Newsletter: Essential Politics: Is this the time for panic?


I’m Christina Bellantoni here with an assist from Julie Westfall, our deputy politics editor.

Essential Politics begins today with a question — is it time for Republicans to panic? This is something top members of the GOP establishment are asking in the wake of a rocky week that saw Donald Trump’s convention bounce all but evaporate.

David Lauter, Michael Finnegan and Noah Bierman report on how party leaders are openly discussing the inability of Trump’s campaign staff to control him and even talking about what to do if he suddenly quits the race.


“A sense of panic is rising” among Republican elected officials and party operatives, said Ed Rogers, a former Republican White House official with longstanding ties to the party hierarchy.

Let’s get this straight — the chance of Trump quitting the race remains extremely unlikely. But the fact that Republican officials were conducting semi-open discussions of what to do, with senior lawyers researching the rules and precedents, spoke loudly about how far that panic has spread.

Our team checked in with two-dozen voters in Virginia and Arizona to see how Trump is viewed today. “His mouth is digging a hole for himself that he’s falling into,” one Northern Virginia Republican said. It’s a strong position for Hillary Clinton’s team, given the Democratic nominee has been doing a lot of skating — right through some notable mishaps that could have caused serious damage if she were running against a more disciplined opponent.



Unlike his running mate, vice presidential nominee Mike Pence isn’t unsure whether he wants to support House Speaker Paul D. Ryan in his upcoming primary. A day after Trump said he wasn’t “there yet” on endorsing Ryan, and following a nice tweet he sent Ryan’s rival, Pence went on Fox News to throw his support to his former House colleague. He said he did so with Trump’s encouragement.

Get the latest from the campaign trail on Trail Guide and follow @latimespolitics. Check our daily USC/Los Angeles Times tracking poll at the top of the politics page.


Embattled Assemblyman Roger Hernández (D-West Covina), who is missing the first weeks of the legislative end-of-session rush on medical leave after a judge issued a domestic violence restraining order against him, continues to receive per diem payments to cover travel and lodging costs on top of his salary.

Melanie Mason and Patrick McGreevy report that Hernández’s legal troubles have become a political headache for Assembly Democrats, including Speaker Anthony Rendon, who suggested to Hernández weeks ago that he consider resigning. The ordeal has sparked a debate about invoking a new law, Proposition 50, that allows legislators to suspend a colleague without pay.

It’s really busy in Sacramento on Thursday. Keep an eye on our Essential Politics news feed for the latest.


Trump’s troubles may be spilling over into one of California’s most contentious congressional races. Facing another tough reelection battle, Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) called on his rival, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, to denounce the GOP presidential nominee.


Phil Willon reports that Jones has been dogged by questions about Trump ever since he announced his plans to vote for him in May. One Air Force veteran in the district, a Republican, had this advice for Scott: Cut all ties to Trump.


Two years ago, Democratic challenger Ro Khanna came dangerously close to beating Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), finishing just three points behind the eight-term congressman in the general election. This year, Khanna bested the incumbent in the primary, earning 2,200 more votes than Honda, who is now in the fight of his life for his Silicon Valley seat. After more than 35 years as an elected official, Honda has earned a reputation as a liberal stalwart in Congress.

Christine Mai-Duc and Sandra Poindexter take a look at a race where shifting demographics and an ongoing ethics probe could threaten Honda’s political future.


Climate change is one of the biggest issues facing lawmakers at the end of the legislative session, and Gov. Jerry Brown is hoping lawmakers will support his effort to create a regional electricity grid. The plan is intended to help spread clean energy throughout western states, but there are concerns that it would bolster a utility dependent on coal.

On Wednesday, Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said he had some reservations about the idea. He’s planning to keep working on it with the governor.



The Riverside County Republican Party sent out a tweet Wednesday that showed an executioner with a noose, with “ready for Hillary” written at the bottom. A Press Enterprise journalist first saw the controversial tweet and took a screenshot before it was deleted. Riverside County GOP Chairman Scott Mann said he was “horrified.” Earlier in the day he had defended it as “satire.”


— You knew the election and the Olympics would eventually converge.

Sean Parker once vowed to rattle the established order of Washington. But several years into a multi-platform, multimillion-dollar effort that seeks to transform politics through technology, campaign cash and a few big ideas, the 36-year-old Silicon Valley oligarch and renowned rule-breaker is finding that the rules of politics are not easily broken. Evan Halper looks at the man behind the political money.

— Republican Rep. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster) called Trump’s verbal attacks on the family of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq “deplorable,” goaded by calls from his congressional challenger.

— The Trump Taj Mahal casino will shut down after Labor Day, the victim of the longest strike in Atlantic City’s 38-year casino era. The closure will cost about 3,000 workers their jobs and reduce the number of casinos in Atlantic City to seven.

— California is running out of money for 911 emergency services and lawmakers need to find a solution, legislators were told Wednesday.

— The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted an emergency appeal to allow a Virginia school district to temporarily block a male transgender high school student from using the restroom that matches his gender identity. In an unusual 5-3 order, Justice Stephen Breyer said he agreed to join the four conservatives in blocking a lower court ruling that upheld the Obama administration’s position that schools should allow transgender students to use the bathroom they preferred.

Rep. Karen Bass got a little snarky Wednesday, asking her Twitter followers, effectively, if Trump is crazy.

— How did the gold star become a symbol that a family had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country? It started during World War I. Also of note, Trump reportedly met with some Gold Star families on Wednesday to hear their concerns.

— Who will win the November election? Give our Electoral College map a spin.


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