The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — One week to the midterms: Election handicappers weigh in

 

 

 

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The midterm elections are one week away.

Many election modelers believe Democrats are poised to seize a majority in the House, while Republicans appear likely to maintain or grow their 51-49 advantage in the Senate.

But the political landscape is volatile, which is why the Morning Report asked some of nation’s top election analysts to weigh in on key variables that could determine the outcome on Nov. 6.

This is how they responded:

Q. Do Democrats still have the advantage in enthusiasm, or did the confirmation fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughCourt-packing becomes new litmus test on left Warren, Harris, Gillibrand back efforts to add justices to Supreme Court Pence traveling to SC for Graham reelection launch MORE even the playing field?

     “The most recent evidence suggests that although the Kavanaugh affair narrowed the gap, the enthusiasm edge still tilts toward the Democrats and may be widening a bit as we head toward the finish line.” — William Galston, senior fellow, The Brookings Institution

Q. Will this really be “The Year of the Woman” at the ballot box?

    “It's not another ‘Year of the Woman.’ It's the ‘Year of the Fired Up Female College Graduate.’ And it's not just a gender gap, it's a gender canyon. This is poised to be the first year Americans elect more than 100 women to the House, and Pennsylvania is likely to be home to the most dramatic surge: four new Democratic women in the Philadelphia suburbs.” — David Wasserman, House editor, The Cook Political Report

Q. What are the bellwether races you’ll be watching as an indication of where things are headed on election night?

Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, says he’s eyeing Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District, held by Republican Rep. Andy BarrGarland (Andy) Hale BarrKentucky radio host: Schumer recruit can't beat McConnell On The Money: Wells Fargo chief gets grilling | GOP, Pence discuss plan to defeat Dem emergency resolution | House chair sees '50-50' chance of passing Dem budget | Trump faces pressure over Boeing Campaign to draft Democratic challenger to McConnell starts raising funds MORE: “I don’t think Democrats need to win it to win the House, but if they do, they may be on the way to a good night."

And Kondik also pointed to Virginia’s 10th District, held by Rep. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockGOP lawmaker introduces bill to stop revolving door Ex-lawmakers face new scrutiny over lobbying Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign MORE (R): “Among early reporting states, VA-10 is probably close to a must-win for Democrats – or, rather, it would be a mild surprise if they don’t win.”

Wasserman has in mind Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, represented by Rep. Dave Brat (R): “An Abigail Spanberger (D) upset of Brat would suggest Democrats are headed for a big wave.”

Galston is gazing westward to the Montana Senate race: “Trump has already been in the state three times to attack Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSanders, Ocasio-Cortez back 'end the forever war' pledge Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ White House pleads with Senate GOP on emergency declaration MORE (D) and recently announced a fourth trip. If Tester loses, we’ll have to give Trump a share of the credit.”

Kirby Goidel, professor in the Department of Communication and the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University, has a different Senate race in mind, in the Hoosier State: “We might get our first hint in Indiana where the polls close at 6:00 and where Democrat Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyLobbying World Lobbying World Overnight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down MORE should win reelection.”

Galston is also watching the gubernatorial race in the Sunshine State: “I’m surprised by how little Trump has done for his hand-picked Florida gubernatorial candidate [former Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisRepublicans need solutions on environment too Republicans up for reelection fear daylight with Trump Florida bill repealing ban on smokable medical marijuana headed to governor's desk MORE]. Is he keeping his distance (relatively speaking) because he smells defeat in the offing?”

The Hill: The number of House seats in play has ballooned.

The Huffington Post: Where the Dems’ fight for the House will be decided.

Q. How helpful are Trump’s rallies for Republican candidates?

    “If Trump can transfer some of his popularity to other Republicans when he’s not on the ballot, he will have accomplished a feat that eluded Ronald Reagan, Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonHill-HarrisX poll: 76 percent oppose Trump pardoning former campaign aides A Weld challenge to Trump would provide Republicans a clear choice History teaches that Nancy Pelosi is right about impeachment MORE, and Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBudowsky: Biden or Beto: Where's the beef? Super Tuesday bonanza raises stakes for Dems Whatever happened to nuclear abolition? MORE.”— Galston

    “This election is largely a referendum on Trump, helped by the fact that he has embraced this idea that the election should be about him.” — Goidel

Q. Will the midterm elections turn on policy issues or on emotion and partisan anger?

    “For Republicans, it turns out cultural flashpoints like Kavanaugh and the caravan are more effective at motivating the Trump base than tax cuts. Democrats angry with Trump will crawl over broken glass to vote, but their candidates are making the most headway on health care and pre-existing conditions. The ultimate health care race might be NJ-03, where Andy Kim (D) is running against Rep. Tom MacArthurThomas (Tom) Charles MacArthurThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority 10 things we learned from the midterms New Jersey New Members 2019 MORE (R) as the ‘architect’ of the GOP repeal plan and its ‘age tax’.” — Wasserman

    “What is fascinating is that unlike previous presidents who have largely stayed out of the midterm [cycle], Trump has embraced the role. Often base voters for the in-party turn out at a lower rate, so it will be interesting to see what impact this has.” — Goidel

The Hill: Major GOP group leans into immigration, tax law in final week.

 

 





LEADING THE DAY

CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS:  *** BREAKING ***  Trump, during an interview with Axios, said he’ll sign an executive order to end birthright citizenship for babies born on U.S. soil to non-citizens and undocumented immigrants. Any such action would challenge U.S. law, the Constitution and wind up in court (Axios).

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral MORE and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump steps up attacks on McCain White House announces spring garden tour dates Trump heard sermon on calling out hate speech at St. Patrick's day church service MORE fly into Pittsburgh today to meet with the families of victims from the mass shooting at a synagogue.

Trump’s visit is controversial – the mayor of Pittsburgh has asked that his visit be delayed until the dead are buried, and tens of thousands of people have signed a petition asking that the president not visit at all.

The Associated Press: Trump to visit amid divide.

Eleven people were killed and six more injured after a man opened fire on a bris ceremony in the Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. The shooting came a day after another man was arrested for mailing pipe bombs to top Democrats.

The Hill: Dems call for emergency hearing on “white supremacist views” after attacks.

Trump’s critics in both parties have blamed the president’s rhetoric for the spate of violence and many in Washington are calling on politicians from both parties to lower the heat.

Hill.TV/Harris X Poll: Voters say it’s up to Trump to tamp down heated partisan rhetoric.

But on Monday, the president ratcheted up his political attacks, blaming the media for the anger in the country and describing Andrew Gillum, the African-American mayor of Tallahassee who is running for Florida governor, as a “thief.”

The Washington Post: Trump, aides struggle to balance midterm attacks with empathy.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Gillum tells supporters to get away from Twitter and to round up voters to fight back against Trump.

New polling suggests Trump is paying a political price for staying on the attack in a time of fear and grief.

Gallup: Trump approval drops 4 points in one week.

Public Religion Research Institute: Majority say Trump’s behavior encourages white supremacists.

The president has an ambitious campaign travel schedule through Nov. 6, resuming on Wednesday with Florida appearance. He’ll hold 11 rallies in six days.

Bloomberg: White House braces for GOP losses and staff exodus.

Polling roundup

Los Angeles Times: Democrats lead generic congressional ballot by 17 points.

Texas Tribune: Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Rourke raised .1 million from over 128,000 donors on campaign's first day O'Rourke on Israeli-Palestinian conflict: 'We don't have the best negotiating partners on either side' O'Rourke: 'I think we can win Texas' in 2020 MORE (R-Texas) leads Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) by 5 points, down from 9 in the previous poll.

Emerson College: Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowChris Evans talks NATO, Marvel secrets on Capitol Hill Overnight Health Care: Senators grill drug execs over high prices | Progressive Dems unveil Medicare for all bill | House Dems to subpoena Trump officials over family separations Senators grill drug execs over high prices MORE (D-Mich.) leads Republican John James by 9 points; Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange William Barr is right man for the times MORE (D-N.J.) leads Republican Bob Hugin by 5 points.

NBC/Marist: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) has small lead on Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyPentagon agrees to set up McSally's military sexual assault task force Overnight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' MORE (R-Ariz.).

More from the campaign trail … Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren, Klobuchar call on FTC to curtail use of non-compete clauses Pollster says 'it's certainly not looking good' for Trump ahead of 2020 Big Tech is not the enemy, Sen. Warren MORE’s (D-Mass.) use of a DNA test to claim Native American heritage doesn’t “pass the test” (The Hill) … Long time advisers and confidants say that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Trump's approval rating stable at 45 percent Kellyanne Conway: 'I think my gender helps me with the president' MORE will not run for president in 2020 (The Hill) … Coverage of the Indiana Senate debate between Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Republican Mike Braun and Libertarian Lucy Brenton begins at 7 p.m. (C-SPAN) … Should Dems capture the House majority, here are profiles are some of next year’s committee chairmen who want to challenge Trump and the GOP (The New York Times).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Immigration: The U.S. military will send more than 5,200 active duty troops to the southern border with Mexico by the end of the week, the Defense Department announced Monday.

The deployment, called Operation Faithful Patriot, will be to “build up southern Texas, and then Arizona, and then California … to harden the points of entry and address key gaps in areas around the points of entry,” U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command head Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy told reporters (The Hill).

A week before the midterm elections, Trump has injected drama to his argument that there is a national security need for the militarization of the southern border against an unarmed caravan of Central American immigrant families moving north on foot through Mexico.

 

 

The deployment of more than 5,000 troops is a major increase from the Pentagon’s initial estimate of 800 and represents a military force equivalent to one-third the number of customs officials at the border, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The president is expected to make an immigration announcement this week. The administration is considering a plan to limit most, if not all, the caravan trekkers from crossing the U.S. border, CNN reported.

The administration believes it can limit legal ports of entry and then waitlist migrants tied to U.S. capacity, slowing the processing. Under one scenario, the migrants could then be handed a choice: Be detained together as a family during long immigration proceedings or be separated from their children, who would enter the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, according to CNN’s reporting.

 

 

 

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Tariffs: The United States is preparing to announce by early December tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports if talks next month between Trump and President Xi Jinping fail to ease the trade war. The administration is preparing fallback tariffs in case the discussion between the two leaders on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, yields no breakthroughs (Bloomberg).

“I have $267 billion waiting to go if we can’t make a deal,” Trump said in an interview on Monday with Fox News Channel’s Laura Ingraham (Reuters).

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Federal Reserve: Jerome Powell, chairman of the nation’s central bank, will testify about the Fed’s outlook for the economy before the Joint Economic Committee on Dec. 5 (Reuters). Powell and his Fed colleagues have been under pressure from the White House and Wall Street over hikes in interest rates to stave off inflation.

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Health insurance: On Thursday, the annual sign-up period for ObamaCare health coverage begins, and it’s the first year Americans won’t have to pay a penalty for not having health insurance. It’s also the first year consumers will have the option of buying non-ObamaCare plans expanded by the Trump administration. These changes lead experts to suggest enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, now nearly eight years old, could decline in 2019 (The Hill).

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TECH: In what ways are social media platforms culpable in the spread of hate speech and extremist messaging?

Gab, a social media platform that became a haven for the alt-right, is the latest extremist-friendly community to be pushed off the Internet. Before truck driver Robert Bowers allegedly killed 11 people in a synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, he posted his hatred of Jews on Gab. As a result, GoDaddy, which hosted Gab’s domain, and PayPal cut off services to the company (The Hill).

Twitter apologized to some account holders who were targeted on social media by Florida’s Cesar Sayoc Jr., the alleged package bomber. Some had complained to Twitter that they received threatening messages via his account, but the company did little in response before he allegedly switched his messaging from social media to the U.S. Postal Service (MSNBC).  

“The Facebook Dilemma” is a two-part Frontline investigation on PBS that explores questions about the unifying ambitions of the social media giant and some ominous and unforeseen consequences. Frontline asks: Is Facebook more harmful than helpful? (Oct. 29 and Oct. 30).

The Washington Post: Despite calls on Capitol Hill to regulate hate speech on social media platforms, it would be hard for lawmakers to do so.

The New York Times: Repercussions of social media companies’ inability to handle disinformation and hate speech.

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

Congress needs to get serious about violent extremism, by Neema Hakim, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2qhM881

Shootings and bombing reflect attack on our democratic values, by Alan Dershowitz, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2Ob3Mnb

 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House and Senate will convene after Election Day.

The president and first lady Melania Trump will travel to Pennsylvania to offer condolences following the shooting deaths on Saturday of 11 people attending synagogue services in Pittsburgh.

Vice President Pence participates in a live interview at 9:30 a.m. with Politico’s Playbook in Washington; info HERE. The vice president later flies to Birmingham, Ala., to headline a National Republican Senatorial Committee political event.

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenPollster says 'it's certainly not looking good' for Trump ahead of 2020 Republican strategist predicts his 2020 Dem primary final four The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump feuds heat up MORE will campaign in Madison, Wis., for Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinOn The Money: Trump issues emergency order grounding Boeing 737 Max jets | Senate talks over emergency resolution collapse | Progressives seek defense freeze in budget talks Dems offer bill to end tax break for investment-fund managers Bipartisan think tank to honor lawmakers who offer 'a positive tenor' MORE (D) and other Democratic candidates, including Tony Evers (who is challenging GOP Gov. Scott Walker), and repeat his appearance for them in Milwaukee. In the evening, he’ll be in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for Democrats Abby Finkenauer and Fred Hubbell, along with state Sen. Rita Hart. (Iowa state Rep. Finkenauer is challenging Republican Rep. Rod Blum for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, and Hubbell is seeking to unseat Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, with Hart as his running mate.)

Secretary of Defense James MattisJames Norman MattisPentagon watchdog probing whether acting chief boosted Boeing Overnight Defense: Judge says Trump can't implement transgender policy | Trump floats admitting Brazil to NATO | Mattis returning to Stanford Mattis returning to Stanford months after Pentagon resignation MORE will discuss the National Defense Strategy at a 5:30 p.m. event hosted by United States Institute of Peace.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers discusses “The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age” during a conversation that includes private-sector cyber experts, to be moderated by The New York Times national security correspondent and author David Sanger. Location: Jack Morton Auditorium at George Washington University, 6:30 p.m. Info HERE.

Treasury Department Assistant Secretary Marshall Billingslea speaks to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington at 1 p.m.

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index for October will be released at 10 a.m. Days before the midterm elections, analysts expect to see a slight downward trajectory in consumer confidence compared with September, when the index hit an 18-year high.

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ELSEWHERE

> The courts: Chief Justice John Roberts will have his hand on the throttle as the Supreme Court veers to the right (Bloomberg).

> Sports: The 2018 World Series was good for the Red Sox, and bad for baseball (The Atlantic).

> Personal finance: Personal incomes rose 0.2 percent in September, the smallest gain since June 2017, the government reported on Monday. Roughly half of that increase was wiped out by inflation. The personal savings rate slipped to a still-healthy 6.2 percent in September, but that was the lowest level in 2018 (WRAL.com).

> Around town: Two leading communications and public affairs firms in Washington are merging. Blue Engine Message & Media and JDA Frontline will relaunch with a new name on Jan. 1, saying their clients are “increasingly looking for bipartisan teams to service their public affairs needs and manage a volatile, divisive and increasingly challenging political climate.” http://bit.ly/2RouqLj

THE CLOSER

And finally … We were searching for something sunny somewhere in the news this morning, so naturally we bring you NASA’s solar probe, launched in August. It set a record on Monday for the closest approach to the sun, and it will fly even closer next week through the sun’s outer atmosphere, and keep exploring for seven years (The Associated Press). The Parker Solar Probe, which looks a bit like a giant, disemboweled washing machine, will repeatedly break scientific records in space for years to come.