Inside Politics: Rand goes to Russia

Inside Politics: Rand goes to Russia

(CNN) – Here are the stories our D.C. insiders are talking about in this week’s “Inside Politics” forecast, where you get a glimpse of tomorrow’s headlines today.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s planned visit to Russia could hardly come a time when US-Russia relations were under closer scrutiny.

Paul says the upcoming trip is aimed at supporting what he sees as President Donald Trump’s diplomatic outreach to Vladimir Putin. But it comes on the heels of a stark warning by US intelligence chiefs over Russia’s ongoing efforts to interfere in American elections — and amid continued fallout from Trump’s controversial summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“He has kind of appointed himself a one-man wrecking ball to defend the President against his critics in Congress,” said the Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian. “So this is going to be another episode in this unfolding narrative of the U.S.-Russia relationship, but it’s one that could serve to reinforce the President’s opinions of his own job performance in this regard, at a time when most other people in the country are really, really critical of it.”

As election watchers track whether or not 2018 will turn out to be another so-called “Year of the Women,” Tuesday night’s elections could prove to be an intriguing bellwether.

In Washington state, four seats are up for grabs, including two held by female incumbents. Among the challengers? Four more women.

“So we could see women running against women as they battle for the votes of — you guessed it — suburban women,” said CNN’s Nia-Malika Henderson.

Another state to watch is Michigan, where two women are among the frontrunners to replace former Rep. John Conyers, who stepped down last year following several allegations of sexual harassment.

Republicans are watching the upcoming GOP governor’s primary in Kansas with some trepidation.

As the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin reports, party leaders are concerned that the state’s Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a conservative firebrand and prominent backer of Trump, could come away with the party’s nomination. Kobach’s controversial views on immigration and voter fraud could potentially provide Democrats with an opening to win back the governor’s mansion for the first time since 2010.

“They think that Kobach could actually still be beatable on Tuesday, but they’re worried that Trump’s itchy Twitter finger could play a role during the course of his long unsupervised golf weekend in New Jersey,” says Martin. “And there’s some thought that if he does do that tweet, that puts Kobach over the top, and it’s going to have to make them spend a lot of money in Kansas this year, in an otherwise red state.”

Trump has gone uncharacteristically quiet when it comes to former President Barack Obama.

Once unsparing in his criticism, Trump now barely mentions the 44th president at his campaign rallies, even as he doesn’t hold back when targeting others.

The reason? Trump’s advisers tell CNN’s Jeff Zeleny they want the President to avoid alienating the swing voters that won him the 2016 election — and who could play a crucial role in the upcoming midterm elections.

“Obama-Trump voters are some of the most important political commodities, if you will, the people who voted for Barack Obama in ’08 and ’12 and Donald Trump in ’16,” says Zeleny. “So it’s not that President Trump is thrilled with the Obama administration.”

Only time will tell if that restraint holds up as the former president gets more actively involved in campaigning this fall.

Ivanka Trump made headlines after a rare public disagreement with her father over family separations and the media.

Speaking at an event hosted by Axios, she distanced herself from the President’s criticism of the press and called family separations at the border “a low point” for her in her tenure in the White House.

While President Trump later tried to downplay any disagreement between them, Ivanka was hit with criticism that her family separation comments didn’t go far enough.

“It really underscored the compromises and the challenges of the role that she has tried to carve out for herself in this White House,” says the AP’s Catherine Lucey. “And that dynamic and that problem for her is not going to go away as we see her move forward and continue to try and push a policy agenda.”

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