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With summer heating up, Beto O’Rourke’s campaign cools down

Posted at 10:25 AM, Jul 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-15 10:58:53-04

Here are the stories our panel of top political reporters will be watching for in the week ahead, in today’s “Inside Politics” forecast.

1. Beto O’Rourke’s campaign woes

The excitement that greeted Beto O’Rourke’s presidential candidacy is long gone. The former Texas congressman has been stuck in low single digits in most polls, and CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny reports he’s now running low on cash.

“On the eve of the fundraising deadline for all the candidates to report their money, he’s yet to report,” Zeleny said. “I’m told by a couple of top supporters familiar with his financial situation that it’s bleak. A few staffers have begun leaving El Paso, moving on to other things. … He has a lot of high-powered, high-paid staff members so there are discussions going on, I’m told, as to what the next step is. He’s committed to staying in, but it’s not the summer he envisioned.”

2. Rust Belt Democrats still haunted by 2016

We’re exactly one year out from the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee. Wisconsin, of course, flipped from blue to red in 2016 for the first time since 1984. New York Times national political correspondent Lisa Lerer says Democrats there — and in Michigan and Pennsylvania — remain haunted.

“What is striking in talking to Democratic voters and officials in those states is how much the party is infected with a case of PTSD from that election,” Lerer said. And they still can’t decide why President Donald Trump won.

“You’ll hear that Hillary Clinton talked about President Trump too much or not enough. That it was white working class voters or an inability to energize the base,” Lerer said. “So how these questions are resolved … is really the lingering question that Democrats will face when they get to that convention next year.”

3. Trump’s rally plan

Trump is back on the campaign trail this week — he’ll hold a rally in North Carolina on Wednesday. And Wall Street Journal White House reporter Michael Bender will be watching for him to say something — anything — new.

“President Trump hasn’t really made news at one of these events for months, but his supporters keep packing them to the rafters regardless,” Bender said. “I would pay closer attention as we move into 2020 to how long his fans keep showing up to see the greatest hits than any hypothetical national head-to-head polls.”

4. Over the fiscal cliff?

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is warning Congress: the country is running out of money and could crash into the debt ceiling within weeks. But CNN Congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly said a deal to raise the ceiling isn’t looking close.

“Mnuchin warned lawmakers the US may run out of cash at the beginning of September — more than a month earlier than originally projected,” Mattingly said. Mnuchin wants Congress to raise the debt ceiling before their summer recess begins on July 26.

“But even after five calls in six days between Mnuchin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, there isn’t a deal yet,” Mattingly said. Among the complications: “A White House negotiating team that doesn’t always operate with a single voice, a Democratic caucus splintering over immigration, and a President that can be, shall we say, unpredictable in these types of talks.”

Mattingly said he asked Pelosi last week if she’s optimistic about a resolution. Her response?

“I’m realistic … We’ll see soon.”

5. Trump’s trade deal outlook

Another big priority for Congress this summer — a vote on the US-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement, the deal Trump negotiated to replace NAFTA.

Washington Post White House reporter Seung Min Kim said the administration knows it’s on deadline.

“It is one of their top priorities of the Trump administration, and they realize they have to get it done this year because it becomes infinitely more difficult in an election year,” Kim said. “The president was touting the benefits of the trade deal in Wisconsin last week. It’s very important in these (agriculture) states, very important to his reelection bid.”

Kim said Pelosi will meet this week with Trump’s top trade official to discuss it.

“The fate really lies in the hands of Nancy Pelosi,” Kim said.