POLITICO Playbook: It all comes down to Pennsylvania

ALMOST THERE — 3 days left until Election Day. … 38,771,916 early votes cast as of 9:13 a.m., per the United States Elections Project. (For reference: In the 2020 election, there were 101,453,111 total early votes and in 2018 there were 39,054,218 in total.)

KEYING IN ON THE KEYSTONE — Today is a big day of campaigning in the final push for both parties before the midterms, and a trio of presidents are all descending on Pennsylvania for perhaps the most-watched and talked-about Senate race of this cycle.

The lineup:

Former President BARACK OBAMA is dropping by Pittsburgh to rally with Democratic Senate nominee JOHN FETTERMAN. And then Obama is crossing the state to appear with President JOE BIDEN at a rally for Pennsylvania Democrats at Temple University later in the day.

“In visiting Philadelphia, Biden and Obama will be targeting the city (and its surrounding suburbs) that are a crucial base of Democratic votes for Fetterman and JOSH SHAPIRO, the party’s gubernatorial nominee,” the Philly Inquirer’s Jonathan Tamari, Julia Terruso and Chris Brennan write.

Meanwhile, former President DONALD TRUMP is descending on Latrobe, Pa., to host a rally for GOP Senate nominee MEHMET OZ and gubernatorial nominee DOUG MASTRIANO. “As with all Trump productions, the rally is certain to be just as much about him and the lies he continues to tell about the results of the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania as it is the candidates on the ballot,” the Inquirer notes.

— Thought bubble: Is this the event you want on the last Saturday before Election Day when you’re trying to woo suburban moderates around Philly? Front pages tomorrow will be Oz embracing Mastriano and Trump. Not exactly the GLENN YOUNGKIN 2021 playbook.

The stakes:

“If Mr. Fetterman loses, Democrats will blow their best chance to pick up a GOP seat — the one held by Republican Sen. PAT TOOMEY, who is retiring,” WSJ’s Aaron Zitner writes from Greenville, Pa.

“If Mr. Oz loses, Republicans will have to pick up at least two other Democratic-held seats to have a shot at taking control of the Senate, which is now split 50-50, with Vice President KAMALA HARRIS the tiebreaking vote.”

The context:

This race is close. Like, really close. RealClearPolitics’ polling average has Oz ahead by 0.1 points. That’s not a typo — in fact, it’s the slimmest margin in the RCP averages of Senate races, per our colleague and elections guru Steve Shepard. When Fetterman and Oz emerged from their respective primaries, the matchup looked easily winnable for Democrats, but Fetterman’s May stroke took the nominee off the trail for three months and raised questions about his physical fitness for office as a flood of GOP campaign cash buoyed Oz.

And, of course, there’s the ongoing political evolution of the state that is playing into Dems’ difficulty in putting this race away.

“The last two presidential races split by less than 1.2 percentage points, with Mr. Trump winning in 2016 and Mr. Biden in 2020. The tight gap reflects a sharp erosion in the Democratic advantage in party registration that for decades made the state a party stronghold,” WSJ’s Zitner writes. “Since the 2020 election, the Democratic Party’s lead has slipped by more than 136,000 voters, which is more than the 82,000-vote margin that gave Mr. Biden his victory in the state, records show.”

Then there’s the specter of a 2024 rematch. “As Trump prepares to announce a third presidential bid, potentially in the coming weeks, Biden’s aides are taking their own initial steps toward mounting a reelection campaign. For a several-hour stretch on Saturday afternoon, the dynamics of a potential 2020 rematch will be laid bare,” CNN’s Kevin Liptak writes.

This also caps Obama’s stretch of midterm campaigning in the states with the closest Senate races. In the past week, Obama has visited Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada and Arizona, as well as a Michigan trip for Gov. GRETCHEN WHITMER. The only notable state with a tight Senate race missing from his travels this week was New Hampshire.

Before he heads to Pennsylvania, Biden will be speaking at an event in Joliet, Ill., where he will deliver remarks on prescription drug costs, Social Security and Medicare — continuing his recent string of remarks criticizing congressional Republicans, including Sen. RICK SCOTT (R-Fla.), over their plans to cut back on the federal safety net.

Also on tap for Biden’s remarks, per a White House official: “how Congressional Republicans have repeatedly pledged to hold the American economy hostage by refusing to raise the debt limit unless Republicans can cut Social Security and Medicare benefits that tens of millions of Americans have already paid into.”

Biden will be joined in Illinois by Sens. DICK DURBIN and TAMMY DUCKWORTH, Rep. LAUREN UNDERWOOD and other Illinois Democrats.

Some more Pennsylvania reading:

“This Pennsylvania voter feels something just wasn’t right in the 2020 vote. So he’ll be watching the midterms up close,” by CNN’s Elle Reeve and Samantha Guff

“Doug Mastriano’s Prophets In Pennsylvania” by HuffPost’s Christopher Mathias: “A shocking weekend with the supporters of the nominee for governor — full of swords, demons, and wild prophecies — shows the theocratic future of the GOP.”

Good Saturday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. What do you think is more likely: A come-from-behind Mastriano win, or the Phils taking two in Houston? Email me: [email protected]. Or get in touch with the rest of the team: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.


WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS — Ad rates are so high for outside groups and independent expenditures in Las Vegas right now that they are twice as expensive as in New York City, which is typically considered the most expensive market, per a Democratic consultant.

GET SMART — “Polling Averages Can Be Useful, but What’s Underneath Has Changed,” by NYT’s Nate Cohn: “Which pollsters have surveyed a state most recently is a big factor in determining whether the numbers look better for Republicans or Democrats. And this year, the polls that are driving the average are quite different.”

DEMOGRAPHIC DEEP DIVE — “Suburban Women, No Longer ‘Soccer Moms,’ Hold Key to Midterms,” by NYT’s Dana Goldstein, Robert Gebeloff, Allison McCann and Brent McDonald: “In interviews with more than a dozen women in swing regions ahead of Election Day, many said they thought of themselves as apolitical. But they could not avoid the sense that politics were intruding on their lives.

“Notably, the women, who live in a variety of suburban settings, shared a sense of pessimism about the direction of the country. They were strained by the cost of housing and groceries, they said, and fearful of crime. Many felt freedom itself was under threat, whether the freedom they sought was the right to abortion or the right to shield their children from what they considered objectionable ideas on gender and race.”

“In hard-fought midterms, Indian American voters are prized,” by WaPo’s Toluse Olorunnipa: “At a time when many Americans are anxious about the economy and believe the country is on the wrong track, the president’s aides and supporters have pointed to the rising prominence of Indian Americans inside and outside government as an example of a group that’s thriving in Biden’s America.”

THE VIEW FROM 1600 PENN — “Biden stumps on job growth, as voters dread inflation,” by AP’s Josh Boak: “Biden is asking voters to look beyond the current financial pain, saying that what matters are the job gains that he believes his policies are fostering.”

THE TRUTH ABOUT CRIME — “Most Candidates Running on Crime Don’t Have Much Power to Solve It,” by NYT’s Emily Badger: “Crime surges and falls for reasons that experts don’t fully understand, and it’s hard for even the most proven ideas to quickly reverse its direction. But the people with ready levers to pull are not sitting in the Senate. And your current sense of order in your community is definitely not controlled by your congressman.”


THE STEPBACK — “As Democrats see House slipping away, Senate battle intensifies in final days,” by WaPo’s Colby Itkowitz, Hannah Knowles, Sabrina Rodriguez and Annie Linskey


CHENEY CROSSES THE AISLE AGAIN — “Liz Cheney endorses Democrat Abigail Spanberger in high-stakes Va. race,” by WaPo’s Meagan Flynn: “In a statement to The Washington Post, [Wyoming Rep. LIZ] CHENEY acknowledged that she and [Rep. ABIGAIL] SPANBERGER have policy differences, but said she was ‘honored’ to back Spanberger, describing her as a lawmaker ‘dedicated to working across the aisle to find solutions’ while criticizing her Donald Trump-backed Republican opponent, YESLI VEGA, a member of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.”

HAMPTON ROADS DISPATCH — “Luria makes final case for democracy, vies for Black voters,” by AP’s Farnoush Amiri in Suffolk, Va.: “In her first two congressional races, [Democratic Rep. ELAINE] LURIA, a former Navy commander, would more likely have been seen in settings with a military backdrop or theme. But this time she is in Suffolk, a new part of her district and one that has a Black population of 40% whose votes could well determine if she gets a third term.”


BRACING FOR IMPACT — “New York Democrats are bracing for stunning Election Day losses, and they already have a fall guy,” by CNN’s Edward-Isaac Dovere: “Democratic officials and strategists in New York tell CNN they are bracing for what could be stunning losses in the governor’s race and in contests for as many as four U.S. House seats largely in the suburbs.

“With crime dominating the headlines and the airwaves, multiple Democrats watching these races closely are pointing to New York City Mayor ERIC ADAMS, accusing him of overhyping the issue and playing into right-wing narratives in ways that may have helped set the party up for disaster on Tuesday.”

Related read: “Kathy Hochul’s slipping polls could propel her campaign for New York governor,” by Joseph Spector and Sally Goldenberg in Albany, N.Y. “Worry about turnout has led to a flood of money, events and special guests. … Polls show [New York Gov. KATHY] HOCHUL leading by between 4 and 11 points — a narrower-than-expected margin that has Democrats on edge. A recent internal Hochul poll had her up single digits, with less than 50 percent of the vote, according to a Democratic consultant briefed on the results. Democrats hope the polls serve as a wake-up call to their base — whose sheer enrollment dwarfs Republicans and independents combined.”


Via Steve Shepard

North Carolina: Democratic Senate candidate CHERI BEASLEYsays in her closing argument ad that “politicians like [GOP Rep.] TED BUDD aren’t focused on us. They’re helping themselves.”

Minnesota: Democratic Rep. ANGIE CRAIGdropped a new ad hitting Republican TYLER KISTNER for “a lie” about serving in combat overseas. “It’s dishonorable and dishonest to veterans,” says a Marine veteran.



1. MANCHIN RIPS BIDEN — This morning, Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) issued a scathing statement calling on Biden to issue an “immediate and public apology” for remarks Friday in San Diego saying Democrats would be “shutting these [coal-fired] plants down all across America and having wind and solar power.” Biden was in part touting climate provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act — a landmark bill made possible only with Manchin’s cooperation.

More from Manchin, whose term is up in 2024: “President Biden’s comments are not only outrageous and divorced from reality, they ignore the severe economic pain the American people are feeling because of rising energy costs. Comments like these are the reason the American people are losing trust in President Biden and instead believes he does not understand the need to have an all in energy policy that would keep our nation totally energy independent and secure. … Being cavalier about the loss of coal jobs for men and women in West Virginia and across the country who literally put their lives on the line to help build and power this country is offensive and disgusting.”

2. DYNAMIC DUO: “Scalise prepares to shift from whip to McCarthy’s hand-in-glove No. 2,” by Olivia Beavers: “Steve Scalise spent years in the role of Kevin McCarthy’s qualified understudy, perceived as ready to step in if he stumbled. All that has changed as Republicans draw closer to retaking the House.

“It’s been more than four years since the gregarious 57-year-old openly discussed his interest in becoming speaker, propelling speculation of a McCarthy rivalry that didn’t stop when he made clear he had no designs to challenge the Californian for the role. Lately, though, Scalise strikes all the right notes as he stays in lockstep with his No. 1.”

3. TRUMP CARDS: “Investigators search for pricey gifts to Trump from foreign leaders,” by WaPo’s Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey: “The eclectic list ranges from golf clubs given to Trump by Japanese Prime Minister SHINZO ABE to a 2018 World Cup soccer ball gifted by Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN, a gold-plated collar of Horus, the falcon-headed ancient Egyptian god, given by Egypt’s president, a large painting of Trump from the president of El Salvador, and a $6,400 collar of KING ABDULAZIZ AL SAUD, a ceremonial honor from Saudi Arabia.”

4. KNOWING RON DeSANTIS: “Pranks, Parties and Politics: Ron DeSantis’s Year as a Schoolteacher,” by NYT’s Frances Robles: “[A] student who requested anonymity because he feared repercussions for his job said Mr. DeSantis’s takes on the Civil War were the subject of so much talk that students made a satirical video about him at the time for the video yearbook.

“The video, which was reviewed by The Times, includes a short snippet in which a voice purporting to be Mr. DeSantis is heard saying: ‘The Civil War was not about slavery! It was about two competing economic systems. One was in the North. …’ while a student dozes in class. (A student voiced the role of Mr. DeSantis, because students did not have any actual footage of him, according to a student who helped put it together.)

“Abortion was another issue that came up in class at least once, according to MATTHEW ARNE, a former student. Mr. Arne, who was a senior, said students talked among themselves about Mr. DeSantis expressing his strict belief that abortion was wrong. … Several students recalled that Mr. DeSantis was a frequent presence at parties with the seniors who lived in town.”

Related read: “Trump and DeSantis barrel toward 2024 — but keep their distance in Florida,” by Matt Dixon and Meridith McGraw

5. SCOTUS WATCH: “Supreme Court Justice Barrett denies second challenge to Biden student loan forgiveness program,” by USA Today’s John Fritze: “A conservative legal group filed an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court earlier this week asking the justices to block the Biden administration from implementing its $400 billion effort. [Justice AMY CONEY] BARRETT declined the request without referring the matter to the court.”

6. FED UP: “The Fed crashed the housing market. Builders and banks want help,” by Katy O’Donnell

7. ON THE KOREAN PENINSULA: “N. Korea fires more missiles as US flies bombers over South,” by AP’s Kim Tong-hyung

CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 14 funnies

GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Ryan Lizza:

“Twitter, cut in half,” by Platformer’s Casey Newton and Zoë Schiffer

“The Politics of Enemies,” by Michael Ignatieff for the Journal of Democracy: “Democracy itself is not just an unruly contest for power, but also the site of an ongoing debate about what democracy is or should be. Yet letting that struggle become a battle between existential foes risks upending the whole democratic project.”

“How the Media Trains Journalists to Lie,” by Leighton Woodhouse for Tablet: “By ‘ratioing’ NBC’s Dasha Burns for questioning John Fetterman’s health, her fellow journalists hid the truth from the public but exposed how they manufacture consent.”

“Eminem Found Himself in ‘Lose Yourself.’ Will We Ever Let It Go?” by The Ringer’s Jake Kring-Schreifels: “Twenty years ago, ‘8 Mile’ hit theaters, taking audiences on a quasi-biographical journey through Marshall Mathers’s life. It also spawned his biggest hit—an underdog anthem that lives on through commercials and sports arena sound systems to this day.”

“How Peter Jackson Broke Up the Beatles,” by Vulture’s Lane Brown

“The Untold Story of ‘Russiagate’ and the Road to War in Ukraine,” by NYT’s Jim Rutenberg: “Russia’s meddling in Trump-era politics was more directly connected to the current war than previously understood.”

“Two Fox journalists were killed in Ukraine. A widow still searches for answers,” by WaPo’s Jeremy Barr: “Michelle Ross-Stanton has spent months investigating the March 14 attack on her husband, Pierre Zakrzewski, and his colleagues outside Kyiv.”

“The Right’s Favorite Gun Researcher,” by The Trace’s Mike Spies: “Since the 1990s, John Lott has provided the empirical justification for looser firearms laws. Do his claims stand up to scrutiny?”

“We Call Ourselves Sister Judges,” by Elle’s Rose Minutaglio: “Four years ago, they changed the face of the Texas judiciary. Can they do it again this November?”

— From the archives: “The New Kennedys,” by Nancy Collins in the September 2004 issue of Harper’s Bazaar: “When San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom made efforts to legalize gay marriage this year, he found fame overnight. Meet Newsom and his superchic wife, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, injecting a refreshing dose of passion and style into politics.”

Donald Trump is apparently moonlighting as a DJ at Mar-a-Lago now.

Elon Muskwas fact-checked by his own platform.

MEDIA MOVES — Hunter Walker has joined Talking Points Memo as an investigative reporter. He recently co-wrote “The Breach: The Untold Story of the Investigation into January 6th” and is a Yahoo and Insider alum.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Graham Hall, director of government relations at Van Scoyoc Associates, and Dr. Ashley Hall on Friday welcomed Olivia Tate Hall, who came in at 9.7 lbs. Pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) (8-0) … New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu … Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers Valerie Biden OwensJohn Harwood … NBC’s Ken Strickland and Jason CalabrettaHeather Stone … POLITICO’s Katy O’Donnell and Camille von KaenelJustin Muzinich … L.A. Times’ Nolan McCaskill Steve PfisterBenjamin Wittes of Brookings and Lawfare … Stephen Rubright … WaPo’s Kevin SullivanKeith Castaldo of Subject Matter … Annie Kelly Kuhle of FP1 Strategies … Steve Caldeira of the Household & Commercial Products Association … Moira Whelan of the National Democratic Institute … Accenture’s Matt Nicholson … former Reps. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) and Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) … Jane TimkenKristin BodenstedtJohn Procter of Avisa Partners … Chris MewettRyan MewettMalik Haughton Rick LeachKaren Mulhauser … Target’s Molly Cagle … Authentic’s Gabrielle Hoffman

THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):

ABC “This Week”: Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) … Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin … Nate Silver. Panel: Chris Christie, Donna Brazile, Sarah Isgur and Yvette Simpson.

CBS “Face the Nation”: Keisha Lance Bottoms … New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu … Chris Krebs … Emily Oster … Laura Meckler … Scott Gottlieb

CNN “State of the Union”: RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel … Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). Panel: Michael Smerconish, Hilary Rosen, Marc Short and Bakari Sellers.

CNN “Inside Politics”: Panel: Nia-Malika Henderson, David Chalian, Kasie Hunt and Manu Raju.

FOX “Fox News Sunday”: House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn … Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt. Panel: Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum. Panel: Kellyanne Conway and Mark Penn. Panel: Brit Hume, Dana Perino and Juan Williams.

NBC “Meet the Press”: Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) … Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.). Panel: Claire McCaskill, Pat McCrory, Amy Walter and Kristen Welker.

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