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Wake Up To Politics - November 1, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, November 1, 2018. 5 days until Election Day 2018. 733 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

WUTP Reports: Biden rallies Democrats as Missouri Senate races enters final stage

BRIDGETON, Mo. — As her race for re-election continues to tighten, both Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and her opponent, state Attorney General Josh Hawley (R-MO), are both turning for help to the top star power their parties have to offer.

President Donald Trump will be visiting Columbia today to campaign with Hawley, before returning on Monday for a rally in Cape Girardeau, his final stop of the 2018 midterms. Vice President Mike Pence will also appear with Hawley in Kansas City on Friday, plus Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC) and Cory Gardner (CO) were in the state earlier this week. McCaskill, meanwhile, appeared on Wednesday with someone she described as "a one-man crusader" and compared to a "comfortable pair of slippers": former Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden headlined a "Get Out The Vote" rally in Bridgeton, Missouri with McCaskill, Democratic congressional candidate Cort VanOstran, and St. Louis County Prosecutor candidate Wesley Bell. "My name is Joe Biden and I work for Claire McCaskill," the former vice president said by way of introduction, before going on to expound on the importance of Tuesday's elections and decency in American politics for about 45 minutes. He didn't mention President Trump by name in his remarks, but much of the speech was clearly about drawing a contrast to the current occupant of the Oval Office. However, when the crowd cheered after one audience member suggested he should run against Trump himself, Biden demurred. "It's not about me," he said.

Biden was in Missouri as part of an expansive tour of the Midwest, including stops in Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, and even North Dakota, territory few other national Democrats would be welcome in.

Warning that America is coming "carelessly close" to abandoning its founding principles and urging voters to "reset the moral compass of this nation," he spoke on Wednesday about the need of electing "more men and women of character in public office." And, he said, "Claire, Cort, and Wesley: they have character."

"There's something different about this year's election," Biden added. "This year's election is bigger than politics. The very character of the country is on the ballot this time."

Biden also spoke about the cases of domestic terrorism that have occurred just before Election Day, including the pipe bombs that were mailed to many prominent Democrats, including him ("a bunch of us," as he put it). "Three times this past week, the forces of hate have terrorized our fellow Americans: for their political beliefs, the color of their skin, or the religion they practice," he said, urging people to change their everyday discourse and "start talking to one another again."

"Folks, we need to recognize: words matter... We are so much better than this. We are so much better as a nation," he insisted, adding later: "Hate will continue to grow if we do not speak out... Silence is complicity."

While he preached the need for bipartisanship (praising McCaskill for being "one of those unique people in the United States Senate" who reaches across party lines), Biden also took some direct shots at Republicans. "This is not your father's Republican Party," he said, accusing GOP lawmakers of having "lost their nerve" in "protecting a guy most of them don't agree with." Biden also went after Hawley for claiming to support protections for people with pre-existing conditions, despite signing onto a lawsuit that would strike down Obamacare. "These guys are either not telling the truth, or they're really, really stupid," he said. "Or both."

McCaskill and VanOstran have both made health care a centerpiece of their campaigns. The latter, a 30-year-old Democrat who is running against Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) in a traditionally conservative district, told Wake Up To Politics in an interview after the rally that "it's the issue that [he hears] about more than any other" on the campaign trail. "At almost every single door, people have a health care story," he continued. "They, or someone they know or love, is in danger of losing access to care [or] doesn't have access to care... We need a member of Congress who will offer real solutions, not who will tow the party line on the issue."

VanOstran, whose father died when he was young and whose mother died of breast cancer in 2016, also spoke about the similarities he shared with Biden, who has tragically lost his first wife and two children. "The Vice President and I both, early in our lives, we had a lot of tragedy. When you have that kind of experience, you develop a lot of compassion, an idea of what other people might be going through," he said. "I think that's a really important trait in a public servant... I'll be able to take that same empathy and compassion to Washington."

Both McCaskill and VanOstran appeared confident about their chances on Wednesday. "We have got to play some offense and we can flip some seats, and we can flip the Second Congressional District," the latter proclaimed during the rally, telling WUTP later that "folks are fired up and ready to go" and "excited for an opportunity to return decency and stability to Washington, D.C." He added: "It's so exciting to be a part of a new generation of leaders stepping up to the plate... I'm excited about what the future holds and I'm ready to work hard."

While McCaskill has been accused of turning away from her base, particularly black voters, in recent days, her campaign said more than 1,000 people were in attendance at the rally, and the crowd seemed largely energized. "I feel good," McCaskill enthused as she walked on stage to the James Brown song with that title.

Acknowledging the uphill battle she faces, McCaskill referenced a Fox News poll released on Wednesday that showed her race at an even 43%-43%, in line with most polls that have indicated it will be a toss-up. "Guess what? We're tied," she said. The incumbent told Wake Up To Politics in mid-October that the final margin will be "as close as a fingernail." Meanwhile, most forecasters still rate Missouri's 2nd District as falling in the Republican column, although Cook Political Report recently moved it from Likely to Lean Republican. "If we work hard, folks, then we will win next Tuesday," VanOstran said in his speech.

While VanOstran is a first-time candidate, McCaskill, at least, is used to hard-fought political combat; her tenure in the Senate is the result of two unexpected victories. And while she is seen as one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats facing re-election this year, McCaskill predicted on Wednesday that after election night, pundits would be calling another competitive race in her favor: "You know what they're going to say next Tuesday?" she envisaged. "'Let's go to Missouri, we have a call to make. That Claire McCaskill has done it again!'"

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Midterms Central

Big picture: "Democrats maintain a strong position to retake the U.S. House, but the party’s base of less-frequent voters and concerns about illegal immigration stand out as wild cards in the final days before Tuesday’s midterm election, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll of likely voters in battleground congressional districts." (Washington Post)

Polling roundup: An update on the latest polls to be released...

  • AZ-SEN: Kyrsten Sinema 51%, Martha McSally 47% (CNN)
  • Kyrsten Sinema 46%, Martha McSally 46% (Fox News)
  • IN-SEN: Joe Donnelly 48%, Mike Braun 46% (NBC/Marist)
  • Joe Donnelly 45%, Mike Braun 38% (Fox News)
  • MO-SEN: Claire McCaskill 43%, Josh Hawley 43% (Fox News)
  • NV-SEN: Jacky Rosen 48%, Dean Heller 45% (CNN)
  • ND-SEN: Kevin Cramer 51%, Heidi Heitkamp 42% (Fox News)
  • TN-SEN: Marsha Blackburn 50%, Phil Bredesen 41% (Fox News)

Trump floats deploying 15,000 troops to southern border

Via ABC News:

"In a move with potential major political implications just days before the midterm elections, President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the deployment of active duty forces to the southern U.S. border would increase dramatically -- to 10,000 or 15,000 troops.

"'We have about 5,000. We'll do up anywhere between 10 and 15,000 military personnel on top of border patrol, ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement], and everybody else at the border,' Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn on Wednesday.

"The numbers cited by Trump would be a significant increase over the 5,200 active duty forces originally slated by U.S. Northern Command (Northcom) to stop a migrant caravan, still some 800 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. Fifteen thousand is roughly the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and three times the number in Iraq."

--- The comments come as President Trump continues to make immigration a focus in the final days of the midterm elections. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the president also continued to push his proposal to end birthright citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants, insisting that he could do so with only an executive order. "You don't need a constitutional amendment for birthright citizenship," he said, despite the overwhelming opinion of legal scholars. "If President Obama can get DACA approved...we can do this by executive order," he continued, referring to his predecessor's executive action providing protections to "DREAMers" brought to the U.S. illegally as minors. When Trump rescinded DACA after taking office, he argued that it had been unconstitutional. In a tweet, Trump promised that the issue would go all the way to the Supreme Court, promising that birthright citizenship would be "ended one way or the other."

Also on Wednesday: Trump went after retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) for announcing his opposition to the president's birthright citizenship plan. "Paul Ryan should be focusing on holding the Majority rather than giving his opinions on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about!" Trump tweeted, lobbing an attack at his party's leader in Congress just days before the high-stakes midterm elections.

White House schedule

POTUS: At 11:30am, President Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing. At 1:30pm, he receives a briefing on election integrity.

At 7:30pm, he holds a Make America Great Again rally in Columbia, Missouri, continuing his campaigning blitz ahead of next week's midterms.

VP: Vice President Mike Pence headlines three "Get Out The Vote" rallies for Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp today: in Dalton (11:40am), Augusta (3:25pm), and Savannah (6:25pm).

Congress schedule

Both houses of Congress are on recess.

*All times Eastern