Trump plans travel to pressure vulnerable Democratic senators

Trump talks tax reform, sends prayers to storm victims
Trump talks tax reform, sends prayers to storm victims

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Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump is putting himself at the center of a slate of marquee 2018 Senate races.

The White House this week launched a new effort to channel Trump's red-state popularity into Democratic votes for his next big legislative priority: tax cuts.
Trump visited Missouri on Wednesday and plans to go to North Dakota next week as part of what an administration official said is a new commitment to a once-a-week travel schedule to sell his legislative agenda.
If Trump sticks to the new schedule -- and focuses his trips on Democratic senators -- it would be a deeper level of involvement than the President showed during his failed effort to repeal former President Barack Obama's health care law.
    More broadly, though, Trump's political travel in August was solely to states with competitive 2018 Senate contests.
    But one of those states is represented by a Democrat whom Trump has gotten along with at times. And another has a Republican senator whom Trump is determined to oust in a primary.
    In recent weeks, Trump has huddled with military leaders at Camp David and is set to make his second visit to Texas as the state grapples with the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. But the President's political travel has been squarely focused on Senate races.
    It started slowly and included a trip west to settle old scores.
    First, Trump went to West Virginia, where Gov. Jim Justice announced he was switching parties and becoming a Republican. There, though, Trump didn't attack Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin -- or even mention his name.
    Then he visited the states where the two most vulnerable Republicans in the 2018 midterms face primaries from pro-Trump challengers. He huddled backstage with potential GOP opponents of Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake before a rally in Phoenix and then traveled to Nevada for a much less political American Legion speech.
    This week, though, Trump took a more aggressive approach when he visited Missouri. He challenged voters there to oust Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2018 if she opposes his tax push.
    "She must do this for you and if she doesn't do it for you, you must vote her out of office," Trump said. "She's got to make that commitment. If she doesn't do it, we can't do this anymore."
    Next week, Trump will visit North Dakota -- home of another Democrat considered vulnerable in 2018, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.
    "I hope President Trump uses this visit to address the kitchen-table issues that keep the North Dakotans I've met with across the state this past month up at night," Heitkamp said in a statement. "With low commodity prices, drought-stricken farms and ranches, and the need for a strong Farm Bill on the horizon, it's imperative that President Trump uses this discussion to help all North Dakotans plan for a better, brighter future that not only improves our tax code, but protects our way of life."
    The White House didn't respond to a request for comment about Trump's travel targeting states with Senate races. And the Missouri and North Dakota trips are official, which means Trump is not supposed to talk campaigns.
    Manchin, Heitkamp and Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly were the only three Democrats who did not sign a letter this year laying out the party's tax priorities.
    The White House approached Manchin this week, too, with Vice President Mike Pence appearing alongside the senator at a West Virginia business summit.
    The different approaches -- Manchin with honey, McCaskill with vinegar -- match the tonal differences among the red-state senators. McCaskill has aggressively taken on Trump at points this year, while Manchin has held his fire.