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Wake Up To Politics - October 31, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, October 31, 2018. 6 days until Election Day 2018. 734 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com. Happy Halloween!

Midterms Central

Forecasts: FiveThirtyEight forecasts that Republicans have an 85% chance of keeping the Senate, while Democrats have an 86% chance of winning the House. Most likely breakdowns: 51-49 in the Senate, 234-201 in the House. Meanwhile, CNN predicts that Republicans will expand their Senate majority to 52-48, while Democrats will capture 225 House seats to Republicans' 210. The consensus among experts: we're headed towards a split outcome on Election Day...

--- Reuters: "The National Republican Congressional Committee on Tuesday launched a wave of ads targeting 14 House of Representatives races including defenses of eight incumbents and four currently Republican-held seats whose current officeholders are not running in the Nov. 6 elections.

"[Meanwhile, President Donald] Trump’s planned blitz of Senate battleground states including Florida, Missouri and Tennessee follows an NBC/Marist opinion poll showing the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Arizona taking a 6 percentage point lead and a Quinnipiac University Poll showing Democrat Beto O’Rourke pulling closer to Republican Senator Ted Cruz in Texas.

"A Reuters analysis of a trio of political forecasting groups showed the picture in the House brightening for Democrats. Of 65 races seen as competitive or leaning against the incumbent party, the odds of a Democratic victory had increased in 48 as of Tuesday in the eyes of at least one of the three of political forecasting groups: Cook Political Report, Inside Elections and the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, according to the Reuters analysis."

Polling roundup: The latest polls...

IA-04: The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP's campaign arm, condemned Rep. Steve King (R-IA) on Tuesday, amid renewed attention on King's long history of racially insensitive comments. "Congressman Steve King's recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate. We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior," Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) tweeted.

In recent months, King has endorsed a white nationalist candidate for mayor of Toronto, pushed the "Great Replacement" theory that white Europeans are being "replaced" by immigrant minorities, and retweeted a self-described "Nazi sympathizer." Following Stivers' condemnation on Tuesday, the Iowa Republican responded that the attacks against him were "orchestrated by nasty, desperate, and dishonest fake news" and that "Establishment Never Trumpers are complicit."

--- Stivers' decision to cut King loose comes as his seat seems increasingly competitive. A poll this week by Democratic firm Change Research found King leading Democrat J.D. Scholten, a former minor league baseball player, by only 1%, leading the Cook Political Report to shift its rating for the seat from Likely to Lean Republican.

Ryan breaks with Trump over birthright citizenship

President Trump faced backlash on Tuesday after announcing in an Axios interview that he planned to sign an executive order that would deny birthright citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants born on U.S. soil; the dramatic move would likely face immediate legal challenges under the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

"You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order," House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said on a Kentucky radio show, breaking with the president. "As a conservative, I’m a believer in following the plain text of the Constitution, and I think in this case the 14th Amendment is pretty clear, and that would involve a very, very lengthy constitutional process." Trump said Tuesday that would be able to make the change by executive order, without a constitutional amendment, a stance many legal experts found dubious.

While Ryan and other congressional Republicans threw cold water on the idea, at least one readily supported it: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who announced plans to introduce legislation ending birthright citizenship.

--- "How Trump's 'birthright' idea went from the fringe to the Oval Office" (Politico)

--- "Trump's Birthright Citizenship Proposal Is at Odds with Legal Consensus" (New York Times)

--- "Trump’s proposal to end birthright citizenship is unconstitutional" (Washington Post op-ed by former Obama-era solicitor general Neal Katyal and GOP attorney George Conway, husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway)

The Russia investigation

Mueller hoax: "A company that appears to be run by a pro-Trump conspiracy theorist offered to pay women to make false claims against Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the days leading up to the midterm elections—and the special counsel’s office has asked the FBI to weigh in. “When we learned last week of allegations that women were offered money to make false claims about the Special Counsel, we immediately referred the matter to the FBI for investigation,” the Mueller spokesman Peter Carr [said] in an email on Tuesday.

"The special-counsel office’s attention to this scheme and its decision to release a rare statement about it indicates the seriousness with which the team is taking the purported plot to discredit Mueller in the middle of an ongoing investigation. Carr confirmed that the allegations were brought to the office’s attention by several journalists, who were contacted by a woman who identified herself as Lorraine Parsons. Another woman, Jennifer Taub, contacted Mueller's office earlier this month with similar information." (The Atlantic)

Stone: "The special counsel investigation is pressing witnesses about longtime Trump ally Roger Stone’s private interactions with senior campaign officials and whether he had knowledge of politically explosive Democratic emails that were released in October 2016, according to people familiar with the probe.

..."On Friday, Mueller’s team questioned Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, about claims Stone is said to have made privately about WikiLeaks before the group released emails that prosecutors say were hacked by Russian operatives, according to people familiar with the session." (Washington Post)

--- "As special counsel closes in, Roger Stone suits up for legal battle" (ABC News)

The Trump Administration

Zinke: "The Justice Department is investigating Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for possibly using his office for personal gain, following a referral from Interior's inspector general, two sources familiar with the investigation say.

"The full extent of the inquiry is unclear. Zinke has faced multiple ethics questions during his time at Interior, and the inspector general's office has multiple public inquiries into the secretary including the department's handling of a Connecticut casino project, whether the boundaries for Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument were redrawn to benefit a state lawmaker and conversations between Zinke and Halliburton Chairman David Lesar about a Montana land development project." (CNN)

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White House schedule

POTUS: At 11:30am, President Trump receives his intelligence briefing. At 1:30pm, he meets with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. At 2:30pm, he attends an event to highlight the "Pledge to America's Workers," which was established in July, when companies pledged to create enhanced career opportunities for American.

"Since the establishment of the Pledge to America's Workers, over 160 companies and organizations have pledged to create 6.39 million new enhanced career opportunities for America's workers," White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters told Politico.

Finally, at 7pm, the president speaks at a Make America Great Again rally in Estero, Florida. The rally is the first in an 11-rally blitz that will take him to eight states in the next six days.

---Washington Post: "More than any other state, President Trump has staked his reputation and his political clout on Florida, a state with one of his most prominent political acolytes running for governor, the place where he spends perhaps more time than anywhere else outside of the White House, and a state he’ll return to twice this week in an effort to stave off an embarrassing loss."

VP: Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a Get Out The Vote rally for Rep. Troy Balderson (R-OH) and Ohio gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine in Mansfield, Ohio at 11:30am.

Congress schedule

Both houses of Congress are on recess.

*All times Eastern