With Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA:
ROME, N.Y. — More television commercials have aired this fall in New York’s 22nd Congressional District than any other House race in the country, but they haven’t moved the needle at all. It’s an illustration of how much individual candidate quality still matters even in a nationalized political environment.
Two years ago, President Trump won this blue-collar district by 16 points after Mitt Romney carried it by less than half a percentage point in 2012. He remains popular, with a job approval rating in the mid-50s.
But a Siena College poll conducted at the end of August found Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi leading Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) by two points, which is within the margin of error. That survey was conducted shortly after a presidential visit to the district.
Between mid-September and mid-October, both parties spent almost $3 million to air 12,426 commercials in the district, according to the Wesleyan Media Project.
Another Siena poll conducted after that barrage showed Brindisi still ahead by one point, not a statistically significant change. Internal polling by both parties shows the race remains a toss-up.
“I’ve represented this area for the last seven years in the state assembly, and I was born and raised in this community, so when people see some of the lies being told on television, it’s hard for them to believe because they know it’s not my record,” Brindisi said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “People here are not talking about impeachment … but the enthusiasm level on our side is through the roof. I don’t think I’ve been asked once at a town hall meeting about Nancy Pelosi.”
-- Senior Democratic strategists say candidates like Brindisi have been an under-covered element of their strategy to win the majority. There are several moderate white men who have deep roots in their local communities that have positioned them well to pick off Republican-held districts, but they’ve gotten less national attention than minorities, females and military veterans who in many cases are poised to make history and tend to make for better copy. Others in this category include Paul Davis in Kansas, Ben McAdams in Utah and Brendan Kelly in Illinois.
-- In the neighboring 24th Congressional District to the west, which includes Syracuse, Trump lost by four points in 2016. Yet Democrat Dana Balter trails Rep. John Katko (R) by 14 points in the latest Siena poll. Brindisi, 39, was one of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s top recruits this cycle while Balter defeated the DCCC’s preferred candidate in the June primary. (That was overshadowed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset of Rep. Joe Crowley the same night.) The 42-year-old Balter is an unabashed progressive who decided to run last year after being involved with the anti-Trump protest movement. She moved to the area in the mid-2000s for graduate studies and then stayed to teach at Syracuse University.
-- The primary results set the stage for a fascinating tale of two districts. Brindisi is a stronger challenger, and Tenney is a weaker incumbent. Balter is a weaker challenger on paper, and Katko is a stronger incumbent. One of the questions going into next Tuesday is which matters more in 2018: Will midterm races like these be decided more by the candidates or the demographics of the districts? In an environment where races have become so nationalized, to what extent do voters return to their partisan corners as they make final decisions? It is still possible both Brindisi and Balter win — or lose — next Tuesday. It seems more probable, though, that a Democrat could win in a district Trump carried by 16 points but lose next door in a district he lost by four.
-- One ground truth of 2018 is that it’s much easier for incumbents in either party to defy the partisan lean of their district or state if they have a well enough established brand that predates Trump. West Virginians remember Sen. Joe Manchin (D) as a moderate governor, for example, which is partly why he’s favored to get reelected in a state Trump carried by 42 points.
Brindisi has never held statewide office, but he’s developed a strong local identity in Utica, which is at the heart of the district. He worked at McDonalds during high school and went to Mohawk Valley Community College before transferring to a four-year university. Then he ran for school board soon after his first child was born and two years later got elected to the legislature, where he was soon being recognized as a rising star.
-- On the campaign trail, Brindisi emphasizes his independent streak — including times in Albany that he broke with Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on education and economic development and examples of when he’s worked with his GOP counterpart in the state Senate to bring home the bacon for Utica. He’s pledged not to support Nancy Pelosi.
He’s also sought to localize the race as much as possible. Several of his ads highlight his fight against the unpopular local cable company when it raised rates.
Brindisi has eschewed surrogates from outside the district. While NRA President Oliver North, most famous for his role in the Iran-contra affair, stumped with Tenney on Monday, Brindisi rolled out an endorsement from the firefighter’s union. To bracket a high-dollar fundraiser the president hosted for his opponent in August during his visit to Central New York, Brindisi held a small-dollar event at a popular restaurant in Utica where supporters could chip in $10 for his campaign.
While GOP commercials say that a vote for him is really a vote for Pelosi, Brindisi’s ads highlight endorsements he’s received from Republicans. One features the Republican mayor of Frankfort praising him for bringing jobs to the city. The other stars a volunteer firefighter who credits Brindisi with getting him disability benefits.
-- Several local elected Republicans who have not endorsed Brindisi nonetheless like the guy and have kept their power dry as a result.
As you might guess, in a city called Rome, there is a massive Italian-American community. You might not know that bocce ball remains hugely popular locally. So popular, in fact, that Rome, N.Y., has been hosting the World Series of Bocce for 45 years now.
After Brindisi joined the state assembly in 2011, he entered a four-man team for the competition. “It wasn’t pretty,” he said. “We lost in the first round, and then we were out of it. Bocce is not as easy as it looks. You’ve got to really practice a lot of be good, and I didn’t practice.”
Every year since then, Brindisi has come by to shake hands and greet participants. The weekend event is a local homecoming of sorts every summer, where you can get $2 draft beers. As they waited to take the stage for the opening ceremony, Brindisi yukked it up with three elected Republicans: the mayor of Rome, the state senator who represents the area and Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente.
In addition to sharing the same first name, the conservative county executive has an uncanny resemblance to Brindisi, and people confuse the two all the time. Despite being in different parties, the two men have a good rapport. Picente, who has stayed neutral in the congressional race, told Brindisi that a man on the street had recently walked up to him and asked if he was running for U.S. Senate. “Congress actually,” the county executive replied, not telling the guy that he wasn’t actually Brindisi.
The candidate thought that was hilarious. “Sometimes the Democrats accuse me of being a Republican,” Brindisi joked.
“Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t really make a difference to us locally,” said Jacqueline Izzo, the GOP mayor of Rome. “We’re more interested in the people and what we can accomplish. We’re a united front when it comes to fighting for the area.”
-- Brindisi treads carefully around Trump. “I think he still maintains pretty strong popularity in this region, and I’ve said all along my goal when I get to Washington will be to try to find areas that I can work with the president,” he said yesterday, citing infrastructure and prescription drug prices as examples. “But people in this area are not looking for a rubber stamp of any agenda, and they want their representatives to fight for this community as opposed to always being in lockstep with the administration.”
In contrast, Balter doesn’t hesitate to hit Trump. “Trump is not particularly popular here, and people are frustrated with him as always and angry that John Katko doesn’t stand up to him,” she said in an interview last night. “Donald Trump is doing a yeoman’s job of trying to distract us from [pocketbook] issues, but we can’t take the bait. We have to talk about the things that are happening that are putting residents at risk.”
-- Balter has turned out to be a much stronger candidate than national Democrats initially feared when she won the primary. She’s raised a good amount of money, and her progressive bona fides — especially in a college town — have motivated a grass-roots army of more than 1,200 volunteers. She’s also gotten establishment support. Yesterday she campaigned with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 in Democratic leadership. “Everything is going as well as we could possibly want,” Balter said.
Some in the consultant class have complained that Balter focuses excessively on national issues, such as special counsel Bob Mueller’s probe, which do not move persuadable voters. But she pushes back that people want to make sure there’s a check on the president, and that many see a culture of corruption in Washington. “To me, the issue isn’t national vs. local,” Balter said. “It’s understanding that the national issues have local impacts, and that’s why people care about them.
“In terms of how long I’ve been here, it means something to people that I am here because I chose to be here,” she added. “I chose to make it home because I love it here, I love the history, and I love everything about central New York. I am running for Congress because I want to do everything I can to make this a better place for all of us.”
Balter argued there’s no way that the only recent public poll of the race is accurate. She correctly observed that, if she was actually down double digits, outside Republican groups would not still be pouring in money and launching fresh attack ads against her this week. “It’s the same polling outfit that had me 13 points down two weeks before I won by 25 in the primary,” she said.
-- Candidates matter on both sides: Tenney is gaffe prone while Katko has been disciplined and on message. Tenney attracted widespread criticism in February for saying after the shooting in Parkland, Fla., that Democrats are more prone to be mass shooters. “It's interesting that so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats,” she told a local radio station. “But the media doesn't talk about that.”
In a March radio interview, Tenney blamed the “deep state” for Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson acquiring a $31,000 dining set bought for his office.
On another call-in show last month, the congresswoman said: “Any dairy farmer that supports my opponent is not a legitimate business owner.”
Last week, she referred to Colgate University, her alma mater, as “a left-wing crazy school.”
Tenney declined an interview request for this story.
-- Tenney was elected in 2016 to replace Republican Rep. Richard Hanna. Tenney had challenged Hanna from his right in a 2014 primary, attacking him among other things over his support for same-sex marriage, and he beat her by seven points. Hanna retired in 2016 to avoid another primary challenge. He said his internal polling showed he could have won a three-way race as an independent.
Hanna has endorsed Brindisi. “She declared herself all things Trump before Trump. She’s unabashed, unqualified and unreserved in her support of him,” said Hanna, an outspoken Never Trumper, in an interview yesterday. “In 1519, Cortez’s Navy was invading Mexico and he said burn the ships. That’s Claudia. She’s burning the ships. She’s all in for Trump in every imaginable way. … She’s had almost every member of the Trump family up here. The guy doesn’t own a dog, so she didn’t have that. But everything else.”
Meanwhile, Hanna also endorsed his former GOP colleague Katko. “If I had to pick 10 people that I think could actually get things done and work across the aisle in the House, Katko would be one,” he said.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The latest Post-Schar School poll of battleground districts found Democrats are in a strong position to regain control of the House. Scott Clement and Dan Balz report: “Across 69 congressional districts identified by the Cook Political Report and The Post as competitive in late August, the Post-Schar School poll finds 50 percent of likely voters support the Democratic candidate, while 46 percent support the Republican. The Democrats’ four-point edge represents a superficial advantage with Republicans, given the poll’s 3.5-point margin of error. Still, the finding marks a sharp turn from 2016, when voters in these districts backed Republicans by a margin of 15 percentage points. With 63 of the battleground districts held by Republicans, that kind of shift in sentiment would be sufficient for Democrats to take control of the House. … [But] the dynamics of individual districts and uncertainties about turnout make for a wide range in the potential number of seats Democrats will gain Tuesday.”
GET SMART FAST:
New research suggests that global warming has advanced far more than previously believed. The oceans have taken in 60 percent more heat each year over the past quarter-century than scientists realized, according to a new study. (Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis)
Trump has agreed to hand over portions of his old calendars in the defamation case brought by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos. The calendars will cover November 2007 through February 2008. Zervos claims Trump forcibly kissed and groped her in December 2007. (Elise Viebeck)
The Justice Department has instructed Catholic dioceses across the country to retain records related to abuse within the church. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, received a letter saying DOJ “is investigating possible violations of federal law.” (Michelle Boorstein)
The Trump administration is allowing Wisconsin to charge Medicaid recipients more if they engage in risky behavior. Those who qualify for Medicaid will be asked to disclose activities like drinking and exercise on a health-risks questionnaire, but federal officials rejected Wisconsin’s request to impose drug tests on applicants. (Amy Goldstein)
Indonesian authorities believe divers have discovered the “black box” from the Lion Air flight that crashed shortly after takeoff from Jakarta. Officials hope the flight data recorder will provide crucial clues about how the almost-new plane mysteriously crashed in good weather. (Ainur Rohmah, Stanley Widianto and Shibani Mahtani)
Turkish prosecutors said Saudi agents quickly strangled and then dismembered journalist Jamal Khashoggi shortly after he entered the Istanbul consulate. Authorities in Turkey are pursuing a theory that Khashoggi’s body was destroyed in acid on the consulate grounds or nearby. (Kareem Fahim, Tamer El-Ghobashy and Louisa Loveluck)
A Human Rights Watch report asserts North Korean women are often subjected to sexual abuse by government officials. “When an official in a position of power ‘picks’ a woman she has no choice but to comply with any demands he makes, whether for sex, money, or other favors,” the report said. (Min Joo Kim)
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case centered on class-action settlements in which class members receive no money. In what are known as “cy pres” awards, the lawyers bringing the lawsuit receive some money, and the remainder is given to organizations and charities while those who say they were wronged get nothing. (Robert Barnes)
A North Carolina woman was charged with involuntary manslaughter and driving on a closed highway in the death of her toddler during Hurricane Florence. Dazia Lee told The Post she tried to rescue her son, 1-year-old Kaiden Lee-Welch, but lost her grip on him in the floodwaters. The Union County Sheriff’s Office said the situation justified filing charges, but the NAACP accused the cops of “implicit bias, insensitivity and even racism.” (Tara Bahrampour)
Hall of Fame slugger Willie McCovey died at 80. McCovey played in the MLB for 22 years, 19 of which were spent with the San Francisco Giants. (Des Bieler)
TRUMP’S CLOSING ARGUMENT:
-- Continuing to fire up his base in the final days before the midterms, Trump said he may send up to 15,000 troops to the southern border in response to the migrant caravans (which are not yet close to the border). Paul Sonne and Missy Ryan report: “‘We’ll go up to anywhere between 10 and 15,000 military personnel on top of Border Control, ICE and everybody else at the border,’ Trump said ... ‘Nobody’s coming in. We’re not allowing people to come in.’ … If the deployment reaches 15,000 troops, it would be roughly equivalent to the size of the U.S. military’s presence in Afghanistan and three times the size of the presence in Iraq. Already, the deployment is believed to be the largest of its kind in more than a century.”
-- Trump said at a Florida rally last night that Republican congressional majorities would allow him to enact his immigration agenda, including ending birthright citizenship. Philip Rucker reports: “The president spoke at length about birthright citizenship, which he called ‘this crazy policy’ that he said allowed ‘hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrant children’ born on U.S. soil to automatically become U.S. citizens and therefore eligible for every privilege and benefit of citizenship. … ‘We’re getting prepared for the caravan, folks,’ Trump said. … He called the migrants ‘the opposition,’ but added, ‘We’re tougher than anybody.’ Trump then suggested that border agents might imprison migrants seeking asylum. ‘They’re not going to be released,’ the president said. ‘It’s called catch, but we take the word ‘release’ out. We’re not going to be releasing them.’ The crowd cheered.”
-- Trump’s singular focus on immigration has scrambled many campaigns’ strategies in the final days before Nov. 6. Seung Min Kim reports: “Trump’s legally questionable call to revoke birthright citizenship through a unilateral executive order has drawn ... rejections from House Republicans in competitive reelection contests, such as Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) and Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.). … On the Democratic side, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), a moderate running for reelection in a conservative state, appeared to leave the door open to legislation that would end birthright citizenship … In an interview with Fox News on Monday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) urged Trump to ‘use every tool he has at his disposal’ to halt the caravan of migrants traveling north to the United States, adding, ‘I 100 percent back him up on that.’”
-- The blame game: On Twitter, Trump continued to lay the groundwork for blaming congressional leaders if the GOP loses the House. He lashed out against Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who stated what most legal scholars believe: The president cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order. “Paul Ryan should be focusing on holding the Majority rather than giving his opinions on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about!” Trump tweeted. “Our new Republican Majority will work on this, Closing the Immigration Loopholes and Securing our Border!” (Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner)
-- An ad that Trump promoted on his Twitter page links Democrats to Luis Bracamontes, a Mexican immigrant who was given the death penalty for killing two Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies in 2014. Allyson Chiu reports: “At the time of the shooting, Bracamontes was in the U.S. illegally … ‘Illegal immigrant, Luis Bracamontes, killed our people!’ reads text on the 53-second video, which is littered with audible expletives. ‘Democrats let him into our country . . . Democrats let him stay.’ … Trump and Republicans were criticized for ‘fearmongering,’ and the ad has been decried as ‘racist,’ with many likening it to the infamous ‘Willie Horton’ ads supporting George H.W. Bush in the 1988 presidential election. Only the video shared by Trump, critics say, is ‘far worse.’”
-- Trump’s critics accuse him of using the official term “national emergency” to stoke fear among his supporters. David Nakamura reports: “Aiming his ire at [the caravan], Trump vowed he was ‘bringing out the military for a National Emergency.’ … But Trump has filed no legal proclamation declaring a national crisis as required under a 1976 law enacted to rein in abuses of executive power by granting presidents additional authorities only in specific instances and for a limited time frame. For Trump, the caravan is an emergency merely because he said so.”
-- Trump and House GOP leaders said they will not try to pursue a middle-class tax cut until next year, contradicting what the president has said repeatedly. Damian Paletta reports: “‘We are committed to delivering an additional 10 percent tax cut to middle-class workers across the country,’ Trump and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in [a] joint statement. ‘And we intend to take swift action on this legislation at the start’ of the new Congress next year. Trump said last week that he would pursue a 10 percent tax cut and deliver some sort of resolution this week, though he gave no further details about how that would happen.”
-- The narrative: On the campaign trail, Trump has offered voters “a litany of misleading statements and falsehoods that exaggerate even legitimate accomplishments and distort opponents’ views beyond the typical bounds of political spin,” the New York Times’s Peter Baker and Linda Qiu report. “In the past couple of weeks alone, the president has spoken of riots that have not happened, claimed deals that have not been reached, cited jobs that have not been created and spun dark conspiracies that have no apparent basis in reality. He has pulled figures seemingly out of thin air, rewritten history and contradicted his own past comments. … [E]ven some in Mr. Trump’s orbit acknowledge that this campaign season has brought out a torrent of untruths that, they worry, distracts from a record he should be proud to outline factually.”
MORE ON THE MIDTERMS:
-- Record turnout: Early and absentee voting numbers in at least 17 states have already surpassed the total number of such ballots cast in 2014. Amy Gardner reports: “In some cases, early and absentee vote totals are on track to double since four years ago. The numbers are so high in some states that early voting may exceed total vote counts — including Election Day tallies — from four years ago. The heightened participation reflects in part a surge of interest among Democrats … But data from several battleground states with marquee Senate or governor’s races show Republicans are also very engaged — as much as they were four years ago — suggesting many hard-fought races could be even closer than surveys are predicting.”
-- A new round of Fox News polls shows the Senate races in Indiana, Arizona and Missouri remain toss-ups, while Republicans have pulled ahead in North Dakota and Tennessee. Fox News’s Dana Blanton reports: “Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally tie at 46 percent apiece among Arizona likely voters. … Incumbent Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly bests Republican challenger Mike Braun by seven points among Indiana likely voters, 45-38 percent. His lead is at the poll’s margin of error. … Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill and her Republican challenger Josh Hawley tie at 43 percent apiece. … Republican Marsha Blackburn is pulling away from Democrat Phil Bredesen in the race to fill retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker’s seat. She is preferred 50-41 percent over the former governor among Tennessee likely voters. … Democratic incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp trails Republican Kevin Cramer by nine points.”
-- Headed for a photo finish: A Marquette University Law School poll found a tied Wisconsin governor’s race. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Bill Glauber reports: “With [the poll] showing Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democrat Tony Evers tied at 47 percent each among likely voters, the stage is now set for a frenetic closing sprint ... ‘Well, it couldn't be any closer,’ Marquette poll director Charles Franklin said. ‘We had exactly the same number of respondents picking each side.’ … In the race for U.S. Senate, Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin led Republican challenger Leah Vukmir by 54 percent to 43 percent.”
-- Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) was criticized for how he phrased his praise for his staff members who are people of color. “Our state director is Indian American, but he does an amazing job. Our director of all constituent services, she's African American. But she does an even more incredible job than you could ever imagine. It isn't the race or religion, it's the incredible person that they are,” Donnelly said during a debate. Politico’s Burgess Everett reports: “The National Republican Senatorial Committee said Donnelly's comments are ‘exactly the type of gaffe he couldn’t afford to make a week out from Election Day.’ A low-key lawmaker not prone to making spontaneous comments, Donnelly said his phrasing was a mistake and attacked Braun for supporting a lawsuit to scuttle Obamacare. ‘I misspoke. I meant to say 'and' instead of 'but.'’”
-- Two other vulnerable Senate Democrats — Claire McCaskill and Jon Tester — took swipes at Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), which could point to trouble for her eventual 2020 bid. The Boston Globe’s Liz Goodwin reports: “The comments from the two red-state lawmakers ahead of Election Day also illustrate how the Massachusetts senator has become something of a political pinata for moderate Democrats trying to show their independence from the liberal resistance wing of the party. … McCaskill pointed the finger at her colleague Monday when asked to identify the ‘crazy Democrats’ she had referred to in a radio ad as politicians she had little in common with. … [Tester] took a swipe at Warren’s recent DNA test that showed evidence she had a distant Native American ancestor.”
-- The activities of Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley’s out-of-state political consultants shortly after he became Missouri attorney general may raise legal concerns. Lindsay Wise, Jason Hancock and Steve Vockrodt report for the Kansas City Star: “[W]ithin weeks of Hawley’s swearing in as the state’s top law enforcement official, the high-powered political team that would go on to run his U.S. Senate campaign had stepped in to help direct the office of the Missouri attorney general — and raise his national profile. Hawley’s out-of-state political consultants gave direct guidance and tasks to his taxpayer-funded staff, and followed up to ensure the tasks were completed, according to emails, text messages and other records … The campaign-led strategy sessions, which began in January 2017, raised legal and ethical concerns at the time among some of Hawley’s employees, who worried about mixing politics with public business.”
-- New Jersey Democrats are scrambling to save Bob Menendez’s Senate seat in the reliably blue state. The New York Times’s Nick Corasaniti and Jonathan Martin report: “In New Jersey, many of the suburbanites who are backing Democratic House candidates from Republican-leaning areas are still uneasy about embracing Mr. Menendez after his 2017 federal corruption trial, which ended in a mistrial. And these voters have been reminded of that case most every day by a monthslong, $30 million ad campaign financed by Bob Hugin, a wealthy former pharmaceutical executive who is Mr. Menendez’s Republican opponent. … New Jersey’s leading Democrats … are pleading for voters to rally behind Mr. Menendez. … And most remarkably, Senate Majority PAC, a principal Democratic super PAC, has spent about $7 million on commercials in the expensive New York and Philadelphia television markets[.]”
-- Campaign staffers for Democratic congressional candidate Abigail Spanberger confronted a volunteer working undercover for the conservative group Project Veritas. Laura Vozzella reports: “The campaign said a young woman working for Project Veritas posed as a Democratic volunteer and spent every day over the past several weeks in Spanberger’s suburban Richmond campaign office, performing basic office tasks — and peppering her office mates with questions that eventually raised red flags. Campaign staffers on Wednesday confronted her and asked her to leave, a video released by the campaign shows. … James O’Keefe, founder of New York-based Project Veritas, suggested that the undercover work had borne fruit but also lamented that it was cut short by the ouster of the mole, whom the Spanberger campaign identified as Marisa Jorge.”
-- A Democratic congressional candidate in Ohio dismissed some of his staffers after one was accused of infiltrating his opponent’s campaign. Mike DeBonis reports: “Aftab Pureval, who is running against GOP Rep. Steve Chabot in Ohio’s 1st Congressional District, announced Wednesday that he had dismissed an unspecified number of campaign workers and accepted the resignation of his campaign manager, citing ‘new information’ indicating that the staffers did not meet ‘the highest standards of professionalism and accountability.’ … The Ohio Republican Party accused a Pureval staffer of posing as a volunteer on Chabot’s campaign, where he got access to a Republican voter database.”
-- Richard Ojeda, a Democratic congressional candidate in West Virginia who gained national attention after he put his cellphone number in a campaign ad, appears to be in a tight race in a district where Trump won 73 percent of the vote. Greg Jaffe reports: “Ojeda is being hailed as an unpolished, authentic voice. His sudden rise is reminiscent of [Trump] … Now his coffers were full. In the most recent quarter, he raised $1.4 million in campaign donations. The [DCCC] was sending consultants to southern West Virginia to help with more professional looking campaign ads and media buys. The money and attention were helping Ojeda to blast out his pro-union, anti-establishment message. But [Madalin] Sammons, a key aide, worried the scripted ads and outside consultants were making Ojeda sound too much like a conventional politician.”
-- Liberal groups are pushing House Democrats to make a government-overhaul bill their first priority if they regain the majority. Mike DeBonis reports: “The effort has gotten at least tentative backing from top House Democratic leaders. … But the demand from outside groups — including influential organizations such as the Service Employees International Union, Planned Parenthood, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights — who have signed a ‘Declaration for American Democracy’ stands to make an overhaul bill a top priority, even as Democratic candidates campaign mainly on preserving affordable health care and Social Security. The groups are calling for legislation that expands voting-rights protections, tightens campaign finance laws and cracks down on government ethics in Washington.”
-- The House Freedom Caucus expects that, even if Republicans lose control of the chamber, it will be able to grow its ranks. Roll Call’s Lindsey McPherson reports: “The House Freedom Caucus … is expecting to increase its roster of 35 members to somewhere in the 37-to-40 range, based on the number of incumbent and recruited candidates they predict could lose Tuesday. While a gain of two to five members is not much at face value, the House Republican Conference will most likely be a lot smaller in the next Congress. … So the more seats Republicans lose in the midterms, the larger the Freedom Caucus will be as a percentage of the conference.”
-- Some of Barack Obama’s supporters wonder if the idealism he continues to espouse is the wrong fit for Democratic candidates in the Trump era. The New York Times’s Astead W. Herndon reports: “Mr. Obama remains the top Democratic surrogate in the country, and he will be lending his star power to some of the most closely watched Democratic candidates during the campaign’s final week … But the election of Mr. Trump has tested the former president’s theory of measured change, his advisers acknowledge. … The divide could be a preview of future fights among liberals.”
-- A little-known Democratic group called the Hub Project is on track to spend nearly $30 million on House races. The New York Times’s Alexander Burns reports: “With that money, the Hub Project — in an initiative run by a former Obama administration official and public relations specialist, Leslie Dach, and Arkadi Gerney, a former political strategist for the liberal Center for American Progress — set up an array of affiliate groups around the country, many with vaguely sympathetic names like Keep Iowa Healthy, New Jersey for a Better Future and North Carolinians for a Fair Economy. The Hub Project then used them to mobilize volunteers and run advertising on policy issues against Republican members of Congress many months before the election. More than a dozen of the targeted lawmakers remain among the most endangered incumbents this year[.]”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- U.S. archivists released a report used by Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski that could provide a “road map” for Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “The release of the referral — delivered in 1974 as impeachment proceedings were being weighed — came after a former member of Nixon’s defense team and three prominent legal analysts filed separate lawsuits seeking its unsealing after more than four decades under grand jury secrecy rules. The legal analysts argued the report could offer a precedent and guide for [Mueller] as his office addresses its present-day challenge on whether, and if so, how to make public findings from its investigation …
“Jaworski faced a problem similar to one that may confront Mueller: He had relevant evidence but not, Jaworski concluded, the constitutional authority to indict a sitting president. Congress had the authority to impeach Nixon, but not the evidence. In the end, the House committee sought access to evidence gathered by prosecutors, the grand jury adopted the road map, and [then-Chief Judge John J. Sirica, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia] and the [court] authorized its transmittal under seal.”
-- The Senate Intelligence Committee is probing Steve Bannon’s activities during the 2016 campaign. Reuters’s Mark Hosenball reports: “The committee is looking into what Bannon might know about any contacts during the campaign between Moscow and two advisers to the campaign, George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, [sources] said. … The panel also will examine Bannon’s role with Cambridge Analytica, a former data analysis company that the Trump campaign hired to help identify and target messages to potentially sympathetic voters, the sources said. The Senate committee is working with Bannon’s advisers to set a date for him to be interviewed by staff investigators in late November, two of the sources said.”
-- Far-right conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, who has ties to Trump ally Roger Stone, has become a central figure in Mueller’s investigation. ABC News’s Ali Dukakis reports: “Mueller’s interest in Corsi is believed to stem from his alleged early discussions about efforts to unearth then-candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails. The special counsel has evidence that suggests Corsi may have had advance knowledge that the email account of Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, had been hacked and that WikiLeaks had obtained a trove of damning emails from it, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter [said].”
-- Synagogue shooting suspect Robert Bowers was charged in a 44-count indictment accusing him of federal hate crimes. Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett and Mark Berman report: “The indictment charges Bowers, a truck driver, with killing 11 people, and for each of those victims he faces separate counts of obstruction of free exercise of religion resulting in death and of using a firearm to commit murder during a crime of violence. He also faces charges of attempting to kill people exercising their religious beliefs and civil rights charges related to injuring several police officers who responded to the attack. The charges carry a possible death sentence, and the Justice Department has said previously that federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh had initiated the process to seek such a punishment.”
-- Trump was criticized for focusing on himself in tweets about his visit to Pittsburgh. Felicia Sonmez reports: “‘Melania and I were treated very nicely yesterday in Pittsburgh,’ Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. ‘The Office of the President was shown great respect on a very sad & solemn day. We were treated so warmly. Small protest was not seen by us, staged far away. The Fake News stories were just the opposite-Disgraceful!’ The ‘small’ protest he referenced was actually made up of about 2,000 people. Trump followed up with another tweet later Wednesday in which he urged voters to back Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Pa.) in next week’s midterm elections because of the ‘inspiring’ compassion he showed for victims of the shooting.”
-- Trump likely did not see the protest of thousands while he was in Pittsburgh. Avi Selk and Kyle Swenson report: “Police wouldn’t allow the march to come near the synagogue, and Trump’s motorcade took a different route when it departed for a hospital, where the president visited police officers wounded in the shooting. Of the small, impromptu crowds Trump would have seen along the way, a few even cheered him.”
-- Federal prosecutors accused mail-bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc of committing “a domestic terrorist attack” and running Web searches for his alleged targets’ home addresses. Matt Zapotosky reports: “Prosecutors also revealed that investigators seized a laptop from Sayoc’s van that contained a list of addresses matching those on the packages prosecutors say he mailed … Federal prosecutors wrote that the Internet search history on Sayoc’s phone shows he searched ‘hilary Clinton hime address’ on July 15 and ‘address Debbie wauserman Shultz’ on July 26. Each of the packages listed Shultz — a likely misspelling of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) — in the return address. He searched throughout September and October for the addresses of others — including Obama, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and major Democratic donor Tom Steyer, prosecutors alleged in the filing.”
-- Researchers say many of the people who commit hate crimes believe they are protecting their race and culture. Terrence McCoy reports: “Over the past several decades, academic researchers have charted how hate crimes, which have been rising overall, have increasingly gone from sadistic quests to inflict pain on members of minority groups to violence used as an angry defense against rapid social and demographic changes. The perpetrators of this share of hate crimes are largely white men who hold the belief, exacerbated by rhetoric in politics and media, that they are protecting their culture, race and an endangered way of life that has historically — and, in their view, rightly — placed them at the top. Some belong to white-supremacist groups, but many don’t.”
-- A program that fights domestic terrorism will likely not be renewed by the Trump administration. NBC News’s Laura Strickler reports: “The Obama administration launched the Countering Violent Extremism Grant Program in 2016 to fight domestic terrorism. Managed by [DHS], the program was given $10 million to distribute. … But weeks after [Trump] took office, the funding was put on hold. When the funds were finally distributed six months later, most of the original grant recipients received the money awarded them under Obama, with some receiving even bigger grants. At least four grants were canceled, however[.]”
-- Some DHS veterans say combating “violent white supremacy” is not a priority at the agency. The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff and Spencer Ackerman report: “Five veterans of [DHS said] that DHS, created in the wake of al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks, has long considered far-right radicalism to be the FBI’s purview. But the FBI has competing priorities. Four bureau veterans interviewed by The Daily Beast gave a range of responses, spanning from either considering it important but less so than fighting jihadist terror to, in the words of one retiree, ‘the lowest priority.’”
-- The Anti-Defamation League is calling for Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) to be formally censured for his alleged anti-Semitism. Felicia Sonmez reports: “In [a letter to Paul Ryan], Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation League’s chief executive and national director, described ‘an extraordinarily disturbing series of involvements and statements by [King] that are anti-Semitic and offensive not just to the Jewish community, but to all Americans.’ Greenblatt said King’s behavior had ‘brought dishonor onto the House of Representatives’ and called for Ryan to condemn the lawmaker’s actions, formally discipline him and strip him of his position as chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution and civil justice.”
-- King said he received a supportive phone call from Cruz. Bloomberg News’s Sahil Kapur reports: “King co-chaired Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign in Iowa, the key early caucus state, which the Texan won. Cruz campaign spokeswoman Catherine Frazier called the conversation ‘a personal call, and Senator Cruz told him the same thing he said to reporters today,’ she said. Cruz was quoted by the Dallas Morning News as calling King’s remarks ‘disappointing’ and divisive but he didn’t condemn the congressman. Todd Gillman, the Washington bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News, said on Twitter that Cruz … did not respond when asked about the phone call on Wednesday night.”
-- King’s Democratic opponent, J.D. Scholten, refrained from calling him a “racist” or a “white nationalist.” “I don’t get into name-calling,” he said. “I’m absolutely disgusted with a lot of what he stands for, but I didn’t run for Congress to call him anything. It’s not my place to do it. I’ll let the voters decide on what’s appropriate and not appropriate. I’m not the one who defines what a racist is.” (Isaac Stanley-Becker)
-- Fringe conspiracy theories about billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who received a mail bomb, have moved into the mainstream. The New York Times’s Kenneth P. Vogel, Scott Shane and Patrick Kingsley report: “On both sides of the Atlantic, a loose network of activists and political figures on the right have spent years seeking to cast Mr. Soros not just as a well-heeled political opponent but also as the personification of all they detest. Employing barely coded anti-Semitism, they have built a warped portrayal of him as the mastermind of a ‘globalist’ movement, a left-wing radical who would undermine the established order and a proponent of diluting the white, Christian nature of their societies through immigration. In the process, they have pushed their version of Mr. Soros, 88, from the dark corners of the internet and talk radio to the very center of the political debate.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Former Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reacted to Trump's tweets about him opposing birthright citizenship:
The communications director of Organizing for Action, the successor to Obama's presidential campaign, criticized Trump's response to a question about the migrant caravan:
just to refresh our memories, this was literally the conspiracy theory that apparently drove an anti-Semite to massacre 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday. https://t.co/Jf8ZQLBUOd— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) October 31, 2018
A Post reporter reacted to Trump's tweet about being treated “very nicely” in Pittsburgh:
The point of the trip was supposed to be Trump showing respect to Pittsburgh, not the reverse https://t.co/fkqVD2I6On— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) October 31, 2018
From another Post reporter:
One religious community expressed solidarity with another, per a Post reporter:
I just saw an email to Sikh congregations across US, encouraging members to attend Shabbat services this week. "After Oak Creek, the Jewish community resoundingly stood by Sikh Americans, & this time we encourage our whole community to stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters."— Julie Zauzmer (@JulieZauzmer) October 31, 2018
A former official for the Senate Republicans' campaign arm commented on the House Freedom Caucus's expected expansion:
HFC suddenly becomes a much bigger slice of a diminished conference pie. No matter what, House GOP will be distilled down in a way the moves the center of gravity to the right. https://t.co/OUCQegNfSg— Liam Donovan (@LPDonovan) October 31, 2018
A CBS News reporter highlighted the rarity of former presidents campaigning in the midterms:
It's pretty unusual for presidents to actively campaign in the first midterm after they leave office. So unusual that the last example I could find was Teddy Roosevelt in 1910. https://t.co/LE5QWRLgxn— Grace Segers (@Grace_Segers) October 31, 2018
An Ohio gubernatorial candidate cast a ballot for himself:
Dinesh D'Souza got the chance to vote after Trump pardoned his felony conviction for illegal campaign contributions:
The Dodgers congratulated the Red Sox on winning the World Series:
FiveThirtyEight ranked the best Halloween candy:
A House Republican gave out some unique Halloween treats:
Happy Halloween. Accordingly, Pocket Constitutions are at the ready for today’s trick-or-treaters. pic.twitter.com/hnQTfeCPHy— Mark Sanford (@RepSanfordSC) October 31, 2018
A Democratic senator stayed on message for the holiday:
Candy corn is disgusting and they are trying to take away your healthcare.— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) October 31, 2018
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) once again tweeted a letter from the Zodiac killer:
An Atlantic writer, who wrote a profile of Heidi Cruz, noted this:
Heidi Cruz told me they have to try and shield the Zodiac Killer stuff from their oldest daughter, because she might get skeptical and start, like, seriously grilling her dad about where he was on different nights in the early 70s.— Elaina Plott (@elainaplott) October 31, 2018
And the little girl who made headlines earlier this year after she was photographed looking up in awe at the portrait of Michelle Obama dressed as the former first lady for Halloween:
(The dress was made specifically for Parker Curry by a woman who first offered to design it after Curry went viral in March.)
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- New York Times, “How the War in Yemen Became a Bloody Stalemate — and the Worst Humanitarian Crisis in the World,” by Robert F. Worth and Lynsey Addario: “Dahyan, a town in the far northwest of Yemen, is a farming settlement about two hours’ drive from the Saudi border. On its dusty, unpaved main street, a large crater is still visible near a fruit-and-vegetable stand, marked out by flimsy wooden stakes and red traffic tape. It was here that a laser-guided bomb dropped by a Saudi jet struck a school bus taking students on a field trip on the morning of Aug. 9, killing 44 children and 10 adults. … The bomb that hit the bus, several local people told me, bore markings showing it was made in the United States. The site has now become something of a shrine. On a brick wall a few yards from the crater, large painted letters in both English and Arabic proclaim, ‘America Kills Yemeni Children.’”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Veteran featured in GOP congressman's midterm election ad posted racist rants and violent threats on Facebook,” from the Los Angeles Times: “On the home page of his campaign website, Rep. Steve Knight of Palmdale has posted a television ad showing a veteran praising the Republican congressman for helping him get a lung transplant. It turns out that veteran, David Brayton of Santa Clarita, has posted dozens of racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim comments on Facebook. Brayton, 64, has also promoted violence against journalists he sees as hostile to [Trump] and called on citizen militias to turn their weapons on left-wing protesters. Brayton’s Facebook pages illustrate how Trump’s incendiary rhetoric has resonated with his most radical followers.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Fox News tops CNN and MSNBC combined in October cable news ratings,” from The Hill: “Fox News topped MSNBC and CNN combined in the cable news ratings race for the month of October, according to Nielsen Media Research. Overall, Fox averaged 2.8 million total viewers in prime time, up 25 percent from October 2017. MSNBC placed second in the category, with 1.58 million viewers, while CNN finished third, with 931,000 viewers, during the time period. In the key 25- to 54-year-old demographic advertisers covet most, CNN fared better than MSNBC, averaging 290,000 viewers to 281,000. Fox News won that category with 540,000 viewers. … Overall, MSNBC finished fourth in basic cable behind Fox News, TBS and ESPN.”
Trump will receive a briefing on election integrity and later travel to a campaign rally in Columbia, Mo.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Well, I try. I do try ... and I always want to tell the truth. When I can, I tell the truth. And sometimes it turns out to be where something happens that’s different or there’s a change, but I always like to be truthful.” — Trump. (ABC News)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- D.C. will enjoy temperatures in the 70s today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “A mild start to the morning should translate to a perfectly warm afternoon, with highs in the mid-70s. South winds are gentle and the only concern is clouds, which should stay scattered in the morning and then increase during the afternoon.”
-- Reversing its initial decision announced only a day earlier, the University of Maryland fired football coach DJ Durkin. Rick Maese and Nick Anderson report: “In a letter to the university community, Wallace D. Loh, the president of the College Park campus, announced the decision, which directly defies a recommendation made by the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents on Tuesday afternoon. … A person familiar with the situation said Durkin was not fired for cause and that the school intends to buy him out of his contract. Durkin was in the third year of a five-year deal and is owed roughly $5.5 million.”
-- The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance dismissed a campaign finance complaint brought against Mayor Muriel Bowser (D). Fenit Nirappil reports: “The government watchdog group Public Citizen alleged the mayor’s Oct. 14 rally was an illegal in-kind contribution to the candidates she endorsed and asked the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance to investigate. But the agency said Public Citizen presented insufficient proof and dismissed the complaint in an order issued Wednesday.”
-- Two high school students discovered a 6,000-year-old stone ax at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. (Michael E. Ruane)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert had a good laugh about the failed plot to frame Bob Mueller:
Samantha Bee dove into the “greatest hits” of Rep. Steve King:
Some Republican ads on health care sound eerily like Obama's 2008 ads:
The Post's Phil Rucker and Dan Balz considered how social media has changed the presidency:
Boston threw its parade for the World Series-winning Red Sox:
And a ferry trying to dock in Barcelona hit a crane, sparking a fire: