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Stung by House loss, Trump lashes out

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
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One day after Republicans lost control of the U.S. House of Representatives, President Donald Trump took a series of provocative actions on Wednesday — from the Russia probe to relations with the White House press corps. Consider:

  • He fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced him with Sessions’ chief of staff, Matt Whitaker, who has been critical of the Mueller probe: “Before Whitaker came to the Justice Department in 2017, he wrote an op-ed for CNN that said Mueller's investigation was ‘going too far.’ He supported Trump's claim that the probe would be crossing a red line if it branched into the finances of Trump and his family. As a legal commentator on CNN, Whitaker also said that Sessions could be replaced with someone who would reduce Mueller's budget,” NBC’s Julia Ainsley writes.
  • He threatened to investigate Democrats if they investigate him: “If that happens [Democrats using subpoenas to get his tax returns and other items], then we’re going to do the same thing, and government comes to a halt, and I would blame them, because they now are going to be coming up with policy,” Trump said at his news conference yesterday.
  • His White House revoked the “hard pass” of CNN’s White House correspondent: CNN's Jim Acosta “tweeted Wednesday night that he was denied access when he tried to enter the White House … press secretary Sarah Sanders later issued a statement that said the reporter's ‘hard pass’ was suspended as a result of his attempt to keep control of a microphone during Wednesday's news conference with the president,” per NBC News. (In fact, here is the video of a White House intern trying to take away the microphone from Acosta.)
  • And he accused an African-American reporter of asking a “racist” question when she asked him if he was emboldening white nationalists by referring to himself as a nationalist: “That’s such a racist question ... Why do I have among the highest poll numbers with African-Americans? I mean, why do I have my highest poll numbers? That’s such a racist question.” (In fact, the most recent NBC/WSJ poll showed that just 14 percent of likely African-American voters approve of Trump’s job.)

Another tragic mass shooting — this time in California

NBC News: “Twelve people including a police officer were killed by a gunman at a crowded bar in Thousand Oaks, California, late Wednesday, officials said. Several hundred people were inside the venue, which was hosting a ‘college country night’ for students, police said. Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean described the incident at the Borderline Bar and Grill as a ‘tragic, tragic situation.’”

“The gunman apparently was not carrying any form of identification and it will take time to take his fingerprints and run them through databases, local and federal officials said. The gunman was described as a white male, armed with a single handgun, a law enforcement source said.”

It’s still unclear how AZ-SEN is going to play out

NBC's Vaughn Hillyard on the votes that still have to be counted in the very close Martha McSally-vs.-Kyrsten Sinema race for Arizona Senate: “There are an estimated 652,400 uncounted ballots in Arizona. These are nearly all early ballots that have yet to be counted — there are a few thousand provisional ballots.”

More from Hillyard: “Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes has told NBC News that Maricopa County has 492,400 ballots that must still be counted. We will know the results of some of these on Thursday at 7:00 pm ET when the county updates its results. Thursday is expected to provide the results of a significant portion of these votes, but the county says it will incrementally release the results over nine or 10 days. To note: This should give us a pretty good idea if Sinema stands a shot to make up the present 0.9 percent deficit (15,908 votes) she currently has.

Also: “There are roughly 160,000 votes outside of Maricopa County that still need to be counted. We say roughly because some of the counties have not reported how many ballots they actually have, and it is tough to project these turnout figures based on past elections compared to what we saw yesterday. But for this process, these numbers are based off of voter turnout projections. The Arizona Republic says Pima County is reporting it has 70,000 to 80,000 uncounted early ballots, plus 18,000 uncounted provisional ballots (currently: Sinema=55.2 percent; McSally=42.8 percent). This is a huge number for Pima County.”

Bottom line: This race is far, far from over.

FL-SEN goes to a recount

“The razor-thin Florida Senate race between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and the state’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott is headed to a recount, Nelson’s campaign announced Wednesday morning,” per Politico. “With more than 8 million votes cast, the two candidates are separated by fewer than 35,000 votes, with Scott holding the slim lead.”

“Florida’s 67 counties now must recheck their tallies, a process they initially have until noon on Nov. 10 to complete. In addition, Nelson’s campaign is sending monitors to every county across the state. The campaign is already working with well-known Democratic attorney Marc Elias with the firm Perkins Coie.”

Did Cuban-Americans keep Florida red?

From Florida Playbook: “This was such a fascinating nugget from Giancarlo Sopo, communications consultant and friend of Florida Playbook, so we asked him to type it up for your reading pleasure:

"An analysis of voting results in Miami-Dade County's 35 most-Cuban precincts shows that Cuban Americans were critical to keeping Florida red this year. As recent polling showed, Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis and his running mate, Jeannette Nuñez, won 66 percent of the vote in the predominantly Cuban precincts located in the suburbs of western Miami-Dade and Hialeah. DeSantis' 33-percentage point advantage among Cubans over Democrat Andrew Gillum was a 16-point improvement for Republicans from Donald Trump's 57 to 40 percent lead over Hillary Clinton and a key to his success. Had DeSantis merely mirrored Trump's 2016 Cuban performance, the Democrats' lead in Miami-Dade County would have widened by approximately 78,000 votes and left DeSantis with a 0.4 percent statewide deficit.”

The uncalled House races (12)


-- (CA-25) (GOP Rep. Steve Knight conceded to Dem Katie Hill)





-- GA-6 (GOP Rep. Karen Handel has conceded losing to Dem Lucy McBath)


-- ME-2 (it appears the race is headed to ranked choice to determine the winner)

-- NM-2 (NBC News retracted its earlier call in favor of the Republicans)




-- WA-8 (GOPer Dino Rossi conceded to Dem Kim Schrier)


The uncalled Senate races (2)



-- MT-SEN (NBC News declared Dem Jon Tester the apparent winner)

-- (MS-SEN goes to runoff)

The uncalled GOV races (1)

-- AK-GOV (NBC News projected GOPer Mike Dunleavy the winner)

-- CT-GOV (NBC News declared Dem Ned Lamont the apparent winner)


Democrats ended up winning more House seats than they did in 2006

It appears that Democrats are on their way to netting more than 35 House seats — a bigger pickup than the some 30 seats the party gained in the 2006 midterms and the most for them since the post-Watergate 1974 midterms.

On Wednesday, we wrote that what happened on election night was more of a realignment than a wave, and we were talking about the urban/suburban Dem pickups versus the GOP’s Senate pickups in rural/red areas.

But make no mistake: House Democrats had a very big night on Tuesday.

Progressives had a rough Tuesday

While Democrats overall had a good night in House and gubernatorial contests, progressive nominees didn’t have much success, NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald says.

“[N[early all of national progressive groups' star candidates fell short in their contests in red or purple districts and states, potentially slowing the momentum the emboldened left had enjoyed since Hillary Clinton's loss two years ago. ‘Progressives have to really do some hard thinking about the shape of the movement looking at 2020 and beyond,’ said progressive strategist Jonathan Tasini, adding that while the left had successes in some local races, they struggled in statewide contests. ‘The failure, for example, of the Ben Jealous campaign in a very Democratic state says both that sticking a simple 'progressive' branding on a candidate's campaign may sustain a small cult, but that isn't enough to win enough elections.’”

“Sean McElwee, the progressive activist who popularized the call to ‘abolish ICE,’ acknowledged that Democrats' biggest successes this cycle came in primaries in safe blue seats, where rising stars like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York and Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts ousted longtime Democratic incumbents and cruised to victories Tuesday. ‘We should really take seriously the idea that the path forward is contesting for power in (primaries in) the deeper bluer seats,’ said McElwee, who runs the think tank Data for Progress, adding that approach would help progressives form a bulwark in Congress to press their agenda.”