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Wake Up To Politics - August 15, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, August 15, 2018. 83 days until Election Day 2018. 811 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Primary results: Pawlenty defeated in GOP primary, Democrats pick diverse slate of nominees

The biggest surprise of Tuesday's primaries came in Minnesota, where former governor Tim Pawlenty came short in his bid to retake the job he held for eight years. Pawlenty was defeated in the state's Republican gubernatorial primary by Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, the 2014 GOP gubernatorial nominee, 43.9% to 52.6%; Pawlenty was seen as the frontrunner going into primary day, and he badly outraised and outspent Johnson.

After conceding the race Tuesday night, Pawlenty attributed his loss to the dominant role President Trump plays in today's Republican Party, telling reporters: "The Republican Party has shifted. It is the era of Trump and I'm just not a Trump-like politician." During the 2016 campaign, Pawlenty — a leading GOP presidential candidate in 2012 — called Trump "unhinged and unfit for the presidency," a comment Johnson seized on in their primary fight. Johnson branded himself as the more conservative candidate in the race, while saying Pawlenty was part of the "status quo."

Johnson will face Democratic Rep. Tim Walz in the fall; Walz comfortably beat two female rivals, former state House Majority Leader Erin Murphy and state Attorney General Lori Swanson, in Tuesday's primary.

In neighboring Wisconsin, state education superintendent Tony Evers easily won the Democratic primary to face Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the fall, while state Sen. Leah Vukmir won the GOP nod to challenge Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, beating businessman Kevin Nicholson with the backing of the state party establishment. Walker and Baldwin are both top targets for the opposite party this November.

Republicans also nominated businessman Bob Stefanowski in the Connecticut gubernatorial primary; a political newcomer, he triumphed over Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who had been endorsed by the state party. The GOP is eyeing the Connecticut statehouse as a potential pickup opportunity due to the low approval ratings of retiring Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy. Businessman and 2006 Senate candidate Ned Lamont won the Democratic primary for the seat.

Meanwhile, a diverse slate of Democratic nominees gained attention on Tuesday for the historic nature of their nominations. In Vermont, former energy executive Christine Hallquist became the first major-party transgender gubernatorial nominee, and would become the nation's first transgender governor if she defeats popular Republican Gov. Phil Scott in November. (Hallquist's nomination meant Democrats have nominated gubernatorial candidates representing all four letters in the LGBT acronym this year.) Jahana Hayes, the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, is now likely to become the first African-American Democrat to represent Connecticut in Congress after winning Tuesday's primary in the state's 5th District. In Minnesota's 5th District, a November victory would make Ilhan Omar the first Somali-American in Congress and one of the first Muslim women, along with Michigan Democratic candidate Rashida Tlaib.

In addition, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) would become the first Muslim attorney general in the U.S. if he wins this fall; Ellison easily won his primary despite abuse allegations leveled by an ex-girlfriend, which he denied.

While Trump-allied nominees carried the day on the Republican side, a number of nominees backed by Justice Democrats — the progressive group that ushered Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to victory in New York earlier this summer — also saw victories in primaries on Tuesday. Hallquist and Omar were backed by the group, as was Randy Bryce, the ironworker who won the Democratic primary in Wisconsin's First District, where House Speaker Paul Ryan is retiring. Bryce, who faced reports about his record of nine arrests, is opposed by Republican lawyer Bryan Steil, who received Ryan's endorsement in the GOP primary.

--- Also on Tuesday: Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded to secretary of state Kris Kobach in the GOP gubernatorial primary, a week after the election was held. Kobach beat the incumbent governor in the primary by just 345 votes; he now advances to the general election, where his hardline stances on voting rights and immigration are seen as giving Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly an opening. Kobach, an early Trump backer, was boosted by the president's endorsement in the primary.

--- The Prognosticators: Tuesday's events seemed to be a boon for Democratic gubernatorial candidates. The Cook Political Report moved the Kansas governor's race from "Likely Republican" to "Toss Up" after Kobach's victory, while Sabato's Crystal Ball moved the Minnesota gubernatorial race (Johnson vs. Walz) from "Toss Up" to "Lean Democratic," and the Wisconsin gubernatorial race (Walker vs. Evers) from "Lean Republican" to "Toss Up."

Manafort trial, Day 12

Closing arguments will begin today in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is fighting bank and tax fraud charges from special counsel Robert Mueller. Manafort's lawyers rested their defense on Tuesday without calling any witnesses; the prosecution rested on Monday after 10 days of testimony from 27 witnesses, including Manafort's longtime deputy Rick Gates.

Each side is expected to have two hours to offer closing arguments today before the jury begins deliberations over Manafort's fate.

Trump campaign files arbitration action against Omarosa

President Trump's re-election campaign filed an arbitration action against Omarosa Manigault Newman on Tuesday, accusing the former White House official of breaching the non-disclosure agreement she signed in 2016. According to CNBC, attorney Charles Harder — known for representing Hulk Hogan in his 2016 suit against Gawker — will represent the Trump campaign in the arbitration fight.

Manigault Newman's tell-all book, "Unhinged," was the focus of the White House press briefing on Tuesday, as White House press secretary Sarah Sanders faced numerous questions about the memoir. Sanders pointedly declined to definitely say whether President Trump had ever used the N-word, as Manigault Newman alleges. "I can't guarantee anything," she said, adding: "I've never heard him use that term or anything similar."

Sanders also defended Trump's tweets on Manigault Newman, who he referred to as a "dog," denying that the attack was racially motivated: "The President'sanequally opportunity person that calls things like he sees it," Sanders said. "He fights fire with fire."

Manigault Newman continued her media spree on Tuesday, telling MSNBC's Katy Tur that Trump "absolutely" knew about Democratic emails stolen by Russian hackers before WikiLeaks released them; she did not offer any evidence for her claim, which goes unmentioned in her book. She has continued to employ a drip-drip-drip strategy for releasing her tapes of President Trump and top White House aides; per Politico, Trump staffers "live in fear" of her next tape, a similar "phycological warfare" to that faced by Hillary Clinton's campaign aides in 2016 when chairman John Podesta's emails were slowly released throughout the final weeks of the election.

White House schedule

POTUS: President Trump has no events on his public schedule today, besides his 11:30am intelligence briefing.

VP: Vice President Mike Pence travels to Iowa today (#hesrunning). At 12pm, he will participate in an event in Ankeny for the re-election campaign of Rep. David Young (R-IA). At 1:45pm, he will speak at a "Tax Cuts to Put America First" event in Des Moines hosted by America First Policies, a pro-Trump group.

Congress schedule

Senate: The Senate returns from its shortened August recess at 12pm today. The chamber is set to hold cloture votes advancing two nominees to be U.S. Circuit Judges for the Fourth Circuit: A. Marvin Quattlebaum, Jr., and Julius Ness Richardson. Quattlebaum and Richardson are expected to be confirmed by the end of the week, which would add to the record-breaking 24 appellate judges confirmed by the Senate since Trump took office, "the highest number for a president's first two years in office," according to the Washington Post.

Also today: the Senate Republicans will hold their weekly caucus meeting, and the upper chamber will begin consideration of the Defense-Labor-HHS-Education spending package, which combines four of the 12 annual appropriation bills.

House: The House is on recess.

Supreme Court schedule

The Supreme Court is on its summer recess.

*All times Eastern

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