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Westlake Legal Group > Republican Party

‘3 Musketeers’ or ‘3 Stooges’? Republicans Running Against Trump May Fall in Between

WASHINGTON — Mark Sanford, the former Republican governor of South Carolina who once brought squealing pigs into the State Capitol to make a point about pork barrel spending, is running against President Trump because of his failure to cut government waste.

“He’s not delivering on what he said he was going to do, which is eliminate the debt,” Mr. Sanford, who is also a former congressman, said in an interview. “In fact, it has gone in the opposite direction.”

Joe Walsh, the former Tea Party congressman from Illinois and a onetime Trump supporter who says he has now seen the light, is challenging the president as a moral mission. “I think he’s unfit and a danger to the country,” he said in an interview. “I do believe that most Republicans privately feel that way. This campaign is going to try and get them to say it publicly.”

And William F. Weld, the former Massachusetts governor, is staking his long-shot presidential hopes on appealing to moderates in New Hampshire, for whom supporting a pro-abortion rights, pro-legalized marijuana libertarian could be a meaningful protest vote against Mr. Trump.

Supporters of Mr. Trump’s Republican challengers refer to them as the “Three Musketeers,” and argue that having a trio of challengers — however long their long-shot bids are — could add up to enough of a nuisance to whittle away support for a vulnerable incumbent.

The president, on Twitter, has given them a more demeaning nickname: “the Three Stooges.”

The reality of their shared project of depriving Mr. Trump of his party’s nomination may fall somewhere between fearless and farcical. His challengers were all defeated in their last races and have little to lose in taking on what appears to be a fool’s errand: challenging a president whose approval rating in his own party ranks consistently in the high 80s.

But with three Republicans running — each representing a different constituency in the party — coupled with a softening economy and Mr. Trump’s own falling poll numbers against almost any Democrat, the theory of the case is that reluctant Trump voters may start to see a way out.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_159340488_761161f9-13b6-4ba8-877a-012cdb36df25-articleLarge ‘3 Musketeers’ or ‘3 Stooges’? Republicans Running Against Trump May Fall in Between Weld, William F Walsh, William Joseph United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Sanford, Mark Republican Party Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020

A Trump rally last month in New Hampshire. President Trump’s campaign operatives have worked for over a year to lock up support at the state level.CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

“The thing about Trump that’s so central to his power is that he beat Hillary Clinton when he wasn’t supposed to,” said Sarah Longwell, a Republican strategist who has been working to resist Mr. Trump from within the party. “He ran an inside straight. People have decided forget what people tell you about polls, and think this guy’s got magic.”

While many Republican lawmakers, lobbyists and operatives are still as privately contemptuous of Mr. Trump as they were when he effectively staged a hostile takeover of the party in 2016, they mute their criticism today. They are silent because they want to be re-elected, because they want to retain clients and access or because they are scared of making their states targets of Mr. Trump’s anger if they dare to speak out against him.

Even some anti-Trump Republicans now comfortably ensconced in retirement doubt he can be defeated as long as the party base remains so enamored of him.

“He could get down to the 20s in his overall approval and still have that subset of a subset that he needs for the primary,” said Jeff Flake, a former Arizona senator and a frequent target of the president. Mr. Flake said he did not seriously consider a primary race because he would rather “wait for this fever to cool” in his party.

And the Republican who could pose the biggest threat to Mr. Trump because of his donor relationships and name identification has said he is not interested.

In an email, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah wrote that he was “100 percent not running” and was likely to sit out the election. “Probably will not endorse any candidate for president,” he said.

Part of the challenge for any challenger is that Mr. Trump’s campaign operatives have worked for over a year to lock up support at the state level. They went out of their way to reward one loyalist, Jeff Kaufmann, the chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, with a fund-raiser headlined by Mr. Trump himself, hoping that other party leaders would take notice.

“He’s not delivering on what he said he was going to do, which is eliminate the debt,” Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina, said of Mr. Trump.CreditHunter McRae for The New York Times

The Republican National Committee, which is working hand in hand with Mr. Trump’s campaign, controls the debates, forcing two of the challengers to debate themselves on Tuesday at a forum hosted by the website Business Insider. (Mr. Sanford has said he will not participate.) Some of the candidates said they had had trouble getting booked with any regularity on Fox News.

“Fox has pretty much given me the back of their hand,” said Mr. Walsh, once a frequent guest.

Still, despite the hurdles — and the lack of any clear path to victory — the three men believe they can at the very least winnow Mr. Trump’s support, especially in New Hampshire, which holds the first nationwide primary. And they seem to be helping each other along the way.

“The Weld campaign has seen an uptick in interest and engagement since Congressmen Walsh and Sanford got into the race,” said R. J. Lyman, the chairman of Mr. Weld’s campaign. “Online fund-raising yields more on a daily basis than it did before.” Mr. Weld’s average donation has jumped to $50 from $25 since Mr. Walsh and Mr. Sanford entered the race, he said.

“It’s created this narrative that there are challengers to Trump,” Mr. Walsh said. “States canceling their primaries sure looks a hell of a lot worse with three challengers.”

And the challengers are working together to fight the canceling of primaries. Last week, they wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post, calling the move a “critical mistake.”

Mr. Walsh said the silence from Republicans had been disappointing. “We hear we’re not ‘Tier 1’ candidates, O.K., fine,” he said. “Where the hell are you, ‘Tier 1’ candidates? They want Trump to lose in 2020, they all believe he’ll lose and they’ve made a short-term bet that we can go back to the way we were before. I have very little patience for that — the time to stand up against Trump is now.”

In the past, when sitting presidents face heated primaries, they often failed to survive the general election. President Lyndon B. Johnson was effectively driven from seeking re-election after Eugene McCarthy showed surprising strength in New Hampshire in 1968. President Jimmy Carter had to contend with a serious challenge from Edward M. Kennedy for much of 1980, and lost re-election, as did President George Bush in 1992 after he was forced to contend with Patrick J. Buchanan.

Of the three challengers, Mr. Sanford could prove the most formidable when it comes to hectoring Mr. Trump from the right. He has argued that the devotion to Mr. Trump in the Republican rank-and-file could diminish if the economy slips.

Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman from Illinois, said he believed Mr. Trump was “unfit and a danger to the country.”CreditPeter Hoffman for The New York Times

“The moment that there is deterioration in the economy the value proposition of a Trump presidency goes out the window,” he said.

Mr. Trump has long detested Mr. Sanford, according to congressional aides. When Mr. Trump spoke at a meeting of House Republicans after the 2018 midterm elections, he was greeted with awkward silence and some boos when he singled out Mr. Sanford after his primary loss and said he “wanted to congratulate Mark Sanford on his big win.”

Mr. Sanford, however, is the only one of the three challengers who has not ruled out supporting Mr. Trump in a general election. Mr. Weld and Mr. Walsh, by contrast, said under no circumstances, now or in the future, would they ever get behind him.

For now, the campaigns are trying to gain legitimacy by bringing on serious names in Republican politics, even if they cannot get any real endorsements from lawmakers who are privately disdainful of Mr. Trump. Mr. Walsh recently hired Ann Herberger, a longtime fund-raiser for the Bush family, to oversee his fund-raising. Mr. Weld, meanwhile, announced a New Hampshire steering committee made up of people who have worked in Republican politics in the state for decades.

The Trump campaign, for its part, has publicly reacted to the growing field of challengers with a yawn and an eyeroll, even as it has worked with the party to shut down primaries.

“I have not had one conversation of even small concern over these three,” said Mr. Kaufmann, the Iowa Republican Party chairman. “Not even a hint and I’m talking about five to 20 text emails or phone conversations a day with the R.N.C. and the Trump campaign.”

Some Trump critics are hoping any attention the three challengers receive will prompt more to join them. “They are talented and will weaken President Trump and I am hopeful there will be more that enter the race,” said Anthony Scaramucci, the former White House communications director who has recently rebranded himself as a high-profile critic of Mr. Trump’s.

Still, the expectations are relatively low, even among the candidates themselves. Asked if he believed he could actually deny Mr. Trump the nomination next year, Mr. Sanford stopped short.

“I don’t get ahead of my skis on that front,” he said. “One step at a time.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Joe Biden Believes in the Good Will of Republicans. Is That Naïve?

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader and self-described “grim reaper” of liberal legislative dreams, settled into a routine of sorts during Barack Obama’s second term whenever he felt he was cornered by Democrats.

Mr. McConnell would rise from his chair in the Capitol, walk to his scheduler’s desk, smile a tight smile, and ask: “Can we get Joe Biden on the phone?”

That was precisely what happened in late 2012, when Republicans were still in the minority in the Senate, and Mr. McConnell hit an impasse with Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, over the elimination of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

As a New Year’s Eve deadline approached, Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell hammered out an agreement in a dozen phone calls, aides to both men said, with Mr. Obama signing off on every move. The two sides struck a deal that delivered some, but far from all, of what Mr. Reid wanted. This year, as he runs for president, Mr. Biden cites that deal and others he cut with Mr. McConnell as proof of his skill in achieving bipartisan legislation in an otherwise hyperpartisan environment.

“I’ll work with Mitch McConnell where we can agree,” Mr. Biden said this month — adding that on some issues, like gun control, there was no room for compromise.

That he could agree with Mr. McConnell on anything is a controversial statement for any Democrat to make these days. But in a sprawling field of 20 candidates, Mr. Biden stands out for his enduring belief in the good will of congressional Republicans. He insists that the G.O.P. has been bullied by President Trump but that civility and compromise will return to Washington once Mr. Trump is gone.

It’s a view that has been branded as naïve and wistful by some Democratic rivals as well as by the ascendant left wing of his party. That criticism is particularly pointed with regard to Mr. McConnell, whose decision to block Mr. Obama’s nomination of Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016 elevated him from mere obstructionist to arch-villain in the eyes of many Democrats.

The criticism has only intensified in recent days as Mr. McConnell has rebuffed Democratic calls to quickly move ahead with gun control legislation and lashed out at Democrats for reviving attacks on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

As a result, many in the party say, Mr. Biden’s comfortable relationship with the Senate leader is not only out of date, but dangerous.

“Mitch McConnell over the last decade has basically been on a crusade to destroy the Senate, so this idea that just getting rid of Trump would somehow send us back to some Golden Age in the Senate is ridiculous,” said Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, a rival presidential candidate.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160924719_3fadb429-34ce-4d7a-8713-16978cab3693-articleLarge Joe Biden Believes in the Good Will of Republicans. Is That Naïve? United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Jr Senate Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 McConnell, Mitch Democratic Party Biden, Joseph R Jr

Mr. Biden has said he is bound to Mr. McConnell and other congressional opponents by “civility” and an unbreakable, unwritten code.CreditTravis Dove for The New York Times

Mr. Bennet was one of three Democratic senators to vote against the 2012 budget deal, viewing it as an unnecessary capitulation that has emboldened Mr. McConnell.

“You have to have some pretty seriously rose-colored glasses to think that the last six years of the Obama administration showed great promise in terms of deliberation or legislation,” Mr. Bennet said.

[Sign up for our politics newsletter hosted by Lisa Lerer and join the conversation around the 2020 presidential race.]

Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell were not especially close in their nearly 25 years together in the Senate. But interviews with two dozen people close to both men show that their relationship, while not quite an actual friendship, became stronger — and more mutually beneficial — during Mr. Obama’s second term. Their negotiations offered Mr. Biden a more powerful role, and gave Mr. McConnell a congenial bargaining partner and what the Senate leader viewed as the path of least resistance to striking a deal, in the view of Biden critics.

Mr. Biden and his defenders say he is being attacked for refusing to accept what they consider a false premise: that progress is possible only through the use of uncompromising political force.

“How in the hell are you going to get a damned thing done if you don’t talk to the other side?” said former Senator Alan Simpson, Republican of Wyoming, who struck up an across-the-aisle friendship with Mr. Biden in the 1970s.

“I see people saying he can’t be president because he talked to this one or that one,” Mr. Simpson added. “Here’s what I want to tell them: You think you can be a United States senator, and do your job, really do your job, by not talking to the other side? You have to talk to the commies, the kooks, the racists, the Tea Party, you have to talk to everybody.”

Mr. Biden, 76, has said he is bound to Mr. McConnell and other opponents by “civility” and an unbreakable, unwritten code that the Democratic leader Mike Mansfield preached to him early in his career: “It’s always appropriate to question another man’s judgment, but never appropriate to question his motives.”

As senators, Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell had little interaction. They served briefly together on the Judiciary Committee in the late 1980s, and worked on only one significant piece of legislation together, a 2007 measure seeking to improve human rights in Myanmar.

By 2010, however, Mr. McConnell had reached two conclusions that pushed him toward Mr. Biden, according to a dozen people close to both men, who spoke anonymously to disclose private discussions.

After a dozen calls in 2012, Mr. McConnell and Mr. Biden reached a compromise just before the New Year’s Eve deadline over how to address Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.CreditT.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

First, he did not believe he could work with Mr. Reid, a former prizefighter who viewed Mr. McConnell as an obstructionist who needed to be thwarted at all costs. Mr. McConnell, for his part, thought Mr. Reid was not a good-faith negotiator, and suspected Democrats were leaking details of negotiations, two people close to him said.

Then there was Mr. Obama. The two men felt deeply uncomfortable in each other’s presence, according to their aides and their own public statements. In his book, Mr. McConnell admitted he privately called the president “Professor Obama” because he was so prone to lecturing him. Mr. Obama and his aides thought Mr. McConnell was disdainful and taciturn, according to former members of Mr. Obama’s staff.

“From the beginning, it was clear that President Obama wanted Biden to take the lead with McConnell,” said Ted Kaufman, a longtime aide and friend to Mr. Biden. “Biden had a very realistic view of McConnell and knew that they had major differences.”

After being overshadowed during Mr. Obama’s first term, Mr. Biden embraced the opportunity to become a power player.

In 2010, Mr. McConnell and Mr. Biden negotiated a last-minute deal that prevented a government shutdown. A year later, Mr. McConnell hit the Biden speed dial again, this time to avert a potentially catastrophic failure to raise the debt limit precipitated by Tea Party Republicans in the House.

All of that was a dress rehearsal for 2012 and another showdown over the debt limit, the so-called fiscal cliff. Mr. Obama was fresh off a convincing re-election win over Mitt Romney that was propelled, in part, by his promise to scrap tax cuts for families earning more than $250,000, enacted by George W. Bush in 2001.

Mr. Reid staked out a maximalist position, saying he was willing to go over the cliff; Mr. Obama, despite having campaigned on the issue, was worried “that a sudden major tax hike and massive spending cut could together trigger another recession,” Gene Sperling, a top Obama economic aide, said in an interview.

[Which Democrats are leading the 2020 presidential race this week?]

Two days before the deadline, the talks stalled. That’s when Mr. McConnell placed his call to Mr. Biden, who was on Air Force Two. “Get off now!” Mr. McConnell said in a voice mail message, according to former aides to both men.

From there, things went fairly quickly. Mr. McConnell, aides said, was spooked by the election results and eager to cut a deal; Mr. Biden operated within a narrow range of parameters established by Mr. Obama and his economic team, but he also brought his own reassuring presence to the talks.

“When he’d say, ‘Mitch, it’s Joe. You know me. I am telling you there is no way we can go there’ — that kind of thing was always more convincing coming from him,” Mr. Sperling recalled.

Mr. McConnell after being sworn in by Mr. Biden for the 114th Congress in 2015.CreditLarry Downing /Reuters

At one tense moment, Mr. Biden — hunched over a speakerphone in his office with Mr. Sperling and other staff members — struggled to remember the name of Rohit Kumar, the McConnell adviser crunching the numbers for Republicans.

“Oh, hell, can I just call you Mitch’s guy?” Mr. Biden said, according to a person who was on the call — to laughter.

The deal they struck was a partial victory for Democrats, raising top tax rates for families earning more than $450,000 and extending some unemployment insurance benefits. “I feel very, very good,” Mr. Biden told reporters on New Year’s Day.

Others did not. A handful of progressive Democrats — including Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Bernie Sanders of Vermont — stormed into Mr. Reid’s office to complain, according to Democratic aides. He told them to vote with their consciences and informed the White House he would back the deal, but would not sell it. The measure passed easily.

During a follow-up meeting in the Oval Office in early 2013, Mr. Obama pressed Mr. McConnell to work on a long-term budget package before the 2014 midterms, when he would be running for re-election in Kentucky, Mr. Reid recalled in a recent phone interview. Mr. McConnell said that was impossible — Republican primary challengers could use it against incumbents.

Mr. Biden responded by saying, “Mitch, we want to see you come back,” Mr. Reid said.

In recent years, Mr. Biden has not been shy about criticizing Mr. McConnell’s actions, especially the decision to block Judge Garland. But he has been loath to denounce him personally — to the annoyance of some of his own staff members, according to a current Biden adviser.

Neither man has much incentive these days to highlight their bonhomie: Mr. McConnell will also be running for office in 2020, seeking a seventh term. His office declined to comment for this story.

But both men spoke affectionately about each other when there was less at stake politically.

In December 2016, Mr. McConnell offered an emotional send-off to Mr. Biden from the well of the Senate, recounting a boyhood battle that echoed his own struggles with polio as a toddler.

“The man we honor today wasn’t always a talker,” he said. “He suffered from a debilitating stutter for most of his childhood. He was teased for it. But he was determined to overcome it. And so he did.”

When Mr. Biden’s son Beau died in 2015, Mr. McConnell was the only Senate Republican to attend his funeral, a gesture that deeply moved Mr. Biden, according to a person close to Mr. McConnell.

In 2011, Mr. Biden, commenting on the large crowd that saw him speak at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, peered at his host and said: “You want to see whether or not a Republican and Democrat really like one another. Well, I’m here to tell you we do.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Biden Thinks Working With McConnell Is a Plus. Is It?

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader and self-described “grim reaper” of liberal legislative dreams, settled into a routine of sorts during Barack Obama’s second term whenever he felt he was cornered by Democrats.

Mr. McConnell would rise from his chair in the Capitol, walk to his scheduler’s desk, smile a tight smile, and ask: “Can we get Joe Biden on the phone?”

That was precisely what happened in late 2012, when Republicans were still in the minority in the Senate, and Mr. McConnell hit an impasse with Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, over the elimination of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

As a New Year’s Eve deadline approached, Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell hammered out an agreement in a dozen phone calls, aides to both men said, with Mr. Obama signing off on every move. The two sides struck a deal that delivered some, but far from all, of what Mr. Reid wanted. This year, as he runs for president, Mr. Biden cites that deal and others he cut with Mr. McConnell as proof of his skill in achieving bipartisan legislation in an otherwise hyperpartisan environment.

“I’ll work with Mitch McConnell where we can agree,” Mr. Biden said this month — adding that on some issues, like gun control, there was no room for compromise.

That he could agree with Mr. McConnell on anything is a controversial statement for any Democrat to make these days. But in a sprawling field of 20 candidates, Mr. Biden stands out for his enduring belief in the good will of congressional Republicans. He insists that the G.O.P. has been bullied by President Trump but that civility and compromise will return to Washington once Mr. Trump is gone.

It’s a view that has been branded as naïve and wistful by some Democratic rivals as well as by the ascendant left wing of his party. That criticism is particularly pointed with regard to Mr. McConnell, whose decision to block Mr. Obama’s nomination of Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016 elevated him from mere obstructionist to arch-villain in the eyes of many Democrats.

The criticism has only intensified in recent days as Mr. McConnell has rebuffed Democratic calls to quickly move ahead with gun control legislation and lashed out at Democrats for reviving attacks on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

As a result, many in the party say, Mr. Biden’s comfortable relationship with the Senate leader is not only out of date, but dangerous.

“Mitch McConnell over the last decade has basically been on a crusade to destroy the Senate, so this idea that just getting rid of Trump would somehow send us back to some Golden Age in the Senate is ridiculous,” said Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, a rival presidential candidate.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160924719_3fadb429-34ce-4d7a-8713-16978cab3693-articleLarge Biden Thinks Working With McConnell Is a Plus. Is It? United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Jr Senate Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 McConnell, Mitch Democratic Party Biden, Joseph R Jr

Mr. Biden has said he is bound to Mr. McConnell and other congressional opponents by “civility” and an unbreakable, unwritten code.CreditTravis Dove for The New York Times

Mr. Bennet was one of three Democratic senators to vote against the 2012 budget deal, viewing it as an unnecessary capitulation that has emboldened Mr. McConnell.

“You have to have some pretty seriously rose-colored glasses to think that the last six years of the Obama administration showed great promise in terms of deliberation or legislation,” Mr. Bennet said.

[Sign up for our politics newsletter hosted by Lisa Lerer and join the conversation around the 2020 presidential race.]

Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell were not especially close in their nearly 25 years together in the Senate. But interviews with two dozen people close to both men show that their relationship, while not quite an actual friendship, became stronger — and more mutually beneficial — during Mr. Obama’s second term. Their negotiations offered Mr. Biden a more powerful role, and gave Mr. McConnell a congenial bargaining partner and what the Senate leader viewed as the path of least resistance to striking a deal, in the view of Biden critics.

Mr. Biden and his defenders say he is being attacked for refusing to accept what they consider a false premise: that progress is possible only through the use of uncompromising political force.

“How in the hell are you going to get a damned thing done if you don’t talk to the other side?” said former Senator Alan Simpson, Republican of Wyoming, who struck up an across-the-aisle friendship with Mr. Biden in the 1970s.

“I see people saying he can’t be president because he talked to this one or that one,” Mr. Simpson added. “Here’s what I want to tell them: You think you can be a United States senator, and do your job, really do your job, by not talking to the other side? You have to talk to the commies, the kooks, the racists, the Tea Party, you have to talk to everybody.”

Mr. Biden, 76, has said he is bound to Mr. McConnell and other opponents by “civility” and an unbreakable, unwritten code that the Democratic leader Mike Mansfield preached to him early in his career: “It’s always appropriate to question another man’s judgment, but never appropriate to question his motives.”

As senators, Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell had little interaction. They served briefly together on the Judiciary Committee in the late 1980s, and worked on only one significant piece of legislation together, a 2007 measure seeking to improve human rights in Myanmar.

By 2010, however, Mr. McConnell had reached two conclusions that pushed him toward Mr. Biden, according to a dozen people close to both men, who spoke anonymously to disclose private discussions.

After a dozen calls in 2012, Mr. McConnell and Mr. Biden reached a compromise just before the New Year’s Eve deadline over how to address Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.CreditT.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

First, he did not believe he could work with Mr. Reid, a former prizefighter who viewed Mr. McConnell as an obstructionist who needed to be thwarted at all costs. Mr. McConnell, for his part, thought Mr. Reid was not a good-faith negotiator, and suspected Democrats were leaking details of negotiations, two people close to him said.

Then there was Mr. Obama. The two men felt deeply uncomfortable in each other’s presence, according to their aides and their own public statements. In his book, Mr. McConnell admitted he privately called the president “Professor Obama” because he was so prone to lecturing him. Mr. Obama and his aides thought Mr. McConnell was disdainful and taciturn, according to former members of Mr. Obama’s staff.

“From the beginning, it was clear that President Obama wanted Biden to take the lead with McConnell,” said Ted Kaufman, a longtime aide and friend to Mr. Biden. “Biden had a very realistic view of McConnell and knew that they had major differences.”

After being overshadowed during Mr. Obama’s first term, Mr. Biden embraced the opportunity to become a power player.

In 2010, Mr. McConnell and Mr. Biden negotiated a last-minute deal that prevented a government shutdown. A year later, Mr. McConnell hit the Biden speed dial again, this time to avert a potentially catastrophic failure to raise the debt limit precipitated by Tea Party Republicans in the House.

All of that was a dress rehearsal for 2012 and another showdown over the debt limit, the so-called fiscal cliff. Mr. Obama was fresh off a convincing re-election win over Mitt Romney that was propelled, in part, by his promise to scrap tax cuts for families earning more than $250,000, enacted by George W. Bush in 2001.

Mr. Reid staked out a maximalist position, saying he was willing to go over the cliff; Mr. Obama, despite having campaigned on the issue, was worried “that a sudden major tax hike and massive spending cut could together trigger another recession,” Gene Sperling, a top Obama economic aide, said in an interview.

[Which Democrats are leading the 2020 presidential race this week?]

Two days before the deadline, the talks stalled. That’s when Mr. McConnell placed his call to Mr. Biden, who was on Air Force Two. “Get off now!” Mr. McConnell said in a voice mail message, according to former aides to both men.

From there, things went fairly quickly. Mr. McConnell, aides said, was spooked by the election results and eager to cut a deal; Mr. Biden operated within a narrow range of parameters established by Mr. Obama and his economic team, but he also brought his own reassuring presence to the talks.

“When he’d say, ‘Mitch, it’s Joe. You know me. I am telling you there is no way we can go there’ — that kind of thing was always more convincing coming from him,” Mr. Sperling recalled.

Mr. McConnell after being sworn in by Mr. Biden for the 114th Congress in 2015.CreditLarry Downing /Reuters

At one tense moment, Mr. Biden — hunched over a speakerphone in his office with Mr. Sperling and other staff members — struggled to remember the name of Rohit Kumar, the McConnell adviser crunching the numbers for Republicans.

“Oh, hell, can I just call you Mitch’s guy?” Mr. Biden said, according to a person who was on the call — to laughter.

The deal they struck was a partial victory for Democrats, raising top tax rates for families earning more than $450,000 and extending some unemployment insurance benefits. “I feel very, very good,” Mr. Biden told reporters on New Year’s Day.

Others did not. A handful of progressive Democrats — including Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Bernie Sanders of Vermont — stormed into Mr. Reid’s office to complain, according to Democratic aides. He told them to vote with their consciences and informed the White House he would back the deal, but would not sell it. The measure passed easily.

During a follow-up meeting in the Oval Office in early 2013, Mr. Obama pressed Mr. McConnell to work on a long-term budget package before the 2014 midterms, when he would be running for re-election in Kentucky, Mr. Reid recalled in a recent phone interview. Mr. McConnell said that was impossible — Republican primary challengers could use it against incumbents.

Mr. Biden responded by saying, “Mitch, we want to see you come back,” Mr. Reid said.

In recent years, Mr. Biden has not been shy about criticizing Mr. McConnell’s actions, especially the decision to block Judge Garland. But he has been loath to denounce him personally — to the annoyance of some of his own staff members, according to a current Biden adviser.

Neither man has much incentive these days to highlight their bonhomie: Mr. McConnell will also be running for office in 2020, seeking a seventh term. His office declined to comment for this story.

But both men spoke affectionately about each other when there was less at stake politically.

In December 2016, Mr. McConnell offered an emotional send-off to Mr. Biden from the well of the Senate, recounting a boyhood battle that echoed his own struggles with polio as a toddler.

“The man we honor today wasn’t always a talker,” he said. “He suffered from a debilitating stutter for most of his childhood. He was teased for it. But he was determined to overcome it. And so he did.”

When Mr. Biden’s son Beau died in 2015, Mr. McConnell was the only Senate Republican to attend his funeral, a gesture that deeply moved Mr. Biden, according to person close to Mr. McConnell.

In 2011, Mr. Biden, commenting on the large crowd that saw him speak at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, peered at his host and said: “You want to see whether or not a Republican and Democrat really like one another. Well, I’m here to tell you we do.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Biden Thinks Working With McConnell Is a Plus. Is It?

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader and self-described “grim reaper” of liberal legislative dreams, settled into a routine of sorts during Barack Obama’s second term whenever he felt he was cornered by Democrats.

Mr. McConnell would rise from his chair in the Capitol, walk to his scheduler’s desk, smile a tight smile, and ask: “Can we get Joe Biden on the phone?”

That was precisely what happened in late 2012, when Republicans were still in the minority in the Senate, and Mr. McConnell hit an impasse with Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, over the elimination of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

As a New Year’s Eve deadline approached, Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell hammered out an agreement in a dozen phone calls, aides to both men said, with Mr. Obama signing off on every move. The two sides struck a deal that delivered some, but far from all, of what Mr. Reid wanted. This year, as he runs for president, Mr. Biden cites that deal and others he cut with Mr. McConnell as proof of his skill in achieving bipartisan legislation in an otherwise hyperpartisan environment.

“I’ll work with Mitch McConnell where we can agree,” Mr. Biden said this month — adding that on some issues, like gun control, there was no room for compromise.

That he could agree with Mr. McConnell on anything is a controversial statement for any Democrat to make these days. But in a sprawling field of 20 candidates, Mr. Biden stands out for his enduring belief in the good will of congressional Republicans. He insists that the G.O.P. has been bullied by President Trump but that civility and compromise will return to Washington once Mr. Trump is gone.

It’s a view that has been branded as naïve and wistful by some Democratic rivals as well as by the ascendant left wing of his party. That criticism is particularly pointed with regard to Mr. McConnell, whose decision to block Mr. Obama’s nomination of Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016 elevated him from mere obstructionist to arch-villain in the eyes of many Democrats.

The criticism has only intensified in recent days as Mr. McConnell has rebuffed Democratic calls to quickly move ahead with gun control legislation and lashed out at Democrats for reviving attacks on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

As a result, many in the party say, Mr. Biden’s comfortable relationship with the Senate leader is not only out of date, but dangerous.

“Mitch McConnell over the last decade has basically been on a crusade to destroy the Senate, so this idea that just getting rid of Trump would somehow send us back to some Golden Age in the Senate is ridiculous,” said Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, a rival presidential candidate.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160924719_3fadb429-34ce-4d7a-8713-16978cab3693-articleLarge Biden Thinks Working With McConnell Is a Plus. Is It? United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Jr Senate Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 McConnell, Mitch Democratic Party Biden, Joseph R Jr

Mr. Biden has said he is bound to Mr. McConnell and other congressional opponents by “civility” and an unbreakable, unwritten code.CreditTravis Dove for The New York Times

Mr. Bennet was one of three Democratic senators to vote against the 2012 budget deal, viewing it as an unnecessary capitulation that has emboldened Mr. McConnell.

“You have to have some pretty seriously rose-colored glasses to think that the last six years of the Obama administration showed great promise in terms of deliberation or legislation,” Mr. Bennet said.

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Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell were not especially close in their nearly 25 years together in the Senate. But interviews with two dozen people close to both men show that their relationship, while not quite an actual friendship, became stronger — and more mutually beneficial — during Mr. Obama’s second term. Their negotiations offered Mr. Biden a more powerful role, and gave Mr. McConnell a congenial bargaining partner and what the Senate leader viewed as the path of least resistance to striking a deal, in the view of Biden critics.

Mr. Biden and his defenders say he is being attacked for refusing to accept what they consider a false premise: that progress is possible only through the use of uncompromising political force.

“How in the hell are you going to get a damned thing done if you don’t talk to the other side?” said former Senator Alan Simpson, Republican of Wyoming, who struck up an across-the-aisle friendship with Mr. Biden in the 1970s.

“I see people saying he can’t be president because he talked to this one or that one,” Mr. Simpson added. “Here’s what I want to tell them: You think you can be a United States senator, and do your job, really do your job, by not talking to the other side? You have to talk to the commies, the kooks, the racists, the Tea Party, you have to talk to everybody.”

Mr. Biden, 76, has said he is bound to Mr. McConnell and other opponents by “civility” and an unbreakable, unwritten code that the Democratic leader Mike Mansfield preached to him early in his career: “It’s always appropriate to question another man’s judgment, but never appropriate to question his motives.”

As senators, Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell had little interaction. They served briefly together on the Judiciary Committee in the late 1980s, and worked on only one significant piece of legislation together, a 2007 measure seeking to improve human rights in Myanmar.

By 2010, however, Mr. McConnell had reached two conclusions that pushed him toward Mr. Biden, according to a dozen people close to both men, who spoke anonymously to disclose private discussions.

After a dozen calls in 2012, Mr. McConnell and Mr. Biden reached a compromise just before the New Year’s Eve deadline over how to address Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.CreditT.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

First, he did not believe he could work with Mr. Reid, a former prizefighter who viewed Mr. McConnell as an obstructionist who needed to be thwarted at all costs. Mr. McConnell, for his part, thought Mr. Reid was not a good-faith negotiator, and suspected Democrats were leaking details of negotiations, two people close to him said.

Then there was Mr. Obama. The two men felt deeply uncomfortable in each other’s presence, according to their aides and their own public statements. In his book, Mr. McConnell admitted he privately called the president “Professor Obama” because he was so prone to lecturing him. Mr. Obama and his aides thought Mr. McConnell was disdainful and taciturn, according to former members of Mr. Obama’s staff.

“From the beginning, it was clear that President Obama wanted Biden to take the lead with McConnell,” said Ted Kaufman, a longtime aide and friend to Mr. Biden. “Biden had a very realistic view of McConnell and knew that they had major differences.”

After being overshadowed during Mr. Obama’s first term, Mr. Biden embraced the opportunity to become a power player.

In 2010, Mr. McConnell and Mr. Biden negotiated a last-minute deal that prevented a government shutdown. A year later, Mr. McConnell hit the Biden speed dial again, this time to avert a potentially catastrophic failure to raise the debt limit precipitated by Tea Party Republicans in the House.

All of that was a dress rehearsal for 2012 and another showdown over the debt limit, the so-called fiscal cliff. Mr. Obama was fresh off a convincing re-election win over Mitt Romney that was propelled, in part, by his promise to scrap tax cuts for families earning more than $250,000, enacted by George W. Bush in 2001.

Mr. Reid staked out a maximalist position, saying he was willing to go over the cliff; Mr. Obama, despite having campaigned on the issue, was worried “that a sudden major tax hike and massive spending cut could together trigger another recession,” Gene Sperling, a top Obama economic aide, said in an interview.

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Two days before the deadline, the talks stalled. That’s when Mr. McConnell placed his call to Mr. Biden, who was on Air Force Two. “Get off now!” Mr. McConnell said in a voice mail message, according to former aides to both men.

From there, things went fairly quickly. Mr. McConnell, aides said, was spooked by the election results and eager to cut a deal; Mr. Biden operated within a narrow range of parameters established by Mr. Obama and his economic team, but he also brought his own reassuring presence to the talks.

“When he’d say, ‘Mitch, it’s Joe. You know me. I am telling you there is no way we can go there’ — that kind of thing was always more convincing coming from him,” Mr. Sperling recalled.

Mr. McConnell after being sworn in by Mr. Biden for the 114th Congress in 2015.CreditLarry Downing /Reuters

At one tense moment, Mr. Biden — hunched over a speakerphone in his office with Mr. Sperling and other staff members — struggled to remember the name of Rohit Kumar, the McConnell adviser crunching the numbers for Republicans.

“Oh, hell, can I just call you Mitch’s guy?” Mr. Biden said, according to a person who was on the call — to laughter.

The deal they struck was a partial victory for Democrats, raising top tax rates for families earning more than $450,000 and extending some unemployment insurance benefits. “I feel very, very good,” Mr. Biden told reporters on New Year’s Day.

Others did not. A handful of progressive Democrats — including Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Bernie Sanders of Vermont — stormed into Mr. Reid’s office to complain, according to Democratic aides. He told them to vote with their consciences and informed the White House he would back the deal, but would not sell it. The measure passed easily.

During a follow-up meeting in the Oval Office in early 2013, Mr. Obama pressed Mr. McConnell to work on a long-term budget package before the 2014 midterms, when he would be running for re-election in Kentucky, Mr. Reid recalled in a recent phone interview. Mr. McConnell said that was impossible — Republican primary challengers could use it against incumbents.

Mr. Biden responded by saying, “Mitch, we want to see you come back,” Mr. Reid said.

In recent years, Mr. Biden has not been shy about criticizing Mr. McConnell’s actions, especially the decision to block Judge Garland. But he has been loath to denounce him personally — to the annoyance of some of his own staff members, according to a current Biden adviser.

Neither man has much incentive these days to highlight their bonhomie: Mr. McConnell will also be running for office in 2020, seeking a seventh term. His office declined to comment for this story.

But both men spoke affectionately about each other when there was less at stake politically.

In December 2016, Mr. McConnell offered an emotional send-off to Mr. Biden from the well of the Senate, recounting a boyhood battle that echoed his own struggles with polio as a toddler.

“The man we honor today wasn’t always a talker,” he said. “He suffered from a debilitating stutter for most of his childhood. He was teased for it. But he was determined to overcome it. And so he did.”

When Mr. Biden’s son Beau died in 2015, Mr. McConnell was the only Senate Republican to attend his funeral, a gesture that deeply moved Mr. Biden, according to person close to Mr. McConnell.

In 2011, Mr. Biden, commenting on the large crowd that saw him speak at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, peered at his host and said: “You want to see whether or not a Republican and Democrat really like one another. Well, I’m here to tell you we do.”

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Trump Hits Back After Ally Denounces ‘Weakness’ With Iran

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — President Trump engaged in a long-distance debate over Iran with one of his closest allies on Tuesday as Republicans sought to influence the administration’s response to the attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia over the weekend.

Mr. Trump, who was in California for campaign fund-raising events, lashed out on Twitter at that ally, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, for calling the president’s approach to Iran too weak. But Mr. Trump declined to be drawn into repeating his more combative threats against Tehran while awaiting a definitive intelligence assessment about responsibility for the attack.

The president was responding to a series of tweets by Mr. Graham, who has long been one of the more hawkish members of the Republican conference. “The measured response by President @realDonaldTrump regarding the shooting down of an American drone was clearly seen by the Iranian regime as a sign of weakness,” Mr. Graham wrote.

As his motorcade traveled to Beverly Hills for a fund-raising dinner, Mr. Trump fired back: “No Lindsey, it was a sign of strength that some people just don’t understand!”

The exchange centered on Mr. Trump’s decision in June to call off a planned airstrike against Iranian targets in retaliation for the downing of a surveillance drone. The president aborted the attack with minutes to go, as he put it, citing a reluctance to cause the 150 casualties his advisers told him to expect.

Mr. Graham’s argument is that by blinking, Mr. Trump emboldened Iran to believe it could continue to take provocative actions without fear of penalty. It is an argument that mirrors the views of John R. Bolton, who resigned last week as national security adviser under pressure from Mr. Trump after disagreements over Iran, among other issues.

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Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, last week in Washington. He has long been one of the more hawkish members of the Republican conference.CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

But while Mr. Trump has mastered the art of bellicose threats, he has at times demonstrated reluctance to use military force even when advised to. He came to office promising to end America’s long-running wars, arguing that they had cost too much in blood and treasure without benefiting the United States. And so he has opted against pulling the trigger against Iran amid a series of provocations, including attacks on tankers.

His public comments on Iran since the attacks on the Saudi facilities have veered from hostile to restrained. At one point, he tweeted that the United States was “locked and loaded” and waiting only for guidance from Saudi Arabia about who and how to hit back. But he has also said he was not in a rush to go to war and was not ready yet to publicly conclude that Iran was behind the attacks.

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday on Air Force One as he flew to California, Mr. Trump suggested he would not meet with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran during the United Nations General Assembly next week in New York as he had once contemplated, but left open the possibility at a later date.

“I never rule anything out, but I prefer not meeting him” next week, Mr. Trump said.

The divergence between the president and Mr. Graham reflects the larger schism in the Republican Party between interventionist hawks and more isolationist war critics.

That debate has played out most prominently in recent days in a series of sharp barbs between Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming over the president’s efforts to end the war in Afghanistan, including an invitation to Camp David to Taliban leaders that he revoked. As they tore into each other, the two Republicans were each claiming to represent Mr. Trump’s position even as both were essentially trying to influence it. Mr. Paul appealed to Mr. Trump’s disdain for overseas wars, while Ms. Cheney argued that “America First” meant an assertive role in the world.

While once a harsh critic when they competed for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Mr. Graham has become one of Mr. Trump’s most outspoken supporters. The header photograph on his Twitter account shows him being acknowledged by the president at one of his “Keep America Great” campaign rallies. But Mr. Graham has used his links to Mr. Trump to stiffen his approach to national security.

He spoke out on Tuesday after Vice President Mike Pence briefed Senate Republicans on the Saudi attacks, a presentation that Mr. Graham said left him no doubt that Iran was the culprit.

“The problems with Iran only get worse over time so it is imperative we take decisive action to deter further aggression by the Ayatollah and his henchman,” Mr. Graham tweeted.

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Despite Turning Down Inauguration Gig, Elton John Has a Recurring Role in Trump’s Presidency

Westlake Legal Group 15dc-elton-facebookJumbo Despite Turning Down Inauguration Gig, Elton John Has a Recurring Role in Trump’s Presidency Trump, Donald J State of the Union Message (US) Republican Party Pop and Rock Music John, Elton Inaugurations Furnish, David J Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

The email was cordial, warm and deferential.

“Thank you so much for the extremely kind invitation to play at your inauguration,” wrote one of President Trump’s favorite musicians, Sir Elton John. “I have given it at lot of thought, and as a British National I don’t feel that it’s appropriate for me to play at the inauguration of an American President. Please accept my apologies.”

Mr. Trump had been hoping Mr. John would croon him into the presidency. He had gone so far as to tell people it was happening even though Mr. John had not yet agreed to such a performance.

The organizers of Mr. Trump’s inauguration had been struggling to find notable musicians to perform at the coming festivities, often considered a high honor. Barack Obama had been able to draw the likes of Aretha Franklin and Beyoncé.

Mr. John, whom Mr. Trump considered something of a friend, joined other celebrities in declining the opportunity to perform.

But for Mr. Trump, the rejection from Mr. John was probably particularly tough to swallow. In multiple books, Mr. Trump had praised Mr. John’s talent and drive. In 2005, Mr. Trump had arranged for Mr. John to perform at his third wedding, to Melania Knauss. Eleven years later, Mr. John sent his carefully-worded email passing on an encore performance, this time at Mr. Trump’s inauguration.

“Tiny Dancer,” one of Mr. John’s most well-known songs, still rings out at the president’s rallies, part of a playlist that Mr. Trump personally selects. The president nicknamed the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, “Little Rocket Man,” a homage to the song by Mr. John and a reference to the strongman’s missile tests. When the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, went to a meeting with Mr. Kim, he came bearing an Elton John record. And aides say the president has seen the singer’s biopic, “Rocketman.”

Still, Mr. John’s music has become the soundtrack not just of the Trump rallies but of the Trump presidency itself — a persistent aural reminder of the president’s interest in showmanship and celebrity and his belief that he is never being given proper credit by the news media for what he views as his successes.

While previous presidents have generally measured their victories against those of their predecessors, Mr. Trump prefers comparing himself against an international superstar known for his flashy style.

Mr. Trump was giddy when his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, told the crowd at a Manchester, N.H., rally last month that the attendance numbers for the event had bested Mr. John’s ticket sales in the same venue.

“Great news! Tonight, we broke the all-time attendance record previously held by Elton John at #SNHUArena in Manchester, New Hampshire!” Mr. Trump tweeted.

In the days that followed, Mr. Trump repeatedly asked aides if his victory over Mr. John was capturing headlines. It wasn’t. Though aides were not surprised as they did not view the accomplishment as a major story, to the president, it represented an emotional wound — his belief that he is perpetually demeaned and never receives his due, according to people close to him.

It was not the first time that Mr. Trump focused on topping the attendance records of Mr. John, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998.

In Montana last summer, Mr. Trump asserted he had broken Mr. John’s record at the arena where he appeared — and again complained that he was not getting credit.

“I have broken more Elton John records. He seems to have a lot of records,” Mr. Trump said. “And I, by the way, I don’t have a musical instrument. I don’t have a guitar or an organ. No organ. Elton has an organ. And lots of other people helping. No, we’ve broken a lot of records. We’ve broken virtually every record.”

Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said in an interview that that year, Mr. Trump had pressed him on how big Mr. John’s crowd had been at a concert in Fargo — and was laser-focused on beating those numbers.

During the campaign in 2016, Mr. Trump would blast Mr. John’s music aboard his private airplane so loudly that people could not sleep, according to former campaign aides. And at the time, Mr. Trump’s advisers pointed to his public celebration of Mr. John’s civil union with his partner, David Furnish, in 2005, as evidence of his tolerance toward gay rights. (That support, expressed on Mr. Trump’s now-defunct blog, has been deleted, and the president’s administration has established a track record of repeatedly curtailing rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, targeting transgender people in particular).

Still, when the president was elected, he knew exactly who he wanted to perform at his inauguration. He informed his friend Anthony Scaramucci that Mr. John would play, without waiting for an actual response from the singer, according to Mr. Scaramucci.

“This will be the first American president in U.S. history that enters the White House with a pro-gay-rights stance,” Mr. Scaramucci said on television at the time. “Elton John is going to be doing our concert on the mall for the inauguration.”

Mr. John’s spokeswoman, Fran Curtis, quickly made clear that that was “incorrect.”

A day later, Mr. John sent an email, through Mr. John’s personal assistant, to an official on the inaugural committee.

The musician said that he appreciated that Democrats and Republicans had worked on ending H.I.V. and AIDS, and that he hoped to work with the new president on the issue.

“It’s been my duty be a part of this battle, and I won’t stop fighting the war against AIDS until we have won,” he wrote.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly focused on ending AIDS in his public statements, announcing a plan to end the epidemic by 2030 in his State of the Union address this year. Ms. Curtis did not immediately respond to a question about whether Mr. Trump and Mr. John have continued talking about H.I.V. and AIDS since the inauguration.

Asked about the inauguration email from the singer, Mr. John’s husband, Mr. Furnish, initially denied it existed, saying, “No correspondence sent to President-elect Trump with an apology and no offer was ever made to perform at a U.K. state dinner in the U.S.” When told of the details, which were provided by two people who had seen it, he quickly said it was so far back that no one immediately remembered it, and provided a copy to a reporter.

Mr. John has made clear since then that he wants daylight between himself and Mr. Trump’s politics. Yet in the final sentences of his letter, Mr. John suggested something of a compromise.

“I was honoured to perform at a White House State Dinner for the UK during the Clinton presidency and I would be delighted to do the same for you if the opportunity arises,” Mr. John wrote. “I also want to wish you every success with your presidency. I love America deeply, a country that has always welcomed me and my music with kind, tolerant and open arms.”

So far, no such dinner has been scheduled.

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The Senate: Still Great at Deliberating, but Less So at Legislating

WASHINGTON — Senator Mitch McConnell says he is awaiting President Trump’s proposal on new gun safety rules before swinging his chamber into action. Some of his colleagues think he’s got it backward.

After all, it is the Senate — in conjunction with the faster-moving House — that by tradition has jealously guarded its role in originating and shaping legislation, only later sending it to the president to be accepted or rejected. But today’s Senate, devoted almost exclusively to confirming Mr. Trump’s nominations, is hardly a hotbed of legislative activity.

Members of both parties say they would like that to change.

“I’m very eager to turn from nominations to legislation,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. “There are important issues that are pending, and I think we could produce some terrific bills that would be signed into law.”

Democrats took a harsher line, particularly when it comes to stricter gun safety legislation they are demanding after an August marked by mass shooting sprees.

“They are hiding behind each other,” Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, said of the dance by the White House and Mr. McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, over new gun safety proposals. “The president is spineless on these topics and changes his mind all the time, and McConnell abdicates the role of the legislature.”

“McConnell wants to protect his members from having to take a vote on issues that are important to America,” Mr. Merkley said in an interview. “That is our responsibility, to take a stand.”

Mr. McConnell does want to spare his Republican colleagues tough votes, especially with a critical election to decide control of the Senate 14 months away. But he is even more determined to avoid getting the Senate caught up in an issue that divides Republicans, or separates them from a president who appears to have a stranglehold on the party base. Because of the objections of a handful of conservatives — and despite broad Senate and White House support — Mr. McConnell last year brought a criminal justice measure to the floor only after tremendous pressure.

The issue of gun control could also split Republicans. A few of them, including Ms. Collins and Senator Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, have a history of backing bipartisan gun legislation, and others have signaled they may now join them given the urgency to act in the aftermath of shootings in Ohio and Texas. But most Republicans want nothing to do with gun measures that would also have to satisfy the Democratic majority in the House.

“We ought to be focusing seriously, substantively on how to stop these horrific crimes from occurring, and what many Democrats are proposing wouldn’t do it,” Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said Friday on Twitter.

Mr. McConnell has chosen his usual cautious route in saying that he would await the president, to spare the Senate from wasting time on bills that would never become law. “Until the White House gives us some indication of what the president is willing to sign, we are waiting to see what it looks like,” Mr. McConnell told reporters in recent days.

But while the White House has been promising to show its hand on what it would accept when it comes to new gun laws, nothing has yet materialized, and the president seems conflicted. Democrats and a few Republicans say the best approach would be for Congress to act on its own, and deliver a measure that would present the president with a take-it-or-leave-it choice.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160669578_e91e5bad-cc22-4890-9a1a-01a06a444d03-articleLarge The Senate: Still Great at Deliberating, but Less So at Legislating United States Politics and Government Senate Republican Party mass shootings gun control Courts and the Judiciary

“I’m very eager to turn from nominations to legislation,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine.CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

“I’m sure if a bill on background checks gets to the Oval Office, the president will sign it,” Mr. Merkley said.

But that’s an open question considering that Mr. Trump has previously refused to sign bills even after saying he would.

Polarizing congressional politics have severely diminished the legislative pace in the Senate, which has become an institution recognized more for no votes being taken rather than for people voting no. Republicans pummeled Democrats for treating the Senate as a legislative desert in the 2014 election when they won the majority, ridiculing Mark Begich, Democrat of Alaska, for failing to get a floor vote on a single amendment over six years, a charge that helped defeat him that year.

Now some Republicans, privately frustrated with the lack of legislative progress, worry that they may receive the same treatment at the hands of Democrats next year if they don’t start to produce. (Senate leaders often say that members demand votes right up to the moment they are asked to take a dicey one.)

Others believe Mr. McConnell is making the best of a difficult political environment.

“I think he wants to unify Republicans, and I believe the president’s support will help us do that,” said Senator John Cornyn, a top ally of Mr. McConnell as the Senate’s former No. 2 Republican. “I think it is a smart move on his part.”

“This is not easy stuff,” Mr. Cornyn added. “The majority leader has to make a decision on what is the best use of floor time and given the split in the Congress, he has made a decision that judges are an optimal use since we don’t have to be dependent on the House.”

Without question, Mr. McConnell and Senate Republicans have scored a major success on judges since confirming nominees now requires no participation by the Democratic minority and gives Republicans a powerful talking point with conservatives.

This week, the Senate passed a milestone in confirming the 150th federal judge of Mr. Trump’s administration to a lifetime appointment, far outstripping President Barack Obama’s pace and fulfilling pledges by Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell to remake the federal judiciary.

“These conservative judicial appointments will impact our nation for years to come,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who leads the Judiciary Committee and has been speeding through Trump nominees as if running an assembly line.

But the Senate is supposed to be about more than confirmations. Lawmakers on both sides would like to see it get back to legislative business. They see gun legislation, laws to rein in prescription drug prices, a trade deal with Mexico and Canada and a highway bill as possibilities.

“I believe both in the case of gun safety legislation and legislation on prescription drugs that the Senate has developed very good proposals and there have been a lot of negotiations going on in the past months and that we should proceed to the Senate floor,” Ms. Collins said.

But when it comes to legislation these days, the Senate floor is proving to be a very difficult destination to reach.

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Liz Cheney, Tart-Tongued Fighter, Is Warring With Rand Paul Over Who’s Trumpier

WASHINGTON — After becoming the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress, Representative Liz Cheney, the sharp-tongued lawmaker from Wyoming, wasted little time establishing her reputation as one of her party’s most combative partisan brawlers.

Ms. Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, routinely lashes out at Democrats and detractors of President Trump. She branded Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, one of two Muslim women in Congress, “an anti-Semitic socialist who slanders US troops.” She said anti-Trump texts sent by F.B.I. agents “could well be treason.” She asked Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York to “do us all a favor and spend just a few minutes learning some actual history.”

Now, the tough-talking congresswoman, who is pondering a run for Senate, has laced into a fellow Republican, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, in a nasty and deeply personal clash — with multigenerational undertones — over Afghanistan policy and the firing of John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s hawkish national security adviser. The feud, which began on Twitter and has continued on television, has cemented Ms. Cheney’s reputation as the most combative Cheney in Washington.

At a time when the president’s hold on the Republican Party is as strong as ever, it comes down to a contest between Ms. Cheney and Mr. Paul over who is Trumpier.

Ms. Cheney, an unapologetic proponent of using the United States’ military might around the globe, is a backer of Mr. Bolton, who served in the George W. Bush administration with her father. Mr. Paul, a libertarian whose own father, former Representative Ron Paul, has called the Bush-Cheney approach a “crazed neocon foreign policy,” is among the most vocal opponents in Congress of armed foreign intervention.

Their back-and-forth has gotten downright nasty.

Ms. Cheney has invoked Mr. Paul’s 2016 Republican presidential primary loss to Mr. Trump, calling the senator “a big loser (then & now),” and resurfaced a four-year-old Trump tweet likening Mr. Paul to “a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain.” Mr. Paul shot back, suggesting that Ms. Cheney “might just be mad still about when Candidate Trump shredded your Dad’s failed foreign policy and endless wars.”

On Friday, at the House Republican retreat in Baltimore, Ms. Cheney took a victory lap.

“I enjoyed it,” she said wryly. “I thought it was an enlightening exchange. Here I had been thinking the Senate was dull.”

A lawyer, former State Department official, onetime Fox News pundit and mother of five, Ms. Cheney, 53, has had a stunning ascent in Washington. Some view her as a possible House speaker, though she may be setting her sights across the Capitol. She is weighing a run for the Senate seat being vacated by Michael B. Enzi, a Republican whom she briefly sought to oust in 2014 in a campaign that ended in disaster for her.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_158699361_25d9f14f-c9d8-440f-bfe1-f607679a4b39-articleLarge Liz Cheney, Tart-Tongued Fighter, Is Warring With Rand Paul Over Who’s Trumpier Wyoming United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Senate Republican Party Paul, Ron Paul, Rand Midterm Elections (2018) House of Representatives Conservatism (US Politics) Cheney, Liz Cheney, Dick

Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, shot back at Ms. Cheney, suggesting that she “might just be mad still about when Candidate Trump shredded your Dad’s failed foreign policy and endless wars.”CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

“We have a problem in our conference where a lot of our members fear engagement with the media because of the media bias that we all believe to exist,” said Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida. “Liz seems to understand the importance of doing a lot of media and also doing hostile media.”

Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican, said Ms. Cheney “hasn’t been afraid to call out some of the most radical members of the socialist Democrats.” But her tendency to name-check her opponents makes at least some colleagues uncomfortable.

“I think we have to get away from personalities,” said Representative Tom Emmer, Republican of Minnesota and the chairman the party’s campaign arm, in June, long before Ms. Cheney’s spat with Mr. Paul. “From a messaging standpoint, I think it’s a mistake — you don’t use names. This is not about the people — this is about their ideas. We need to have a battle of ideas in this country.”

Ms. Cheney’s meteoric rise has injected the politics of the personal into the highest levels of congressional leadership in a way not seen since Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker whose political action committee instructed Republicans to “learn to speak like Newt” by describing Democrats using words like decay, traitors, radical, sick, destroy, pathetic, corrupt and shame.

“I think that she’s been very effective when she’s been on TV,” Mr. Gingrich said in an interview. “I think she is personable, knowledgeable and assertive without being hostile.”

And in a party where 90 percent of House Republicans are white men, Mr. Gingrich said, Ms. Cheney is a huge asset in Republicans’ efforts to demonize three liberal freshman Democrats — Representative Rashida Tlaib of Minnesota, Ms. Omar and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez — who have become lightning rods on the right, fueling Republican fund-raising.

“You need a woman member to do that,” he said.

Ms. Cheney’s supporters say she pushes back hard at Democrats because she is deeply concerned about the direction in which the party, particularly the progressive left, would take the country. And they say she has drawn a sharp line against hateful speech, no matter where it comes from. When Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, seemed to embrace white supremacy, Ms. Cheney was among the first to condemn him.

But she also knows that tough talk wins elections. After Republicans took a drubbing in the 2018 midterms, losing control of the House, she complained the party had been too tame.

“We’ve got to change the way that we operate and really, in some ways, be more aggressive, have more of a rapid response,” she told The Associated Press at the time.

Ms. Cheney grew up around politics, handing out fliers and politicking for her father, who was elected to the House in 1978, when she was still a teenager. He once was the No. 3 House Republican; when Ms. Cheney’s colleagues voted her into the same post last year, the former vice president sat in the front row, wearing a silent smile, those in attendance said.

Ms. Cheney with her father, Dick Cheney, as he was sworn in as vice president in 2001.CreditGetty Images

“The vice president has a great line: He says, ‘I’m conservative and I’m not mad about it,’” said Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. “I think that’s the attitude Liz has had. She’s defending conservative Republican principles, she’s doing it with a smile on her face, and she’s doing it in an aggressive fashion.”

In 2013, after moving from suburban Washington to Wyoming, Ms. Cheney announced she would challenge Mr. Enzi, a genial and well-liked incumbent, in a Republican primary race.

It was an audacious move, and the campaign did not go well. Ms. Cheney was branded a carpetbagger; “Cheney for Virginia” bumper stickers sprung up around the state. Her ambitions divided the Wyoming Republican Party, splitting old alliances and friendships. It also created a rift within the Cheney family. Ms. Cheney came out in opposition of same-sex marriage, angering her sister, Mary Cheney, and Mary’s wife, Heather Poe.

She withdrew from the race in January 2014, citing “serious health issues” in her family. But in 2016, when Representative Cynthia Lummis announced her retirement, Ms. Cheney sought her seat and won. Now Ms. Lummis has announced her candidacy for Mr. Enzi’s seat, promising a “barn burner” of a race if Ms. Cheney challenges her.

A Lummis-Cheney matchup would be “very difficult to handicap,” said Tucker Fagan, a former aide to Ms. Lummis. Mr. Fagan said Ms. Cheney’s high profile in Washington and her combative style are assets.

“Here our representative is being interviewed on national television,” he said. “So we’re not just the flyover state. We’re somebody to contend with.”

In the House, Ms. Cheney’s policies are as bellicose as her messaging. She has led an unsuccessful charge against a resolution, sponsored by Mr. Gaetz and Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, barring federal money from being used for war with Iran. She has also argued forcefully against a withdrawal of troops from Syria.

That is the root of her disagreement with Mr. Paul, which seems to have begun Sunday after Mr. Trump disclosed that he had canceled peace talks with the Taliban at Camp David to end the war in Afghanistan. Ms. Cheney tweeted that he was right to do so.

That prompted Mr. Paul to tweet a Washington Examiner op-ed article from Wyoming legislators upbraiding Ms. Cheney for opposing the president’s push to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The tit-for-tat escalated, with the senator blasting the #NeverTrumpCheneys — a double swipe at the congresswoman and her father — and accusing Ms. Cheney of “pro-Bolton blather.”

On Friday, she seemed determined to have the last word.

“They’re issues that surround whether or not you put America first, as President Trump does,” Ms. Cheney told reporters, referring to her foreign policy disagreements with Mr. Paul, “or blame America first, as Rand Paul does and has for years.”

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Liz Cheney, Tart-Tongued Fighter, Is Warring With Rand Paul Over Who’s Trumpier

WASHINGTON — After becoming the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress, Representative Liz Cheney, the sharp-tongued lawmaker from Wyoming, wasted little time establishing her reputation as one of her party’s most combative partisan brawlers.

Ms. Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, routinely lashes out at Democrats and detractors of President Trump. She branded Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, one of two Muslim women in Congress, “an anti-Semitic socialist who slanders US troops.” She said anti-Trump texts sent by F.B.I. agents “could well be treason.” She asked Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York to “do us all a favor and spend just a few minutes learning some actual history.”

Now, the tough-talking congresswoman, who is pondering a run for Senate, has laced into a fellow Republican, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, in a nasty and deeply personal clash — with multigenerational undertones — over Afghanistan policy and the firing of John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s hawkish national security adviser. The feud, which began on Twitter and has continued on television, has cemented Ms. Cheney’s reputation as the most combative Cheney in Washington.

At a time when the president’s hold on the Republican Party is as strong as ever, it comes down to a contest between Ms. Cheney and Mr. Paul over who is Trumpier.

Ms. Cheney, an unapologetic proponent of using the United States’ military might around the globe, is a backer of Mr. Bolton, who served in the George W. Bush administration with her father. Mr. Paul, a libertarian whose own father, former Representative Ron Paul, has called the Bush-Cheney approach a “crazed neocon foreign policy,” is among the most vocal opponents in Congress of armed foreign intervention.

Their back-and-forth has gotten downright nasty.

Ms. Cheney has invoked Mr. Paul’s 2016 Republican presidential primary loss to Mr. Trump, calling the senator “a big loser (then & now),” and resurfaced a four-year-old Trump tweet likening Mr. Paul to “a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain.” Mr. Paul shot back, suggesting that Ms. Cheney “might just be mad still about when Candidate Trump shredded your Dad’s failed foreign policy and endless wars.”

On Friday, at the House Republican retreat in Baltimore, Ms. Cheney took a victory lap.

“I enjoyed it,” she said wryly. “I thought it was an enlightening exchange. Here I had been thinking the Senate was dull.”

A lawyer, former State Department official, onetime Fox News pundit and mother of five, Ms. Cheney, 53, has had a stunning ascent in Washington. Some view her as a possible House speaker, though she may be setting her sights across the Capitol. She is weighing a run for the Senate seat being vacated by Michael B. Enzi, a Republican whom she briefly sought to oust in 2014 in a campaign that ended in disaster for her.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_158699361_25d9f14f-c9d8-440f-bfe1-f607679a4b39-articleLarge Liz Cheney, Tart-Tongued Fighter, Is Warring With Rand Paul Over Who’s Trumpier Wyoming United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Senate Republican Party Paul, Ron Paul, Rand Midterm Elections (2018) House of Representatives Conservatism (US Politics) Cheney, Liz Cheney, Dick

Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, shot back at Ms. Cheney, suggesting that she “might just be mad still about when Candidate Trump shredded your Dad’s failed foreign policy and endless wars.”CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

“We have a problem in our conference where a lot of our members fear engagement with the media because of the media bias that we all believe to exist,” said Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida. “Liz seems to understand the importance of doing a lot of media and also doing hostile media.”

Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican, said Ms. Cheney “hasn’t been afraid to call out some of the most radical members of the socialist Democrats.” But her tendency to name-check her opponents makes at least some colleagues uncomfortable.

“I think we have to get away from personalities,” said Representative Tom Emmer, Republican of Minnesota and the chairman the party’s campaign arm, in June, long before Ms. Cheney’s spat with Mr. Paul. “From a messaging standpoint, I think it’s a mistake — you don’t use names. This is not about the people — this is about their ideas. We need to have a battle of ideas in this country.”

Ms. Cheney’s meteoric rise has injected the politics of the personal into the highest levels of congressional leadership in a way not seen since Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker whose political action committee instructed Republicans to “learn to speak like Newt” by describing Democrats using words like decay, traitors, radical, sick, destroy, pathetic, corrupt and shame.

“I think that she’s been very effective when she’s been on TV,” Mr. Gingrich said in an interview. “I think she is personable, knowledgeable and assertive without being hostile.”

And in a party where 90 percent of House Republicans are white men, Mr. Gingrich said, Ms. Cheney is a huge asset in Republicans’ efforts to demonize three liberal freshman Democrats — Representative Rashida Tlaib of Minnesota, Ms. Omar and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez — who have become lightning rods on the right, fueling Republican fund-raising.

“You need a woman member to do that,” he said.

Ms. Cheney’s supporters say she pushes back hard at Democrats because she is deeply concerned about the direction in which the party, particularly the progressive left, would take the country. And they say she has drawn a sharp line against hateful speech, no matter where it comes from. When Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, seemed to embrace white supremacy, Ms. Cheney was among the first to condemn him.

But she also knows that tough talk wins elections. After Republicans took a drubbing in the 2018 midterms, losing control of the House, she complained the party had been too tame.

“We’ve got to change the way that we operate and really, in some ways, be more aggressive, have more of a rapid response,” she told The Associated Press at the time.

Ms. Cheney grew up around politics, handing out fliers and politicking for her father, who was elected to the House in 1978, when she was still a teenager. He once was the No. 3 House Republican; when Ms. Cheney’s colleagues voted her into the same post last year, the former vice president sat in the front row, wearing a silent smile, those in attendance said.

Ms. Cheney with her father, Dick Cheney, as he was sworn in as vice president in 2001.CreditGetty Images

“The vice president has a great line: He says, ‘I’m conservative and I’m not mad about it,’” said Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. “I think that’s the attitude Liz has had. She’s defending conservative Republican principles, she’s doing it with a smile on her face, and she’s doing it in an aggressive fashion.”

In 2013, after moving from suburban Washington to Wyoming, Ms. Cheney announced she would challenge Mr. Enzi, a genial and well-liked incumbent, in a Republican primary race.

It was an audacious move, and the campaign did not go well. Ms. Cheney was branded a carpetbagger; “Cheney for Virginia” bumper stickers sprung up around the state. Her ambitions divided the Wyoming Republican Party, splitting old alliances and friendships. It also created a rift within the Cheney family. Ms. Cheney came out in opposition of same-sex marriage, angering her sister, Mary Cheney, and Mary’s wife, Heather Poe.

She withdrew from the race in January 2014, citing “serious health issues” in her family. But in 2016, when Representative Cynthia Lummis announced her retirement, Ms. Cheney sought her seat and won. Now Ms. Lummis has announced her candidacy for Mr. Enzi’s seat, promising a “barn burner” of a race if Ms. Cheney challenges her.

A Lummis-Cheney matchup would be “very difficult to handicap,” said Tucker Fagan, a former aide to Ms. Lummis. Mr. Fagan said Ms. Cheney’s high profile in Washington and her combative style are assets.

“Here our representative is being interviewed on national television,” he said. “So we’re not just the flyover state. We’re somebody to contend with.”

In the House, Ms. Cheney’s policies are as bellicose as her messaging. She has led an unsuccessful charge against a resolution, sponsored by Mr. Gaetz and Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, barring federal money from being used for war with Iran. She has also argued forcefully against a withdrawal of troops from Syria.

That is the root of her disagreement with Mr. Paul, which seems to have begun Sunday after Mr. Trump disclosed that he had canceled peace talks with the Taliban at Camp David to end the war in Afghanistan. Ms. Cheney tweeted that he was right to do so.

That prompted Mr. Paul to tweet a Washington Examiner op-ed article from Wyoming legislators upbraiding Ms. Cheney for opposing the president’s push to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The tit-for-tat escalated, with the senator blasting the #NeverTrumpCheneys — a double swipe at the congresswoman and her father — and accusing Ms. Cheney of “pro-Bolton blather.”

On Friday, she seemed determined to have the last word.

“They’re issues that surround whether or not you put America first, as President Trump does,” Ms. Cheney told reporters, referring to her foreign policy disagreements with Mr. Paul, “or blame America first, as Rand Paul does and has for years.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

North Carolina Election Shows How Political Lines Are Drawn. And They Are Fixed.

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. — The red is getting redder and the blue is getting bluer.

The special congressional election in North Carolina may have involved just about 190,000 voters, but it showed that the class, racial and regional divides among voters have only hardened since that demographic chasm helped drive President Trump’s election in 2016 and the Democratic rebound in the House in 2018.

Dan Bishop, a Republican state lawmaker, eked out a two-point victory in a historically conservative seat because he improved on his party’s performance with working-class whites in more lightly populated parts of the district. And even though Democrats nominated a Marine veteran, Dan McCready, who highlighted his baptism while serving in Iraq, his gains in Charlotte, the state’s biggest city, were not enough to offset the drop-off he suffered across several hundred miles of sprawling farms and small towns.

The bracing takeaway for Republicans is that their tightening embrace of Mr. Trump and his often demagogic politics is further alienating the upper middle-class voters — many in cities and their suburbs— who once were central to their base. At the same time, the Democrats are continuing to struggle with the working-class whites who once represented a pillar of their own coalition.

The results here in a district stretching from Charlotte to Fayetteville presage a brutal, national campaign that seems destined to become the political equivalent of trench warfare, with the two parties rallying their supporters but clashing over a vanishingly small slice of contested electoral terrain.

Such a contest could prove difficult for Mr. Trump, who helped deliver Mr. Bishop a victory by mobilizing their shared base of working-class whites at an election-eve rally, because his core support could well be insufficient to win him a second term without improving his standing with the suburbanites and women who reluctantly backed him in 2016.

Even as the president and his top aides crowed over their role in securing Mr. Bishop a two-point win in a seat Mr. Trump carried by 12 points, their next-day glow was jarred by a new Washington Post-ABC poll that delivered grim tidings. Mr. Trump would lose to a handful of the Democratic candidates, the survey indicated, and a trial heat between the president and Joseph R. Biden Jr. showed Mr. Biden thrashing Mr. Trump 55-40 among registered voters.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160520535_e23f50ea-e8f6-4c7a-8384-72e7dddf8b33-articleLarge North Carolina Election Shows How Political Lines Are Drawn. And They Are Fixed. Trump, Donald J Robeson County (NC) Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 Parscale, Brad (1976- ) North Carolina Midterm Elections (2018) McCready, Dan Lumberton (NC) House of Representatives Fayetteville (NC) Elections, House of Representatives Democratic Party Bishop, Dan

Dan Bishop, right, won the election by two points in a district President Trump carried by 12 points in 2016.CreditJim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But Republicans note that the election will not be held this week and they believe Mr. Trump can pull out another Electoral College victory if the Democrats veer out of the political mainstream next year and send just enough of those political moderates scrambling back to the G.O.P.

“Their run to the left is the great opportunity for us to get back the majority and for the president to get re-elected,” said Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, pointing to how many more House seats are now held by Democrats in districts won by Mr. Trump than by Republicans in seats Hillary Clinton carried.

More striking than Mr. McHenry’s rosy assessment is what he and other political veterans from both parties are now willing to acknowledge: that new lines of demarcation are making Democrats out of college-educated voters tooling around Charlotte in BMWs and Republicans out of blue-collar workers further out on Tobacco Road. And those lines are now fixed.

“We are living in, to take an old John Edwards term, Two Americas,” Mr. McHenry said, alluding to the former North Carolina senator. He added that “the view of the president is cemented in voters’ minds” and conceded that Mr. Trump can only improve his standing in the suburbs “along the margins.”

The gains Dan McCready, the Democratic candidate, made in Charlotte were not enough to offset the drop-off he suffered across sprawling farms and small towns of rural North Carolina.CreditLogan R. Cyrus for The New York Times

Former Representative Brad Miller, a longtime North Carolina Democrat with ancestral roots in this district, was just as blunt.

“It does grieve me greatly that the areas where my family was from have gone so Republican,” said Mr. Miller, noting that many of the voters who cast Republican ballots Tuesday “probably had grandparents with pictures of F.D.R. up in their living room.”

But Mr. Miller said the implications from Tuesday’s special election and last year’s midterms were undeniable if demoralizing in some ways.

“Democrats have a clear advantage in 2020, but there is no way to break into a lot of the folks who are for Trump. They’re just not going to vote for a Democrat, doesn’t matter who it is,” he said. “So Democrats can still win and probably will win but we’re going to be a very divided nation.”

Those divisions were easy to detect Wednesday in Rockingham, a county seat community well east of Charlotte best known for its famed Nascar track. Mr. McCready won the surrounding county by 2.5 percent last year but on Tuesday Mr. Bishop carried it by 5 percent.

Standing behind the counter at Iconic Wellness CBD, and surrounded by tasteful posters extolling the benefits of legal cannabis products, Pam Mizzell said she voted for Mr. Bishop in part because he had the strong backing of Mr. Trump.

Ms. Mizzell, who is white, said she wanted more Republicans in Washington supporting the president’s agenda. She accused former President Barack Obama of pitting “one race against the other race” (she did not cite any examples) and said she hoped that the Trump administration would help bring about an era of racial healing.

Diane McDonald, a school cafeteria worker who is African-American, offered a markedly different viewpoint, saying she was worried that Mr. Trump is promoting racism. “And they’re letting him get away with it,” Ms. McDonald said of Washington Republicans. “I thought McCready would make a difference.”

In Charlotte, it was not difficult to find white, Republican-leaning voters who also backed Mr. McCready.

Chris Daleus, a salesman, said he backed the Democrat Tuesday even though he supported Mr. Trump three years ago. “He seems to have embarrassed us in a lot of ways,” Mr. Daleus said of the president.

National Democrats took heart in such sentiments, believing their narrow defeat in a district they have not held since the 1960s foreshadows how a Trumpified Republican Party will run into the same suburban wall in 2020 as they did last year.

“There are 34 seats held by Republicans that are better pick-up opportunities for Democrats than this seat,” said Lucinda Guinn, a Democratic strategist. “Democrats can grow their majority.”

The more pressing matter for Democrats, though, may be whether they can improve their performance with working-class whites to reclaim the Senate and presidency in 2020, a question that will turn in part on whether they can defeat the North Carolina Republican Senator Thom Tillis and reclaim this state from Mr. Trump, who won here by 3.6 points in 2016.

“Back in the 80s and 90s, North Carolina Democrats who bucked party affiliation were called Jessecrats,” said Doug Heye, a North Carolina-reared Republican consultant, referring to the late Senator Jesse Helms. “Now we may have to called them Trumpocrats. And if Democrats want North Carolina to truly be in play, they have to figure out how to appeal to these voters.”

Mr. Bishop’s campaign correctly determined that these mostly rural Democrats would hold the key to their success, even though their candidate’s state senate district includes parts of Charlotte. Jim Blaine, one of Mr. Bishop’s top aides, said that 75 to 80 percent of their paid advertising was directed toward the eastern, and more sparsely-populated, part of the district.

“It was focused on the core, long-standing, working-class Democratic constituency that makes up a huge piece of the population in those counties,” said Mr. Blaine, adding: “We had to persuade them not that Dan Bishop is the Republican, but the guy who would look out for them.”

He said their job was made easier in part because of the national Democratic Party’s drift left, but also because Mr. McCready did not make any major break from party orthodoxy that would have allowed him to present himself as a different sort of Democrat.

Mr. Trump’s high command, not surprisingly, had their own theory of why Republicans won here: Mr. Trump.

Brad Parscale, the president’s campaign manager, told reporters on a conference call Wednesday that the president’s election eve rally in Fayetteville was pivotal to Mr. Bishop’s success in energizing Election Day voters, after the Democrats mobilized many of their supporters to cast early ballots.

“There’s no question that he is the congressman-elect this morning because of the personal efforts of President Trump,” Mr. Parscale said of Mr. Bishop.

More Coverage of the Special Election
Dan Bishop, North Carolina Republican, Wins Special Election

Sept. 10, 2019

North Carolina Special Election Results: Ninth House District

Sept. 10, 2019

North Carolina Politics
Read more about the special election.
North Carolina Special Election Results: Ninth House District

Sept. 10, 2019

Westlake Legal Group results-north-carolina-house-district-9-special-general-election-1568140508937-threeByTwoSmallAt2X North Carolina Election Shows How Political Lines Are Drawn. And They Are Fixed. Trump, Donald J Robeson County (NC) Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 Parscale, Brad (1976- ) North Carolina Midterm Elections (2018) McCready, Dan Lumberton (NC) House of Representatives Fayetteville (NC) Elections, House of Representatives Democratic Party Bishop, Dan
With the Faithful at Trump’s North Carolina Rally: ‘He Speaks Like Me’

Sept. 10, 2019

Westlake Legal Group merlin_160520076_b90154dd-663a-4e83-b77c-df30cc81e5b0-threeByTwoSmallAt2X North Carolina Election Shows How Political Lines Are Drawn. And They Are Fixed. Trump, Donald J Robeson County (NC) Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 Parscale, Brad (1976- ) North Carolina Midterm Elections (2018) McCready, Dan Lumberton (NC) House of Representatives Fayetteville (NC) Elections, House of Representatives Democratic Party Bishop, Dan
North Carolina’s ‘Guru of Elections’: Can-Do Operator Who May Have Done Too Much

Dec. 8, 2018

Westlake Legal Group 09carolina1-threeByTwoSmallAt2X North Carolina Election Shows How Political Lines Are Drawn. And They Are Fixed. Trump, Donald J Robeson County (NC) Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 Parscale, Brad (1976- ) North Carolina Midterm Elections (2018) McCready, Dan Lumberton (NC) House of Representatives Fayetteville (NC) Elections, House of Representatives Democratic Party Bishop, Dan

Richard Fausset reported from Charlotte, and Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman from Washington.

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