Anti-Trump Republicans are down but not out this midterm season: The Note

There's still a small list of conservative candidates criticizing him.

October 18, 2022, 6:08 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

There was perhaps a touch of strident optimism -- if not some forgetfulness about 2016 -- in former House Speaker Paul Ryan's prediction last week that it doesn't matter if former President Donald Trump runs again because he won't win the GOP nomination.

There was also a piece of strategic positioning in Colorado Republican Senate candidate Joe O'Dea saying on CNN over the weekend that he hopes Trump doesn't run -- coupled as it was with a promise to "actively campaign against Donald Trump" if he does.

Trump noticed that statement on Monday, following it with a vow that O'Dea won't get the "MAGA" vote. That went down on the same day that O'Dea happened to be raising money alongside former President George W. Bush, solidifying a place for him on a small but distinct list of current and former Republicans running in competitive races while speaking out publicly against Trump.

Some better-known members of that club include Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger -- both of whom are hoping to provide proof that there's life in public office for Republicans who speak out against Trump and his lies about the 2020 election.

In Utah, there's independent Senate candidate Evan McMullin, the former GOP staffer who famously opposed Trump in the state in 2016 and is now running against Republican Sen. Mike Lee. McMullin has the backing of the state Democratic Party and the new political organization of Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. -- and has kept Lee's Utah colleague, Sen. Mitt Romney, neutral in the race despite Lee's public requests for help.

"I'm not going to Washington, if we prevail, to be a bootlicker for Donald Trump or Joe Biden," McMullin said Monday night at his debate with Lee.

The 2022 landscape is littered with evidence that opposing Trump has no upside for Republicans, from Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney's primary defeat to MAGA wins in primaries from Arizona to Maryland. But between Trump-endorsed candidates who might lose next month and a few Republicans who might defy expectations, there are some messages still to be delivered.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski attends a hearing in Washington, July 19, 2022.
Tom Williams/AP, FILE

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

In remarks from Washington on Tuesday, Joe Biden is expected to frame November's elections as a choice on reproductive rights that are hanging in the balance in states across the country.

"The president will speak about the choice that voters face this November between Republicans who want to ban abortion nationwide, and Democrats who want to codify Roe [v. Wade] into law to protect women's reproductive freedom," reads a memo from the Democratic National Committee.

For Democrats, abortion access has been the centerpiece of the case made to turn out midterm voters. Many point to the overwhelming failure of a Kansas proposal to strip the right to an abortion from the state constitution as proof that it is a galvanizing issue. But there are no guarantees that reproductive rights will translate to Democratic victories as the party tries to hold on to control of Congress.

After all, most voters won't have the opportunity to cast ballots on abortion access alone; and while there are undoubtedly voters who will make their decisions on this single issue, polling suggests it is more likely that voters will be thinking of more than one issue or that other issues, like the economy, will take precedence.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, from mid-September, found that 84% of respondents called the economy a top issue in their vote for Congress and 76% said the same about inflation. Only 62% called abortion a top issue.

Activists protest during a "Bans Off Our Bodies" rally in support of abortion rights at Old Bucks County Courthouse in Doylestown, Pa., Sept. 29, 2022.
Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic Rep. Val Demings will face off in their only debate on Tuesday evening, some three weeks after Hurricane Ian swept across Florida. The aftermath of the storm is likely to be one of the local issues raising tensions between the two lawmakers, alongside the national discourse over abortion access and crime.

Rubio -- who is seeking a third term in office -- has sought to label Demings a "radical" and portrayed her congressional voting record as being that of a "puppet" to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The attacks echo rhetoric espoused in other battleground Senate contests. But it remains to be seen how they land among voters when aimed at Demings, a former Orlando police chief, who has likewise criticized Rubio's resistance to Medicare negotiating lower drug prices, among other positions.

Although Demings entered the race in the red-leaning state as an underdog, the congresswoman has a fundraising lead on Rubio that could prove to be a critical factor in the last weeks of the election. Demings' massive fundraising hauls have outpaced Rubio by $28 million as of late last month, according to the latest available Federal Election Commission filings.

Meanwhile, Rubio is enjoying a consistent lead in voter surveys: FiveThirtyEight's analysis of polling averages since August has him up by 4.6 points as of last week.

The outcome of Florida's Senate contest will help determine which party controls the majority in the upper chamber, but the trajectory of the race has implications that could reach beyond this November's midterm elections. While Florida Republicans have consistently won statewide races in recent years, their margins have been relatively close, which leaves the door open for the possibility of a flip. In 2020, Donald Trump pulled ahead of Joe Biden by just over 3% and in 2018, Gov. Ron DeSantis won the governor's mansion by less than 1%.

Val Demings and Marco Rubio are pictured in a composite image.
Getty Images, FILE


Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee for governor, is out with a new ad hammering his GOP opponent, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, directly linking him to the QAnon conspiracy theory. The ad dubs Mastriano "an important part of their movement" and surfaces tweets in which Mastriano posted hashtags seemingly in support of the conspiracy theory. The message, along with abortion, is anticipated to be a key part of the Shapiro campaign's closing argument. Mastriano's campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the ad.


Power Trip

"Power Trip" follows 7 young reporters as they chase down candidates in the lead up to the midterms with George Stephanopoulos guiding them along the way.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Tuesday morning with a look at the "kamikaze" drone attacks in Kyiv. ABC's Britt Clennett leads us off with reporting from Ukraine's capital city. Then FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich discusses the districts most likely to decide control of the House. And, ABC's Sony Salzman talks about the impact of over-the-counter hearing aids for Americans with mild to moderate hearing loss.


  • President Biden will speak at Howard Theatre in Washington at 12:15 p.m. ET.
  • Second gentleman Doug Emhoff attends a roundtable on voting rights at 2:30 p.m. ET in Colorado.
  • Florida's Senate candidates Val Demings, the Democratic U.S. House member, and incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio meet for a debate at 7 p.m. ET.

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back Wednesday for the latest.

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