What Trump's Final Rally Schedule Says About The Midterms

President Trump is hitting the campaign trail at a breakneck pace ahead of Tuesday. But as Republicans fight to keep the House, the president's rallies appear to be focused on the Senate map, gubernatorial races, and districts that aren't particularly competitive. 

The president is holding 11 rallies in eight states in the final week leading up to the election — in Montana, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida — all states he won in 2016. In other words, he's generally staying in his comfort zone. 

"First of all I think that this is a strategically smart use of Trump's time because he is going where he is popular," said GOP strategist Ford O'Connell, adding, "he is looking for that 2016 Trump voter in some places that were very good to him." 

The president's campaign rally shows he's playing to his strengths, and looking to turn out the base, O'Connell suggested. The president's incessant messaging on immigration is a clear indicator of that, he said. 

"Look, there is certainly an outside shot that Republicans hold the House by a sliver, but the more likely outcome is that Democrats are going to pick up 30 seats," O'Connell said, noting that in a midterm election, the party in control of the White House can be expected to lose at least two dozen seats.

In public, the president has projected optimism about Republicans' chances to keep the House, but at the same time, he has couched that optimism by pointing out how many seats are in play in the House. 

The president himself is focused on his own election success this midterm cycle. In Florida Wednesday night, even as he campaigned for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and other Republicans, the president said 2016 was still the most important election. Mr. Trump's final rally schedule also "absolutely" suggests he has an eye on 2020, O'Connell said. 

"A lot of these line up with presidential battleground states," he said. 

Read more from Kathryn Watson at CBS News

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Attacks On John Kelly 'Temperament' Part Of New Attempt To Force Him From White House

Screaming matches, physical confrontations, and storming out of the White House. These are just some of the stories circulating about chief of staff John Kelly, who faces fresh speculation about his future with President Trump.

Rumors about Kelly's future with the Trump administration have simmered for months and new allegations about his demeanor and behavior in the West Wing have thrust the retired Marine Corps general back into the spotlight.

Kelly’s defenders say the leaks from the White House are part of a larger strategy by disgruntled officials and former aides designed to end his tenure while opponents insist Kelly is unsuited to be White House chief of staff.

According to the several reports, Kelly and John Bolton, the national security adviser, engaged in a screaming match about immigration outside the Oval Office on Thursday morning. Kelly was said to have left the White House complex after the dispute and did not come back for the remainder of the day.

This week, anonymous sources revealed that Kelly tangled with Corey Lewandowski, former Trump campaign manager and an informal adviser to the president, during an argument in February. According to The New York Times, Kelly grabbed Lewandowski by his collar and tried to push him up against a wall after calling someone to remove Lewandowski from the West Wing.

Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist, downplayed the reports of altercations, saying they were overblown. “There’s always battles within the White House and in different factions in any White House. I think this White House gets magnified more because they are subject to the media scrutiny 24/7,” O'Connell said. “There’s always going to be someone in the White House who is unhappy no matter who is in charge.”

The Wall Street Journal reported in July that Kelly, acting on a request from Trump, agreed to stay on as chief of staff through the 2020 election. O'Connell said the fact that Trump asked Kelly to stick around through the next presidential election "tells you that he has done, at least in the president's eyes, a good job."

Read more from Melissa Quinn at the Washington Examiner

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Trump Fights Uphill GOP Battle On Pre-Existing Conditions

President Trump is stepping up his efforts to protect Republicans from Democratic attacks that people with pre-existing conditions will be in danger of losing their health coverage under GOP control of Washington.

The Democratic attacks have been effective and put Republicans on defense following years in which a GOP Congress sought to repeal ObamaCare, which made protections for people with pre-existing conditions a part of U.S. law.

Trump’s first year in office was also focused on repealing ObamaCare, and his administration has supported a lawsuit that would overturn the health-care law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions, preventing them from being denied coverage or charged more.

Yet on Wednesday, Trump was insisting it was the GOP that would protect pre-existing conditions, and Democrats who would not.

“Republicans will totally protect people with Pre-Existing Conditions, Democrats will not! Vote Republican,” Trump tweeted Wednesday.

Trump offered a similar argument in a tweet last week, stating that “all Republicans support people with pre-existing conditions, and if they don’t, they will after I speak to them.”

At rallies, Trump has been offering a similar argument.

The statements are an effort to fend off a barrage of Democratic attacks in the campaign.

“Poll after poll shows that voters tend to trust a candidate with a 'D' next to their name rather than a candidate with an 'R' next to their name when it comes to the issue,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist.

“They’re trying to get out in front of this to make sure that Democrats don’t effectively land it.”

Read more from Peter Sullivan at The Hill

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U.S. Exit From Nuclear Arms Treaty Invites New Arms Race

The United States mulling to pull out of the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty will fret over the possibility of a new round of arms race worldwide, said U.S. experts.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday announced his intention to withdraw his country from the 1987 treaty, citing Russia's violation of the deal.

On Tuesday, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, said that the United States will file a formal notice of its withdrawal from the treaty "in due course."

Experts see that the INF treaty probably will be the latest among a string of bilateral or multilateral agreements torn up by Trump as he felt they no longer benefit the United States.

Trump felt that "the United States is not going to be taken advantage of," Republican strategist and TV personality Ford O'Connell told Xinhua.

Moreover, it showed that the Untied States wanted to re-align its relationship with Russia, O'Connell said.

Analysts also noted that pulling out of the accord could allow Washington to develop weapons banned by the agreement.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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Caravan Could Save GOP: 'Manna From Heaven' For Trump

The caravan of several thousand Hondurans that's making its way through Mexico to the U.S. border is just the thing for Republicans looking to rile up their base and keep Democrats from winning back the House.

“It’s manna from heaven,” Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aide, said of the caravan and its timing so close to the Nov. 6 midterm elections. “Donald Trump equals American patriotism and strength, strong military, strong borders, and law and order. This caravan reinforces this.”

Thousands of migrants have been walking from Honduras to the southern border, garnering extensive media coverage and the attention of the president along the way. Trump used the slow-rolling event Monday morning to blame Democrats for the lawlessness seen on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Republicans are expected to narrowly hold onto the Senate but lose the House to Democrats after they pick up 25 to 35 seats or even more. But for Republicans, the caravan is an imminent threat they can point to as a reason to keep them around.

“Base voters are really fired up about illegal immigration, so the more Trump is talking about it, the better it is overall,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist. “We don’t know if it’ll be enough, but we know the president has the biggest megaphone, and if anyone is going to make the message, he’s going to be the best person to deliver it in a time-sensitive way.”

The caravan, O'Connell said, has given Republicans the “pictures and events needed” to harness the party’s message on immigration.

Read more from Melissa Quinn at the Washington Examiner

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Balancing Act: Two Most Popular U.S. Governors Are Republicans In Deep Blue states

Republicans Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland are the two most popular governors in America, and they’re also cruising to re-election in two of the bluest states in the country.

While the rest of the country braces for a potential anti-GOP wave, Mr. Baker and Mr. Hogan have overseen strong state economies and found ways to avoid the nasty divisions over President Trump that have ensnared the political conversation in so many other races.

They’ve hewed to the center on hot-button issues such as immigration, and have also avoided Trump-style rhetorical bombs, leaving them with approval ratings that would be the envy of any governor.

Mr. Baker had a 70 percent approval rating and Mr. Hogan was at 67 percent — first and second in the country, respectively — according to Morning Consult’s latest tally sheet.

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said Republican voters will give some leeway to the governors on key party issues like guns and abortion if that’s what it takes to win in tough areas.

“There’s no point in being able to push the map and go to places where we don’t normally go just because someone isn’t a pure polemic and then cut off our nose to spite ourselves,” Mr. O’Connell said.

Mr. Hogan has also gone through a public bout with skin cancer this year, adding a personal element to his persona as a successful businessman.

“Being a cancer survivor and being someone who’s really done what is largely seen as a good job in his state — both economically and not resorting to partisan tactics — has served him well,” Mr. O’Connell said.

Read more from David Sherfinski at The Washington Times

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Will Trump's Efforts To Make Migrant Caravan A Midterm Campaign Issue Stick?

President Trump is working hard to make the U.S.-bound migrant caravan into an election issue, but so far it’s not resonating broadly with voters or forcing Democrats to play defense.

Whether on the stump, in tweets or before a microphone, Mr. Trump hammers Democrats for the thousands of migrants marching from Central America toward the U.S. He warns that it’s evidence of an immigration crisis and a threat to national security, with gang members and even potential terrorists hiding amid the marchers.

He said Monday that he has declared it a national emergency and has alerted the Pentagon to be ready to respond.

Mr. Trump blamed leaders from Honduras, whence most of the migrants come, Guatemala, through which they traveled, and Mexico, where thousands broke through the border this weekend.

So far, Democrats have been able to shrug off the issue. Questions about the caravan have been absent from debates in key Senate races over the past week.

Although cable news channels have given the caravan plenty of airtime and reporters peppered Mr. Trump on Monday with questions about his plans for the caravan, they have been less interested in what Democrats have to say.

But it is a high-priority issue for Republican voters, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey last week.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said that may be good enough for Mr. Trump heading into November.

“You are essentially talking about a base election,” he said. “The key is: Can you turn out your base better than the Democrats can? And for us, this may not pull in a lot of independent voters given the timing of it, but it is certainly an issue that can fire up even more Republican voters.”

Read more from S.A. Miller and Stephen Dinan at The Washington Times

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Trump Threatens To Close Border To Mexico

A caravan of 3,000 migrants is moving north through Central America and toward the U.S. southern border — on a collision course with the midterm elections, as yet another factor that could sway voters.

“I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught — and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!,” President Trump tweeted yesterday. 

A day earlier, he tweeted, “Hard to believe that with thousands of people from South of the Border, walking unimpeded toward our country in the form of large Caravans, that the Democrats won’t approve legislation that will allow laws for the protection of our country. Great Midterm issue for Republicans!”

The thousands of Hondurans are making their way through Guatemala, headed toward Mexico and, if they’re allowed through, plan to head onward to the U.S., as the contentious midterm elections approach Nov. 6.

“Midterm elections are primarily about which party can better turn out its base, and there is no single issue in 2018 that fires up the GOP base like illegal immigration,” GOP analyst Ford O’Connell told the Herald, saying it’s one of a handful of issues that can help the Republicans keep control of the Senate and possibly the House. 

Read more from Sean Philip Cotter at the Boston Herald

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Elizabeth Warren DNA Test Reveals 2020 Will Be A Mud-Slinging Contest

The political world was jolted from the 2018 midterm elections to 2020 after Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren rolled out a campaign-style advertisement declaring her Native American heritage.

The ad was meant to be a rebuke to President Donald Trump regularly derides the blonde, blue-eyed senator as "Pocahontas" and offered to personally donate $1 million to Warren's favorite charity if she took a DNA test proving her Native American heritage. Warren's origin story includes the claim that her mother was part Cherokee and part Delaware.

Rather than definitively answering questions about Warren's ancestry, it virtually confirmed her intent to run for president in 2020 and made clear that she wants to brawl politically with President Trump.

Not to be outdone, Trump was back on the insult bandwagon Tuesday morning, tweeting, "Pocahontas (the bad version), sometimes referred to as Elizabeth Warren, is getting slammed. She took a bogus DNA test and it showed that she may be 1/1024, far less than the average American. Now Cherokee Nation denies her, 'DNA test is useless.' Even they don’t want her. Phony!"

However, Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that he thrives in a combative environment. Republican strategist Ford O'Connell, Democrats will be giving Trump a gift if they decide to fight him on the basis of insults. "There is nothing that President Trump loves more than trying to litigate his insults," he said. "When you're trying to push back on him in these fights he is going to win."

Part of Trump's success in the Republican primaries was systematically branding his opponents with demeaning and memorable nicknames, from "Lying Ted" Cruz, to "Low-energy Jeb" Bush, and "Little Marco" Rubio. He has already branded the top 2020 Democratic contenders "Sleepy Joe" Biden and "Crazy Bernie" Sanders .

"It may be jarring at first, it may turn a few people off, but it's pretty much worked out for him because he's looking to his strength," O'Connell continued. "And nobody in the Democratic Party has any idea how to fight when they get down in the mud with him."

Read more from Leandra Bernstein at WJLA

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Will Elizabeth Warren’s DNA Results Impact The Midterms?

Republican strategist Ford O’ Connell and Democratic strategist Wendy Osefo discuss how Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) DNA results and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s CBS interview will impact the midterm elections.

Watch the video at Fox Business

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