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.
Where things stand
• Will the arrest of a Trump supporter in the nationwide mail-bomb spree hurt Republicans in the midterm elections? The thought seems to have crossed the president’s mind — though not for the reasons you might expect.
Some Republican officials are privately anxious that voters will connect Mr. Trump’s caustic words about Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama with the bomber choosing to target them. But Mr. Trump seems worried about something more elemental: “momentum.”
Speaking briefly to reporters on Friday, he used the word three times when discussing the arrest and the midterms.
“The Republicans had tremendous momentum, and then, of course, this happened,” he said, adding, “Now we have to start the momentum again.”
Strategists have been divided on the durability of a so-called Kavanaugh bump in polls, bolstering Republicans in recent weeks following the fractious Supreme Court confirmation process. But there is little doubt that Republicans would prefer to focus voters’ attention there — or anywhere else, really — if the alternative is a national meditation on presidential culpability for inciting violence.
• On the campaign trail so far, Republicans are proceeding with care, if they address the bomb episodes at all.
The response from Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado, facing one of the year’s toughest re-election fights, was about as forceful as most Republicans were willing to get:
“Democrats and Republicans must come together to decry these acts of domestic terrorism and let those responsible know the intimidation of citizens, journalists and public officials will not stand,” he posted on Twitter.
Mr. Coffman has generally been more critical of the president’s rhetoric than others in his party, particularly when it comes to immigration. (Many people in his district are foreign-born.) But Mr. Coffman did not specifically mention the president in his tweet.
• A new poll Friday in the Texas Senate race showed Ted Cruz, the Republican incumbent, with a six-point lead over Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic nominee. According to the University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, independent voters — who often vote Republican in Texas statewide elections — favored Mr. O’Rourke, 51 percent to Mr. Cruz’s 39 percent.
‘Illegal immigrants marching on America’
• The image that Republicans want seared in voters’ minds just before Election Day: the migrant caravan many miles away in Mexico.
In Minnesota’s First District, one of the few places where Republicans believe they can pick off a currently Democratic seat, the Congressional Leadership Fund, the main House super PAC, has released a new ad intended to boost the Republican, Jim Hagedorn. Its message: his opponent, Dan Feehan, is a Nancy Pelosi liberal who will do nothing to stop the “caravan of illegal immigrants marching on America.” The accompanying video is, well, you can guess.
Mr. Trump has signaled that he views the caravan — and immigration broadly — as a winning issue in the campaign’s closing days. And across the country, candidates, party committees and outside groups are following his lead. Even a great distance from the southern border.
Obama taunts Trump
Barack Obama is using the “L” word. The question now: How will Mr. Trump take it?
“Throughout human history, certainly throughout American history, politicians have exaggerated,” Mr. Obama said Friday at a rally for Democrats in Wisconsin. “But what we have not seen before in our recent public life is politicians just blatantly, repeatedly, baldly, shamelessly lying. Making stuff up.”
The former president, long a starring villain in Republican advertisements, has often taken a back seat as ranking boogeyman this year to other favorite conservative targets, like Ms. Pelosi and Mrs. Clinton.
But with his return to the campaign trail — and this particularly aggressive appearance on Friday — don’t be surprised if Mr. Trump feels moved to taunt him from the executive Twitter feed. Whether or not it helps the Republican cause.
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