By Chris Stirewalt
Published September 20, 2018
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On the roster: Fox News Power Rankings: Dean Heller, survivalist - Time Out: ‘Then it’s quite easy’ - Grassley offers Kavanaugh accuser a compromise - Democrats sound the alarm on Shalala - TCB
FOX NEWS POWER RANKINGS: DEAN HELLER, SURVIVALIST
With the primary season officially done, it’s time to revisit our Fox News Power Rankings in some key races (you can see them all here, and an explanation for our system).
There may be no terrain as unforgiving in this great land of ours as what Nevada has to offer. From alkali flats to scorpions to the cholla cactus that seems to actually leap onto passersby, Nevada is not for the faint of heart.
So it is politically, too. And we had assumed that the terrible struggles of Republican Sen. Dean Heller meant that the embattled incumbent would see his career end up as dead as a bleached skull of an ox on the side of the Beale Wagon Road.
Heller had every problem that an incumbent would dread. He is a relatively little known freshman who won in 2012 by only a point. Heller, a moderate, is mistrusted by the states’ hardline Trump supporters and has a fraught relationship with the president. Nevada is trending blue overall and this is shaping up to be a bad year for Republicans in general, but specifically for those in states with substantial suburban and Hispanic populations, of which Nevada has plenty of both.
Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who enjoys every advantage a challenger would want – an uneventful primary, strong support from the state party apparatus, a seat that covers key swing precincts south of Las Vegas – still can’t seem to get past Heller.
There hasn’t been a great deal of polling yet, but in three surveys since Labor Day the race has been neck and neck in every one. On the downside for Heller, an incumbent stuck 5 or 6 points below 50 percent is an incumbent in serious trouble… But we already knew that.
Thanks in part to an advantage for Republican gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt over Democrat Steve Sisolak, the GOP is so far holding the line.
Now, the worst is surely still ahead for Heller since Rosen will soon erase any name identification deficit that she, a freshman congresswoman, had with something less than 8 percent undecided, she has plenty of room to grow. But for now, Heller’s survival skills tell us that this race is no longer in the category of “Lean Democrat” and is now truly a “Toss Up.”
Scott Walker has been telling his fellow Republicans that he is in big trouble in his re-election bid for months. And he is not wrong.
As Wisconsin voters tune in to Walker’s race against state school superintendent Tony Evers, Walker appears to be trailing for real. A new survey from Marquette University Law School shows Walker down 5 points among likely voters and other state polls show an electorate with a strong blue hue. We’re moving this contest from “Lean Republican” to “Toss Up.”
Walker will not be as lucky as his Republican counterpart in Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, who, as a new survey from the Boston Globe shows, is absolutely crushing it in his re-election bid. Baker, like Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, is moving this week from “Lean Republican” to “Likely Republican.”
You’ll see below some other housekeeping considerations on governor's races that are coming into clearer view in the post-primary season. Stay tuned because updates will be coming faster as the midterm campaign intensifies.
Governor race rating changes:
Georgia: Brian Kemp (R) vs. Stacey Abrams (D) - Likely R to Lean R
Iowa: Kim Reynolds (R)* vs. Fred Hubbell (D) - Lean R to Toss Up
Minnesota: Jeff Johnson (R) vs. Tim Walz (D)* - Toss Up to Lean D
Hawaii: Andria Tupola (R) vs. David Ige (D)* - Lean D to Likely D
[Ed. note: * denotes incumbent]
THE RULEBOOK: WELL, THAT AND A $4 TRILLION BUDGET…
“If, therefore, as has been elsewhere remarked, the people should in future become more partial to the federal than to the State governments, the change can only result from such manifest and irresistible proofs of a better administration, as will overcome all their antecedent propensities.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 46
TIME OUT: ‘THEN IT’S QUITE EASY’
Nat Geo: “After years of climbing up a pair of parallel limestone pillars in the mountains of Switzerland, photographer Thomas Ulrich and alpinist Stephan Siegrist wanted to walk between them. Three factors affect a highline walk: focus, balance, and altitude. Since the line crossed at the towers’ peaks, Siegrist would have no point of reference to focus on to keep his balance. ‘If you look straight, you see nothing—just air,’ Siegrist says. To fix this, they placed a brightly colored backpack on top of the tower. … Rain would make the synthetic-fiber line slippery, but on this September morning there was only a light fog. Ulrich climbed a nearby ridge to get the shot, and Siegrist took a few practice steps to warm up and get a feel for the line’s tension. The first step is the riskiest: Falling too early puts you dangerously close to the rock face. ‘After three steps you need to relax or your nerves [transfer to] the rope,’ Siegrist says. ‘If it works once, then it’s quite easy.’”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 38.8 percent
Average disapproval: 54.2 percent
Net Score: -15.4 points
Change from one week ago: up 1.2 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 38% approve - 56% disapprove; CNN: 37% approve - 57% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve - 54% disapprove; NPR/Marist: 38% approve - 54% disapprove; Grinnell College/Selzer: 43% approve - 50% disapprove.]
Control of House
Republican average: 39.8 percent
Democratic average: 50.2 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 10.4 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage up 1.2 points
[Average includes: CNN: 52% Dems - 42% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 52% Dems - 38% GOP; NPR/Marist: 50% Dems - 38% GOP; Grinnell College/Selzer: 45% Dems - 43% GOP; ABC/WaPo: 52% Dems - 38% GOP.]
GRASSLEY OFFERS KAVANAUGH ACCUSER A COMPROMISE
AP: “The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is offering in a letter to lawyers for Brett Kavanaugh's accuser to have his panel's investigators interview her wherever she wants. That includes having aides interview Christine Blasey Ford in California, where she lives, according to a person speaking anonymously because they weren't authorized to discuss the plans publicly. Chairman Chuck Grassley is also setting deadlines. His letter to Ford's lawyers says his committee's hearing on her allegations of sexual abuse will begin Monday morning. He says if she intends to testify, she must submit written testimony by Friday morning. Ford has said she wants the FBI to investigate her accusation before she would testify. Grassley writes that his panel ‘cannot commandeer an Executive Branch agency’ and ask them to do more work.”
Trump says Kavanaugh decision rests on Ford’s testimony - Fox News: “President Trump said Wednesday he would have to ‘make a decision’ about the future of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court if accuser Christine Blasey Ford gives ‘credible testimony’ about her allegation. Speaking to reporters outside the White House, the president said if Ford appears before the committee ‘and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting and we'll have to make a decision.’ ‘If she shows up, that would be wonderful,’ Trump said. ‘If she doesn't show up, that would be unfortunate.’ Yet it’s not clear if the California professor who claims Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than 35 years ago will ultimately accept an invitation to testify on Capitol Hill, amid an impasse with Republicans, who have invited her to elaborate on her claims Monday. It comes as a growing number of Republican senators are saying it’s time move ahead to a vote if Ford doesn’t show up for the planned hearing.”
Feinstein faces scrutiny for handling of Kavanaugh allegations - WaPo: “As Kavanaugh forges ahead and denies the allegation, [Dianne Feinstein] is under some of the most intense scrutiny of her career, with Trump bluntly accusing her Tuesday of timing her bombshell revelation to sink his nominee. … Now, Feinstein faces a legacy-defining moment as one of the most powerful women in the country and the first to hold several prominent posts. As the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Feinstein is helping her party prepare for an unprecedented public hearing scheduled for Monday at which Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, have been invited to testify.”
DEMOCRATS SOUND THE ALARM ON SHALALA
Politico: “The congressional seat was supposed to be the easiest of Democratic pickups. Hillary Clinton carried the Miami-based 27th District by nearly 20 percentage points just two years ago. Donna Shalala, the Democratic nominee, was a well-known, former Cabinet secretary with a talent for raising money. But now local Democrats are dismayed as Shalala is struggling to put away her Republican rival, a popular former Spanish-language television newswoman named Maria Elvira Salazar. According to internal polls from both campaigns obtained by POLITICO, Salazar is either ahead — or just narrowly trailing — Shalala. Salazar leads the former Clinton Foundation head by 7 percentage points in a poll conducted for the Republican’s campaign that was completed Thursday. In a poll from Shalala’s campaign, completed Sept. 1, the Democrat leads Salazar by 4 percentage points.”
After two-week tussle, Dems pick a winner for Mass. House seat - Boston Globe: “Ending nearly two weeks of uncertainty, Lori Trahan emerged Monday as the Third Congressional District’s Democratic nominee when a recount confirmed her place atop the 10-Democrat primary by a fraction of a percentage point. The long-delayed finish came after runner-up Dan Koh, who had requested the recount, questioned the “credibility” of the results in Lowell, the district’s largest city, but ultimately conceded Monday afternoon after falling behind Trahan by 145 votes among the 89,000 that were cast. The slim margin — the two were separated by 0.17 percent — pushed Trahan, 44, a Lowell native and former congressional chief of staff, into the general election contest with Republican Rick Green, an auto parts magnate from Pepperell. Mike Mullen, an independent candidate and IT director from Maynard, is also on the Nov. 6 ballot.”
Republicans target House candidate for strip club visit 20 years ago - Fox News: “A Republican super PAC is hitting Democratic congressional candidate Paul Davis with a new attack ad in Kansas’ 2nd congressional district that details his apparent ‘strong history’ with strip clubs. The ad from the Congressional Leadership Fund (CFL), provided first to Fox News, highlights Davis’ ‘history with strip clubs’ – pointing to his involvement with a club that was raided in the late 1990s as well as legislation he voted on as a state lawmaker. Davis is a former state representative who also ran unsuccessfully for governor as a Democrat in 2014. But nearly two decades earlier, in the late 1990s, Davis was caught at a strip club in Coffeyville, Kansas, during a police raid. … Additionally, the ad attacks Davis for how he voted on legislation pertaining to ‘sexually-oriented businesses’ when he was a state representative.”
Michigan gubernatorial candidate uses sex abuse victims - Fox News: “The parents of a young girl who was sexually assaulted by former Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar praise Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette in a pair of new campaign ads, saying he gave ‘a voice to the voiceless’ in his handling of the case. As Michigan’s attorney general, Schuette’s office filed criminal charges against Nassar, who will spend multiple decades in prison for child pornography and assault. … Schuette is now running for governor in a tight race against Democrat Gretchen Whitmer. Fox News has ranked the Michigan gubernatorial election as a tossup. In recently released campaign ads, Lee and Mark Weick applaud Schuette for his handling of the case against Nassar. The couple from Midland, Michigan, said their daughter, Helena, had been assaulted by Nassar when she was just 12 years old. …Lee Weick said her family hasn’t been very political, but they wanted to back Schuette because of the support he gave to them. … Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is prevented from running for re-election this year due to term limits.”
NAFTA talks are happening, but no clear deal in sight - Bloomberg
AUDIBLE: MIGHTY BIG OF YOU
“Of course the presidency will be something I consider. It would be irresponsible not to.” – Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., in a profile piece for. New York Magazine.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Good Afternoon Chris, Is it time to talk about term limits for Supreme Court judges or a set number of judges from each side? To pretend, for each side, that a Supreme Court judge isn't a political thing is just comical at this point. A Presidential candidate ran an entire campaign on saying elect me or the other side will get to fill the void. I have no solid answer which is why I am asking for your thoughts on the issue.” – Jeff Cox, Broken Arrow, Okla.
[Ed. note: I can certainly see the appeal of a if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em approach to partisanship on the Supreme Court. But there’s more at stake here than just the partisan perceptions of the court. The Supreme Court is our most “small-r” republican federal institution. We have already seen the Senate made into direct democracy and I suspect in time we will eventually tear down the Electoral College completely. But the court remains beyond the reach of the voters, resistant to public pressure and hard to change. Ideological movement on the court is measured in decades, not electoral cycles. It may be so that nominations and confirmations are more nakedly partisan than before, but just imagine if the judges were directly auditioning for partisans on a regular basis for appointments. Would we be more or less likely to see individuals put country over party and make lawful but unpopular decisions? We insulate the justices from political pressure so that they have a better opportunity to be disagreeable in service of the Constitution. I think lifetime appointments are crucial, just as I think it is crucial to preserve the goal of non-partisan objectivity. We need Congress to do its job, not to replace it with an un-elected super Senate, the members of which would have even stronger incentives to suck up to the members of their own partisan tribes.]
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Dallas Morning News: “A Texas great-grandmother thinks she's finally gotten revenge on the massive alligator that ate her miniature horse a few years ago. It took just one shot for Judy Cochran to dispatch the 12-foot, 580-pound gator at her ranch Sunday in Goodrich, the Houston Chronicle reported. Goodrich is about an hour northeast of Houston. ‘We think this is the gator that ate one of our miniature horses several years ago,’ said Cochran, who just happens to be the newly elected mayor of nearby Livingston. ‘As big as this gator was, he could've easily eaten it.’ The pond where she killed the beast is the same one where her grandson, then 5, felled a gator nine years ago. Polk County is one of only 12 in Texas with an alligator hunting season, she said, and its limits gave her barely a 20-day window to take care of business, between Sept. 10-30. … As a public official, she wanted to let people know she followed the rules.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“At a time when it should be pushing and promoting deregulation, tax reform and health-care transformation, it has steered itself into a pointless cul-de-sac — where even winning is losing.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Feb. 9, 2017.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.