Trump, Obama Talk About Migrant Caravans at Campaign Stops

A big group of migrants from Central American countries traveling mostly on foot toward the United States, voted to continue their journey from Cordoba to reach  Mexico City on Monday.

They have decided to hitchhike and walk to cover the shortest route from Cordoba, which is more than 280 kilometers south of Mexico’s capital.

The vote Sunday came after exhausted caravan participants arrived in Cordoba after a 200-kilometre trek through Veracruz, a state which has been life threatening for hundreds of migrants in recent years, because of kidnappers looking for ransom payments.

The caravan with an estimated 4,000 migrants is still in Veracruz, still hundreds of kilometers from the nearest U.S. border crossing.

Meanwhile, the Central American migrant caravans were on the minds of President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama on the last Sunday of campaigning before Tuesday’s mid-term election.

Trump came out for a rally in Macon, Georgia for Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor.

He gave what he called message to the migrants hoping to cross the border from Mexico.

“Turn back now because you’re not coming into the United States unless you go through the process.”

Trump again said the caravans are full of criminals and “rough people,” although reporters who have traveled with the migrants say they have primarily seen women and children.

The president said deploying U.S. soldiers to the border shows the United States is “not playing games.”

Just before Trump spoke, his predecessor, President Barack Obama, campaigned in Gary, Indiana for Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly.

In a voice hoarse from several days of campaign speeches, Obama criticized Trump’s belief that the migrants are an invasion and a threat. He said the men and women in the military deserve better than to be used for what he called a “political stunt.”

Earlier Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the deployment of thousands of U.S. troops to the Mexican border has nothing to do with boosting Republicans days before the election.

“I’ve been involved in scores of conversations about stopping illegal immigration from Mexico and never once has there been a discussion of the political impact in U.S. domestic politics,” he told CBS’s Face the Nation.

The main migrant caravan that left San Pedro Sula, Honduras about three weeks ago is still about 1,600 kilometers from the U.S.-Mexican border. The majority say they still hope to be able to get into the U.S. and work, while others have accepted Mexico’s offer of asylum and jobs.

Two other smaller caravans are also slowly making their way north.

 


Enthusiasm, Suspense Build for Tuesday’s US Midterm Elections

Voter enthusiasm is high and suspense is building before Tuesday’s U.S. midterm elections that will determine which political party controls both houses of Congress as well as dozens of governorships and state legislatures nationwide. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Tuesday’s outcome will impact President Donald Trump’s ability to enact his agenda in the second half of his four-year term in office


Massachusetts Could Lead Way in Overturning Citizens United

Voters in Massachusetts could give an important boost to a movement seeking to amend the U.S. Constitution to restore some limits on corporations’ political spending.

Voters on Tuesday are being asked to create a special state commission charged with weighing potential constitutional amendments that would overturn the Citizens United decision, which helped open the door to allowing businesses, unions and nonprofits to spend unlimited amounts to influence elections.

The question is part of a wider multistate effort to undo the 2010 Supreme Court ruling.

American Promise, the national organization behind the effort to reverse Citizens United, said 19 states have already signaled their support for similar amendments, most through resolutions approved by legislatures. Voters in four states — Colorado and Montana in 2012 and California and Washington in 2016 — also approved questions aimed at nixing the court ruling.

The voters in those states essentially instructed their congressional delegations to support an amendment overturning Citizens United, without offer specific language. In Massachusetts, which doesn’t allow statewide advisory questions, the referendum would take the step of creating a citizens commission to research the issue and suggest possible amendments.

The goal is to guarantee everyone has an equal shot at getting the ear of lawmakers — something he said the current political system fails to do, said Ben Gubits, political director for American Promise.

“It’s been a long trend in our democracy working for the folks that make large campaign contributions — wealthy individuals, corporations and some unions — while the rest of the average citizens don’t have a voice,” he said.

The call to overturn Citizens United has bipartisan support, Gubits said. His group counts members of both parties on its advisory council, which includes former Wyoming U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, a Republican, and former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee for president in 1988, he said. Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren have said they will vote for the question.

The group disputes that laws limiting political spending violate the First Amendment, Gubits said, arguing money doesn’t equal speech.

Not everyone agrees.

Paul Craney, spokesman for the conservative-leaning Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, said the ballot question is wrong-headed.

“Is money speech?” he said. “Absolutely.”

But increasingly, Craney said, money isn’t the only way to amplify one’s voice.

“A lot of people out there have a big following on social media that can communicate with a lot of people, and it costs them nothing,” he said. “So more and more you’re starting to see that money is not the only way to have speech.”

The Citizens United ruling helped make it easier for corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money trying to persuade voters to cast their ballots for or against a candidate. While the ruling did not lift the ban on companies and unions giving money directly to candidates for federal office, it let them spend money trying to influence voters as long as the money was not being spent in coordination with a campaign.

Many groups have ramped up their political spending without publicly disclosing the sources of their money by forming “dark money” groups classified as social welfare organizations by the IRS. They can advocate for or against a candidate, run phone banks and donate to so-called super PACs. The nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics has tallied about $133 million spent so far this election cycle with no disclosure of donors, compared with about $177 million spent in 2014′s midterms.

The question would instruct the newly formed commission to recommend potential constitutional amendments to establish that corporations do not have the same constitutional rights as human beings and that campaign contributions and expenditures may be regulated.

Any resident of Massachusetts who is a U.S. resident could apply to serve on the 15-member, unpaid commission. The governor, secretary of the commonwealth, attorney general, House speaker and Senate president would each appoint three members.

Letting politicians appoint members is a problem, Craney said.

“Whenever you empower elected officials or politicians to regulate the public speech, the First Amendment is under attack,” he said.

The main task of the commission would be to release a report that would take a look at the impact of political spending in Massachusetts and any limitations on the state’s ability to regulate corporations and other entities in light of the Citizens United ruling.

The question also gives the commission the task of making recommendations for possible constitutional amendments and suggesting ways to advance those proposed amendments.

The proposed law would take effect Jan. 1, 2019. The commission’s first report would be due by the end of December and would be delivered to Congress and the president.

The group is hoping new amendment could be added to the Constitution by 2026, Gubits said — a process that would require its approval by two-thirds of the U.S. House and Senate and ratification by three-fourths of the states, 38 in all.

“We passed 12 amendments in the 20th century alone,” he said. “This isn’t something that we used to do just back when people wore powdered wigs.”

There have been just 27 amendments added to the Constitution — including the first 10, the Bill of Rights, ratified in 1791.


Non-Stop Ads and Robocalls: Welcome to America’s Costliest Election

Wendy Burke has had enough. Campaign advertisements bombard her favorite TV shows.

Dozens of election pamphlets fill her mailbox. Every day, she gets several political calls on her cell phone and more on her landline. Strangers knock at her door seeking her vote.

“It’s ridiculous,” Burke, 47, said outside a shopping center in Palmdale, California. “I’ve had to block my calls.”

Welcome to the most expensive race in the hard-fought battle between Republicans and Democrats for control of the U.S. House of Representatives, which will be decided in Tuesday’s elections.

The blizzard of spending in California’s 25th district, a region stretching north and east of Los Angeles into the high desert of the Antelope Valley, stands out even during the most expensive congressional elections in U.S. history.

Most of the money is funneled into non-stop advertising – on TV, radio, social media, yard signs, automated robocalls to cell phones and land lines, bumper stickers and a deluge of pamphlets stuffed into mailboxes.

“The mailers go in the trash,” she said. “I cannot wait until this whole thing is over.”

The contest, a top Democratic target, has drawn more than $26 million in spending by candidates and outside groups since January 2017, according to a Reuters analysis of Federal Election Commission (FEC) data.

It leads the 10 priciest House races, where a total of $238 million has been spent.

Democrats – aiming to pick up the 23 House seats and two in the Senate needed to control Congress and block much of Republican President Donald Trump’s agenda and increase oversight of his administration – have far outpaced their opponents in spending.

Democrats and their allies in the 10 costliest House races spent $142 million to Republicans’ $96 million, Reuters’ analysis found.

The fight for the Senate is even costlier.

In Florida, Republican Rick Scott’s contest against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson is the most expensive Senate race. The candidates and their allies have spent nearly $160 million. Nelson’s campaign spent about $25 million while outside groups splashed out $45 million supporting him or opposing Scott, who spent nearly $67 million. Outside groups spent $22 million supporting him and opposing Nelson.

Missouri’s Senate race between Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Josh Hawley is second most expensive at roughly $108 million. Texas is third at about $100 million.

All up, it is a record for a congressional midterm cycle. Candidates, political parties and outside groups are set to spend more than $5.2 billion on House and Senate contests combined, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The Democratic share of spending for the House swelled to 60 percent this year, from 44 percent in 2014, the previous midterm elections, said Sheila Krumholz, the center’s executive director.

One reason for the big spending: Trump.

“This is in no small part a referendum on the 2016 election, and it’s been bolstered by the role of women, the #MeToo Movement, the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, and the fact that so many women are running,” Krumholz said.

Republicans on defense

Republicans are seeking re-election in nine of the 10 most expensive House races. The tenth is an open Republican seat.

Each recorded spending of more than $20 million. Four of the costliest races are in California. Contests in Washington, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, New York and Minnesota round out the list.

California’s 25th district is one of the most competitive. Republicans have held the seat since 1992. But the past decade has seen an influx of newcomers priced out of the Los Angeles housing market, and now nearly 40 percent of the district’s 720,000 residents are Hispanic.

 

Democrats set their sights on taking the district after 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won it by seven points and a Republican, Representative Steve Knight, clinched another term by six points.

This year, Knight, 51, has been outraised and outspent by Democratic challenger Katie Hill, who previously ran a non-profit for the homeless and is seeking office for the first time.

Hill, 31, raised $7.3 million by mid-October, compared to the $2.4 million raised by Knight, according to FEC data. Hill has out-spent Knight $5.9 million to $2 million, with nearly three quarters of her money going to advertising.

With money from outside groups factored in, more than $18 million has been spent on Hill’s behalf, compared to about $8 million for Knight, Reuters found.

Independence USA PAC, almost entirely funded by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, has spent more than $4.5 million in ads supporting Hill.

The money helped the political newcomer blanket the district with her liberal message supporting a path to universal healthcare, an assault weapons ban and gay-and-lesbian rights.

That could prove a double-edged sword. District voter Burke said she had leaned toward Knight. Then the avalanche of Hill ads and mailers annoyed Burke so much it cemented her decision to cast her ballot for him.


As Americans Vote, Facebook Struggles With Misinformation

As U.S. voters prepare to head to the polls Tuesday, the election will also be a referendum on Facebook.

In recent months, the social networking giant has beefed up scrutiny of what is posted on its site, looking for fake accounts, misinformation and hate speech, while encouraging people to go on Facebook to express their views.

“A lot of the work of content moderation for us begins with our company mission, which is to build community and bring the world closer together,” Peter Stern, who works on product policy stakeholder engagement at Facebook, said at a recent event at St. John’s University in New York City.

Facebook wants people to feel safe when they visit the site, Stern said. To that end, it is on track to hire 20,000 people to tackle safety and security on the platform.

As part of its stepped-up effort, Facebook works with third-party fact-checkers and takes down misinformation that contributes to violence, according to a blog post by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO.

But most popular content, often dubbed “viral,” is frequently the most extreme. Facebook devalues posts it deems are incorrect, reducing their viralness, or future views, by 80 percent, Zuckerberg said.

Disinformation campaigns

Recently Facebook removed accounts followed by more than 1 million people that it said were linked to Iran but pretended to look like they were created by people in the U.S. Some were about the upcoming midterm elections.

The firm also removed hundreds of American accounts that it said were spamming political misinformation.

Still, Facebook is criticized for what at times appears to be flaws in its processes.

Vice News recently posed as all 100 U.S. senators and bought fake political ads on the site. After approving them all, Facebook said it made a mistake.

Politicians in Britain and Canada have asked Zuckerberg to testify on Facebook’s role on spreading disinformation.

“I think they are really struggling and that’s not surprising, because it’s a very hard problem,” said Daphne Keller, who used to be on Google’s legal team and is now with Stanford University.

“If you think about it, they get millions, billions of new posts a day, most of them some factual claim or sentiment that nobody has ever posted before, so to go through these and figure out which are misinformation, which are false, which are intending to affect an electoral outcome, that is a huge challenge,” Keller said. “There isn’t a human team that can do that in the world, there isn’t a machine that can do that in the world.”

​Transparency

While it has been purging its site of accounts that violate its policies, the company has also revealed more about how decisions are made in removing posts. In a 27-page document, Facebook described in detail what content it removes and why, and updated its appeals process. 

Stern, of Facebook, supports the company’s efforts at transparency.

“Having a system that people view as legitimate and basically fair even when they don’t agree with any individual decision that we’ve made is extremely important,” he said.

The stepped-up efforts to give users more clarity about the rules and the steps to challenge decisions are signs Facebook is moving in the right direction, Stanford’s Keller said.

“We need to understand that it is built into the system that there will be a fair amount of failure and there needs to be appeals process and transparency to address that,” she said.


As US Prepares for Elections, Facebook Struggles to Tackle Misinformation

As U.S. voters prepare to head to the polls Nov. 6, all eyes are on how Facebook is grappling with giving people a platform to speak but also keeping misinformation in check. Michelle Quinn reports from San Francisco.


In 2018, Women Candidates Can ‘Be Themselves’ in TV Ads

Lights flicker into brightness, one-by-one in an empty boxing ring. It is silent until a gym bag plops to the floor. A woman puts earbuds in. Championship music blares and then a woman’s voice says, “This is a tough place to be a woman.” 

Sharice Davids’ TV commercial looks more like a movie trailer than a typical political ad for U.S. Congress in Kansas. But, Davids is no ordinary candidate.

The Democrat, running in Kansas for the 3rd Congressional District seat, is a Native American. She is lesbian. And she is a former mixed martial arts fighter. In her ad, Davids says, “Truth is, I’ve had to fight my whole life because of who I am, who I love, and where I started.” At the end of the ad, she nails a sharp right jab at the camera.

Scuba diving for votes

A record number of women are up for election Tuesday. According to figures compiled by The Center for America Women and Politics at Rutgers University, 237 women are running for the U.S. House of Representatives, 23 for the Senate, and 16 for governor. 

Political science experts, like Brigid Callahan Harrison of Montclair State University, say the current political climate has fostered numerous female candidates without political experience. Harrison says the Democratic Party specifically selected candidates with a “unique skillset, great narratives and resumes that are kind of middle of the road” to appeal to a new constituency, especially in swing districts.

Consequently, their ads are entertaining and provocative. Like Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell running for a House seat in Florida’s 26th Congressional District. Her TV commercial looks like a National Geographic documentary on coral reefs. Then, you see her, kneeling among the fish in full scuba gear, holding a sign “I’m Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. I’m running for Congress.” The ad promotes one of her top issues: clean water. 

‘Grow a pair of ovaries’

Republican Martha McSally is a member of the U.S. House from Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District. She is running for U.S. Senate against another female House member, Democrat Krysten Sinema. McSally’s ad includes a clip of her TV profile on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” with Leslie Stahl introducing her as the “first female pilot to fly in combat.” 

McSally includes a comment from President Trump, mixed in with the fighting music and quick edits. She speaks straightforwardly about her time in Congress: “That’s why I told Washington Republicans to grow a pair of ovaries and get the job done.”

Going viral, courtesy of ‘Hamilton’

​Democrat MJ Hegar, running in the Texas 13th Congressional District, produced a video clip called “Doors.” Her biographical ad begins inside houses until the camera pans to a military-issued grey-green door hanging on the wall above her family as they eat dinner. Hegar, with her short sleeves showing an upper arm tattoo explains, “that’s all that’s left of the aircraft I was flying that day.”

In 2009, the Air Force pilot was flying a rescue mission in Afghanistan when her helicopter was shot down by the Taliban.

No more St. John suits, Ferragamo shoes

The trend in political ads is increasingly leaning more toward social media, because most younger voters choose to get their news there than conventional television. Hegar’s 3 minute, 30 second video clip has been viewed nearly 6 million times once “Hamilton” composer Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted it to his 2.5 million followers.

Chris Nolan is the founder of Spot-On.com, a cloud-based ad agency. Her company ran 25 campaigns for the 2018 midterm elections. 

She says this is the first election where women can “be themselves” in commercials rather than a perfectly coiffed person, ready for TV. She attributes that to the increased number of women running campaigns who understand that voters want to vote for “real people” and not candidates molded into stiff politicians.

“What that means is that we are moving away from the heavily produced candidate wearing a St. John suit, Ferragamo bow flats, and headband because she looks like a woman you’d never want to have a drink with,” Nolan said.

Double standards for voices

But, even in a social media age and in the 2018 political “year of the woman,” female candidates have to spend more time debating what is kept in and what stays out of their ads.

Republican Leah Vukmir, a Wisconsin state senator running for U.S. Senate, received death threats when she and other Republicans backed elimination of collective bargaining for public employees. The voicemail leads her ad, saying, “I know where you live and I’m going to come for you. You’re going to die and I’m going to be the one who does it.”

Vukmir told VOA the words are tame compared to what the caller said, but she wanted to use the words to show her resolve not to be intimidated.

Vukmir says, like most women, she knows there are certain standards for men and women in political ads, and she is extra careful of her vocal tone and how she speaks. Her model is former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who “learned how to moderate her voice so that she didn’t sound shrill.”


As US Election Nears, Racist Fliers, Antisemitic Graffiti Appear

Days ahead of a contentious U.S. national election in which immigration has become a central issue, racist fliers saying “It’s okay to be white” have been reported on university campuses in five states, while synagogues in New York

and California have been sprayed with antisemitic graffiti.

The phrase on the fliers is associated with the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan. The fliers have been reported at campuses including Duke University in North Carolina, Tufts University in Massachusetts, the University of Delaware, the University of Vermont and Iowa State University. In some cases, vandals attached the fliers to posters encouraging people to vote on November 6.

Meanwhile, after a gunman killed 11 worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last weekend, graffiti saying “Kill all Jews” was sprayed at the Union Temple synagogue in New York City on Thursday night. Similar graffiti was found on an Irvine, California, synagogue earlier this week.

During the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue last weekend, the worst ever on the U.S. Jewish community, the man accused of the massacre yelled “All Jews must die.”

Robert Bowers, 46, an avowed anti-Semite, pleaded not guilty on Thursday in federal court to all 44 counts against him in the attack.

A post on controversial online image board 4chan last week called on participants to put the fliers up in public places. Some participants this week posted pictures of themselves with the fliers.

The universities affected condemned the fliers.

“We denounce these actions for what they are: cowardly acts of vandalism that are intended to intimidate,” Michael Schoenfeld, Duke’s vice president for public affairs, said in a statement.

“I want to assure our community that we do not tolerate hatred and bigotry,” Tufts president Anthony Monaco said in a message sent to his university.

Meanwhile, former KKK leader David Duke posted on Twitter that the “hateful response” to the fliers “proves ubiquitous anti-white hate & racism!”

A spate of politically motivated pipe-bomb mailings to prominent Democrats last week, followed by the synagogue shooting, have heightened national tensions ahead of the November 6 elections that will decide whether U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party maintains control of Congress.

The massacre also fueled a debate over Trump’s political rhetoric and his self-identification as a “nationalist,” which critics say has fomented a surge in right-wing extremism.

The Trump administration has rejected the notion that he has encouraged white nationalists and neo-Nazis who have embraced him, insisting he is trying to unify America.


Democrats, Republicans Try to Avert Third-party Spoilers 

Two congresswomen running for the U.S Senate in Arizona are crisscrossing the state, raising millions of dollars and trying to exploit every possible advantage to win in what both sides expect to be a photo-finish race. 

The wild card: Angela Green, a Green Party candidate who could win votes that might have gone to Democrat Krysten Sinema, clearing a path to victory for Republican Martha McSally. 

But on Thursday, Green suddenly announced she would drop out of the race and endorsed Sinema. 

“After watching the debates and seeing everything, Sinema’s stance on a lot of things are very close to mine,” Green said in an interview with KPNX-TV in Phoenix. 

The about-face demonstrates the significance third-party candidates are playing as Election Day nears and key races tighten across the country. There’s a fear that these candidates could become “spoilers” by peeling off just enough support to let the other major party win. Democrats are especially sensitive to the issue after Green Party and Libertarian presidential candidates drew about 5 percent of the popular vote in 2016, the year that Hillary Clinton narrowly lost the presidency to Donald Trump. 

“When a race is close everything matters — every demographic group, the number of candidates on the ballot,” said Nathan Gonzales, a nonpartisan analyst for Inside Elections. But, he added, that doesn’t mean third-party candidates will inevitably tip a close race. “We have to be a bit more nuanced.” 

Third-party candidates tend to poll better than they actually perform on Election Day, when voters tend to revert to the two major parties. And some who cast ballots for third-party candidates may not otherwise show up to the polls, so it’s misleading to presume that every vote for an outside candidate is a vote stolen from a major party. 

Regardless, it’s a fear present on both sides of the aisle. The biggest impact this cycle may be in Kansas, where Democrats fear businessman and independent gubernatorial candidate Greg Orman, who has notched up to 10 percent support in polls. 

Kansas Democrats worry Orman will help Republican Kris Kobach, the chair of Trump’s disbanded voter fraud commission, win the governor’s race. On Monday, Orman’s treasurer, Republican Tim Owens, quit the campaign because he feared Orman was putting at risk the campaign of Democrat Laura Kelly. 

“I wish Tim well, but have told him that my campaign is about the people of Kansas, not about establishment figures in Topeka,” Orman said, referring to the state capital. 

In Georgia, a Libertarian candidate could force one of the nation’s most closely watched governor’s races into a December runoff. 

And in Montana, Sen. Jon Tester has repeatedly won campaigns with less than 50 percent of the vote with a Libertarian candidate on the ballot. This week, an anonymous mailer was circulating that attacked Tester’s Republican challenger, Matt Rosendale, and urged a vote for Libertarian Rick Breckenridge. 

In response, on Wednesday, Breckenridge said he was endorsing Rosendale. “Matt has the character to combat this, not Jon Tester,” Breckenridge said in an interview. 

The Montana mailer and endorsement came after an anonymous donor earlier this year bankrolled a drive by a firm that normally works for Republicans to collect 5,000 signatures to place a Green Party candidate on the Senate ballot. Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, a Republican, put the candidate on the ballot, but Montana Democrats successfully sued to overturn it. 

In Indiana, similar mailers have circulated attacking Republican Mike Braun and promoting the candidacy of Libertarian Lucy Brenton, who openly says she wants to play the role of spoiler. She garnered 5 percent of the vote in a 2016 race and has been onstage in debates that also include Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly and Braun. It’s unclear which of the two major party candidates is threatened more by her pro-gay rights, pro-marijuana legalization, anti-tax platform. 

“Do I intend to spoil the election for them? Absolutely. And here’s why: Something doesn’t spoil unless it’s rotten,” Brenton said Tuesday after a debate in Indianapolis. “And the two-party system that has had a stranglehold on our country is absolutely rotten.” 

Nevada has another option — voters can select “none of these candidates.” That helped Sen. Dean Heller win re-election in 2012. Even as then-President Barack Obama handily won the state, Heller was re-elected by an 11,000-vote margin — a total of 46 percent of the vote. That’s because 44,000 voters chose “none of these candidates” rather than Heller or his Democratic opponent, Rep. Shelley Berkley, who faced a congressional ethics investigation during the race. 

​Heller is trying to replicate that strategy as he faces another tough race this year against Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen. Some Republicans think the none-of-the-above option gives Heller a better chance than the Republican running for governor, Adam Laxalt. That’s because there’s an independent candidate in the race who could spoil it for Laxalt: Ryan Bundy, the elder son of a rancher who became notorious for his armed standoff with federal agents in 2014. 

Political maneuverings also helped shape Arizona’s ballot. In 2012, Republican Jeff Flake won a U.S. Senate election there by 3.5 percentage points while a Libertarian candidate garnered 4 percentage points. The Republican state legislature complained that Libertarians were siphoning GOP votes and increased the number of signatures the party needed to qualify a candidate for the ballot. There was no similar requirement for the Green Party. 

Green’s announcement Thursday that she was suspending her campaign may have relatively little impact. More than 60 percent of expected voters have already cast their ballots early, as is traditional in the heavily vote-by-mail state, according to the secretary of state’s office. And Green’s name will remain on the ballot for those who haven’t made a decision. 

McSally’s campaign unsuccessfully pushed to have Green included in the Senate race debate, and some Republicans hold out hope she can chisel off enough supporters from Sinema to put their candidate over the edge. A recent poll from Marist-NBC News, for example, had Sinema leading McSally by 6 percentage points when Green was omitted but only by 3 points when the third-party option was included. 

Still, others are skeptical Green will affect the race one way or the other. She raised less than $1,500 and had little campaign presence while running a business selling organic goods and hemp clothing. 

“At the end of the day I think the real narrative here is who’s able to appeal to independent, unaffiliated and Republican women,” said Paul Bentz, a GOP strategist in Phoenix. “They’ll make the difference here.” 

As recently as last week, Green said that while didn’t support McSally or Trump, she didn’t think she should be held responsible if her candidacy lost the election for Sinema. 

“I will not be responsible for who wins this race,” Green said in an interview then. “So I need to let people to know that is not why I came into this race. I came into it for the people, not the politics.”  


In House Battle, Democrats See Hope in Trump Territory

White, working-class voters fueled President Donald Trump’s rise to the White House. If his party loses the House majority on Tuesday, it will be, at least in part, because those same voters abandoned the GOP.

While Democrats’ suburban offensive is well-known, an often-overlooked battle is underway across rural and working-class districts in states including Maine, Iowa and Minnesota. Trump’s coalition of blue-collar voters here may offer Democrats an alternate route to the House majority.

Specifically, Democrats are targeting 21 House districts carried by former President Barack Obama in 2012 that shifted to Trump in 2016 — districts now testing the strength of a Trump-era political realignment shaped by education, race and gender.

With the election days away, Democrats have cause for optimism. Public and private polling suggest Democrats are poised to capture at least two-thirds of the Obama-Trump districts, according to operatives in both parties who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely before Election Day.

While Republicans privately blame an underwhelming slate of GOP incumbents, the Democrats’ prospective success is a reflection of a strong class of first-time candidates, extraordinary fundraising and a message focused on health care and the economy — not Trump.

In northeastern Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, where the cornfields outnumber the Whole Foods supermarkets, 29-year-old Democratic upstart Abby Finkenauer reflected on her blue-collar roots at a rally this week alongside the Democratic Party’s strongest liaison to working-class voters, former Vice President Joe Biden.

“He shares the belief that every kid who grows up in a working-class family like mine has a right to a bright future,” Finkenauer said as she introduced Biden.

Obama won the district by nearly 14 points in 2012. Trump scored a 3-point victory here four years later.

The 29-year-old state representative, whose father and grandfather were union workers, has made her working-class roots central to the campaign in a district once dominated by union manufacturing and meatpacking jobs. She made a name for herself last year blasting a Republican-backed bill that dismantled public-employee unions, shouting against it near tears on the Iowa House floor in Des Moines.

“This is personal,” she said at the time.

She is facing off against two-term Republican incumbent Rep. Rod Blum, a wealthy businessman.

In working-class southern New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, Democrat Andy Kim is laser-focused on health care and the Republican tax cuts in his bid to defeat two-term incumbent Rep. Tom MacArthur.

Obama twice won the district, which Trump carried by 6 points in 2016.

Kim, a national security official in the Obama administration, told The AP that he doesn’t want to impeach Trump. He condemned the increasingly divisive tone in politics, which he said was a problem long before Trump’s election.

The first-time Democratic candidate is eager to bring up MacArthur’s votes for the Trump tax cuts and a GOP health care plan that would have replaced the nation’s system with one that wouldn’t guarantee coverage of pre-existing conditions.

“It isn’t politics. It’s personal,” said Kim, the father of two young sons, noting that his father survived polio and his mother has other pre-existing conditions.

The Republican MacArthur said he was simply working to improve both bills for his constituents. He also recognizes his political challenge in a district that has swung from one party to the other in recent presidential elections.

“A member, to represent this district, can’t just be a Trump opposition person,” MacArthur said in an interview. “He’ll offend half of his constituents. You have to work with the president when you can. You have to have the backbone to push back when you need to.”

College-educated voters, particularly women, turned against the GOP long ago. But polling indicates that Democrats’ comeback in the Obama-Trump districts, if there is one, will be born of a more subtle shift among non-college-educated white women, according to Jesse Ferguson, who previously led the House Democrats campaign arm.

“If we take the majority, it won’t only be built on suburban, Clinton-voting districts alone,” he said. “Democrats are winning congressional districts that voted for Donald Trump as people who work for a living see that the Republican majority sold them out.”

It’s not all good news for Democrats.

In the fight for the Senate majority, Trump’s standing remains strong among rural voters in states like North Dakota, Indiana and Missouri where the GOP is on offense.

Republicans have far fewer pickup opportunities in their quest to preserve the House majority. The GOP is on offense, however, in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, a 27,000 square mile-swath of northern Minnesota where Republican Pete Stauber, a retired policeman, is poised to win a seat left open by a Democratic retirement.

No current district swung more from Obama to Trump. Stauber said the 20-point shift between 2012 and 2016 reflected a political realignment a decade in the making.

“This congressional district is blue-collar common-sense conservative,” he said in an interview, noting the presence of a strong mining industry, forestry jobs and the military.

Stauber said he opposed Republican efforts to repeal Obama’s health care law and vowed to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions. He also railed against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s recent suggestion that Republicans would cut Medicare and Social Security to help balance the budget.

“Those are benefits that our seniors were promised and paid into their entire lives,” the Republican congressional candidate said. “That’s a promise our government made. That’s a promise our government will keep.”

Polling suggests that Democrats are winning the fight over health care and the economy in other Obama-Trump districts.

They include Maine’s 2nd, where Democratic-aligned outside groups have poured money into an advertising campaign railing against incumbent Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s health care positions since October 2017.

Trump won the rural Maine district by 10 points in 2016, while Obama carried it by more than 8 points four years earlier.

Democratic candidate Jared Golden, an Iraq war veteran, seized on health care in his closing message.

“When I came home from Iraq, I was diagnosed with a pre-existing condition,” the 36-year-old Democrat said in a recent ad. He charged that Poliquin voted with special interests “to allow insurance companies to deny health coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition.”

A Poliquin spokesman declined to respond.

Democrats’ strong position has been built, in part, by a fundraising disparity that allowed them to set the terms of the debate.

In just eight Obama-Trump districts across Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey and Illinois, Democratic candidates have spent roughly $24 million on TV ads compared to $12 million from their Republican opponents, according to media buyers tracking ad spending.

The super PAC aligned with House Democrats has poured at least another $7 million into the same races.

Though Trump capitalized on the frustration in these districts in 2016, Biden this week welcomed working-class voters back to the Democrats’ column with a populist tone.

In Cedar Rapids, Biden said: “I know what built this country: ordinary Americans given half a chance.”



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