Election Day Reads: Today’s the Big Day!

People vote at the polling place in Krishna Temple during election day Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Good Morning!!

Today’s the day we’ve been waiting for. It won’t be long now. By early evening, we’ll be getting indications of whether a blue wave is going to materialize. Get out there and vote if you haven’t already. Vote as if your life depended on it, because the lives of of so many people are truly at stake this time.

Let’s see what the pundits are saying this morning.

 

Norman Rockwell, Election Day 1944

 

Politico: A staggering 36 million people have voted early, setting the stage for big midterm turnout.

A staggering 36 million voters cast their ballots ahead of Election Day this year, setting the stage for much-higher-than-usual turnout for a midterm — and, potentially, big surprises on Tuesday night

Republican enthusiasm for President Donald Trump and Democrats’ itch to repudiate him at the ballot box have driven people to the polls far faster than in 2014, when 27.2 million people voted early, according to Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who tracks voter turnout.

And that trend is expected to extend into Election Day. Early voters in three states — Texas, Nevada and Arizona — have already surpassed total turnout in the last midterm election, McDonald’s data shows, and more states will blow past their normal non-presidential turnout with just a handful more votes on Election Day. The high voting rates have transformed expectations about who will show up in the midterms — and they could inspire results that diverge from any pre-election polls that did not reckon with this year’s unusually high enthusiasm.

“This is not a normal election,” McDonald told POLITICO. “The best guess is that we’re looking at some sort of hybrid midterm/presidential election” in terms of turnout.

McDonald predicted that by the time all of the early votes are compiled, every state could surpass its 2014 totals. Tom Bonier, CEO of the Democratic data firm TargetSmart, projected that early voting could surpass 40 million when all the ballots are received.

The New York Times: Trump Closes Out a Campaign Built on Fear, Anger and Division.

“We should reward ourselves after this with a new Congress.”

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — President Trump on Monday closed out an us-against-them midterm election campaign that was built on dark themes of fear, nationalism and racial animosity in an effort to salvage Republican control of Congress for the remaining two years of his term.

Mr. Trump’s fiery, invective-filled campaigning produced what may be the most polarized midterm contest in modern times as he played to tribal rifts in American society in a way that no president has done since before the civil rights era. The divisions exposed and expanded over the past few weeks seem certain to last well beyond Election Day.

On Tuesday, voters will choose a new House, decide one-third of the seats in the Senate and select new governors for battleground states that will be critical to the 2020 presidential campaign. On the line for the president will be his ability to legislate, build his promised border wall, appoint new judges and ultimately set the stage to run for a second term.

More than most midterms, this election became a referendum on Mr. Trump, as he himself has told his audiences it would be. The president’s energetic rallies appear to have bolstered Republicans who were trying to match Democratic fervor, rooted in antipathy for Mr. Trump. Even before Election Day, 36 million ballots were cast, with early voting higher than four years ago in 25 states and the District of Columbia.

Trump officially has his own state media. CNN: Sean Hannity said he wouldn’t campaign on stage at Trump’s rally. Hours later, he did exactly that.

Ahead of President Donald Trump’s final election rally, the Fox News host said he wouldn’t appear on stage with the President to help excite the Republican base before voters head to the polls Tuesday.

“To be clear, I will not be on stage campaigning with the president,” Hannity tweeted Monday morning, adding that he would simply “be doing a live show” from the scene.

A Fox News spokesperson offered a similar message to CNN and other news organizations, insisting Hannity would only be at the rally in Missouri to broadcast his show and cover the event for the network.

But, approximately 12 hours after Hannity posted his tweet, he was campaigning on stage with Trump.

A Fox News spokesperson didn’t respond to requests for comment Monday night about Hannity’s appearance at the rally, which was one of the clearest demonstrations yet of the cozy relationship between the network and the Trump White House.

It happened almost immediately after Trump took the stage in Missouri following an introduction from conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who had warmed the crowd up.

Susan Glasser at The New Yorker: The Dark Certainty of the 2018 Midterms.

Ever since 2:29 a.m. on November 9, 2016, America has been waiting for this Tuesday, when a new set of elections would start to bring more clarity to how we should think about the stunning upset that made Donald Trump President. I don’t think the country, or the world, has got over the shock of that night. We haven’t moved on; we haven’t even really accepted it. We are having the same debates about Trump that we had then. We are still endlessly reliving the moment when America turned out to be a country so divided and unhappy that it could elect a man who seemed unelectable by every conventional standard. Trump himself often seems suspended in a time warp, stuck on the best night of his life; just look at how often he still mentions his “beautiful” win over Hillary Clinton.

So now, finally, comes another vote, and with it a chance to move on. For Republicans, the 2018 midterms are a bid to confer legitimacy on a President whose power has always come with the asterisk of not having won the popular vote. By frantically travelling around the country these past six weeks, insisting at rally after rally that this year’s election would be a referendum on him, Trump has made it one. If he and his party maintain control over Congress in a national vote, he will have shown that his Presidency is no fluke. The taint of minority rule will at least partly be washed away.

Trump’s opponents are, of course, well aware of those stakes. Democrats go to the polls this week anxious and hoping to prove that 2016 was indeed the unlikely lightning strike that it seemed. The President’s name is not on the ballot, and many individual candidates may be touting their health-care policies or their service records, but Trump is the inescapable subject of this year’s election.

And that, of course, is just how the President wants it. Disregarding the counsel of his party, Trump has created a closing argument that is all too reminiscent of his 2016 campaign. His endless rallies have been the distillation of his message down to its fearful, divisive essence: Close America’s doors; build the wall; stop the caravan of alien invaders; Democrats will turn America into a socialist hellhole. The President, whose Inaugural address warned of “American carnage,” and who believes that he won his office by lamenting the decline of American greatness, has not been able to adapt to a different narrative. Even the rosy economic statistics that the Republican Party would prefer to talk about are subordinated to the darker language of hatred and conflict, framed with a torrent of lies that, before Trump, would have been extraordinary from a political figure. “Believe me, folks,” he told his crowds back in 2016, before proceeding to lie to them. “I’m the only one that tells you the facts,” he told a crowd the other day.

The President wants us all to keep living in the time warp, to stay suspended in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016, when he did what no one thought he could do.

And after the election, it will be Mueller Time!

The Washington Post: Buckle up. The Mueller investigation may once again take center stage.

…the lull in public action doesn’t mean Mueller and his team have been sitting on their hands. But because grand-jury investigations are secret, little is known about what might be happening. The press and public are left trying to glean information from witnesses who have testified or from obscure court-docket entries with titles like “In re Sealed Case.” But with the election behind us, we soon may be able to rely on more than just speculation.

The Mueller investigation has two areas of primary focus: Russian interference with the 2016 election and possible involvement of members of the Trump campaign; and potential obstruction of justice by the president through such actions as firing then-FBI Director James B. Comey. What news there has been in recent weeks has focused on the Russia conspiracy angle, and in particular on former Trump adviser Roger Stone. Mueller’s investigators reportedly have interviewed a number of witnesses concerning whether Stone may have had advance notice of, or perhaps even direct involvement in, the strategically timed release of stolen Democratic emails in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign. If Stone was involved, it could just be sleazy politics — or it could open him up to charges such as conspiracy to defraud the United States through illegally influencing the election.

Stone certainly is not the only one potentially in Mueller’s crosshairs; a number of other senior campaign officials still could end up implicated in a conspiracy with Russians attempting to tip the election to Donald Trump. That could lead to more indictments, or Mueller could conclude that what he has found does not merit prosecution. The end result could be a report to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein rather than criminal charges.

Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: “I’m Very Worried about Don Jr.” Forget the Midterms–West Wing Insiders Brace for the Mueller Storm.

The bigger threat for Trump than losing control of Congress is Robert Mueller’s looming report. Sources say Trump advisers are girding themselves for Mueller to deliver the results of his investigation to the Justice Department as early as Wednesday, although it’s more likely he’ll wait till later this month. Sources say besides the president, the ones with the most exposure are Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr. “I’m very worried about Don Jr.,” said another former West Wing official who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The possible exposure would be that Mueller would demonstrate that Don Jr. perjured himself to investigators when he said he didn’t tell his father beforehand about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting to gather “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. (Donald Trump Jr.’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, declined to comment.)

One potential sign of how seriously Trumpworld is treating the Mueller threat has been the near total silence of Rudy Giuliani. A constant presence on cable news over the summer, Giuliani hasn’t been on television in weeks. “What the hell happened to Rudy?” a former White House official said when I asked about Giuliani’s whereabouts. According to three sources briefed on Trump’s legal team, Giuliani has been in Europe visiting consulting clients as well as preparing a report with Trump lawyers Marty and Jane Raskin that is designed to provide a counter-narrative to Mueller’s document. “They don’t know what Mueller has but they have a good idea and they’re going to rebut it,” one Republican close to Giuliani said. But another source said Trump instructed Giuliani to stay off television to avoid hurting Trump’s midterm message. “Trump’s thinking is, ‘I gave you a lot of rope and now you got a lot of rope marks around your neck,’” the source said. (The White House did not respond to a request for comment.)

Did you vote yet? What did you see and hear at your polling place? What stories are you following? Let us know in the comment thread, and please come back tonight for Dakinikat’s live blog!

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