Scott Sonner / AP
Many Republicans wondered this weekend if it made sense for America First Policies, the outside group backing President Trump, to run attack ads against Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) for wavering on healthcare, when his vote is desperately needed.
"Does Trump team think it's smart to attack the most endangered GOP senator, from a state Trump lost?" asked a longtime lion of the GOP. "This is the second dumbest thing Trump has done since firing Comey."
Well, Axios has learned that the group is giving Heller a chance to modify his blast at the bill, before unleashing an advertising attack in his home state.
- The backstory: After Heller announced his surprise opposition to the Senate bill on Friday, the group said it planned a seven-figure buy in Nevada.
- The drama: The attacks have not begun — and won't, if Heller retreats. The group could follow what it did with some wavering House members, and run ads of encouragement rather than opposition.
- A Republican operative: "The content of the ad is really up to Senator Heller ... If [moderate] Congressman [Tom] MacArthur and [conservative] Congressman [Mark] Meadows can work together in the House to get to yes, I'd like to think Senator Heller could work with Leader McConnell to get to yes."
- The arsenal: Phone banks that connect constituents with senators' offices are being run by America First Policies in the states of eight wavering senators: Ohio, Kentucky, Utah, Texas, Maine, Wisconsin, Louisiana and Alaska.
- The longer game: Looking ahead to 2018, the group is running cable ads against Democrats in these eight states, starting this week: Michigan, Ohio, Montana, North Dakota, Virginia, Missouri, Indiana and West Virginia.