Caravan furor stokes wall fight

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense MORE and Republicans have made illegal immigration a central issue in the homestretch to the 2018 midterm elections, setting up a showdown over the U.S.-Mexico border in December. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans show little enthusiasm for impeachment witness swap Overnight Health Care — Presented by Philip Morris International — CDC, State Department warn against travel to China | Biden says Trump left US unprepared for epidemic | Justices allow Trump 'public charge' rule to move forward Progressive group targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment witnesses MORE (R-Ky.) and Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThe Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power Social security emerges as latest flash point in Biden-Sanders tussle Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti rips Sanders for 'inability to actually fight with bad actors' in party MORE (R-Wis.) forestalled a fight over Trump’s border wall before the election by punting consideration of the Homeland Security appropriations bill until the lame-duck session. 

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When lawmakers return, they won’t be able to avoid a fight over the spending measure, as funds for the Department of Homeland Security will run out on Dec. 7. But how it plays out could be determined by what happens on Nov. 6.

If it is a good day for Democrats, there may be little reason for the party to bend on Trump’s wall — even for a deal that provides a path to citizenship for “Dreamers,” people who came to the United States illegally as children.

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse passes bill aimed at bolstering Holocaust education Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — NFL social media accounts hacked | Dem questions border chief over controversial Facebook group | Clinton says Zuckerberg has 'authoritarian' views Meadows: Republicans who break with Trump could face political repercussions MORE (D-Calif.), who could be the Speaker-in-waiting if Democrats retake the House, said last week that she isn’t interested in negotiating with Trump on the wall.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMeadows: Republicans who break with Trump could face political repercussions Bolton book alleges Trump tied Ukraine aid freeze to Biden investigations: NYT Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president MORE’s (D-N.Y.) office declined to comment on what his posture would be on the border wall after the elections. 

If Democrats do not meet their expectations on Election Day, however, some think that Trump could have leverage.

“There will be a lot of pressure,” said Brian Darling, a former Republican Senate aide.

If Republicans do better than expected, he predicted that “Democrats are going to be despondent, and I think you will see them give up and give President Trump his border wall.”

What’s clear for the moment is that the White House is doing everything it can to make the next two weeks about immigration as Trump goes into overdrive to bring out his political base and protect GOP majorities in the House and Senate.

Trump is increasingly focusing attention on a “caravan” of about 7,000 immigrants who have traveled from Guatemala and Honduras and intend to reach the U.S. border.

While the caravan is roughly 1,000 miles from the U.S. border and is traveling mostly by foot, Trump has highlighted the group as a national security threat.

“In that caravan, you have some very bad people,” Trump said at a Monday rally in Houston while a raucous crowd chanted “build that wall.”

He called the caravan an “assault on our country” and suggested that “Democrats had something to do with it.” He added: “We need a wall built fast.”

Trump has talked repeatedly of people from the Middle East being a part of the caravan without providing any evidence.

In remarks to reporters from the Oval Office on Tuesday, Trump acknowledged the lack of proof.

“There’s no proof of anything,” he said in response to questions pressing him about how he knew of Middle Easterners in the caravan, while adding that “there very well could be.”

Vice President Pence has also played up the caravan as a threat, stating twice on Tuesday that it was “inconceivable” that the group did not include people from the Middle East while again offering no concrete proof.

The focus on immigration coupled with a series of other factors, including Trump’s rising approval rating, fallout from the fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughDemocrats Manchin, Jones signal they're undecided on Trump removal vote Collins walks impeachment tightrope Supreme Court sharply divided over state aid for religious schools MORE’s confirmation and a growing economy, appears to be improving the GOP’s midterm chances, particularly in the Senate, where a number of races are playing out in red states.

A new Montana Television Network–Montana State University poll released Monday showed Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats cry foul over Schiff backlash Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment Nadler gets under GOP's skin MORE (D-Mont.) — who seemed on safe ground earlier this year — with only a 3-point lead on his opponent.

A separate Missouri Scout poll conducted last week showed Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillHow Citizens United altered America's political landscape #MidnightMoscowMitch trends amid criticism of McConnell's proposed impeachment trial rules The most expensive congressional races of the last decade MORE (D-Mo.) trailing her opponent by 1 point. 

A new campaign ad launched Tuesday by the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with McConnell, is hitting both senators over their votes on so-called sanctuary cities and illegal immigration. 

Earlier this year, polls showed that Democrats were significantly more fired up than Republicans to vote. 

Now there is some evidence that is changing.

Traditional Republican voters have turned out for early voting in greater numbers than Democratic-leaning voters in several key Senate battleground states: Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Montana, Tennessee and Texas, according to NBC News.  

All of those states are hosting competitive Senate races in November.

Democrats remain favored to win the House, where they need to gain 23 seats on Election Day to retake the majority. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report on Tuesday announced it was moving eight more House races toward Democrats, while it moved two toward the GOP.

Ben Barnes, the former Democratic lieutenant governor of Texas, where Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzRepublicans show little enthusiasm for impeachment witness swap Texas House special election to gauge suburban mood Texas Democrats roll out plan to win state House in November MORE (R) is battling a tougher-than-expected challenge from Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D), says illegal immigration and the migrant caravan is “a good scare tactic,” especially in states that don’t understand the issue that well. 

Some Democratic strategists, however, suggest the GOP and Trump could still end up losing with their rhetoric on immigration.

“As the country becomes browner when you look at 51 percent of all immigrants come from Mexico or Latin America, I really think at some point it’s going to become a huge Achilles’ heel for the Republicans,” said Steve Jarding, a Democratic strategist and former adviser to several Democratic senators from conservative-leaning states.