Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report — Senate races tighten as midterms near

We’re 32 days from Election Day, and pollsters agree on one thing: Contests across the country look like nail-biters, tight until the end.

While Democrats reported new levels of optimism in August and September, it’s Republicans who are now feeling hopeful about taking over the Senate as well as the House, The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports

In Pennsylvania, Mehmet Oz is starting to close the gap with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) while former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt has a lead in the polls in Nevada. J.D. Vance, meanwhile, is gathering strength in Ohio, a state that has turned decisively Republican in recent election cycles.

CNN: Fetterman raises $22 million in third quarter in contentious Pennsylvania Senate race.

The Hill: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) trails in poll of key Nevada Senate race.

The Columbus Dispatch: Donald Trump Jr. visits Ohio to rally GOP voters behind J.D. Vance in the Senate race.

In Arizona, the National Republican Senatorial Committee announced Thursday that it is adding a “seven-figure” spending bump to support Republican Blake Masters, Politico reports. Weeks ago, the super PAC cut its advertising dollars in the state in light of Masters’ struggling campaign.  But now, Republicans see a promising path to the majority, helped in no small part by a deluge of spending by outside groups, including the Senate Leadership Fund, to whittle away Democratic candidates’ fundraising advantage.

Masters on Thursday debated Sen. Mark Kelly (D), trying to put the incumbent on defense. He sought to disrupt Kelly’s image as an independent moderate who’s willing to work across the aisle, tying him to President Biden and saying the Democrats had done little to secure the southern border. Masters tried to position himself as a pragmatist, while also invoking the culture wars and suggesting tech companies and news outlets could have impacted the 2020 election (12News Phoenix and The Hill).

“Two years ago, Mark Kelly stood right there and he promised to be independent,” Masters said in his opening statement. “But he broke that promise.”

Georgia is looking more uncertain for Republicans. Facing bombshell allegations that he paid for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion more than a decade ago and accusations of violence from his own son, Republican Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign has been thrown into turmoil.

Walker — who has positioned himself as staunchly anti-abortion — has denied the allegations, including further reports that the ex-girlfriend is also the mother of one of his children. But speaking to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday, Walker denied knowing the woman (The Hill).

He also appeared to contradict his own views on abortion, saying: “Had that happened, I would have said it, because it’s nothing to be ashamed of there.”

“You know, people have done that, but I know nothing about it,” Walker continued. “And if I knew about it, I would be honest and talk about it, but I know nothing about that… I’ve already been forgiven, and if I’ve been forgiven, why in the world would I not be forgiven for something like this?”

A new poll by SurveyUSA, released Wednesday, shows incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) opened up a 12-point lead against Walker, 50 percent to 38 percent (Forbes).

PULL QUOTE IN BOLD HERE  “I am not deterred,” Walker told reporters at a Thursday event, where he again denied the allegations. “I am not backing down. The stakes are too high.”

The New York Times: Christian Walker, warrior for the right, now battles his father.

The Daily Beast: Walker’s latest abortion denial still makes no sense.

Politico: Walker’s Christian fans unfazed by abortion revelations.

NPR: Republicans continue to support Walker even after abortion report.

The Washington Post: GOP crisis in Herschel Walker race was nearly two years in the making.

Another busload of migrants from South America ended up in front of Vice President Harris’s official residence in Washington early Thursday. The bus, which had a Texas license plate, transported about 50 men, women and children.

Within minutes of the bus’s arrival, volunteers from SAMU First Response, a D.C.-based group that assists asylum-seekers, shuttled the migrants to nearby accommodations. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in September said he was “sending a direct message” to Harris by sending two buses of migrants to her official residence (WTOP).

Bloomberg News: Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke’s hopes in Texas run through the GOP’s last urban stronghold.

In Wisconsin, Democrats worry GOP ads are taking hold as Mandela Barnes, the party’s Senate candidate, is wobbling in his race against Sen. Ron Johnson (R), The New York Times Reports.

Florida, meanwhile, is still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Ian, which hit the state’s southwest coast last week and caused widespread destruction, leaving thousands with flooded homes and no electricity. By Thursday, the death toll in the state had risen to 118 (The Tallahassee Democrat).

Four Republican Florida counties sustained much of Hurricane Ian’s damage and they happen to be essential to the GOP’s playbook for winning statewide races next month. The Tallahassee Democrat reports that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is now “weighing what kind of emergency elections accommodations to make for this region, a move that could impact his own chances for reelection and is likely to be highly scrutinized after he spent the last two years tightening voting rules.”

But DeSantis said Wednesday he wants to limit changes for voters to avoid confusion.

“I want to keep it as normal as humanly possible,” he said. “I think the more you depart… it just creates problems.”

His own debate against Democratic challenger Charlie Crist has been postponed because of the storm (The Orlando Sentinel).

The Sunshine State will soon get another politically minded resident. The University of Florida on Thursday said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) is the sole candidate in a selection process to become university president (CNN).

The junior senator, 50, who was reelected in 2020, confirmed to The National Review that he plans to resign from the Senate at the end of this year. Earlier in his career, he served as president of Midland University in Nebraska.

“Nebraskans have well understood that I didn’t expect to be in politics as a lifelong calling,” Sasse said.

“The Senate is a very important institution, and I’m incredibly grateful for a lot of the people that I get to serve alongside here,” he added. “But frankly, I think one of the most basic things we can do to reinvigorate this place is to say that people ought to only be here for a time and then get back to building stuff.”

Sasse’s successor to the Senate would be selected by the governor under provisions of Nebraska law (The Omaha World-Herald).

The Tampa Bay Times: University of Florida’s finalist for president is Sasse. The nationally known lawmaker called UF “the most interesting university in the country.”


Related Articles

The Washington Post: A majority of GOP nominees — 299 in all — have denied or questioned the 2020 election results.

The Hill: Ahead of November, Democrats look to keep abortion front and center.

The Hill: Republicans are gaining some traction with accusations that Democrats are soft on crime. 

NBC News: In key battlegrounds, GOP onslaught of crime ads tightens Senate races.

The Washington Post: Federal agents see chargeable tax, gun-purchase case against Hunter Biden.

CNN: January 6 committee announces Oct. 13 public hearing, rescheduled after Hurricane Ian.

The New York Times: The Justice Department is said to believe Trump has more documents,


LEADING THE DAY 

ECONOMY

Biden and his economic team want a strong labor market and growth, confident consumers, abundant commodity supplies and cheaper gasoline. What the Federal Reserve wants is less demand in the economy, wages that begin to cool and prices that edge lower as output slows.

The White House and the central bank this morning will search for clues in the government’s employment report covering September, each eager to promote a narrative that allays economic anxieties and fortifies confidence. They are unlikely to locate the same script.

As CNBC put it, “Friday’s jobs report could be a case where good news isn’t really good.”

In most any circumstance, strong job gains and rising wages would be a plus. But these days, they’re exactly what the U.S. economy doesn’t need as policymakers try to beat back an inflation problem.

“Bad news equals good news, good news equals bad news,” Vincent Reinhart, chief economist at Dreyfus-Mellon, told CNBC in describing investor sentiment. “Pretty much uniformly what is dominant in investors’ concerns is the Fed tightening. When they get bad news on the economy, that means the Fed is going to tighten less.”

Investors may cheer a slower economy if it means the Fed ends rate hikes, but the West Wing does not favor contraction, particularly as voters cast ballots that could knock Democrats into the minority in one or both chambers in Congress next year.

On Thursday, Biden conceded his “disappointment” that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries decided this week to lower the cartel’s oil production, which will reduce supply and likely trigger higher prices for gasoline and heating fuel this winter. Saudi Arabia’s shadow over OPEC and its oil alliance with Russia prompt new reservations about a Washington-Riyadh alliance the president sought to forge during a July visit he continues to defend (The Hill).

Bloomberg News: Members of Congress demand retaliation against Saudi Arabia.

The New York Times, Peter Baker: Biden’s choice after OPEC cuts: woo Saudi Arabia or retaliate?  

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has made clear with explicit moves toward China and Russia that he does not take direction from the United States. The countries in OPEC in addition to Saudi Arabia are Algeria, Angola, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

The OPEC plan to lower oil targets by 2 million barrels per day is expected to increase gasoline prices in some East Coast and Midwest regions by about 15 cents to 20 cents per gallon, said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates (The Hill).

The president and fellow Democrats have blamed global events, such as Russia’s war in Ukraine, for high-priced energy but U.S. voters are famously impatient about rising gasoline prices at the same time Republicans insist Democrats are harming the domestic oil industry with a focus on green energy policies.  

“There’s a lot of alternatives. We haven’t made up our mind yet,” Biden told reporters when asked about next steps (The Hill).

White House energy adviser Amos Hochstein, speaking Thursday to Bloomberg TV, said the administration wants to incentivize domestic supply, and the government “intends” to replenish the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) “when prices come down” even as it releases more oil from the reserve next month.

We’re going to take a multitude of steps with the private sector in the United States, with our allies, with the SPR, and we’re going to talk to Congress about what kind of tools we may need,” he said. “We’re not quite sure what we need, but we’re going to have that conversation to make sure we have every tool available to us.”

CNN: White House left looking for answers after OPEC announces oil production cuts.

Separately, Biden visited a New York State IBM facility on Thursday to tout his administration’s efforts to boost blue-collar jobs with federal backing for U.S. semiconductor chip manufacturing. The president signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law in August — legislation that includes more than $52 billion in federal subsidies to boost production of the technology (Poughkeepsie Journal).

IBM has pledged to invest $20 billion into the state’s Hudson Valley region over the next decade to develop, among other things, semiconductors, mainframe technology, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. During his Poughkeepsie address, Biden said, “It’s here at this factory and the factories of other companies across America where America’s future is literally being built.”

Reuters: Biden hails IBM’s $20 billion New York manufacturing deal.

NPR: Biden has $52 billion for semiconductors. Today, work begins to spend that windfall.


IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

ADMINISTRATION

A month ahead of midterm elections, Biden demonstrated a powerful form of mercy by pardoning 6,500 people who have federal conviction records for marijuana possession. The move is a nod to racial justice and equity, a Biden campaign promise, and seen as a step toward the decriminalization of marijuana endorsed by some Democrats. The move will clear those charged federally with simple pot possession and benefit thousands more individuals convicted of marijuana possession in the District of Columbia (The New York Times).

The recreational use of cannabis is legal in 19 states and the nation’s capital (U.S. News).

Biden is urging governors to similarly pardon those with state marijuana convictions. The administration will consider easing the drug classification of cannabis under the Drug Enforcement Agency schedule of controlled substances (CNBC).

“Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either,” Biden said in a statement.

🚀 They docked! NASA and SpaceX partnered to successfully transport a fresh and multinational foursome of space scientists and experts to the International Space Station on Thursday with plans to eventually rotate some of the current crew back to Earth. The new arrivals are astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada of NASA; astronaut Koichi Wakata of JAXA, or Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; and cosmonaut Anna Kikina of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency. The United States and Russia may be at odds on terra firma, but inside the space station, the two governments boast they are partners (CNN).


OPINION

■ Have you seen the latest polls? Now forget them. Here’s why, by Jonathan Bernstein, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3CbMmBX 

■ How the Supreme Court could change social media as we know it, by Paul M. Barrett, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3T4H02c


WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 1:30 p.m. for a pro forma session. Members are scheduled to return to the Capitol on Nov. 14.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session. Senators also are scheduled to return for work on Nov. 14.  

The president will depart the White House for Hagerstown, Md., for a 1:35 p.m. speech about the economy at Volvo Group Powertrain Operations. He will fly from Maryland to Philadelphia in the afternoon to continue to Wilmington, Del., at 4:10 p.m., where he plans to spend the weekend.  

The vice president will ceremonially swear in Shefali Razdan Duggal at 2:15 p.m. to be U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands. On Saturday, Harris will be in Austin, Texas, to be the keynote speaker at the Texas Democratic Party Johnson-Jordan Reception. The vice president will also meet on Saturday with reproductive rights advocates in Austin.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Lima, Peru, and this morning participates in a sustainable fishing event at Chorrillos Fish Market. An hour later, he meets with employees from the U.S. Embassy and then visits a Lima fair with a focus on Peruvean entrepreneurs.

First lady Jill Biden is in San Francisco to visit the University of California’s Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center this morning to talk about the administration’s Cancer Moonshot initiative and advances in treatment and prevention of breast cancer. She will speak at midday at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee lunch and conference for women. The first lady will depart San Francisco in the afternoon to travel to Tacoma, Wash., and Bates Technical College to discuss job training programs and technical careers aimed at high school and postsecondary students. 

Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report on U.S. employment in September.

🍁 The National Park Service and the White House host the annual fall White House garden tours this Saturday and Sunday. The Park Service will distribute free, timed tickets for entry on both weekend days beginning at 8:30 a.m. ET. Information is HERE and HERE.


🖥 Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv, on YouTube and on Facebook at 10:30 a.m. ET. Also, check out the “Rising” podcast here.


ELSEWHERE

INTERNATIONAL

Two Russian nationals fleeing President Vladimir Putin’s conscription of military reservists reached a remote Alaskan island in the Bering Sea by boat, officials said Thursday. They are seeking asylum in the U.S. (The Washington Post).

“We are actively engaged with federal officials and residents in Gambell to determine who these individuals are, but right now, we already know that the federal response was lacking,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said Thursday, emphasizing a greater need for security in the Arctic. “Only local officials and state law enforcement had the capability to immediately respond to the asylum seekers.”

The risky boat journey shows the lengths to which some Russians are going to avoid Putin’s draft as the Russian president seeks to bolster forces for the war in Ukraine.

Experts warn that nuclear threats by Putin, who marks his 70th birthday today, mean the world is the closest it has been to nuclear confrontation since the Cold War (The Hill).  

Putin is “not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons, because his military, you might say, is significantly underperforming,” Biden said Thursday at a New York event for Democratic donors (Reuters). “We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis,” he added. “For the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, we have a direct threat to the use of nuclear weapons, if in fact things continue down the path they’d been going.” 

The president told his audience he is trying to gauge “Putin’s off-ramp” (The Hill).

🕊 This morning, the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize went to human rights campaigners in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Winners announced in Oslo are Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, a 60-year-old human rights advocate imprisoned since 2021; Russian human rights organization Memorial; and the Center for Civil Liberties, a Ukrainian human rights organization founded in 2007 (NBC News and CNBC).

The New York Times: She’s a doctor. He was a limo driver. They pitched a $30 million arms deal.

The Washington Post: Putin confronted by insider over Ukraine war, U.S. intelligence finds.

PANDEMIC & HEALTH 

A wave of anti-vaccine legislation sweeping the country is worrying public health leaders, who are battling apathy and skepticism toward vaccines and fear that the backlash surrounding COVID-19 vaccines will extend to routine immunizations. As Vox reports, more than 80 anti-vaccine bills have been introduced in state legislatures, according to academics tracking the trend. 

During the 2020-21 school year, childhood vaccination rates fell, to the equivalent of 35,000 children not being up to date on their immunizations. While irregular checkups at the doctor may have contributed, experts worry that these numbers don’t just signify a pandemic-era blip, but a trend that’s only accelerating.

Reuters: COVID wave looms in Europe as booster campaign makes slow start.

Kaiser Family Foundation: Deaths among older adults due to COVID-19 jumped during the summer of 2022 before falling somewhat in September.

CBS News: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ended daily reporting of COVID-19 case and death data, in a shift to weekly updates.

The New York Times: Flying to the United States from Uganda? Expect Ebola screenings as a precaution.

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,062,130. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 323, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


THE CLOSER

And finally … 👏👏👏 Congratulations to expert puzzlers who knew their way around the Supreme Court and its new term to win this week’s Morning Report Quiz! 

Here’s who successfully filed trivia petitions: Stanley Wasser, Ki Harvey, Barton Schoenfeld, Jon Berck, Patricia Swank, Paul Harris, Patrick Kavanagh, Shin Inouye, Richard Baznik, Barbara Golian, Eliza Walker, Randall Patrick, Len Jones, Nicholas Genimatas, Jaina Mehta, Annette Kuz, DKS Cohen, Pam Manges, Gretchen O’Brien, Bob Everhart, Peter Sprofera, Harry Strulovici, Terry Pflaumer, Robert Bradley, Tom Werkema, Stephen Delano and Steve James.

They knew that Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, making her debut on Monday, posed pointed questions about Congress’s intent during oral arguments about a wetlands case. She was quick and confident, journalists reported.  

The Onion filed a seriously amusing 23-page petition to the Supreme Court in a particular case on behalf of parody (and humorists).

News reports this week recounted Chief Justice John Roberts’s comment last month that seeing barricades when arriving at the court was “gut-wrenching every morning.” The security fencing had disappeared by the time the court’s term began Monday with a welcome for in-person public visitors.  

Gallup reported last week that Americans’ opinions of the Supreme Court are the worst they’ve been in 50 years.


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Tags 2022 midterm elections Adam Laxalt Arizona Ben Sasse Biden Biden Catherine Cortez Masto Crime economy Greg Abbott Herschel Walker Herschel Walker Hugh Hewitt Inflation John Fetterman Mark Kelly Mehmet Oz Morning Report Retirement senate elections
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