The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Dem path to a Senate majority narrows

 

 

 

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Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, to analyze key midterm races. Donna Brazile, Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry and Minyon Moore promote their new book, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics.” http://thehill.com/hilltv


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Holding on to the House majority increasingly appears to be slipping from the GOP’s grasp, but what will become of Republicans’ 51-49 majority in the Senate?

A raft of new data released this week offered conflicting signals about which way the political landscape tilts in the upper chamber. The debate has been complicated by the fact that leaders from both parties claim to have received an electoral jolt from Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughSusan Collins raises .1 million in third quarter Poll: 50 percent of Maine voters disapprove of Susan Collins's job performance Collins challenger raises .2 million in third quarter MORE’s bitter confirmation battle.

A quick look at key states, however, reveals that everything would have to fall perfectly into place for Democrats to wrest control of the Senate from the GOP. In fact, Republicans say they sense an opportunity to expand on their narrow majority following the Kavanaugh fight:

> Democrats had hoped to spring upsets in Texas and Tennessee, but October polls in both deep-red states show Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Turkey controversy This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington The Hill's Morning Report - Lawmakers return to work as Dem candidates set to debate MORE (R-Texas) and Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Congress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe MORE (R-Tenn.) maintaining or padding their leads in their respective races with less than a month to go before Election Day.

The Hill: Five takeaways from the final Tennessee debate.

The Dallas Morning News: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) leads Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) by 9 points in new poll.

> The best pickup opportunities for Democrats are in Arizona and Nevada. If they win in both of those swing states – and every Democratic incumbent holds on – the majority in the upper chamber would change hands.

A Wednesday survey by Phoenix-based pollster OH Predictive Insights found Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong Furious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria MORE (R) leading Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) in Arizona. Nearly every previous survey of the race found Sinema in the lead.

In Nevada, an NBC News/Marist poll gave Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (R) his first lead in months.

Those polls could prove to be outliers, but at the very least, both races appear to be toss-ups. Democrats must win them both to have a shot at the majority.

> Even if Democrats take advantage of those pickup opportunities, they also need to defend seats in all 10 of the states that President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE carried in 2016 where Democratic senators are up for reelection.

In half of those states – Michigan, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – Democrats are in good shape.

Here’s the spread in the other half of the states, according to the RealClearPolitics average:

North Dakota: Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (D) trails Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerMaryland manufacturers are stronger with the Export-Import Bank White House officials stand by Syria withdrawal, sanctions delay amid bipartisan pushback Sunday shows — Officials rush to Trump's defense on Syria, sanctions MORE (R) by 8.7 points.

Missouri: Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillIranian attacks expose vulnerability of campaign email accounts Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Ocasio-Cortez blasts NYT editor for suggesting Tlaib, Omar aren't representative of Midwest MORE (D) and Republican Josh Hawley are tied.

Florida: Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonBottom Line Bottom Line Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity MORE (D) leads Gov. Rick Scott (R) by 2.4 points.

Indiana: Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyWatchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D) leads Republican Mike Braun by 2.5 points, with Libertarian candidate Lucy Brenton getting about 7 percent of the vote.

Montana: Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterRed-state Democrats worry impeachment may spin out of control Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group Senate Democrats hesitant to go all-in on impeachment probe MORE (D) leads Republican Matt Rosendale by 3 points.

The bottom line: Democrats need Heitkamp to stage a comeback in North Dakota and they need to run the table in six toss-up states if they’re going to win the Senate. There is zero room for error. Democratic leaders point to enthusiasm, turnout, demographics (and opposition to Trump).

> A new Morning Consult poll found that Democratic enthusiasm increased by 10 points to 77 percent after the Kavanaugh fight, while Republican enthusiasm declined by 1 point, to 68 percent.

> If 2018 is set to be the “year of the woman” at the ballot box, then the Kavanaugh saga was ill-timed for Republicans. The same Morning Consult survey found that enthusiasm among Democratic women jumped 10 points to 82 percent, while enthusiasm among Republican women remained unchanged at 67 percent.

GOP leaders do not dispute the party’s challenge among likely female voters.

“I don’t see how [the gender gap] could be much wider than it already was. We’ve always had that…it clearly is wider than it used to be.” – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump again vetoes resolution blocking national emergency for border wall Trump invites congressional leaders to meeting on Turkey MORE (R-Ky.) in an interview with The Associated Press.

In recent campaign stops, the president has turned his attention to protecting the GOP’s House majority. But last night in Erie, Pa., Trump campaigned for Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaEx-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs Head of Pennsylvania GOP resigns over alleged explicit texts Trump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 MORE (R), who trails Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyHere are the Senate Democrats backing a Trump impeachment inquiry over Ukraine call Ex-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate MORE Jr. (D) by double-digits.

Trump is being criticized for conducting the political rally as Hurricane Michael battered Florida (The Hill). The president offered “thoughts and prayers” for those in the storm’s path and said he’d travel to Florida “very soon.” Then he blasted Casey for joining the “left-wing mob” by voting against Kavanaugh and lamented that he could no longer use the phrase “the girl that got away.”

“Under the rules of 'Me Too,’ I’m not allowed to use that expression anymore. I can’t do it." – Trump

More on campaigns and politics … Dem hopes for a House majority run through Minnesota (The Hill) … Trump’s Nevada-based patron-in-chief (ProPublica) … Democrats face a thousand-seat deficit to Republicans in state legislatures across the country this year, but the party is optimistic it can make those numbers up (The Hill) … The governor’s seats most likely to flip (The Washington Post) … Division lines are opening up among top Senate Republicans when it comes to a potential 2020 Supreme Court fight (The Hill).

 

 


LEADING THE DAY

*** BREAKING OVERNIGHT *** The most powerful hurricane on record to lash the Florida Panhandle roared with 155 mph winds on Wednesday into Georgia, where its fury abated to a tropical storm. Hurricane Michael left at least two people dead from fallen trees, caused widespread destruction in Panama City and Apalachicola and left 400,000 people without power as its remaining 60 mph winds and heavy rains took aim at the Carolinas today. Michael could go down in the record books as the third-strongest hurricane to hit the continental United States (The Associated Press).

 

 

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CONGRESS: Lame-duck session: House and Senate lawmakers and lobbyists and representatives for various stakeholders are gazing beyond Election Day at legislation that might, maybe, possibly be nudged toward passage in the final weeks of this Congress, after voters have spoken. Without knowing the outcome of the elections, Republican lawmakers predict only that the haggling will be intense.

McConnell says the rush to finish contentious business will be “relatively lively.” The president wants more funding for a border wall, and McConnell says only that his caucus will “try” to deliver. But he’s not ruling out a partial government shutdown if the parties and chambers remain at loggerheads over Trump’s infamous campaign promise.

Bills to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the State Department and assorted other agencies are on the to-do list. McConnell says he would reserve time for a criminal justice reform measure, supported by the White House, if 60 senators want to take it up. And a farm bill is hanging fire (The Hill).

> Talking Wednesday with The Associated Press, McConnell did not dismiss the prospect of a federal shutdown over funding for Trump’s wall. Because Congress and the president enacted sufficient funding for about three-quarters of federal operations for this fiscal year, a shutdown prompted by an impasse over border security would be controversial, but relatively limited, he indicated.

“We’re committed to helping the president try to get the wall funding.” — McConnell

> Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE (R-Wis.), taking questions from reporters on Monday, said he expects December’s lame duck session to be contentious. "We intend on having a full-fledged discussion about how to complete this mission of securing our border and we will have a big fight about it," Ryan said. "We'll figure out how to do it [in] December" (The Hill).

Short-term funding for various agencies, including DHS, expires on Dec. 7.

> House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthy10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable Furious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Five ways Trump's Syria decision spells trouble MORE (R-Calif.), who aspires to be Speaker if Republicans hold the House next year, is promoting legislation this week that would fully fund Trump’s wall (Western Journal).   

Climate change: Republican lawmakers are largely shrugging off dire climate change warnings spelled out in a major new United Nations report this week. Few GOP lawmakers on Wednesday said they read it (The Hill). The report is HERE. The New York Times unpacked details on Sunday, noting that scientists warn that time is running out to correct conditions that are warming the planet so rapidly, while politics push available solutions further out of reach.

Health Care: On Wednesday, the Senate defeated efforts by Democrats to overturn the Trump administration’s expansion of non-ObamaCare health plans. Democrats anticipated the outcome, but want to use the GOP position as a political weapon among voters who embrace key features of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (The Hill).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

 WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Russia: Trump may meet again with President Vladimir Putin next spring in Helsinki (Reuters). After a bilateral meeting there in July, Trump was criticized for his decidedly warm disposition toward Putin during a joint news conference at the end of their private meeting, which was accompanied only by translators.

Missing Saudi journalist: Trump says he has spoken with Saudi officials, responding again to reporters’ questions about any efforts he’s made on behalf of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an opinion contributor to The Washington Post who disappeared inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

The president said he invited Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, to the White House, but offered no details about his conversations with unnamed officials. “It’s a very serious situation for us," Trump said (The Hill).

Members of the Senate from both parties, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump isolated amid Syria furor | Pompeo, Pence to visit Turkey in push for ceasefire | Turkish troops advance in Syria | Graham throws support behind Trump's sanctions Graham: Erdoğan pledged to Trump to stay away from Kurdish territory in Syria Trump honors Stanley Cup champions, talks impeachment, Turkey MORE and White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerButtigieg knocks Trump as a 'walking conflict of interest' Biden's weak response to Trump is a lesson for Democratic candidates Mark Hamill zings Ivanka Trump for 'Star Wars' tweet MORE, and British and Turkish government officials have pressed Saudi Arabia for information about Khashoggi, who was an outspoken critic of the Saudi royal family.

U.S. intelligence agencies knew before his disappearance that Khashoggi was in danger. They “intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture him,” The Washington Post reported.

Interior Department: 1,500 department employees were fired, suspended or reprimanded for sexual harassment or misconduct between 2017 and 2018, according to an internal email obtained by The Hill.

West Wing - Must Read: Trump says White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE has his support and is not on his way out. “When you walk in here, you don’t see chaos. There is no chaos. The media likes to portray chaos. There’s no chaos,” he told Olivia Nuzzi of New York magazine during an impromptu interview in the Oval Office on Tuesday.

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INVESTIGATIONS: More fallout from The New York Times bombshell report that Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump attacks Sessions: A 'total disaster' and 'an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama' Mueller rejoins DC law firm Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it MORE suggested wiretapping Trump in the early days of the administration and discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to have him removed from office…

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that former FBI acting Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeBrendan Gleeson lands Trump role in CBS miniseries based on Comey memoir Judge tells DOJ to charge McCabe or drop investigation McCabe says he would 'absolutely not' cut a deal with prosecutors MORE took the remarks seriously and approached an FBI lawyer about how to address the matter.

Rosenstein denies making the comments and there are suggestions that he may have made the remarks sarcastically.

The Washington Post: Rosenstein faces congressional confrontation amid new claim he seriously suggested wiretapping Trump.

Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE’s probe, was scheduled to be grilled today by conservatives on two House committees, but that has been postponed (The Hill).

 

 

Rosenstein has spoken to Trump about the report and the president seems convinced he’s telling the truth. The president has publicly backed the deputy attorney general in recent days and said they have a good working relationship.

It’s clear that Trump remains frustrated with Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump attacks Sessions: A 'total disaster' and 'an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama' Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Washington Times after story on her 'high-dollar hairdo' Trump's tirades, taunts and threats are damaging our democracy MORE, however.

The Washington Post reports that Trump discussed replacing the AG with Sessions’s chief of staff, Matt Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney. The New York Times reported on Sept. 26 that Whitaker was seen as a leading candidate to replace Rosenstein, if Trump fired him or he resigned (The New York Times). Whitaker, a former college football tight end, also was seen by some in the administration as a possible successor to White House Counsel Don McGahn, the Times noted last month.

The Hill: California man ensnared in Mueller probe sentenced to six months in prison.

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley jeasley@thehill.com & Alexis Simendinger asimendinger@thehill.com. Suggestions? Tips? We want to hear from you! Share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!

OPINION

Saudi Arabia must answer to Khashoggi allegations, by Varsha Koduvayur, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2Eeojrn

Professionalism and politics in disaster management, Christopher Reynolds, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2Nytou0

WHERE AND WHEN

The House is in recess and will reconvene on Nov. 13.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. to consider the nomination of Jeffrey Clark to be an assistant attorney general.

The president signs the “Save Our Seas Act” and the “Orrin G. Hatch-Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview MORE Music Modernization Act” this morning. He has been expected to host Kanye West at the White House for lunch. The Chicago-born musician is expected to meet with Jared Kushner to discuss “manufacturing resurgence in America, prison reform, how to prevent gang violence, and what can be done to reduce violence in Chicago,” according to press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. In the afternoon, Trump will speak to a meeting of the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the White House.   

Vice President Pence, Pompeo and DHS Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump says acting Homeland Security chief McAleenan will step down Activists to demonstrate at ICE headquarters after Cameroonian immigrant dies in custody Ex-Citizenship and Immigration Services chief returns to DHS in different role MORE, along with Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray and Alfonso Navarrete, secretary of government, collaborate in hosting the second Conference for Prosperity and Security in Central America at 10 a.m., at the Department of State.

Pompeo chairs the president’s annual meeting of the task force to combat trafficking of persons at the White House at 2 p.m.

Sessions delivered a speech in London at the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference at 6:15 a.m. ET.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m. releases the consumer price index report for September. Because of market jitters about rising interest rates, analysts are watching inflation closely for signs of additional angst.

Today’s Open Markets Institute and Village Capital Conference, discussing whether monopolies are crushing entrepreneurship, features Sens. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoGaetz: Some lawmakers reviewed transcript at White House On The Money: Trump takes aim at China in UN address | Consumer confidence fell as trade tensions rose | Senate proposes billion for Trump border wall Senate proposes billion for Trump border wall MORE (R-W.Va.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerYang compares U.S. election tampering to Russia's election interference efforts Mark Warner nominates Bryan Cranston to play him in a movie Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservative politicians, pundits MORE (D-Va.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Warren leads in speaking time during debate Democrats wrangle over whether to break up Big Tech in debate first MORE (D-N.J.); and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commissioner Robert Jackson. Info HERE.

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ELSEWHERE

> Market drop: Wondering why the Dow Jones Industrial Average sank more than 800 points on Wednesday? Analysts say it is a mix of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, fears of an economic slowdown and an overheated tech sector. Check out analysis from  CNBC or The Wall Street Journal.

“[The Federal Reserve] has gone crazy.” - Trump

“The fundamentals and future of the U.S. economy remain incredibly strong. Unemployment is at a fifty year low, taxes for families and businesses have been cut, regulations and red tape have been slashed, paychecks are getting fatter, consumer and small business confidence are setting records, and farmers, ranchers and manufacturers are empowered by better trade deals. President Trump’s economic policies are the reasons for these historic successes and they have created a solid base for continued growth.”Sanders

Swoon: Today, European stocks slumped to a more than an 18-month low after Wall Street’s worst losses in eight months triggered a surge of global selling that spread into Asia, too. The sell-off erased hundreds of billions of dollars of global wealth (Reuters).

> Immigration: The Supreme Court appeared divided Wednesday over whether the Trump administration can detain immigrants with criminal records who are fighting deportation years after they served time for their offense (The Hill).

> Science: Italy’s Mount Etna, an active volcano, could be collapsing into the sea. (What’s the Sicilian word for disaster?) (Science)

THE CLOSER

And finally …  It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for the Morning Report QUIZ CONTEST! Send your best guesses to jeasley@thehill.com or asimendinger@thehill.com (and please put “Quiz” in your subject line). You’re a winner in Friday’s newsletter if you send us five correct answers.

Forty-three years ago, at 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 11, Saturday Night Live” premiered on NBC as an edgy sketch comedy show.

 

 

Which of these former presidents has been parodied most often on SNL, with more than 100 sketches featuring an impersonator?

1) Ronald Reagan

2) Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonMellman: Which is the right question? NY prosecutors urge appeals court not to block subpoena for Trump's tax returns Sherrod Brown: 'Terrible mistake' for Democratic nominee to support 'Medicare for All' MORE

3) George W. Bush

4) Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaIraq is not yet lost, but if we continue to ignore it, it soon will be Obama praises marathon runners Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei for 'remarkable examples of humanity's ability' Each of us has a role in preventing veteran suicide MORE

 

Who was the first female head writer in the show’s history?

1) Tina Fey

2) Amy Poehler

3) Melissa McCarthy

4) Jane Curtin

 

The first female host, the first person to host the show for a second time, and the first woman to host SNL five times was?

1) Carly Simon

2) Carrie Fisher

3) Candice Bergen

4) Gilda Radner

 

Which of these original cast members had this to say during a recent interview, speaking about the contemporary (and Emmy-winning) SNL (hint: the interview appeared in The Washington Post): I’m amazed that [SNL creator] Lorne [Michaels] has gone so low. I had to watch a little of it, and I just couldn’t f—— believe it. … That means a whole generation of s—heads laughs at the worst f—— humor in the world. You know what I mean? How could you dare give that generation worse s— than they already have in their lives? It just drives me nuts.”


1) Dan Aykroyd

2) Laraine Newman

3) Bill Murray

4) Chevy Chase

 

SNL has been known for some iconic political impressions of politicians over the years, bolstered by great writing and physical humor. Match the dialogue from SNL sketches with the politicians being spoofed.  

Politicians:

Sarah Palin (Tina Fey)

George H.W. Bush (Dana Carvey)

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Poll: Warren leads Biden in Maine by 12 points MORE (Kate McKinnon)

Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE (Larry David)

 

Dialogue:

“Wouldn’t be prudent.”

“I own one pair of underwear. That’s it. Some of these billionaires have three, four pairs.”

“I can see Russia from my house.”

“I’ll have whatever beer no one likes, but gets the job done.”