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Watching the undecided voters with four days to go

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.
Image: General Election, Vote
People cast their ballots at a community center during early voting in Potomac, Maryland, two weeks ahead of the key US midterm polls on October 25, 2018.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If there’s been one constant over the last few days, it’s how close all the polls have been, especially for the Senate and gubernatorial contests. It’s tied in FL-SEN and FL-GOV, per CNN. It’s a jump ball in GA-GOV (which is likely headed to a runoff). And our NBC/Marist polls of AZ-SEN and IN-SEN showed incredibly close races.

So how might these tight matchups break in the end? Our NBC/Marist polls of Arizona and Indiana looked at the “persuadable” voters — that is, those who were either undecided or were leaning towards a particular candidate but said they might change their mind.

Our Indiana poll — which had Dem Joe Donnelly leading Republican Mike Braun by 3 points — found 14 percent of likely voters being persuadable, and among these persuadable voters, Trump’s approval rating is 42 percent-38 percent (versus 50 percent-42 percent among all likely voters). Donnelly’s fav/unfav is 27 percent/25 percent (+2), versus Braun’s fav/unfav at 14 percent/35 percent (-21). And congressional preference is even among these voters (when it was R+7 among all likely voters).

Bottom line: These persuadable voters in Indiana seem like true swing voters, and they’re more negative on Braun than on Donnelly.

In Arizona — where Dem Kyrsten Sinema was ahead of Republican Martha McSally by 3 points in a three-way contest — 10 percent of the likely voters are persuadable, and Trump’s job rating is 25 percent-49 percent; Sinema’s fav/unfav is 26 percent/44 percent (-18); McSally’s fav/unfav is 16 percent/41 percent (-25); and congressional preference is D+3.

Bottom line: These voters in Arizona are really down on President Trump, and they don’t like Sinema or McSally (but they like McSally even less).

And we’ll be watching these undecided/persuadable voters in our final NBC/Marist polls that we’ll be releasing on Monday…

Watching the independent voters with four days to go

For all of the attention on the fired-up base voters (Trump supporters vs. urban/suburban women), it’s also important to keep an eye on the middle of the electorate.

In our Arizona poll, Sinema was winning independents by 26 points (58 percent to 32 percent); just 33 percent of independents approved of Trump’s job performance; and indies preferred a Dem-controlled Congress by 14 points (50 percent to 36 percent).

In our Indiana poll, Donnelly was winning independents by 23 points (54 percent to 31 percent); just 39 percent of indies approved of Trump’s job; and independents preferred a Dem-controlled Congress by 9 points (47 percent to 38 percent).

And in our Tennessee poll, Dem Phil Bredesen was winning indies by 24 points (59 percent to 35 percent); just 42 percent of indies approved of Trump’s job; and indies preferred a Dem-controlled by 5 points (46 percent to 41 percent).

Remembering how VA-GOV last year played out in the final days

And with President Trump closing on a message of fear and immigration in these waning days, here’s a reminder: This is exactly the same message that Ed Gillespie and the GOP used at the end of the 2017 gubernatorial race in Virginia.

Yesterday’s split-screen day: Trump versus Oprah

Here was President Trump talking about immigration: “At this very moment large well-organized caravans of migrants are marching towards our southern border. Some people call it an invasion. It's like an invasion. They have violently overrun the Mexican border.”

More Trump: “Once they arrive, the Democrat Party's vision is to offer them free healthcare, free welfare, free education and even the right to vote. You and the hard working members of our country will be asked to pick up the entire tab.”

And this from Trump: “I will tell you this. Anybody throwing stones, rocks, like they did to Mexico and the Mexican military and Mexican police, where they badly hurt police and soldiers of Mexico, we will consider that a firearm because there's not much difference.”

Meanwhile, here was Oprah Winfrey campaigning for Democrat Stacey Abrams in Georgia, per NBC’s Kristen Welker: "I am not here because I am making some grand stand, because I'm thinking of running myself. I don't want to run. I am not trying to test any waters. Won’t want to go into those waters."

More Winfrey: "I'm here today because of the men and women who were lynched, discriminated, suppressed at the polls ... Their blood is seeped into my DNA… And I refuse to let their sacrifices be in vain…And for anybody here who has an ancestor who didn't have the right to vote and you are choosing not to vote wherever you are in this state, in this country, you are dishonoring your family.”

Fact-checking Trump’s misleading statements from his immigration speech

NBC’s Julia Ainsley fact-checks Trump’s immigration speech from yesterday:

Trump statement: The Trump administration was continuing an Obama-era policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border.

The facts: “The Obama administration only separated children from their parents if the parent was going to be charged with a crime, not including charges of crossing the border illegally. Last spring, under "zero tolerance," the Trump administration changed this policy to begin charging, and therefore separating, parents whose only crime was crossing the border illegally.”

Trump statement: There are 20 million undocumented immigrants in the United States

The facts: “Although it is impossible to know exactly how many there are, the Department of Homeland Security estimates this number to be closer to 12 million.”

Trump statement: Construction on the border wall is underway.

The facts: “While there has been some fence building and repairing of existing structures, no concrete has been poured on a new border wall.”

And the New York Times has more

Trump statement: “The Democrat Party’s vision is to offer them free health care, free welfare, free education and even the right to vote.”

The facts: “Legal immigrants to the United States can receive some public benefits and have a pathway to citizenship and the right to vote. But that is a matter of law — not merely the political platform or policies of the Democratic Party.”

Breaking down yesterday’s polls


CNN: Andrew Gillum (D) 49%, Ron DeSantis (R) 48%


CNN: Bill Nelson (D) 49%, Rick Scott (R) 47%


Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Stacey Abrams (D) 47 percent, Brian Kemp (R) 47%


CNN: Marsha Blackburn (R) 49%, Phil Bredesen (D) 45%


Washington Post-Schar School: Jennifer Wexton (D) 54%, Barbara Comstock (R) 43%

Trump campaigns in West Virginia and Indiana

Two rallies for the president today: At 4:00 pm ET, he holds a rally in Huntington, W.V. And at 7:15 pm ET, he stumps in Indianapolis, Ind.

Obama campaigns with Gillum and Abrams

“Former President Barack Obama will campaign for Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in Miami on Friday afternoon, at a rally also featuring incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, before heading a few hours north to Atlanta to meet up with former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams,” CNN writes.

Steve King’s opponent raised more than $600,000 on Tuesday and Wednesday alone

The jaw-dropping fundraising numbers in IA-4, per Politico: “Democrat J.D. Scholten, the former baseball player challenging GOP Rep. Steve King in Iowa, has seen a last second wave of cash come his way as King has sparked new controversy this fall. Scholten raised over $641,000 on Tuesday and Wednesday alone, his campaign shared with POLITICO.

That $640,000-plus is twice what Scholten had left on hand as of October 17.

134 House and Senate candidates refused to take corporate PAC money, per End Citizens United

Speaking of money in politics, the folks over at End Citizens United send over these statistics: “Democratic candidates responded to voter anger about corruption in Washington by making their pledge to get big money out of politics a central theme in the 2018 election. This cycle, 134 House and Senate candidates on the ballot in November have refused to take corporate PAC money, and 107 House candidates sent a letter to Congress calling for a reform bill to be the first item on the agenda in 2019.”