The Hill's Morning Report — GOP victorious in Florida while Dems say `Sunbelt strategy’ looks bright for 2020




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Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features journalist Andy Ngo describing his coverage of a #HimToo Antifa demonstration in Portland, Ore., over the weekend; Press Freedom Defense Fund director Jim Risen, talks about the administration’s short-lived effort to use a CNN press credential as a weapon against the news media, a decision reversed by a federal judge; and Gwen Young, director of the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Wilson Center, discussing the 2020 presidential contests and gender.


Are Republicans in danger of fumbling away another Senate seat in the Deep South?

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFeinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign MORE is headed to Mississippi next week to campaign for Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) a day before her runoff election against Democrat Mike Espy, a former U.S. Agriculture secretary.

The race is in a runoff because neither candidate hit the 50 percent mark on Nov. 6, although Hyde-Smith lost a significant percentage of Republican votes to Chris McDaniel, who will not be on the ballot in the next go round.

The final tally from the first vote was Hyde-Smith 42 percent, Espy 41 percent and McDaniel 17 percent. Trump won Mississippi by nearly 18 points in 2016.

Still, Hyde-Smith has stumbled badly in recent weeks with some ill-timed and controversial remarks, underscored by her puzzling statement that she’d be “on the front row” if a supporter invited her to a “public hanging.”

Mississippi has a long and dark history of lynchings and the remarks were seen as insensitive and tone deaf, particularly since Espy is running to be the first black senator in the state since Reconstruction.

There is no polling for the one-on-one match-up between the two, but Trump’s late appearance is another signal that Hyde-Smith needs help closing the deal in a deep-red state.

If Hyde-Smith can pull it out, it would give Republicans a 53-47 majority in the Senate next year, up from 51-49 now.

That’s because the Florida Senate race was finally settled in favor of Gov. Rick Scott (R) over Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonRepublicans amp up attacks on Tlaib's Holocaust comments The muscle for digital payment Rubio says hackers penetrated Florida elections systems MORE (D) following an ugly and dramatic recount in the Sunshine State.

The Sun Sentinel: Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes resigns.

Scott triumphed by just over 10,000 votes, a margin of 0.12 percent. He has now won three razor-tight statewide elections in the perennial swing state.

Two other hotly contested governor’s races were settled this weekend, both in favor of the GOP candidate.

In Florida, former Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisDHS official: Florida one of the 'best' states on election security, despite 2016 Russian hack Florida teacher arrested for loaded gun in backpack told reporter: 'Ask DeSantis' Trump officials not sending migrants to Florida after backlash MORE (R) will replace Scott as governor, edging past Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) at the end of a recount.

Republicans and Democrats agree voters have not seen the last of Gillum on the national political stage.



And in Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams has conceded the governor’s race to Republican Brian Kemp, although Democrats are bitter over the contest and accusing Kemp, the former Georgia secretary of state, of voter suppression.

With most of the midterm races settled, the battle now shifts to 2020, when Trump says he will seek reelection against the backdrop of an electoral map that has changed significantly in the two years since he was elected.

Democrats will need to do better in Florida and Ohio to take back the White House after losing both the Senate and governor’s races in the Sunshine State and a winnable governor’s race in the Buckeye State.

HuffPost: Electoral map still favors Trump.

The Hill: Dems wonder if Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Judge upholds House subpoena for Trump financial records | Trump vows to appeal ruling by 'Obama-appointed judge' | Canada, Mexico lift retaliatory tariffs on US | IRS audit rate falls Lawmakers grapple with the future of America's workforce The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate MORE (D-Ohio) could be their magic man.

But there are a lot of new bright spots on the map for Democrats, too.

Some analysts believe the Sunbelt is in play for 2020 after Democrats won key races this year in Arizona and Nevada.

The Hill: Dem gains put Sunbelt in focus for 2020.

Dan Balz: What has Trump learned from defeats in the House that weaken the GOP in key parts of the country?

Is 2020 the year Texas will be competitive for Democrats, after years of dashed hopes? Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHarris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests MORE’s team talked big about turning Texas blue in 2016 but didn’t come close. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D), meanwhile, nearly pulled off a historic upset over Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzJim Carrey fires back at 'Joe McCarthy wanna-be' Cruz Hillicon Valley: Google delays cutting off Huawei | GOP senators split over breaking up big tech | Report finds DNC lagging behind RNC on cybersecurity GOP senators split over antitrust remedies for big tech MORE (R).

Is that a candidate-specific phenomenon or have the demographics shifted away from the GOP in the traditionally red state? 

The Hill: Rise of big cities may push Texas to swing state territory in 2020.

The Washington Post: Trump further divides political map for 2020.



Trump will also be looking to break new ground, possibly with an eye on Minnesota, where he and Vice President Pence have campaigned several times already this year.

The Minnesota Star Tribune: Will Minnesota be a toss-up in 2020?

Of course, Republicans are still picking up the pieces after a disastrous election cycle in the House, where they lost the majority after Democrats flipped about three-dozen seats.

The latest: Democrat Gil Cisneros has officially knocked off Republican Young Kim to capture a GOP-held House seat in Southern California (The Associated Press).

The final tally: Democrats flipped six GOP-held seats in California, including four in Orange County, which was once a GOP-stronghold in the southern part of the state (The New York Times).

Over the weekend, Trump took aim at one prominent California Democrat, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffKey House committee obtains subpoenaed Trump financial documents from two banks: report Judge delivers second blow to Trump over financial records Schiff goes after Barr: He lacks Giuliani's 'good looks and general likability' MORE, who is likely to be the next chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The misspelling was telling…



The Memo: Trump seethes, two weeks after midterms.


CONGRESS: House: Signs continued to point to California Democrat Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Trump denies 'tantrum' in meeting with Pelosi: 'It is all such a lie!' MORE’s ascension to be Speaker early in January, despite hand-wringing by some in her party; initial voting in the House Democratic conference takes place on Nov. 28. The largest number of votes she could afford to lose on Jan. 3 would be 19 if all Republicans vote against her (The New York Times).

Pelosi’s intraparty battle at age 78 to capture the gavel one more time has exploded into a national political campaign (The Washington Post).

Democratic women are rallying behind her (The Hill). But Democratic newcomers to the House are split on the veteran lawmaker to be their leader (The Hill).

Even Trump, who views Pelosi as a symbol among the GOP of Democratic overreach and excess, said if she needs more votes in January, “I would help.”

“I like Nancy Pelosi. She’s tough and she’s smart, but she deserves to be Speaker,” Trump said. “In a way, her own party is harassing her. There’s nobody else who can be Speaker.”


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Chances for disaster aid deal slip amid immigration fight MORE (R-Ky.) said action on a bipartisan criminal justice reform measure is more likely in 2019 than in the remainder of 2018, despite the president’s endorsement of a bipartisan consensus version last week (The Hill).

Senate Judiciary Committee: South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThreat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Graham urges Trump not to abandon infrastructure talks with Democrats Congress, White House near deal on spending, debt limit MORE, a staunch Trump ally and former GOP presidential candidate, is set to become chairman of the judiciary panel in 2019 and has in mind a new portfolio of priorities, including a fresh approach to campaign finance reform (The Hill).

But first, the Senate is braced for an end-of-the-year brawl over judicial nominations. Republicans are expected to nudge as many nominees as possible across the Senate floor before the end of the year, infuriating Democrats and their allies who are powerless to derail Trump's picks (The Hill).

Senate – banking: Several current and potential members of the powerful Senate Banking Committee are eyeing bids to unseat Trump in 2020, including Ohio’s Brown and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 2020 Dems put spotlight on disabilities issues MORE (D-Mass.). Other potential presidential aspirants may join the panel next year, making it a committee to watch (The Hill).

Defense spending: The House, Senate and Trump are on a collision course over the defense budget. Senate Republicans see a new report about military readiness as evidence of the need for a $733 billion defense budget in fiscal 2020. But Democrats, who will control the House come January, want to cut defense spending. And Trump ordered that his administration’s budget proposal be reduced to $700 billion next year (The Hill).

Senate GOP & tobacco: The Trump administration’s recent move to crack down on addictive tobacco products sparked GOP ire. Republican Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrDOJ plans to show Senate Intel less-redacted Mueller report, filing shows Bipartisan House bill calls for strategy to protect 5G networks from foreign threats Overnight Defense: Congressional leaders receive classified briefing on Iran | Trump on war: 'I hope not' | Key Republican calls threats credible | Warren plan targets corporate influence at Pentagon MORE, who represents tobacco-friendly North Carolina, accused the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates tobacco, of unfairly targeting American products (The Hill).

Shutdown after Dec. 7?: Trump, who veers back and forth about using a partial government shutdown as a wedge to get his way on border security and a border wall, said over the weekend, “This would be a very good time to do a shutdown” (The Hill). He added he does not think a shutdown will be necessary.


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump is scheduled to depart Washington on Tuesday for an extended Thanksgiving holiday in Palm Beach, Fla., but he has a lot piled up when he returns, including his political SOS trip to Mississippi. He’s preparing to participate in the Group of 20 summit in Argentina Nov. 29-Dec. 1, where he’ll sit down with Chinese President Xi Jinping to talk about trade, North Korea and other matters.

Khashoggi murder: Trump said on Sunday he expects to receive a CIA report on Tuesday about the death on Oct. 2 of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly killed at the behest of the Saudis to silence him as a high-profile critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (The Hill). Trump, who sees Saudi Arabia as an indispensable economic and geopolitical ally, is reluctant to draw conclusions about the crown prince, who denies involvement in the planned assassination (The New York Times). U.S. intelligence and Turkish officials have determined with “high confidence” that the crown prince ordered the killing (The Washington Post).

Trump and the U.S. military: Trump’s attacks on retired Adm. William H. McRaven, who led the raid on Osama bin Laden, escalates a war of words with the military community (The Washington Post).

West Wing turnstile: Trump enjoys publicly floating possible changes he’d like to make in his administration. Over the weekend, he mentioned naming a new White House chief of staff to replace John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, who has not said he’s going anywhere, and possibly changing three to five Cabinet appointees (The Hill). “There are certain things that I don’t like that he does,” Trump said of Kelly, his second chief of staff (The Associated Press).

Immigration: A record-high 14,000 migrant children are in U.S. government custody (The Hill). Animated House Democratic oversight is expected in 2019 in an effort to reduce this number.




SPECIAL COUNSEL UPDATE: It appears the showdown between Trump and special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerHouse progressive: Pelosi 'has it right' on impeachment Democrats talk subpoena for Mueller Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna: 'I'm not there yet' on impeachment MORE will happen in writing, rather than in-person, at least for now.

The president says he’s written responses to questions posed by Mueller’s team and that he expects to return his answers to the special counsel this week (The Hill).

Will that be the end of it? Time will tell, but speculation is ramping up in Washington about the special counsel’s next moves after an extended quiet period around the Russia investigation in the run-up to the midterm elections.

Meanwhile, Trump’s acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, continues to be a lightning rod for controversy.

In his interview with Fox News’s Chris Wallace on Sunday, Trump said he would not intervene if Whitaker moved to end the special counsel probe. At the same time, the president seemed to signal that Whitaker would know better than to do that.

“It’s going to be up to him. I think he’s very well aware politically. I think he’s astute politically. ... He’s going to do what’s right.” — Trump

Graham is pushing McConnell to bring legislation to the floor to protect Mueller.



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Why I’m giving $1.8 billion for college financial aid, by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, The New York Times.

Trump’s reelection campaign starts now, like it or not, by Charlie Kirk, opinion contributor, The Hill.

The fight for a Democratic leader is a battle for the party’s future, by Douglas E. Schoen, opinion contributor, The Hill.


The House and Senate are out for the holiday week.

The president and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpTrump to meet with Irish prime minister during upcoming Europe trip Cannes movie poster shows decapitated Trump in MAGA hat Security concerns hinder Trump visit to sumo tournament on Japan trip MORE participate in the annual delivery of the White House Christmas tree at 1 p.m., to be decorated by volunteers and later displayed in the Blue Room. At 1:30 p.m., Trump has lunch with Pence, who returned Sunday night from the Asia Pacific Economic forum in Papua New Guinea, where participants failed to agree on a closing statement amid tensions between the U.S. and China (The Guardian).


> Wildfires: California authorities face another hurdle from Mother Nature this week — forecasts call for rain as wildfire recovery efforts continue and the official death toll stands at 77. Nearly 1,000 names were on a list Sunday night of people unaccounted for or being sought by relatives. … Officials worry rain will further hamper recovery of human remains (The Associated Press).  … At least 10,500 homes were destroyed by the so-called Camp Fire in Northern California. … Meanwhile, rescuers have carried thousands of injured animals and pets out of the ashes to emergency veterinary hospitals, many found in the smoldering rubble with burns to feet, ears and faces (The Washington Post).

> Allergies: Results from a new study may lead to approval of what could be the first drug that reduces the life-threatening severity of reactions in children with severe peanut allergies (The New York Times).

> NFL: Could former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice become the first woman to be the head coach in the National Football League? ESPN is reporting that the Cleveland Browns are interested in interviewing her for the top spot, which would make her the first woman to ever get an interview for a head coaching job at that level. The Browns denied the report. Rice, a lifelong fan of Cleveland football, responded on her Facebook page:

“I do hope that the NFL will start to bring women into the coaching profession as position coaches and eventually coordinators and head coaches. One doesn't have to play the game to understand it and motivate players. But experience counts - and it is time to develop a pool of experienced women coaches … I'm not ready to coach but I would like to call a play or two next season if the Browns need ideas! And at no time will I call for a ‘prevent defense.’ ”

> Media: The White House restored a press credential to CNN journalist Jim Acosta under a judge’s orders. Trump says the press office will devise new written rules of behavior for journalists who cover the White House (CNN).


And finally …  155 years ago today, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the most famous political speech in U.S. history.

Speaking from Gettysburg, Pa., during the American Civil War, Lincoln captured the national mood in addressing a young republic at a crossroads.

The entire speech amounted to fewer than 300 words, enough to fit on a single newspaper page for a battle-weary populace to read for themselves in 1863. Lincoln spent many days drafting the address and finished it in Gettysburg the night before his remarks. There are five known original copies in Lincoln’s handwriting (each varies slightly):

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure…”