With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA:
GLEN ALLEN, Va. — The 2018 midterms are a referendum on Donald Trump, who has been omnipresent on Twitter and television during the home stretch and seems to suck up all the political oxygen on the national stage. That’s why Republicans are poised to pad their majority in the Senate, where the battlegrounds are red states the president carried by double digits two years ago. And it is why Democrats are favored to win the House, where control will be decided in suburbs where Trump has never been popular.
But many Democratic candidates in the country’s most hard-fought congressional districts barely talk about the president. They feel that he is loathed enough on the left that they don’t need to throw red meat to raise money or attract volunteers. They’re worried that, if they spend their time attacking Trump, voters won’t know what they stand for. And they’re trying to woo moderates who want a check on the president without more gridlock or divisiveness.
As the map of competitive races has expanded, there are also plenty of toss-up contests where the president isn’t as unpopular as you might presume. It all adds up to a jarring disconnect eight days out from the election between the conversation at the national level and on the ground in places like this suburb of Richmond.
— Trump’s name, for example, did not come up once during a 90-minute campaign event here Saturday night for Democrat Abigail Spanberger. The former CIA operations officer is challenging Rep. Dave Brat, who toppled then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a GOP primary four years ago. Two dozen people fanned out across six plush leather couches arranged in a circle in the middle of a strip mall barbershop for a freewheeling roundtable discussion.
Spanberger was joined by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, who is coasting to reelection against Republican challenger Corey Stewart two years after Hillary Clinton tapped him as her running mate. Attendees could ask whatever they wanted and were encouraged to chime in. Health care was the No. 1 concern, followed by education. The unchoreographed back-and-forth covered everything from how to make middle school more useful for kids to improving the juvenile justice system, increasing access to Small Business Administration loans and making it easier to launch start-ups.
-- After the event, Spanberger said it’s “100 percent” normal for no one to bring up Trump in settings like this, and she does not do so either. “That's one of the things I've had to contend with is, when people kind of talk at me about my district, making sure that's not a talking point,” she said in a half-hour interview. “We talk about the anger, and we talk about divisive rhetoric. All of that points in his direction, of course. The highest leadership sets the tone. He's set a tone that a lot of people find inappropriate and lacking decency, but it doesn't have to be about him.”
She said there are “notable exceptions,” identifying Trump’s summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, his tariffs and his child separation policy as three moments when she’s unabashedly called out the president.
Trump carried this district by six points in 2016, as Brat got reelected by 15 points. Of Virginia’s 11 House seats, this is one of four that Democrats could realistically pick up next week. It has become a national bellwether because it captures in miniature many of this cycle’s dynamics: an impressive young female challenger running for the first time (a 39-year-old mother of three), who is outraising the incumbent and making inroads in a fast-growing suburban district that has leaned Republican. (Laura Vozzella took an in-depth look at these dynamics on the front page of Sunday’s newspaper.)
-- Kaine said it’s smart for candidates not to talk very much about Trump because they don’t need to. “My theme on my campaign is, ‘A Virginia that works for all,’” the senator explained in an interview. “That's not a Trump thing. When I talk about the ‘for all’ thing, I do point out that we’ve got a president who is a for-me guy, not a for-all guy. So I’ll do a little bit. But Donald Trump, you can say this about him, has one of the lowest percentages of people who are undecided about him of anybody ever. So if you spend a lot of time talking about him, you're wasting your time. People know what they think about him.
“At a Democratic event, you can get a lot of applause by talking about Trump — criticizing him for this and for that,” he continued. “But when they're walking to the car, they’ll say to themselves, ‘Wait. Wait. What are they going to do for me?’ I think an important thing for the Dems is to really be on our front foot about saying, ‘Here is what matters to us and here’s what we’re doing.’”
Looking back on the 2016 campaign, Kaine said “there should have been much, much more of that” during the 2016 campaign. “I'd be getting talking points from the Clinton campaign every day,” he said. “And it would be, ‘Here's what we’re going to say about Trump today.’ And I’d say, ‘No, here's what I'm going to say about Hillary today. And then I'll say that thing about Trump.’ But the overall thinking was that Trump was a clear and present danger to the country, which he was. That was all accurate, but there wasn't enough being on the front foot. And you’ve got to be on the front foot.”
-- Kaine’s perspective was striking because a Republican strategist in Washington who is involved in decisions about House spending expressed concern in a conversation on Friday that Brat is partly in peril because he’s not giving Virginians reasons to vote for him. The concern among the consultant class is that Brat’s messaging seems to be dominated by grievance and self-pity that they fear comes across as whining and off-putting to a swath of the voters he must win over.
Two weeks ago, while visiting a nearby jail, Brat compared the struggles of drug addicts doing hard time to the attack ads he’s been absorbing from Democrats. “You think you’re having a hard time? I got $5 million worth of negative ads going at me,” Brat told the inmates. “How do you think I’m feeling? Nothing’s easy. For anybody. You think I’m a congressman. ‘Oh, life’s easy. This guy’s off having steaks. … Baloney.” He later told the inmates, “You got it harder — I’m not dismissing that.”
Brat’s campaign didn’t respond when I inquired about his availability and events this weekend. The 54-year-old campaigned last week with Vice President Pence, who got the job instead of Kaine.
-- A new poll out this morning from Christopher Newport University shows Spanberger’s careful approach to Trump paying dividends, with 46 percent of likely voters supporting her and 45 percent backing Brat. The survey from the Wason Center for Public Policy found that Spanberger’s lead is wider among voters who said they were definitely going to vote, though that number was also within the margin of error.
Trump’s approval rating in the district is 47 percent, with 51 percent disapproving. Overall, 43 percent strongly disapprove of the president’s performance compared to 30 percent who strongly approve.
A 16-point “enthusiasm gap” could be determinative: 78 percent of Democrats say they are “very enthusiastic” about voting, but only 62 percent of Republicans do.
-- These numbers indicate that the energy is there for Spanberger without her needing to tee off on Trump. She noted that 622 volunteers canvassed for her at doors around the district on Saturday. Many came from parts of Northern Virginia without competitive races.
“I think we've been successful in doing a couple of different things,” Spanberger said, explaining her theory of the case:
“With typical Democratic-voting people who may not vote in midterms or who may not even vote every four years, we’ve been really intentional about making sure that those voters know that this race is winnable,” she said. “Especially in a historically Republican district, part of the hurdle is a lot of people just don't get out and vote if they don't think there's any reason to vote. So we’ve made sure people know we've moved it to a toss-up. A toss-up means we could win or he could win so you have to vote. I think we've had a fair amount of success with that.
“Second of all, there are a lot of middle-of-the road voters who have more reflexively voted Republican because we've been a Republican-held district since the early ‘70s. So we have, through creating the competition, created a reason for people to take a critical look at who they’re voting for. There’s a lot of people who tell me, ‘Oh, I’m a Republican.’ But they might have voted for Mark Warner for Senate or Ralph Northam for governor. Or they might have voted for Warner for Senate and then Ed Gillespie for governor. There’s a lot of movement in that middle area, and making sure that people know that there is a viable, competitive candidate in this district is something we've been really purposeful about.”
-- Ironically, Spanberger wouldn’t have a prayer of winning this race — and almost certainly wouldn’t have run in the first place — if Kaine was vice president. Instead, there would be inevitable backlash to Clinton’s first two years in office and Brat would be coasting to reelection.
-- During the roundtable, Kaine touted a bill he’s introduced that would create what he calls Medicare X, which would let anyone buy into Medicare on the exchange. “It’s not the same as single payer,” he said. Pushing back on the left flank in his party, Kaine noted that more than 100 million people currently depend on employer-provided insurance plans and 80 percent of them like what they have now. He said going to the kind of Medicare-for-all plan espoused by Bernie Sanders and embraced by many of the 2020 candidates would mean telling those 80 million people that they’re going to lose what they like and asking them to trust that what replaces it will somehow be better. “And I can tell you: They won’t trust us,” said Kaine, who was chairman of the Democratic National Committee when Obamacare passed. Spanberger said she endorses Kaine’s approach.
-- Spanberger is halfway through a tour of each of the district’s 10 counties over 10 days, which includes many rural areas where Trump is strong in addition to the suburbs where he’s not. She spent Sunday in Spotsylvania County, starting with a morning service at Mount Hope Baptist Church and ending with a late afternoon meet-and-greet at Wilderness Run Vineyards. Today she’s in Chesterfield County, with a women’s leadership forum, a small business tour and an evening rally in Midlothian.
-- The barbershop event in Henrico County took place in the state assembly district represented by Democratic Del. Debra Rodman, who unexpectedly toppled GOP incumbent John O'Bannon last year. He had held the seat for 17 years and hadn’t even been opposed for the previous eight years. But Rodman, a professor of cultural anthropology at Randolph-Macon College — where Brat also taught economics before his upset over Cantor — capitalized on anti-Trump backlash in the fast-evolving Richmond suburbs. She’d always wanted to run for office, and she said Trump’s victory gave her the final push to take the plunge. But she praised Spanberger for her gingerly approach to the president.
“I don’t hear too much about Trump,” Rodman said. “We hear it in the news all the time, but we don’t talk about it much because we’re focused on making sure people have quality health care and schools.”
-- Wearing a comfortable black fleece he got at Shenandoah National Park, Kaine said he enjoys the autonomy that comes with just being Virginia’s junior senator. As governor, he had a detail of state troopers. As Clinton’s running mate, he was in a cocoon of Secret Service two years ago at this time. Now he and his body man can easily slip into events without causing a scene. Earlier Saturday, he schmoozed at Old Dominion’s homecoming without an entourage. “It’s fun,” Kaine said. “On a national ticket, you have so many security demands. I mean it's just, like, suffocating.”
He expressed confidence that Democrats will win the House by running campaigns like the one Spanberger has. “Polls are about preferences. Elections are about energy,” Kaine said. “Virginia polls close first in the nation at 7 p.m. Eastern. If there's going to be a wave, some of the first evidence of it is going to come – or not going to come — out of Virginia. So I am feeling the pressure, and I know these guys are too.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro won Brazil’s presidential election. Anthony Faiola and Marina Lopes report: “Bolsonaro, a far-right lawmaker and former army captain, defeated leftist Fernando Haddad in the runoff, receiving about 55 percent of the vote. … Bolsonaro ran a social-media-centered campaign similar to [Trump’s] that promised to attack the corruption of political elites and bring an iron fist to fighting crime. He demonized opponents and polarized the nation with his history of denigrating women, gays and minorities. … Bolsonaro won a first round of the election earlier this month but failed to avoid a runoff. His challenger, Haddad — a one-term mayor of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city — had depicted the election as a fight to preserve democracy. Bolsonaro has been an outspoken defender of Brazil’s former military dictatorship, lamenting that it did not kill enough dissidents.” Trump called Bolsonaro to congratulate him on his win.
-- German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced she is ready to step aside as the leader of the Christian Democratic Party. Griffe Witte and Rick Noack report: “Merkel has been CDU chairwoman since 2000 and while her departure would not automatically result in her stepping down as German chancellor, the move is an acknowledgment of her increasingly volatile position. Merkel herself has said in the past that the chancellor should also be the leader of the ruling party. But according to German public radio, Merkel wants to stay on even after handing over the party leadership. The announcement comes one day after her party suffered massive losses during regional elections in the state of Hesse, that has long been a bellwether for the nation.”
-- The Red Sox won the World Series against the Dodgers, claiming their fourth championship title since 2004. Dave Sheinin reports: “[O]n Sunday night at Dodger Stadium, 2,600 miles from home and three days shy of Halloween, the Red Sox put the finishing touches on one of the great seasons in recent baseball history. A 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series completed a methodical, 11-3 march through this postseason — annihilating three excellent teams along the way, the Yankees, Houston Astros and now the Dodgers — and pushed their win total, regular and postseason combined, to 119. Once mocked as a hapless, snakebit and even cursed franchise, which once went 86 years without a title, the Red Sox have now won the World Series four times in a 15-season span.”
-- “Even among World Series champions, this Red Sox team stands out for its greatness,” argues Thomas Boswell: “These Red Sox will be remembered for their stars, their deep rotation that not only showcased the well-known Chris Sale, [David] Price and Rick Porcello but also got excellent postseason work from bolt-throwing Nathan Eovaldi and, in Game 4, lefty Eduardo Rodriguez. … However, for those in New England who follow this team like a secular religion, as well as all those who got a dose of them this month, the most remarkable and admirable aspect of this World Series winner was the quality and character, as well as the deep likability, of the entire roster. There didn’t seem to be a bum in the bunch, and the class acts definitely ruled the locker room.”
GET SMART FAST:
A passenger plane carrying 189 people crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia. Rescuers have started retrieving debris from the plane as they search for unlikely survivors of the crash. (Shibani Mahtani and Ainur Rohmah)
The Saipan International Airport and all ports in the Northern Mariana Islands have reopened after being struck by the Category 5 Super Typhoon Yutu. But tens of thousands of residents remain without power as the islands continue to recover from the devastation of the storm. (AP)
The Hubble Space Telescope is back to normal operations. The telescope was knocked into safe mode earlier this month after one of its gyroscopes failed. (USA Today)
The wait time to become a citizen has stretched into more than two years in some parts of the country, as the U.S. government struggles to keep up with demand. The naturalization process previously took around six months, but interest in gaining citizenship spiked after Trump’s election. Now there are more than 700,000 immigrants waiting on applications. (AP)
Washington may become the first U.S. state to tax carbon dioxide. Residents will vote next week on a statewide initiative that would impose a $15-a-ton fee on carbon emissions in an effort to curb climate change. (Steven Mufson)
Rising temperatures appear to be disrupting Italy’s wine production. Farmers who manage the country’s vineyards say they have seen an increase in the number of grapes, particularly the sensitive white wine grapes, that have been singed by the region’s intensifying heat. (Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli)
Georgetown Preparatory School held its annual reunion weekend, where alumnus and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was welcomed with open arms. The high school was drawn into Kavanaugh’s controversial confirmation process after Christine Blasey Ford accused the judge of sexually assaulting her while he was a student at Georgetown Prep. (New York Times)
THE LATEST FROM PITTSBURGH:
-- Police identified the 11 victims killed in Saturday’s mass shooting at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue, the deadliest attack on Jews in American history. Moriah Balingit, Kristine Phillips, Amy B Wang, Deanna Paul, Wesley Lowery and Kellie B. Gormly report: “They were the synagogue’s most faithful. Two brothers who’d walked to services each week since boyhood and now, in their 50s, handed out hugs and hellos at Tree of Life’s front entrance. The local doctor who helped set up Dor Hadash’s weekly meetings and led its Torah studies. An 88-year-old retired accountant known to attend New Light Congregation’s services each Friday, Saturday and Sunday. … Those slain were Tree of Life’s beating heart, as much fixtures of this synagogue as the fading pews.”
-- The man who has been charged with their murders, Robert Bowers, was described as a loner who mostly kept to himself as he posted hate-filled, anti-Semitic rants online. Avi Selk, Tim Craig, Shawn Boburg and Andrew Ba Tran report: “Neighbors knew [Bowers] as a truck driver who rarely hosted visitors but exchanged pleasantries as he came and went from his first-floor apartment in a complex in Pittsburgh’s suburban South Baldwin neighborhood. … Investigators on Sunday finished searching Bowers’s home as they continued sorting through the only public clues of the hate he seems to have harbored: online screeds written under Bowers’s name that hinted at a radical turn over the last year. …
“‘They’re committing genocide to my people,’ Bowers told a SWAT officer after being shot and captured, according to a federal criminal complaint released Sunday. ‘I just want to kill Jews.’ … Bowers, 46, is expected to appear in court Monday. He faces at least 23 state charges, including homicide, attempted homicide and aggravated assault against police officers. He faces an additional 29 federal charges accusing him of civil rights and hate crimes. Federal prosecutors in Pennsylvania have asked the Justice Department for approval to seek the death penalty, a decision that ultimately will rest with Attorney General Jeff Sessions . . .
“Bowers’s low profile stands in sharp contrast to feeds on Gab, including the since-deleted account in which a user with Bowers’s name compared Jews to Satan and complained that Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ movement cannot succeed so long as Jews ‘infest’ the country. Many of his rants expressed racism against African Americans, according to an analysis of posts gathered by the Network Contagion Research Institute, a group of scientists and engineers who study online hate. Half a dozen of Bowers’s posts included slurs against women who had relationships with black men. He uploaded many posts that referenced nooses and ropes and hanging. Nearly 20 posts used the n-word.”
-- The violence began at the start of Saturday’s 9:45 a.m. services. Lenny Bernstein, Kyle Swenson, Gabriel Pogrund and Steve Hendrix report: “Services had just begun when [E. Joseph Charny, a retired psychiatrist,] heard something like tumbling furniture from a lower floor. ‘It sounded like some big thing falling over, like a coat rack,’ Charny said. … FBI officials would later allege that the gunman entered through an unlocked lower door with three pistols and an AR-15 semiautomatic assault-style rifle. When the gunman burst into one of the occupied rooms, he was shouting anti-Semitic slurs as he opened fire, authorities said. What Charny had heard was the mayhem of that opening attack. And then, Charny said, a man appeared in the doorway of the chapel where he sat. The man was silent, he said, but he began shooting. ‘I looked up, and there were all these dead bodies,’ Charny said. ‘I wasn’t in the mood to stay there.’”
-- Pittsburgh’s mayor dismissed a suggestion from the president that places of worship should hire armed guards to prevent such tragedies. “I don’t think that the answer to this problem is solved by having our synagogues, mosques and churches filled with armed guards or our schools filled with armed guards,” Mayor Bill Peduto (D) said on “Meet the Press.” He added during a news conference, “I think the approach that we need to be looking at is how we take the guns — which is the common denominator of every mass shooting in America — out of the hands of those that are looking to express hatred through murder.” (Felicia Sonmez)
-- Trump said he intends to visit Pittsburgh in the coming days, but a group of Jewish leaders wrote him a letter saying he would not be welcome until he denounces white nationalism. The letter was signed by 11 members of the Pittsburgh affiliate of Bend the Arc, a social justice-oriented group for progressive Jews. “Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted,” they wrote. “You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country.” More than 16,000 people have already signed on to the open letter. (The Hill)
-- A fundraising effort led by the Muslim American community has already collected more than $77,000 for the victims, Allison Klein reports: “[The shooting] ‘made me sick to my stomach,’ said Tarek El-Messidi, a Muslim American speaker and activist who started the fundraising effort as soon as he heard about the attack.”
-- For Jews in Europe, where anti-Semitic violence has increased in recent years, the Pittsburgh shooting felt too familiar. James McAuley reports: “Jewish children slaughtered in school. Jewish customers shot in a kosher supermarket. Elderly Jewish women beaten in their apartments, then thrown from the window or left to burn. In recent years, deadly anti-Semitic violence has become a mainstay of European headlines, a troubling reality on the same soil where millions of Jews were systematically murdered less than a century before. That violence was not mirrored in the United States — until Saturday[.]”
-- Judah Samet, an 80-year-old Holocaust survivor who regularly attends services at the synagogue, credits his delayed arrival with saving his life. Isaac Stanley-Becker reports: “More than 70 years ago, he narrowly escaped death in Germany’s Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Again Saturday, he looked death in the face — not in his native Hungary, where nationalism is resurgent, but in the country where he found sanctuary after the Second World War. … ‘I was four minutes late. Instead of 9:45, I got there about 9:49, maybe 9:50,’ [Samet said]. Those four minutes may have saved his life.”
-- Trump and other senior Republican leaders pushed back against accusations from some critics that they helped create a toxic political environment that led to the shooting and last week’s mail bomb threats. Robert Costa and Felicia Sonmez report: “Trump, who has faced calls to tone down his public statements, signaled that he would do no such thing — berating billionaire liberal activist Tom Steyer, a target of a mail bomb sent by a Trump supporter, as a ‘crazed & stumbling lunatic’ on Twitter, after Steyer said on CNN that Trump and the Republican Party have created an atmosphere of ‘political violence.’ Later Sunday, Trump lashed out again on Twitter, this time at the media: ‘The Fake News is doing everything in their power to blame Republicans, Conservatives and me for the division and hatred that has been going on for so long in our Country.’
“The GOP’s defensive posture … came as some Trump allies sought to shift blame to others, including media figures and Democratic leaders, arguing that recent attempts by liberal protesters to challenge GOP officials in public were perhaps more responsible for the national unrest than the president’s combative politics or the rise of conspiracy theories on the right. … In charging that the media and Democratic protesters have been largely responsible for inciting hate, Trump and his allies have seemingly equated the influence of activists and journalists with the singular power and reach of the American presidency. ‘The idea that Trump and conservatives share no blame for scaremongering on immigrants and the refugees is really ridiculous,’ said William Kristol, a veteran conservative commentator and Trump critic who is Jewish — and was called a ‘loser’ by Trump at a Saturday rally in Illinois. ‘A little dignity and cessation of ‘what-about-ism’ or ‘you-too-ism’ would be welcome.’ ...
“Inside the Trump administration, the president has been bolstered by officials and advisers who have followed his lead and assailed the media or contested assertions that Trump’s words deserve more scrutiny amid the violence. Vice President Pence, in an interview with NBC News on Saturday night, defended Trump’s conduct. ‘Everyone has their own style,’ Pence said. ‘Frankly, people on both sides of the aisle use strong language about our political differences. But I just don’t think you can connect it to threats or acts of violence.’”
This morning, Trump again blamed the news media for stoking anger in the country and took no responsibility for his own heated rhetoric. He said in a pair of tweets, "There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly. That will do much to put out the flame [of] Anger and Outrage and we will then be able to bring all sides together in Peace and Harmony. Fake News Must End!"
-- “It took the importuning of his Jewish daughter and son-in-law to craft a powerful statement of outrage at anti-Semitism after Saturday’s slaughter,” the New York Times’s Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman note. “Then Mr. Trump went back into partisan mode, assailing his enemies. By the evening’s end he was tweeting about baseball, and on Sunday he went after another foe. Mr. Trump’s mixed messages after [the synagogue killings and the wave of mail bombs] have thrust his leadership into the center of the national debate with about a week until fiercely contested congressional elections. Even some supporters call him tone-deaf, and critics say his fire-and-fury style has fueled a toxic moment in American history, while defenders bristle at what they consider opportunistic attacks by opponents interested only in tearing him down.”
-- “How much responsibility does Trump bear for the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh?” by Julia Ioffe: “Culpability is a tricky thing, and politicians, especially of the demagogic variety, know this very well. Unless they go as far as organized, documented, state-implemented slaughter, they don’t give specific directions. They don’t have to. They simply set the tone. In the end, someone else does the dirty work, and they never have to lift a finger — let alone stain it with blood. I saw it while reporting on Russia, where, after unexpected pro-democracy protests and the annexation of Crimea, Putin created an environment so vicious, so toxic (he called his critics ‘national traitors’ and ‘a fifth column’) that, when assassins killed opposition leader Boris Nemtsov at the foot of the Kremlin walls in 2015, it was easy for people to blame the divisive political rhetoric as if it were a spontaneous weather pattern, rather than Putin himself for creating it.”
-- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) posted and later deleted a tweet last week claiming three Jewish Democratic donors, including Steyer, were attempting to “buy” the midterm elections. CNN’s Devan Cole reports: “‘We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election! Get out and vote Republican November 6th. #MAGA,’ McCarthy wrote in the tweet posted Tuesday and deleted a day later, a reference to top donors to Democratic causes George Soros and [Steyer] and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Twitter users quickly condemned McCarthy's claim, saying it was insensitive given the fact that it came just one day after authorities intercepted what appeared to be a pipe bomb sent to Soros' New York home. … McCarthy's communications director, Matt Sparks, said in a statement … that McCarthy ‘has and will always condemn in the strongest possible way violence or any acts of attempted violence.’”
-- Responding to McCarthy’s tweet during his CNN interview, Steyer described the message as a “straight-up anti-Semitic move.” “I think that there — that is a classic attempt to separate Americans,” Steyer said. “I think that absolutely falls into the category of what I’m describing as political violence.” (Reuters)
-- A Fox Business Network executive issued a statement denouncing a comment from a guest on Lou Dobbs’s show, who was accused of perpetuating an anti-Semitic trope while criticizing Soros. CNN’s Oliver Darcy reports: “The comment in question was made by Chris Farrell, a board member of the right-wing organization Judicial Watch, during Thursday night's episode of Dobbs' show. During a segment about the caravan of migrants moving toward the US' southern border, Farrell called the State Department ‘Soros-occupied’ territory, referring to [George Soros], one of the targets of mail bombs discovered earlier this week. . . . In the past, Dobbs has referred to Soros as an 'evil SOB' and 'insidious.' Dobbs has also peddled various conspiracy theories about Soros.”
-- The two men charged with the synagogue shooting and the mail-bomb threats both referenced Soros repeatedly on social media. Joel Achenbach reports: “Cesar Sayoc, [the mail bomb suspect], appeared to be obsessed with Soros, mentioning him dozens of times on one of his Twitter accounts. Authorities say he mailed one of his bombs to Soros. [The suspected synagogue shooter Robert Bowers] also reposted several viral comments on a since-deactivated social media account about the migrant caravan. One post described the ‘third world caravan’ as a group of approaching ‘invaders.’ Bowers directly posted a comment referring to ‘the overwhelming jew problem.’ … The Soros-caravan conspiracy theory weaves together anti-Semitism, fear of immigrants and the specter of powerful foreign agents controlling major world events in pursuit of a hidden agenda. And it appears to have had real-world consequences on Saturday[.]”
-- Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), arguably the congressman most openly affiliated with white nationalism, has not seen much pushback from voters for his nativist views, Julie Zauzmer reports: “No one [gathered for an annual Oktoberfest celebration in Remsen, Iowa] questioned whether [King] might be contributing to anti-Semitism or racism through his unapologetic embrace of white nationalist rhetoric and his praise of far-right politicians and groups in other nations. … ‘He’s not so much protecting us from getting taken over as giving us some advantages that everybody else has when they come here,’ [one constituent] said. … Across the 4th District — a highly conservative swath of Iowa nearly 200 miles wide, mile upon mile of fertile farmland dotted with towns the length of a two-block Main Street — King has widespread support.”
MORE ON THE MIDTERMS:
-- “Pushing for a ‘youth wave’: Can Democrats channel dissent into action at the ballot box?” by Amy Gardner: “Throughout the country, there are signs that young Americans … are taking an unusual level of interest in this year’s midterms, prodded by Democratic groups and nonprofit organizations that have spent millions urging them to see state and congressional elections as outlets to express their views. The share of 18- to 29-year-old voters who say they will definitely vote has jumped from 26 percent in the run-up to the last midterm election in 2014 to 40 percent this fall, according to a new poll from the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. One driving factor: widespread support for government intervention to curb gun violence and reduce college debt and health-care costs. Whether that will translate into a substantial youth turnout this year remains an uncertainty as Election Day nears. …
“[The Democratic super PAC] Priorities USA has devoted much of a $65 million campaign on ads targeting young people, with hundreds of spots on online platforms such as Hulu, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify in House, Senate and governor’s races throughout the country. The group has also focused on removing barriers to voting for youth and other infrequent voters, winning lawsuits in Florida and New Hampshire to make it easier to cast a ballot. NextGen America, the liberal group founded by [Steyer], has hired 125 staff members who are rallying young people to vote on more than 40 college campuses throughout Florida. And deeply personal appeals are being made by survivors of the Parkland shooting, who are traveling the country urging voters their age to help curb gun violence by voting.”
-- A new set of CBS News-YouGov polls showed the Senate races in Florida, Arizona and Indiana virtually tied. All three polls fell within the margin of error. (CBS News)
-- Ballot measures across the country have offered Democrats and Republicans a chance to focus on local issues rather than Trump. Kristine Phillips reports: “Days before the midterm elections, California Republicans are calling upon a common line of attack line against Democrats: taxes. [A] bus tour, dubbed the Rush Hour Rally, is designed to stoke outrage about a recently passed law that raises vehicle fees and gas taxes. Proposition 6, the ballot measure to repeal it, is the rallying cry. … In North Dakota, there are two initiatives on red-meat issues: Ballot Measure 3, which would legalize marijuana, and Ballot Measure 2, which would clarify that only U.S. citizens and state residents can vote in elections. Backers of each say they weren’t created to stoke turnout. But the marijuana measure, initiated by the grass-roots group Legalize ND, is likely to attract younger voters who tend to vote Democratic and may help incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), although she didn’t endorse the measure, said John Hudak, a Brookings Institution senior fellow.”
-- GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick is trying to cast himself as the mirror opposite of Trump in a bid to keep his Pennsylvania seat. Colby Itkowitz reports: “Fitzpatrick has almost nothing in common with [Trump] except for the ‘R’ behind their names. But in an election year that is all about Trump, that affiliation alone could cost the 44-year-old congressman his reelection in a seat key to Democrats’ strategy to win back control of the House. So Fitzpatrick is campaigning as the anti-Trump, one of the few Republicans around the country to boldly separate himself from a president who remains wildly popular in his own party.”
-- Fitzpatrick’s Republican colleague Pete Sessions is placing a singular emphasis on the economy to try to win over voters in his suburban Dallas swing district. The National Journal’s Ally Mutnick reports: “Incumbents such as Sessions in traditionally Republican-leaning seats in affluent suburbs are in grave political peril, in no small part because of Trump’s low approval ratings. Some have moved to the middle, stressing independence from the party; others have highlighted cultural differences with the Democrats. But Sessions is banking that a pure economic argument against big government will win over educated voters in a state as fiercely independent as Texas and with an economy as robust and booming as that of northern Dallas. He’s casting his opponent — Colin Allred, a Dallas native and civil rights attorney who played football for Baylor University and the Tennessee Titans — as a socialist planning to raise taxes and cripple industry.”
-- Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, has never run a political race — which, in combination with Trump’s leadership style, has prompted questions about how long he’ll hold on to the role. The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman reports: “Mr. Parscale, a 6-foot-8 native of Kansas whom the president jokingly refers to as an ‘Amazon,’ has developed a rhythm around Mr. Trump, waiting to present and then re-present ideas that he believes in but that the president has vetoed before. On other issues, he is given the freedom to make decisions without seeking nonstop inputs, and execute on them quickly, making him an anomaly in the Trump sphere. The autonomy is a byproduct of knowing he usually has the faith of the family. And that relationship appears to explain why he seems unconcerned by the nagging questions, asked in private by Trump insiders and veteran operatives, about how long he will hold the role, given Mr. Trump’s volatile style.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Ukrainian officials accuse Facebook of failing to stop the spread of Russian disinformation on its platform for years, dating back to before Kremlin-linked trolls used the same tactics against the U.S. presidential election. Dana Priest, James Jacoby and Anya Bourg report from Kiev: “In the spring of 2015, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was desperate for Mark Zuckerberg’s help. His government had been urging Facebook to stop the Kremlin’s spreading of misinformation on the social network to foment distrust in his new administration and to promote support of Russia’s invasion and occupation of parts of Ukraine. To get Zuckerberg’s attention, the president posted a question for a town hall meeting at Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters. There, a moderator read it aloud. ‘Mark, will you establish a Facebook office in Ukraine?’ the moderator said, chuckling, according to a video of the assembly. The room of young employees rippled with laughter. But the government’s suggestion was serious: It believed that a Kiev office, staffed with people familiar with Ukraine’s political situation, could help solve Facebook’s high-level ignorance about Russian information warfare. …
“In the three years since then, officials here say the company has failed to address most of their concerns about Russian online interference that predated similar interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The tactics identified by officials, such as coordinated activity to overwhelm Facebook’s system and the use of impostor accounts, are the same as in the 2016 contest — and continue to challenge Facebook ahead of [the midterms]. … Ukraine’s warnings two years earlier show how the social media giant has been blind to the misuse of Facebook, in particular in places where it is hugely popular but has no on-the-ground presence. There is still no Facebook office in Ukraine.”
-- Czechoslovakia’s communist intelligence service (StB) carried out a long-term spying mission against Trump in the late 1980s. The Guardian’s Luke Harding reports: “New archive records obtained by the Guardian and the Czech magazine Respekt show the StB’s growing interest in Trump after the 1988 US presidential election, won by George HW Bush. The StB’s first directorate responsible for foreign espionage sought to ‘deepen’ its Trump-related activity. A former StB official, Vlastimil Daněk[,] … confirmed the Trump operation. Addressing the matter publicly for the first time, he said: ‘Trump was of course a very interesting person for us. He was a businessman, he had a lot of contacts, even in US politics. We were focusing on him, we knew he was influential. We had information that he wanted to be president in future.’”
-- If Democrats regain control of the House and launch a string of investigations into the Trump administration, it could interfere with Bob Mueller’s probe. Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn reports: “House Democratic aides have been meeting informally in recent months to discuss ways to do their jobs while avoiding stepping on Mueller’s toes in 2019, even toying with the idea of calling the special counsel in for a private bipartisan briefing. … Potential conflicts could come on many fronts. For starters, Democrats will be eager to see Mueller’s findings and hard-pressed to give him space if he’s not finished yet. If Mueller’s Justice Department supervisors resist making the special counsel’s work public, a clash could emerge. Perhaps most potentially disruptive: Democrats could cause Mueller problems if they start granting immunity to witnesses whom the special counsel still wants to question or prosecute.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that European allies have offered no alternatives for how to confront Russia’s violation of an arms control treaty after Trump announced the United States planned to withdraw from the pact. Paul Sonne reports: “Mattis said he asked European allies for ideas at a North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting in Belgium earlier this month, about two weeks before [Trump] announced that the United States planned to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or the INF Treaty. During his consultations with allies, Mattis said, he reiterated his position that the status quo — with Russia violating the treaty and the United States abiding by it — was unsustainable and wouldn’t last. He asked the other 28 nations in the alliance to offer suggestions about what the United States could do other than pull out of the treaty. ‘I said, ‘We need to know if you have any ideas,’ ‘ Mattis recounted in comments on a trip from Bahrain to the Czech Republic. ‘So far we have not been able to find any.’”
-- Mattis also said he received assurances from Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister that the kingdom would conduct a full investigation into the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Sonne reports: “Mattis met Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir over lunch Saturday at a security conference in Bahrain. Their discussion came after Mattis condemned Khashoggi’s killing during a speech at the event and warned that such extralegal behavior by nations risked destabilizing the Middle East. ‘We discussed it,’ Mattis said, recounting the conversation with Jubeir on Sunday while traveling to the Czech Republic. Their discussion, Mattis said, underscored ‘the need for transparency, a full and complete investigation.’ ‘He said, ‘We need to know what happened.’ It was very collaborative, in agreement,’ Mattis added.”
-- Some of the diplomats affected by the “health attacks” in Cuba and China fear their cases are being swept under the rug. NBC News’s Josh Lederman reports: “In internal State Department instructions reviewed by NBC News, workers in Cuba and China were told not to discuss what they knew with the public, with reporters or on social media. … More recently, they've started to voice concerns among themselves that despite its ‘medical confirmation’ that a worker in China was affected, the Trump administration may be backtracking. … [T]he State Department, in explaining why it's not setting up a review board to assess the response in Cuba, [said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo] didn't believe there was enough information to prove that [the China case] was ‘related to a U.S. government mission abroad.’”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Former presidents mourned for the lives lost in Pittsburgh:
We grieve for the Americans murdered in Pittsburgh. All of us have to fight the rise of anti-Semitism and hateful rhetoric against those who look, love, or pray differently. And we have to stop making it so easy for those who want to harm the innocent to get their hands on a gun.— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 27, 2018
I mourn those murdered at the Tree of Life Synagogue and pray for the wounded. We must all send an unequivocal message that the violence and hatred that has been unleashed and fanned across America will not be tolerated. It won’t end until we stop it.— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) October 28, 2018
A conservative commentator noted this of the migrant caravan:
So, America, perhaps the greatest danger we face is not a caravan 1000 miles away.— Charlie Sykes (@SykesCharlie) October 27, 2018
Maybe it’s already here.
From a Post editor:
From a former federal prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst:
One more thing: the fact that I even hesitated to write the tweet below because I’m nervous about revealing myself to be Jewish in the US in 2018 is absolutely horrifying. And exactly why I decided to tweet it. Must stand up to this hate. https://t.co/Inhaw7wF89— Mimi Rocah (@Mimirocah1) October 28, 2018
From a New York Times reporter:
On May 3, 1942, my grandmother’s sister, Gerda, her husband Heinz and their infant son Denny were taken by Nazis from their home in Breslau, Germany to a concentration camp and killed for being Jewish. I’m thinking of them this morning as the same hate erupts in America. pic.twitter.com/atKFZW7kvS— Michael D. Shear (@shearm) October 28, 2018
A co-host of “The View” said this of security measures at places of worship:
Heartbreaking to see security standing outside places of worship. Should be the one place we can find peace, love, and feel safe in this crazy world. An attack on a synagogue is an attack on every single one of us and everything this country stands for.— Abby Huntsman (@HuntsmanAbby) October 28, 2018
Democratic activist Tom Steyer reacted to Trump's tweet calling him a “stumbling lunatic”:
.@realdonaldtrump just tweeted at me in his typical insulting style after watching @CNNsotu. It is unthinkable that in the midst of the horrible political violence our president would resort to name-calling instead of repairing the damage to the fabric of our country.— Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) October 28, 2018
Trump's press secretary accused The Post of exploitation as some of the president's critics accused him of contributing to the recent violence by creating a toxic political environment:
Is there any tragedy the Washington Post won’t exploit to attack President @realDonaldTrump? The evil act of anti-Semitism in Pittsburg was committed by a coward who hated President Trump because @POTUS is such an unapologetic defender of the Jewish community and state of Israel. https://t.co/0tCNpepC9k— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) October 28, 2018
A New York Times reporter responded:
To be clear, the Washington Post is not attacking the president. The president's critics are and the Post is writing about the conflict. That's what newspapers do. We don't just quote the people in power but the people who disagree with the people in power. @DavidNakamura— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) October 28, 2018
The No. 2 Senate Republican claimed Democrats were to blame for the political environment:
You could say Ds on defensive after encouraging the mob scene at the Kavanaugh hearings, and Booker, Waters, Holder, Clinton comments. No one should encourage violence. No one. Quit blaming only those you disagree with. Your bias is showing. https://t.co/NkF1iZQxPW— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) October 28, 2018
The editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight highlighted the unusually high number of competitive House races this year:
Not sure people realize how broad the House playing field is.— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) October 29, 2018
In our final forecast in 2014, the Deluxe version of our House model would have considered 44 seats to be competitive.
In 2016, it would have had 39 competitive seats.
This year, it shows *99* competitive races.
Also:— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) October 29, 2018
—The incumbency advantage is much smaller than it used to be, which hurts Ds in the Senate but expands the playing field in the House (this is a super overlooked factor)
—PA redistricting GOP incumbent scandals add another few seats to the list
A protest banner appeared at the World Series:
A presidential historian tweeted JFK's last words:
These are JFK’s last words, written for end of speech he planned to give at Austin, Texas, banquet on the evening of November 22, 1963: pic.twitter.com/rsF8aU5BYO— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) October 28, 2018
And the White House is decorated for Halloween:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- New Yorker, “Gavin Newsom, the Next Head of the California Resistance,” by Tad Friend: “In the civil war against [Trump], Newsom casts himself as Abe Lincoln. He says that California’s gubernatorial election will anoint ‘the next head of the resistance.’ Much of Newsom’s Twitter feed, which has 1.4 million followers, is devoted to calling out the President, disputing him on issues and labeling him ‘a small, scared bully’ and ‘a pathetic disgrace.’ On the stump, Newsom points out that the ‘nation-state’ of California is larger than a hundred and thirty-seven countries and has the fifth-largest economy on the planet. ‘The world is looking to us for leadership,’ he often says.”
-- Politico, “9 hours of ‘Executive Time’: Trump’s unstructured days define his presidency,” by Eliana Johnson and Daniel Lippman: “Trump had about three times as much free time planned for last Tuesday as work time, according to his private schedule. The president was slated for more than nine hours of ‘Executive Time,’ a euphemism for the unstructured time Trump spends tweeting, phoning friends and watching television. Official meetings, policy briefings and public appearances — traditionally the daily work of being president — consumed just over three hours of his day. … [W]hile the notion of Executive Time, and the president’s increasingly late start to the day, has come under scrutiny over the last year, this new batch of schedules … offers fresh insight into the extent to which that unscheduled time dominates Trump’s week and is shaping his presidency, allowing his whims and momentary interests to drive White House business.”
-- BuzzFeed News, “No One Really Knows What Americans Think About Abortion,” by Ema O'Connor: “BuzzFeed News analyzed 14 polls on the public’s opinion on abortion from the past four years conducted by a range of nonpartisan, advocacy, and media organizations, and spoke with researchers and representatives from eight of those groups. All of the researchers and most of the polls agreed: The public’s opinion on abortion is much less binary and significantly more complex than the national conversation about abortion makes it seem, and that accurately polling on abortion is particularly tricky. … There are many reasons for this, researchers told BuzzFeed News, but three in particular: the intense emotional and political charge of the subject, the extreme knowledge gap surrounding the issue, and the lack of clarity on how opinions on abortion affect voting behavior.”
-- NPR, “A Rural Community Decided To Treat Its Opioid Problem Like A Natural Disaster,” by Anna Boiko-Weyrauch: “Snohomish County in Western Washington is taking a unique approach to tackle the problem. Last year leaders declared the opioid epidemic a life-threatening emergency. The county is now responding to the drug crisis as if it were a natural disaster, the same way they'd mobilize to respond to a landslide or flu pandemic. … Now, the response to the opioid epidemic is run out of a special emergency operations center, … where representatives from across local government meet every two weeks, including people in charge of everything from firetrucks to the dump.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Will Ferrell Seen Knocking On Doors In Georgia While Campaigning For Stacey Abrams,” from HuffPost: “Some Georgia voters got a surprise last week when they opened their doors to find comedian Will Ferrell campaign for the state’s Democratic candidates. The ‘Anchorman’ actor went door to door to encourage citizens of the Peach State to vote for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams in the midterm elections while also recruiting college students to volunteer for her campaign. A video posted on Stacey Abrams’ Facebook page Friday shows Ferrell handing out stickers for her campaign at Kennesaw State University. ‘We’re gonna win by knocking on doors,’ Ferrell can be heard telling students in the video. ‘All the doors.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Kanye West designed T-shirts urging black people to bail on Democrats,” from Page Six: “Kanye West has designed T-shirts encouraging black people to exit — or ‘Blexit’ — the Democratic Party. West’s designs debuted Saturday at Turning Point USA’s Young Black Leadership Summit, a meeting of young black conservatives in Washington. West didn’t attend the conference, but was there ‘in spirit,’ according to TPUSA’s Communications Director Candace Owens. ‘Blexit is a renaissance and I am blessed to say that this logo, these colors, were created by my dear friend and fellow superhero Kanye West,’ said Owens, 29. She gushed that West ‘has taken one of the boldest steps in America to open a conversation we have needed to have.’”
Trump will receive his intelligence briefing. He has no other events on his public schedule.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“You may believe that the way to combat Trump is by being gentle and classy and kind and gracious. I do not believe that we can be gracious any longer … If we want a more inclusive, tolerant, merciful and loving America, then we must be willing to fight for it.” — Michael Avenatti. (Politico)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It will be a sunny, but cool day in the District. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Lots of sunshine today, but it will feel colder than it looks outside. Highs reach the mid-50s or so, but, with winds sustained at 10 to 20 mph and gusts to 25 to 30 mph, dress for highs in the 40s to near 50.”
-- The Redskins beat the Giants 20-13. (Les Carpenter)
-- The Wizards lost to the Clippers 136-104. (Candace Buckner)
-- Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has launched an aggressive digital advertising strategy in the final run-up to Election Day. Antonio Olivo reports: “The approach continues a shift toward digital political ads that gained traction during Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign — when he used Twitter to reach younger supporters — and shifted into high gear during the 2016 campaigns of [Trump] and Hillary Clinton, when Facebook became a major platform for political messaging. Kaine, who has outraised [Republican Corey] Stewart $21.7 million to $2.3 million while leading the Republican by nearly 20 points in some polls, has so far poured $1.6 million into digital messaging that relies heavily on personal details about voters. The campaign plans to spend an additional $500,000 on digital ads by Election Day.”
-- The bodies of two sisters from Fairfax County were discovered along the Hudson River in New York. Tom Jackman reports: “[P]olice said it had not been determined if they were victims of foul play. New York police said Rotana Farea, 22, and her 16-year-old sister Tala Farea, were discovered Wednesday afternoon near 68th Street and Riverside Drive on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Police said the two had been duct-taped together around their waists and feet. Their bodies were identified Friday.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
John Oliver tried to drive his viewers away to get them to research their local elections:
Medical personnel described how they responded to the Pittsburg shooting:
The Fact Checker called out Republicans who have mischaracterized their fact checks about health care:
And the Red Sox celebrated their World Series victory: