Pence offers to help embattled GOP senators


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WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s fund-raising dilemma, Hillary Clinton’s return from summer “vacation,” competing election forecasts and how Mike Pence fits into the GOP Senate strategy filled the final Sunday trip around the Inside Politics table this summer.

1. Will he cut himself a check? Trump has a cash problem

Hillary Clinton’s big fund-raising edge has a lot of Republicans worried — and they say the clock is ticking as Donald Trump labors to close the gap.

CNN political reporter Sara Murray reports that Trump’s children are part of the campaign plan to bring in more money over the next month to six weeks. But that there are those who think Trump needs to dig into his own bank account if he wants to be truly competitive.

“He really only has until October 15th, sources say, if he wants to raise this money and be able to spend it effectively before Election Day,” Murray said.

“He’s obviously is going to need to spend more time campaigning and less time raising money in these last couple of months, and that means all hands are on deck. Ivanka Trump, Don Jr., and Eric Trump are all expected to be hosting fund-raisers in the next few weeks.”

2. The “Super Bowl” of political science: Who has the right forecast?

Pollsters ask voters who they plan to vote for in November, but to some political scientists the names don’t matter at all. Or at least not as much as factors like the unemployment rate or the incumbent president’s approval rating.

Dan Balz, chief correspondent at The Washington Post, this past week reviewed the competing forecasts of several political scientists that are about to be published.

“Most of them project that Hillary Clinton will win, but there are at least two that say that Donald Trump will win,” Balz said.

“And one of the authors, Alan Abramowitz, an eminent political scientist, is openly hoping that his model, which is called ‘Time for Change,’ and calls for a Trump victory, will actually be wrong because he is so anti-Trump.”

3. Clinton returning to a busy schedule — with some help

One big reason for the Clinton lead in the money race was an August where she spent considerable time off the campaign trail and at high-dollar events with wealthy Democratic donors.

But Labor Day is a page-turner, Clinton’s aides say, promising a much busier campaign schedule not only for the Democratic nominee but also her big named surrogates: President Barack Obama, Democratic primary rival Bernie Sanders and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Abby Phillip of The Washington Post shared reporting that as Clinton returns to the trail, she also plans to put some of that August fund-raising take to good use.

“We’re going to start seeing that on Monday with some Spanish-language TV ads hitting the air waves,” Phillip said.

“They are going to really blast the airwaves for the next several months going to Election Day.”

4. Mike Pence offers up his services — but will there be takers?

Mike Pence wants to help Republican candidates in key Senate races. But there doesn’t appear to be a fight to get to the front of the line.

Ashley Parker of The New York Times reports that Pence is eager to do what he can to help the Republican Party keep its Senate majority and believes he can assist even in races where the GOP candidate has decided the best course is to keep some distance from Trump.

“In recent weeks, Governor Mike Pence has been quietly talking to Senate Republicans about hitting the campaign trail,” Parker said.

“But you’ll notice he actually hasn’t really held any major events, which raises the question: Does Mike Pence bring sort of too much downside, which is basically the stench of Trump, and not enough celebrity upside? So that’s something I am going to be watching for — to see if he actually appears with the candidates to campaign.”

5. GOP has little room for error in Senate fight

That fight for control of the Senate is intense — and Republicans have little or no room for error heading into the final two months.

Democrats need a net gain of four seats if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, with a Vice President Tim Kaine breaking 50-50 tie votes. A net gain of five would give the Democrats 51, and outright majority.

At the Labor Day mark, top Republicans involved in Senate strategy view three GOP held seats as likely lost causes: Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana.

They feel confident about three other GOP-held seats that at times were mentioned as possible flips: Florida, Arizona and Ohio.

Assuming those calculations are correct, that would leave little room for error in three highly competitive Senate races that also happen to be in major presidential battlegrounds: Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

If Republicans could somehow win two of those three, control could come down to the Nevada seat from which Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid is retiring — where Republicans see a pickup opportunity.

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