For red state Dems, optimism kills

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On the roster: For red state Dems, optimism kills – Scott keeps his distance from DeSantis and Trump – Republicans write off Yoder – Abrams holds narrow lead in Georgia poll – Operation urine trouble 

FOR RED STATE DEMS, OPTIMISM KILLS
Pity the red state Democrats. 

They need a Democratic wave to survive or advance, but that same national climate is making life much harder for Senate candidates running in states won by Donald Trump in 2016. 

Consider Phil Bredesen’s pitch to Tennessee voters. He has made an argument substantially in two parts. First, to remind them that he is the moderate, pro-business governor who served so successfully for two terms and second, that the (D) next to his name doesn’t mean a great deal. 

In interviews and debates Bredesen has been at pains to explain that since Democrats are unlikely to retake control of the Senate, his presence in their conference doesn’t make much difference. 

That was a better argument to be making prior to the thermonuclear explosion in Washington surrounding the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.  

Whatever you think about the allegations against Kavanaugh or his fitness for the bench, there’s no question that the Democratic strategy of delay is at least in part the product of the party’s optimism about November. 

It’s possible that Democrats could retake the Senate, or at least shave down the Republican majority to 50 plus the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence. This remains less likely than Republicans holding the line or even gaining seats. Remember, this is the worst map any party has faced for Senate battle grounds in generations. But, even so…

The Kavanaugh hearings began during the most recent swoon in Republican fortunes following a long run of scandals, including the conviction of the president’s former campaign chairman and new details on Trump’s alleged payments to sex workers. 

In that atmosphere and energized by good news for the Blue Team in Texas and Tennessee, Democrats thought a turnabout on the 2016 blockade of Merrick Garland could work out nicely: Hold open the seat of former Justice Anthony Kennedy, win back the Senate and then refuse to confirm any nominee until after the 2020 election.

This may have sounded good to Democrats in California and New York – as well as lighter blue states like Minnesota and Michigan – where increasing voter intensity is a good thing. But for Democrats like Bredesen as well as Senate incumbents Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, voter engagement is not helpful. 

In those states, the idea of a Democratic Senate takeover hurts the party’s chances. More damaging still may be that the optimism among Senate Democrats has contributed to the current Kavanaugh conflagration. 

Let’s look at the plight of the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbent: Heitkamp. A new poll conducted for KFYR shows Heitkamp trailing challenger Rep. Kevin Cramer by 10 points. This is not particularly shocking since Heitkamp has looked to be out of the running for some time, if not at margins quite this high. 

In the survey only 27 percent of respondents are opposed to confirming Kavanaugh with 60 percent in favor. And get this: 21 percent of respondents said that the confirmation fight was the most important issue to their vote. 

It may be that Democrats will obtain substantial benefits in gubernatorial and House races across the country from the Kavanaugh fight. There may even be some advantages to the Blue Team in Senate races in Florida, Nevada, Arizona and New Jersey. But it is undoubtedly doing harm in the four big red states where Dems are on defense.

Remember, if Democrats lose even one of West Virginia, Indiana, Missouri or North Dakota, they have to not only win the toss-up races for Republican held seats in Nevada and Arizona but also stage a raid in Texas or Tennessee to keep open any path to Senate majority. 

It’s all well and good to talk about how Supreme Court fights rile up both parties’ bases, and that is surely true. But for the handful of American politicians who run against the partisan grain of their constituents, this fight is strictly bad news. 

THE RULEBOOK: ONE AND DONE
“One government can collect and avail itself of the talents and experience of the ablest men, in whatever part of the Union they may be found.” – John JayFederalist No. 4

TIME OUT: GIBBY GOT ‘EM
History: “On October 2, 1968, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson strikes out 17 Detroit Tigers in the first game of the World Series, breaking Sandy Koufax’s record for the most strikeouts in a Series game. Though the Cards ended up losing the Series in seven games, Gibson pitched three and struck out an unprecedented 35 batters. Gibson was recovering from an injury – the year before, a Roberto Clemente line drive had smashed his ankle – but he still managed to win 22 games in 1968, with one 15-game winning streak that included 10 of his 13 shutouts. He started 34 games and finished 28 (an incredible 304 2/3 innings of play) and in one remarkable 96-inning stretch he allowed just two runs. His earned-run average was 1.12, the fourth-lowest ever. … He was a first-ballot selection to the Hall of Fame in 1981… His statue stands outside Busch Stadium in St. Louis.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval:
 42.2 percent
Average disapproval: 52.4 percent
Net Score: -10.2 points
Change from one week ago: up 3 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 41% approve – 53% disapprove; Gallup: 42% approve – 53% disapprove; Pew Research Center: 38% approve – 55% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 44% approve – 49% disapprove; Fox News: 46% approve – 52% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 
41.8 percent
Democratic average: 49.8 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 8 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage down 2.2 points 
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 49% Dems – 42% GOP; Pew Research Center: 52% Dems – 42% GOP; NPR/PBS/Marist: 48% Dems – 41% GOP; Gallup: 51% Dems – 42% GOP; Fox News: 49% Dems – 42% GOP.]

SCOTT KEEPS HIS DISTANCE FROM DESANTIS AND TRUMP
WaPo: “At a recent rally for Ron DeSantis’s campaign for governor, it looked as if there was just one true leader of the state’s Republican Party. More than 500 people crammed into an airport hangar adorned with ‘Trump 2020’ banners. Many wore red ‘Make America Great Again’ hats. … [Rick Scott] has in turn appeared to be just as hesitant to embrace DeSantis or Trump. Days after the rally, Scott appeared before the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which claims 139,000 employer members and represents the sort of moderate voters both candidates need to win over in a state renowned for its close elections. But as Scott talked, he did not speak of Trump and mentioned DeSantis only once — as part of an offhand mumbling reference about how being governor was ‘a great job.’ Scott’s and DeSantis’s different paths reflect the strategic options facing Republican candidates this year as they decide whether to run away from or embrace Trump, their party’s dominant figure.”

Scott, Nelson trade jabs in first debate – AP: “Incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican challenger Gov. Rick Scott have met in a spirited debate in their campaign for Florida’s highly competitive U.S. Senate seat. The two squared off Tuesday for the taped event in the studios of Telemundo 51 in Miramar. The hourlong debate will air at 7 p.m. in South Florida, Tampa, Orlando, Fort Myers and West Palm Beach. It also can be viewed on Telemundo’s website. Scott sought to label Nelson as a do-nothing senator despite decades in office. Nelson contended Scott was telling falsehoods about his record on issues ranging from immigration to the environment. Nelson is seeking his fourth Senate term in a race considered key to Democratic efforts to win a majority. Scott is prevented from running for governor again because of term limits.”

Sinema, McSally set single debate in key Senate race – Arizona Republic: “U.S. Senate contenders Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally will debate Oct.15 in Phoenix at an event hosted by Arizona PBS and The Arizona Republic. McSally issued a statement Monday agreeing to the debate. Sinema issued a similar statement on Sept. 14.”

Poll shows advantage for Senate Dems in Missouri, Nevada  Politico: “In Missouri, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill has 47 percent to Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley‘s 44 percent among likely voters, according to the new poll. In Nevada, Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen has 47 percent support to Republican Sen. Dean Heller‘s 43 percent, according to the new poll there. In the gubernatorial race, Democrat Steve Sisolak has a small edge over Republican Adam Laxalt, 45 percent to 41 percent.”

Cruz staffers hospitalized after possible chemical attack – Fox News: “Two people were taken to the hospital after being exposed to a “white powdery substance” at Sen. Ted Cruz‘s office in Houston, Texas, just minutes after it was announced on Tuesday a pair of packages suspected of containing a deadly poison had been sent to the Pentagon, officials said. A Pentagon spokesman confirmed to Fox News that two packages addressed to U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and the Navy’s top officer, Admiral John Richardson, are suspected of containing ricin. … The Houston Fire Department said on Twitter that the entire 9th floor of the Phoenix Tower has been evacuated.”

Silly season: Republicans try to lasso Beto for college theater review – AP: “Democratic Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke is apologizing for writing in Columbia University’s student newspaper nearly 30 years ago that a Broadway musical featured actresses ‘whose only qualifications seem to be their phenomenally large breasts and tight buttocks.’ In the Oct. 10, 1991, edition of the Columbia Daily Spectrum, O’Rourke criticized a production of ‘The Will Rogers Follies.’ Online searches suggest it was the only piece he wrote for his college newspaper. The story was first reported Monday by Politico, which said an O’Rourke opponent flagged it. In a statement, O’Rourke said he was ‘ashamed of what I wrote and I apologize. There is no excuse for making disrespectful and demeaning comments about women.’ A three-term El Paso congressman, O’Rourke is trying to upset Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in November.”

GOP CUTS INTO DEM LEAD ON GENERIC BALLOT  
Quinnipiac University: “Five weeks before the Midterm Elections, 49 percent of American voters back the Democratic candidate in their local race for the U.S. House of Representatives and 42 percent support the Republican candidate, according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today. This compares to the results of a September 12 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University National Poll, showing Democrats with a 52 – 38 percent lead. … American voters say 50 – 43 percent they want Democrats to control the U.S. Senate. American voters disapprove 53 – 41 percent of the job President Donald Trump is doing, compared to a 54 – 38 percent disapproval September 10. ‘The numbers suggest the big blue wave may have lost some of its momentum as House races tighten. President Donald Trump’s approval remains deeply in the red,’ said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.”

Republicans write off Yoder – AP: “The House Republican campaign committee has dropped its support for an incumbent congressman facing a difficult re-election in a suburban Kansas City district that Hillary Clinton won. The National Republican Congressional Committee cancelled $1.2 million in ad spending that would have backed Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder, spokesman Jesse Hunt confirmed Monday. It’s just the latest indicator that Republicans are facing a hostile electoral climate in areas where candidates like Yoder, who is endorsed by President Donald Trump, had previously performed well. The Congressional Leadership Fund, the principal super PAC supporting GOP House candidates, announced last week that it was withdrawing support for two other embattled incumbents in suburbs districts near Denver and Detroit. Yoder’s race is the second the NRCC has dropped. It comes as Republicans are deciding where best to direct resources to help their candidates stave off energized Democrats in about 25 districts where Hillary Clinton won and the GOP is seen as highly vulnerable.”

Under pressure, Hunter preys on anti-Muslim sentiment – Politico: “Rep.
Duncan Hunter’s campaign insinuates in a new TV ad that his Democratic opponent is part of an attempt by Muslims to ‘infiltrate’ the U.S. government. The California Republican has maintained a comfortable polling lead in his reliably conservative San Diego district, despite being the subject of a federal indictment for allegedly misusing campaign funds. …Hunter‘s campaign has embraced a tactic that strikes critics as racist: invoking the fraught family history of Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, whose grandfather was involved in the terrorist attacks on the 1972 Munich Olympics. While Campa-Najjar has forcefully renounced his grandfather, saying he died 16 years before the candidate was born and emphasizing that Campa-Najjar is a Christian who has passed government security clearances, the Hunter campaign is doubling down. ‘Ammar Campa-Najjar is working to infiltrate Congress,’ … invoking ‘his family’s ties to terrorism’ and calling Campa-Najjar ‘a risk we can’t ignore,’ before displaying an image of Hunter, a Marine veteran, in military gear.”

Rap battle: GOP tries to tarnish Democratic star with old lyrics – Roll Call: “The Democrats gathered outside the farmhouse knew exactly where Antonio Delgado was going with this.  ‘Some of you might have heard of my career, at least one of my careers, after law school,’ he said on a recent Saturday, drawing laughs. People across the country have heard about it, too. Delgado’s stint as rapper known as ‘AD The Voice’ has brought national attention to what was already a hotly contested House race in upstate New York’s 19th District. Republican groups have launched ads featuring profanity-laced lyrics from the Democratic nominee’s past. Some have said the ads stoke racial divisions. Delgado, who is African-American, is running in an overwhelmingly white district currently held by GOP freshman John J. Faso.” 

KEMP HOLDS NARROW LEAD IN GEORGIA POLL 
AJC: “New polling released Monday showed Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp in a tight contest for the state’s top job, mirroring other recent surveys that showed a razor-thin race. The poll by Landmark Communications showed Kemp leading Abrams 48-46 among likely Georgia voters — a statistically insignificant difference that’s within the poll’s 3 percent margin of error. Libertarian Ted Metz had about 2 percent of support while only 3 percent of voters were undecided. The poll also found a plurality of Georgia voters – 49 percent – believed the U.S. Senate should vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, while 43 percent opposed. Eight percent were undecided on Kavanaugh, whose nomination could be derailed by sexual assault claims. In the lieutenant governor race, Republican Geoff Duncan and Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico were also in a close race. Duncan led Amico 48-46 in the bid to succeed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, with 6 percent of voters undecided.”

Hillary campaigns in her hometown for Pritzker – Chicago Tribune: “Former Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton campaigned in Chicago on Monday for governor candidate J.B. Pritzker, a major supporter of her failed efforts to get to the White House. Clinton formally endorsed Pritzker during a Chicago visit in April after he won the Democratic primary by a wide margin. On Monday she joined him at a roundtable event highlighting social service issues. Pritzker frequently criticizes Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for overseeing a two-year budget impasse that hit social service providers that depend on state money.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
With $1.3 trillion deficit, both parties shrug  Bloomberg 

Moderate House GOPers tout legislative gains for midterm push – Main Street Partnership

Sherrod Brown on 2020: “You have to really want the job. I don’t really want the job.” -Cleveland Plain Dealer

Gov. Jay Inslee says he isn’t “ruling out” 2020 run – Politico

Melania Trump arrives in Ghana for first solo international trip as first lady – Fox News

Mississippi Democratic AG to announce 2019 governor bid Wednesday – Mississippi Today

John Harris: Partisans excuse small lies in service of larger truths – Politico

AUDIBLE: MORE FLEXIBILITY AFTER THE ELECTION
“Yes, I anticipate that I’ll be the person with the gavel in hand, but I haven’t asked anybody for a vote, in fact, I’ve told the candidates, ‘Do whatever you have to do, just win baby.’” – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, during a question and answer session at the Texas Tribune Festival.

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HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

OPERATION URINE TROUBLE 
AP: “Mountain goats living in the Olympic National Park are now being removed because they have developed a strong appetite for human pee. With people routinely relieving themselves on various hiking trails at the park, located in Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula, the goats developed an insatiable thirst for urine, which serves as a strong source of salt and minerals… As a result, park authorities have begun tagging, blindfolding and airlifting the goats to the nearby forests in the North Cascades via helicopter. Fitted with GPS collars, the goats are ferried in pairs to nine sites in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest…The sites should provide a more hospitable environment for the surging goat tribe where they can roam free of human interlopers. The NPS aims to reduce the goats’ numbers dramatically, to the tune of ‘approximately 90 percent of the projected 2018 mountain goat population, or approximately 625 to 675 mountain goats,’ per an Environmental Impact Statement.” 

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Wasn’t caring about conservatism the very essence of the talk radio, tea party, grass-roots revolt against the so-called establishment?” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on May 5, 2016.  

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

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