left some Texans puzzled. 

  • “Hey @BetoORourke! There’s a special election in Texas today! Wish you’d pitched in for @raylopezforttx!,” Trish Florence, a volunteer for Indivisible Political Action Committee, tweeted this week. She was responding to Democrat Eric Giddens’s tweet that O’Rourke would be joining him on the campaign trail. 
  • Reached on the phone on Thursday, Florence had this to say of the candidate she volunteered for in 2018: “I really, really like Beto and I had the opportunity to get to know him a little — but I would really like him to work with other candidates. We didn’t see much of it last year. Again, I don’t want to be critical of him because he’s an amazing person. The only way I can say it is that he has to play nice with others.” 

The move even left Republicans talking: 

  • I think the way he operates is what makes it noteworthy that he just never highlighted anybody else. The first time he’s doing that is knocking on doors this weekend in Iowa,” Jeff Roe, a senior strategist on Cruz’s 2018 Senate campaign and his 2016 campaign manager in the presidential election, told Power Up.
  • On the other hand: “To be fair, there’s a lot going on, there’s a lot of events,” Roe said. “It’s hard to get the right speakers and people there, so it’s not completely unusual.”

O’Rourke’s team pushed back on the notion that he didn’t do enough to help candidates up and down the ballot:

  • “More than 25 of the 36 Democratic Congressional candidates in the 2018 cycle joined Beto at his campaign events taking place in their district,” O’Rourke spokesperson Chris Evans told Power Up
  • “Beto received more votes than any Democrat in Texas history,” he added. “In a state that has straight ticket voting, this record breaking turnout helps Democrats up and down the ballot. The result can be seen in Congressional seats, state house seats, judgeships, and county positions. His campaign also organized in places that had not seen any Democratic organization in decades. The Beto For Texas campaign opened more than 750 campaign offices for Democrats to organize at throughout every single part of the state, and held a get out the vote event in each one of the 254 counties of the state.”

But here’s the Texas race that particularly vexed Democrats: O’Rourke refused to endorse Gina Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer and LGBTQ candidate who ran in Texas’s 23rd Congressional district against Republican Rep. Will Hurd. O’Rourke cited a bipartisan friendship with Hurd (the two once live streamed a bipartisan road trip from Texas to Washington after getting stranded by a snowstorm). 

  • Behind the scenes: My colleague Jenna Johnson (who wrote a profile of O’Rourke that prompted him to take a brief hiatus from speaking to the press) was told by numerous Democratic activists and leaders in the state at the time that they were really frustrated he didn’t endorse her and campaign for her.

  • “The Jones story was a big deal, and when O’Rourke was in West Texas, he would get asked about it at town hall meetings… When I asked Jones about it, she told me the only endorsement that matters is the endorsement of the voter,” Jenna told us. 

  • Jones, who ultimately lost to Hurd in November by 926 votes, had this to say: 

Sources we spoke with yesterday say O’Rourke’s independent streak is not new.

  • O’Rourke did not pitch in to help during Wendy Davis’s 2014 long shot, high profile gubernatorial election bid against then attorney general Greg Abbott, according to two sources with direct knowledge. 

POLICY TALK: On the Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) notably couldn’t name an accomplishment from O’Rourke’s time in Washington when asked after his presidential announcement.

  • Asked if she thought he had a strong enough of a foundation of experience in the House to be president, Pelosi replied: “And you ask me that when we have a president of the United States who never, never — please, yes, the answer is yes.”
  • O’Rourke’s website does not feature any policy positions nor did his team reply to a Washington Post request for his key policy priorities. 
 

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On The Hill

OUCH: A dozen Republican senators voted yesterday in support of the resolution to terminate Trump’s national emergency on the border. Trump’s sustained pressure campaign wasn’t enough to stave off an embarrassing blow likely to result in the first “VETO!” of his presidency. 

Here’s the list: 

‘Personal terms’: “In numerous calls with Republican senators in recent days, the president spoke of the battle almost exclusively in personal terms — telling them they would be voting against him while brushing aside constitutional concerns over his attempt to reroute billions of federal dollars for a border wall,” my colleagues Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey report

  • He argued that a vote against the emergency would be seen by GOP supporters as being against border security and the wall and would hurt their own political fortunes, according to a person with direct knowledge of some of the calls.” 
  • “The deep concerns some GOP senators held about potential abuse of the separation of powers have been clear to the White House for weeks. In fact, some White House and congressional aides questioned whether the effort to sway them was even worth it,” they report. 
  • There was also an overall lack of detail provided to Congress regarding the White House’s legal argument for the emergency and where funding for the declaration would be pulled from.
  • One notable example: “Republican senators pressed Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen for a list of military construction projects that could lose funding this year as a result of Trump’s emergency declaration. Nielsen told them the issue was largely the purview of the Pentagon — while Defense Department officials at the same time were deferring to Nielsen’s agency for information they needed to make a list of targeted projects. Senators never got that list of projects either, and some Republicans doubted whether one exists,” Seung Min and Josh report. 

Tillis reversal: This is a case in which the administration’s efforts paid off. North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis voted to support the national emergency declaration — a reversal from his previous public position that he laid out in an op-ed for The Post.

  • The News & Observer’s Brian Murphy reports: “North Carolina Republicans fumed over Tillis’ original position with some declaring publicly that they wanted to see a primary challenger.”
  • “After the vote, Tillis said in a statement that he’d built consensus with administration officials about amending the National Emergencies Act to ‘prevent a future left-wing president from misusing their authority. I’m incredibly encouraged by the historic commitment from the President to restore proper balance between the executive and legislative branches.'”
  • Last-ditch attempt: Others took a different approach. “Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Ben Sasse (Neb.) “showed up with little notice at the White House late Wednesday and interrupted a private dinner with Trump and first lady Melania Trump, trying to sell the president on a final pitch that would give senators an off-ramp from Thursday’s vote. The senators had sought to come all day but were scuttled by White House aides; eventually, they just showed up,” Seung Min and Josh report.
  • ‘Wasting his time: “Cruz began making the case to Trump that the president could reprogram federal dollars toward the wall to expend even more funds without having to declare a national emergency, people familiar with the episode said. The meeting lasted more than an hour, and White House aides including legislative affairs director Shahira Knight and lawyer Pat Philbin were summoned, with Philbin telling the senators the option would not legally work. Growing frustrated, Trump told Cruz he was not rescinding the national emergency and that the senator could vote however he wanted to vote. Trump berated the group for showing up at the White House late at night and told them they were wasting his time.” 

The consequences roll in: At least one newspaper essentially retracted their endorsement after Thursday’s contentious vote. The Denver Post issued an op-ed calling its 2014 endorsement of Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who did not join Democrats reject Trump’s national emergency declaration,  “a mistake — consider this our resolution of disapproval.” 

  • “Gardner has been too busy walking a political tight rope to be a leader. He has become precisely what we said in our endorsement he would not be: “a political time-server interested only in professional security,” the editorial board writes. 

Global Power

BREAKING FROM PYONGYANG: “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will soon make a decision on whether to continue diplomatic talks and maintain the country’s moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests, a senior North Korean official said, noting the U.S. threw away a golden opportunity at the recent summit between their leaders,” The Associated Press’s Eric Talmadge reports. 

  • “Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, addressing an urgent meeting Friday of diplomats and foreign media in Pyongyang, including The Associated Press, said the North was deeply disappointed by the failure of the two sides to reach any agreements at the Hanoi summit between Kim and President Donald Trump.”
  • “She said Pyongyang now has no intention of compromising or continuing talks unless the United States takes measures that are commensurate to the changes it has taken — such as the 15-month moratorium on launches and tests — and changes its ‘political calculation.'”
  • “Personal relations between the two supreme leaders are still good and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful,” Choe said, adding that it’s up to Kim to decide about the launch and test moratorium — a decision she expects him to make shortly. 

The Investigations

420 – 0: It seems redundant to use the phrase “overwhelmingly majority” when describing a 420-to-0 vote — but in an overwhelming majority vote, the House passed a resolution calling on the Justice Department to make the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report fully available to the public. The resolution, however, was shortly after blocked by Republicans in the Senate. 

  • “[Sen. Lindsey] Graham (R-S.C.) objected to a vote on the resolution unless lawmakers also urged the attorney general to appoint a second special counsel ‘to investigate Department of Justice misconduct’ during federal investigations of Trump’s alleged Russia ties and Hillary Clinton’s emails. Schumer refused,” my colleague Karoun Demirjian reported. 
  • “A vote for this resolution will send a clear signal to both the American people and to the Department of Justice that Congress believes transparency is a fundamental principle necessary to ensure that government remains accountable to the public,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) who sponsored the resolution. 
  • Kicking the can down the road?: “Nadler has threatened to issue a subpoena for the Mueller report if [Attorney General William] Barr does not release it to Congress and the public. He and other Democrats have said the Justice Department’s policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted would amount to a “cover-up” of Trump’s alleged wrongdoing if Congress is unable to view the underlying evidence contained in Mueller’s report,” per Politico’s Andrew Desiderio
  • “I want the American people to know as much as they can and to see as much as they can,” said Hurd, a member of the House Intel Committee. “The taxpayers paid millions for this information, and they should get to see all of it.”

Reminder from last month: “Nearly nine in 10 Americans say Robert Mueller’s investigators should produce a full, public report on their findings, a sentiment that crosses party lines, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.”

Outside the Beltway

‘OUR FUTURE IS WHAT WE ARE FIGHT FOR’: Students in nearly 100 countries and dozens of states around the U.S. are skipping school today to protest climate change. 

‘Aggressive action’: “In rain and snow and summer heat, every Friday for the past 29 weeks, a 16-year-old Swedish girl named Greta Thunberg has skipped school to protest outside her nation’s parliament building. Her aim: to demand aggressive action against climate change,” my colleagues Sarah Kaplan and Brady Dennis report.

Now, young people across the world are following her lead. “Students in nearly 100 countries around the world have pledged to join her protest, including in the United States.”

  • ‘Human rights issue’: “This is not a Republican issue; this is not a Democrat issue. This is a human rights issue. People are not going to have clean air, clean water if we keep letting the same patterns go on and on,” Isabella Fallahi, a 15 year old from Indianapolis, told my colleagues. 
  • “Before 2018, I was just like, ‘Eh, the world is changing. But I can’t affect anything.’And then I saw all these examples of all these activists rising up around the country, and I was like ‘Dang, maybe I can,'” 16 year old Aditi Narayanan of Phoenix, Arizona told The Post. 

KICKER: New research presented at the United Nations Environment assembly in Nairobi on Wednesday show that “Sharp and potentially devastating temperature rises of 3C to 5C in the Arctic are now inevitable even if the world succeeds in cutting greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris agreement,” per The Guardian’s Fiona Harvey. 

  • “Winter temperatures at the north pole are likely to rise by at least 3C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century, and there could be further rises to between 5C and 9C above the recent average for the region, according to the UN.”

  • “Such changes would result in rapidly melting ice and permafrost, leading to sea level rises and potentially to even more destructive levels of warming. Scientists fear Arctic heating could trigger a climate “tipping point” as melting permafrost releases the powerful greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere, which in turn could create a runaway warming effect,” Harvey reports. 

In the Media

WEEKEND READS & SUCH: 

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