WASHINGTON — Typically, all midterm elections have been referendums on the sitting president. And just weeks before Election Day, President Donald Trump has been embracing it.
“A vote for Marsha is a vote for me,” Trump said on Oct. 1 in Tennessee, as he campaigned for GOP Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn.
“A vote for Cindy [Hyde-Smith] is a vote for me,” he said on Oct. 2 in Mississippi.
“A vote for Steve [Watkins] is a vote for me and our agenda to make America great again,” Trump said on Oct. 6 in Kansas.
“A vote for David [Young] is a vote for me to make America great again,” Trump said at his rally in Iowa last Tuesday.
A president acknowledging this reality of midterm elections is a way to fire up his voters. “My name may not be on the ballot, but our agenda for moving forward is on the ballot, and I need everybody to turn out,” Barack Obama said on Al Sharpton’s radio show in 2010.
But it also comes with consequences if the president’s party suffers big losses — as has happened in the last three midterm elections (2006, 2010 and 2014).
Trump stays away from swing voters and competitive areas
By the way, the places where Trump has been making his campaign pitches — in Tennessee, Mississippi, Kansas and rural Iowa — have been in solid Trump/GOP territory, NBC News' Jonathan Allen writes. “Only two of the dozen ‘Make America Great Again’ rallies he's held since Labor Day have been in counties he lost in the presidential race — Clark County, Nevada, and Olmstead County, Minnesota, according to an NBC News analysis.”
More: “Trump's average margin of victory in the counties he's campaigned in, including the pair he dropped to Hillary Clinton, is more than 20 points — 57 percent to 36 percent — and includes five counties he won with more than 60 percent of the vote, according to a review of data compiled by Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Elections.”
And: “Trump is planning a western campaign swing to Missoula, Montana, Mesa, Arizona, and Elko, Nevada, all of which have competitive Senate races, later this week. Republicans are trying to flip two Democratic-held House seats in Nevada — the 3rd and 4th Districts — but Elko is outside of them, meaning he is less likely to antagonize Democrats in those districts with his presence. Trump won Elko County with more than 70 percent of the vote in 2016. Likewise, Trump will avoid Arizona's 2nd District, where Democrats are trying to take the seat of Rep. Martha McSally, the GOP Senate candidate, instead holding his rally near the district of Rep. David Schweikert, who is regarded as having a good shot to win re-election.”
Highlights from Trump’s '60 Minutes' interview
Last night, “60 Minutes” ran an interview that Lesley Stahl had with Trump. Some of the highlights:
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Trump on climate change: “I think something’s happening. Something’s changing and it’ll change back again. I don't think it's a hoax, I think there's probably a difference. But I don't know that it's manmade.”
On Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: “I have a very good relationship with him. It could be that he is. I think he's sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth. But General Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That's Washington.”
On the Mueller investigation: “I have no intention of [shutting it down]. I think it’s a very unfair investigation because there was no collusion of any kind. There is no collusion. I don't want to pledge. Why should I pledge to you? If I pledge, I'll pledge. I don't have to pledge to you.”
On mocking Christine Blasey Ford: “Had I not made that speech, we would not have won. I was just saying she didn't seem to know anything ... I didn't really make fun of her... What I said the person that we're talking about didn't know the year, the time, the place.”
On the brutality of Kim Jong Un’s North Korea regime: “Sure. I know all these things. I mean — I'm not a baby. I know these things. Look, look. I — I — I like — I get along with him, okay? ... Look. Let it be whatever it is. I get along with him really well. I have a good energy with him. I have a good chemistry with him. Look at the horrible threats that were made. No more threats. No more threats.”
On whether journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by the Saudis: “Nobody knows yet, but we'll probably be able to find out. It's being investigated. It's being looked at very, very strongly. And we would be very upset and angry if that were the case. As of this moment, they deny it. And deny it vehemently. Could it be them? Yes ... They deny it. They deny it every way you can imagine. In the not-too-distant future, I think we'll know an answer... So we're going to have to see. We're going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.”
Rubio: Congress will respond if the Saudis killed Khashoggi
On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Congress will respond if Saudi Arabia did indeed kill Khashoggi, per NBC News' Ben Kamisar.
“Sen. Marco Rubio warned Sunday that America's ‘moral credibility’ is at risk if it fails in its response to suspected Saudi involvement in the disappearance and possible killing of a Washington Post columnist in Turkey ... 'If this is proven to be true, there is going to be a response from Congress,' Rubio said. 'It's going to be nearly unanimous, it's going to be swift and it's going to go pretty far.'"
Can Democrats fix their problem with Latinos?
NBC News' Alex Seitz-Wald and Benjy Sarlin: “Even with phenom Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke at the top of the Texas ticket, it hasn't been easy, as Democratic officials, party operatives and tied-in organizations in this state and across the country are seeing signs — surprising to some — that many Hispanics may sit out the midterms. The lack of enthusiasm among Latinos has party leaders concerned that a key part of the coalition needed to take back the House and Senate may stay home.”
“‘There's a mountain of evidence showing Latino voters are a weak point for Democrats this cycle,’ said David Wasserman, House editor for The Cook Political Report and an NBC News contributor/senior analyst with the NBC Election Unit.”
“Nationally, Latino voters favor a Democratic Congress over a Republican one by 64-21 percent, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal Telemundo poll last month. But self-reported interest in the election is low, according to the same survey, and the picture in some individual races looks even worse for Democrats.”
Georgia senator snatches student’s phone
“An attempted conversation between a Georgia Tech student and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) ended abruptly with the lawmaker snatching the student’s cellphone away while he was being asked about possible voter suppression in the state. The senator’s office has said the exchange, part of which was captured on video, was a misunderstanding,” the Washington Post says.
Perdue’s office released this statement: “Sen. Perdue spent several hours meeting with hundreds of people at the Georgia Tech game this weekend. The senator spoke with many students and answered questions on a variety of topics. In this instance, the Senator clearly thought he was being asked to take a picture, and he went to take a selfie as he often does. When he realized they didn’t actually want to take a picture, he gave the phone back.”
Here’s the video the student released.
Elizabeth Warren releases results of DNA test
The Boston Globe: “Senator Elizabeth Warren has released a DNA test that provides “strong evidence" she had a Native American in her family tree dating back 6 to 10 generations, an unprecedented move by one of the top possible contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president … The inherent imprecision of the six-page DNA analysis could provide fodder for Warren’s critics. If her great-great-great-grandmother was Native American, that puts her at 1/32nd American Indian. But the report includes the possibility that she’s just 1/512th Native American if the ancestor is 10 generations back.”
And Warren released a video of her DNA test and heritage — and Trump mocking her, calling her “Pocahontas.”