The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Early ballots pouring in with 15 days to the midterms




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Voters are casting early ballots between now and Nov. 6, in what analysts are describing as “unprecedented” voter interest in the 2018 midterm elections.

So far, at least 4.7 million people have already cast their ballots, which dovetails with polling data that shows enthusiasm to vote is off the charts.

    “Do you promise you will leave this site, go out and cast your vote right now?” — President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeath toll in Northern California wildfire rises to 48: authorities Graham backs bill to protect Mueller Denham loses GOP seat in California MORE in Nevada on Saturday, which was the first day of early voting in the state.

The Hill: Early voting hints at huge turnout.

Democrats have had the advantage in enthusiasm and are hoping it will propel them to a majority in the House. But the bitter Supreme Court battle over Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMellman: The triumph of partisanship Pavlich: Where is Brett Kavanaugh’s apology? Trump tweets about Diwali, draws criticism for not mentioning Hindus in initial posts MORE appears to have jolted conservative voters and may help Republicans maintain or grow their majority in the Senate.

The New York Times: GOP candidates struggling in key House battlegrounds.

The Washington Post: House Dem hopes for wave election diminish as GOP rebounds.

The Hill: Dems slide in battle for the Senate.

NBC News: Democrats lead generic congressional ballot by 9 points, Trump approval jumps.

Early and absentee voting in key states and contests means both parties and their VIP surrogates are busy mobilizing their base voters to submit their ballots now. Knowledge about who has already voted in swing districts and states means precious resources and energy in both parties can be shifted elsewhere to maximize turnout among the millions who will wait until Election Day to cast a ballot.

The Hill: Republicans bail on Rep. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — First lady's office pushes for ouster of national security aide | Trump taps retired general as ambassador to Saudis | Mattis to visit border troops | Record number of female veterans to serve in Congress GOP lawmaker defends Mia Love from Trump attacks: 'I was disgusted when I heard it' Record number of female veterans to serve in next Congress MORE (R-Colo.) to invest in Miami seat.

The Hill: Republicans cancel air time in Las Vegas swing district.

Early voting is underway in Nevada, where a rare pickup opportunity for Democrats in the Senate has thrust the Silver State into the center of the political world.

Former President Obama will hold an early voting event for Democrats in Las Vegas today, two days after former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenCastro takes steps toward likely 2020 bid Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February What midterm exit polls tell us about 2020 MORE touched down in Sin City (Las Vegas Review-Journal).

The Cook Political Report: “The one place that still looks like a reasonably good chance for Democrats taking a GOP Senate seat is Nevada.”

Biden is now in Florida, where early voting begins today. Biden will rally Democrats in Tampa and Jacksonville.

In Texas, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzIncoming Dem lawmaker from Texas says Nielsen should be replaced as DHS chief Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February Poll: Biden and Sanders lead 2020 Dem field, followed by Beto O'Rourke MORE (R-Texas) made an early-voting appeal over the weekend to his conservative base in an effort to put some distance between himself and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), the fundraising juggernaut and media darling.

The Hill: O’Rourke’s rise raises hopes for down-ballot Texas Dems.

Cruz will get a hand from Trump this evening at what is expected to be a massive rally at the Toyota Center in Houston.



North Carolina has been an early voting yardstick for past midterm elections. There are no Senate races there this cycle, but the Tar Heel State is seeing “unprecedented levels of engagement,” according to Michael McDonald, a University of Florida associate professor who analyzes early voting patterns at his website, Elect Project.



CNN: A look at one Georgia county through the prism of absentee ballots.

The Hill: Small-dollar donations explode in age of Trump.

Perspectives and Analyses

Salena Zito: Two candidates that young people love show the future for both parties.

David Leonhardt: What if Republicans win everything again?

Charles E. Cook Jr.: A shift in GOP fortunes.

Ryu Spaeth: The impatience of today’s Democratic Party.

Mark J. Rozell: Virginia may help Dems regain control of the House.

Albert R. Hunt: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) tries to snatch football from Dems one more time.

More from the campaign trail … Will Latino voters show up for Democrats? (The New York Times) … How four Democratic women in Virginia aim to spark a blue surge (The Washington Post) … Five takeaways from last night’s Florida gubernatorial debate (The Hill) … Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersProgressive House Dem pushes for vote on 'Medicare for all' bill Castro takes steps toward likely 2020 bid Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February MORE (I-Vt.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisCastro takes steps toward likely 2020 bid Pavlich: Where is Brett Kavanaugh’s apology? Kamala Harris celebrates electoral victory of 19 black women in Texas: ‘#BlackGirlMagic’ MORE (D-Calif.) set to criss-cross Iowa (The Hill) … Major Democratic donors are waiting to jump into the 2020 presidential race in a break from the past (The Hill) … Liberals are fuming at vulnerable Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMellman: The triumph of partisanship Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle Schumer’s headaches to multiply in next Congress MORE (D-W.Va.) for voting to confirm Kavanaugh (The Hill) ... Messy GOP leadership fight assured next month (The Associated Press).


INTERNATIONAL: With the Saudi government’s acknowledgement that exiled journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by government officials on Oct. 2, the weeks-long saga shifted to whether the United States and other governments would accept the story offered by Riyadh – and whether sanctions Trump is trying to forestall may yet be imposed.

Trump said the explanations offered by the Saudis amounted to “deception” and “lies.” But at the same time, the president defended Saudi Arabia as an ally and suggested Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may not have ordered Khashoggi’s murder (The Washington Post).

The killing was among topics Trump discussed with French President Emmanuel Macron by phone on Sunday, according to the White House.

The location of Khashoggi’s corpse, reportedly dismembered and disposed of, was unclear, and Turkey’s vivid account of what took place, based on evidence it says it gathered about the journalist’s death, remains pending (The New York Times).

U.S. lawmakers over the weekend dismissed as not credible the Saudi government’s account of an accidental death resulting from a struggle and fistfight inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month (The Hill). Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle Durbin: Republicans are making it 'as hard as possible' to vote GOP Rep. Rodney Davis wins reelection in Illinois MORE (D-Ill.) called for the expulsion of the Saudi ambassador (The Hill).



Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Amazon taps New York, Northern Virginia for new offices | What it means for the DC area | Dems target vulnerable commerce chief | Earmarks look to be making a comeback New IRS chief to make updating agency technology a priority Trade discussions resume between US, China MORE, who flew to Saudi Arabia for a scheduled and unrelated meeting of an anti-terrorist financing group, said the Saudi’s fistfight explanation was a “good first step but not enough.” He also said proposals for U.S. sanctions are premature (Reuters).

The Associated Press: Khashoggi’s murder may put Trump’s ambitions for a Middle East peace plan in a deep freeze.


Russia: The United States is taking a suddenly tough posture with Russia on several fronts, including a clash over a 31-year-old nuclear treaty, as well as accusations of ongoing election meddling.

National security adviser John Bolton is in Moscow to confer with President Vladimir Putin and Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev (The Hill).

On the agenda: Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of a 1987 treaty negotiated by former President Reagan to eradicate mid-range nuclear missiles (Reuters).

“Russia has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement, so we’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out,” the president told reporters on Saturday.

Russia slammed the decision to walk away from a landmark Cold War-era treaty that eliminated nuclear missiles from Europe (Politico Europe) and warned of retaliation (Reuters), calling the move “blackmail.”

Trump has said he wants to meet again with Putin next year to build on their bilateral summit in Helsinki in July.

Russia’s warning that Trump’s decision was “very dangerous” underscored rapidly souring relations between the two nuclear superpowers (The Financial Times).

Republican lawmakers on Sunday criticized the administration’s decision to jettison the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as the INF Treaty (The Washington Post).

Meanwhile, the United States assailed ongoing election interference by Russia, Iran and China (The Hill). And the Justice Department charged a Russian woman with interfering in the U.S. midterm elections (The Hill).

The criminal complaint against Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, announced on Friday, alleged that Russians are continuing to use techniques seen during the 2016 presidential election aimed at influencing voter perceptions. There is no evidence that vote tallies in the midterm contests, now under way, have been compromised, the government said (The Associated Press).




Mexico, the border and immigrants: Trump continues to threaten extraordinary measures to try to stop thousands of Central American migrants who are trekking through Mexico toward the border with the United States, chanting that they seek to flee violence and poverty in Honduras and Guatemala.

“I will seal off the border before they come into this country and I’ll bring out our military, not our reserves,” Trump said on Saturday.

Trump and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump: NY Times report on North Korean missile bases inaccurate Pompeo accuses Newsweek of 'helping' Iran 'spread lies' Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump's Armistice Day trip marked by controversy | US ends aerial refueling to Saudi coalition in Yemen | Analysts identify undeclared North Korean missile bases MORE have commended the Mexican government for trying to halt or slow the caravan. Mexico is working to process hundreds of migrants seeking refugee status. Sympathetic Mexicans are offering the Central American immigrants food, water and clothing along their route (The Associated Press).


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The Trump administration is considering a couple of controversial moves on hot-button social issues with the midterm elections little more than two weeks away…

The Department of Health and Human Services is considering narrowing the legal definition of gender under the Title IX civil rights laws that ban discrimination based on gender.

The New York Times reports:

“The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law. … The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with.”

> And the Trump administration is preparing to expand religious and moral exemptions for employer health care plans, which are required to cover birth control under ObamaCare.

The Washington Post reports:

“The exact details of the exemptions, and when they would take effect, remain unclear. But women’s health advocates are bracing for a legal fight. They expect the rules to mimic earlier regulations enacted by the Trump administration last year before being blocked by federal judges … The rules allowed nearly any employer — nonprofit or for-profit — with a religious or moral objection to opt out of the Affordable Care Act provision requiring the coverage of contraception at no cost for the employee.”

> Trump said at a rally in Nevada over the weekend that the GOP will implement “a very major tax cut” for middle income earners before Nov. 6. Any movement on a new tax-cuts bill would have to wait until the lame-duck session, however, as the House and Senate are out until after the election.

But Republicans have been talking about a second round of tax cuts for the middle class, as Democrats have cast the GOP tax overhaul as a give-away to corporations and the wealthy.

“We are going to be putting in and are studying very deeply right now, around the clock a major tax cut for middle-income people. Not for business at all. For middle-income people.” - Trump

> Democrats, meanwhile, are itching to investigate Trump’s alleged conflicts of interest. They’ve zeroed in on allegations that the president was directly involved in canceling plans to sell the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.

House Democrats released documents this week they say indicate that the president intervened in the deal to prevent commercial developers from building a new property that might compete with the Trump International Hotel (The Hill).

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!



Improve U.S. counterterrorism efforts by curbing corruption, by Colby Goodman and William D. Hartung, opinion contributors, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2EwLjC2

Here’s what a one-seat Republican majority would look like, by Robert G. Boatright, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2P8eKyD


The House and Senate are out of Washington until after Election Day.

The president has lunch with the vice president and flies to Houston for a campaign rally, and returns to the White House in the evening.

Vice President Pence has lunch with the president and attends a political event in Washington in the evening.

Pompeo meets with Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell this afternoon at the Department of State.

Obama holds a get-out-the-vote event at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, beginning at noon.

Biden rallies Democrats in Tampa at noon and in Jacksonville at 3:45 p.m.

Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpMueller targets Stone in final push Robert De Niro says goodbye to ‘Jeff Sessions’ on ‘Saturday Night Live’ Election Countdown: Recount prospects grow in Florida | Abrams team to sue over absentee ballots | Dem wins pivotal Georgia House seat | A look at the uncalled races | Corporations spend big to beat ballot measures MORE holds a campaign rally for GOP Senate candidate Patrick Morrisey in West Virginia to back his bid to unseat Manchin.


PhRMA members take new approach to DTC TV advertising


Soon, TV ads for our medicines will direct you to information including the list price of the medicine, out-of-pocket costs or other context about the potential cost of the medicine and available financial assistance. It’s our mission to find lifesaving treatments. It’s our responsibility to help patients access them. Learn more.


> An ongoing and massive U.S. oil disaster very few people acknowledge may soon overtake the BP Deepwater Horizon emergency in the Gulf of Mexico as the nation’s largest. This one was caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and oil has escaped uncapped wells ever since (The Washington Post).

>  China’s export engine is likely to cool, further slowing growth (The Wall Street Journal).

> The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union has spawned buyer’s remorse among some as it nears a March deadline. More than half a million people marched in London over the weekend to demand a “people’s vote” on the Brexit deal, the largest such demonstration since Brits’ 2003 opposition to the Iraq war (The Guardian). Prime Minister Theresa May says that 95 percent of a Brexit plan has been agreed to but she opposes a European Union proposal for the Irish border, a major stumbling block, as criticism within her party grows (Reuters).

> The “Halloween” reboot starring Jamie Lee Curtis is No. 1 at the box office, hauling in $77.5 million this weekend (Variety). That’s the best-ever opening weekend for a film starring a woman over the age of 55 (she’s 59). The film’s success is indicative of the new era of blockbuster horror movies (CNBC).




And finally ... Are you feeling lucky? The odds this morning of winning a $1.6 BILLION (!!) Mega Millions Jackpot, the largest lottery in U.S. history, are 1 in 303 million (Marketwatch).

The next chance to test your luck will be Tuesday night, since no one had the winning numbers on Friday. The Powerball lottery also climbed to $620 million, and the next drawing will be on Wednesday (The Washington Post).

Not to seem pessimistic, but you have a greater chance of experiencing the following events than winning this gargantuan windfall, according to Forbes:

  • Dying from heart disease;
  • Dating a millionaire;
  • Writing a best-selling novel;
  • Being injured while using a chainsaw;
  • Having identical quadruplets;
  • Winning an Oscar;
  • Being killed by fireworks;
  • Winning an Olympic gold medal;
  • Getting crushed by a meteor;
  • Being struck by lightning;
  • Being killed by a tornado;
  • Becoming president of the United States;
  • Being attacked by a shark; and
  • Becoming a saint.