POLITICO Playbook: Exclusive: Democrats reach into deep red Arkansas

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POLITICO Playbook: Exclusive: Democrats reach into deep red Arkansas

SPOTTED: SUSAN RICE chatting with locals at the Portland, Maine, airport Monday afternoon. AP: “Kavanaugh vote reshapes Maine senator’s political future”

28 DAYS OUT … EXCLUSIVE: DEMOCRATS REACH INTO DEEP RED ARKANSAS … THE DCCC is dropping $250,000 on a new TV ad in Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District, a deep red, R+7 seat anchored in Little Rock that is represented by GOP REP. FRENCH HILL. A quarter-million bucks buys two weeks of broadcast — 1,400 points.

— THE AD shows Hill in a duck-hunting outfit slowly transforming into a suit-wearing politician outside the Capitol — Dems clearly see the play here is to lump Hill in with the “swamp.” The 30-second spot

— THERE HAS BEEN very little outside spending in this district. House Majority PAC, the Democratic super PAC, has spent just short of a quarter-million bucks — it is the top outside spender there. Hill is facing CLARKE TUCKER, a state lawmaker. This is a district that PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP won by 10 points, and Hill won by 22 in 2016.

NEW: “POLITICO race ratings: The GOP House is crumbling,” by Steven Shepard: “The Republican House majority continues to show signs of collapsing, with Democrats steadily gaining ground toward erasing the 23-seat margin and ending eight years of GOP control.

“A total of 68 seats currently held by Republicans are firmly in play — rated as ‘Lean Republican’ or worse for the GOP — presenting a stark contrast to the Democratic side, where only a half-dozen Democratic seats are in similar jeopardy.

“The political environment has been jolted temporarily by the searing fight over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. But prior to that recent battle — which ended with Kavanaugh’s confirmation last week — Democrats had improved their electoral position since Labor Day, according to more than a dozen operatives and strategists in both parties.

“With a month to go until Election Day, there are now 209 seats either firmly or leaning in the Democratic column — only 9 shy of the 218 the party needs to wrest away control of the chamber — according to the latest update of POLITICO’s race ratings.” POLITICOThe full POLITICO race ratings

— RACHAEL BADE: “House Republicans distort and dissemble in slashing TV ads”

— SOMETHING TO WATCH — MARC CAPUTO and MATT DIXON: “Hurricane set to collide with top Florida races”

A COMING U.S.-SAUDI CLASH? … “Missing journalist’s fiancee demands to know: ‘Where is Jamal?’” by WaPo’s Souad Mekhennet and Loveday Morris in Istanbul: “The sleepless nights show in the dark circles under Hatice Cengiz’s eyes as she recounts the last moments she saw her fiance before he disappeared into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to finalize papers for their wedding. She is accompanied by two plainclothes Turkish police officers for protection. She is scared.

“‘I no longer feel like I am really alive,’ she said. ‘I can’t sleep. I don’t eat.’ It has been nearly a week since Cengiz, 36, last saw the man she planned to marry, Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist and critic of the Saudi government. She is the only witness to his disappearance inside. … Saudi officials insist that Khashoggi left the consulate alive, through a back entrance. Officials at the consulate declined interview requests.” WaPo

SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO, via Quint Forgey: “As the President has conveyed, the United States is concerned by his disappearance. State Department senior officials have spoken with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through diplomatic channels about this matter. We call on the government of Saudi Arabia to support a thorough investigation of Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance and to be transparent about the results of that investigation.” POLITICO

WHERE TRUMP IS … NYT’S MAGGIE HABERMAN (@maggieNYT): “Full quote, via pooler @rebeccaballhaus: ‘On Jamal Khashoggi: ‘I am concerned about it. I don’t like hearing about it. Hopefully that will sort itself out. Right now nobody knows anything about it, but there’s some pretty bad stories going around. I do not like it.’”

— @VP MIKE PENCE: “Deeply troubled to hear reports about Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. If true, this is a tragic day. Violence against journalists across the globe is a threat to freedom of the press & human rights. The free world deserves answers.”

— SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS CHAIRMAN BOB CORKER (@SenBobCorker): “Our thoughts are with #JamalKhashoggi’s family and colleagues at the @washingtonpost. I have raised Jamal’s disappearance personally with the Saudi ambassador, and while we await more information, know we will respond accordingly to any state that targets journalists abroad.”

— SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (@LindseyGrahamSC): “We agree if there was any truth to the allegations of wrongdoing by the Saudi government it would be devastating to the U.S.-Saudi relationship and there will be a heavy price to be paid — economically and otherwise.”

Good Tuesday morning. MAGGIE HABERMAN: “President Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, are expected to meet with the musician Kanye West on Thursday at the White House, two people familiar with the plans said. Mr. West, who has faced a backlash over his vocal support of the president, will meet first with Mr. Kushner and then have lunch with the president, the two people said.” NYT

HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CALIF.) is going to the U.S.-Mexico border Wednesday near El Paso, Texas. He’ll meet with Border Patrol officers and receive a briefing.

— WAPO’S ERICA WERNER: “House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Monday there will be ‘a big fight’ after the midterm elections over funding President Trump’s border wall, but he said he doesn’t know how the issue will be resolved.

“‘We intend on having a full-fledged discussion about how to complete this mission of securing our border, and we will have a big fight about that,’ Ryan (R-Wis.) said at the National Press Club. ‘We’ll figure out how to do it in December,’ Ryan added. ‘I can’t speak to what the outcomes will be.'” WaPo

THE NEW NARRATIVE — WAPO’S MATT VISER and BOB COSTA: “‘An angry mob’: Republicans work to recast Democratic protests as out-of-control anarchy”: “When thousands of furious, screaming protesters marched toward the Capitol over the weekend as Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh was confirmed, Republican staffers peered out at the scene from the windows above. They were not alarmed but elated.

“Weeks ahead of the midterm elections, Republicans have cast the Trump resistance movement as ‘an angry mob,’ a term used by many of them to describe a faceless amalgamation of forces that they say threaten the country’s order and, they hope, energize their voters.

“President Trump and the GOP firmly control Congress and the White House and have massive financial and media infrastructure behind them. But in an effort to flip the midterm elections from a referendum on the unpopular president, they are casting themselves as defenders at the barricades.” WaPo

THE LATEST ON KAVANAUGH …

— NYT’S PETER BAKER in Orlando, Fla.: “Trump Seeks to Make Kavanaugh Furor a Campaign Asset, Not a Liability”: “Rather than falling back on defense amid roiling outrage, especially among women, Mr. Trump is going on offense, trying to turn the furor into an asset instead of a liability. With the world’s loudest megaphone, he hopes to make the issue not the treatment of women in the #MeToo era but the treatment of men who deserve due process.

“For Mr. Trump and his Republican allies, this is a big gamble, with control of at least one house of Congress and possibly both on the line. Polls generally show that more Americans believed Christine Blasey Ford, the main accuser, than Justice Kavanaugh.” NYT

— “Trump uses swearing-in ceremony to apologize to Kavanaugh,” by Quint Forgey: “President Donald Trump apologized to Brett Kavanaugh and claimed that he was ‘proven innocent’ of multiple sexual misconduct allegations during an elaborate swearing-in ceremony for the new Supreme Court justice. …

“‘On behalf of our nation, I want to apologize to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure. Those who step forward to serve our country deserve a fair and dignified evaluation, not a campaign of personal and political destruction based on lies and deception,’ Trump said.

“‘What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency and due process. In our country, a man or a woman must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.’ Trump added: ‘And with that, I must state that you, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent.’” POLITICO

— BLOOMBERG SUPREME COURT REPORTER GREG STOHR (@GregStohr): “As Kavanaugh re-takes oath at White House this evening, worth noting that Sotomayor and Kagan didn’t take oaths at White House. Obama wanted it that way as a symbol of their independence, administration officials said at the time. #SCOTUS”

— WAPO’S JOSH DAWSEY (@jdawsey1): “Spotted at the Kavanaugh swearing in: Rod Rosenstein, fresh off his trip with POTUS, next to the gold curtains.” Pic

BUZZFEED’S ZOE TILLMAN: “Trump Didn’t Just Get A New Supreme Court Justice — He’ll Get Another DC Circuit Judge, Too

MONSTER STORY … NYT A1, “Trump Campaign Aide Requested Online Manipulation Plans From Israeli Intelligence Firm,” by Mark Mazzetti, Ronen Bergman, David Kirkpatrick and Maggie Haberman: “A top Trump campaign official requested proposals in 2016 from an Israeli company to create fake online identities, to use social media manipulation and to gather intelligence to help defeat Republican primary race opponents and Hillary Clinton, according to interviews and copies of the proposals.

“The Trump campaign’s interest in the work began as Russians were escalating their effort to aid Donald J. Trump. Though the Israeli company’s pitches were narrower than Moscow’s interference campaign and appear unconnected, the documents show that a senior Trump aide saw the promise of a disruption effort to swing voters in Mr. Trump’s favor. …

“There is no evidence that the Trump campaign acted on the proposals, and Mr. Gates ultimately was uninterested in Psy-Group’s work, a person with knowledge of the discussions said, in part because other campaign aides were developing a social media strategy. Psy-Group’s owner, Joel Zamel, did meet in August 2016 with Donald Trump Jr., Mr. Trump’s eldest son.” NYT

THE JUICE …

— JACKIE CALMES, the White House editor at the L.A. Times, is writing a book tentatively titled “The Fifth Man: The Conservative Takeover of the Supreme Court.” Twelve Books will publish it.

— “Hope Hicks to join Fox as corporate communications director,” by Isabel Dobrin: “Hicks, who served previously as White House communications director and was among President Donald Trump’s most trusted aides, will be based in Fox’s Los Angeles office. …

“In her new job, Hicks is likely to make at least seven figures, if one counts salary, bonus and stock, according to a source familiar with corporate pay packages and a former Fox executive. The incoming Fox executive made $179,700 per year in her White House position, meaning she is likely to more than quintuple her salary with her new role. …

“Fox also announced that Danny O’Brien will also join the company. O’Brien, who served as former Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff when he was in the Senate, will head government affairs.” POLITICO

TRUMP’S TUESDAY … THE PRESIDENT will have lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 12:30 p.m., and then he will leave for Andrews Air Force Base at 3:25 p.m. for Omaha. From there, he will go to Council Bluffs, Iowa, for a political rally at the Mid-America Center. At 8 p.m., Trump will fly back to D.C., and he’s scheduled to arrive at the White House at 11:35 p.m.

— VP MIKE PENCE has two D.C. fundraisers today: one for Ohio Rep. Troy Balderson at 12:15 p.m., and another for West Virginia candidate Carol Miller at 6 p.m. At 4 p.m., he will meet with Nadia Murad, who won the Nobel Peace Prize.

COMING ATTRACTIONS — “Bill and Hillary Clinton are going on tour in 2018, 2019,” by CNN’s Dan Merica: “The Clintons announced on Monday that they would headline a series of live events together — billed ‘An Evening with The Clintons’ — across the country in the final weeks of 2018 and into 2019. … The tour will start in Las Vegas, Nevada, with an event at the Park Theater. The couple will then travel to Toronto, Montreal and Texas before the end of 2018.

“The tour will start back up in April of 2019 with events in New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, British Columbia, Washington and California. Ticket prices run the gamut based on each location, but top tickets at the couple’s events in Texas cost $699. The least expensive tickets at some of the events were around $70.” CNNMore details

CUE THE REGULATORS — “Google Exposed User Data, Feared Repercussions of Disclosing to Public,” by WSJ’s Douglas MacMillan and Robert McMillan: “Google exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users of the Google+ social network and then opted not to disclose the issue this past spring, in part because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and cause reputational damage, according to people briefed on the incident and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

“As part of its response to the incident, the Alphabet Inc. unit on Monday announced a sweeping set of data privacy measures that include permanently shutting down all consumer functionality of Google+. The move effectively puts the final nail in the coffin of a product that was launched in 2011 to challenge Facebook Inc. and is widely seen as one of Google’s biggest failures.” WSJ

DEEP DIVE — THE CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY is publishing a six-part, 25,000-plus-word series that profiles neglected communities across the country. From the intro: “President Donald Trump has declared the United States’ economy to be ‘the best economy we’ve ever had in the history of our country.’ His administration likewise declared the nation’s decades-long war on poverty ‘largely over and a success.’

“So Center for Public Integrity reporters this summer visited six communities where residents say the crushing effects of poverty and government neglect aren’t improving — they’ve gone from bad to worse. Problems range from broken education systems to unlivable housing to infrastructure fit for the third world. One factor binds them together: a profound lack of political clout on the eve of a critical midterm election that will decide the balance of power in Washington.” CPI

BUZZFEED’S BEN SMITH: “Can Mike Bloomberg Make America Boring Again?”: “‘Elections are about swings,’ Bloomberg’s longtime political aide and pot-stirrer, Kevin Sheekey, told me Monday. ‘About time we swing to boring with someone who can rise above the fray to chart a path forward toward greater national unity and mutual understanding.’ As someone who has covered Bloomberg noncampaigns for president since 2008, this is how those noncampaigns work. First, Sheekey describes the logic of such a campaign, in terms like the above — interesting enough to think it over.

“Second, Bloomberg pays the tolls that get him past the gate. In years past, that meant putting in place a shadow operation that could get a third-party candidate on the ballot — prohibitive for any normal campaign, merely expensive for Mike. This year, in a throwback to his entry into New York City public life 20 years ago, it means writing big checks for one political party: $80 million to support House Democrats, and win the eternal gratitude of Nancy Pelosi and other House leaders; and $20 million straight to Chuck Schumer’s favorite super PAC.” BuzzFeed

SPOTTED at the “Meet the Press Film Festival with AFI” last night: Jeffrey Wright, Michael Lumpkin, Rosie Perez, Chuck Todd, Craig Melvin, Andrea Mitchell, Kasie Hunt, Harry Smith, Kristen Welker and Hallie Jackson.

TRANSITIONS — Christin Tinsworth Baker is joining SoftBank as director of public affairs. She most recently was government and policy communications manager at Ford. Brian Conklin will be SVP of U.S. government affairs at SoftBank. He most recently was SVP for government and industry relations at USAA. SoftBank is growing its Washington footprint. It recently hired Ziad Ojakli of Ford to run the operation and Bruce Andrews as its VP of public policy.

BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Christina Bain turned 4-0 (hat tip: Natalie Boyse) … (was Sunday): Mike Hotchkiss of Princeton’s comms team (h/t Ben Chang)

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Clare Doody, senior editor at Pivotal Ventures, the executive office of Melinda Gates and an alum of West Wing Writers. A trend she thinks deserves more attention: “It’s probably too soon to be throwing around the word trend, but there’s interesting work being done around unconditional cash transfers in developing countries. There’s some early evidence that they might be more effective than conventional aid at improving the lives of people living in extreme poverty.” Playbook Plus Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Amy Dacey, resident fellow at Harvard’s IOP … Virginia Hume Onufer (h/ts Jon Haber) … Shailagh Murray … former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) is 44 (h/t Ian Sams) … C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb is 77 … Justin Barasky, campaign manager for the Sherrod Brown re-elect (h/t Preston Maddock) … former British Prime Minister David Cameron is 52 … Ryan Ramsey … Vivek Kundra … TNR alum Gabriel Snyder … Aaron Blake, senior political reporter at WaPo’s The Fix … Juana Summers, national political reporter at AP … Chris Kofinis, CEO of Park Street Strategies … Rachel Pearson … POLITICO alum Valerie Berg (h/t Stephanie Benedict) … Jason Kaplan, VP at SKDKnickerbocker … Michael Marcialis … Peter Billerbeck of Team Moulton (h/t Matt Corridoni) … Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission at the Southern Baptist Convention, is 47 … E&E alum Arianna Skibell …

… ABC News’ Justin Fishel is 39 (h/t Devin Dwyer and Arlette Saenz) … Facebook’s Carrie Adams … Dave Bibo, FEMA associate administrator for policy and international affairs (h/t Ed Cash) … Kat Skiles, message mobilization director at the DNC … Rob Caruso … Miles Taylor … Ben Rush … Julia Schechter, senior associate at SKDK … Tarresha Poindexter … Annastacia Langthorn … Michael Tubman … Elizabeth Shappell … David Cohen, Obama WH alum and NYU Law grad … Zack Hale … Leah Fabel Young … Bubba Sanderson … Nicole Schlinger … Vivian Myrtetus … Becki Donatelli … Michael Smith … Dana Wolfe … Pon Hunter … Tom Petrillo … Lenny Speiller … Monica Hinojos (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)

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