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Offbeat Midterm elections: Top takeaways from the primaries as we head for Nov. 6

14:05  14 september  2018
14:05  14 september  2018 Source:   usatoday.com

Former President Barack Obama attacks President Trump, calls on Americans to vote in midterm elections

  Former President Barack Obama attacks President Trump, calls on Americans to vote in midterm elections The speech comes ahead of his first midterm campaign events, beginning Saturday in the battleground of Orange County, Calif. , where he will stump for several Democratic House candidates. “Democrats need all hands on deck to take back the House, and we could not be more honored to have President Barack Obama’s inspirational voice and unifying message on the campaign trail, with his first stop in Southern California," Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement.

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WASHINGTON – Now that primary voters have had their say in New York, New Hampshire and Rhode Island this week, the sprint is on towards the Nov. 6 general election.

We'll know in less than two months who voters want to lead the House, the Senate, and the 36 states with gubernatorial elections. Democrats have a lot of reasons to be optimistic. But Republicans say that President Trump defied conventional wisdom before and will lead his party to do so again. One way or the other, it’s clear the elections will be about Trump, experts say.

Here's what we’ve learned so far: 

A wave, but how big?

Democrats are poised to win up and down the ballot this fall, despite the strong economy and Republicans’ advantages on the electoral map. The only question is how big the gains will be. Democrats have a good chance of capturing the House and are expected to pick up gubernatorial seats as well as expand their footprint in state Houses. The Senate is a tougher battleground because Democrats are defending many seats, including in 10 states that Trump won. But a recent round of polls indicate some of the closest contests could break Democrats’ way, and Republicans have had to throw resources into the deep red states of Tennessee and Mississippi.

"There is certainly a path for Democrats," political handicapper Stuart Rothenberg recently wrote. "It’s just a very narrow and rocky one."

Democratic enthusiasm

What’s behind the building wave is enthusiasm from Democrats. They’re doing better on generic ballots for Congress. A notable number of Democratic challengers have outraised House Republican opponents. Voter turnout has surged, particularly among Democrats, according to the Pew Research Center.

Republicans aren’t turned off, said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. But while Sabato expects Republicans to turn out at a normal rate for a midterm election, Democrats’ “anti-enthusiasm” for Trump is “sky high.”

Year of the woman

Women are driving much of the voter engagement and it shows in the winning primary candidates. Record numbers of women are running for governor, House and Senate. Dave Wasserman, who analyzes House races for the Cook Political Report, projects between 30 and 40 new women will win this fall, shattering the previous record of 24 set in 1992. In the Senate, however, the number of women could barely rise – or even fall, according to political scientist Eric Ostermeier, author of the Smart Politics blog.

Other records

Women are not the only ones breaking records. Democrats also nominated a record number of minority candidates, according to the Associated Press. There are eight Democratic candidates of color running for governor. Michigan's Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota's Ilhan Omar are poised to become the first Muslim women in Congress. And Deb Haaland of New Mexico is likely to become the first Native American woman in Congress. 

A record number of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender candidates are running for office. 

In addition, a long list of Democratic candidates have rejected contributions from corporations' political action committees. More than three dozen Democratic candidates have said they won't back Nancy Pelosi to be speaker if their party takes the House. And the number of Republican lawmakers leaving Capitol Hill has already set a record through resignations, retirements, bids for other offices or appointments to other positions.

Herbal tea party

Underdog wins from progressives taking on the establishment drew big headlines, most notably Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ defeat of Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y.,  and Ayanna Pressley’s defeat of Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass. The upsets also sparked speculation that Democrats are experiencing the beginning of their own tea party – in this case the herbal version – uprising of angry grassroots activists. But the number of progressives who won their primaries was not overwhelming, according to experts at the Brookings Institution. And because many of the winning progressive candidates are in Republican-leaning districts, they may not win in the fall. That lessens the chance of a Democratic civil war erupting after Nov. 6.

It's about Trump

The axiom that midterm elections are a referendum on the president is magnified this year because of Trump’s ability to dominate the conversation.

“It’s really about Trump, Trump, Trump,” said Cliff Young, president of the polling firm Ipsos Public Affairs.

Republicans tried to out-Trump each other in competitive primaries and now hope the support the president still has from his base will translate into turnout in November.

But with Trump’s overall approval rating stuck in the low 40s, and polls showing the greatest intensity of feeling is among those who disapprove of his performance, Democrats are positioned to benefit from a Trump referendum election.

What’s more, Democrats say they don’t need to bring up Trump themselves, but can sit back and let Republicans try to explain every Trump tweet.

“Because the president is going to bring so much attention to himself, it allows our candidates room to have a conversation with the American people about kitchen-table issues,” said New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, the head of the campaign arm of House Democrats.

Supporters celebrate after the Democratic primary for attorney general was called in favor of Letitia James Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, in New York. © Kevin Hagen/AP Photo Supporters celebrate after the Democratic primary for attorney general was called in favor of Letitia James Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, in New York.

Top issues

What are those kitchen-table issues? For Democrats, it's primarily health care. Building off the public pushback that helped sink Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are particularly hammering Republicans over one of the law’s most popular provisions – protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

In August, for example, more than half the Democratic ads in federal races mentioned health care, according to the Wesleyan Media Project

Republicans prefer the conversation to be about the strong economy or about border security, an issue particularly important to their base.

Those three issues – health care, the economy and immigration – top polls when voters are asked what topic they most want candidates to address.

But while a majority of voters – 58 percent – also want Congress to be more of a check on the president, one danger for Democrats is that a near equal share don't want that check to be impeachment, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll.

"American voters," sad Tim Malloy, assistant director of the poll, "don't want Congress to tell President Donald Trump, 'You're fired!' by serving him with articles of impeachment,"

Trump complains about lack of funding for border wall in ‘ridiculous’ spending bill .
A morning tweet injects further uncertainty into efforts to keep the government running beyond the end of the month.His outburst could raise fresh questions about whether Trump will force a government shutdown in just 10 days, when funding for numerous programs expires. His top advisers have assured congressional leaders that Trump would not do this, but lawmakers have remained wary because Trump has openly toyed with the idea of shutting down the government numerous times.

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