The Note: Democrats fighting each other as primaries begin

Primary season 2018 has Democrats thinking big. So why does it feel so much like 2016?

These should be heady times for the party of the “resistance.” President Donald Trump is overseeing a chaotic White House, with an approval rating mired in the 30s; the president’s policy gyrations are making GOP members of Congress squirm; Robert Mueller’s probe is even forcing new, bizarre plot twists.

Yet the storylines going into the first 2018 primaries, being held today in Texas, are of overstuffed Democratic fields, and of establishment-led efforts to thin them out.

One of today’s marquee races, in the Clinton-carried Houston suburbs of Texas’ 7th Congressional District, features the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee trying to disqualify a progressive favorite. On cue, progressive organizations rallied to her side – with memories still raw from the Hillary-vs.-Bernie feuds of two years ago.

Yes, Democratic enthusiasm is fueling record-setting early voting in Texas. But the challenge for Democrats will be keeping that going for another eight months – with a whole lot of rough-and-tumble politics being played along the way.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

“I like him. I like him not. I like him…”

Every Republican candidate is going to have to land on one of those answers about the president, and with primary season now officially in full swing, the days and options for petal-picking are ticking down.

It’s a tricky question for traditional Republicans, just when every voter is focusing in, and the president is not making it easy for them to stick together.

Hiked tariffs, as the president is pushing, are antithetical to the free-trade pillars of the ‘old’ Grand Old Party. House Speaker Paul Ryan said as much yesterday.

Now with another senior Republican lawmaker, Sen. Thad Cochran, announcing his retirement, and putting two U.S. Senate seats in his ruby-red Mississippi on the ballot, Republicans will have yet another outlet for duking out their disagreements.

The TIP with Emily Goodin

Former Rep. Steve Israel, who served as Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman during his congressional tenure, talked about the races that would keep him up at night if he were running the campaign committee this cycle.

The first House primaries of the 2018 midterm take place today as Texas voters head to the polls.

First of all, Israel pointed out: “Democrats have to hold 19 seats. People are forgetting that. They are thinking about Republican pickups. Democrats still have to hold 19 of their frontline seats, including six open seats.”

Democrats need to net 24 seats to retake control of the House. But some of their own seats they need to protect include: Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and the seats of retiring Reps. Tim Walz and Rick Nolan in Minnesota, and Carol Shea Porter in New Hampshire.

Then, a few GOP seats opening up are on the must-win list: Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s in Florida, Martha McSally’s in Arizona, Rodney Frelinghuysen’s in New Jersey, and Patrick Meehan’s in Pennsylvania.

Finally, there are some likely GOP seats that, if Democrats win them election night, would indicate that a blue tide is about to sweep the House: Reps. Mike Coffman’s in Colorado, Carlos Curbelo’s in Florida, Don Bacon’s in Nebraska, Barbara Comstock’s in Virginia, Will Hurd’s in Kentucky, and Andy Barr’s in Kentucky.