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Wake Up To Politics - October 31, 2016

Monday, October 31, 2016

8 Days until Election Day 2016 + my 15th birthday (Nov. 8)I'm Gabe Fleisher for Wake Up To Politics, and reporting from WUTP world HQ in my bedroom - Good morning: THIS IS YOUR WAKE UP CALL!!!

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Today's newsletter features a special report from two rallies that I attended over the weekend: one for a Democratic Senate candidate here in Missouri, and the other for the Republican gubernatorial candidate. As a result, the rest of the newsletter is a little shorter - but I think even non-Missourians will find the report an interesting microcosm of races across the country.

WUTP Reports: National Figures Campaign in Missouri

  • For most of its history, Missouri has been a battleground state, voting for the winner of every presidential election from 1904 until 2008 (with one exception). Despite losing the state by 0.1% in 2008, Barack Obama lost by 9.4% in 2012, and Donald Trump is expected to carry Missouri next month. However, Missouri still has one Democratic U.S. Senator and a Democratic governor – and Trump’s expected win at the polls isn’t necessarily guaranteeing a Republican takeover of statewide office.
  • However, at rallies on Friday and Sunday, both Democratic Senate candidate Jason Kander and Republican Sen. Roy Blunt and Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens seemed confident of victory, as they received the aid of national figures.
  • The Kander rally on Friday was held at a St. Louis concert venue, The Pageant, with about 2,000 (mostly young) in attendance, gathered to hear Vice President Joe Biden speak in support of Kander. The rally had a “generational” focus, emphasizing Kander’s young age (35 years old).
  • Rev. Starsky Wilson, one of the speakers who addressed the crowd before Biden and Kander walked out together, reminded the audience: “If – no, when – Jason is elected, he will be the first millennial in the United States Senate.” Webster University student Megan Price continued this theme, repeatedly looping in Kander with her “generation,” in an appeal to fellow college-age voters.
  • “Jason sets an example for my generation,” Price said, later adding: “Washington is broken, and I couldn’t think of anyone more ready to prove that our generation can fix it.” Price even compared Kander to Biden, saying: “Vice President Biden joined the United States Senate at a young age and got a reputation for getting things done. Sounds familiar! I know Jason Kander will follow in the Vice President's legacy.”
  • However, in his speech, the Vice President pointed out, “He’s not that young. I was elected to the United States Senate was I was 29 years old,” calling Kander an “old guy.”
  • Biden’s speech was very emotional, as he compared Kander not only to himself, but to his late son Beau. “He was a hell of a man,” Biden said of Beau. The Vice President rejected notions that Kander was too young to serve. “Jason, like my son Beau, is part of the greatest generation that’s ever been created in this country…When I hear talk of this generation, the millennial generation not behind ready to lead, it makes me want to gag,” Biden said.
  • “The generation many of you represent and Jason represents is the most incredible generation ever. Never before have we sent people into war not once, not twice, but sometimes four, five times,” Biden said, holding up his daily schedule card to show where he was written the number of soldiers wounded or killed in service that day for every day since taking office.
  • “Let me tell you, it’s not a surprise he turned out to be who he is,” Biden said of Kander, pointing out his service in the Army. “He’s a patriot. He came home to serve just as he left to serve.”
  • Those themes, patriotism and service, were very evident on Sunday at a Chesterfield hotel when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker joined the entire Missouri Republican ticket, including Kander’s opponent Roy Blunt, for a rally hosted by gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens.
  • Walker also emphasized Greitens’ service as a Navy SEAL, to an older crowd of about 300, many of whom were holding “Veterans for Greitens” signs. “He came home and said, ‘I want to do even more,’” Walker said. “He’s exactly the kind of leader we need for one more mission: we need to send him in one more time…and make this state great again.”
  • Greitens’ running mate, Lieutenant Governor candidate Mike Parsons, had a similar message: “How would you folks, how would you people like the next governor of Missouri to be a veteran? How would you like the next governor and the next lieutenant governor of Missouri to both by veterans?” he asked.
  • In his speech, Greitens went after his opponent, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, as corrupt, tying him to Hillary Clinton. “He’s got all of his corrupt cronies,” Greitens said, “but we have you.”
  • On Friday, Jason Kander’s message was similar. “He can have the special interests,” Kander said of Blunt,” because I’ve got you.”
  • Congress was derided at both events. “Vice President Biden is proof that just because you go to Washington, that doesn’t mean that you become Washington,” Kander said. “We need people in Washington who have gone through rougher things in their lives than a re-election campaign. And trust me, I have.”
  • Josh Hawley, the Republican candidate for Attorney General, spoke against the “unprecedent dysfunction we are seeing in Washington, D.C.” Hawley declared, “the federal government is absolutely out of our control.”
  • Walker also spoke about the federal government. “As important as it is to vote for Donald Trump and Mike Pence,” he said, “the Founders did not intend for power to be concentrated in Washington…I want an America where we take our country back and make it great again, not just by who we put in the White House and in Congress, but by who we put in our State Houses.”
  • While emphasizing that the downballot races were also important, Trump and Pence were repeatedly mentioned on Sunday, as was Hillary Clinton – while the Kander rally barely made any mention of any other candidates on the Democratic or Republican tickets.
  • The latest revelation that the FBI was planning to restart its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server, based off of documents found in a separate investigation of former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, came just hours before the Kander rally – but was never mentioned.
  • However, there were whoops and cheers at the Republican event when the FBI investigation was mentioned. “Hillary has finally been tripped up,” Missouri Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer said. “It kind of reminds me of the Wizard of Oz. Remember when the dog Toto pulled back the curtain…This week we had the curtain pulled back by a little dog called Weiner Dog.”
  • The enthusiasm for the entire ticket at the Greitens rally was evident in their dress: many came with “Make America Great Again” hats, or “deplorable” shirts. “I would rather not call you deplorable,” Luetkemeyer said to the audience. “I would rather call you citizen-patriots.” At the very mention of the word “deplorable,” the crowd went wild, but seemed unsure of how to respond. Some booed, while others yelled “yeah we are.” At times, supporters in the crowd began to chant “Lock her up,” a common anti-Clinton chant at Trump rallies.
  • A number of speakers at the Greitens rally focused on the Supreme Court, calling the judiciary a main reason to vote Republican. “Controlling the Senate means everything to them and frankly, it should be mean everything to us,” Sen. Roy Blunt said, later mentioning the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
  • “Blaine and I served with Mike Pence. He was one of my deputies when I served as House whip. What do you think a Trump-Pence Administration would look like? The only evidence we have so far is Mike Pence and the great list of judges he says he would put on the Supreme Court,” Blunt said. “If that's the only evidence we have, that’s pretty good evidence.”
  • Luetkemeyer also referred to the Supreme Court, urging Republicans to support Blunt. “If Hillary wins, we have to stop her from packing the court, so holding the Senate is key…He could be the 51st vote to hold Hillary at bay if she happens to win,” the congressman said.
  • At times, the two rallies seemed like parallel events – many of the themes were the same, from referring to the candidate’s youth and military service to attacking corruption in their opponent. However, it also seemed like they were occurring in separate universes.
  • Vice President Biden spoke about the state of the union in uplifting terms. “Name me a product that has revolutionized the economy, name me a new technology, that wasn’t made in America,” he said. “It’s time we lift our heads up, understand who we are: Americans never break, never bow. We’re always resilient. We never give up…That’s who we are. That’s what we do.”
  • Biden insisted that “we’re not big spending Democrats,” but criticized Republicans for attacking social programs, until election years. “The other team doesn’t think that’s something for the government to do,” Biden said. “All of a sudden, if you listen to Jason’s opponent, it’s all about the middle class.” Deploying two of his favorite phrases, the Vice President responded: “What I think we have is collective amnesia…As they say in my old neighborhood, they’re full of malarkey.”
  • The message was, at times, much bleaker at the Greitens event. “We meet here today at a moment of crisis in our state and our country,” Hawley said. “This election is a chance to change the direction of our state.” Scott Walker compared Missouri to his state, Wisconsin, before he and Republican majorities took charge, saying he turned around high unemployment similar to what the Show-Me State faces now. “I’m a data geek,” Walker said. “I get into numbers. I looked at your unemployment numbers in this state…It’s higher in this state that it is in the country. That’s unacceptable.”
  • “Common-sense, conservative values work in states in the Midwest, where we value actions more than words,” Walker said. “You need to have someone who’s a doer, not a talker.”
  • Greitens spoke with similar urgency, criticizing his opponent’s response the Ferguson protests (another change from the Kander rally, where he was introduced by a Ferguson business owner). “It doesn’t have to be this way,” Greitens said, “We can do better here in the state of Missouri. As you think about the future and the importance of the election, think not just about you. Think about all the people in this  state of Missouri who are counting on us to get this right.”
  • At both rallies, a true sense of the competitivness of the Senate and gubernatorial races was clear. “This is a very close race,” St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said at the Kander rally. At the Greitens rally, Republicans were clearly excited at the prospect of retaking Missouri’s State House and congressional delegation.
  • “Normally the swing states get to have all the fun,” Luetkemeyer said. “We get to have some fun this year.”

2016 Central

  • Today on the Trail Where are the 2016 presidential candidates today?
  • Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will hold rallies in Kent and Cincinnati, Ohio today (she will be joined by former Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly in Cincinatti); her running mate Tim Kaine will campaign in Jacksonville and Sanford, North Carolina. Meanwhile, Kaine's wife Anne Holton holds two events in Omaha, Nebraska today. Ohio polling shows a very close race, with three polls in the last three weeks resulting in a tie (the RealClearPolitics average shows Trump with a 1-point lead). In North Carolina, the average has her ahead by 2 points; polls released this weekend showed her with leads of three to six percent. Finally, Nebraska is one of two states that allocates electoral votes by congressional district: while Donald Trump is expect to win the state at-large, Omaha is located in Nebraska's 2nd congressional district, which Clinton is eyeing as a potential pick-up (Obama won the district in 2008, but not 2012).
  • Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will campaign in Michigan, holding rallies in Warren and Grand Rapids, while his running mate Mike Pence campaigns in Florida, holding rallies in Clearwater, Cocoa, and Maitland. Hillary Clinton currently has a comfortable lead in Michigan, with an Emerson poll over the weekend showing her ahead in the state by 7 points. Florida, meanwhile, is expected to be another one of the closest states of the election: two polls released over the weekend (from Everson and NBC/WSJ/Marist) showed Clintons with a 1-point lead, while a NYT/Siena poll showed Trump leading by 4 points. Clinton holds a 6-point lead in the RealClearPolitics average for Michigan, while the Florida average currently shows a tie.
  • Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson will be in Los Angeles, California today, recording an interview with PBS' Tavis Smiley for the third-party presidential forum with Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein. The forum will air in two parts, over tonight and Tuesday night. Johnson will also participate in a "YouTube Town Hall" in Hollywood.
  • Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin will march in the Park City, Uah "Howl-O-Ween" dog parade. McMullin, a former CIA operative and House GOP staffer running as a conservative alternative for "Never Trump" Republicans, is on the ballot in 11 states - but he is only expected to make an impact on his native Utah, where the RealClearPolitics average shows him at 25% to Trump's 31%, barely ahead of Hillary. An Emerson poll released last week showed McMullin in the lead; if he wins, McMullin would be the first third-party candidate to win eelctoral votes since 1968.

Weekend Review

  • FBI Re-Activates Investigation of Clinton Email Server FBI director James Comey informed Congress on Friday that agents had discovered new emails in a separate investigation that could relate to the agency's inquiry into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, which was closed in July.
  • Comey's 166-word letter to congressional leaders was vague, leading to criticism by Democrats (and some Republicans) that the FBI director was irresponsibly tampering with politics, less than two weeks before an election. Comey, however, has pointed out that he promised to keep Congress abreast of any new developments in the investigation when testifying over the summer.
  • Comey made no signal in the letter of the source of the new emails, but later briefings by law enforcement officials revealed that they were found on a laptop shared by former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife, top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. The FBI is currently investigating lewd messages that Weiner exchanged with a teenager.
  • There has already been Democrats calling for Comey to resign over his handling of the issue (just days after the announcement, and still before much is known about the matter). Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Comey's actions "have demonstrated a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information, with what appears to be a clear intent to aid one political party over another," even suggesting that Comey had violated the Hatch Act (which prohibits federal employees from involvement in elections).
  • Although Comey said that the FBI had yet to decide whether "this material may be significant," the news already has the possibility to change the race. Republicans, including presidential nominee Donald Trump, have already begun to refresh attacks on Clinton for her server. The FBI revelations come as Clinton has held the momentum in the race, and while Comey's announcement may not spell her defeat - it is a boon for Trump.
  • “To cover up her crimes, she bleached and deleted 33,000 e-mails after receiving a congressional subpoena,” Trump said. “But I have a feeling they’ve just found a lot of them, don’t you think?...They just found a lot of them. We never thought we were going to say thank you to Anthony Weiner.”
  • WUTP will be reporting in more detail about this issue in the days ahead, and as more news becomes available.
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For more on Wake Up To Politics, listen to Gabe on NPR's "Talk of the Nation", St. Louis Public Radio, the Political Junkie podcast, and on StoryCorps; watch Gabe on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki"; and read about Gabe in Politico, the Washington Post, Independent Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Salon, the Globe, and the St. Louis Jewish Light.