“Are the midterm elections a referendum on the presidency?” Get ready to hear that question posed incessantly on cable news as the 2014 races heat up. The conventional wisdom says the answer to that question is yes. But as Americans vote for their representatives in November, will they really be casting their ballots out of spite or admiration for the president?
Forty one percent of respondents in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll say their vote in the upcoming election is “not a signal either way about Obama.” Twenty-four percent say their vote will be a vote of support for the president, while 33 percent say theirs will be a vote of disapproval. (These numbers were similar to the 2006 midterms, when George W. Bush saw a Democratic turnover in the House.)
So, yes, Obama (whose approval is now at 41 percent) will cast a shadow over the elections this fall. Forty-two percent of respondents said a direct Obama endorsement of a candidate would make them less likely to vote for that candidate. But as the poll reveals, there are other issues weighing more heavily on voters’ minds.
Among Democrats, 81 percent say a candidate’s willingness to raise the minimum wage will make a vote for them more likely; 75 percent say they’d be more willing to support a candidate who will fix the health care law.
Among Republicans, 88 percent say reducing spending will draw their vote, while 70 percent say supporting the health care law’s repeal will do the same.
But an overwhelming majority of both parties — 89 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of Republicans — agree that they want candidates who can compromise with the other side. That might be easier said in a poll than actually done in the voting booth, though. The issues that divide Republicans and Democrats are still polarizing. And, come this November, those issues may be more influential than the shadow of the president.
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The House Intelligence Committee voted to release the November 14 testimony of Glenn Simpson, the man at Fusion GPS who oversaw the creation of the now infamous Trump-Russia dossier. Simpson's testimony includes a number of startling claims, including that Russia infiltrated conservative political groups prior to the election, and that Trump had "long time associations" with the Italian Mafia," and that he "gradually during the nineties became associated with Russian mafia figures." Simpson also testified that Trump called off a post-election meeting with Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank and a longtime member of the NRA, currently under investigation by the FBI for money laundering. Simpson said that the discoveries were so alarming that he felt compelled to go to the authorities. The full text of the transcript can be read here.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he has the votes to pass a short-term spending bill tonight, but "Senate Democrats said they're confident they have the votes to block the stop-gap spending bill that the House is taking up, according to two Democratic senators and a senior party aide. And top Senate Republicans are openly worried about the situation as they struggle to keep their own members in the fold."
The bipartisan legislation, known as the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act, means taxpayers will "no longer foot the bill" for sexual harassment settlements involving members of Congress." The legislation "would require members to pay such settlements themselves." It also reforms the "cumbersome and degrading" complaint process by giving victims "more rights and resources," and by simplifying and clarifying the complaint process. The legislation is the first major transformation of the sexual harassment complaint system since it was created in 1995.
"The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency." Investigators have focused on Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank "who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA." The solicitation or use of foreign funds is illegal in U.S. elections under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by either lobbying groups or political campaigns. The NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections.