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.
Oprah hits the campaign trail
MARIETTA, Ga. — The chant began well before Oprah Winfrey arrived on Thursday: “And you get a vote! And you get a vote! And you get a vote!”
Ms. Winfrey eventually joined in the cheer, with its origins in her days as a talk-show host — but only after she delivered a pointed rebuke to people who might willfully forego the franchise and a stirring evocation of her native South’s racist past.
“I’m here today because of the men and because of the women who were lynched, who were humiliated, who were discriminated against, who were suppressed, who were repressed and who were oppressed for the right of equality at the polls,” Ms. Winfrey told a crowded auditorium in suburban Atlanta. “Their blood has seeped into my DNA, and I refuse to let their sacrifices be in vain.”
Ms. Winfrey makes only sporadic political appearances and statements, but she visited Georgia on behalf of Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor. She emerged as an aggressive champion for Ms. Abrams and her policies, but focused her most impassioned remarks on voting rights — a message that could reverberate among her still-devoted fans across the country.
“For anybody here who has an ancestor who didn’t have the right to vote, and you are choosing not to vote — wherever you are in this state, in this country, you are dishonoring your family,” said Ms. Winfrey, who, like Ms. Abrams, is a black woman born in Mississippi. “You are disrespecting and disregarding their legacy, their suffering and their dreams when you don’t vote.”
Indeed, Ms. Winfrey’s two appearances in the Atlanta area were designed to help Ms. Abrams galvanize support — and enthusiasm — among voters she must turn out if she is to win on Tuesday: white women from the suburbs, as well as black women. Together, Ms. Winfrey and Ms. Abrams drew hundreds of them on Thursday, as Ms. Abrams’s Republican rival, Brian Kemp, barnstormed the state with Vice President Mike Pence.
Both Ms. Abrams and Mr. Kemp are hoping to avoid a runoff, but polls show the two effectively tied. A Libertarian candidate is also in the race.
Red flags for G.O.P. in the House
We’re entering the homestretch, and our just-completed poll in the New Jersey district of Representative Leonard Lance carries ominous news for him — and for other Republicans in high-income districts.
Mr. Lance, who is in his fifth term, is winning only 39 percent of the vote against Tom Malinowski, the Democratic challenger. That’s a remarkably low number for an incumbent this late in the campaign.
And it’s not difficult to see why Mr. Lance is struggling: A majority of the district disapproves of President Trump and a majority also prefers Democrats to take control of Congress. That’s a familiar, if discomforting, tune for suburban Republicans across the country.
• There were other red flags for House Republicans from lesser-known races. The party has poured millions of dollars over a period of months into some of the hardest-fought races in the most competitive districts. But what worries G.O.P. strategists, and delights Democrats, are the races that have not gotten so much money and attention. And a pair of polls, one public and one private, came out this week in two such districts.
A Republican group received a survey from Illinois showing that Representative Randy Hultgren, the incumbent, was tied with his Democratic challenger, Lauren Underwood, in an exurban Chicago district that Mr. Trump carried by 4 points in 2016.
Even more alarming for Republicans, a survey commissioned by a Pennsylvania ABC affiliate found that Representative Mike Kelly narrowly trailed his Democratic opponent, Ron DiNicola, in an Erie-area seat that is heavily pro-Trump.
Both incumbents may survive, but these sorts of numbers this late in the campaign are the political equivalent of flashing red warning lights for the G.O.P.
• At the outset of this election, few in either party thought Representative Steve King of Iowa was in any political peril. But as Mr. King continues to echo themes of white nationalism and offer support for extremist figures abroad, he is drawing the sort of unwanted attention that may create difficulties in his re-election.
The New York Times, which is polling dozens of House and Senate districts in partnership with Siena College, is going to survey his heavily conservative western Iowa district to see if his provocations, which have drawn rebukes from national Republican leaders, are catching up with him at home. Stay tuned.
Trump’s midterm finger-pointing
President Trump is getting ahead of a possible midterm loss with an unsubtle message to fellow Republicans: It wasn’t me.
A day after Paul Ryan, the lame-duck House Speaker, gently questioned the constitutionality of Mr. Trump’s proposed executive order banning birthright citizenship, the president did what he often does when he feels challenged. He escalated hostilities. By a lot.
“Paul Ryan should be focusing on holding the Majority rather than giving his opinions on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about!” Mr. Trump tweeted. He suggested that a “new” Republican majority — after Mr. Ryan is gone — would solve immigration issues.
Mr. Trump enjoys little more than brushing back establishment figures in both parties. But the primary intent of Mr. Trump’s tweet was not complicated: He is already pointing fingers at fellow Republicans for potential losses in the House next week.
Similar flare-ups were common in 2016, when the presidential election looked lost, betraying perhaps Mr. Trump’s foremost political creed: The buck stops … somewhere over there, far away.
Crowley: Is he or isn’t he?
When last we checked in with Representative Joseph Crowley of New York, he had thrown his support behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the political upstart who dethroned him in the Democratic primary in June. He pledged to do what he could to flip the House.
But Mr. Crowley remains on the ballot on two third-party lines, including the Working Families Party, and could still affect Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s race on Election Day.
There is a new flier circulating online that urges voters to support Mr. Crowley, calling him the “best qualified candidate” and explaining that, because of low turnout in the primary, he “came up a little short.” The source of the flier is not known, but Mr. Crowley’s office has disavowed any connection. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign also says it does not suspect his hand in it.
There have been similar entreaties: In July, the former Senator Joe Lieberman wrote an Op-Ed in The Wall Street Journal that urged voters to support Mr. Crowley in the general election; Ruben Diaz Sr., a New York City councilman who represents the South Bronx, did the same in The Bronx Chronicle in September.
On Wednesday, Mr. Crowley responded to the mysterious flier. “Not running. Not campaigning,” he posted on Twitter. “Shut down campaign operations months ago. Not circulating fliers.”
He added: “To whoever is: knock it off. Focus should be on electing Democrats to Republican seats. I’ve moved on, so should everyone else.”
For all the dismissals about a shadow campaign for his House seat, Mr. Crowley has evidently not forsaken a future in politics. “Joe for NY” is the name of his new state campaign committee, which hosted a fund-raiser on Monday in Manhattan.
Turn of luck for Tester
Senator Jon Tester of Montana has won two Senate elections without clearing 50 percent of the vote. One big reason: A Libertarian on the ballot has presumably hurt the Republican more than Mr. Tester, a Democrat. In both of his runs, Mr. Tester’s margin of victory has been smaller than the vote total for the third-party candidate.
But on Wednesday, Mr. Tester faced a complication: The Libertarian candidate this year, Rick Breckenridge, endorsed Matt Rosendale, the Republican nominee and state auditor. The effects of this aren’t entirely clear — early voting is well underway, and Mr. Breckenridge remains on the ballot.
But make no mistake: It’s good news for Mr. Rosendale, whose campaign — once considered a serious long shot — has piqued top-level Republican interest in recent weeks in a state Mr. Trump carried by 20 points.
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