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
• A consensus is emerging among Democratic and Republican strategists — based on public and private polling, early voting and likely turnout — that Democrats are on track to pick up about 35 seats in the House of Representatives in Tuesday’s elections. Republicans now have a 23-seat House majority.
• There’s anxiety about that number on both sides. Democrats don’t want expectations rising for a massive wave which many in the party still doubt is coming. And Republicans don’t want a mood of despair to set in when they believe there’s still a chance they could hang on.
• But the number does reflect the reality of polls in suburban districts as well as the tenacity of some Republicans in exurban districts, who would have to lose in order for Democrats to win more than 40 seats.
• Both parties’ projections are more bullish for Democrats than they were two weeks ago, when the consensus was that Democrats were on track to win between 25 and 35 seats. But many Republican lawmakers remain mired in the mid-40s or lower in the polls, a warning sign for incumbents this late in the campaign.
• Even some of the most cautious Democratic strategists have come around to saying the House is moving their way.
• Caveat! The election is Tuesday. The best predictions are sometimes wrong. And despite the projections, neither side is convinced that a Democratic majority is inevitable.
Obama poses a question about anger
By the fourth or fifth heckler, former President Barack Obama had an observation.
“Why is it,” he began, at a campaign rally Friday in Miami, “that the folks who won the last election are so mad all the time?”
After his own victory, “at least my side felt pretty good,” Mr. Obama continued. “It tells you something.”
He was striking at a telling feature of this midterm election. While some Republicans are talking up the state of the economy and the tax cuts with a stay-the-course message, the most prominent campaign themes lately have been much darker — at President Trump’s direction: Democratic “mobs,” unseen threats, the supposed menace of a faraway migrant caravan.
Of course, Mr. Obama also found cause to ridicule Republicans for taking credit for the strong economy.
“Where do you think that started?” he asked, noting that the same people had insisted the economy was in terrible shape while encouraging numbers were rolling in on his watch.
Cruz hits Beto over Project Veritas video
The migrant caravan was the talk of the Texas Senate campaign on Friday, a day after the conservative group Project Veritas released a video purporting to show staffers for Representative Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate, “using campaign resources to buy supplies and help transport Honduran aliens.”
Senator Ted Cruz cited the report at a morning rally in Fort Worth, saying Mr. O’Rourke’s campaign was using campaign funds to illegally aid the migrants. He recounted a joke about Mr. O’Rourke wanting to cross the border to “welcome” the migrants in Mexico.
“Maybe the welcome baskets and foot massages were not a joke,” he said, to a cheering crowd of supporters.
Keep in mind:
• Project Veritas has faced intense criticism in recent years for selective editing and questionable tactics. Mr. O’Rourke’s campaign has said the staffers were responding to an unrelated incident where migrants seeking asylum were dropped off by federal authorities at a bus station in downtown El Paso.
• Led by President Trump, Republican efforts to make the caravan an issue in the midterm races may be working. Several Cruz supporters said they believed the migrant caravan poses an imminent threat to the state. When Mr. Cruz asked how many in the crowd of several hundred had already voted, nearly all raised their hands. Early voting in Texas ended Friday.
• Going into the final weekend of the campaign, Mr. Cruz has led in many polls in the Texas race, though the latest one shows the two candidates running roughly even. Mr. O’Rourke has never led Mr. Cruz in a public poll this year.
What awaits Chris Collins?
For Representative Chris Collins, the 2020 election may be the second-most important day of that year; his insider trading trial is to begin on Feb. 3.
But before Mr. Collins, a Republican from western New York, needs to worry about either 2020 date, he must first contend with his re-election this year — an off-again, on-again campaign that bears little resemblance to other incumbents’ efforts.
He has barely campaigned, and the few events he has done were not listed on any public schedule. He has refused to debate his Democratic opponent, Nate McMurray; at a scheduled debate this week, Mr. McMurray and the Reform Party candidate, Larry Piegza, went on a stage with an unattended microphone and lectern left for Mr. Collins.
He is also suffering among donors: Mr. McMurray’s campaign raised roughly $520,000 in the most recent quarterly reporting period, compared with Mr. Collins’ $33,000. Of that, only $80 came from people in his district.
Still, Mr. Collins may be a slight favorite. Mr. McMurray, the town supervisor of Grand Island, N.Y., has had to go through a crash-course transition from sacrificial candidate to one carrying the burden of unseating an indicted incumbent — albeit a Republican incumbent in a district that President Trump carried by 25 points in 2016.
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigned with Mr. McMurray in Lancaster, N.Y., last week and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee started spending money on his campaign in mid-October.
Polls show the race has tightened in recent weeks. (The New York Times’s Upshot poll with Siena College showed Mr. Collins up four points, within the margin of error.)
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