Meanwhile, in Non-Pipe Bomb Political Midterm News …

The president, health care, the economy, violence, Supreme Court, all kinds of things motivate voters

What is the dominant theme motivating voters this midterm season? Perhaps nothing. (An old billboard stands along Hwy. 93 on Wednesday in Nothing, Ariz., where Roll Call’s reporters are covering competitive races like the state’s open Senate contest. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
What is the dominant theme motivating voters this midterm season? Perhaps nothing. (An old billboard stands along Hwy. 93 on Wednesday in Nothing, Ariz., where Roll Call’s reporters are covering competitive races like the state’s open Senate contest. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Jason Dick
Posted October 26, 2018 at 5:03am

The question has come up a lot since pipe bombs started showing up at the doorstops of prominent critics of President Donald Trump: How will this affect the midterms? Leaving aside the fact that millions of people have already voted in key states, there is really no way to know. One thing is for sure though: This isn’t the only thing on people’s minds as they cast their votes. 

Just ask Martha McSally.

The Republican is running for the open Senate seat in Arizona against her House colleague, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. On a visit Wednesday to the Universal Technical Institute in Avondale, Arizona, she probably wanted to talk about welding or jobs or basically anything else than what she ended up jawing over with reporters.

And that was her support for legislation to repeal the 2010 health care law, something Republicans have been saddled with increasingly as the prospect of losing protections for pre-existing conditions becomes very real for people weighing whom to support. McSally wasn’t happy about it, but her vote was her vote. 

My colleagues Bridget Bowman and Bill Clark caught the exchange

That’s just one example of health care helping define a key race, but it comports with polling that shows the issue tops people’s concerns. Oh, and open enrollment is around the corner.

And how about that economy? As the markets have taken a hit, the president has pivoted from his stewardship of the economy to a vague promise to cut taxes. This comes after the national GOP long ago concluded it had lost the messaging war on the tax cut the president signed into law less than one year ago. 

Immigration? Well, there’s that caravan of folks from Central America heading toward the Southern border. Trump likes talking about this.

Voter turnout? Early voting in places like Nevada and Texas suggest we could be on pace to match turnout for a presidential voting year. This follows the record turnouts in special congressional elections since last year. 

Brett M. Kavanaugh? The confirmation of the newest Supreme Court justice fired up partisans all around, and seemed to wake at least a few Republicans from their midterm doldrums. It also seemed to communicate to Democrats what the GOP has known for a long time: the high court is a high-stakes jam. 

Jamal Khashoggi? The murder of the dissident Saudi journalist in Istanbul by Saudi operatives has strained relations with an ally and put the always tense Middle East in another precarious spot. And the president’s hesitancy to condemn the murder of an articulate Washington Post employee at the hands of an autocratic regime adds to the sense of dread. 

Make no mistake, the pipe bomb news is traumatic. But there’s more going on that will factor into the midterm results. 

This Week’s Podcast

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In this week’s Political Theater podcast, I discussed this topic of heated rhetoric and violence and its effect on the midterms with Roll Call’s senior political writer Simone Pathé and Inside Elections editor Nathan L. Gonzales, Roll Call’s elections analyst. Their verdict? It depends. Have a listen: 

The Kicker

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