Dem 48
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GOP 52
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New polls: FL MI
Dem pickups vs. 2012: AZ
GOP pickups vs. 2012: MO ND
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  More Bombs, More Finger Pointing
      •  Trump Doubles Down on Border
      •  China May Be Ready to Play the Long Game
      •  A Different Way to Parse the Data
      •  Voting Against Brett Kavanaugh, for Fun and Profit
      •  Alaska Gone Wild
      •  Avenatti Runs Another Play from the Trump Playbook
      •  Today's Senate Polls

PW logo Trump Invites Putin to Washington
Blue Wave or Red Save?
11 Donors Have Plowed $1 Billion Into Super PACs
Democrats Hold Big Cash Edge In Final Stretch
Gingrich Suggests Court Will Protect Trump Tax Returns
Bloomberg Gives Democrats Another $10 Million

More Bombs, More Finger Pointing

On Thursday, another pair of bombs en route to critics of Donald Trump were intercepted. The newest targets were Joe Biden, who has been particularly willing to get into the gutter and spar with the President, and actor Robert De Niro, who has been outspokenly anti-Trump, particularly the occasion at the Tony Awards where he shouted "Fu** Trump!" in front of an audience of tens of millions of people. This brings the number of bombs to 10.

The FBI, of course, is hard at work trying to figure out the packages' origin. Reportedly, they think they may have come from the state of Florida. There is general agreement that there was essentially no chance that the bombs could have detonated. It's possible that the miscreant did not know what he was doing, or it could be that the packages were meant to frighten, and not to actually do physical harm.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump reverted back to form on Thursday. During his rally in Wisconsin on Wednesday night, he said the right things about unity, but did nothing to accept his own responsibility for the attacks, and also hinted that the media might be to blame. As he has shown us many times, he is definitely capable of saying the right thing, but he is incapable of sticking with it for long. In the end, his gut response always wins out. And so, he was on Twitter on Thursday morning, hitting the media with both barrels:

Given that one of the targets of the mystery bomber was CNN, this is dangerously close to announcing "They got what they deserved!" Needless to say, that will do little to discourage folks who might be inclined to follow the mystery bomber's lead. Other Republicans carried this torch as well. That includes Trump's new BFF Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who declared, "Look, it's the media's doing what the media does, which is any narrative that they can twist against Trump, they will do so."

Meanwhile, Trump's base and his fans in the media also continued to spread wild conspiracy theories, unsupported by evidence. Taking the lead, and always in search of approval from pops, was Donald Trump Jr., who went on an absolute Twitter rampage on Thursday, blending conspiracy with a healthy dose of whataboutism. For example:

Trump also liked dozens of "false flag" tweets. False flag theories were also all the rage on right-leaning programs at the fringes (Alex Jones, Breitbart TV), and also those closer to the mainstream (Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh).

There is one other conspiracy theory worth mentioning, and it comes from MSNBC's Chuck Todd. He proposes that the whole thing might be the work of the Russians, as part of their ongoing efforts to sow dissension and fear among American voters. Unlike the false flag conspiracists, who are essentially certain of their conclusions, Todd merely proposes this as one possible way this story could turn out. If he does prove correct, that discovery would likely do almost as much damage to the GOP as it would if it turned out the bomber is a Trump supporter. Already, the party of Trump is losing the PR battle here, as #MAGABomber has been one of the top-trending hashtags on Twitter for two days. (Z)

Trump Doubles Down on Border

Despite what you might have heard, no wall has been built along the Mexican border since Donald Trump became president. Still, anti-immigrant rhetoric is his bread and butter (it was literally what launched his campaign), and he has regularly gone back to that well in the past few weeks as he's tried to fire up the base in advance of the midterms. He's had a near-obsession with the caravan of refugees marching their way toward the U.S. border, and has even tried out a few wild, unsupported claims, like that there are a bunch of terrorists hiding in amongst the members of the caravan. That one was so dubious that Trump was actually forced to admit he had absolutely no evidence for it.

It would seem that words are not getting the job done, though, because Trump has now moved on to action. He has ordered Secretary of Defense James Mattis to dispatch 800 soldiers to the border, to protect it from...the caravan, presumably. HHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the move was necessary to protect against "violent" Mexicans, and explained that, "We do not have any intention right now to shoot at people." This would seem to leave open the possibility that shooting at people could eventually be on the agenda. In any case, this is clearly a PR move more than anything else, not unlike a miniature version of Trump's now-shelved military parade.

It is also looking like Trump might not stop there. Late Thursday, the White House let slip that the President is thinking about sealing the Southern border to all migrants and asylum-seekers, with no exceptions. Such a move is not a terribly common one for a president to make, even those chief executives who tried to slow down immigration still saw some value in rescuing folks who could not hope to survive in their home countries. The possible decision does bring to mind the general policy the U.S. adopted prior to World War II, turning away thousands of Jews who requested asylum from the Nazis. History, of course, has not looked kindly on that choice. (Z)

China May Be Ready to Play the Long Game

David A. Andelman, writing for CNN, has an interesting piece trying to read the tea leaves (literally) in terms of where the Donald Trump vs. Xi Jinping boxing match is headed from here. He thinks that the window might be closing on Trump's ability to make a deal, and that the Chinese might be getting ready to hunker down and just wait for the next president.

Because it's an economic piece, Andelman's analysis has a lot of moving parts. However, at the heart of it is that a worldwide downturn in the stock markets will put far more political pressure on Trump than it will on Xi. First, because Xi doesn't have to worry about getting reelected in 2020, and second because roughly half of American households have money in the stock market in one way or another (often through retirement accounts), whereas less than 10% of Chinese households do. It is also the case that the Chinese have a history of playing the long game, and have for centuries, if not millennia. Heck, the Great Wall took over 1,500 years to build. If that's not the long game, both literally and figuratively, then nothing is.

Depending on how things unfold, the Chinese could also do a number of things to make life uncomfortable for Trump. They know that anything that slows the growth of the U.S. economy will increase the size of the hole that the tax cut blew in the budget. So, they could choose to stop buying American bonds, which would compel the U.S. Treasury to start paying much higher rates of interest. It's even possible that they could start dumping the bonds they have, which would really make it harder for the federal government to borrow the money it needs. Xi could also dump some of his reserves of U.S. dollars, or "encourage" his citizens to boycott American products, or sign long-term trade deals with countries other than the U.S.

Andelman doesn't bring it up, since it's beyond the scope of the piece, but Xi has surely assessed the chances that he's looking at a two-year economic siege vs. a six-year siege, and he may well like the odds that it's the former. He's also surely thinking about what shenanigans he might pull to help insure that it's only two years. And so we are reminded, once again, that 2020 could well come down to whose dirty deeds are more effective: Xi's or Vladimir Putin's. (Z)

A Different Way to Parse the Data

It is less than two weeks to the midterms. Given the passions that Donald Trump inspires, both among supporters and foes, not to mention that America's political parties are in the midst of a realignment, this election has no real historical analogue. And so, psephologists of all stripes are looking behind curtains and under rocks for clues as to what might happen.

Michael J. Malbin, of the centrist Brookings Institution, has put together a few charts that give a different look at the data (and one that will please Democrats). Here's the first of them, which shows the uncontested seats in the House of Representatives, by party, over the last 14 years:

Brookings Data, I

Clearly, no party in recent memory has had so few uncontested seats (aka, "freebies") as the GOP this year. Just like the old basketball line that you miss 100% of shots you don't take, you also lose 100% of elections where you don't even field a candidate. So, having someone challenge all but 10 GOP-held seats is, on its face, a good thing for the Democrats. Further, the two years most like this one—2006, when the folks who took office in 2005 went before voters, and 2010, when the folks who took office in 2009 went before voters—both resulted in waves. In the former case, the Democrats contested all but 22 GOP seats, and ended up gaining 31 overall; in 2010 the Republicans contested all but 24 Democratic seats, and ended up gaining 63 overall.

The other particularly interesting chart is this one, which shows how much money has been raised by challengers who are running against incumbents:

Brookings Data, II

Clearly, the Democrats are rolling in dough in a way that has no precedent. That is particularly the case in elections where the Republican-held seat is open. In those 42 instances, the Democratic candidate has raised an average of about $2.3 million. This money might buy useful things like TV time, or it may primarily be meaningful as an indication of enthusiasm, or it may prove to mean not much at all. Still, just in case it matters, a party would obviously rather be in the Democrats' position than that of the Republicans.

There are several more charts, and an extended analysis, beyond this, so it's definitely worth taking a look at the whole analysis. (Z)

Voting Against Brett Kavanaugh, for Fun and Profit

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's (D-ND) vote against Brett Kavanaugh may end up costing her a chance at reelection. What it hasn't cost her, however, is campaign funds. In fact, she is awash in cash from donors since she cast that vote, to the tune of $12.5 million in the first 17 days of October. By contrast, in all of Q3 (July to September), she pulled in $3.8 million. Nearly all of the $12.5 million came in the form of small donations from outside North Dakota.

One can only imagine what Heitkamp will do with that much money. In North Dakota, one of the cheapest media markets in the country, that is pretty much enough to buy every single commercial slot from now to the election and to have $6 or $7 million left at a time when her opponent, Kevin Cramer (R), is down to less than $1 million. It's likely that Heitkamp will also spend some money helping to get the Native American vote out, and she may set some aside for a future gubernatorial run. Meanwhile, this is another chapter in America's (apparent) move toward individual citizens using their money to influence specific votes by lawmakers. Maybe that is bad news, corruption-wise, or maybe it's just balancing the scales in a world where Citizens United is the law of the land. (Z)

Alaska Gone Wild

Last week, Gov. Bill Walker (I-AK) dropped his reelection bid after his running mate was accused of some (unspecified) form of sexual harassment. At that time, Republican challenger Mike Dunleavy had a sizable lead in polls over both Walker and the Democratic nominee, former senator Mark Begich.

Now, the first post-Walker polls of the race are out, and they suggest that his departure has turned things upside down. Dunleavy still leads, but it's just 48% to 44%, with 5% of voters (who apparently don't follow the news) still supporting Walker. GOP pooh-bahs in Alaska hope that once everything settles down (not that there's much time left for that), Dunleavy will again assume a commanding lead. But if Begich can claim two-thirds of that 5%, and two-thirds of the undecided voters, it could be a very interesting Election Day, indeed. (Z)

Avenatti Runs Another Play from the Trump Playbook

It is possible that Michael Avenatti, lawyer to Stormy Daniels (nee Stephanie Clifford), is just trying to drum up attention for his law practice and his client. It's also possible that he really does plan to run for president in 2020. Even he may not know which it is. But whatever it may be, Avenatti decided to stir things up, yet again, on Thursday. Speaking to Time magazine about the Democrats' hypothetical nominee, he said:

I think it better be a white male. When you have a white male making the arguments, they carry more weight. Should they carry more weight? Absolutely not. But do they? Yes.

This is pretty much Donald Trump 101. Disclaim being a racist, then use that as cover to say something racist, so as to send a useful dog whistle to the white, male, blue-collar voters that (some) Democrats want to win back. Such remarks have more political value than they have general PR value, so that certainly suggests that Avenatti really is thinking about a 2020 run. (Z)

Today's Senate Polls

One wonders why various outlets keep paying for polls of Florida. It's clear, at this point, that they're not going to tell us anything beyond "it's close." (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Florida Bill Nelson* 46% Rick Scott 45% Oct 16 Oct 23 Strategic Research Assoc.
Michigan Debbie Stabenow* 49% John James 42% Oct 18 Oct 23 EPIC MRA

* Denotes incumbent

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