With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Fresh polling published Monday shows that voters who backed Barack Obama in 2012 and then Donald Trump in 2016 — about 1 in 10 of the president’s supporters — overwhelmingly believe the Trump tax cuts benefit the rich and large corporations, not them.

It’s the latest illustration of the GOP’s inability to capitalize on the most consequential piece of legislation that’s been enacted by this Congress, which party strategists believed last December would be the centerpiece of their midterm messaging.

And it helps explain why Trump has begun claiming repeatedly, and dubiously, since a Saturday stop in Nevada that he’s moving rapidly to pass a “10 percent tax cut for middle-income families.” During a rally last night in Houston for Ted Cruz, the president declared: “It’s going to be put in next week.” (Never mind that Congress is out of session until after the elections, so nothing could pass.) He added that this round of cuts is “not for business — at all.”

The nonpartisan Democracy Fund, through its Voter Study Group, has been funding rigorous research from academics and analysts who are linked to both parties to help explain the electorate. For the latest report, the left-leaning Roosevelt Institute’s Felicia Wong asked 16 questions of 6,000 respondents. The large sample size allowed her to explore differing attitudes between Trump voters who supported Mitt Romney in 2012 and those who backed Obama’s reelection. Here are five nuggets from her report:

  • “Eighty-seven percent of Obama-Trump voters, as compared to 50 percent of Romney-Trump voters, said that cuts for the wealthy are ‘unimportant’ or ‘not very important’ — a divide of almost 40 percentage points.
  • “Eighty percent of Romney-Trump voters, but only 43 percent of Obama-Trump voters, favored corporate cuts — a 37-percentage-point difference.
  • “Forty-seven percent of Romney-Trump voters said tax cuts for the wealthy are economically beneficial, as compared to only 7 percent of Obama-Trump voters who said the same.
  • “Thirty-eight percent of Obama-Trump voters, as compared to 80 percent of Romney-Trump voters, said corporate tax cuts will ‘help’ the economy.
  • “Obama-Trump voters are 29 percentage points lower than Romney-Trump voters in predicting benefit for the middle class [from last year’s bill], and they are 24 percentage points less likely to predict benefit for the poor.” 

-- Overall, while more than 90 percent of Americans want lower taxes for the middle class, one-third of those who voted for Trump believe that the middle class will be the same or worse off under last year’s tax cuts. And 55 percent of self-identified Republicans do not believe that cutting taxes for the wealthy ought to be a priority. “You just see a lot of potential fissures within the Republican coalition, or at least the Trump coalition,” Wong said in an interview.

-- The president appealed to these blue-collar voters who had backed Obama four years earlier by campaigning as a populist. But he’s mostly governed as a plutocrat. He said at times on the campaign trail that he’d raise taxes on the rich, go after hedge fund managers by closing loopholes that benefited them and not follow traditional conservative trickle-down orthodoxy. It feels like ancient history now, but Trump also insisted during the campaign that he was so rich that he didn’t need to take money from big donors, and he said this made him less beholden to the moneyed elites who he complained have traditionally controlled the GOP. He also routinely attacked Hillary Clinton for giving paid speeches at Goldman Sachs — and then proceeded to stock his administration with Goldman executives once he took office.

-- Other surveys have found similar results: An internal poll conducted for the Republican National Committee last month found that Americans by a two-to-one margin — 61 percent to 30 percent — believe the law benefits “large corporations and rich Americans” over “middle class families.” The same survey, conducted by the GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies and leaked to Bloomberg News, found that Americans are also worried that the tax law will lead to cuts in Social Security and Medicare. 

-- A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted this month found that slightly more Americans trust Democrats (45 percent) than Republicans (42 percent) to do a better job of handling taxes. That’s quite a historical shift.

-- All these numbers explain why few Republican incumbents are proactively touting tax cuts on the campaign trail. A report released by the Wesleyan Media Project last week found that Republicans are running fewer ads on taxes than in previous elections. “For all of the early talk about the tax bill being a big Republican selling point in the campaign, discussion of taxes in 2018 is lower than it was during 2008 and the first two cycles after Obama’s election,” said Travis Ridout, who co-wrote the study. “Republicans are more likely to mention taxes this cycle [than Democrats], but they certainly aren’t as focused on it as they were a decade ago.”

-- Trump, ever the salesman, is an obsessive consumer of polling, especially of the internal variety, so it’s not terribly surprising that he’s taken to promising a new round of tax cuts solely for the middle class. White House aides and GOP congressional leaders say privately that they’re learning for the first time from the president’s public proclamations about work they’ve purportedly been doing behind the scenes for months.

-- Flashback: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a victory lap after the tax cuts passed. “If we can’t sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work,” he said.

--Republican legislative leaders, who would need to guide any tax cut through Congress, appeared caught off guard once again by Trump’s latest comments,” Damian Paletta and Erica Werner reported last night. “Representatives of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) referred questions back to the White House. … Legislation enacting such a cut has not been planned on Capitol Hill, and congressional Republicans were privately skeptical that a vote could happen during the post-election lame duck session, which might be dominated by a fight over Trump’s border wall.”

-- On the substance: “However real — on a scale of not particularly real to totally imaginary — the new Trump tax-cut idea represents recognition that the big tax overhaul hasn’t paid significant dividends for most Americans,” writes Steve Goldstein, Washington bureau chief for MarketWatch. “That was obvious from the outset to anyone paying attention. For a middle-class household, the typical change was $930 per year, per the Tax Policy Center. That extra $78 per month, assuming the proper withholding changes were made, gets easily lost amid other rising costs, including the roughly 35-cent increase in the price of gasoline prices since the tax-cut legislation was signed into law.

“That’s even the case if you factor in the flood of corporate announcements of one-time employee bonuses after the tax-cut bill was enacted that the Trump Commerce Department estimates was worth $30 billion in aggregate. And, remember, for the typical household, 2018 may be the peak of the tax law’s benefit, because the brackets are indexed to a measure of inflation that’s less than what most people experience. That isn’t even getting into the issue of the 2025 sunset of the individual tax provisions.”

BRAND NEW THIS MORNING:

-- The contest for control of the House remains close and hard fought, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll of the most contested districts in the country, with Democrats currently holding a statistically insignificant lead over Republicans,” Dan Balz and Scott Clement report. “The latest survey shows only a marginal change in the race during the month of October, with 50 percent currently supporting the Democratic candidate in their district and 47 percent backing the Republican. Candidates from the two parties collectively are running almost even in 48 contested congressional districts won by Trump in 2016 while Democrats hold the advantage in 21 competitive districts won by Hillary Clinton. The Democrats’ lead in those Clinton districts has narrowed a bit since the beginning of the month. The overwhelming majority of the districts surveyed — 63 of the 69 — are currently represented by a Republican in the House. Collectively these battleground districts voted strongly for Republicans in the 2016 election. The fact that the margins today are where they are illustrates both the degree to which the GOP majority is at risk but also the fact that many individual races are likely to be close.”

Overall, likely voters in these districts give the two major parties mixed-to-negative marks. Democrats are rated favorably by 48 percent and unfavorably by 52 percent. For Republicans, it’s 47 percent positive and 53 percent negative. … Most voters have a favorable view of one party and a negative view of the other party, but 10 percent say they dislike both parties. Voters in that group say they currently prefer the Democratic candidates in their districts by a margin of 15 points.

“If anything, partisan attitudes hardened during the month. … To the degree that Democrats have any edge in these districts, it is because of support from women, as was the case in the previous poll. Among likely voters, men favor Republican candidates by 51-46 percent, while women back Democrats by 55-42 percent.

-- Independents are much more likely than partisans to say their vote is “against” a party's candidate. Clement, who directs our in-house polling unit, flags some interesting numbers from the cross tabs for The 202: Among those who support Republican candidates, 38 percent of independents say their decision is mainly “against” the Democratic candidate, much higher than the 20 percent of self-identified Republicans who support GOP candidates. Similarly, 39 percent of independents who support Democrats say they are mainly voting “against” the Republican candidate rather than “for” the Democrat. A smaller 22 percent of self-identified Democrats say this.

Nearly twice as many likely voters who support Republican candidates say their vote is more in favor of the Republican candidate than against the Democrat, 51 percent to 27 percent. Voters who support Democrats also tend to say they are motivated more by support for the party’s candidate than opposition to the Republican candidate, albeit by a smaller 45 percent to 29 percent margin. Nearly a quarter of those who support Democrats (23 percent) say they are motivated equally “for” the Democrat and “against” the Republican, while 18 percent of Republicans say they have equal positive and negative motivations.

-- Other data shows Republican-affiliated voters are outpacing their Democratic counterparts in early voting across seven key states, NBC News’s Adam Edelman reports: “GOP-affiliated voters have surpassed Democratic-affiliated ones in early voting in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Montana, Tennessee and Texas . . . Only in Nevada have Democratic-affiliated voters exceeded Republican-affiliated voters so far in early voting . . . The latest data suggests robust enthusiasm among early Republican voters that could put a dent in Democratic hopes for a ‘blue wave.'”

THE 2018 NARRATIVE:

-- “Trump has settled on a strategy of fear — laced with falsehoods and racially tinged rhetoric — to help lift his party to victory in the coming midterms,” Ashley Parker, Phil Rucker and Josh Dawsey write on this morning's front page: “Trump’s messaging — on display in his regular campaign rallies, tweets and press statements — largely avoids much talk of his achievements and instead offers an apocalyptic vision of the country, which he warns will only get worse if Democrats retake control of Congress. The president has been especially focused in recent days on a caravan of about 5,000 migrants traveling north to cross the U.S. border, a group he has darkly characterized as gang members, violent criminals and ‘unknown Middle Easterners’ — a claim for which his administration has so far provided no concrete evidence.

The president believes his best contrast with Democrats is on immigration and is looking for a way to keep the issue in the news until the midterms, advisers said. Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior policy adviser who has long espoused hard-line immigration policies, is one of the chief authors of Trump’s rally messages, though the president often goes further than his prepared remarks. … ‘Voter satisfaction is the enemy of voter turnout,’ said Bill Stepien, the White House political director. … The migrant caravan has proved to be a particularly effective wedge issue for Trump, according to White House aides and Republican operatives. Images of the caravan are already dominating cable news coverage, allowing Trump to revive an issue that was successful for him two years ago. … Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser, described the caravan as ‘a political gift.’”

-- The New York Times fronts a similarly framed story by Alex Burns and Astead Herndon, albeit with a widened aperture: “Mr. Trump has not been alone in seeking to divide the electorate along racial lines this fall: As the congressional elections have approached, a number of Republican candidates and political committees have delivered messages plainly aimed at stoking cultural anxiety among white voters and even appealing to overt racism.

  • “In upstate New York, Republican political groups have aired ads branding a Democratic congressional candidate, Antonio Delgado, who is black, as a ‘big-city rapper’ and accusing him of seeking to give government ‘handouts’ to food-stamp recipients.
  • “In Dallas, a political committee aligned with Mr. Trump, America First Action, has disseminated an online ad branding Colin Allred, a black civil rights lawyer, as hostile to gun rights — accompanied by the image of a white woman with a dark-skinned hand smothering her mouth.
  • “Two House Republicans, Chris Collins of New York and Duncan Hunter of California, who have been indicted on charges of corruption, have aired ads widely denounced as racist. Mr. Hunter has branded his Democratic opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, who is Arab-American, a ‘security risk,’ while Mr. Collins has run an ad showing his Democratic challenger, Nate McMurray, who is white, speaking Korean, insinuating that he favors Asian economic interests over those of the United States.”

Quite the kicker: “Mr. Trump’s dystopian imagery has clearly left an impression with some. Carol Shields, 75, a Republican in northern Minnesota, said she was afraid that migrant gangs could take over people’s summer lake homes in the state. ‘What’s to stop them?’ said Ms. Shields, a retired accountant. ‘We have a lot of people who live on lakes in the summer and winter someplace else. When they come back in the spring, their house would be occupied.’”

-- Democrats are divided over how best to respond to Trump’s claims about the caravan, especially his argument that its existence is the result of Democratic inaction on immigration policy. Sean Sullivan and David Nakamura report: “Some Democrats said Trump is vulnerable to a counterattack on his core campaign issue given that his policies failed to reduce the number of unauthorized immigrants. Yet party leaders and Democratic candidates have largely been silent ... refusing to engage with Trump. … Democrats, deeply divided on immigration, are trying to maintain a laserlike focus on health care and the GOP threat to protections for people with preexisting medical conditions … But some Democratic strategists and former congressional aides said the party was missing a chance to pin the rising border numbers on Trump and hold him accountable for falsehoods he has promoted about the issue.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- The Supreme Court shielded Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from needing to answer questions in a lawsuit challenging the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, siding with the Trump administration over several states, including New York. Robert Barnes and Tara Bahrampour report: “The court’s action makes it unlikely that Ross will have to give a deposition in the case but allows the suit to go forward, at least temporarily. The court said it would entertain other objections from the government before the trial, which is scheduled to start in New York on Nov. 5.

  • “The unsigned order seemed like an attempt by the court to avoid a 5-to-4 split in its first politically significant action since the addition of new Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. While the court for now blocked the deposition of Ross — it is clear there was at least a majority for that — it allowed the states to depose acting assistant attorney general John Gore.” 
  • Why this matters: “Six former census directors and a Census Bureau internal analyst also have said that the question would harm the count. That, in turn, could cost states with large immigrant populations representation in Congress and federal funds distributed on the basis of population.”

-- In the Trump administration’s latest move to undermine Obamacare, insurance subsidies can now be used for leaner health plans that don’t cover “essential” benefits or preexisting conditions. Paige Winfield Cunningham reports: “Under guidance issued Monday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), states seeking federal waivers to run their insurance marketplaces will be given much more leeway. That includes the ability to apply ACA subsidies to short-term and association health plans — two types of coverage the administration has expanded as a way of making cheaper plans available to those who want them. These plans don’t include coverage of certain ‘essential’ benefits like mental-health services and prenatal care and they can refuse to cover people with preexisting conditions.

-- White House Chief of Staff John Kelly got into a physical altercation with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski after a February meeting with the president in the Oval Office that required Secret Service intervention. The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Katie Rogers report: “[The episode] is the latest illustration of the often chaotic atmosphere Mr. Trump is willing to tolerate in the White House as well as a reflection of the degree to which Mr. Kelly’s temper can be provoked. … As Mr. Kelly walked toward a hallway leading back to his office, he called to someone to remove Mr. Lewandowski from the building. The two then began arguing, with Mr. Lewandowski speaking loudly. Mr. Kelly grabbed Mr. Lewandowski by his collar, trying to push him against a wall, according to a person with direct knowledge of the episode. Mr. Lewandowski did not get physical in response, according to multiple people familiar with the episode. But Secret Service agents were called in. Ultimately, the two men agreed to move on[.]” This story comes after Kelly got into a profanity-filled shouting match with national security adviser John Bolton over immigration last Thursday.

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. An explosive device was found in a mailbox at billionaire philanthropist George Soros’s home in Westchester County, N.Y. A law enforcement official said bomb squad technicians “proactively detonated” the device. (New York Times)
  2. Hurricane Willa reached Category 5 intensity as it prepared to make landfall in Mexico today. The storm is expected to weaken before it hits Mexico’s west coast, but officials still warned residents of life-threatening storm surge and extreme winds. (Ian Livingston)
  3. Forecasters are warning of a powerful fall storm that could develop along the East Coast on Friday, when an impending cold front collides with Willa's remnants. According to early computer models, the storm could generate heavy rain, mountain snow, as well as strong winds and high seas along coastal areas. (Jason Samenow)
  4. AmeriCorps programs face multiple allegations of sexual harassment, abusive behavior and mismanagement since 2013. An investigation found the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps, was slow to respond to accusations of sexual harassment against one program’s founder. (CBS News)

  5. Four alleged victims of sexual assault in Utah are attempting to use a clause in the state constitution to get their cases prosecuted. The Utah constitution allows alleged crime victims to ask the state Supreme Court to appoint a prosecutor if a district attorney’s office declines to bring charges in a case, as it did in all four of the sexual assault cases. (Deanna Paul)

  6. The Air Force has spent $326,785 on special coffee mugs that can reheat liquids aboard air refueling tankers, but the cups break easily. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson admitted in a letter that the continued purchase of the cups, which cost $1,280 each, “is simply irresponsible.” (USA Today)

  7. The Museum of the Bible in D.C. removed five items thought to be Dead Sea Scrolls after their authenticity was questioned. The pieces were tested by a Germany-based firm, which concluded they might not be parts of the ancient manuscripts. (Marisa Iati)

THE KHASHOGGI CRISIS:

-- Erdogan speaks. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke early Tuesday morning, alleging he has information the killing of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi was “planned,” and calling for the extradition of the 18 Saudis that the kingdom implicated in the killing at their embassy in Turkey. From Kareem Fahim in Istanbul: “Covering up this kind of savagery will hurt the conscience of all humanity,” he said. “Saudi Arabia took an important step by accepting the murder. After this, we expect them to reveal those responsible for this matter,” Erdogan said. “We have information that the murder is not instant, but planned.”

--CIA director Gina Haspel is headed to Turkey. John Hudson, Shane Harris and Josh Dawsey report: “[Haspel’s arrival] suggests an effort by the U.S. intelligence community to assess the information the Turks have, including what Turkish officials have said is audio that captures the killing. Intelligence officials are increasingly skeptical of the Saudi account and have warned [Trump] that the idea that rogue operators flew to Istanbul and killed Khashoggi without the knowledge or consent of Saudi leaders is dubious … The chief concern for Washington is that Erdogan will reveal details about Khashoggi’s killing that implicate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, who has been a key ally for the Trump administration. . . . On Monday, Trump told reporters that ‘I am not satisfied with what I’ve heard’ from Saudi Arabia and pledged to get to the bottom of what happened.'" 

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with MBS. Damian Paletta reports: “Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry posted a photo of the meeting on Twitter. . . . Tony Sayegh, Mnuchin’s top spokesman, said the two men discussed the Khashoggi investigation, the implementation of sanctions against Iran, the Saudi economy, and combating the financing of terrorism. Still, Treasury was reluctant to comment on the meeting, which had not [been] previewed in advance.”
  • Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner refused to say if he accepts Saudi Arabia’s account that Khashoggi died as the result of a fistfight, telling CNN the White House is still in the “fact-finding phase” and that he won't make an assessment until he has “all the facts.” 

-- A bipartisan group of more than 50 lawmakers sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats demanding information about whether U.S. officials attempted to warn Khashoggi about plans to target him. Karoun Demirjian reports: “‘We seek urgent answers as to whether Mr. Khashoggi was in fact contacted about the credible threat to his life and liberty posed by the Saudi plot to capture him,’ the members, led by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), wrote to [Coats].”

-- Khashoggi’s death has cast a fresh spotlight on MBS’s attempts to crush dissent within Saudi Arabia. Kevin Sullivan reports: “The police came for Samar Badawi in the middle of the night in July, pulling her out of her house as she carried her crying 3-year-old daughter. They set up klieg lights and filmed the arrest of Badawi, 37, a prominent human rights activist. … Badawi, who remains in prison without charge, was one of at least eight women’s rights activists arrested earlier this year. Several of them headed a campaign that ultimately led Mohammed to give Saudi women the right to drive — a popular move that won praise from around the world. It has never been made clear exactly what Badawi’s alleged crime was, or why the others were detained.”

-- How Khashoggi's family could go after the perpetrators: “Seeking justice and accountability for Khashoggi’s killing will not be easy, but several mechanisms do exist to go after [MBS] and the Saudis who reportedly carried out the murder,” Post columnist Josh Rogin notes. “Khashoggi’s family has the right to pursue justice in civil courts, and prosecutors in several countries could also bring criminal charges, based on international law and precedent. . . . Criminal prosecutions of MBS and other Saudi officials could be brought under the U.N. Convention against Torture, to which Saudi Arabia is a signatory.” The U.S. has not yet concluded that MBS is directly linked to Khashoggi's killing, but those arrested had links to his security services.

NEW GRISLY DETAILS EMERGE:

-- Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to the crown prince, “ran” the killing of Khashoggi by giving orders over Skype, Reuters reports: “In the Khashoggi killing, Qahtani was present as he has been in other key moments of MBS’s administration. This time, though, his presence was virtual. According to one high-ranking Arab source … Qahtani was beamed into a room of the Saudi consulate via Skype. He began to hurl insults at Khashoggi over the phone. According to the Arab and Turkish sources, Khashoggi answered Qahtani’s insults with his own. But he was no match for the squad, which included top security and intelligence operatives, some with direct links to the royal court. A Turkish intelligence source relayed that at one point Qahtani told his men to dispose of Khashoggi. ‘Bring me the head of the dog’, the Turkish intelligence source says Qahtani instructed. … [Arab and Turkish sources told Reuters that the] audio of the Skype call is now in the possession of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.”

  • In recent days, Qahtani’s Twitter biography changed from royal adviser to “chairman of the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones” — a role he had held before. He has continued to tweet, and he is not believed to be under arrest.

-- Jamal's final hours: Turkish media published photos of Khashoggi and his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, entering an apartment complex in Istanbul on Oct. 2, just hours before his death. The New York Times's Carlotta Gall reports: “[Khashoggi and Cengiz], who is Turkish, are seen holding hands as they visit the local marriage office and enter the building where they had bought an apartment that they were furnishing before he went to the appointment at the Saudi Consulate from which he never emerged. … Photos from the closed circuit television show the couple entering the apartment in Topkapi, one of Istanbul’s oldest districts, near the historical sites of Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, in the early hours of Oct. 2. They left the building and were recorded entering the residence again just after noon, the A Haber news channel reported. From there they took a taxi together to the Saudi Consulate. They parted at the police barrier as Mr. Khashoggi handed his two cellphones to Ms. Cengiz and at 1:14 p.m. entered the consulate alone.”

-- Khashoggi met with the crown prince’s brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman, in Washington before he was killed. NBC News’s Josh Lederman reports: “[Khashoggi] was visiting [the Saudi Embassy in Washington] on a routine consular matter, but he was quickly recognized by embassy officials, who immediately called up to Prince Khalid's top-floor office. Soon, word was sent summoning Khashoggi upstairs, and the two spent roughly half an hour together. The meeting at the tree-lined embassy, just across from the famed Watergate, took place in early 2018 or late 2017.”

MORE ON THE MIDTERMS:

-- Nancy Pelosi suggested that, if she were to become speaker of the House again, she would serve at least though the 2020 elections. Mike DeBonis and John Wagner report: “‘There has to be a transition at some point in all of this,’ she said Monday, adding: ‘I’m not going to make myself a lame duck.’ … Should Democrats win back the House majority from Republicans, the idea of a ‘transitional’ speaker could hold appeal for newly elected lawmakers who spent their campaigns calling for new party leadership but who want to avoid a messy shake-up that could set back the party’s governing plans.”

-- If Democrats retake the House, they might look to cooperate as well as investigate the Trump administration. From Seung Min Kim:The White House is also sensing a political benefit in finding areas of agreement, and top administration officials have reached out to key Democrats to see where the two opposing sides could collaborate. Shahira Knight, the White House’s director of legislative affairs, recently had a private sit-down with Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), who would be the Democrats’ point person on infrastructure legislation should that surface at the top of the legislative agenda in 2019.”

-- Barack Obama, stumping for Nevada Senate candidate Jacky Rosen in Las Vegas yesterday, is treading carefully. BuzzFeed News’s Ben Smith reports: “Obama spent much of his speech on a long defense of his own presidency, and condemnation of Republican governance. ‘When you hear all this talk about ‘economic miracles’ right now, remember who started it,’ Obama said. He denounced Trump’s attempts to pressure the FBI and Department of Justice to target political foes. ‘That is not how America works. That is how some tin-pot dictatorship works,’ he said. But Obama didn’t come to Nevada to make news, and he mostly didn’t. This is the box he’s in now. Even as he’s edged away from the tradition of post-presidential silence, there’s a more practical reason for his muted campaigning: He’s said to be afraid his presence would backfire, give Trump a foil, and energize the Republicans who Democrats hope will stay home in November.”

-- Trump’s approval rating has trended upward in recent weeks, but it's still at a point historically that means trouble for his party in the midterms. Aaron Blake explains: “Trump’s polling average on RealClearPolitics has risen from below 41 percent earlier this month to 44.2 percent … Trump’s 44.2 percent RCP average is about tied with or better than seven of the last 17 presidents who faced midterm elections, according to Gallup polling at the time. That certainly speaks to the idea that his unpopularity isn’t at the historic levels it once was. But each and every one of those presidents who were at 44 percent or below suffered substantial losses in those upcoming midterms — in the House, the Senate and often both. Obama is a great example. While his Gallup approval rating three weeks before the 2010 midterms was where Trump’s is today (44 percent), the Democrats that November lost 63 House seats and six Senate seats.”

-- Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) has caught flak for borrowing heavily from the work of former Fed chief Ben Bernanke in a paper he wrote as a Randolph-Macon College economics professor. Laura Vozzella reports: “Brat’s paper was a critique of Bernanke’s, so he quoted from the original piece. But instead of summarizing Bernanke’s writing in his own words, or using quotation marks to quote him directly, Brat simply seemed to cut and paste. … A fellow at the London School of Economics who came across Brat’s paper last week called it ‘plagiarism’ and contacted Randolph-Macon about ‘apparent academic misconduct.’ Others — including [Bernanke’s co-author, Refet Gurkaynak] — said it wasn’t a case of plagiarism. But they still call Brat’s work a ‘lazy’ piece of scholarship because he should have summarized the original paper in his own words or used quotation marks to make it clear that the words were not his own.” Brat is locked in a tight race with Democratic  challenger Abigail Spanberger north of Richmond.

-- Florida’s suburbs highlight the divide between the state’s generally right-leaning white retirees and the more left-leaning and diverse young adults. Tim Craig and Aaron Williams report: “As voters here in America’s most notorious swing state prepare to elect a new governor and help decide which party controls the U.S. Senate, the clash of views in [a middle-class Orlando suburb] represents the battle over Florida’s direction in Trump’s America. … Florida’s population of nonwhite young adults continues to surge and now outpaces the growth of older white residents. The trends create even more uncertainty in a state already known for close elections[.]”

-- Republicans are making a last-ditch effort to prevent the reelection of Sen. Joe Manchin in the reliably red state of West Virginia. Politico’s Burgess Everett reports: “On Monday, Donald Trump Jr. and former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle rallied supporters for GOP candidate Patrick Morrisey and rained down insults on Manchin, following a weekend visit from Vice President Mike Pence. Citizens United laid down a $500,000 ad buy touting Morrisey as the ‘only candidate we can trust.’ And [Trump] is considering a visit here just before Election Day … A Trump visit could tighten the race, which has gotten away from Morrisey of late. He insists the race is tied in his internal polls, but public polls indicate the West Virginia attorney general would have to mount a major comeback to beat Manchin.”

-- A dozen family members of Nevada Republican Adam Laxalt published an op-ed opposing his gubernatorial bid. From Isaac Stanley-Becker: “They based their appeal not just on their relative’s political positions but also on his personal character. They accused him of ‘phoniness’ and ‘self-serving political purposes.’” The op-ed comes after six siblings of GOP Rep. Paul Gosar shot an ad endorsing his Democratic opponent, David Brill.

-- The RNC has spent more than $1.5 million at Trump-owned properties during the 2018 election cycle, according to FEC filings. The Hill’s Owen Daugherty reports: “A majority of the money comes from a few big-money events held at Trump’s hotels in New York, Washington, D.C. and resorts in Florida, most notably a $367,365 bill racked up at the Trump National Doral Golf Club by the RNC in June … That event was for the RNC’s 2018 Spring Meeting at the resort, one of the largest of the year.”

-- And 2020 has begun: Kamala Harris campaigned for Iowa Democrats on Monday in a preview of her likely bid for president. Politico’s David Siders reports: “In recent days, an adviser [said], Harris sent $25,000 to the Democratic parties in all four early nominating states: Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire. … ‘We need to have a better vision for this country,’ Harris told about 200 activists inside a community college auditorium in suburban Des Moines, railing against Republican economic policies that she said have hurt working Americans. Framing an alternative — as she did in Wisconsin over the weekend — Harris touted a $6,000 tax break that she proposed last week for families earning up to $100,000 annually, a ready-made message for her effort to connect with Democrats in the Midwest.”

GEORGIA IN FOCUS:

-- Health care and education are expected to dominate the first televised debate tonight between Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams and her Republican opponent Brian Kemp, as they attempt to woo the few remaining undecided voters in the state. You can watch a live stream here at 7 p.m. EasternThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein looks at what to watch: “For Abrams, it will be a fresh opportunity to elaborate on her call to expand the Medicaid program and overhaul the state’s public school funding. And Kemp could tout his teacher pay raise plan and his vow to cap state spending.”

-- Abrams’s participation in a 1992 protest, during which a state flag was burned, has started surfacing on social media. The New York Times’s Richard Fausset reports: “At a protest on the steps of the Georgia Capitol in 1992, [Abrams] joined in the burning of the state flag, which at the time incorporated the Confederate battle flag design and was viewed by many as a lingering symbol of white supremacy. … Ms. Abrams’s campaign, in a statement Monday, said her actions in 1992 were part of a ‘permitted, peaceful protest against the Confederate emblem in the flag’ and part of a movement that was ultimately successful in changing the flag.”

-- “A ‘great reverse migration’ of African Americans to the US south from the north could turn historically Republican parts of Georgia’s state capital, Atlanta, from red to [blue]," the Guardian’s Khushbu Shah reports: “William Frey, demographer and [Brookings Institution fellow], said a key to this trajectory is the burgeoning Gwinnett County on the outskirts of Atlanta, where many black people have moved in recent years. . . . All eyes are on whether Gwinnett will go to the Democrats, signalilng a shift in what was one of the staunchest Republican states in the American south, if not the entire [U.S.]."

-- “The . . . increasingly bitter Georgia governor’s race was always going to come down to voting rights,” the Daily Beast’s Patricia Murphy reports: “For nearly a decade, the two have clashed over that historical and emotionally-charged issue, with [GOP nominee Brian] Kemp overseeing elections as Georgia’s secretary of state and Abrams . . . running a nonprofit to register more minority voters for state elections. In the past, Kemp has accused Abrams of criminal voter fraud, while Abrams has called Kemp’s role in elections nothing short of brazen voter suppression."

-- A Georgia Tech student who says Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) took his phone to avoid a question about voter suppression is suing the lawmaker for battery. Amy B Wang reports: “Attorneys for Nathan Knauf, a junior at Georgia Tech, filed the complaint in Fulton County State Court on Monday morning, seeking a jury trial, unspecified damages, attorneys' fees and others costs from Perdue. Perdue’s office has maintained that the exchange was a misunderstanding and that the senator took the student’s phone to take a selfie. On Monday, Perdue’s office called the lawsuit ‘outrageous and completely frivolous.’”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- A small U.S. base in Syria could become a key component of the Trump administration’s efforts to push back against Iranian influence in the region. Missy Ryan reports: “This tiny garrison [Tanf], a jumble of dirt-filled blast barriers and tents surrounded by the immense desert of southern Syria, was established to roll back the Islamic State’s once-vast domain. But its strategic position along a highway linking the Syrian regime in Damascus to its backers in Tehran has made the base an unintended bulwark against Iranian influence in Syria and, now, a potential locus in White House plans to confront Iran’s reach across the region.”

-- A comprehensive in-house study of the U.S. Army’s performance in the Iraq War, which was spearheaded by former Army chief of staff Gen. Ray Odierno, has remained unpublished amid administrative delays. The Wall Street Journal’s Michael R. Gordon reports: “[Odierno] arranged for 30,000 pages of documents to be declassified. For nearly three years, [a] team studied those papers and conducted more than 100 interviews. By June 2016, it had drafted a two-volume history of more than 1,300 pages. … Gen. Odierno retired before the team could finish the history, which then became stuck in internal reviews and procedural byways. … In the past few months alone, Army officials debated whether the study should be embraced or disowned. After a high-level review last month, Army officials issued instructions to remove a foreword noting the study had been ‘commissioned’ by the Army and to scrub it of other signs that it had top-level sponsorship. After the Journal last week asked Gen. Odierno’s successor as chief of staff, Gen. Mark Milley, about the Army’s handling of the study, he reversed those moves and vowed to write his own foreword. … He says he hopes to publish the study by year’s end.”

-- Potentially upending relations with Central America, Trump vowed to cut off or “substantially” slash aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in retaliation for the migrant caravan. (John Wagner and David Nakamura)

THE GENDER WARS:

-- Trump said his administration is considering “different concepts” regarding transgender rights — confirming what some Trump officials have described as a debate within the administration over whether to define gender as immutable and fixed at birth. “We’re looking at it. We have a lot of different concepts right now,” the president told reporters. “They have a lot of different things happening with respect to transgender right now … And we’re looking at it very seriously.”

-- HHS “has been pushing for the change, a fresh and direct aim at transgender rights, hoping other departments embrace that approach for sweeping impact,” Laura Meckler, Samantha Schmidt and Lena H. Sun report. “But it is unclear whether there is support for the broader effort or whether the regulation would be issued at all, as some in the administration are pushing back. … [The Education Department] is not eager to follow HHS’s lead, and the Justice Department is deferring to HHS, according to administration officials. It’s unclear what the Education Department’s specific concerns are, but for many years, Secretary Betsy DeVos has privately supported [LBGT rights] and has been reluctant to dial back their protections."

-- Jordan Evans, who is believed to be the only openly transgender elected Republican, said the policy proposal made her “afraid for people who are younger than me.” Isaac Stanley-Becker reports: “Evans, 27, is a town constable and an elected library trustee in Charlton, Mass. … ‘I am afraid,’ the Republican politician said in an interview. ‘I’m absolutely distraught.’ ‘Not so much afraid for me,’ clarified Evans, who has been embraced by those closest to her since she first came out as transgender in 2013 and began to medically transition in 2015. ‘I’m afraid for people who are younger than me — people who don’t have the kind of experiences in the world that I’ve had. They see this, and they’re rightfully terrified.’”

THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Rudy Giuliani said that Paul Manafort has “not said anything damaging” about Trump in his meetings with Bob Mueller after pleading guilty last month to charges filed by the special counsel. Giuliani’s knowledge of the conversations comes as part of an unusual joint-defense agreement between Trump and Manafort, which allows their legal teams to share information without violating attorney-client privilege. Reuters's Karen Freifeld and Nathan Layne report: “Legal experts said it was unusual for such an agreement to remain in effect after a person pleads guilty and agrees to cooperate with prosecutors as Manafort has done. … [But] Giuliani said he had spoken with Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, as recently as last week.”

-- Meanwhile, Mueller continues to drill down on Rogers Stone's potential contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 election. CNN's Sara Murray reports: “Additionally, investigators are looking into whether Stone shared information that he believed was from WikiLeaks with members of Trump's presidential campaign, according to a source familiar with the probe. Investigators have been provided recordings of Stone claiming he talked to Trump regularly early in the 2016 presidential campaign, CNN has learned.”

-- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos are both set to testify behind closed doors this week before House committees. Rosalind S. Helderman and Karoun Demirjian report: “It will be the first time that Papadopoulos ... has spoken to congressional investigators. For more than a year, congressional panels investigating Russian interference have wanted to speak with Papadopoulos about his outreach to two Russian nationals during the campaign, as well as his interactions with a London-based professor, Joseph Mifsud, who told him in April 2016 that the Russians had dirt on then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of her emails. … Rosenstein’s interview is expected to focus in part on reports that he suggested taping the president’s conversations or seeking to use the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

The president's son implored Republicans to vote, changing his approach after earlier warning of a red wave:

Civil rights icon John Lewis reminded his Twitter followers of the sacrifices made to secure the right to vote:

Trump offered condolences to the Republican senate nominee in Pennsylvania:

A Post reporter chronicled Trump's evolving opinion on the term “nationalism”:

A CNN reporter reacted to Trump’s tax cut talk:

A Wall Street Journal reporter who covers tax policy added:

A GOP pollster highlighted these numbers:

Trump brushed off this question about his 2016 primary battles with Ted Cruz:

A Yahoo News editor compiled Trump's 2016 tweets about Cruz:

Cruz slammed the Houston Chronicle:

But a CNN reporter pushed back against Cruz's characterization:

A Houston Chronicle reporter shared this video of an early voting line in Texas:

A vulnerable House Republican welcomed Paul Ryan to Minnesota:

Meanwhile, Trump also offered his endorsement to Paulsen:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) campaigned for the Republican gubernatorial nominee in Minnesota:

Speaking of Minnesota, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) continues coasting to reelection. And she appears to have every intention of running for president in 2020. One big tell is that in her debate, she pointedly declined to commit to serve her full six-year term:

A Post reporter analyzed a photo of the Treasury secretary with the Saudi crown prince:

Khashoggi's editor at The Post called out a media organization's participation in the Saudi investor conference:

From The Post’s deputy editorial page editor: 

Post columnist Jason Rezaian noted this:

A New York Times television critic compared Trump's comments about the caravan to what he said about ISIS in 2014:

A BuzzFeed News reporter provided these updates from the caravan's journey:

A quote from Christine Blasey Ford's testimony during Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing appeared at Yale Law:

GOOD READS:

-- Politico Magazine, “What Is Harvard Trying to Hide?,” by Josh Gerstein: “The first, brief court showdown over Harvard’s admissions policies came on October 5, 1990. The day before, the Education Department had officially completed a two-year-long investigation into Harvard’s admissions practices … [But unbeknownst to the public], as the investigation unfolded, the feds cut a deal with Harvard to keep its records secret. The records — now tattered and yellowing from several moves and basement floods and published online here for the first time — belie some of Harvard’s key claims about its admissions process. The university had long claimed that preferences for recruited athletes and legacies served only as a tiebreaker between applicants with ‘substantially equal’ qualifications. . . . But the data collected by the Education Department contained some explosive information.

“It showed the athletes and so-called legacies who were actually accepted had lower SAT scores … and were also deemed less attractive candidates[.] One star swimmer got in with a combined SAT of 970 out of 1600[.] A standout wrestler scored admission with a 1090. … [And some comments admissions officers] wrote on the application folders of admitted legacies strongly suggested something more than a tiebreaker was at work. ‘Double lineage, but lots of problems … ’ [said notes on a] successful application … ‘Lots of lineage here … Hard to explain a NO,’ yet another said. ‘Classical case that would be hard to explain to DAD.’”

-- “Confederate pride and prejudice,” by Frances Stead Sellers: “Perhaps the most contentious of American emblems, the Confederate flag is grounded in a history of slavery and segregation in the South. But despite recent moves to eradicate it from statehouses, vehicle license plates and store shelves, the banner has been embraced far from its founding region, still flying from spacious Victorian houses in New Jersey, above barns in Ohio and over music festivals in Oregon. … For [some], the Confederate flag reflects 21st-century pride in a form of American identity that harks back to the scrappy self-sufficiency of the white settlers of Appalachia. To others, flying the flag for ‘white grievance’ is simply racism by a different name, an effort to redefine patriotism as the interests of white Americans.”

-- A California judge has ordered Stormy Daniels’s lawyer and potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Avenatti to pay $4.85 million to an attorney at his former law firm. The AP reports: “Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dennis Landin issued the ruling after turning down a request from Avenatti to have the matter moved to federal court, which the opposing side called a delay tactic. … The judge said Avenatti must pay the money because he personally guaranteed a settlement with Jason Frank, who had worked at his former firm. Frank had alleged the firm misstated its profits and that he was owed millions. Avenatti … told [the AP] on Monday that Frank owes him and the firm $12 million ‘for his fraud.’ He did not provide details."

-- “Michael Avenatti Lived the High Life While Owing Millions to IRS,” by the Daily Beast's Kate Briquelet: “A review of court documents reveals that Avenatti, his former law firm Eagan Avenatti, and his former company Global Baristas, the majority owner of the Seattle-based Tully’s coffee chain, have owed millions in unpaid federal and state taxes in Washington and California, as well as hundreds of thousands in past-due rent to landlords … [And] before Avenatti became Trump’s] tweet-baiting nemesis, he was racking up a list of legal victories that resulted in a string of multimillion-dollar verdicts. ... These victories bankrolled a lifestyle that Avenatti’s second wife described as lavish in divorce pleadings. Lisa Storie-Avenatti says the couple enjoyed a multimillion-dollar home in Newport Beach, international and domestic travel via private jet … She said that since 2010, Avenatti raced in about 33 professional sports car races in the United States and Europe, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France, where his team included Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Saud."

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“'Broad City' stars urge Clinton not to run again,” from The Hill: “She made a cameo on their show, but the stars of [‘Broad City’] say Hillary Clinton shouldn’t make another run at the White House. ‘I love Hillary. I don’t think she should run again,’ Abbi Jacobson [said]. ‘It’s like sad for me to say that,’ Jacobson, 34, added. ‘I feel like we still very much need her to be involved in some way. I don’t know what that is.’ ... ‘We need a Democratic socialist. We need someone who hasn’t been in the machine for this amount of time,’ said [Ilana] Glazer. ... 'I think it needs to be Kamala Harris [or] Elizabeth Warren,’ said Glazer … The Comedy Central star also mentioned [Joe Biden] as a potential ‘unifying’ White House contender.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Kevin McCarthy on Social Media Hunt for Rock-Throwing Suspects,” from Roll Call: “A large slab of rock was thrown through the window of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s district office in Bakersfield Monday — and he’s hitting social media to find the culprits. The California Republican posted security camera photos of two men on social media along with a photo of a rock about the size of a backpack surrounded by shattered glass on the floor of the offices. ‘Does anyone know these two guys?’ McCarthy asked his followers. According to an Instagram post by McCarthy, his office window was broken with a ‘boulder’ and office equipment was stolen.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will speak at the White House’s “State Leadership Day Conference” to local officials from Alaska, California and Hawaii. He will then sign a water infrastructure bill and later meet with senior military leaders for a briefing and dinner.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Trump said he's come up with a new nickname for Ted Cruz: “He’s not Lyin’ Ted anymore. He’s Beautiful Ted. I call him Texas Ted.” (Seung Min Kim and Felicia Sonmez)

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- Washingtonians should get outside to enjoy the sunshine and warmer temperatures on this perfectly fall day. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Mostly sunny Nice Day status with temperatures peaking in the afternoon in the mid-to-upper 60s, with perhaps a few spots touching 70. Watch for a few high clouds to filter into the picture during the afternoon, with a bit of a breeze developing from the southwest around 10 mph. Enjoy this weather, as it’s the best of the week.”

-- The Wizards beat the Trail Blazers 125-124 in overtime. (Candace Buckner)

-- The Capitals won against the Canucks 5-2. (Samantha Pell)

-- District officials said scammers successfully stole nearly $700,000 from the D.C. government by impersonating a city vendor. Peter Jamison reports: “The fraud, disclosed by D.C. officials in response to questions from The Washington Post, has led to beefed-up security protocols in the office of D.C. Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey S. DeWitt. David Umansky, a spokesman for the chief financial officer, said that [a Treasury Department investigation] is ongoing and that none of the city’s money has been recovered.”

-- A security guard at the Fox 5 television station in Northwest Washington shot and wounded a man after he kicked his way through the station’s entrance. The man, identified as George Odemns, was admitted to George Washington University Hospital in critical but stable condition and charged with second-degree burglary. (Tom Jackman and Clarence Williams)

-- A 15-year-old high school student is in police custody after allegedly making threats against a high school and elementary school in Northern Virginia. Police said the threats were made on social media and included an “image of an assault rifle,” which the student allegedly obtained online. Though his threats were deemed as “not credible,” law enforcement officials said Monday that they had increased police presence on both campuses for the day. (Dana Hedgpeth)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Late-night hosts mocked Trump for campaigning for Ted Cruz after calling him “Lyin’ Ted” during the 2016 primaries:

A think tank named for John McCain is launching an ad campaign calling for the new generation of “mavericks” to carry on the late senator’s legacy:

An unusual announcement was made at Trump's Texas rally:

Prince Harry said he hopes the new royal baby will be a girl: