In the Trump Era, almost no politics is local

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Image: Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wields the gavel as she presides over the U.S. House of Representatives vote on a resolution that sets up the next steps in the impeachment inquiry of U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Oct. 31, 2019.Tom Brenner / Reuters

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — So much for Tip O’Neill’s famous maxim that all politics is local.

Instead, arguably the driving force in today’s politics is how nationalized it’s become.

We saw it in yesterday’s procedural vote on impeachment, where there were only three real defections — two House Democrats who broke away from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (New Jersey’s Jeff Van Drew and Minnesota’s Collin Peterson), and one former Republican who had already left the GOP (Michigan’s Justin Amash).

Compare that with the 31 House Democrats who joined the GOP majority to launch the Clinton impeachment inquiry back in 1998, as NBC’s Pete Williams notes.

We’re seeing it on the presidential campaign trail in Iowa and New Hampshire, where local issues (like ethanol in Iowa) don’t pack the punch they once did in these states.

We’re seeing it in the upcoming gubernatorial races in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi, where the GOP messaging has been to hug Trump — and tie the Democrats to Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and AOC — in these red states.

Just check out the TV ads here, here and here.

And we’re seeing the opposite in Virginia’s upcoming state legislative races, where Dem candidates are tying their GOP opponents to Trump in this increasingly blue state — like in this TV ad.

This intense nationalization of our politics also played out in 2016 and 2018, write Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman.

“In 2016, every state with a Senate race voted for the same party for president and for Senate. Less than 10% of all 435 U.S. House seats voted for a different party for House in 2018 and president in 2016, continuing a trend of ticket-conformity more similar to a century ago than to a decade or two ago.”

And it’s probably why Republicans have a slight edge in the competitive Kentucky and Mississippi gubernatorial races, and why Democrats have a similar edge in their effort to flip the state House and Senate in Virginia, Kondik and Coleman say.

Because if all politics isn’t local anymore, it’s harder for the non-dominant party to win contests — even for state and local office.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 30 points and 4 points

Thirty points and four points.

Those are the 2016 margins of victory for Donald Trump in the congressional districts of the two Democrats who voted against yesterday’s resolution to lay out the next steps of the impeachment inquiry.

One of them, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, has the distinction of representing the most Trump-friendly district in the country that was won by a Democratic congressional candidate in 2018. Trump won the district, 61 percent to 31 percent.

The other, Democratic Rep. Jeff Van Drew, represents a southern New Jersey district that flipped from supporting Obama in 2012 to backing Trump by a four-point margin in 2016.

Yesterday’s vote wasn’t the real impeachment vote

An important reminder about yesterday’s 232-196 vote: It was about procedure (how to move forward), and not the actual substance.

So if you’re a Republican who might be on the fence, would you really stick your neck out on a procedural vote — or wait until the articles of impeachment?

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Ditto if you’re a Democrat who, at the end of the day, wants to distance yourself from the national party?

Yesterday’s vote was an important test vote — and it very well could represent the floor of opposition to the president.

But it’s not the vote historians will ultimately use.

Another Trump official confirms quid pro quo

President Trump last night was celebrating the reporting that former National Security Council official Tim Morrison told congressional investigators on Thursday that “nothing illegal” was discussed on Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president.

But here’s what Trump didn’t mention from yesterday’s deposition: Morrison appeared to confirm there was a quid pro quo — aid for Ukraine was conditioned on the investigation into the Bidens and Burisma.

Morrison “told investigators that a conversation he had several weeks later with Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. and a Trump backer, gave him reason to believe that the release of aid to Ukraine might be conditioned on a public statement that it was reopening an investigation into the energy company Burisma. Biden's son Hunter was on the company's board,” NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell writes.

More: “And he confirmed ‘the substance’ of U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor's testimony as ‘accurate,’ according to two people familiar with his testimony. Taylor testified behind closed doors that Morrison had alerted him to an effort by the president to withhold security aid for Ukraine in exchange for those investigations.”

So that’s multiple confirmations of a quid pro quo – from the Volker text messages, Taylor’s testimony, and now Morrison’s testimony.

2020 Vision: Dems gather for big Iowa dinner

The Democratic presidential candidates are speaking tonight in Des Moines, Iowa for their Liberty and Justice dinner — formerly known as the Jefferson-Jackson dinner.

The speaking order for the event that begins at 7:30 pm ET: Buttigieg, Biden, Yang, Warren, Harris, Steyer, Sanders, Bennet, O’Rourke, Castro, Klobuchar, Booker, Delaney and Bullock.

And in advance of tonight’s dinner, there’s a New York Times/Siena poll of Iowa showing a four-person race in the Hawkeye State: Warren 22 percent, Sanders 19 percent, Buttigieg 18 percent, Biden 17 percent, Klobuchar 4 percent, Harris 3 percent and Yang 3 percent.

Note that the Top 4 candidates are all within the poll’s margin of error of plus-minus 4.7 percentage points.

On the campaign trail today

Some of the interesting pre-dinner activity ahead of tonight’s dinner in Iowa: Weezer is playing at a rally for Yang dubbed “Yangapalooza”… Kamala Harris’ team is putting on a block party… And Pete Buttigieg is holding a rally at 5:00 pm ET.

Dispatches from NBC’s embeds

Back in September, Kamala Harris was asked if she’d support Beto O’Rourke on mandatory gun buybacks. NBC’s Deepa Shivaram has the latest from Harris on this in Iowa: “Almost two months later, she has still not been able to provide detail on what that would actually look like. Tonight, she said, ‘We are going to have to do it the right way … I think that when we pass a law that says that assault weapons are banned I have faith in the American people.’ What ‘the right way’ is remains unclear, but this is the first time Harris has said the ban will be passed through law, which stands out against the rest of her gun agenda, which has a deadline of 100 days for Congress before she takes executive action.”

Amy Klobuchar was fired up in Iowa and offered her reasoning as to why she’s the best Democratic nominee to take on the president. NBC’s Priscilla Thompson reports: “In describing how she would stand toe-to-toe with Donald Trump, Klobuchar also appeared to take a subtle jab at Elizabeth Warren's lack of a plan for paying for Medicare for All, saying she’s, ‘someone that can look Donald Trump in the eye and say, I've showed how I'm going to pay for my plans, you haven't. I've shown what I'm going to do as a president, you haven't. And most of all, I represent the hopes and dreams of the people of this country.’”

Tweet of the day

The Lid: The yeas and nays

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we broke down the impeachment vote in the House.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

A new Washington Post-ABC poll shows support for impeachment and removal of the president at 49 percent.

Former top national security official Tim Morrison said he did not have concerns that Trump’s Ukraine call was illegal.

The New York Times writes that neither side seems willing to give an inch on impeachment.

Biden is shifting his messaging focus from Trump to the middle class.

Trump Agenda: Genius?

The bad press around Rudy Giuliani’s iPhone woes continues.

Legal experts are still trying to untangle questions about whether two former Trump administration officials can be forced to testify on Capitol Hill.

Trump has quietly halted his idea of releasing gun violence prevention plans.

2020: What presidential race?

POLITICO notes that the impeachment inquiry is crashing into the primary timeline.

Can Republican women save Trump’s reelection campaign?

The DNC is pushing Democratic candidates to commit to actively campaign for the party’s nominee.