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National Govt & Politics
President Trump leads final frantic day in 2018 campaign
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President Trump leads final frantic day in 2018 campaign

President Trump leads final frantic day in 2018 campaign
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

President Trump leads final frantic day in 2018 campaign

Capping a tumultuous campaign, President Donald Trump makes one final swing through three states on Monday, as both parties rush to the finish line in the 2018 mid-term elections, with control of both the House and Senate hanging in the balance, amid dramatic interest from voters, exemplified by long lines in early voting across the country this weekend.

"This is one of the most important elections of our lifetime," the President told a Sunday airport rally in Macon, Georgia, as he tried to boost a GOP candidate for Governor in Georgia, and then later looked to boost a Republican running for Senate in Tennessee.

Before leaving the White House on Sunday, the President again expressed confidence in GOP election fortunes this week.

"I think we're going to do well in the House. I think we're going to do really well in the Senate," the President told reporters.

We will find out that answer on Tuesday night.

1. Trump makes final push for GOP Senate. While Republicans are favored to keep control of the Senate, the President has spent most his last week on the campaign trail trying to make sure that does happen, as he will finish his travel on Monday by making another stop in Indiana, where Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) is in a close race, and in Missouri, where Sen. Clare McCaskill (D-MO) is trying to stave off a strong GOP challenge. In recent days, the President also targeted Sen. Jon Tester in Montana, Sen. Bill Nelson in Florida, and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Democrats have to not only hold on to all of those very close seats, but then win at least two of four GOP seats in Texas, Tennessee, Nevada and Arizona. Some say it's like drawing an inside straight.

2. Long lines for early voting everywhere. You don't have to look very hard to find the evidence of voters who want to make sure they get to the polls, as early voting has surged in a number of states, with big increases in the number of younger voters, and a lot of people who did not vote at all in the 2014 mid-term election. Both parties make the case that their people are turning out in large numbers - but you never know what's going to happen on Election Day, and how well the two parties will do with their remaining voters. But it's obvious, the electorate is energized in an election which is often characterized as a referendum on the President of the United States.

3. What issues are the candidates talking about? This is a fascinating graphic put together for a report by Bloomberg on ads being run on television. Health care remains the biggest issue by far, as Democrats have embraced that issue much more than in the 2010 or 2014 mid-terms, when there was a tendency to avoid the Obama health law. The health issue - especially on pre-existing conditions - has put some Republicans in a bit of a bind, as Democrats correctly point out that the GOP has tried to repeal Obamacare repeatedly, which included protections on pre-existing conditions. Democrats have not only been hammering on health care, but they've had the edge on the airwaves as well overall - the ads being broadcast by one major media group in 2018 have been running about two-to-one in favor of the Democrats, as they have poured millions more into the campaign.

4. What about the House? On the sidelines of my kids' games this weekend, some of the other parents weren't talking about the score, but wanted to know what I thought about the fight for control of the Congress. Everyone agrees that Democrats will pick up seats in the House. The only question is do they get to 23 seats - which is their magic number to take control - or do they fall short, and leave the GOP in power. The seats to watch the most are held by Republicans in suburban areas, many of which voted for Trump, but now are seeing an avalanche of Democratic money and interest. The list of seats considered to be 'toss-ups' is almost all Republican seats. Go back to 2010 when Republicans won, and it was almost all Democratic seats. The only question is how many the Democrats win on Tuesday night.

5. Democrats also look to win in races for Governor. Not talked about as much nationally - but still very important politically - are a number of races for Governor which look to be trending to Democrats, along with a lot of state legislative races. Back in 2010, Republicans had big gains across the board like that in the big Tea Party election, and many Democrats are hoping for their own example on Tuesday. It's possible that Democrats could win the race for Governor in a series of states where President Trump won in 2016, like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, as well as two big races in Florida and Georgia. Tuesday is a big day for more than just President Trump and the GOP Congress.

6. Watching where the undecided voters go. Whether you 'believe' the polls or not, you can certainly look at polls of all types, and get a feel for what's going on with independent voters, and undecideds. In many recent polls, it was obvious that among undecideds, there was definitely a lean toward the Democrats in terms of what they would in Congress. Women voters are a big key in the 2018 elections, because many have been turned off by President Trump's actions and rhetoric. Here's one example of how a series of polls showed how independent women voters went from the sidelines to the Democrats.

7. It's also a big week for women candidates. As you go through the ballot choices in Congress and other major races, it doesn't take long to be struck by something very obvious - a lot of women are running for office this year. A lot of them have raised buckets of money. And a lot of them are poised to win on Tuesday. The other thing which is obvious is - the vast majority of them are Democrats. Of the 435 House races, Democrats have 187 women running, compared to just 52 for the GOP. That's a stunning number.

8. Democrats are hopeful - but not optimistic. Saturday Night Live nailed the feelings of many Democrats with a hilarious peek at voters who are worried they may see the same results in 2018 that haunt them from President Trump's win in 2016.

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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • Orlando Democratic Representative Anna Eskamani is co-sponsoring a bill to allow illegal immigrants living in Florida to legally obtain a state driver’s license. “We can talk about the need to reform immigration as a whole, but this is one solution to make sure that our roads are safer,” Eskamani said over the phone on Thursday. Illegal immigrants would still have to take a driving test to get a license, and they’d be able to buy car insurance, which Eskamani said would generate additional revenue for the state.  She also believes the bill will encourage people to report accidents and crimes they see on the road. Eskamani agreed with the assessment that the bill (HB 969) does not attempt to change immigration policy but rather change policy dealing with Florida’s current immigrant situation. “On our roads, you have people who are undocumented who are driving their kids to daycare, who are going to work,” Eskamani said.  “They’re doing their best to live life to its fullest potential.” Under current Florida law, residents must prove U.S. citizenship or show a resident alien green card to get a state driver’s license.  This bill would allow people to use documents such as foreign passports, international birth certificates, or tax ID number to get one.   With the 2019 legislative session well underway in Tallahassee, neither the bill nor its Senate companion has seen a committee vote. The bill has gotten notable attention from Fox News, to which Eskamani mused on her Facebook page, “Wow, my first ever mention in Fox News!  This has to come with some sort of award right?”
  • The Florida man accused of sending pipe bombs last year to several high-profile critics of President Donald Trump pleaded guilty Thursday in a Manhattan federal court. >> Read more trending news Cesar Sayoc appeared Thursday for a change of plea hearing before U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff.  Sayoc pleaded not guilty in November to a slew of charges after he was identified as the man suspected of mailing pipe bombs to targets including CNN, former President Barack Obama and actor Robert De Niro. >> Cesar Sayoc Jr.: What we know about the man arrested for sending package bombs Sayoc has been held without bail since his late-October arrest outside a South Florida auto parts store. He had been living in a van covered with stickers of Trump and showing images of some Trump opponents with crosshairs over their faces. Authorities launched an investigation in October after pipe bombs were mailed to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and philanthropist George Soros. In the subsequent days, similar devices were mailed to several other prominent Trump critics, including U.S. Rep Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Democratic donor Tom Steyer. >> 2nd mail bomb to Tom Steyer recovered; suspect agrees to remain jailed, face charges in New York Authorities said Sayoc was linked to the packages after investigators found his fingerprints and DNA on some of them. Without a plea deal, Sayoc faced charges carrying a potential penalty of mandatory life in prison. A court filing last Friday didn't indicate which charge or charges the plea would involve. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Federal authorities and Butler Township police are investigating after an explosive device was placed inside a mailbox and detonated, according to police. >> Read more trending news  The explosive device, which police believe was a commercial-grade firework, was detonated and destroyed the mailbox sometime between 7 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. Wednesday, Butler Township Police Chief John Porter said in a media release. Police did not say what road the incident occurred on but described the area as a rural part of the township.  “Since tampering with a mailbox is covered under federal law, federal authorities have been notified and are participating with us in a joint investigation,” Porter said. “Our initial investigation shows there is no indication of any type of hate or bias crime at this time.”  Authorities continue to investigate.
  • The sister of a Minnesota woman accused of killing a stranger to steal her identity in Florida last year is now facing criminal charges of her own after investigators say she grew angry at her intoxicated son and ran him over with her SUV.  Cynthia Lea Grund, 58, of Salem Township, was jailed on suspicion of second-degree assault and reckless driving. Olmstead County Jail records indicate she has since been released.  >> Read more trending news Olmstead County deputies were called Monday evening to Grund’s home, where they found her 37-year-old son, identified by the Minneapolis Star Tribune as Jason Finstad, suffering from significant lower body injuries, a Sheriff’s Office news release said. The man had been run over by a vehicle.  Investigators determined that Grund had run over her son with a 2004 Ford Explorer, the news release said.  According to detectives, Finstad was very intoxicated when he began walking down the rural driveway to go to a friend’s house. His mother and stepfather no longer wanted him staying at their home.  Grund drove down the driveway to pick Finstad up and drive him to the friend’s house, the news release said. Finstad refused to get in the SUV. “Why don’t you just run me over,” he allegedly said before lying in the driveway in front of Grund’s vehicle.  “Grund then backed the vehicle up and intentionally ran over the victim,” the news release said. “Grund admitted to her actions and at one point made a comment to the effect, ‘He didn't believe I would. He has been drinking all day. We gave him a chance.’” Grund was taken into custody at the scene. >> Related story: ‘Losing Streak Lois,’ killer grandma wanted in 2 slayings nabbed near U.S.-Mexico border Finstad underwent surgery at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester to repair damage to his pelvis. He also suffered head injuries in the incident, investigators said.  He was in fair condition as of Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported. According to the newspaper, Grund is the sister of Lois Ann Riess, 57, of Blooming Prairie, who is being held in Florida on a charge of first-degree murder in the April 5 slaying of Pamela Hutchinson, 59, of Bradenton.  Riess was arrested April 19 on Texas’ South Padre Island after a multistate string of crimes that investigators allege began with the shooting death of her husband, David Riess, 54, at their worm farm. Saturday will mark a year since David Riess’ decomposing body was found. Authorities said David Riess had been dead for several days by the time his body was discovered. The Star Tribune reported last month that a .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun found in Lois Riess’ Texas motel room matched shell casings found at the scene of her husband’s death. Dodge County investigators have turned their case over to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office for review.  Lois Riess, who authorities nicknamed “Losing Streak Lois” for her penchant for gambling, fled south to Florida -- stopping at a casino on the way. Riess’ abandoned Cadillac Escalade, which Minnesota investigators alleged she left the state in after gunning down her husband, was found in a park in Fort Myers, Florida.  Surveillance footage from a restaurant two blocks from Hutchinson’s borrowed timeshare condo showed the victim chatting with Riess at the bar on April 5, the day authorities believe she was shot to death. Hutchinson’s body was found four days later in the bathroom of the condo.  See the footage of Lois Riess chatting with Pamela Hutchinson below, courtesy of the Fort Myers News-Press.  Investigators believe Hutchinson was killed so Riess could assume her identity. They also believe Hutchinson was shot with the same gun that killed David Riess. According to Riess’ Florida indictment, Lois Riess stole credit cards, money, jewelry, sunglasses and other property from Hutchinson after she was killed. Surveillance footage from Hutchinson’s condo complex showed Riess walking into the parking lot, getting into Hutchinson’s Acura TL and driving away.  The indictment also alleged that Riess went to a Fort Myers bank and used Hutchinson’s identification to withdraw $5,000 from the dead woman’s account before leaving town. Riess was next spotted the following day at an Ocala Hilton hotel, where she used Hutchinson’s identification to check into a room, Lee County officials said. She stayed there the nights of April 6 and 7, according to investigators.  Surveillance footage from inside and outside the hotel showed both Riess and the stolen Acura. According to the News-Press, a white straw hat Riess wore in the footage belonged to Hutchinson.  While in Ocala, Riess is accused of withdrawing another $500 from Hutchinson’s bank account.  From there, Riess is accused of making her way west across the southeastern U.S., making several stops in Louisiana -- including at another casino -- before being seen driving the Acura around Corpus Christi, Texas. She attempted to get $200 from Hutchinson’s account at a gas station, but the effort failed, the News-Press reported.  Riess used her own ID to claim a $1,500 jackpot at a Louisiana casino, the newspaper reported.  Riess remained at large until April 19, when she was arrested on South Padre Island in Texas. Dodge County Sheriff Scott Rose said a man recognized Riess when she walked into a restaurant on the island, located about 25 miles from the Mexican border, and looked at a menu. Riess did not stay to eat at the restaurant, identified as Dirty Al’s Seafood, but the man called police to report the sighting. A South Padre Island police officer and a federal marshal responded to the area and spotted the white Acura that had been stolen from Hutchinson at another nearby restaurant, the Sea Ranch.  Riess was taken into custody as she sat at the bar inside, eating a meal and chatting with fellow patrons. She was subsequently extradited back to Florida to face charges in Hutchinson’s homicide.   Riess was indicted June 6 in the case, according to court records. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in Hutchinson’s slaying. 

Washington Insider

  • Frustrated by opposition on some college campuses to conservative speakers, President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order which threatens to take away federal research grant money from colleges and universities, if those schools don't guarantee First Amendment protections for those who want to speak on campus. 'We're dealing with billions and billions and billions of dollars,' President Trump said in a White House ceremony on Thursday. Flanked by conservative activists who have run afoul of protests at college and university campuses, Mr. Trump made clear that he wants new opportunities for their voices to be heard. 'Universities that want taxpayer dollars should promote free speech,' the President added. 'This order is part of the Trump Administration’s administrative and legislative efforts to support a focus on student outcomes and improve transparency, accountability, and affordability in postsecondary education,' the White House said in a statement. The President had raised this matter earlier in the month, during an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference just outside Washington, D.C. It was not immediately clear how the Thursday signing would change the current landscape governing money being sent to schools by the feds, as there are already requirements to uphold the First Amendment. In a morning conference call with reporters, a senior administration official refused to give any hints about how the requirement would be enforced differently going forward. 'I won't get into implementation details,' the official said, repeatedly deflecting questions in a Thursday conference call with reporters about how the plan would work.  'But schools are already supposed to be following these rules,' as the official said 'the goal of the order is to promote free speech more broadly across college campuses.' The plan drew immediate fire from the President's critics. 'President Trump’s concept of free speech is speech that he agrees with, which is, in fact, the antithesis of what the First Amendment seeks to protect,' said Randi Weingarten, the President of the American Federation of Teachers union.