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2018 midterm elections
October 12, 2018

Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate and Republican mega donor, is doing his part to help the GOP ahead of the midterm elections, giving tens of millions of dollars to a pair of super PACs, two senior Republicans familiar with the matter told Politico on Thursday.

Adelson, a major ally of President Trump, and his wife, Miriam, contributed at least $25 million to the Senate Leadership Fund and Congressional Leadership Fund. They had already made hefty contributions to the groups earlier this year: $25 million to the Senate GOP super PAC and $30 million to the House GOP super PAC. The funding comes as more and more ads for Democratic candidates are hitting the airwaves, fueled by smaller donations from an enthusiastic base. Catherine Garcia

October 1, 2018

If you gain fans or followers, look out — you may have accidentally just become a cult leader.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) told Fox & Friends on Monday that Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) is like a cult leader for "George Soros policies," and predicted Texans would ultimately be "hostile" to his ideas come Election Day.

After host Steve Doocy described O'Rourke's agenda as seeking "higher taxes, more regulation, open borders, and not supporting law enforcement," Abbott concurred that his platform would ultimately fail due to its radical nature.

"He's been a cult-like, very popular figure, the way that he's run the campaign," said Abbott. "But you don't vote on cult, you don't vote on personality when you get to the United States Senate. You vote on issues." The governor characterized O'Rourke's platform as related to investor George Soros, who some conservative conspiracy theorists believe is the secret puppetmaster of all liberal politics.

O'Rourke is challenging Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in a closely watched race. Cruz's lead has been steadily shrinking, perhaps because Texans view him as a "serpent covered in Vaseline," but Abbott predicted the campaign would end as his did four years ago, when he defeated Democrat Wendy Davis by 20 percentage points. Watch the moment below, via Fox News. Summer Meza

September 20, 2018

Paulette Jordan, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Idaho who is vying to become the nation's first Native American state leader, has been in coordination with a political action committee in ways that may violate campaign finance rules, the Idaho Statesman reported Thursday. Jordan's team has reportedly been advising and fundraising for the super PAC, and even secured a major donation for it this month.

The Strength and Progress federal super PAC, created in July "to accept donations from the Coeur d'Alene Tribe ... for spending on Federal First Nations' issues," is allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money but is not supposed to partner with any specific campaign. Jordan, formerly a representative in the Idaho state legislature, is a member of the Tribe. Her campaign was reportedly involved in creating the PAC, which could be a problem if expenditures show that the group contributed to her candidacy.

Jordan's campaign manager, Michael Rosenow, resigned last week, saying he would rather "have no part or complacency with this PAC," the Statesman reported based on internal emails. Rosenow, along with the campaign's communications director and event scheduler, resigned suddenly after just two months, raising eyebrows about whether the departures were really a simple "leadership transition," as Jordan's campaign said. Now, emails show that Rosenow resigned over a "lack of accountability in spending and acquiring campaign resources." He felt the team was "growing a PAC" instead of funding the campaign, calling it "detestable, loathsome, if not repulsive."

Strength and Progress, the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, and Jordan's campaign all say that there has been no improper coordination and that the groups are all operating independently. The Idaho Democratic Party says it is taking the potential violations "very seriously." Read more at the Idaho Statesman. Summer Meza

September 18, 2018

The mass shootings of the past few years may not have led to any major national gun policy changes. But gun control is playing a massively larger role in campaign advertising for the 2018 election than it did in the last midterm cycle.

While mentions of gun policy have increased across the board, a Wall Street Journal analysis published Tuesday shows, ad mentions supporting stricter gun control policies have spiked dramatically. In the entire 2014 election, the Journal's data counts just under 4,500 campaign ad mentions of pro-gun control messages. With more than a month to go in this year's race, those mentions have already topped 100,000 in 2018.


(The Wall Street Journal)

Guns are not only mentioned in far more ads now than they used to be, but the proportion of views represented has undergone a significant shift. In 2014, ads that mentioned guns were 600 percent more likely to oppose gun control policies as to endorse them. This year, they are about 50 percent more likely to call for more regulation instead of less.

This change has been particularly striking in states, like Nevada and Florida, where mass shootings have recently occurred. Those two states alone "went from zero pro-gun control ads in 2014 to more than 45,000 this year," the Journal reports. Bonnie Kristian

September 10, 2018

Criticizing "dark money" super PACs is a favorite talking point for many Democratic candidates, but super PACs are playing an increasingly important role in the Democratic Party, Politico reports.

In the last few years, PACs have taken over responsibility for large-scale campaign spending previously done by Democratic leadership, including television ad buys, digital advertising, and get out the vote efforts. Instead of going dormant in between presidential election cycles, Democratic super PACs are becoming full-time operations, staying open through midterms and off-years in an attempt to reach parity with the other side of the aisle, where Democrats were outspent 20-to-1 on online ads in 2016.

The support PACs can wrangle may be crucial for Democratic wins this cycle, but it puts some candidates in an awkward position. In an Ohio special election last month, Politico notes, Democrat Danny O'Connor, who lost the race, ran against corporate PAC funding and for campaign finance reform — while his campaign was bolstered by over $1 million in outside spending. Still, candidates like O'Connor may have plausible deniability, as coordination between PACs and campaigns is (in theory) illegal. Bonnie Kristian

September 9, 2018

The 2018 midterm elections offer "a chance to restore some sanity in our politics," former President Barack Obama said in California Saturday, but if "we don't step up, things can get worse. Where there's a vacuum in our democracy, when we are not participating, we're not paying attention, when we're not stepping up — other voices fill the void."

Obama spoke at the Anaheim Convention Center to encourage voters to return control of the House of Representatives to Democrats to "make sure that there are real checks and balances in Washington." Though he decried "those who exploit the politics of fear," he did not call out President Trump by name, as he did in a speech the day before in Illinois.

Watch an excerpt of Obama's comments below. Bonnie Kristian

July 6, 2018

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) is already one of the most vulnerable lawmakers up for re-election in November — President Trump won her state by 19 points in 2016 — and the looming Supreme Court vote is playing right into her Republican opponent's hand, Politico reports. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who will likely seal his spot to run against McCaskill after an August Republican primary, called the SCOTUS nominee "the defining issue of this campaign."

A constitutional lawyer who met his wife while clerking for Chief Justice John Roberts, Hawley is in his element when he declares that McCaskill has "been wrong on every single court nominee since she has been running for the Senate or in the Senate." McCaskill, a centrist Democrat who broke with her other red state colleagues by voting against Neil Gorsuch last year, insists that she has not already made up her mind to vote "no" against retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy's successor.

"Am I optimistic that [Trump is] going to nominate somebody that I would feel comfortable about?" said McCaskill. "No, I'm not."

While it is still very early, McCaskill has the slightest edge over Hawley in RealClearPolitics' average, 45.0 percent to 43.3 percent. Politico notes that she will need wide margins in St. Louis and Kansas City to beat a Republican again in the state. For Democrats to take back the Senate in November, McCaskill's party would need to hold all of their 26 seats up for election and win two of the nine Republican seats in play.

"What I can't tell you is everything is going to be okay," McCaskill told Democrats recently of the impending SCOTUS battle. "[Republicans] have the votes, they changed the rules, they changed the norm." Jeva Lange

July 5, 2018

Some companies are already preparing for a blue wave in November, hiring lobbyists with links to would-be Democratic committee chairs, Politico reports. "Clients are cautiously beginning to look and say, 'Do we need to do more with people who have House Democratic expertise?'" said one Democratic lobbyist, Steve Elmendorf. Another Democratic lobbyist said she has had conversations with certain companies already: "Some people are hiring now," she said. "The smart ones are hiring now."

A handful of companies and trade groups believe that by getting started early, they'll face less competition than they would later on if Democrats win back the chamber. Facebook, for example, has already hired Chris Randle, who has ties to Congressional Black Caucus member Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), and they are reportedly looking for another lobbyist with a link to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Others caution that it's too soon to make any moves: Democratic lobbyist John Raffaelli said, "It’s still more likely than not Republicans hold the House." Jeva Lange

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