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Five days out from Election Day, the agenda is: optimism.
Yes, you read that right. After months of campaigning and razor-thin margins in the polls, some Republicans and Democrats are seeing cause for optimism in the final stretch of the midterm campaigns.
Polling site FiveThirtyEight still rates the Senate a toss-up, and favors Republicans to win the House. The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, meanwhile, puts five Senate races and 35 House races in its toss-up category.
But GOP strategists and lawmakers are eyeing gains in the House and Senate, and already planning their post-election agenda if they retake control of either or both chambers.
Experts say bigger defense budgets, heavier scrutiny of military aid to Ukraine and a tougher line on China are all on the horizon should Republicans gain more power in the midterms, writes The Hill’s Ellen Mitchell. Though not at the forefront of the 2022 campaigns, foreign policy and national security issues will likely get a shakeup with a GOP agenda, and the wide-ranging impacts could happen quickly after Nov. 8.
House Republicans, meanwhile, are getting ready to jump headfirst into probes of Hunter Biden’s business dealings if they win a majority, The Hill’s Emily Brooks reports, with the House Oversight GOP planning a press conference on their investigation the week after the election.
At the top of House Republicans’ to-do list on the matter is obtaining “suspicious activity reports” from the Treasury Department in connection to transactions from the president’s son and his associates. The ultimate goal is to question whether President Biden can lead with impartiality given his family’s business dealings.
▪ The Washington Post: GOP congressional majorities would pivot to spending cuts, Biden probes.
▪ FiveThirtyEight: Republicans are just a normal polling error away from a landslide — or wiping out.
And Senate Republicans are finding themselves in their best position in months to net the seat they need to flip control of the chamber, Politico reports. While claiming that one seat seemed unlikely this summer, GOP officials now report optimism due to a late-cycle spending surge and a deteriorating national environment for Democrats.
“Chances at this moment are very, very strong,” Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa), a member of GOP leadership, told Politico. “I’m just going to say: We’re going to get the Senate next Tuesday.”
Lobbyist alert: Punchbowl News on Thursday rounded up the latest inside bets on who will chair House committees if Republicans are in the majority.
“It’s tight,” Schumer said, but added, “I believe Democrats will hold the Senate and maybe even pick up seats.”
Flashback: Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), in March told The Hill’s editor-in-chief, Bob Cusack, he was confident his party’s most vulnerable Senate incumbents would win reelection. “I feel very good about bringing back all the incumbents, so that gets us to 50. …I’m confident on 50 and shooting for 52 or more,” Peters said. “There are a number of states that look good. I’ll just mention two: We have both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.”
The Hill’s Hanna Trudo spoke with Democrats who similarly believe that polling and conventional wisdom about GOP victories are way off. This year, the optimism caucus is working overtime for Democrats.
“I don’t believe the GOP is headed for any kind of a wave,” said Angelo Cocchiaro, a Democratic Party activist based in Virginia. “The polls show tight races nationwide. I’m expecting Dems [to] pick up a few seats in the Senate, and in the House… A historically close result.”
▪ Politico: In Wisconsin, rural Democrats confront a potential new low.
▪ The Hill’s Niall Stanage: Biden’s plea for democracy struggles to get traction.
Even with all the cheery chatter about holding the Senate, Democratic party leaders are in a frantic scramble to reach voters and add some dazzle to neck-and-neck contests in districts and states Biden won in 2020 and where Republican contenders appear strong. Hillary Clinton showed up on the trail on Thursday to try to boost the political fortunes of New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) (The Washington Post).
Former President Obama on Saturday will speak at a rally in Pittsburgh as well as in Philadelphia later in the day on behalf of Pennsylvania Senate candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D). Fetterman, who is being challenged by Republican TV doctor Mehmet Oz, on Thursday lost his lead in the polls for the first time (The Hill and CBS News).
Oprah Winfrey, who with her talk show helped launch Oz’s television career, on Thursday endorsed Fetterman and a slate of Democratic candidates, saying she’d vote for the Pennsylvania lieutenant governor if she lived in the Keystone State (The Philadelphia Inquirer and Today).
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Thursday that Congress needs to deal with the nation’s “crippling debt” by making changes to shore up Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that he said are “going bankrupt.”
At a Fortune CEO conference, Manchin said he wants to see bipartisan legislation over the next two years to deal with the programs, which he said are facing “tremendous problems” (The Hill and Bloomberg News).
The Social Security Board of Trustees estimates that the government’s most popular program will remain “solvent” until 2035. Medicare, the federal health insurance program for 65 million people ages 65 and older, and younger people with long-term disabilities, projects its trust fund will be insolvent in six years.
“You’re going to get your financial house in order,” said Manchin, whose pivotal vote both delayed and helped pass big pieces of Biden’s agenda. “We cannot live with this crippling debt.”
If optimism is on the agenda for both Democrats and Republicans, money is what’s making it happen.
Total spending on state and federal races during the 2022 midterm elections is expected to exceed $16.7 billion, according to OpenSecrets estimates, meaning this election cycle is the most expensive to date.
Federal candidates and political committees are on track to spend $8.9 billion by Nov. 8, while state candidates, party committees and ballot measure committees are expected to raise $7.8 billion (Bloomberg News and CNBC).
Companies tied to major impacts on U.S. environmental and sustainability goals have donated millions of dollars to Republicans who have questioned the 2020 election results, according to a new analysis. Food, energy and chemical producers — led by companies like Exxon, Marathon Petroleum and Williams — donated a little more than $2.4 million for election-denying GOP candidates, The Hill calculated based on ProPublica data.
Those funds are part of a larger pool of more than $13 million total shelled out by Fortune 500 companies for election-denying candidates since Jan. 6, 2021 (The Hill).
▪ Axios: A judge on Thursday sided with New York Attorney General Letitia James in her request for an independent monitor to oversee the Trump Organization’s preparation of financial statements amid a pending review of a civil lawsuit.
▪ The Hill: “They ought to impeach Mitch McConnell” if the Senate minority leader backs elimination of the debt ceiling, viewed by some Republicans as potential policy leverage in pending dealings with Democrats, former President Trump said during a Thursday radio interview.
▪ Axios: Exclusive emails: Inside Trump’s botched Georgia voter fraud lawsuit.
▪ CNN: Ashley Biden, 41, daughter of the president, finds her voice.
▪ The Hill and CNN: Paul Pelosi, 82, husband of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was discharged on Thursday from a San Francisco hospital after being attacked by an assailant who broke into their California home on Saturday before being arrested.
▪ The Hill: Actor and comedian Jack Black, who is working with the nonprofit group VoteRiders, told The Hill Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack during a virtual interview that it feels like “the end of the world” if voters don’t turn out for midterms.
LEADING THE DAY
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is poised for a dramatic return to power following Israel’s latest election. Prime Minister Yair Lapid conceded defeat to Netanyahu on Thursday (NBC News). Netanyahu’s Likud Party victory was possible because of the rise of the far right and its ability to capture 14 seats in the Knesset. Israel’s pending coalition government is expected to be the most conservative in its history (USA Today).
▪ Reuters analysis: Arabs view a revived Netanyahu with concern but as balance against Iran.
▪ The Hill: Here are five ways Natanyahu’s return will shake Israel and the world.
▪ The New York Times: Biden and Netanyahu gear up for a complicated new era.
U.S. officials met with WNBA star Brittney Griner on Wednesday in Russia where she is detained on drug charges, the State Department and White House said Thursday. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Griner was “doing as well as can be expected” and reiterated that Griner’s release remains a “top priority” for the administration (NBC News and The Hill).
A bipartisan Senate duo traveled to Ukraine this week to reinforce U.S. commitments and to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky (The Hill): Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a statement Thursday assuring Ukrainians of “broad support that continues to exist in Congress” as Ukraine’s war with Russia enters its ninth month. They assailed Russia for “a series of atrocities” and discussed efforts by Ukraine, the United States and the International Criminal Court to prosecute Russian officials for war crimes. Coons is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, and Portman is co-chairman and co-founder of the Senate Ukraine Caucus.
Zelensky on Thursday said Ukraine will not attend the annual summit of the Group of 20 richest countries, to take place in Bali, Indonesia, Nov. 15-16, if Russian President Vladimir Putin attends. Biden is scheduled to participate (The Hill).
Russia’s military could be preparing to retreat and withdraw from Kherson in Ukraine, according to Western officials. Ukrainian officials warn that Russian troops could be setting up a trap by signaling a withdrawal. A retreat or a massive battle? Either is possible (The Washington Post).
Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, on Thursday was shot in the leg in what was described as a targeted attack by a man who opened fire as Khan led a protest march. One person was killed. An armed suspect was arrested, according to police (BBC and CNN).
North Korea fired 80 artillery rounds into the sea overnight, South Korea said Friday. Defense ministers from Seoul to Washington, D.C., vowed determination in the face of North Korea’s barrage of missile tests (Reuters). South Korean Defense Minister Jong-Sup Lee said on Thursday that his government does not believe that tactical nuclear weapons are needed to deter Pyongyang following its latest test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (Reuters).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➤ STATE WATCH
As unseasonable fall warmth bakes the Rocky Mountain hillsides, veteran Colorado snow-maker Tony Wrone has come to terms with the fact that the winters of his youth appear to be part of his region’s past, writes The Hill’s Sharon Udasin.
“Last year, we had a real hard time because it was so warm in November,” Wrone, who began making snow in Keystone, Colo., in 1996, told The Hill. “Back then, I think we opened one year there around October 18 or something like that. Now, we seem to be struggling for temps in November.”
A lack of snow threatens livelihoods as well as the water supply people living hundreds or even thousands of miles away rely on. As climate change shakes up weather systems worldwide, a region known for its snow has become increasingly unsure how much longer the slopes and valleys will be coated in white. The majestic Rocky Mountains are at the mercy of an unforgiving drought, the region’s worst in more than 1,000 years. Meteorologists predicted a hot, dry fall. What happens this winter is anyone’s guess.
Pluribus News reports that states are on the hunt for rare earth minerals within their borders in response to U.S. demand surges tied to electric vehicles. Rodney Sobin, a senior fellow at the National Association of State Energy Officials, said states are exploring mining lithium and looking at whether they can extract rare-earth metals from coal waste, among other policies under consideration. “We and the states all recognize that there are … concerns about vulnerabilities, considering that much of the supply chain for key minerals comes from China,” he said. “So the opportunity to develop resources domestically and within states is very important.”
■ Postcards from the permanent campaign: What the midterms look like in six states, by The Washington Post staff. https://wapo.st/3UiNtak
■ COVID, the flu and RSV: We’re not out of the woods, by epidemiologist Rashid Chotani, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3TWDiIV
WHERE AND WHEN
👉 YOU’RE INVITED: Have a news query tied to an expert journalist’s insights?The Hill has launched something new and (we hope) engaging via text with Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack. Learn more and sign up HERE.
The House meets at 11:30 a.m. on Monday for a pro forma session. Members are scheduled to return to the Capitol on Nov. 14.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. on Monday for a pro forma session. Senators make their way back to Washington on Nov. 14.
The president is in San Diego, Calif., where he will speak at 11:45 a.m. PT at a technology company that will benefit from the recent enactment of the CHIPS and Science Act. Biden will fly to Chicago, where he will headline a political event at 7:30 p.m. CT.
Vice President Harris at 5:15 p.m. will participate in virtual political events for Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Pa.), who is seeking reelection; Iowa gubernatorial candidate Deidre DeJear (D); and Harris County, Texas, Judge Lina Hidalgo (D), who is seeking reelection (The Houston Chronicle).
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Munster, Germany, for the conclusion of this week’s gathering of the Group of Seven’s finance ministers. He will attend morning meetings focused on protests in Iran. Blinken will attend a working lunch with senior African officials from Ghana, Kenya and the African Union. Afternoon discussions will deal with Africa and G-7 challenges, as well as the global consequences of war in Ukraine. The gathered foreign ministers this afternoon will release a G-7 statement and a joint statement with African representatives.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will chair a meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Council.
Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report on U.S. employment in October.
Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, John Podesta, Biden’s senior adviser for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation, and Sally Benson, the deputy director for energy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, will participate today in an event at the Argonne National Laboratory, part of the Energy Department, in Lemont, Ill. The focus is $1.5 billion in increased funding in fiscal 2022 for national laboratories through the Inflation Reduction Act (The Hill). They will also reference investments in research and development to help battle climate change toward the U.S. goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
Second gentleman Doug Emhoff is in Iowa this evening to campaign for the Democratic Party’s candidate for governor.
🎂 Former first lady Laura Bush celebrates her 76th birthday!
➤ PANDEMIC & HEALTH
If you’ve had COVID-19, watch out for stroke symptoms. New studies confirm that some people will develop an elevated risk of blood clots, strokes or heart attacks after getting COVID-19. And given how many people have contracted the coronavirus by now, experts say everyone should be more vigilant about the early warning signs such as chest pain, unusual swelling, numbness or weakness or sudden changes in balance, speech or vision (Bloomberg News and Pharmacy Times).
The federal government is poised to stop paying for COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments, shifting the costs onto the public, writes The Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel. Experts say most Americans are not aware that this will happen, likely when funds run dry in January, and will be in for a major case of sticker shock.
Instead of free access to tests and treatments like Paxlovid, insurance companies and manufacturers will set the price. People with private insurance will start to see copays, though the biggest impact will be on uninsured or underinsured Americans, many of whom have jobs that put them at greater risk of COVID-19 exposure.
Pfizer and BioNTech said Thursday that they will test a combined COVID-19 and flu vaccine, which could potentially pave the way for better inoculation uptake for both illnesses.
Annaliesa Anderson, head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer, said inoculation “could simplify immunization practices against these two respiratory pathogens, potentially leading to better vaccine uptake for both diseases.”
Rival vaccine makers Moderna and Novavax have also been testing combined doses (Barron’s).
Information about COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot availability can be found at Vaccines.gov.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,072,223. Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths are 2,504 for the week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The CDC shifted its tally of available data from daily to weekly, now reported on Fridays.)
And finally … 👏👏👏 Congratulations to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners! Readers Googled or guessed some seasonal trivia about daylight saving time. It’s a ritual that will conclude when clocks are set back one hour by 2 a.m. on Sunday.
These champion puzzlers went 4/4 and deserve to take a bow: Pam Manges, Stan Wasser, Paul Harris, Patrick Kavanagh, Lou Tisler, Amanda Fisher, Sandy Walters, Luther Berg, Lori Benso, Susan Reeves, Robert Bradley, Steve James, Barbara Golian, Stephen Delano and Terry Pflaumer.
They knew that Arizona and Hawaii are states that do not observe daylight saving time.
If you feel sleepy and stick your head in the freezer during the day, it can help you get better slumber later that night, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
The United States originally opted to “spring ahead” and “fall back” while resetting clocks twice a year in most states to conserve fuel needed to produce electricity during wartime (CNN).
Ben Franklin in 1784 penned a letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris explaining his strikingly early concept of saving daylight. 🛌 Franklin was a round-the-clock thinker.
The Hill: Five things to know about daylight saving time.