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At the White House

A TALE OF TWO CAMPAIGNS: With four days left before the midterms, Trump is hammering home his anti-immigration message that pushed him over the edge in 2016. Just this week, he proposed a spate of dramatic actions aimed at turning out the GOP base: sending 15,000 troops to the southern border, banning birthright citizenship unilaterally and yesterday saying he intends to issue an executive order to change the rules for those seeking asylum.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidates have stayed laser-focused on health care: 

  • The key quote: “'Democrats learned from 2016 that going all in against Donald Trump is a risky strategy, because his popularity varies widely depending on the district and depending on the state,' said Nathan Gonzales, editor of Inside Elections, a nonpartisan newsletter that tracks congressional races. 'But health care gives Democrats an opportunity to talk about individual Republican members’ records,'" report The Post's Erica Werner and Dave Weigel report on this laser sharp focus
  • Vulnerability --> Strength: As the Marquette pollster Charles Franklin told us, health care has turned into Democrats' No. 1 strength after being an longtime albatross for Democrats.
  • Health care is top of mind: In an October Washington Post/ ABC News poll, voters rated the economy and health care as the most important issues, with 82 percent of respondents saying each of them was either “very important” or “one of the single most important issues” influencing them. Immigration ranked further behind, with 70 percent of respondents saying the same. 
  • Among partisans, the numbers look different: 90 percent of Democrats compared to 76 percent of Republicans said health care was the single-most important, or a “very important” issue to them. Among Republicans, 75 percent chose immigration (compared to a not-too-shabby 72 percent of Democrats).
  • And: The most recent Post/ABC news poll showed a sharp partisan divide on immigration, especially: “With 84 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents saying the country should do more to prevent illegal immigration, compared with 23 percent of Democratic-leaning voters. Roughly half of independents say more should be done to deter illegal immigration.”

Those numbers explain why Trump has made a hard pivot to immigration in the campaign's waning days. They also don't fully measure Trump's most recent attempts to use the full force of the presidency to push a frightening message about a caravan of dangerous Central American migrants headed toward the U.S. border. 

Trump, simply put, is trying to change the terms of the election debate:

  • The key quote: “In the past week, as a series of pipe bombs sent to prominent opponents of the president and then the killing of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue dominated the news, the president’s political team has urged him to put renewed emphasis on it and use his bully pulpit to ratchet up the nation’s sense of alarm about the dangers of migrants heading for the border,” write Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfield Davis of the New York Times.
  • Immigration a 'wild card': Scott Clement and Dan Balz wrote that voters' concerns over illegal immigration could be a “wild card” as the race ends. “The president’s increased focus on immigration in the final days of the campaign may find some resonance with voters who will decide control of the House.”

Numbers, not narratives: Power Up asked The Post's polling gurus, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin, for a by-the-numbers look at how the dueling narratives are affecting voters. Here's some of the data Scott and Emily flagged for us: 

  • Who do voters trust? Our own Post/ABC poll found Democrats had a 16-point advantage in handling health care overall (52 to 36 percent). By contrast, Republicans had a narrow seven-point edge on handling the economy (47 to 40 percent).

  • Preexisting conditionsKaiser Family Foundation’s survey found voters trusted Democrats by more than two-to-one to enforce preexisting condition protections (58 to 26 percent).


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On The Hill

Missouri is a case study in 2018's dueling narratives. In a dead heat race, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) has been relentlessly concentrating on health care. Her opponent, Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), has slammed McCaskill for co-sponsoring a bill ending family separations at the border. “I'm against chain migration. I think that we need to secure the borders. Sending the 5,000 troops, I think, is absolutely necessary,” Hawley has said.

  • MAGA in Missouri: Trump went to this key swing state last night to rally for Hawley and doubled (or tripled?) down on “his efforts to take advantage of racial divisions and cultural fears in the final days of the midterm campaign, part of an overt attempt to rally white supporters to the polls,” The Post's Philip Rucker and Felicia Sonmez reported from Columbia.
  • The key quote: “If you don’t want America to be overrun by masses of illegal aliens and giant caravans, you better vote Republican,” Trump said at the rally.

Point: On the topic of immigration and caravans, McCaskill has diverged sharply from Democratic talking points, telling Fox News that Trump should “use every tool he has at his disposal” to halt the caravan of migrants traveling north to the United States and that “I 100 percent back him up on that.”

Counterpoint: Hawley has joined other Republicans in saying he supports protecting access to affordable health care for people with preexisting conditions, releasing an ad at the end of September with that argument while also sharing that his five-year-old son was diagnosed with a preexisting condition.

  • Doesn't add up: “In a newspaper column, Mr. Hawley proposed that the federal government pay expenses above $10,000 for people with pre-existing conditions. His plan included no details on how the government would raise the money to cover these costs,” the New York Times reported.
  • Truth:  Hawley is party to a Texas lawsuit that would entirely eliminate Obamacare, including it's protections for people with preexisting conditions, which the Affordable Care Act enacted to begin with.
  • And it’s not just Hawley: Republican candidates around the country have come out in favor of protecting people with preexisting conditions, despite most of them voting last summer to repeal and replace Obamacare. They're mainly responding to ceaseless attacks from Democrats on this issue. 
  • Fact Check: The Post’s Glenn Kessler points out that “a memo must have gone out to Republican lawmakers who voted for . . . the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare: If you are attacked for undermining protections for people with existing health problems, jab back by saying the claim got Four Pinocchios from The Washington Post.” 

And one GOPer, who has clashed with Trump and didn't run for reelection, is off-message: 

Outside the Beltway

CASH HAUL: The Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan (D-Wis.), raised $160 million this cycle compared to $51 million last cycle “in the face of unprecedented Democratic enthusiasm and fundraising,” according to a memo we obtained.

  • Background from a Republican strategist: In a cycle where Republican candidates are struggling to match record fundraising from Democratic challengers, CLF spending helped to close the gap, the strategist said.
  • Fall TV reservations: CLF spent $107 million out of the GOP's total $271 million on fall television ads vs. the Democrats' $339 million, the memo states.
  • Per the Wesleyan Media Project“Democratic candidates out-advertised Republican candidates in House races by nearly 2-1. Democratic party committees, combining independent and coordinated spending, also out-advertised their Republican counterparts.” 
  • How to win on Tuesday, per CLF's memo: “Republicans must continue working to turn out our voters and offer a choice. Democrats have publicly stated they are worried about turnout — if Republicans show up to vote next week, the Democrats’ focus on Republican-leaning districts will not work."

Global Power

NEW REVELATION IN KHASHOGGI CASE: Post reporters John Hudson, Souad Mekhennet and Carol D. Leonnig broke the news that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Jared Kushner and national security adviser John Bolton that slain Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a dangerous Islamist in a phone call days after Khashoggi's disappearance. Power Up talked Hudson about the story:

  • Allegations of hypocrisy: “The revelation that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince privately disparaged a journalist killed by Saudi agents while publicly lamenting his death exposed the 33-year-old de facto leader to allegations of double-dealing and hypocrisy.”
  • Know your audience: “The contents of the call also revealed how the crown prince thought he could appeal to the Trump administration’s deeply held pessimism of political Islam. Bolton, in particular, has been an outspoken critic of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist political and cultural movement that the national security adviser had previously lobbied to have designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. By calling Khashoggi a member of the Islamist group, the crown prince may have viewed that as a particularly effective smear.”
  • “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also has a history of attacking the group, though his views have become less hardened in recent years."

Khashoggi's fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, penned an op-ed for The Post that was also published in Der Spiegel, Le Monde and The Guardian: “The international community must bring my fiance’s killers to justice.”

  • The key quote: “It is now up to the international community to bring the perpetrators to justice. Of all nations, the United States should be leading the way."

In the Media


  1. The basics: Here's what to do if you get turned away at the polls via CNN 
  2. If you get lost: Find your polling place via the National Association of Secretaries of State
  3. What to tell your bossCan you take paid time off work to vote? It may depend where you live by Tim Ryan Williams via Vox
  4. Need a ride?: Free rides to the polls test the transit and turnout connection by Patrick Sisson via Curbed
  5. See who's trying to buy your voteWhere the money is going in the final push before Election Day by John Muyskens, Anu Narayanswamy, Shelly Tan and Monica Ulmanu via The Post