Welcome to The Tip Sheet, a daily political analysis of the 2018 elections, based on interviews with Republican and Democratic officials, pollsters, strategists and voters.
Republican officials have long had two questions about President Trump in the 2018 elections: Could he help when called upon, lending local candidates his #MAGA sheen in conservative ZIP codes? And could he avoid hurting the party’s cause too much everywhere else?
It’s the second one that’s worrying them now.
Mr. Trump’s woeful approval rating in many swing districts is an issue, particularly in some suburban areas represented by Republicans where voters are dismayed at his presidency.
• Representative Ryan Costello, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania who is not seeking re-election, pointed out that some Republicans in districts with high concentrations of immigrants had recently appeared poised to hang on. “Now POTUS, out of nowhere, brings birthright citizenship up,” Mr. Costello tweeted. “Besides being basic tenet of America, it’s political malpractice.”
• Some Republican-held districts to watch: those with a mix of college-educated whites and Hispanics, such as the seats of Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida, Representative Steve Knight of California, Representative Will Hurd of Texas and the Miami-area seat held by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who is retiring.
Kobach’s gift to Kansas Democrats
Democrats nationally may be most animated about President Trump, but in Kansas the former governor, Sam Brownback, is just as galvanizing a figure for the left and across much of the political center. Mr. Brownback, who earlier this year joined the Trump administration, departed office with poor approval ratings, in part the result of education cuts he made in the state budget.
And on Tuesday night, Democrats got a gift in their laps.
• In the final debate of the governor’s race, when the candidates were asked if they thought Mr. Brownback was a good governor, the only one who raised a hand was Kris Kobach, the Republican nominee and current secretary of state.
• Democrats could use the help in Kansas. Despite Mr. Brownback’s unpopularity and Mr. Kobach’s own polarizing history, the governor’s race remains very close: Mr. Kobach and the Democratic nominee, Laura Kelly, are running roughly even in polls. A big factor is the presence of a third-party candidate on the ballot, Greg Orman, who is polling at close to 10 percent. Mr. Orman has refused to get out of the race, but on Tuesday he suffered an embarrassing blow when his campaign treasurer resigned and endorsed Ms. Kelly.
Kasich says DeWine knows how good Kasich is
The maybe-future-Republican-governor of Ohio is bringing in his closer: the current Republican governor of Ohio, who is maybe more popular with Democrats.
Gov. John R. Kasich plans to rally on Friday for Mike DeWine, the party’s nominee for governor and the state’s current attorney general. Perhaps no major campaign surrogate this year has a stranger relationship to his state’s 2018 electorate than Mr. Kasich. His repeated clashes with Mr. Trump have hindered his standing with Republicans, but he remains reasonably popular overall, appealing to many Democrats and moderate voters. Mr. DeWine is in a tight race with Richard Cordray, the Democratic nominee.
Mr. Kasich’s first campaign cameo this week was telling: He stars in a new ad from the DeWine campaign focused on health care. Mr. Cordray has hammered Mr. DeWine for signing on to a Republican lawsuit aimed at the Affordable Care Act. And Mr. Kasich — who broke with many in his party to expand Medicaid as governor — is not exactly overflowing with praise in the new spot, even as he makes his support for Mr. DeWine clear.
“Mike DeWine has promised me he will protect those with pre-existing conditions,” Mr. Kasich says. “Mike knows the success we’ve had in Ohio by not leaving anyone behind. DeWine will work to make health care available and affordable.”
Joshua Eck, a spokesman for the DeWine campaign, said the ad was currently running on digital platforms only. He said he was not aware of plans to put it on television.
Tester gets personal
Senator Jon Tester of Montana is breaking out his own campaign closer: an old meat grinder with a bloody history.
Throughout his career, Mr. Tester — one of several Democrats hoping to hang on in states the president won easily — has spoken often of the meat grinder, which cost him three fingers in an accident when he was a child.
But its re-emergence in an ad this week is instructive. Mr. Tester is staking his race against Matt Rosendale, a Republican Trump acolyte and the state auditor, on two things: his homespun brand as a Montana lifer and an emphasis on local issues like the state’s health care system.
Mr. Rosendale, by contrast, has sought to nationalize the race, tying himself to the president in a state Mr. Trump won by 20.
The ad seems aimed at accomplishing both of Mr. Tester’s goals.
“I was 9-years-old when I lost my fingers in this meat grinder,” he says in the ad. “My parents paid for the hospital because our health care didn’t cover anything.”
He then lashes Mr. Rosendale’s health care positions, questioning his commitment to covering pre-existing conditions.
Lawsuit over voter IDs in North Dakota
A last-minute lawsuit filed Tuesday afternoon seeks to block enforcement of North Dakota’s controversial voter ID law before the election. Here’s the gist:
• Filed by the Native American Rights Fund and the Campaign Legal Center on behalf of the Spirit Lake Tribe and six people, it alleges that the law’s requirement of a residential address — which many Native Americans don’t have — violates the First and 14th Amendments.
• North Dakota officials say it’s easy for anyone without a residential address to get one. But the details in the lawsuit, and The Times’s own reporting in North Dakota, indicate that this is not the case. The procedure can be labyrinthine, and some people who navigated it were still denied absentee ballots because election officials deemed their state-issued addresses invalid.
• The outcome of the case could affect Tuesday’s election. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat who has strong support among Native Americans, trails her Republican challenger in the polls.
North Dakota’s secretary of state, Al Jaeger, declined to comment Tuesday, citing the pending litigation.
Thanks for reading The Tip Sheet. Have you checked out On Politics with Lisa Lerer, our evening newsletter? Subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox.