May 8, 2018

Pro-Trump group targets Joe Manchin in push to confirm Gina Haspel

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

America First Policies, the biggest pro-Trump nonprofit group, is spending more than $500k on an ad campaign starting Wednesday, pressuring red-state Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to confirm President Trump's pick for CIA director — Gina Haspel.

State of play: America First believes that Manchin and Independent Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats, are the two most likely non-Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee to vote for Haspel. However, the group settled on targeting Manchin because they think he's more likely to break. They also realize that if Manchin votes in Haspel's favor, she'll go to the floor as a bipartisan nominee.

  • America First is also using Mike Pompeo's confirmation to Secretary of State as a lesson: Once Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) announced her support for Pompeo's nomination, other Democrats followed suit — essentially creating a domino effect. The group is hoping Manchin will be that first domino to fall this time around.

Their strategy: Trump is still very popular in West Virginia, and Manchin, who's up for reelection this fall, will have to pick his battles against the GOP very carefully. And voting against Trump's nominee, and the first potential female director of the CIA, may not be one of them.

"You're wrapping national security, president trump and gender politics all into one vote."
— A source involved in the ad buy tells Axios

Timing: The ad's launch comes one day after the West Virginia Senate primary, which has quickly become one of the most-watched senate races in the country, thanks to GOP candidate Don Blankenship — whose vulgar attacks on the government and high-profile Republicans have drawn national attention.

The bottom line: Most Republican strategists following this race believe Manchin will be in a relatively safe position if Blankenship — who Trump says has no chance of securing the vote — wins, given they think he's an unelectable candidate.

  • But, if either of Blankenship's Republican challengers, Rep. Evan Jenkins or Patrick Morrisey, wins, they’re betting they can squeeze Manchin on several key issues ahead of the midterm elections given how heavily supportive the state is of Trump.

What they're saying: "Joe Manchin has a difficult decision to make between supporting an experienced woman with stellar credentials at the CIA or siding with Chuck, Nancy and the rest of the liberal DC swamp crowd," Brian Walsh, the president of America First Policies, told Axios.

Go deeper

U.S. coronavirus updates: Infections number tops 140,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The novel coronavirus has now infected over 142,000 people in the U.S. — more than any other country in the world, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: COVID-19 had killed over 2,400 people in the U.S. by Sunday night. That's far fewer than in Italy, where over 10,000 people have died — accounting for a third of the global death toll. The number of people who've recovered from the virus in the U.S. exceeded 2,600 Sunday evening.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 8 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 721,584 — Total deaths: 33,958 — Total recoveries: 149,122.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 142,106 — Total deaths: 2,479 — Total recoveries: 2,686.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump says his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

World coronavirus updates: Cases surge past 720,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now more than 720,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 33,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Sunday that his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Health