February 23, 2019

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Senate Latest, Gun Mailer in Florida, a Josh Hawley Story: 2 Days to Go

Senate Latest, Gun Mailer in Florida, a Josh Hawley Story: 2 Days to Go
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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.

• Just as there’s a consensus in both parties that Democrats are likely to pick up about 35 House seats on Tuesday, there’s a bipartisan view that the outlook for the Senate is … far less clear.

• Top officials on both sides agree that Republicans are likely to defeat Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota, who is roughly 10 points down in the polls.

• But every other Senate Democrat is still seen as viable. That itself is rather extraordinary given that Democrats are defending 10 seats in states that President Trump carried.

• A new poll on Saturday showed Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri tied with Josh Hawley, the Republican nominee; she was widely seen throughout October as the most vulnerable incumbent after Ms. Heitkamp.

• Senator Joe Donnelly, Democrat of Indiana, has a small lead in some public polls even as Republicans claim that their surveys have him trailing.

• If Democrats manage to lose just the Heitkamp seat, they have a (remote) chance of winning the Senate. They would have to win three of these four Republican-held seats: Texas, Arizona, Nevada and Tennessee.

• Of the four, officials in both parties think Democrats are best positioned to win in Arizona and Nevada, where Mr. Trump’s incendiary language on immigration has infuriated Hispanic voters.

What’s less clear is which of the remaining two seats is more viable:

• In Tennessee, Democrats insist that Phil Bredesen, the former governor, is only narrowing trailing in the Senate race. Public polls, though, show the Republican, Representative Marsha Blackburn, enjoying a lead.

• That leaves — yes — the Texas race between Representative Beto O’Rourke and Senator Ted Cruz. Republicans insist that the race is in their favor and that Mr. Cruz leads outside the margin of error in polling. But early voting in Texas is reaching historic levels and veteran Democrats say it’s folly to trust any polling when it’s not clear what the universe of voters could be, given that Mr. O’Rourke has excited many Texans beyond those who usually vote.

So, yes, control of the Senate could be coming down to turnout.

Mike Bloomberg and George Soros want to take away Florida’s guns, according to mailers arriving at homes there last week urging support for Ron DeSantis, the Republican candidate for governor.

The literature — claiming to be from the National Rifle Association’s political arm — says Mayor Andrew Gillum of Tallahassee, the Democratic nominee who is locked in a tight race with Mr. DeSantis, “shares the same radical anti-gun agenda as Michael Bloomberg and George Soros.”

• Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Soros favor gun control. And both have been targets of gun rights advocates in the past.

Most recently, pro-gun conspiracy theorists circulated a meme suggesting that Mr. Soros funded and organized teenage survivors of the Parkland massacre who became gun control activists.

Facebook ads posted by the N.R.A. this year called Mr. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, a hypocrite for using an armed security detail while pushing gun control. Mr. Bloomberg formed the gun control organization Everytown for Gun Safety.

• In a tweet this week, the N.R.A. took aim at the billionaires, along with Tom Steyer, a California megadonor to Democratic candidates. Mr. Soros and Mr. Steyer were among the targets who had pipe bombs sent to them by a fervent Trump supporter last month.

“Another billionaire is pumping unlimited money into electing anti-gun lawmakers,” the tweet said. “Notorious anti-gunner George Soros joins anti-gun billionaires Steyer and Bloomberg. There is no end to how much they’ll pay to push their elitist agenda on Americans.”

• Mr. Gillum has said he supports the Second Amendment but favors a series of gun control measures. His campaign has received millions in support from the three men.

Mr. Gillum has spent part of his campaign swatting away criticisms over crime issues in Tallahassee on his watch. So Democrats had cause to privately wonder if the fatal shooting at a yoga studio there on Friday might place him on the defensive.

On Saturday, after returning home briefly to tend to the situation, Mr. Gillum resumed campaigning and chose to confront the subject directly.

“It only, for me, underscores what we have to do just three days from now,” he said at a rally in West Palm Beach, “when we send an unapologetic message to the N.R.A. that their time is up in the state of Florida.

In the closing days of the tight Senate battle in Missouri, Mr. Hawley, the Republican candidate, has been fighting off the latest questions about his turbulent tenure as attorney general.

His opponent, Senator McCaskill, has seized on a Kansas City Star article that said Mr. Hawley’s “out-of-state political consultants gave direct guidance and tasks to his taxpayer-funded staff” soon after his 2016 election, and followed up to “ensure the tasks were completed, according to emails, text messages and other records.”

The same day the article appeared last week, Ms. McCaskill’s campaign tweeted video of Mr. Hawley proclaiming after his election that political consultants would no longer run the state.

A Saturday tweet from Ms. McCaskill on the topic simply proclaimed “goodness gracious.”

Mr. Hawley, whose team did not comment, has been busy with a string of 11th-hour rallies featuring President Trump (the final one is Monday night), Vice President Mike Pence and Oliver North, the president of the N.R.A.

• The president has two campaign rallies scheduled: 4 p.m. in Macon, Ga., with Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee for governor; and 7 p.m. in Chattanooga, Tenn., with Ms. Blackburn.

• Our colleagues Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Katie Rogers on the White House team have a really good story about women at Trump rallies who see the president as a hero protecting a way of life.

Thanks for reading The Tip Sheet. Have you checked out On Politics with Lisa Lerer, our evening newsletter? Subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox.

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