REMEMBER WHEN WE SAID THE SENATE MIGHT BE UP FOR GRABS? … ALEX ISENSTADT, “Inside the GOP’s rescue mission for Ted Cruz: The national party wasn’t expecting to have to defend a well-known senator in a conservative bastion”: “With a string of polls showing GOP Sen. Ted Cruz’s lead slipping, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick showed up in Washington on July 25 to deliver an urgent plea to White House officials: Send President Donald Trump. Patrick, who chaired Trump’s 2016 campaign in the state, made the case that a Trump visit was needed to boost turnout for Cruz and the rest of the Texas Republican ticket.
“The lieutenant governor soon got his wish: Trump announced on Twitter late last month that he was planning a blowout October rally for Cruz, his former GOP rival. The previously unreported meeting comes as senior Republicans grow increasingly concerned about the senator’s prospects in the reliably red state, with some expressing fear that an underperformance could threaten GOP candidates running further down the ballot.
“Cruz’s Democratic opponent, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, has raised barrels of cash, closed the polling gap and emerged as a cause célèbre of liberals nationwide.” POLITICO
— @KasieDC: “JUST NOW: Former Communications Director for Ted Cruz, @rickwtyler, says it is ‘possible’ Cruz could lose his Senate seat. ‘This should be a 10 to 15 point race and it’s not.’” Video
ANOTHER REPUBLICAN IN TROUBLE — “Democrats corner Scott Walker,” by Natasha Korecki in Green Bay, Wisconsin: “There’s every reason to believe this is the beginning of the end for Scott Walker. His presidential bid crashed and burned. He’s running for a third term as governor in what figures to be a hostile midterm for the Republican Party. Polling shows that the independent voters who were so critical to Walker’s wins in the 2012 recall and 2014 reelection are breaking away from him.
“After years of futility, Democrats here are convinced they finally have him cornered. ‘He’s stuck with a bad environment. He’s stuck with a long incumbency, and he’s stuck with a short general election,’ said Tom Russell, a Wisconsin-based consultant with the Democratic Governors Association.” POLITICO
THE GOVERNMENT SHUTS DOWN in 21 DAYS … ELECTION DAY is in 57 DAYS. Congress is out until Wednesday because of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
— AP’S JULIE PACE: “High stakes as 2-month sprint to Election Day begins”
AVAILABLE REAL ESTATE IN GLOVER PARK … WSJ’S MICHAEL GORDON: “Trump Administration to Close Palestine Liberation Organization Office in Washington: National security adviser John Bolton also plans to threaten sanctions against International Criminal Court, in a Monday speech”: “The Trump administration is expected to announce Monday that it will close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington, administration officials said Sunday night, widening a U.S. campaign of pressure amid stalled Middle East peace efforts. …
“‘The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,’ [Bolton] planned to add. PLO mission officials couldn’t be reached for comment late Sunday.” WSJ
SIREN — “GOP candidate for Fla. governor spoke at racially charged events,” by WaPo’s Beth Reinhard and Emma Brown: “Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), a gubernatorial nominee who recently was accused of using racially tinged language, spoke four times at conferences organized by a conservative activist who has said that African Americans owe their freedom to white people and that the country’s ‘only serious race war’ is against whites.
“DeSantis, elected to represent north-central Florida in 2012, appeared at the David Horowitz Freedom Center conferences in Palm Beach, Fla., and Charleston, S.C., in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, said Michael Finch, president of the organization.
“At the group’s annual Restoration Weekend conferences, hundreds of people gather to hear right-wing provocateurs such as Stephen K. Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos and Sebastian Gorka sound off on multiculturalism, radical Islam, free speech on college campuses and other issues. ‘I just want to say what an honor it’s been to be here to speak,’ DeSantis said in a 27-minute speech at the 2015 event in Charleston, a video shows.
“‘David has done such great work and I’ve been an admirer. I’ve been to these conferences in the past but I’ve been a big admirer of an organization that shoots straight, tells the American people the truth and is standing up for the right thing.’” WaPo
2020 WATCH — “Avenatti would base his 2020 campaign in St. Louis,” by Natasha Korecki: “He hasn’t decided yet if he’s running for president, but Michael Avenatti has already made a strategic 2020 decision. The attorney will base his national presidential campaign headquarters in St. Louis should he launch a White House bid, he told POLITICO on Sunday. … He believes he’ll be the first presidential candidate to headquarter in St. Louis since Dick Gephardt’s 1988 presidential run (Gephardt’s 2004 campaign was based in D.C.).” POLITICO
NYT’S PETER BAKER: “Trump Claims Credit for the Economy. Not So Fast, Says Obama”: “The economy is doing quite well, thank you very much, and the president would naturally like to take credit. Both of them.
“Barely a day passes without President Trump boasting about the growing economy, claiming with a mix of hyperbole and fact that it is ‘booming like never before.’ But former President Barack Obama finds all the Trumpian chest-thumping more than a little grating, given that the ‘booming’ started on his watch.
“The economic contest between the 44th and 45th presidents went public in recent days when Mr. Obama expressed his irritation and Mr. Trump fired back. At stake are more than ordinary political bragging rights. Central to Mr. Obama’s historical legacy is the economy’s recovery after its plummet to the brink of a new Great Depression. And central to Mr. Trump’s current political standing is its further expansion.” NYT
FOR YOUR RADAR — “North Korea is still making nukes, and the Trump admin is taking a harder line,” by NBC’s Courtney Kube and Carol Lee with Dan De Luce: “As President Donald Trump issues a steady stream of praise for Kim Jong Un in interviews and on Twitter, a steady stream of evidence that North Korea is still making nuclear weapons has pushed his administration to take a much more aggressive stance toward Pyongyang.
“The newest intelligence shows Kim’s regime has escalated efforts to conceal its nuclear activity, according to three senior U.S. officials. During the three months since the historic Singapore summit and Trump’s proclamation that North Korea intends to denuclearize, North Korea has built structures to obscure the entrance to at least one warhead storage facility, according to the officials.
“The U.S. has also observed North Korean workers moving warheads out of the facility, the officials said, though they would not speculate on where the warheads went.” NBC
TRUMP’S MONDAY — The president is having lunch with VP Mike Pence.
MEDIAWATCH — “Les Moonves is out at CBS after harassment allegations, corporate battle,” by CNN’s Brian Stelter: “CBS chief executive Les Moonves is exiting the company, effective immediately, amid a flurry of sexual misconduct allegations. The announcement on Sunday evening ends his 20-year tenure atop one of the country’s most important media empires. … There is widespread scrutiny about the prospect of Moonves being paid tens of millions of dollars on his way out the door.
“Moonves is one of the media world’s highest paid CEOs, so his severance package would normally be generous, even gargantuan. … With those optics in mind, CBS said Sunday night that Moonves and CBS will donate $20 million to organizations that support the #MeToo movement and other groups fighting for workplace equity for women.” CNN
— RONAN FARROW in The New Yorker, “As Leslie Moonves Negotiates His Exit from CBS, Six Women Raise New Assault and Harassment Claims”
— JOHN DICKERSON will be filling in for the next few weeks of CBS’ “Face the Nation.” MARGARET BRENNAN interviewed Pence Saturday on her due date.
JOIN US SEPT. 20 for a special Playbook Elections event in Columbus, Ohio. We’ll talk with Democratic gubernatorial candidate RICHARD CORDRAY and REP. JIM RENACCI (R-OHIO), the GOP nominee for Senate, about the 2018 midterm elections. RSVP
MAGGIE SEVERNS: “Dem super PACs keep getting bigger as candidates turn on PAC money”: “Democratic candidates are running against money in politics. But Democratic super PACs are playing a bigger role than ever in the party.
“The super PACs charged with helping Democrats take back the House and Senate are raking in record sums from donors motivated by opposition to President Donald Trump, even as a rising class of candidates — like Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke and Ayanna Pressley, who scored a primary upset over Rep. Mike Capuano in Massachusetts last week — are rejecting corporate PAC money and using campaign finance as a purity test against entrenched opponents.
“Meanwhile, the Democratic super PACs are using their new cash reserves to take over more and more of the party’s core functions, expanding from a focus on TV advertising to run major field programs and digital campaigns.” POLITICO
BENJAMIN WERMUND: “U.S. News revamps formula for its latest college rankings”: “U.S. News and World Report is changing the formula for its widely read college rankings to reward schools that enroll and graduate more students from low-income families — a year after a POLITICO report showed that the rankings promote economic inequality on campuses.
“The new methodology is reflected in the 2019 ‘best colleges’ edition, out Monday. It’s the first update to the rankings since POLITICO reported that they create incentives for schools to favor wealthier students over less wealthy applicants. The rankings are so closely followed in the academic world that some colleges have built them into strategic plans.
“Still, the top of the U.S. News rankings don’t look that much different than have in years past. The top spots among national universities are still dominated by the Ivy League and other elite private schools. Princeton and Harvard were No. 1 and No. 2. Third place was split among Columbia, MIT, University of Chicago and Yale.” POLITICO … The original POLITICO story
LANGLEY READ … NYT: “C.I.A. Drone Mission, Curtailed by Obama, Is Expanded in Africa Under Trump,” by Joe Penney, Eric Schmitt, Rukmini Callimachi and Christoph Koettl, with a Dikkou, Niger, dateline: “The C.I.A. is poised to conduct secret drone strikes against Qaeda and Islamic State insurgents from a newly expanded air base deep in the Sahara, making aggressive use of powers that were scaled back during the Obama administration and restored by President Trump.
“Late in his presidency, Barack Obama sought to put the military in charge of drone attacks after a backlash arose over a series of highly visible strikes, some of which killed civilians. The move was intended, in part, to bring greater transparency to attacks that the United States often refused to acknowledge its role in.
“But now the C.I.A. is broadening its drone operations, moving aircraft to northeastern Niger to hunt Islamist militants in southern Libya. The expansion adds to the agency’s limited covert missions in eastern Afghanistan for strikes in Pakistan, and in southern Saudi Arabia for attacks in Yemen.” NYT
KNOWING MARK ZUCKERBERG — EVAN OSNOS in The New Yorker, “Ghost in the Machine” (online headline: “Can Mark Zuckerberg Fix Facebook Before It Breaks Democracy?: The most famous entrepreneur of his generation is facing a public reckoning with the power of Big Tech”): “Before I visited Zuckerberg for the first time, in June, members of his staff offered the kind of advice usually reserved for approaching a skittish bird: proceed gingerly, build a connection, avoid surprises. The advice, I discovered, wasn’t necessary. In person, he is warmer and more direct than his public pronouncements, which resemble a politician’s bland pablum, would suggest. The contrast between the public and the private Zuckerberg reminded me of Hillary Clinton. In both cases, friends complain that the popular image is divorced from the casual, funny, generous person they know.
“Yet neither Zuckerberg nor Clinton has found a way to publicly express a more genuine persona. In Zuckerberg’s case, moments of self-reflection are so rare that, last spring, following a CNN interview in which he said that he wanted to build a company that ‘my girls are going to grow up and be proud of me for,’ the network framed the clip as a news event, with the title ‘Zuckerberg in rare emotional moment.’” New Yorker
OUT AND ABOUT — WOMEN RULE hosted a “Salute to the Chiefs” live podcast taping at The Wing Sunday afternoon to kick off the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and Congressional Black Caucus Foundation legislative weeks. Anna sat down with Natalie Armijo, chief of staff to Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), and Caren Street, chief of staff to Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.). Subscribe and listen to the Women Rule podcast
SPOTTED: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Rhonda Foxx, Keenan Austin Reed, Amena Ross, Tasia Jackson, Raven Reeder, Angela Ramirez, Bianca Ortiz Wertheim, Emily Burns, Courtney Cochran, Katherine Stewart, Kichelle Webster, Angela Franklin, Alma Acosta, Alethia Jackson, Grisella Martinez, Katie Smith, Ilia Rodriguez, Jalisa Washington, Niccara Campbell, Shadawn Reddick-Smith, Alex Phillips, Erica Bordador, A’shanti Gholar, Meaghan Lynch and Christina Henderson. Pic
— ADRIENNE ARSHT decked out a tent and her own home for her annual “Arcade” party with a full-on, genuine, get-on-and-ride Carousel, skee ball, whack-a-mole contests, snow cones, jugglers, magicians and more.
SPOTTED: David Rubenstein, Steve Clemons, Robert and Dr. Elena Allbritton, Kellyanne Conway, Bret and Amy Baier, Mack and Donna McLarty, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), Michael and Meryl Chertoff, Tom Bossert, Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar, Nina Totenberg, Rachel Pearson, Julie Kent, Brazilian Ambassador Sergio Silva do Amaral, Margaret Carlson, Luis Alberto Moreno and Maria Gabriela Sigala, Jonathan Capehart and Nick Schmit, Jason Marczak, Capricia Marshall, Marcus Brauchli, Carol Milton, Susan Molinari, Robert Pullen and Luke Frazier, Tim Shriver and Linda Potter, Jeremy and Robyn Bash and Stuart Holliday.
— SPOTTED at a fall party Saturday night at the Northwest D.C. home of Garrett Marquis and Ashley Hickey Marquis: Tom and Corinne Hoare, Alex and Emily Siciliano, Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Raj Shah, Hogan Gidley, Andrew and Eleni Olmem, Tracey Schmitt Lintott, Jeannie Etchart, Rawson and Chip Warden, Justin and Kayla Brown, Jeanette and Joey Smith, Caroline and Rich Ward and Stuart and Ali Siciliano.
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Neera Tanden, president of CAP. What she’s been reading recently: “I’m about to read ‘Fear’ by Bob Woodward. Does that count? Seriously, though the best article on what’s happening today in progressive politics is Theda Skocpol and Lara Putnam’s article in Democracy, ‘Middle America Reboots Democracy.’ The article lays out how women are leading the resistance to Trump, that the ideological pigeonholing of the Resistance is wrong and that the values underlying opposition to him are inclusion and a more unifying view of liberalism.” Playbook Plus Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Renee Hudson, deputy assistant to the president and Kellyanne Conway’s CoS (hat tip: Katie Levinson Burke) … Sara Bonjean (hubby tip: Ron, who says she’s celebrating by “trading equities and speculating in futures”) … Jess McIntosh (h/t Jon Haber) … Bill O’Reilly is 69 … NYC PR exec Josh Nass … Andrew Shapiro of Beacon Global Strategies (h/t Jeremy Bash) … Hunter Walker, White House correspondent at Yahoo News … Corinne Hoare, professor at AU’s School of Communication (hubby tip: Tom Hoare) … NYT’s Mara Gay … 1776 founder Donna Harris (h/ts Peter Cherukuri and Kurt Bardella) … James Killen … Dan Centinello … USA Today SCOTUS reporter Richard Wolf … POLITICO’s Nahal “Halley” Toosi … Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) is 7-0 … former Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) is 64 … Quartz’s Alyssa Bernstein (h/t Kam Mumtaz) … Michael Moroney, managing supervisor at FleishmanHillard … Emily Berret of Nancy Pelosi’s office (h/t Colin Seeberger) …
… Trey Yingst, who recently joined Fox News to be a foreign correspondent based in Jerusalem … Meshal DeSantis … Soraya Darabi … Tyler Spires … Deirdre Hackleman … Brian J. Farnkoff … Charlie Szold (h/ts Tom Szold and Shawn McCoy) … CNN’s Steve Brusk … Molly Bordonaro … Amanda Cowie of Bloomberg Media (h/t Ashley Bahnken) … Paulina Mangubat … Jocelyn Miller Zeitzoff of The Atlantic … Jack Rivers of Goldman Sachs (h/t Kristen Askin) … Lauren Defranco … Rey Ramsey … Mahen Gunaratna, comms director for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy … Heather Barber … Andy Levin … Jane Gross … Karen Steinberg … Kimberly Marie Abbott … Derrek Hofrichter … Christina Estrada Teczar … CNBC’s Hadley Gamble (h/t Keil) … Barbara Lippert … Oliver Kim … former Sen. John E. Sununu (R-N.H.) is 54 … Justin Wiley … Justin Mikita … Tia Torhorst … Reynolds Honold … Justin Cooper (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)