THE BIG IDEA:
— The Louisiana governor’s race is becoming a referendum on David Vitter, not Barack Obama, and that’s a race that Vitter can’t win.
With the runoff just 11 days away, public polls put the Republican senator down anywhere from 11 points to 20 points. Early voting has already started.
Now under heavy fire on TV for his participation in a prostitution ring, something he admitted only elliptically to in 2007, Vitter is up today with a television ad that shows him sitting with his wife and kids around a kitchen table.
“Fifteen years ago, I failed my family but found forgiveness and love,” the senior senator says to camera. “I learned that our falls aren’t what define us, but rather how we get up, accept responsibility and earn redemption. Now Louisiana has fallen on hard times … And as your governor, I’ll get up every day to fight for you.” Watch:
This comes in response to Democrat John Bel Edwards going on the air over the weekend with the most provocative attack ad of the year. A female narrator notes that Edwards served as an Army Ranger in the 82nd Airborne Division before noting that Vitter missed a 2001 House vote honoring 28 slain soldiers at roughly the same time that he took a call on his cell phone from the D.C. Madam. “David Vitter chose prostitutes over patriots,” a female narrator says. “Now the choice is yours.” Watch:
Vitter got just 23 percent in last month’s jungle primary. [In Louisiana, all the candidates square off on the same ballot and then the top two finishers face each other in a runoff a few weeks later.] Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, one of Vitter’s opponents, endorsed the Democrat last week. The other Republican in the race, Scott Angelle, has refused to endorse Vitter and kept a low profile.
Funny: The initial title for the Vitter ad was “Hard Times.” After getting mocked on social media because of the connotations, the campaign changed it on YouTube to “Difficult Times.”
Can Vitter overcome this? Did the hooker attack go too far? Vitter is underwater, viewed more unfavorably than favorably. The redemption play is part of a broader strategy to increase his positives. He needs to get more Republicans to like him in order to win. Comparing the ad to Jack Conway’s Aqua Buddha spot against Rand Paul, Republicans call it desperate. Democrats say you can’t rest on your lead in a red state like Louisiana and argue that there’s a lot of questions Vitter has still never answered about the scandal.
To be sure, Vitter has a clear path to victory in the deep-red Pelican State, which hasn’t elected a Democrat statewide since 2008. The president remains toxically unpopular in the state (his approval rating is in the low 30s). While Edwards acknowledges voting for Obama, it’s a much harder sell to tie him to Obama than it was with Mary Landrieu in last year’s Senate race.
One reason Landrieu got crushed so badly last year was that her bottom fell out with whites, especially pro-life Catholics. Exit polls showed that one in five white voters supported her reelection. Edwards, who opposes abortion rights, has been faring well among these voters in the polls. About a third of the electorate could be African-American, which gives Democrats a natural base to build from.
Outgoing Gov. Bobby Jindal is not popular back home, which in theory makes him a drag on Vitter, but it is widely known inside the state just how much the two guys despise each other. That makes it hard for Dems to link them.
We should still be a little bit cautious about handicapping. The polls were wrong ahead of last week’s off-year election in Kentucky. Not a single survey showed Republican Matt Bevin in the lead, yet he won by 9 points. Larry Sabato’s outfit, the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, moved the contest yesterday from Leans Republican to Toss-Up. Louisiana State University plays Ole Miss, on the road, at 3:30 the Saturday of the runoff, which could dampen turnout.
A debate tonight could be pivotal. Edwards and Vitter will go at each other mano a mano for the first time. “I believe the gloves will be off,” Edwards told the New Orleans Advocate. “It will be entertaining for a lot of folks.” You can watch a livestream of the 7 p.m. Central/8 p.m. Eastern debate here.
If Vitter loses next week, there is buzz among Republicans in Louisiana and Washington that he would NOT run for reelection to the Senate in 2016. A loss in the gubernatorial contest would open him up to a serious GOP challenger, and it would be much harder to hit up the donors who have spent this year funding his campaign. Vitter only had $26,216 in his federal campaign account at the end of September.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— A federal appeals court ruled last night against President Obama’s executive order to shield roughly 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation. The U.S. Appeals Court for the 5th Circuit of New Orleans blocked implementation of Obama’s action to allow children who entered the U.S. illegally to stay, and to permit immigrant parents of U.S. citizens to apply for work permits. Immigration advocates hope the administration will appeal quickly to the Supreme Court, in time for a June ruling. (David Nakamura)
–Ben Carson remains the most popular candidate among Republicans, despite persistent questions about his statements, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll reveals this morning. Seventy-one percent of Republicans view Carson favorably, as do 50 percent of Americans. He’s followed by Donald Trump, who posted a 68 percent favorability rating among GOPers. But Carson’s edge is in how intensely he is liked by GOP voters — 39 percent have a “strongly favorably” view of him compared to 26 percent for Trump. The poll was conducted last Wednesday through Sunday, meaning it didn’t capture the tail end of the furor surrounding Carson’s biography. Marco Rubio is the only other GOP candidate not underwater with all Americans in terms of how much they like him — 41 to 37 percent. See the toplines here.
— Jeb Bush rolling out a list of more than 100 Texas endorsements: Among those on the leadership team that the campaign is unveiling this morning are energy billionaire T. Boone Pickens and Dallas developer Ross Perot Jr. On the elected side: Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth, Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas and state House Speaker Joe Straus. Recall that Jeb’s son, George P., was elected Land Commissioner last year and his brother, George W., was a two-term governor. The Bush name clearly still commands some degree of loyalty. See the full list here. Watch a pre-debate web video here.
— Coincidentally, Donald Trump announced last night that Katrina Pierson, who unsuccessfully challenged Sessions in a GOP primary last year, will be his new national spokeswoman.
GET SMART FAST:
- The NSA’s bulk collection of phone records was halted three weeks before it was set to expire after a federal district court judge ruled that it is most likely unconstitutional. (Spencer S. Hsu)
- The University of Missouri’s president resigned and the school’s chancellor will step down at the end of the year in response to allegations that administrators failed to address issues of racism on campus. The football team’s threat to boycott the rest of its season forced the move. (Susan Svrluga)
- The U.S. high school dropout rate has fallen from 1 million students in 2008 to about 750,000 in 2012. (Emma Brown)
- Chipotle will reopen dozens of locations in the Pacific Northwest after no E.coli bacteria was found in any of the Mexican restaurants thought to be the source of the outbreak that made 40 people ill. (Oregonian)
- University of Virginia’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity filed a $25 million lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine over its discredited and retracted story about a gang rape at its house. (T. Rees Shapiro)
- Russian athletes allegedly used a government-sponsored doping program to improve their results in competition. Some of the country’s performances in the 2012 London Olympics are being called into question. (Dave Sheinin and Will Hobson)
- Two American government contractors were among five killed by a Jordanian police officer who opened fire at a U.S.-backed training center in Amman. (Taylor Luck and William Booth)
- A 12-member team of House Democrats, after a 10-month review of potential reforms to help revitalize their caucus, decided not to recommend term limits for committee chairs or other changes to the seniority system, largely because such moves would take power away from the Congressional Black Caucus. (Paul Kane)
- The Supreme Court ruled that a Texas police officer cannot be held liable for fatally shooting a fleeing suspect in a high-speed chase, even though the officer’s supervisor ordered him not to shoot. (Robert Barnes)
- A California state senator introduced legislation to eliminate statutes of limitation for rape cases. (Los Angeles Times)
- The Navy launched another test missile from a submarine off the coast of Southern California, two days after the first missile launch resulted in UFO conspiracy theories. (LAT)
- Comcast told 200,000 of its customers to reset their account passwords after the cable giant discovered the subscribers’ information was being sold on the black market. (USA Today)
- SeaWorld is ending its theatrical killer whale show and will replace it with one focused on the animal’s natural behavior. (San Diego Union-Tribune)
- The amount of carbon dioxide in the world’s air is now 43 percent higher than pre-industrial levels. (Joby Warrick)
POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:
- President Obama will not make special accommodations to allow convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard to travel back to Israel after he is released next week from prison. (Karen DeYoung)
- Lindsey Graham’s first TV ad, running in New Hampshire, stars John McCain saying that the South Carolina senator is the only candidate “prepared to be a commander-in-chief.” (Watch)
- Scott Walker teamed up with Jeb Bush at an event in Waukesha to tout school choice and met privately with Marco Rubio on the sidelines of a fundraiser. The Wisconsin governor said he has no current plans to endorse. (Ed O’Keefe)
- Donald Trump floated the idea of boycotting Starbucks because of frustration among some social conservatives that the coffee chain’s holiday-themed cups lack snowflakes and overt Christmas-themed images. (AP)
- Rep. Mo Brooks endorsed Ted Cruz and will chair his campaign in Alabama.
- George Pataki and Jim Gilmore missed the filing deadlines to appear on the Alabama and Arkansas ballots, a sign that they’re not actually running real campaigns.
Finally, Chris Christie used his veto power to block a string of bills passed by the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature, offending the NAACP, the ACLU and the casino industry all in the same day:
- He vetoed a gun-control bill, which Gabby Giffords lobbied for, designed to prevent convicted domestic abusers from possessing firearms. (Star-Ledger)
- He vetoed a bill allowing early voting and automatically registering people to vote when applying for a driver’s license (“motor voter”) or other forms of state ID. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
- He rejected an Atlantic City aid package, which would have allowed casinos to suspend $210 million in property taxes. (WSJ)
A Quinnipiac poll out this morning shows Christie snags just 8 percent among New Jersey Republicans in the presidential horserace, placing him 4th among GOP presidential contenders. (Trump leads the pack). And by a 28-point margin, Jersey voters overall want their governor to drop out of the presidential contest.
— THE FOURTH GOP DEBATE IS TONIGHT – The undercard is at 7 p.m. (and lasts one hour) and the main debate starts at 9 p.m. (and lasts two hours). Quick debate preview—
Do facts still matter? Will candidates get away with just making stuff up again? Raising the curtain on tonight’s debate in Milwaukee, Jenna Johnson and David A. Fahrenthold note that the outsider candidates are copying Donald Trump in shamelessly and constantly fibbing. “As Trump has become the defining character of this Republican presidential primary contest, the race itself has seemed to take on elements of his personality — in particular, his aggressive, seemingly shameless rejection of the idea that he has ever been wrong. The influence is especially strong in Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson, the two other political outsiders, who have risen in Trump’s slipstream. All three will be onstage Tuesday evening for the fourth televised GOP debate. As with Trump, some of these outsiders’ most memorable debate moments have come when they uttered statements that turned out to be exaggerated or untrue. And, like Trump, they have played to a distrustful electorate by criticizing the fact-checkers and refusing to acknowledge that any facts were wrong.” The story has some great examples.
Coming attractions – The New York Times reports that Bush allies, including the super PAC, are threatening to go nuclear on Rubio. Shockingly, one of the issues they might attack him on is abortion. “The cash-rich group aiding Jeb Bush’s White House run has filmed a provocative video casting his rival Rubio as ultimately unelectable because of his hard-line stand against abortion,” Maggie Haberman and Michael Barbaro report. “That group, which has raised more than $100 million, has asked voters in New Hampshire how they feel about Mr. Rubio’s skipping important votes in the Senate. And the group’s chief strategist has boasted of his willingness to spend as much as $20 million to damage Rubio’s reputation and halt his sudden ascent in the polls, according to three people told of the claim. Seething with anger and alarmed over Rubio’s rise, aides to Bush and his allies are privately threatening a wave of scathing attacks on his former protégé in the coming weeks, in a sign of just how anxious they have become about the state of Bush’s candidacy.”
Rubio campaign manager Terry Sullivan quickly capitalized on the story by e-mailing their fundraising list:
Roberts leaves his mark – “Chief Justice favors some when assigning court’s major decisions,” by Robert Barnes: “John Roberts is a stickler for evenly distributing the workload of the Supreme Court, but he plays favorites among his eight colleagues when assigning the court’s most important decisions. Not surprisingly, Roberts calls his own number more than anyone else’s and assigns the second-highest number to Anthony Kennedy, the pivotal justice on the ideologically divided court, according to a new study by Harvard law professor Richard J. Lazarus. On the other hand, Roberts has never assigned Sonia Sotomayor the court’s opinion in a major case in her six terms on the court, Lazarus found, an omission that he wrote ‘could be a bit portentous.’ In looking broadly at the chief justice’s 10 years on the job, Lazarus found that Roberts hesitates in assigning big decisions to the court’s most conservative and liberal members — Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas on the right, and Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the left.”
— “Obama and Netanyahu stress ‘shared interests’ at White House meeting,” by Steven Mufson and Ruth Eglash: “President Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu met at the White House on Monday, and each said to the other what he most wanted to hear: Netanyahu declared that he still believes in a two-state road to peace, and Obama declared that he remains devoted to Israel’s security and nailing down a new military aid package. In a meeting that lasted just over two hours, the two sought to move beyond their rhetorical combat earlier in the year over the Iran nuclear deal. This was the 16th meeting between the two leaders since Obama became president, and it was their first conversation since July, when Obama called Netanyahu to announce the Iran nuclear deal hours after Netanyahu had called it a ‘mistake of historic proportions.’”
— “Kentucky’s newly insured worry about their health under next governor,” by Amy Goldstein: “It was in Pikeville, Kentucky that Mindy Fleming handed a wad of tissues to Tiffany Coleman when she arrived, sleepless and frantic, with no health insurance and a daughter suffering a 103-degree fever and mysterious pain. An hour later, Coleman had a WellCare card that paid for hospital tests, which found that 4-year-old Alexsis had an unusual bladder problem. Such one-by-one life changes are the ground-level stakes ushered in by the election last week of businessman Matt Bevin as Kentucky’s next governor. The second Republican elected to the office in 48 years, he wrapped his campaign around a pledge to dismantle Kynect, the state’s response to the federal health-care law. If he follows through, the Bluegrass State would go from being perhaps the nation’s premier ACA success story to the first to undo the law’s results, razing a state insurance exchange and reversing its considerable expansion of Medicaid.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ
Curated by Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck)
— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Trump and Carson have dominated the chatter in the two weeks since the CNBC debate. Carson has struggled at times under the media klieg lights, while Trump has lost some of the media interest that he had during the summer. And then there’s Ted Cruz, who continues to be at the back of the pack when it comes to mentions on television by the mainstream media but remains very strong on social media. Among all GOP presidential candidates, Cruz had just 6 percent of total broadcast mentions but 12 percent of social media mentions. The relative social media strength belies Cruz’s outside popularity with the grassroots. His challenge will be turning that online enthusiasm into votes.
–Pictures of the day:
Jeb! posted this photo of a to-do list from his Iowa field office:
Hillary Clinton supporters packed the halls of the New Hampshire state capitol in Concord as she filed to get on the state’s primary ballot:
Rick Santorum is apparently sick ahead of tonight’s GOP debate. “If Michael Jordan can have his NBA Finals Flu Game, then I can have my Laryngitis Presidential Debate,” he tweeted:
Donald Trump attracted a huge crowd for a rally in Springfield, Ill.:
–Tweets of the day:
Not a joke. The Huffington Post asked Jeb: Would you kill Hitler if you could go back in time and murder him as a child? Prudently, the ex-governor noted that there might be a lot of unintended consequences by going back in time to alter history. But he said the answer is still yes.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) called for “healing” at the University of Missouri after President Tim Wolfe’s resignation:
Mizzou Student Body President Payton Head praised his fellow students for their activism:
Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) celebrated his 30th wedding anniversary:
–Instagrams of the day:
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) joined a music class at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes, Del.:
Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) shared this photo from a duck blind in St. Charles:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— New York Times, “Cuban peers dispute Ted Cruz’s father’s story of fighting for Castro,” by Jason Horowitz: “Ted Cruz has said, all he wanted to do was ‘fight for liberty’ — a yearning that he says was first kindled when he heard his father’s tales of fighting as a rebel leader in Cuba in the 1950s, throwing firebombs, running guns and surviving torture. … The elder Mr. Cruz, 76, recalls a vivid moment at a watershed 1956 battle in Santiago de Cuba, when he was with a hero of the revolution, Frank País, just hours before he was killed in combat. In fact, Mr. País was killed seven months later and in a different place and manner. In interviews, Rafael Cruz’s former comrades and friends disputed his description of his role in the Cuban resistance. He was a teenager who wrote on walls and marched in the streets, they said — not a rebel leader running guns or blowing up buildings.”
— New York Times, “Classified report on the CIA’s secret prisons is caught in limbo,” By Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo: ”A Senate security officer stepped out of the December chill last year and delivered envelopes marked ‘Top Secret’ to the Pentagon, the C.I.A., the State Department and the Justice Department. Inside each packet was a disc containing a 6,700-page classified report on the C.I.A.’s secret prison program and a letter from Dianne Feinstein, urging officials to read the report. Today, those discs sit untouched in vaults across Washington, still in their original envelopes. The F.B.I. has not retrieved a copy held for it in the Justice Department’s safe. … Nearly a year after the Senate released a declassified 500-page summary of the report, the fate of the entire document remains in limbo … the Justice Department has prohibited officials from the government agencies that possess it from even opening the report.” They don’t want it to become a FOIA-able record…
— Wall Street Journal, “China’s soft power exposed: More than a dozen U.S. radio stations turn out to be Beijing mouthpieces,” by L. Gordon Crovitz: “American radio listeners might have been surprised last year to hear a news account explaining how pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong ‘failed without the support of the people of Hong Kong.’ In fact, a large percentage of local residents joined the demonstrations until they were forcibly suppressed under orders from Beijing. Listeners would have been less surprised if the stations had disclosed that the communist government in Beijing controls their content. More than a dozen stations across the U.S. are among a total of 33 globally that operate covertly, with Beijing hiding behind front men. Last week it came to light that Beijing’s state-run China Radio International secretly owns 60% of a U.S. company, G&E Studio, which leases stations and airtime in Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco, among other cities. … The U.S. government apparently didn’t suspect a thing, but the FCC and Justice Department have both now opened investigations.”
— Politico, “FBI steps up interviews in Clinton email probe,” by Rachael Bade: “The FBI’s recent moves suggest that its inquiry could have evolved from the preliminary fact-finding stage that the agency launches when it receives a credible referral, according to former FBI and DOJ officials … the FBI around early October requested documents from a company involved in the server arrangement after Clinton left State. It also interviewed a former high-ranking policy official at State about the contents of top Clinton aides’ emails … Confirmation of the interview and document requests is the first public indication that the agency is moving ahead with its inquiry – and possibly expanding it.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
Ted Cruz: An atheist ‘isn’t fit to be’ president. From the Huffington Post: Cruz said that he believes anyone who wants to be president must fear God and pray daily. Speaking at the National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa, Cruz spoke about the persecution of Christians in the U.S. and around the world: “Any president who doesn’t begin every day on his knees isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief of this country.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
Group: Christians face Middle East purge within a decade. From Fox News: “The dwindling Christian population of the Middle East could vanish completely within a decade unless the global community intervenes, say alarmed aid groups who note that followers of the Bible are being killed, driven from their land or forced to renounce their faith at an unprecedented pace … ‘It’s an answer that depends on the response of the world,’ [said] Edward Clancy, director of outreach for the United Kingdom-based Aid to the Church in Need. ‘What response is there going to be toward us if we act?'”
–What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Fox Business Network and the Wall Street Journal host the Republican primary debate in Milwaukee. The undercard is at 7 p.m. Eastern and the main event is at 9 p.m. Watch the livestream on FoxBusiness.com. Hillary Clinton campaigns in Derry and Hanover, N.H. Bernie Sanders joines a contract workers strike outside the Capitol.
–On the Hill: The Senate meets at 10 a.m. to resume work on H.R. 2029, the military construction and VA appropriations bill. Later, the chamber is expected to deliver a veto-proof majority on the amended National Defense Authorization Act. The House is in recess. The Republican governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, and the Democratic Governor of Delaware, Jack Markell are appearing at an event at the Mayflower from 10 a.m. to noon today to call on all the presidential candidates to make elevating the teaching profession the most important education priority in 2016. The governors are helping to launching a new national campaign called TeachStrong, an effort in early primary states and general election swing states to bring together teachers unions and education reformers.
–At the White House: President Obama meets with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. Vice President Biden delivers remarks at an “It’s On Us” anti-domestic violence event at Clemson University in South Carolina. Later, Biden holds an “It’s On Us” roundtable with students from Morehouse College and Spelman College in Atlanta.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Pal, you ain’t seen nothing yet.” — Mike Huckabee mocks Ben Carson for complaining that he’s being scrutinized unfairly
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— Heavier rains are likely to be off to our east today, but light showers will hang with us in the District for much of the day. “Veterans Day is a Yankee Doodle dandy with a breeze that keeps the flags aflutter but temps are warm enough to keep it pleasant,” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts. “Light showers on Thursday are much quicker to get out of our hair. The only drenching this weekend is from the sunshine. The trade off is cooler temps, but perfectly fall-like.”
ABC 7 meteorologist Alex Liggitt is the bearer of some bad news:
— Metro’s new series of rail cars has design flaws, including loose seats and inadequate door bolts, causing the $2 billion project to be delayed by more than three months. (Paul Duggan)
— Virginia wasted $21 million in 2014 on Medicaid benefits for people who no longer qualified, and even allowed people with no income to receive money without trouble. (Laura Vozzella)
— Parking tickets and traffic fines accounted for between 13 and 16 percent of D.C.’s total general fund between 2005 and 2014. (Perry Stein)
— This might make you cry –> “Expecting van of 16, pastor got horrific call,” by Matt Zapotosky, Lynh Bui and Arelis R. Hernandez: “The pastor opened his Bible, preparing to preach to the two dozen faithful on hand. His cellphone rang. And before he had a chance to speak, he had to listen — to someone from the local children’s hospital telling him that some of his missing congregants were arriving for medical attention. The worshipers traveling by church van from Georgia Avenue in the District would not make it. A pickup truck had slammed into the van carrying 16 to the Sunday evening service. The crash exploded into fiery wreckage about four miles from the church on Kenilworth Avenue in Prince George’s County. Four died, and 13 were injured, including a woman who was eight months pregnant and lost the fetus. ‘It was worse than anything I could’ve thought,’ said Santos Jimenez, pastor of the Iglesia Ministerio de Dios Unidos. ‘I’m not a man who cries. I’m strong. But I haven’t stopped.’”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
A Democratic candidate for governor of West Virginia got pulled over by a police officer for going 54 in a 40 zone. During the ensuing back-and-forth, he called the cop a “total lunatic.” Then he says, “I want you to explain it to your boss.” Read the story from the Charleston Gazette-Mail here. Watch the 90-second dashcam video from 2014:
The Senate Republican Conference produced a video of GOP senators who served in uniform thanking other veterans for their service ahead of Veterans Day. Included are Arizona’s John McCain, Kansas’ Pat Roberts, Georgia’s Johnny Isakson, Idaho’s Mike Enzi, Alaska’s Dan Sullivan, Arkansas’ Tom Cotton and Iowa’s Joni Ernst:
Video of President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu in front of the cameras in the Oval Office:
Trump spoke with press right after his SNL performance (“I loved it,” he told a TMZ camera man of the dancing):
Just how close is the 2016 election? Not close, BuzzFeed argues: