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.
Where things stand
In most times of national tragedy, an American president usually shelves political events, curtails partisan rhetoric and tries to unify the country. Donald J. Trump is not that president.
He went through with his regularly scheduled political rally in Illinois Saturday, only hours after the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue, and he has a full schedule of campaign events for the final week before Election Day.
Mr. Trump may go to Pittsburgh — he will not be on the campaign trail Monday or Tuesday — but he has made clear he will not pause for long from political combat:
• He took to Twitter Sunday to call the liberal donor Tom Steyer, who was targeted with a pipe bomb last week, a “crazy and stumbling lunatic.”
• He also said “Fake & Dishonest reporting” was damaging the country.
It’s Trump-as-usual, but it’s the sort of conduct that alarms Republican strategists because it turns off the remaining up-for-grabs voters the party needs to survive in a series of House and governors’ races. Republicans are in fighting shape in many Senate contests, but their 23-seat majority in the House and their hold on governorships in Illinois, Michigan and Florida are at real risk.
And given the recent violence, his language at the upcoming rallies will draw intense scrutiny — the sort of attention that had dissipated somewhat until one Trump supporter sent the pipe bombs to the president’s favorite foes and another man killed 11 congregants in a synagogue.
What Trump’s travel plans tell us about the midterms
Details about the president’s tentative pre-election schedule leaked Sunday night and they are very revealing. A few thoughts:
• After making several stops for House candidates in recent weeks, the president is mostly focused on Senate and gubernatorial races — and is clearly aiming to help his party add to its one-seat Senate majority.
• To the delight of Montana Republicans, Mr. Trump will return to their state a final time to try to knock off Senator Jon Tester. Polls show Mr. Tester with a small edge.
• Mr. Trump is going to Missouri for two final rallies — recall we told you he would likely return here or Tennessee twice in the final stretch? — in an effort to defeat Senator Claire McCaskill, who is battling for her political life.
• And in a sign that the president is eager to tend to the nation’s largest swing state, where his handpicked nominee for governor is struggling, Mr. Trump will appear twice in Florida during the final week of the campaign: first in Ft. Myers on Wednesday and then in Pensacola on Saturday.
But it’s not all statewide races: There is one House candidate he’s aiming to help in one of the most pro-Trump districts in America. While it may seem like the president is going to Huntington, W.Va., to make one final go at Senator Joe Manchin — and we have no doubt Mr. Trump will take on the conservative Democrat while he’s in the state — the likelier reason is to get a Republican, Representative Carol Miller, over the top in her surprisingly competitive race against her Democratic opponent, Richard Ojeda.
Mr. Trump and his top political advisers want to claim credit for winning as many House races as they can — so that even if Republicans lose the chamber, the White House can point to a series of conservative-leaning districts he appeared in to argue that he saved as many races as he cost his party.
And speaking of where the president has cost the G.O.P. this year, consider where he is almost certainly not going in final stretch: not a single state in the northeast or on the Pacific Coast.
Kamala Harris’s closing argument
It is no surprise that Mr. Trump would rather not dwell on the gun massacre and pipe bombs as the election season closes. What may be more striking: Democrats don’t either, necessarily.
In conversations with top party officials and candidates in competitive races, the consensus was that Democrats were best served keeping their focus largely on the long-established issues of the year: health care, health care and health care. And maybe a few more, non-Trump-specific subjects if there’s time.
• “It’s about the economy, it’s about health care, it’s about what we need to do around paying attention to voting rights, what we need to do to pay attention to student loan debt,” Senator Kamala Harris of California told reporters in Florida on Sunday, during a day of events for her colleague from that state, Senator Bill Nelson, and Andrew Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor running for governor. “That’s where we should all be focused.”
And this is coming from a senator who was targeted with one of the pipe bombs.
A Florida tossup
Still, some Democrats have sought a kind of balance: dinging Mr. Trump without appearing to escalate a partisan conflict. Take Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat running to unseat Representative Carlos Curbelo, the Republican incumbent in Florida’s 26th District.
• Asked in an interview whether Mr. Trump was responsible for the political violence, she criticized the “racial comments, sexist comments” from the president throughout his political career, accusing him of “igniting hatred.”
• But she stopped a beat short of implicating Mr. Trump directly. “I’m not going to blame him directly, obviously,” she said, “because I don’t want to continue the divide.”
A New York Times/Siena College poll this month found the race virtually even.
Biden on the trail
Joe Biden has long prided himself on being a Democrat who can campaign anywhere. His itinerary in the midterms’ closing days seems designed in part to reinforce the point.
The former vice president, weighing another run for the White House in 2020, will be in Ohio on Monday with Richard Cordray, the Democratic nominee for governor. The location is telling: Youngstown, in the Mahoning Valley, where Mr. Trump’s unexpected success helped deliver him an eight-point victory in the state.
Later in the week, Mr. Biden is expected to appear in a state even more hostile to Democrats in recent memory: North Dakota.
He’ll be helping the beleaguered incumbent, Senator Heidi Heitkamp, in a race many Democratic officials see as all but lost.
So why go? Loyalty, for one. But Mr. Biden also surely would not mind reminding his party that he has fans in unlikely corners of the country.
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