-- With three weeks to go, President Obama's approval ratings have hit their lowest point ever, 40 percent, in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. Only 39 percent of voters say they view the Democratic Party favorably, while 51 percent view the party unfavorably, a 30-year low. Republicans have a worse 33 percent favorable rating. But Republicans are more likely to say they're ready to vote: 77 percent of GOP voters said they were certain to vote, compared with 63 percent of Democrats. (Washington Post) Reid's Take: The political calculus -- Obama + Islamic State + Ebola -- certainly looks grim for Democrats. Party strategists are raising alarm in private conversations that there's just no foothold at a crucial pre-election moment.
-- House Democrats now say they never really expected to win back the majority, and their hopes were dampened by President Obama's poor approval ratings and tough races in Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, California and New York. The DCCC has pulled funding from virtually all of its star recruits, while the NRCC is advertising in 16 Democratic-held districts. (New York Times) Two examples of how state-level politics impact House races: Republicans are making last-minute moves to try to save Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) and Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), and some of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents are in Illinois, where Gov. Pat Quinn (D) is hugely unpopular downstate.
-- Obama is said to favor former White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler to take over for Attorney General Eric Holder, though no final decisions have been made. Advisors have told Obama picking Ruemmler would mean a long and contentious confirmation hearing. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Labor Secretary Tom Perez and U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch are also still under consideration. Obama will wait until after the midterms to make his pick. (Bloomberg)
-- Front Pages: WaPo leads with a look at lax or quickly-developed protocols at the Dallas hospital where now two health care workers have been diagnosed with Ebola. USA Today kicks off with CDC estimates that the height of the Ebola crisis could bring 10,000 new cases a week. NYT leads with a secret CIA study suggesting arming rebel groups doesn't work (see below). WSJ fronts the global drop in oil prices. Austin American-Statesman dueling banners: "U.S. high court stalls abortion clinic standard," "Appeals court revives Texas voter ID law."
National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.
-- Texas: A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday stayed a district court judge's ruling blocking implementation of Texas's new voter ID law. The judges said blocking the law would cause confusion so close to the Oct. 20 start of early voting. They delayed consideration of the district court judge's opinion until after the midterm elections. (New York Times, Dallas Morning News) The Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked parts of a 2013 law that would have closed all but eight abortion clinics in Texas. The 5th Circuit had ruled Texas could implement the law while it considered the constitutionality of the full bill. Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia said they would have ruled for the law. (Associated Press) RT @BlakeHounshell: "SCOTUS sure is messing with Texas a lot lately."
-- Colorado: Several sources gave us a rare window into high-pressured arm-twisting that happens in D.C. as Election Day approaches: Sen. Mark Udall (D) and DSCC executive director Guy Cecil held a conference call Tuesday with a number of D.C. lobbyists, during which they asked for $800,000 in contributions before Election Day. Udall's team said their last two internal polls showed the race tied, with about 10 percent undecided. They said they're relying on their ground game to bring the race home, and they've invested in a field staff four times the size of Sen. Michael Bennet's (D) in 2010. Ballots drop next week, and Udall's campaign is going nuclear: They've reserved more than 6,000 gross ratings points in the Colorado Springs and Denver markets for the week of Oct. 20-26 alone.
-- Iowa: Another poll shows the race between state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) and Rep. Bruce Braley (D) tightening. Quinnipiac had Ernst ahead 50 percent to 44 percent in mid-September; now, she leads by a statistically insignificant 47 percent to 45 percent margin. Braley leads by a huge 51 percent to 37 percent margin among those who have already voted. But Ernst's favorables are still higher than her unfavorables, which isn't the case for Braley. Gov. Terry Branstad (R) leads state Sen. Jack Hatch (D) 54 percent to 39 percent. (Quinnipiac)
-- Wisconsin: Coming to a DGA ad near you, and stored in the DNC vaults if he runs in 2016: Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Tuesday said he wouldn't work to repeal the state's minimum wage, but "I don't think it serves a purpose because we're debating then about what the lowest levels are at." American Bridge released a web video even before the live-streamed ed board meeting was over. Walker was clarifying a similar comment he made at a Friday debate with his opponent, Madison School Board member Mary Burke (D). (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
-- South Dakota: Last week, the cavalry came save Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.). This week, it's coming for former Gov. Mike Rounds (R). Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) will campaign with Rounds on Friday in Sioux Falls, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) endorsed Rounds during a stop in Rapid City yesterday, and the Tea Party Express plans to endorse him at their own event in Rapid City today. (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) campaigned with former Senate staffer Rick Weiland Tuesday in Sioux Falls. (Sioux Falls Argus Leader)
-- Alaska: U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess on Tuesday denied Alaska's request to stay his decision overturning the state's same-sex marriage ban. The first marriages began Monday. Alaska appealed his decision to the 9th Circuit and asked for an emergency stay. (Alaska Dispatch News) An Anchorage Superior Court judge ruled Monday that Uber can continue offering its ride-sharing service, but only if it doesn't charge customers. The city says Uber is violating its taxi and vehicle for hire codes. Uber will operate for free, and will pay drivers, as it fights in court. (Alaska Dispatch News)
-- Arkansas: If Bill Clinton can close anywhere, it's Arkansas. Clinton is heading back to his home state this weekend for three days of rallies in Hot Springs, Hope, North Little Rock, Pine Bluff and Forrest City. Clinton campaigned for the Democratic ticket at four rallies earlier this month in Conway, Jonesboro, Fayetteville and Rogers. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
-- Washington: How much does it cost to buy a legislator in Olympia? Apparently undue influence can be measured in meals. The state Legislative Ethics Board voted Tuesday to limit legislators to 12 free meals paid for by lobbyists each year. The new rules don't include receptions with buffets, because no one gets influenced there. (Everett Herald)
DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.
-- President Obama participates in a video conference with British, French, German and Italian leaders to discuss the Western response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the rise of Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. The leaders will also discuss Russia and the situation in Ukraine. This afternoon, Obama heads to Union, N.J., for a DSCC fundraiser, followed by a campaign stop with Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) in Bridgeport. He heads back to D.C. this evening. Obama will campaign for Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) in Upper Marlboro early on Sunday, then finish his day with a rally back home in Chicago with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D). (Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune)
-- Vice President Biden ceremonially swears in Jane Hartley, the new U.S. Ambassador to France, at the White House this afternoon. Later, he stops by a roundtable with human resource officers from leading companies discussing best practices for hiring and recruiting. Tomorrow, Biden heads to Philadelphia for an economic event.
-- House Republican Conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) has hired Mattie Duppler as her new Coalitions Director. Duppler comes from Americans for Tax Reform, where she directed Budget and Regulatory Policy.
-- The D.C. City Council will hear testimony on Friday on a bill drafted by a group of students from Eaton Elementary School that would name the Potomac bluestone the official rock of the District of Columbia. Apparently bluestone from a nearby formation was used to build parts of the White House, the Capitol and even the National Zoo. (DCist) Good to see the council tackling hard, weighty matters.
TV Time Out: Our exclusive look at who's advertising, and where.
-- South Dakota: More spending for a Republican Senate from the American Chemistry Council, which will dump $428,000 into ads backing Gov. Mike Rounds (R), who suddenly finds himself in a tough spot in the Senate race. (FEC) On air this week in South Dakota: $100,000 from the ACC, $271,000 from the NRSC, $150,000 from Mayday PAC, which backs Democrat Rick Weiland, and $180,000 from the DSCC. No one for former Sen. Larry Pressler (I).
-- Kentucky: The DSCC is done advertising on behalf of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D). They're still buying time in Georgia, and they're making noise about a Kentucky ground game, but they've cancelled the rest of their TV time. (Roll Call) The DSCC will spend $300,000 on a get-out-the-vote drive. Senate Majority PAC is also off-air in Kentucky for the last three weeks. (Washington Post) Meanwhile, the pro-McConnell Kentuckians for Strong Leadership just dumped another $1 million on new TV ads. (FEC)
-- Allen West: The former Congressman is dumping some big bucks into late radio ads. West's PAC will spend $160,000 on spots in the Iowa Senate race for state Sen. Joni Ernst (R), another $160,000 for former Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan (R) and $120,000 on the Arkansas Senate race, where Rep. Tom Cotton (R) is running. (FEC, FEC)
The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.
-- An internal CIA study has found arming rebel groups from Angola to Nicaragua to Cuba rarely works. The study found that arming foreign forces often has little impact on the long-term outcome of any given conflict, especially if those militias fight without any American ground support. The report was presented to senior White House aides in the Oval Office and the Situation Room just as the administration was debating arming factions within the ranks of Syrian rebels. The one time CIA arming and training worked" In Afghanistan, where the mujahedeen fought the Soviets in the 1980s. (New York Times)
B1: Business, politics and the business of politics
-- House Speaker John Boehner will announce today he's raised more than $98 million this cycle, including $8 million in the third quarter of the year. That's more than the $97 million he raised in the 2012 cycle. Boehner has made more than 100 stops for Republican candidates this year. (Washington Post)
-- Crude oil prices are down more than 23 percent since June, and on Tuesday they hit four-year lows as Saudi Arabia continues high production levels and Libya and Iraq produce more oil. That's saved consumers in oil-importing nations like the U.S., China and the E.U. about $200 billion. Saudi Arabia, Russia, Libya and Iraq are operating in budget deficits. (Washington Post)
-- Stocks will open lower this morning as futures on all three major indices are more than half a percentage point down. Asian markets were up on Wednesday, but European markets dropped sharply. (CNN)
C1: The long reads you'll need to check out before tonight's cocktail party.
-- A small group of reporters organized by the White House Correspondents Association earlier this month began testing an alternative "pool" system after the Obama administration meddled with some reports that went through their distribution list. Reporters say the White House has demanded changes to, delayed or refused to distribute some pool reports. The alternative system is running through Google Groups. (Washington Post)
C4: The comics page, fun things to read when you're bored at work
-- The Pulaski Co., Ark., Quorum Court met Tuesday night to take care of some long-overdue business: Repealing an ordinance that allows businesses to create whites-only drinking fountains. Little Rock Justice of the Peace Donna Massey said she investigated after receiving an old photo with a "whites only" sign that included an ordinance, and she concluded the law was technically still on the books, not that anyone has used it since at least the 1970s. (Arkansas Democrat Gazette)