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Wake Up To Politics - November 6, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, November 6, 2019. 89 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 363 days until Election Day 2020. Have any comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com!

Democrats win control in Virginia, claim victory in Kentucky governor's race

Democrats flipped both chambers of the Virginia legislature on Tuesday, winning complete control of the state's government for the first time in a generation, as their gubernatorial candidate in deep-red Kentucky claimed victory.

The race in Kentucky has yet to be officially called, but Democratic state Attorney General Andy Beshear has a lead of 5,150 votes over Republican Gov. Matt Bevin (49.2% to 48.8%) with 100% of the precincts reporting. Beshear declared victory in a speech to his supporters just after 10 p.m. local time, promising to be a "governor for everyone." Bevin refused to concede; under state law, he can request a recanvassing of the results.

Bevin was one of the most unpopular governors in the country due to a string of controversial comments, most notably his 2018 "guarantee" that a teacher strike would lead to children being sexually assaulted. Beshear, meanwhile, was the son of Bevin's popular, two-term predecessor as governor.

While Bevin was narrowly defeated, Republicans won the other five statewide offices in Kentucky, flipping the Attorney General and Secretary of State positions into GOP hands. The AG race featured a Republican candidate widely seen as a rising star in the party, Daniel Cameron, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Cameron easily defeated his Democratic opponent on Tuesday, becoming the first African-American to win statewide office in Kentucky history.

But the elections in Virginia offered few bright spots for Republicans, as Democrats won unified control of the state's government for the first time since 1993. Democrats flipped at least two states in the state Senate and at least five in the House of Delegates, enough to recapture the majorities in both chambers. The party already held the state's governorship.

The results in Virginia were seen as another suburban repudiation of President Donald Trump, completing the Old Dominion's evolution from a reliably Republican state to a swing state to a reliably Democratic one.

While Bevin's defeat may have been tied more to his personal unpopularity than to the national political environment, the loss still provides a setback for President Trump in a state he won by 30% in 2016. Trump campaigned alongside Bevin at a rally on Monday night, rhetorically tying his own reputation to the results in the Bluegrass State. "If [Bevin loses], they are going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world," he warned Kentucky voters. "You can't let that happen to me!" But Trump's rally was not enough to boost Bevin to victory, nor were the governor's frequent attempts to highlight his connections to the president and opposition to the ongoing congressional impeachment investigation.

In a statement, Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale boasted that the president "helped five of six Kentucky Republicans win clear statewide victories" and "just about dragged Gov. Matt Bevin across the finish line, helping him run stronger than expected in what turned into a very close race at the end." In his own election night tweet, Trump claimed that Bevin "picked up at least 15 points" after his rally, although he provided no polling data to support that assertion.

--- What do Tuesday's results mean for President Trump and the national GOP? Via the Washington Post: "Democrats’ claim of victory Tuesday in Kentucky’s gubernatorial race, as well as the Democratic takeover of the Virginia state legislature, left Republicans stumbling and increasingly uncertain about their own political fates next year tied to an embattled and unpopular president."

. . ."The outcome — with Democrat Andy Beshear claiming victory with a lead of several thousand votes and Bevin refusing to concede — underscored how Republicans are struggling to navigate choppy political waters as the 2020 campaign now begins in earnest. Trump continues to dominate the party, but many lawmakers are uneasy about their ability to defend his conduct and hold on to suburban support."

(The author of that Post piece, Robert Costa, added in a tweet that Senate Republicans were paying close attention to the Kentucky race, "not just watching the returns, but President Trump's political capital as they make decisions about how to handle impeachment and their own future.")

--- More election results: Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves won Mississippi's governorship, defeating Democratic state Attorney General Jim Hood, 52.3% to 46.5%. Reeves has been closely aligned with President Trump, who campaigned for the candidate last week.

Republicans are poised to gain four seats in the New Jersey state Assembly and flip at least one state Senate seat, a show of strength in a state that had been trending blue.

Democrats won a number of local races in the critical 2020 state of Pennsylvania.

Impeachment update: Sondland points to quid pro quo in revised testimony

Via the New York Times:

"A crucial witness in the impeachment inquiry reversed himself this week and acknowledged to investigators that he had told a top Ukrainian official that the country would most likely have to give President Trump what he wanted — a public pledge for investigations — in order to unlock military aid."

"The disclosure from Gordon D. Sondland, an ally of Mr. Trump who is the United States ambassador to the European Union, confirmed his role in laying out a quid pro quo to Ukraine that conditioned the release of security assistance from the United States on the country’s willingness to say it was investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats."

"That admission, included in a four-page sworn statement released on Tuesday, directly contradicted his testimony to investigators last month, when he said he 'never' thought there was any precondition on the aid."

"'I said that resumption of the U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anticorruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks,' Mr. Sondland said in the new statement, which was made public by the House committees leading the inquiry, along with the transcript of his original testimony."

. . ."[The revision] provided Democrats with a valuable piece of evidence from a critical witness to fill out the picture of their abuse-of-power case against the president. Unlike other officials who have offered damaging testimony about Mr. Trump, Mr. Sondland is a political supporter of the president who has interacted directly with him."

--- Big picture: Sondland is the latest in a string of Trump administration officials to confirm that a quid pro quo took place between President Trump and Ukraine, joining acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor and National Security Council officials Alexander Vindman and Timothy Morrison. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney also acknowledged the existence of a quid pro quo last month, before walking back his comments.
Additionally, a growing number of congressional Republicans have begun to shift their defenses in the impeachment inquiry from denying a quid pro quo to denying that a quid pro quo constitutes an impeachable offense. President Trump, meanwhile, has maintained that there was "no quid pro quo," repeating the phrase in public remarks, tweets, and in comments to reporters.

--- Happening today: Testimony has been requested from Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought, State Department Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale. Only Hale is expected to show up for his scheduled deposition, which is set to take place at 9:30 a.m. According to the Associated Press, Hale is expected to tell lawmakers that "political considerations" were behind the State Department's refusal to defend Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.

--- Quote of the day: "The Trump presidency - it’s like every day is Christmas. You don’t know what’s under the tree. It can be that shotgun you’ve been hoping to get, or it can be a sweater you don’t want. . . There’s something under the tree. . . It makes it fun." — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of President Trump's top defenders in the impeachment inquiry, to Politico

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Today at the White House

--- At 3 p.m., President Trump delivers remarks celebrating a milestone: after today, his nominees are expected to make up more than a quarter of the federal appellate bench (45 of the 179 circuit court judges).

The president will then travel to Monroe, Lousiana. At 8 p.m., he delivers remarks at a campaign rally in support of Republican gubernatorial nominee Eddie Rispone, who faces Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA) in a November 16 runoff election. Trump will then return to Washington, D.C.

--- At 3 p.m., Vice President Mike Pence joins President Trump for his remarks on the federal judicial confirmation milestone. At 4:30 p.m., Pence participates in the ceremonial swearing-in of Andrew Bremberg as the U.S. Representative to the European Office of the United Nations. At 6 p.m., the vice president delivers remarks at a reception for supporters of the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte.

--- First Lady Melania Trump travels to Boston, Massachusetts. As part of her Be Best initiative, she will visit Boston Medical Center to learn about their Cuddling Assists in Lowering Maternal and Infant Stress (CALM) Program developed to treat babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

Today in Congress

--- At 10 a.m., the Senate convenes. At 12 p.m., the chamber will hold procedural votes advancing the nominations of Lee Rudofsky to be a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas and Jennifer Wilson to be a U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. At 4 pm., the chamber will vote on confirmation of the nomination of Danielle Hunsaker to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit and on advancing the nomination of William Nardini to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit.

If confirmed, Hunsaker will become the 45th federal circuit court judge nominated by President Trump, meaning his appointees will make up more than a quarter of the federal appellate bench.

--- The House is on recess this week.

Today at the Supreme Court

--- At 10 a.m., the Supreme Court justices will hear oral arguments in County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund. The question in the case: "Whether the Clean Water Act requires a permit when pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to navigable waters by a nonpoint source, such as groundwater."

At 11 a.m., the justices will hear oral arguments in Retirement Plans Committee of IBM v. Jander. The question in the case: "Whether Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer’s 'more harm than good' pleading standard can be satisfied by generalized allegations that the harm of an inevitable disclosure of an alleged fraud generally increases over time."

Today on the trail

--- Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) visits New Hampshire, filing for the first-in-the-nation presidential primary at the State House in Concord, hosting a meet and greet in Dover, and attending a house party in Durham.

--- Former Vice President Joe Biden holds fundraisers in Washington, D.C., and Bethesda, Maryland.

--- Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) attends fundraising events in  Washington, D.C.

--- Sen. Amy Klobuchar visits New Hampshire, filing for the state's primary in Concord and holding a rally on the State House steps, hosting town halls in Rochester and Exeter, and delivering the keynote address at the Southern New Hampshire Democrats’ Blue Moon Rising Gala in Derry.

--- Former Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) visits Manchester, New Hampshire.

--- Former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer campaigns in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, meeting with local Latinx leaders, speaking at an American Federation of Teachers forum, and attending a town hall.

--- Spiritual author Marianne Willaimson continues her college tour, making stops at the all-women Scripps College and its sister institution Pomona College, both in Claremont, California.

--- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang holds a town hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

*All times Eastern