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Young Americans are notorious for failing to show up at the polls in midterm cycles, but a new survey from the Harvard Institute of Politics shows that 2018 could be different. 

The poll of 18-29 year olds finds that 37 percent say they'll definitely vote in this year's elections — up from 23 percent who said the same before the 2014 elections. 

Almost all of that increased excitement is coming from young Democrats, too. About half — 51 percent — of Democrats under 30 say they'll definitely vote in November.  And Democrats have a huge advantage on the generic ballot question as well; 69 percent of those under 30 say they want Democrats to control Congress, while just 28 percent support a GOP majority on Capitol Hill. 

The online poll surveyed 2,631 18- to 29- year-olds and has a margin of error of +/- 2.54 percentage points. 

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Carrie Dann

Little agreement among Republican and Democratic voters on top issues facing the country

 

Republicans and Democrats don’t just disagree on how to solve the nation’s problems — they’re conflicted about what ails the nation in the first place.

A new survey from the Pew Research Center finds huge gaps in how partisans view the seriousness of issues like climate change, gun violence, racism, immigration and income inequality.

Among registered voters who plan to support Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections, seven-in-ten say that the treatment of minorities within the criminal justice system is a “big problem,” compared with just 10 percent of those supporting Republicans who say the same. The gap is equally large when it comes to the share of voters very concerned about climate change (72 percent of Democratic supporters compared with 11 percent of GOP supporters) and gun violence (81 percent of Democratic supporters compared with 25 percent of GOP supporters.)

Issues of race and gender also concern Democratic voters this cycle far more than Republican ones. Half of Democratic voters say that sexism is a big problem facing the country, while just 12 percent of Republican voters agree. Sixty-three percent of Democratic voters cite high concern about racism, compared with just 19 percent of Republican voters.

Democratic voters are also far more concerned about health care affordability (83 percent call it a big problem, compared with 56 percent of Republican voters), college affordability (71 percent of Democratic voters and 47 percent of Republican voters call it a big problem) and income inequality (77 percent of Democratic voters but just 22 percent of Republican voters call it a big problem).

The only issue for which Republican voters express significantly more concern than Democratic voters is illegal immigration. Three-quarters of Republican voters but just 19 percent of Democratic voters say illegal immigration is a “big problem.”

Leigh Ann Caldwell

Bredesen internal poll shows race with Blackburn deadlocked

New internal polling conducted for Tennessee Democrat Phil Bredesen's Senate campaign shows the race effectively tied less than one month before Election Day.

A memo authored by Bredesen pollster Frederick Yang and obtained by NBC News shows the race "essentially deadlocked," with the Democrat trailing Republican candidate Rep. Marsha Blackburn by one point, 47-48 percent of likely voters. The margin comes from an average of two polls taken in October.

That margin is well within the margin-of-error of 4 percentage points, and is slightly smaller than the 2 percentage-point margin of the campaign's late September polling. The memo was sent to Bredesen supporters and advisers.

But the results show Bredesen in better shape than other recent polls.  Recent polling from Fox News, CBS News/YouGov and the New York Times/Siena College showed Blackburn leading by margins between 5 and 14 points, while a CNN poll from September found Bredesen leading by 5 points.

Bredesen's pollsters at Garin Hart Yang Research Group write in the memo that the race is "polarized among the most partisan voters" and that only "a handful" of voters remain undecided, stressing that turnout is likely going to determine the winner of the open seat.

The survey also shows that Bredesen is viewed much more positively by independent voters than Blackburn. Forty-eight percent view him positively compared to 28 percent for Blackburn.

Bredesen, the former governor of Tennessee, has put the state, which voted for President Trump by 26 points, in play for Democrats.

Early voting begins in Tennessee Wednesday.

Georgia's Stacey Abrams says GOP opponent is playing politics with voter registrations

Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, the party's gubernatorial nominee, criticized Republican nominee Brian Kemp, Georgia's secretary of state, for putting holds on tens of thousands of voter registrations belonging primarily to minority voters. 

The issue has exploded in Georgia in recent days, with Abrams arguing on "Meet the Press' that the move is meant to disenfranchise voters for political gain. Kemp is pushing back on those accusations and blamed Abrams and her allies for "submitting sloppy" voter registration forms. 

Watch Abrams's full interview below. 

Missouri's Josh Hawley criticizes Democratic handling of Kavanaugh accusations, 'mob behavior'

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley joined "Meet the Press" on Sunday to discuss the fallout from Justice Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation battle, as well as how he's defending himself from Democratic accusations he isn't committed to protecting those with pre-existing conditions. 

Hawley is running in Missouri's marquee Senate race and is looking to dethrone Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. Watch his full interview below. 

Biden hits Trump in Kentucky campaign stop

OWINGSVILLE, KY — Former Vice President Joe Biden lit into President Trump Friday for putting "his own interests before our values," and accusing Republican lawmakers of being complicit in their silence.

Campaigning in a rural Kentucky town with Democratic congressional hopeful Amy McGrath, Biden noted he had just returned from London where he said U.S. allies remain aghast at the Trump administration’s foreign policy.

"They genuinely don’t see America," Biden said. "The example we’re showing the rest of the world is sad. Our values are being shredded. Our democracy is under assault."

Biden made no specific reference to Saudi Arabia or the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But he said Trump’s fondness for autocratic leaders sent a dangerous signal.

"The world is watching us. They see a president who has debased our values and ceded global leadership to tyrants and thugs," he said. "Our reputation internationally is cratering. It’s not who we are."

Friday’s rally brought the former vice president as close as he’s been to direct political combat with Trump, who is scheduled to hold a rally with Barr across the district on Saturday.

Trump has taunted Biden at several of his recent political events, saying he relished the idea of a potential campaign against him and dismissing the longtime senator and two-term VP for his distant showing in the 2008 presidential primaries, the last time Biden was a candidate for president.

But an internal poll conducted for McGrath’s campaign showed Biden would narrowly beat Trump in the district, 49 percent to 46 percent.

Trump won Kentucky’s 6th congressional district with 54 percent of the vote in 2016, as Barr won 61 percent of the vote and a third term. Bath County, where Friday’s rally took place, was even more solidly Republican as Trump beat Hillary Clinton 67 percent to 30 percent.

Despite its GOP bent, McGrath has put the race squarely in the toss-up column, owing in part to her biography – she’s a retired lieutenant colonel in the Marines — and her strong fundraising. McGrath raised $3.65 million in the most recent fundraising quarter.

Initially national Democrats had preferred Jim Gray, the mayor of Lexington and the party’s 2016 nominee for U.S. Senate, to run for the seat. But McGrath beat him in  primary in part by running up the vote totals in rural areas like this.

In a private call two days after McGrath’s victory, Biden praised her approach as one the party should look to emulate in the future. McGrath, speaking before Biden, noted she had field offices open throughout the district.

She also defended her decision not to launch negative advertising to counteract Barr’s against her.

"The reason I have continued to run a race that is entirely focused on my values, on our values, and the issues is because first I trust the voters to see through this sad, worn out tactic," she said.

Mark Murray

How the NBC/Marist poll of Wisconsin is different than Marquette’s

Our NBC News/Marist poll of Wisconsin shows Democrat Tony Evers leading Republican Gov. Scott Walker by 10 points in a head-to-head contest, and by 8 points in an expanded ballot that includes the Libertarian and Green Party candidates.

A day earlier, however, a Marquette Law School poll had Walker ahead by 1 point. (The polls were on the same page showing Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., ahead by double digits.)

So what explains the difference between the two polls? We asked Marist pollster Barbara Carvalho. Here's her answer:

1. The polls use different likely-voter models: Marquette's model is based exclusively on voters certain to vote; Marist's uses a probability model based on interest, chance of vote and past vote.

2. Voter ID: Marquette's sample among likely voters was R+3; Marist's was D+1.

One other observation from Carvalho:

"Finally, one number to look at in our poll is the 80% of Walker supporters who are strongly committed to him (an extraordinarily high number). This intensity would be magnified in a cutoff 'certain to vote' likely voter model which Marquette uses. Of course, it is something to watch and a reason not to count Walker out."

** Correction: An earlier version to this story noted that Marquette uses a voter list and not random digit dialing. But that was not correct. It uses random digit dialing.

The GOP triage continues—for good and bad

With Election Day drawing nearer, the National Republican Congressional Committee is pulling advertising dollars from two seats—one where the GOP incumbent is favored to win and another where Republicans fear their candidate could lose. 

The NRCC is cancelling its spending in the San Antonio Media market from Oct. 16 through Election Day, as Republicans feel optimistic about Republican Rep. Will Hurd's position against his Democratic opponent, Gina Ortiz Jones. 

There's been little public polling in the district, as in most congressional races. But the New York Times/Sienna College poll last month found Hurd up by 8 points, and Hurd had significantly outfundraised Ortiz Jones through June in a cycle where other Republican incumbents have lagged behind. 

But there's a more ominous sign for Republicans in Arizona's 2nd Congressional District, which is being vacated by Republican Rep. Martha McSally's Senate bid. 

The NRCC is cancelling upcoming television buys in that race, a Republican familiar with the strategy confirmed, where former Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick is facing off against Republican Lea Marquez Peterson. 

The same dearth of public polling exists in this race, but the NYT/Sienna poll put Kirkpatrick up 11 points. And Kirkpatrick came into the race with stronger name identification from her previous stint in office (albeit in a neighboring congressional district). Even though Republicans have touted Marquez Peterson's strength as a candidate this cycle, she may not be able to hold the seat that voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. 

These are the kinds of painful decisions that both parties will have to make in the closing days, as Republicans look to defend the right incumbents to keep a hold on the House majority and Democrats try to win the right combination of seats to take control of the House.

The hottest House races since Labor Day

Labor Day marks the unofficial home stretch of the campaign season, as campaigns and outside groups ramp up persuasion and mobilization targeting key races. 

With groups beginning to make hard choices about where to spend money, the marquee races down the stretch are looking just as they did to start the cycle—Republican-held seats that Democrat Hillary Clinton won in 2016. 

Here are the 10 House races that have drawn the most television and radio spending between Labor Day and today, according to figures from Advertising Analytics (spoiler: most broke for Clinton in 2016). 

CO-06: $9.2 million

It's no surprise that GOP Rep. Mike Coffman's seat has seen a boat-load of spending in recent weeks—Democrats see the race as one of their best chances to dethrone an incumbent, which is why two-thirds of the recent spending came from the left. Polls show the race will be tough sledding for Coffman, and while his top-spending ally, the Congressional Leadership Fund, has pulled its advertising dollars from the seat, the National Republican Congressional Committee is upping its investment. 

MI-08: $8.2 million

This race is another one featuring a seriously vulnerable Republican incumbent, Rep. Mike Bishop, and a strong Democratic challenger in Elissa Slotkin. And it's also another race where CLF has decided to stop spending while the NRCC ramps up—but limited public polling shows a tight race. 

FL-26: $7.7 million

Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's seat was always going to be a marquee race, considering Curbelo is the GOP incumbent representing the district that broke the furthest for Hillary Clinton in 2016. The party committees and the two campaigns have been slugging each other for the past month and aren't expected to slow down. 

VA-10: $7.7 million

The ad spending to defend Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock's seat tells two stories. CLF hasn't spent a dime in the race as polling continues to show Democrat Jennifer Wexton with a lead. But the NRCC is doubling down on the seat—it spent almost $2.6 million since Labor Day, more than any other group, and has another $2.5 million booked through Election Day. 

MN-03: $7.5 million

Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen has long been able to weather the storm in a blue-leaning district, but the heightened spending here shows Democratic enthusiasm that they can finally take him down. Two recent public polls show Democrat Dean Phillips leading. 

WA-08: $7.3 million

The significant spending here is indicative of GOP bullishness for their candidate Dino Rossi and their unwillingness to cede the liberal-leaning district to Democrats after longtime Republican Rep. Dave Reichert announced his impending retirement. But Democrats have matched the GOP spending since Labor Day in the hopes of flipping another seat that Clinton won. 

NJ-03: $7.1 million

The battle for Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur's seat is a good test case for lots of dynamics this cycle. MacArthur has had to own his key role in crafting the GOP's failed healthcare plan and being the only New Jersey Republican to vote for the party's tax plan. But the district leans conservative, so it remains to be seen how those votes might resonate here. 

TX-07: $7 million

Democrats are hopeful that strength with suburban voters can help flip this Dallas-area seat. But Republican Rep. John Culberson has kicked his campaign into gear since early-cycle concerns he was going to be caught sleeping and Republicans outspent Democrats here by $900,000 since Labor Day. 

ME-02: $6.4 million

This is another district where an oft-vulnerable Republican, Rep. Bruce Poliquin, is trying to hold on. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll pegged Poliquin up by 5 points. 

CA-10: $5.9 million

If you're sensing a trend, voters narrowly backed Clinton in this district in 2016. Republican and Democratic spending has been about even here, as Republican Rep. Jeff Denham looks to win another term against Democrat Josh Harder. 

Advertising Analytics

Conservative group looks to boost Susan Collins after Kavanaugh vote

Democrats are smarting after Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins cast a pivotal vote to help confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh, promising electoral consequences in 2020. 

But the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group that played a key role in Kavanaugh's confirmation, is trying to blunt Democrats' anti-Collins fervor with a six-figure television and digital buy. The spot thanks for her vote, praising Collins "for being a reasonable voice in Washington" and for doing "the right thing."

While Maine has its independent streak, Collins's own bipartisan image has helped her cruise to overwhelming victories in previous races. But Collins's no vote has energized Democrats who have donated more than $3.6 million to a fund that will go to supporting Collins's eventual Democratic opponent in 2020. 

So the new JCN spot will likely be just the start of the GOP's efforts to bolster Collins ahead of what could be a tougher-than-expected reelection fight. 

Shaquille Brewster

Sherrod Brown brings out the dog for new campaign spot

Sen. Sherrod Brown’s rescue dog, Franklin, will make his television ad debut Tuesday morning in an effort to tout his owner as a man of the people—and their pets.

The 30-second spot, first obtained by NBC News, reminds voters of Brown’s advocacy back in 2012, as pets were getting sick from tainted dog treats from China. The campaign says it is part of a previous television and radio ad buy—the campaign has more than $4.5 million in advertising time booked between Tuesday and Election Day. 

“Thousands of dogs were getting sick, we got to work to stop it,” Brown says to camera, while holding and petting his rescued mixed-breed.

In 2007 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began investigating complaints of pet illness connected to Chinese-imported chicken, duck, and sweet potato jerky treats. The agency reported complaints of more than 6,000 pet illnesses and over 1,100 canine deaths.

“Sherrod Brown took the lead, he fought to protect the animals and make sure the dog treats were taken off the shelves,” Dr. Anne Soinski, a Cleveland veterinarian says in the advertisement.

After the death of an Ohio family’s dog, Brown pushed the FDA to investigate and take pet treat safety more seriously. He later chaired a congressional hearing on “Pet Treats and Processed Chicken from China.” By 2014, many prominent stores announced they were pulling the Chinese-made treats from shelves.

“All of our friends should be safe from tainted products,” Brown says before soliciting a bark of approval from the family pet.

Franklin the dog knows his way around the campaign trail. He’s featured on the campaign website as the “Manager of Morale,” and solicits donations through his line of official campaign dog bowls, collars, and mugs.

The new ad is a fluffy extension of Brown’s trademark populist message that’s helped him build a double-digit polling lead against his republican opponent, Rep. Jim Renacci. President Trump won Ohio in 2016 by eight points.

Trump is slated to return to the state for a rally Friday night, in an effort to boost Renacci.