TRNS News Notes is brought to you by Victoria Jones. Victoria Jones is the Chief White House correspondent and global analyst of the Washington DC based Talk Radio News Service, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.

In the News

  • Trends to watch for tonight
  • Drilling down: Counties to watch
  • Polls tighten
  • Democrats lament
  • Justice Dept to monitor 18 states

  • U.S. ISIS fighter? “No typical profile” – FBI
  • Chinese hackers spent months in govt vetting contractor
  • Ukraine crisis: Poroshenko in talks
  • Movement in Iran talks?



Trends to Watch for Tonight
How big of a win will this be for Republicans? To gauge Republican strength, watch the Senate races in states that President Obama won in 2008 or 2012. If Republicans, who need to pick up six seats to gain the Senate majority, win in Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and North Carolina, they’re all but certain to take control (NYT, me)

What do the results tell us about the 2016 presidential race? Both parties are eyeing Colorado and Georgia. In CO, Dems Sen Mark Udall and Gov John Hickenlooper are in danger of losing. Colorado has been trending Democratic. Does the GOP have strength there? If Michelle Nunn (D) wins the Georgia Senate or loses narrowly, that makes GA competitive

What can be gleaned from the House races? There are fewer than 50 truly competitive House races. The mystery is whether the GOP increases its majority by more or fewer than 10 seats. Watch Richard Tisei try to become the first Republican from MA to be elected to the House in 20 years

Will governors’ races mirror the congressional races? Three governors’ races will play an outsize role in shaping the post-election narrative. Those are in Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin, where Republican governors are locked in tight reelection contests in states that voted for Obama in 2012

What happens to the Obama coalition? Democrats will need to counter a strong Republican advantage with men by winning women by nearly as much. That might require an even larger gender gap in some states than the 18-point one in 2012. Dems will also need a much stronger turnout among nonwhites than in 2010

• Sen Mark Udall (D-CO) was heckled this weekend by a Wall St millionaire Democratic donor for his one-note campaign on women’s reproductive rights. After the rally, Leo Beserra said to the Guardian, “Who is running the worst campaign? Him. Because fu*king abortion is all he talks about.” (he’s right – mistake; economy, stupid) (TPM)
Drilling Down: Counties to Watch
• These counties give a clue to how their states might go. Knott County, KY. Obama 12: 25%. Clinton 96: 78%. In the heart of unionized coal country, Knott was one of the most reliably Democratic counties of the 20th century. But Dems have suffered heavy losses. Many Dems vote Republican. Alison Lundergan Grimes needs to do very well to beat Mitch McConnell

Henry County, GA. About a half-hour south of Atlanta, Henry County has experienced some of the most rapid demographic change in the country. Black residents more than quadrupled between 2000 and 2010. To be competitive statewide, Michelle Nunn probably needs to win the county, with help from strong black turnout (NYT, me)

Haywood County, NC. Obama 12: 42%. Hagan 08: 51%. North Carolina is extremely polarized. There are several counties in the Appalachians where white voters were supportive of Obama. These aren’t liberals.  To win reelection, Sen Kay Hagan is probably going to need to outperform Obama by a wide margin in Haywood

Allamakee County, IA. 2012 president: Democratic +4.1. 2004 president: Republican + 1.5. It’s a small county in the northeastern corner of IA, and part of the congressional district of Rep Bruce Braley, the Dem Senate candidate. Is Braley going to struggle in rural IA? And in his own district, as many polls suggest?

Jefferson County, CO. A true bellwether. The largest county in the state. Includes fairly well-educated and affluent suburbs west of Denver. GOP has voter registration advantage. Dems have consistently been winning registered unaffiliated voters. It’s an even better bellwether because of CO’s mail-in voting system, which will include a distribution of votes
• Sen Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who’s largely been abandoned by environmental groups, women’s groups and unions, told a gathering of supporters Monday night, “I can tell you with all confidence that we are going to win this election.” (unlikely) (Politico, me)
Polls Tighten
• The final University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll finds the Granite State’s races – which could be the bellwethers for the rest of the country – slightly closer than a previous UNH survey last week. Sen Jeanne Shaheen (D) leads Republican Scott Brown in the new poll, 47% to 45% – very tight (Politico, Roll Call, TRNS, Real Clear Politics, TRNS, Hill, me)

• The Republican challengers in Colorado’s Senate and governor’s races are both up by 2 points, 45% to 43%, in the final Quinnipiac poll published Monday. Just last week, Republican Cory Gardner led by 7 points over Democratic Sen Mark Udall in the Senate race. A robopoll from Democratic firm PPP this weekend put Gardner up 3 points

• A Quinnipiac poll published Monday shows a dead heat in the Iowa Senate race, with Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst tied at 47% among likely voters. The news buoys the Democratic argument that the Des Moines Register poll out this weekend, which had Ernst up 7 points, is an outlier (she still has momentum)

• The nasty, expensive gubernatorial Florida race is still in a dead heat between GOP Gov Rick Scott and his predecessor, Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, on the eve of Election Day, according to a new Quinnipiac poll. Crist leads Scott by one point, 42% to 41%. Seven percent back libertarian Adrian Wyllie

• And an NBC News/WSJ poll out Monday found two-thirds of registered voters surveyed say they think President Obama should undertake either “a great deal of change” or “quite a bit of change” to his leadership style

• Vital! Get your facts. Get your info. Before you go to vote, check out the NYT’s Really Useful Guide to the races to watch across all 50 states

Democrats Lament
• President Obama believes that Democrats will hold the Senate in today’s midterm elections (well, he has to, doesn’t he). WH spox Josh Earnest said Monday that confidence was rooted in the idea voters would hone in on whether they would “be supportive of a candidate who is fighting for policies that benefit middle-class families.” (Hill, TRNS, Politico, me)

• Earnest noted, however, that the “vast majority” of close Senate races were taking place in states Obama didn’t win in 2012, and the spox argued “the electorate is different this time than it is in a traditional presidential election.” Earnest emphasized that the consequences of the election would be “significant” and the WH would be open to changing its “tactics.”

• VP Joe Biden said on CNN on Monday that he expects Democrats to keep the Senate, but that, “we’re ready to compromise,” with the congressional GOP. Biden said this election cycle may have been difficult for Dems because “the president and I have to figure out how to better communicate what’s being done. That’s part of the problem.”

• Rep James Clyburn (D-SC), the No. 3 House Democrat, said Monday on MSNBC that Republicans “have successfully made this campaign a referendum on President Obama.” He said Democrats should have “done a better job at messaging exactly what the president has done.” (Democrats have no party discipline, that’s part of their problem)

• Rep Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said on MSNBC Monday, “I don’t think there needs to be a change in leadership
[DNC], but I think what we need to do is, as we head into the next cycle, is to be crystal clear about our economic agenda, our middle-class agenda that has been drowned out for a variety of reasons.”

• Vid: John Oliver tells the scary, crazy, funny truth about state legislatures, voting for them, the laws they pass and ALEC (HBO)

DoJ to Monitor 18 States: Possible Voter Discrimination
• The Justice Dept plans to send federal monitors to 18 states to watch for discrimination against voters: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin (Hill, Reuters, AP, me)

• “I want the American people to know that the Justice Dept will stand vigilant – working in a fair and nonpartisan manner to ensure that every voter can cast his or her ballot free of intimidation, discrimination or obstruction,” Holder said in a video message on the DoJ’s website

• This is the first major federal election since SCOTUS overturned parts of the Voting Rights Act. Holder used his statement to slam voter ID laws in a number of states. He called those laws “restrictive,” “burdensome” and “out of step with history.” But he emphasized that the Justice Dept has to protect existing laws

• The DoJ will also have toll-free lines for voters to bring civil rights complaints, as well as the email address and a fax number. It will also work with the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office to investigate election crimes

• Voters will elect 36 senators, all 435 members of the House of Representatives and 36 state governors today. More than 18.6 million Americans in 32 states already have cast ballots in the nation’s midterm elections

• Vid: President Obama jamming with a cappella group Brotherly Love while campaigning in Philadelphia for Democrat Tom Wolf, frontrunner in the PA gubernatorial race (WaPo)

American ISIS Fighter? “No Typical Profile” – FBI

• The U.S. faces a tough hurdle in identifying Americans seeking to join Islamic extremists, in part because there’s “no typical profile” of those seeking to join the fight, FBI Director James Comey said Monday. He said such individuals range in age from teenagers to 63-year-olds and come from all ethnic groups and walks of life (WSJ, me)

• “The challenge of the traveler phenomenon is there’s no typical profile,” Comey said in response to an audience question after delivering a speech at Fordham Law School. “As best we can determine, the common feature is they are troubled souls who are seeking some kind of meaning in their life.”

• On Monday, Homeland Security Dept said it would begin collecting more info from travelers coming to the U.S. from countries whose citizens don’t need visas. That includes many European countries. More than 16,000 foreigners from more than 90 countries have traveled to join the fight in Syria, including more than 2,700 Westerners, and more than 100 Americans

• People who try to join extremist groups overseas typically are influenced by online propaganda, meet someone on the internet who pushes them toward violence and meet two or three like-minded people online, Comey said

• The FBI has been trying to short-circuit that process. In a number of cases, the agency has arrested individuals who try to join terrorist groups after interacting with a person they thought was a fellow extremist. Instead, that person turned out to be working with the FBI (looks like quite a few are seeping through)

• President Obama and Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen discussed the long-term outlook for the U.S. economy Monday in their first one-on-one meeting since she took charge at the central bank. They also discussed the president’s upcoming trip to Asia and Australia (Hill)

Chinese Hackers Spent Months Inside Govt’s Vetting Contractor: Report

• Chinese hackers roamed around unnoticed for months inside the networks of U.S. Investigations Services (USIS), the govt’s main security clearance contractor, according to an AP report. Lawmakers have been pushing for answers about the breach, which exposed the records of at least 25,000 Homeland Security Dept (DHS) employees (AP, Hill, me)

• USIS said in August that the incident had “all the markings of a state-sponsored attack.” Characteristics of the intrusion mirrored a previous breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in March, when Chinese hackers went after the files on tens of thousands of employees with top-secret clearances

• After the USIS breach was made public in August, OPM said it wouldn’t renew its contracts with the company, worth roughly $320 million. USIS later laid off its 2,500 investigators. The security checking company had already been in hot water

• In January, the DoJ alleged USIS took shortcuts on 40% of its background checks, roughly 665,000 in total (story was a shocker). USIS denied the allegations. Regardless, the company received a contract with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services worth up to $190 million, outraging lawmakers. The GAO later ruled the govt should reconsider the contract!

• After the recent breach, Sens Tom Carper (D-DE) and Tom Coburn (R-OK, chair and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, pressed the DHS for details about USIS’s compromised records. They wanted answers by 16 October. No answer from their offices about what info they had received

• The dispute between Maine officials and nurse Kaci Hickox, who they were trying to quarantine over Ebola fears, seemed to end Monday in a settlement signed by a judge. She’s not barred from busy public places. She’s planning to vote in Fort Kent ME (guessing not for Gov LePage…)

Ukraine Crisis: Poroshenko in Talks

• Ukraine’s president is to chair a crisis meeting of his security chiefs today, following elections in rebel-held areas which Kiev describes as a “farce.” In a TV address, Petro Poroshenko said Sunday’s polls in parts of the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions could derail the “entire peace process.” (BBC, me)

• Two pro-Russian leaders were declared the winners of the polls and are expected to be sworn in today. The West says the elections are illegal but Russia is backing them. More than 4,000 people have been killed in fighting in eastern Ukraine since April

• Late Monday, WH National Security Council spox Bernadette Meehan said the U.S. “condemns the illegitimate, so-called ‘elections’ held on Sunday by Russia-backed separatists in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk.” She said Washington was “concerned by a Russian Foreign Ministry statement that seeks to legitimize these sham ‘elections.'”

• Ukraine accuses Russia of arming the rebels and sending Russian regular troops across the border – a claim denied by Moscow. A NATO spox has described the reported movements of soldiers and trucks in separatist areas of Ukraine as “alarming and dangerous.”

• Earlier Monday, Russia said that it “respects the will of the people of the south-east.” Germany described Russia’s backing of the vote as “incomprehensible.” Chancellor Angela Markel’s spox warned that Russia could face further sanctions as a result of its position

Movement in Iran Talks?

• Iran has tentatively agreed to ship much of its huge stockpile of uranium to Russia if it reaches a broader nuclear deal with the West, according to officials and diplomats in the negotiations, potentially a major breakthrough in talks that have until now been deadlocked (NYT, me)

• Under the proposed agreement, the Russians would convert the uranium into specialized fuel rods for the Bushihr nuclear power plant, Iran’s only commercial reactor. Once the uranium is converted into fuel rods, it’s extremely difficult to use them to make a nuclear weapon. That could go a long way toward alleviating Western concerns about Iran’s stockpile

• With a 24 Nov deadline looming on the nuclear talks, there are still lots of issues, including the number of centrifuges Iran could keep spinning, the speed at which economic sanctions would be suspended, the fate of a heavy-water reactor that produces plutonium and whether international inspectors would be free to visit any suspected covert facilities

• A WH National Security Council spox said Monday, “It is accurate to say that the Russians have played a very helpful role during these negotiations.” For the Russians, the incentives for a deal are both financial and political and it places President Putin at the center of negotiations that may well determine the future of the Middle East

• The larger obstacle to reaching an agreement on the uranium may be the Iranians, a senior official said, because “what is not certain is whether Iran will accept the reasonable proposals” on the table, or “will continue to make excessive demands that are not aligned with its practical nuclear needs.”

• RIP: Tom Magliozzi, one of the brothers who hosted NPR’s “Car Talk” program. Magliozzi, known with his younger brother Ray as “Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers,” was 77. He died of complications of Alzheimer’s disease. I listened every week and laughed out loud

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Victoria Jones

TRNS’ Nicholas Salazar and Celina Gore contributed to this report


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