THE REPUBLICAN BLOB. With 35 DAYS left until Election Day, House Republicans have found a bizarre phenomenon. Around the country, PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP is above water in several House districts in which the GOP is struggling. Why? Top figures in the party tell us this: Most of their members are stuck in the mushy middle when it comes to their political identity. They don’t totally align with the president, so they have trouble exciting part of the base, but they’re not far enough from the president to pull in undecided, middle-of-the-road voters who have soured on the president.
— CASE IN POINT … RACHAEL BADE: “The double lives of vulnerable House Republicans”: “Vulnerable House Republicans have to lead double lives these days if they hope to hang on.
“Take Dave Brat. At a private fundraiser in early September, the Virginia Republican joked to a roomful of Republicans about how he mimics archconservative House Freedom Caucus founder Jim Jordan on Fox News when discussing the FBI’s Russia investigation. He then encouraged Sebastian Gorka, a controversial former adviser to President Donald Trump, to get involved in Brat’s campaign to gin up the base, according to a recording of the private event obtained by POLITICO.
“But in TV ads, Brat has touted his work on issues that transcend party lines. One of them features images of puppies playing with children, and a narrator touting the congressman’s work ‘to stop a federal agency from conducting cruel medical research on dogs.’
“The two sides of Brat, a member of the Freedom Caucus, highlight the dissonant strategies House Republicans are deploying in their struggle to keep the House. As national Republicans implore endangered members to localize their races and tout bipartisan victories, hard-liners are urging them to embrace the president to get Trump voters to the polls.” POLITICO (FYI: Brat has dropped out of a debate with his Democratic opponent. Richmond Times-Dispatch)
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK … SENATE MAJORITY PAC and MAJORITY FORWARD is dropping new ads in Missouri, Florida, Nevada, Arizona and Tennessee — part of seven-figure ad reservations in those states.
— SMP, the super PAC, has a 30-second spot ad knocking Josh Hawley in Missouri for his health care position (the ad), Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada for voting to repeal Obamacare (the ad) and Gov. Rick Scott for education cuts in a Spanish-language ad in Florida (the ad). This is part of a $5.5 million buy.
Good Tuesday morning. AMAZON has raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour for U.S. employees. Amazon’s announcement
THE LATEST ON BRETT KAVANAUGH …
— EXPANDING THE INQUIRY … NYT’S PETER BAKER and MIKE SCHMIDT: “White House Tells F.B.I. to Interview Anyone Necessary for Kavanaugh Inquiry”: “The White House authorized the F.B.I. to expand its abbreviated investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh by interviewing anyone it deems necessary as long as the review is finished by the end of the week, according to two people briefed on the matter.
“At an event on Monday celebrating a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, Mr. Trump said he instructed his White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, over the weekend to contact the F.B.I. to carry out an open investigation, but the president included the caveat that the inquiry should accommodate the desires of Senate Republicans. The new directive came after a backlash from Democrats, who criticized the White House for limiting the scope of the bureau’s investigation into Mr. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court.
“The F.B.I. has already interviewed the four witnesses it was originally asked to question, and on Monday it reached out to others. The broadening inquiry produced an unusual spectacle as friends and classmates from Judge Kavanaugh’s past provided dueling portraits of the nominee in his younger days — either a good-natured student incapable of the alleged behavior or a stumbling drunk who could easily have blacked out and forgotten inappropriate behavior at alcohol-soaked parties.” NYT
— “Kavanaugh Was Questioned by Police After Bar Fight in 1985,” by NYT’s Emily Bazelon in New Haven and Ben Protess: “As an undergraduate student at Yale, Brett M. Kavanaugh was involved in an altercation at a local bar during which he was accused of throwing ice on another patron, according to a police report. The incident, which occurred in September 1985 during Mr. Kavanaugh’s junior year, resulted in Mr. Kavanaugh and four other men being questioned by the New Haven Police Department.
“Mr. Kavanaugh was not arrested, but the police report stated that a 21-year-old man accused Mr. Kavanaugh of throwing ice on him ‘for some unknown reason.’ A witness to the fight said that Chris Dudley, a Yale basketball player who is friends with Mr. Kavanaugh, then threw a glass that hit the 21-year-old man in the ear, according to the police report, which was obtained by The New York Times.” NYT
THE PUSHBACK STRATEGY — “Text messages suggest Kavanaugh wanted to refute accuser’s claim before it became public,” by NBC’s Heidi Przybyla and Leigh Ann Caldwell: “In the days leading up to a public allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself to a college classmate, the judge and his team were communicating behind the scenes with friends to refute the claim, according to text messages obtained by NBC News.
“Kerry Berchem, who was at Yale with both Kavanaugh and his accuser, Deborah Ramirez, has tried to get those messages to the FBI for its newly reopened investigation into the matter but says she has yet to be contacted by the bureau. The texts between Berchem and Karen Yarasavage, both friends of Kavanaugh, suggest that the nominee was personally talking with former classmates about Ramirez’s story in advance of the New Yorker article that made her allegation public.
“In one message, Yarasavage said Kavanaugh asked her to go on the record in his defense. Two other messages show communication between Kavanaugh’s team and former classmates in advance of the story. The texts also demonstrate that Kavanaugh and Ramirez were more socially connected than previously understood and that Ramirez was uncomfortable around Kavanaugh when they saw each other at a wedding 10 years after they graduated. Berchem’s efforts also show that some potential witnesses have been unable to get important information to the FBI.” NBC
— BURGESS EVERETT: “Ads push Manchin and Heitkamp to vote for Kavanaugh”
MCCONNELL’S EVOLVING STRATEGY … JOHN BRESNAHAN and BURGESS EVERETT: “McConnell tweaks strategy for Kavanaugh confirmation”: “As the FBI rushes to finish an investigation into sexual abuse allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is concentrating all his efforts on the ‘Gang of Three.’ McConnell’s focus right now is entirely on the triumvirate of GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
“McConnell needs two out of the three to back Kavanaugh in order for the nomination to succeed, and he is walking a fine line in addressing their concerns while continuing to press toward a final Senate vote. McConnell has subtly tweaked his language on the Kavanaugh nomination. He’s a no longer vowing to ‘plow right through’ and confirm Kavanaugh, as he was just last week, crafting his message instead to appeal to the three Republicans who remain on the fence.
“The Kentucky Republican is currently planning a move to end debate on the nomination by mid-week, forcing a critical procedural vote as early as Friday, which would set up a final vote on Kavanaugh by Sunday. But that timetable means the FBI investigation must be complete by Wednesday, and that’s where the situation becomes dicey for McConnell.” POLITICO
— WHAT’S ON SUSAN COLLINS’ MIND … PRESS HERALD’S SCOTT THISTLE: “Sen. Susan Collins wants the FBI to investigate the allegations brought by Julie Swetnick as part of the agency’s probe of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“Collins and Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska ‘advocated for the additional background investigation because she believed that it could help the senators evaluate the claims that have been brought to the Judiciary Committee,’ Collins’ spokeswoman Annie Clark said in a statement to the Press Herald on Monday. ‘That would include the allegations that were brought by Julie Swetnick.'” Press Herald
— WHERE FLAKE IS AT … STEPHANIE MURRAY on the ground in MANCHESTER, N.H.: “Evidence verifying assault allegations would disqualify Kavanaugh, Flake says”: “Evidence that corroborates the sexual assault allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh would disqualify him from serving on the nation’s highest court, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said on Monday night, adding that he hoped the Senate could ‘move on from bitter partisanship’ after the fight over the Supreme Court nomination.
“‘Any nominee who lies to the committee, that is disqualifying,’ Flake told reporters. ‘If there’s evidence that comes back that corroborates Christine Ford’s story, then all of us will look at it that way.’ The senator spoke at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Manchester, just days after calling for an FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh.” POLITICO
MORE FALLOUT — “After Watching Kavanaugh Hearing, Woman Decides to Name State Senator She Says Raped Her,” by NYT’s Sarah Mervosh: “As Christine Blasey Ford testified in Washington last week about the sexual assault that she said happened years ago but remained seared in her memory, a woman on the other side of the country watched and felt inspired. The woman, Candace Faber, was at home in Seattle watching the testimony of Dr. Blasey and Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee who denies her allegation that he drunkenly assaulted her in high school. Ms. Faber, a 35-year-old strategy consultant, live-tweeted her impressions of the hearing. And after hours of testimony, she had had enough.
“‘Is anyone else just fed up and ready to name names?’ Ms. Faber tweeted. ‘Because I am!’ Then she tagged the Twitter handle of a state senator in Washington, writing, ‘I’m done being silent.’ Ms. Faber said she was raped by Joe Fain, a Republican state senator who represents a district south of Seattle, in 2007, before he was elected to the State Legislature in 2010.” NYT … Her story on Medium
FROM 30,000 FEET … “‘The trauma for a man’: Male fury and fear rises in GOP in defense of Kavanaugh,” by WaPo’s Phil Rucker and Bob Costa: “The sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh have sparked a wave of unbridled anger and anxiety from many Republican men, who say they are in danger of being swept up by false accusers who are biased against them. From President Trump to his namesake son to Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), the howls of outrage crystallize a strong current of grievance within a party whose leadership is almost entirely white and overwhelmingly male — and which does not make a secret of its fear that demographic shifts and cultural convulsions could jeopardize its grip on power.
“This eruption of male resentment now seems likely to play a defining role in the midterm elections just five weeks away, contrasting with a burst of enthusiasm among women propelling Democratic campaigns and inspired by the national #MeToo reckoning over sexual assault and gender roles.” WaPo
— JOHN F. HARRIS: “Brett Kavanaugh Is Lying. So Are You.”
AIDAN RYAN in the HARVARD CRIMSON: “Kavanaugh Will Not Return to Teach at Harvard Law School”: “Embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh will not return to teach at Harvard Law School in January, according to an email administrators sent to Law students Monday evening. ‘Today, Judge Kavanaugh indicated that he can no longer commit to teaching his course in January Term 2019, so the course will not be offered,’ Associate Dean and Dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs Catherine Claypoole wrote in the email …
“Kavanaugh has taught at the Law School for roughly a decade. … As of Monday evening, Kavanaugh’s profile appeared to have been scrubbed from the Law School’s public faculty directory.” Crimson
BEHIND THE SCENES … GETTING TO YES — “From shouts to smiles: How Trump got to ‘yes’ on a new NAFTA deal,” by Alexander Panetta and Adam Behsudi: “Everyone from President Donald Trump to Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was smiling Monday as they announced a new NAFTA deal, but it took months of shouting sessions and mutual suspicion to get there. The two sides clashed about issues as broad as auto-production rules and as tangential as world history.
“Negotiations were especially tense at one point last fall when one story after another popped up on Canadian news sites about unusual U.S. proposals. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer scolded his Canadian counterparts over media leaks. The Americans fumed as their proposals went from the negotiating table to the Internet and their counterparts whispered in the hallways.” POLITICO
2018 WATCH — ALEX ISENSTADT: “‘I am ashamed’: Beto apologizes for ‘demeaning comments about women’”: “Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke is apologizing for once criticizing a Broadway musical with actresses ‘whose only qualifications seem to be their phenomenally large breasts and tight buttocks.’
“In 1991, the 19-year-old O’Rourke reviewed the Broadway musical ‘The Will Rogers Follies’ for the Columbia Daily Spectator, the university’s student newspaper. Writing under the byline Robert O’Rourke, he panned the performance as ‘one of the most glaring examples of the sickening excesses and moral degradations of our culture.’
“He went on to bemoan the bevy of ‘perma-smile actresses whose only qualifications seem to be their phenomenally large breasts and tight buttocks.’ The review in the Oct. 10, 1991, edition of the Spectator, which according to an archive search was the only article he wrote for the newspaper, offers another glimpse of the former life of the Texas Senate candidate, who has given Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) an unexpectedly serious reelection challenge.
“It also shows how drastically the sensitivities surrounding descriptions of women have changed over the past three decades: While it’s unclear whether O’Rourke was criticizing the musical’s use of scantily-clad women for effect or commenting on their bodies himself, his prose, in hindsight, is jarring either way.” POLITICO
NYT’S LISA FODERARO in PORT EWEN, N.Y.: “He’s a Rhodes Scholar. The G.O.P. Keeps Calling Him a ‘Big-City Rapper.’”
THE INVESTIGATIONS — “Manafort meets with Mueller prosecutors,” by Darren Samuelsohn: “Spokesmen for Manafort and Mueller declined comment on the meeting. POLITICO spotted two attorneys for Manafort — Richard Westling and Tom Zehnle — outside Mueller’s office early Monday afternoon speaking with one of the special counsel’s lead prosecutors, Andrew Weissmann. The men parted ways to buy lunch and then were seen returning with their food to the secure building where the special counsel’s team is headquartered.” POLITICO
POLITICO EUROPE’S JAKOB HANKE in GENEVA: “Chinese business magnate Jack Ma today warned that America’s escalation of the trade war with Beijing risked creating a hostile dynamic that would be hard to stop and could even lead to war.
“‘It’s easy to launch a war but it’s difficult to stop the war,’ Ma said at a World Trade Organization debate, moderated by WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo. ‘When trade stops, sometimes the war starts,’ Ma warned. ‘This thing, when it starts, it’s going to be difficult to stop.’”
THE JUICE …
— VP MIKE PENCE is headlining a fundraiser for VIRGINIA REP. BARBARA COMSTOCK Thursday at the Willard Intercontinental.
TRUMP’S TUESDAY … THE PRESIDENT will leave the White House at 12:40 p.m. for a trip to Philadelphia to speak to the National Electrical Contractors Association Convention. His speech is at 2:30 p.m. He then will fly to Memphis at 3:45 p.m. for a campaign appearance in Southaven, Miss. He will hold a roundtable and then a political rally at 6:40 p.m. Central time. He is scheduled to land at Andrews at 11 p.m., and return to the White House at 11:20 p.m.
TEXAS GOV. GREG ABBOTT is running a minute-long ad about comforting a family whose son was paralyzed in the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The ad is running as part of an $800,000 buy statewide. The spot
FOR YOUR RADAR — “Trump Administration to Deny Visas to Same-Sex Partners of Diplomats, U.N. Officials,” by Foreign Policy’s Colum Lynch: “The Trump administration on Monday began denying visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations employees, and requiring those already in the United States to get married by the end of the year or leave the country.
“The U.S. Mission to the U.N. portrayed the decision — which foreign diplomats fear will increase hardships for same-sex couples in countries that don’t recognize same-sex marriage—as an effort to bring its international visa practices in line with current U.S. policy. In light of the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, the U.S. extends diplomatic visas only to married spouses of U.S. diplomats.” FP
BORDER TALES — “County by county, ICE faces a growing backlash,” by WaPo’s Justin Jouvenal: “Activists in Alexandria, Va., are pressing the sheriff to drop an agreement to detain migrants for ICE. The sheriff in Contra Costa County, Calif., canceled a similar contract in July, soon after at least 1,000 protesters marched on the local jail. And at Philadelphia City Hall, organizers camped out for weeks beneath a banner that read ‘I.C.E. Get Out’ before the city recently agreed to stop sharing real-time arrest information with immigration authorities.
“With little leverage to counter the Trump administration’s aggressive immigration crackdown in a Republican-controlled Washington, immigrant advocates and grass-roots groups are mounting a furious backlash in local communities across the country. They can’t stop deportations, but they hope to throw sand in the gears by targeting pressure points in the system: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement relies on local agencies to jail detainees who may be in the country illegally, notify ICE of their release and even help conduct immigration enforcement.” WaPo
— “Trump’s family separation policy was flawed from the start, watchdog review says,” by WaPo’s Nick Miroff, Maria Sacchetti and Seung Min Kim: “The Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ crackdown at the border this spring was troubled from the outset by planning shortfalls, widespread communication failures and administrative indifference to the separation of small children from their parents, according to an unpublished report by the Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog. …
“The DHS Office of Inspector General’s review found at least 860 migrant children were left in Border Patrol holding cells longer than the 72-hour limit mandated by U.S. courts, with one minor confined for 12 days and another for 25.” WaPo
2020 WATCH — NATASHA KORECKI in Chicago: “Inslee: I’m not ruling out a 2020 run”: “Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday said he’s headed to Iowa for the second time this year and is ‘not ruling out’ a 2020 presidential run. The two-term Washington state governor, visiting Chicago on Monday, told POLITICO he’ll headline an Oct. 14 event in Johnson County, Iowa, with Rep. David Loebsack and take part in two GOTV events between Iowa City and Des Moines. In June, Inslee headlined an Iowa Democratic Party hall of fame dinner.” POLITICO
MEDIAWATCH — “Trump to reporter: ‘I know you’re not thinking, you never do,’” by Jason Schwartz: “Attacking the media is about as routine for President Donald Trump as knotting his tie, but he got especially personal Monday during a Rose Garden press conference to announce his new trade deal with Mexico and Canada.
“The president directly insulted one reporter, refused to answer questions about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh until he was done taking queries on trade, and called the media ‘loco.’ After calling on ABC News’ Cecilia Vega for a question, Trump said, ‘She’s shocked that I picked her. Like in a state of shock.’
“Vega responded, ‘I’m not, thank you, Mr. President.’ ‘That’s OK. I know you’re not thinking, you never do,’ Trump replied. ‘I’m sorry?’ Vega asked. When she then tried to ask a question about Kavanaugh, Trump cut her off, asking instead for a question on trade. She eventually complied with a trade query, and Trump returned to her later in the news conference to let her ask her Kavanaugh question.” POLITICO
SPOTTED: former Attorney General Eric Holder walking with his wife, Sharon Malone, in Palmer Alley last night.
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: David Gura, anchor and correspondent for MSNBC and correspondent for NBC News. A fun fact about David: “I have played the fiddle since I was five. This summer, my college supergroup, The Dead Sea Squirrels, reunited for a show at a music festival in Upstate New York. I’m sorry you missed it.” Playbook Plus Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Cathy Isaacson … Barry Bennett, partner at Avenue Strategies (hat tip: Healy Baumgardner) … Dave Walker, former comptroller general of the U.S. and head of the GAO, is 67 … Courtney Hazlett … Doug Andres, press secretary for White House press corps for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), is 34 … New York Republican State Chairman Ed Cox is 72 … POLITICO’s Lindsey Mertz … John Donnelly, COS for Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) … Marlena Militana, producer at CNN in Chicago … AP auto writer Tom Krisher is 61 … Alex Fullman … Michelle Sara King, president and CEO of King Consults … Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) is 64 … Bloomberg’s Lisa Fleisher … NYT’s Lynsea Garrison …
… Lauren Belive, director of federal gov’t relations at Lyft (h/t Adrian Durbin) … Rosie Quick … Greg Scanlon … Danita Ng … Annie Keating … Mike Corbelle … Wells Fargo’s Emerson Eichler is 3-0 … Joey Kalmin … NYPIRG leader Blair Horner … Edelman alum Kristen Van Dusen … Ken Bazinet … GOP fundraiser Mackenzie Smith … Deanna Ballard … Susan Lamorra … Lauren Pfeifle Willis … Sejal Hathi (h/t Sheel Tyle) … Minhas Majeed Khan … Jacklin Rhoads, deputy comms director for Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) … Shelley Fryer … Julie Burton … David Wilhelm … Emmett Beliveau (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)