With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
We have fresh data this morning from the new POLITICO-Morning Consult poll that shows the national political landscape shifting more firmly toward the Republican Party.
Twenty days out from Election Day, voters are overwhelmingly focused on the economy and inflation, Republicans are more trusted to handle those issues, and crime beats out abortion as a second-tier issue. In our poll, as in others, the GOP has also gained on the congressional ballot test.
The poll confirms the dramatic shift from the late summer, when the Dobbs decision and declining gas prices strengthened Democrats in races across the country, to today, when the midterms seem to be returning to a more typical referendum on the incumbent president in which the party out of power makes substantial gains.
Two big issues seem to be driving the reversal:
— On abortion, ever since the Kansas referendum defeating an abortion ban, Republicans in tough races have abandoned or downplayed hardline stances and refocused attention on attacking their Democratic opponents as extreme. Neutralizing abortion has allowed many Republicans to raise the salience of crime and immigration. We saw this dynamic repeatedly in the big Senate and gubernatorial debates this week in Georgia, Ohio, Florida, and elsewhere. The White House has noticed how the Dobbs effect has faded. On Tuesday, JOE BIDEN announced that his first bill to Congress next year would be one codifying Roe.
— On the economy, recent data have continued to show that the Fed and the Biden administration have been unsuccessful in taming inflation, while their policy moves have stoked fears of an impending recession. And while gas prices, a daily real-world guage of inflation for many voters, have fallen modestly in recent days, they remain up since mid-September. Biden’s approval rating has been in near-perfect inverse sync with fluctuations in gas prices. (There’s a minus-0.80 correlation coefficient, according to the Washington Post’s Philip Bump.)
The POLITICO-Morning Consult poll shows:
— The economy and inflation are the top issues for voters. 81% say the economy will play a “major role” in their vote choice, and 80% say inflation.
— The other issues we tested track with a playing field tilting toward the GOP. 64% of voters cited crime as a “major issue,” while 59% cited abortion, 57% cited gun policy and 55% cited immigration.
— Voters are more likely to trust Republicans in Congress on the economy. Forty-six percent trust Republicans more vs. 39% for Democrats.
— A majority (61%) of voters believe inflation in the U.S. economy is getting worse.
— Republicans have gained on the congressional ballot since last week. The Democratic advantage shifted from 46%-42% to 45%-44%.
Toplines … Crosstabs
NEW ELECTION FORECAST: RACES TILT TOWARD GOP — Steve Shepard, our senior campaigns and elections editor, has just posted his latest election forecast, and ten of 12 races that have changed are moving toward Republicans. Some highlights:
— Out west, two deep blue districts are now tossups: CA-13, which Biden won by 11 points, and OR-6, which Biden won by 14 points. Republicans now have a chance to flip three of Oregon’s six seats.
— Florida continues to slip away from Democrats: “Four House races are moving toward Republicans, driven by two main factors: Gov. RON DeSANTIS’ strength at the top of the ticket, and the GOP’s continued improvement among Latino voters,” Steve writes.
— Democrats are abandoning two races they had targeted: Republican candidate DERRICK VAN ORDEN, who participated in the Jan. 6, 2021, march on the Capitol, is now likely to represent western Wisconsin. In Arizona, the Dems have given up on defeating Rep. DAVID SCHWEIKERT (R-Ariz.), who represents a district Biden won in 2020.
— Governorships in Massachusetts and Maryland are poised to flip to the Dems: “Both governor’s races are moving from ‘Likely Democratic’ to ‘Solid Democratic,’ as [DONALD] TRUMP-endorsed GOP nominees aren’t mounting credible campaigns,” says Steve.
— Alaska remains a bright spot for Democrats. “[T]he state’s lone House seat is now rated ‘Lean Democratic’ after now-Rep. MARY PELTOLA’s surprise special-election victory this summer,” according to the new forecast.
Good Wednesday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
STATE OF OUR DEMOCRACY — A new AP/NORC poll out this morning finds only a modest rebound in Americans’ faith in the election system since 2020: “Only about half of Americans have high confidence that votes in the upcoming midterm elections will be counted accurately … though that’s an improvement from about 4 in 10 saying that just before the 2020 presidential election. Just 9% of U.S. adults think democracy is working “extremely” or “very well,” while 52% say it’s not working well.” Sixty-eight percent of Republicans say our democracy is not working well versus 40% of Democrats, a reversal from two years ago when 32% of Republicans and 63% of Democrats felt that way.
LATER TODAY — Trump is set to be deposed at Mar-a-Lago in the defamation lawsuit filed by former magazine columnist E. JEAN CARROLL. More from CNN
WELCOME HOME — ELI STOKOLS is returning to POLITICO as a White House reporter and co-author of West Wing Playbook. He most recently was a White House reporter for the L.A. Times and is a WSJ alum. Read the announcement
Neither MITCH McCONNELL nor NANCY PELOSI are known to be fans of Raiders football. (Pelosi is a die-hard 49ers fan, and McConnell is a regular at Louisville Cardinals tailgates.) But they both subscribe to the wisdom of the late, great AL DAVIS: Just win, baby.
A thick skin is a job requirement for congressional leaders, and not just because of the other party’s attacks. The nature of the job means having members of your own party publicly criticizing you to win their elections — and you cutting fat campaign checks in return.
Pelosi quoted Davis on Tuesday to NBC’s ANDREA MITCHELL, who pressed her on the routine calls for new leadership among younger Democrats. She added: “If that’s what you have to say to win, fine. And we will not in any way do anything but [be] totally supportive.”
But our Natalie Allison reports this morning that McConnell is taking his forbearance to the extreme — keeping a $23 million advertising commitment in place through his affiliated Senate Leadership Fund super PAC to benefit GOP Senate candidate DON BOLDUC, who has called for McConnell’s ouster while raising relatively little money for his own campaign against incumbent Democrat MAGGIE HASSAN.
Natalie asked Bolduc this week whether, given SLF’s funding commitment, he planned to revisit his views on McConnell continuing as Senate GOP leader. “I’m not backing off,” he replied, adding: “I’m very appreciative of Senator McConnell’s support, but that’s his job. … We should expect his support and he should do everything within his power to help us win.”
SLF could still cut bait on Bolduc if he fails to show momentum, Natalie tells Playbook: “If that happens in the next week or two, Bolduc will have to wonder whether falling in line with the GOP establishment would have saved him. But that wasn’t his brand in the primary, and that isn’t the approach he’s taking now.”
ON THE GROUND IN NEVADA — “Nevada’s ‘Reid Machine’ staring down tough test in midterms,” by AP’s Michelle Price: “The party is facing headwinds everywhere, dragged down by President Joe Biden’s unpopularity and persistent inflation. And the challenges in Nevada are particularly notable because the election is the first since [HARRY] REID died last year, raising questions about the durability of the so-called Reid Machine. Some leading Democrats say the competitive environment is simply a reminder that Nevada is a genuine swing state that the national party can’t take for granted.”
CASH DASH — “Mike Bloomberg takes different approach to funding Democrats this year,” by WaPo’s Michael Scherer: “Top Democratic donor MIKE BLOOMBERG, a billionaire former candidate for president, plans to spend more than $60 million on this year’s elections, according to his advisers, opting for a lower public profile than he has taken in recent years.
“Much of his spending, including about $11 million in donations to House Majority PAC, the primary outside group supporting Democrats in the battle for control of the House, has not yet been publicly disclosed, while more than $15 million has been pushed through Democratic-aligned groups such as Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood and the League of Conservation Voters, the advisers said.”
JUST POSTED —“As Campaign Norms Erode, Even Debates Are Under Debate,” by NYT’s Lisa Lerer and Jazmine Ulloa: “In midterm campaigns across the country, direct political engagement has been falling away, victim to security concerns, pandemic-era workarounds and Republican hostility to the mainstream media.”
BATTLE FOR THE SENATE
GETTING FEISTY IN FLORIDA — Republican Sen. MARCO RUBIO and challenger Rep. VAL DEMINGS squared off in their first debate on Tuesday night, where the “word ‘liar’ was tossed out a few times, along with plenty of other tough language,” the Tallahassee Democrat’s Zac Anderson reports. “Demings often was on the offensive as she tries to unseat a two-term incumbent and shakeup a race where polls show her lagging, in a state that increasingly has trended red. A practiced debater, Rubio deflected on some hot-button issues, such as abortion, and tried to ignore others as he sought to avoid major missteps in the home stretch.”
THE SLEEPER SENATE RACE — “Why Cheri Beasley might be Democrats’ most underrated Senate candidate,” by Vox’s Nicole Narea
BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE
CALLING FOR BACKUP — “Super PAC cavalry starts shoring up House Dem campaign chief amid GOP deluge,” by Sarah Ferris and Ally Mutnick: “Our Hudson PAC, a group that formed in July to aid Rep. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-N.Y.) in his summertime primary, is the first Democratic outside spender to jump into his narrowing race against GOP state legislator MICHAEL LAWLER. Maloney’s newly redrawn district in the lower part of Hudson Valley has quickly become a top GOP target, with House Minority Leader KEVIN McCARTHY’s aligned super PAC dumping $4 million of broadcast TV ads into the race this week.”
PANHANDLE DISPATCH — “Florida Democrat targeted by DeSantis struggles to stay in Congress,” by Gary Fineout in Blountstown, Fla.: Rep. AL LAWSON, “whose Republican colleagues in the Florida Legislature would joke with him about his never-ending quests to get money for a rural fire department, has staked part of his campaign on a throwback appeal that stressed how much state and federal money he’s secured for residents over the years. Despite pleas from his fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus, national Democrats have provided little funding for his campaign” against GOP Rep. NEAL DUNN in a district upended by DeSantis’s controversial redistricting plan.
“Oregon Republican candidate Alek Skarlatos poses with Obama in ‘misleading’ ads,” by the Oregon Capital Chronicle’s Julia Shumway
BATTLE FOR THE STATES
HOW IT’S PLAYING — Republicans are winning the schoolhouse culture wars — just not with November’s moderate general election voters. “Some Democrats have now seized on GOP polling and previously unreported voter research that suggests the conservative rush to attack history lessons and library books is failing to connect with a majority of likely general election voters — and may even be alienating some persuadable moderates and independents,” Juan Perez Jr. and Zach Montellaro report this morning.
CAMPAIGN CLEANUP — “Tim Michels suggests he wouldn’t enforce the 1849 abortion law, but his campaign quickly walked the statement back,” by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Molly Beck: “‘I will never arrest a doctor, as they’re saying — I’m a reasonable guy,’ [Republican gubernatorial candidate TIM] MICHELS said at a Rotary Club of Milwaukee event on Tuesday, referring to the state’s abortion law that makes it a crime for doctors to perform abortions unless the mother’s life is at risk. ANNA KELLY, a spokeswoman for Michels, later said, ‘The DAs should enforce all laws. The governor is an executive. He’s not a DA or beat cop arresting anyone.’”
— Pennsylvania: Democrat JOHN FETTERMAN leads Republican MEHMET OZ 48% to 46%, per an AARP poll shared exclusively with our colleague Holly Otterbein, who notes that the slim disparity is within the margin of error.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
THE WHITE HOUSE
PREPPING FOR PUTIN — Inside the White House, preparations are already underway for the G-20, which could be the most consequential gathering in a generation. The key question: Does Biden dare meet Putin face to face? So far, the answer is no, Jonathan Lemire reports this morning. “It can’t be ruled out that Biden and Putin might cross paths at some point during the November summit, according to officials who note that the two men may, at some point, attend the same large plenary gathering. But U.S. officials have ruled out a formal meeting and are taking steps to ensure that the American president does not encounter his Russian counterpart in a hallway or even in a leaders’ group photo.”
JOE’S SAFE SPACE — If you really want to know what’s on Biden’s mind, best to catch him at a fundraiser, where “the audience is friendly and his guard is down,” WaPo’s Matt Viser observes this morning. He’s recently decried GOP “semi-fascism,” warned of nuclear “Armageddon,” and much more: “All these colorful remarks were delivered in the cozy confines of political fundraisers, where cameras are not allowed, but reporters with notebooks are. The events, whose frequency has accelerated sharply ahead of the midterm elections, provide the closest thing to unvarnished views from the commander in chief.”
THE JORDAN YEAR — Rep. JIM JORDAN (R-Ohio) is poised to become arguably more influential than ever next year if Republicans flip the House. He would ascend to the top of the Judiciary Committee and hold continued command of the party’s right flank. Our colleague Jordain Carney asked him what he wants to do with the power. What he said: “Jordan mapped out ‘four big moments’ in 2023 where he sees opportunities for Republicans to legislatively fight the political riptide (namely, a Democratic White House and possibly Senate) that’s likely to wash away much of their recently rolled-out Commitment to America agenda: the debt ceiling, surveillance reform, funding the government and the farm bill.”
OH, DEARIE — Judge RAYMOND DEARIE, the special master chosen to review the materials that federal officials seized from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago compound, complained to Trump’s lawyers Tuesday that they have not provided enough information for him to properly evaluate Trump’s privilege claims, NYT’s Charlie Savage and Alan Feuer write.
“Judge Dearie encouraged Mr. Trump’s lawyers to give him a better sense of why they believed the documents could be lawfully shielded from the Justice Department’s inquiry into whether Mr. Trump unlawfully kept classified records at his estate and obstructed the government’s repeated efforts to retrieve them.”
The money quote: “‘It’s a little perplexing as I go through the log,’ Judge Dearie said. ‘What’s the expression — “Where’s the beef?” I need some beef.’”
SOMETHING TO KEEP AN EYE ON — “Has a right-wing movement to flip school boards really landed in the Bay Area?” by the SF Chronicle’s Joshua Sharpe and Sophia Bollag: “The candidates’ connections to Trump and other conservative voices … have caused some parents to fear the trios are part of a national movement to flip school boards amid conservative backlash to COVID protocols, equal access for transgender students and efforts to make curriculum more inclusive. … But the candidates — those who responded to messages — say they are falsely accused.”
MOVING ON — “Paul Krekorian voted in as new L.A. City Council president,” by L.A. Times’ Julia Wick and David Zahniser
HIGH TIMES — “Oklahoma governor sets March election for marijuana question,” by AP’s Sean Murphy
JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH
AT THE OATH KEEPERS TRIAL — JASON DOLAN, a former Marine and Oath Keeper who is cooperating with DOJ’s investigation into the organization’s actions on Jan. 6, “told a jury Tuesday that he packed his car full of weapons and traveled to Washington, D.C., to stop Joe Biden from assuming the presidency ‘by any means necessary,’” CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz reports. “He made clear that members of the extremist group intended to try and keep then-President Donald Trump in power by intimidating Congress.”
WAR IN UKRAINE
WHO’S HELPING RUSSIA — “Iran Sends Drone Trainers to Crimea to Aid Russian Military,” by NYT’s Julian Barnes: “The Iranian trainers are operating from a Russian military base in Crimea where many of the drones have been based since being delivered from Iran. The trainers are from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a branch of the Iranian military designated as a terrorist organization by the United States.”
THE VIEW FROM THE KREMLIN — “Russia’s Top Ukraine Commander Sees Invasion Faltering in South, but Missile Strikes Take Toll on Ukraine,” by WSJ’s Thomas Grove and Yuliya Chernova: “Gen. SERGEI SUROVIKIN, the recently appointed commander of Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine, gave a rare pessimistic take of his invading forces’ position, telling state television Tuesday that the situation in Kherson ‘is not at all easy right now’ and that the priority in the south was preserving civilians and military personnel.”
BULL DURHAM — Special Counsel JOHN DURHAM’s probe into the genesis of the FBI’s Russia investigation involving Trump “suffered another high-profile blow Tuesday,” Josh Gerstein writes, “but his disciples see a silver lining in the veteran prosecutor’s checkered courtroom record.” What went down on Tuesday: “After about nine hours of deliberations, a federal jury acquitted Russian policy researcher IGOR DANCHENKO on Tuesday on four felony false-statement charges brought as part of Durham’s probe of misinformation that triggered the FBI probe of former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.”
But, but, but: “Durham and his aides used the forum of the recent trials to air evidence of what they suggested was a failure by FBI personnel to pursue leads as they probed the sourcing of the Steele dossier, a compendium of allegations former British intelligence officer CHRISTOPHER STEELE assembled about links between Trump and Russia. Danchenko was Steele’s key source when compiling the dossier.”
WELL-OILED MACHINE — Biden is expected to announce today the release of 15 million barrels of oil from the U.S. strategic reserve in response to OPEC+’s decision to cut oil production, AP’s Josh Boak and Zeke Miller report. Biden will also “say more oil sales are possible this winter, as his administration rushes to be seen as pulling out all the stops ahead of next month’s midterm elections.”
Context: “The 15 million-barrel release would not cover even one full day’s use of oil in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration.”
FED UP — “The Fed, Staring Down Two Big Choices, Charts an Aggressive Path,” by NYT’s Jeanna Smialek: “Federal Reserve officials have coalesced around a plan to raise interest rates by three-quarters of a point next month as policymakers grow alarmed by the staying power of rapid price increases — and increasingly worried that inflation is now feeding on itself.”
SILVER LININGS POCKETBOOK — “You can keep more money from the IRS next year, thanks to inflation,” by WaPo’s Jacob Bogage: “Certain parts of the tax code are tied to inflation to prevent rising prices from causing higher taxes. Taxpayers will see the new figures reflected in withholding statements on paychecks beginning in January, with workers securing more take-home pay.”
WILD ONE — “FBI Raids Star ABC News Producer’s Home,” by Rolling Stone’s Tatiana Siegel: “Multiple sources familiar with the matter say [JAMES GORDON] MEEK was the target of an FBI raid at the Siena Park apartments, where he had been living on the top floor for more than a decade.” Meek has not been charged with any crime following the April 27 raid in Arlington. “But independent observers believe the raid is among the first — and quite possibly, the first — to be carried out on a journalist by the Biden administration.”
PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION
VOTING IN THE DISTRICT — “D.C. Bills To Allow Noncitizens To Vote, Make Mail Voting Permanent Head To Mayor Bowser’s Desk,” by DCist’s Martin Austermuhle and Amanda Michelle Gomez
SPORTS BLINK — “Colts owner Jim Irsay says merit to oust owner Daniel Snyder,” by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler: “The … investigations into Washington’s years of alleged workplace misconduct and financial improprieties under Snyder are at the root of the issue, said Irsay, who stressed that the league ‘potentially’ could have a majority vote from owners to unseat Snyder.”
Val Demingstrolled Herschel Walker.
Commander, the Bidens’ dog, got chippy with the press corps at the White House.
Andrew Batescheered him on.
Joe O’Dea is really committed to this ice-in-his-beer bit.
SPOTTED at a ceremony awarding the winners of the Library of Congress’ Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film on Tuesday evening: Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, Ken Burns, Jonathan and Jeannie Lavine and Annette Gordon-Reed. Pic
MEDIA MOVE — Chris Johnson is launching a newsletter, “The Weekly Dystopia,” which will focus on four “key principles,” he told us: “1) America is fundamentally a good place; 2) Ideological pluralism is a good thing; 3) Western institutions and values are important to uphold and 4) America should have a premier place in global affairs.” Johnson previously was chief political and White House reporter for the Washington Blade.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Kevin Williamson is joining the Competitive Enterprise Institute as writer in residence. He is national correspondent of The Dispatch and is a National Review alum.
TRANSITIONS — Matthew Kulkin is now a partner at WilmerHale. He previously was a partner and co-chair at Steptoe & Johnson and is a CFTC alum. … Wilma Linares is joining Civic Nation as chief financial officer. She was previously managing director of finance and strategy at the American Immigration Council. … Lauren Marshall is now a director at FGS Global. She previously was a legislative director for Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). …
… Chris Estep is joining the Defense Department as a special assistant to the assistant secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs. He previously was acting comms director for the House Armed Services Committee Democrats. … Roxane Maywalt is joining Eversheds Sutherland as senior counsel. She most recently was senior counsel at Michael Best & Friedrich and is a FERC alum.
WEEKEND WEDDINGS —Avery Mulligan, press secretary for Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), and Kyle Monsees, community engagement coordinator with the International Rescue Committee, got married Saturday in Provincetown, Mass. They met as lifeguards at their neighborhood pool in Chevy Chase and started dating in 2013. Pic … Another pic
— Syd Terry, COS for Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Larkin Parker, comms director for Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), got married on Friday, Oct. 14 at the Riggs Hotel in D.C. The ceremony was officiated by House Chaplain Margaret Kibben. Pic … Another pic … SPOTTED: Rep. Haley Stevens, Rep. JanSchakowsky and Bob Creamer, Alex Hoehn-Saric, Robert Marcus, Tiffany Guarascio, James Adams, Matt Corridoni, Paul Gage, Kelly Nickel, Ned Michalek, Michael Hutton and Lyndon Boozer.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) … Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform … NYT’s Carl Hulse … Amy Walter … Fox News’ Steve Doocy … former RNC Chair Michael Steele … Katie Rayford of Slate … POLITICO’s Kyle Cheney … POLITICO Europe’s Sarah Wheaton … Protocol’s Satchie Snellings … Edelman’s Jeremy Gosbee … Steven Greenhouse … Kevin Keane of the American Beverage Association … Kathryn Fanlund of the Legal Services Corp. … Jay Footlik … Lauren Crawford Shaver of Forbes Tate Partners … Ray Day of the Stagwell Group … Andrea Bernstein … Will Cadigan of CNN … Dave Lapan … Dana Brown Ritter … Dale Brown of the Financial Services Institute … Philip Minardi … Sam Heitner … Kimberly Greenplate of the American Foreign Service Association … Marc Sklar … former Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) … Winston Lord … Amy Carter … Shelby Coffey … Yoram Ettinger … Commerce’s Michael Carey … WaPo’s Anthony Faiola … Brandon Morales of Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-Fla.) office (25) … Hailey Crust
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