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Paging Rahm: House Dems revive 2006 playbook for 2018

An unpopular president, the scent of corruption in Washington, a riled-up liberal base — to House Democrats, 2018 is already looking like 2006 on overdrive.

Now Democrats see the same ugly storm forming for Republicans that delivered them the majority 11 years ago, and they’re digging out the blueprint.

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The party is vastly expanding the number of districts it plans to contest, recruiting veterans and business owners to compete in conservative terrain as it did back then. Three senior House Democrats are soon heading to Chicago to seek advice from Rahm Emanuel, the party’s 2006 master strategist. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been tutoring members on the party’s campaign efforts that year.

And outside groups have gotten in on the revival spirit, too, with large organizations, including MoveOn.org, diving into their email archives and seeking out lessons from people on the front lines in 2006.

“In 2006, there was a similar landscape, where Republican-controlled majorities in the House and Senate refused to do anything to hold George W. Bush accountable,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, one of the three Democrats planning the Chicago trip. “The 2006 blueprint will have to be updated and reloaded to reflect the environment of today, but there are some lessons that can be learned.”

Still, a lot has changed for Democrats since 2006, mostly for the worse, and just re-adopting the campaign tactics from that year probably won’t cut it. For starters, Democrats have a 47-seat deficit now vs. 28 seats to make up in 2006. The 2010 redistricting tilted the House landscape toward Republicans, putting more seats even further out of Democrats’ grasp. And there's a year and a half to go in the most unpredictable environment in modern political history.

"The only place I could see today there are parallels is if the Democratic base is ginned up to give them some candidates, but other than that the jury is out," said former New York Rep. Thomas Reynolds, the National Republican Congressional Committee chairman in 2006.

"In '06, there are probably more swing seats than there are now," he added. "They're kidding themselves."

Nonetheless, parallels abound in House Democrats’ minds.

The environment then was defined by the Iraq War, the botched federal response to Hurricane Katrina and the aftertaste of President George W. Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security. Now, it’s Russia, the firing of FBI Director James Comey, Obamacare repeal and a tempestuous, mistake-prone president. Democrats believe President Donald Trump has already given them enough to make the “cronyism, corruption and incompetence” argument they employed in 2006 — when Pelosi and Harry Reid first implored voters to “drain the swamp” of D.C.

This cycle, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is investing early in research into Republican incumbents, diving deep into their records and histories for possible corruption and other liabilities, in the hopes of promoting a narrative they'll then tie to the suspicions circulating about Trump's self-dealing.

“Ethics,” said DCCC executive director Dan Sena, “will play

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Trump, rattled by probes, seeks boost in foreign trip

President Donald Trump seemed rattled before he left Washington Friday afternoon, two people who spoke with him last week said, as he wondered aloud how much investigations into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election might damage his presidency.

One adviser said Trump said in a conversation last week that he felt that "there are a lot of people out to get him," musing that he should not have attacked the intelligence community so vociferously. An administration official who spoke to the president said he "seemed down more than angry," even though Trump defiantly tweeted that he was facing a “witch hunt.”

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When Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia for his first foreign trip as president, his mood appeared to be looking up. He praised his accommodations, was offered his favorite delicacy – steak with ketchup – was draped in a gold medallion while receiving the country’s highest honor, and danced amid sword performers at a gala.

"You are a unique personality that is capable of doing the impossible," Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in Saudi Arabia for a summit on fighting terrorism, told the U.S. leader on Sunday.

"I agree," Trump replied.

While the trip may boost Trump’s spirits, it remains unclear whether the highly choreographed diplomatic excursion can do the same for a presidency facing investigations at home, even as aides were already striving to present the journey as a success.

"The president asked us to plan a trip that would help unite the world against intolerance and terrorism, and we have made great progress towards that goal in Saudi Arabia," Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, said in a statement Sunday, an unusual victory lap so early in a trip.

Trump moderated his tone on Islam during a major speech on terrorism in Riyadh Sunday, and he seemed to avoid any major gaffes that would upend his trip. The perpetual showman relished in the pageantry that greets a U.S. leader traveling overseas.

But hurdles remain for a first-time politician on a long and complicated trip, which will also take him to Israel, Italy and Belgium. Trump has already trimmed public appearances, skipping a planned Twitter forum Sunday. He appeared to misspeak during his speech, referring to “Islamic” extremism when his prepared remarks said “Islamist.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has handled most of the administration's public comments, as White House officials try to keep the president on-script. A White House official described him as “exhausted" late Sunday night, comments unlikely to please Trump.

His next stop is in Israel, a key ally to the United States that was dragged into Trump's Washington chaos after he reportedly gave Russian officials classified intelligence obtained from an Israeli source.

"There are going to be a lot of forced smiles by Israelis who are probably furious," said Alan Dershowitz, a lawyer with whom Trump has spoken about the Middle East. "He's going into a very difficult situation when he gets to Israel."

Meanwhile, the investigation, which includes questions of whether Trump

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Escalating probes rattle Trump and his aides

President Donald Trump seemed rattled before he left Washington Friday afternoon, two people who spoke with him last week said, as he wondered aloud how much investigations into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election might damage his presidency.

One adviser said Trump said in a conversation last week that he felt that "there are a lot of people out to get him," musing that he should not have attacked the intelligence community so vociferously. An administration official who spoke to the president said he "seemed down more than angry," even though Trump defiantly tweeted that he was facing a “witch hunt.”

Story Continued Below

When Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia for his first foreign trip as president, his mood appeared to be looking up. He praised his accommodations, was offered his favorite delicacy – steak with ketchup – was draped in a gold medallion while receiving the country’s highest honor, and danced amid sword performers at a gala.

"You are a unique personality that is capable of doing the impossible," Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in Saudi Arabia for a summit on fighting terrorism, told the U.S. leader on Sunday.

"I agree," Trump replied.

While the trip may boost Trump’s spirits, it remains unclear whether the highly choreographed diplomatic excursion can do the same for a presidency facing investigations at home, even as aides were already striving to present the journey as a success.

"The president asked us to plan a trip that would help unite the world against intolerance and terrorism, and we have made great progress towards that goal in Saudi Arabia," Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, said in a statement Sunday, an unusual victory lap so early in a trip.

Trump moderated his tone on Islam during a major speech on terrorism in Riyadh Sunday, and he seemed to avoid any major gaffes that would upend his trip. The perpetual showman relished in the pageantry that greets a U.S. leader traveling overseas.

But hurdles remain for a first-time politician on a long and complicated trip, which will also take him to Israel, Italy and Belgium. Trump has already trimmed public appearances, skipping a planned Twitter forum Sunday. He appeared to misspeak during his speech, referring to “Islamic” extremism when his prepared remarks said “Islamist.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has handled most of the administration's public comments, as White House officials try to keep the president on-script. A White House official described him as “exhausted" late Sunday night, comments unlikely to please Trump.

His next stop is in Israel, a key ally to the United States that was dragged into Trump's Washington chaos after he reportedly gave Russian officials classified intelligence obtained from an Israeli source.

"There are going to be a lot of forced smiles by Israelis who are probably furious," said Alan Dershowitz, a lawyer with whom Trump has spoken about the Middle East. "He's going into a very difficult situation when he gets to Israel."

Meanwhile, the investigation, which includes questions of whether Trump

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Brexit plays into old divisions in Northern Ireland

Paramilitary mural in Mount vernon, Belfast, May 11, 2017. | Mariusz Smiejek for POLITICO

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Angela's campaign secret: Be Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a press statement with the Ukranian President ahead of their meeting in Meseberg Palace in Meseberg, eastern Germany, on May 20, 2017 | Michelle Tantussi/AFP via Getty Images

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