The Note: Primary season highlights Democrats’ leftward march

The TAKE with Rick Klein

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It’s not all about who wins and who loses – not when they’re playing the game differently.

The end of 2018’s long primary season most likely will not add to the limited tally of the toppled, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo expected to advance over progressive challenger Cynthia Nixon in pursuit of a third term on Thursday.

But the Democratic Party is substantially different from what it was even at the end of 2016. Cuomo’s moves to embrace progressive concepts on social, environmental, and criminal justice issues (and spend heavily to promote them) mirrors his party’s evolution toward the left – yet, not necessarily in ways that would imperil electoral chances.

Only two incumbent Democratic House members lost their primaries this year, and no incumbent senator had to even sweat it. That helps give Democrats strong odds at taking the House and even a fighting chance of taking the Senate – a one-in-three shot, according to FiveThirtyEight’s new forecast, despite an extraordinarily challenging landscape.

One telling detail about how times have changed: Sen. Joe Manchin, whose re-election in West Virginia is critical to those Democratic hopes, famously fired a rifle at cap-and-trade legislation in a campaign ad in 2010. This year, he’s shooting again on TV – this time to preserve Obamacare’s insurance guarantees.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP, file
Sen. Joe Manchin listens during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 9, 2018.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

One New York state Democratic primary has gotten a lot of attention nationally, but there’s another that could have a direct impact on the man in the White House on day one.

While the star-studded race between Andrew Cuomo and insurgent Cynthia Nixon has made headlines, whoever wins New York’s attorney general race potentially will have the power to investigate or manage legal cases involving Trump businesses and family foundations.

PHOTO: Cynthia Nixon speaks at the Democratic gubernatorial primary debate, Aug. 29, 2018, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.J. Conrad Williams Jr./Newsday/AP
Cynthia Nixon speaks at the Democratic gubernatorial primary debate, Aug. 29, 2018, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

Over the summer, the current New York attorney general filed a sweeping lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation, claiming the family violated campaign and charity finance laws.

While Democrats running for the post have received some blowback for touting a desire to take on the first family, it no doubt could end up as part of the job.

The Democratic primary winner will likely be the overall victor this fall in the blue state. Currently, congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, public advocate Letitia James, and law professor Zephyr Teachout are neck and neck in the primary race.

The TIP with Luke Barr

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo fended off an insurgent progressive challenger in a rare Wednesday night primary, in a victory for the Democratic establishment. Raimondo governs as a centrist and she held off her progressive challenger, former Secretary of State Matt Brown. Even former Vice President Joe Biden got involved, recording a last minute robocall for Raimondo. The win signals that Rhode Islanders aren’t ready for their governor to lean all the way left. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung was also victorious in the GOP primary, setting up a re-match of the 2014 gubernatorial election. It provides Republicans a real chance to go on offense, even in a relatively blue state and in a year where so much chatter is the other way around. The most recent poll has Raimondo and Fung running neck and neck — and the barbs have already started flying. She is tying him to President Trump, saying he wouldn’t have the courage to stand up to the president. Fung hit right back, calling her administration “incompetent.” This race is shaping up to be chippy – Rhode Island politicians aren’t afraid to mix it up.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Trump has no public event scheduled.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee meets to debate Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court at 10 a.m.
  • Former President Barack Obama campaigns in Cleveland for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Richard Cordray at 5 p.m.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden keynotes the ‘Building a Higher Wage America’ summit at the U.S. Navy Memorial at 1 p.m.
  • QUOTE OF THE DAY

    “It’s just a brawl in every one of those places.” — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking to reporters on Wednesday about the GOP’s chances in Senate races in Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, Montana, North Dakota, Indiana, West Virginia and Florida.

    THE PLAYLIST

    ABC News’ “Start Here” Podcast. Thursday morning’s episode features Nate Silver from our partners at FiveThirtyEight breaking down the site’s Senate forecast, which shows Democrats with a 1 in 3 chance of taking control. And, ABC News’ Ali Rogin explains the controversy surrounding $10 million moved from FEMA to ICE ahead of Hurricane Florence. “This doesn’t really seem to have the trapping of an actual Washington D.C. scandal,” she says. https://bit.ly/2Ohkpz8

    ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” Podcast. Ken Starr, former independent counsel and author of “Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation,” weighs in on the current special counsel investigation that President Donald Trump calls a “witch hunt.” https://bit.ly/2w091jE

    NEED TO READ

    FiveThirtyEight forecasts Republicans as favorites to keep the Senate. Democrats have a 1-in-3 chance of winning the Senate majority this November, according to FiveThirtyEight’s just-launched 2018 Senate forecast. https://abcn.ws/2p1yCon

    Manafort seeking plea deal with special counsel that would avoid cooperation ahead of second trial: Sources. Sources familiar with negotiations tell ABC News former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been in ongoing negotiations with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office over a potential plea agreement. (John Santucci and Matthew Mosk) https://abcn.ws/2Mo3zwh

    Trump signs order that would impose sanctions for election interference. President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a broad executive order that would pave the way for the administration to impose sanctions on foreign actors that attempt to meddle in U.S. elections — whether it be an entity, an individual, or a country. (Meridith McGraw and Chris Good) https://abcn.ws/2NBIkeY

    Democratic governor faces progressive challenge in Rhode Island primary. As some pundits predict a potential blue wave across the nation’s statehouses this November, the one atop Smith Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, could take on a reddish hue. (Luke Barr) https://abcn.ws/2MmhJxZ

    Trump calls San Juan mayor ‘totally incompetent’ amid flap over Hurricane Maria. President Trump reignited his feud with the mayor of San Juan on Wednesday, calling Yulin Cruz “totally incompetent” on social media. (Kelsey Walsh) https://abcn.ws/2NGwaRW

    Merkley accuses DHS of ‘scandal’ in taking funds from FEMA. Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, is feuding with the Trump administration over what he says was its inappropriate shift of $10 million from FEMA to immigration enforcement — funds he said should be used for disaster relief. (Ali Rogin) https://abcn.ws/2QpzMXa

    Border chief says child separation controversy has created ‘crisis.’ Homeland Security officials say the recent controversy over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and the separation of children from parents crossing the border illegally has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of families now trying to sneak into the United States. (Mike Levine) https://abcn.ws/2OasHrL

    Ken Starr accuses Trump of ‘abuse of power’ but not obstruction of justice. Twenty years ago, then-Independent Counsel Ken Starr led the investigation into President Bill Clinton and his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky, which resulted in the first presidential impeachment in more than a century. (Meg Cunningham) https://abcn.ws/2NBNDej

    The Washington Post analyzes how health care might help Democrats in the midterms. https://wapo.st/2p2bupC

    Former Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt may be in talks to work as a coal industry consultant, The Hill reports. https://bit.ly/2Qn3Q5L

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.