Florida and Georgia showcase Trumpism and its potential limits: The Note
Overlapping political storylines point to a stark reality.
The TAKE with Rick Klein
A typical post-storm meeting and a less-than-typical political imbroglio are together dominating midterm messaging -- with Donald Trump as an intriguing through-line and wild card.
In Florida on Wednesday, President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with a man widely seen as wanting his job -- on a day the former and perhaps would-be-future president also appears in another part of the state.
Just to the north, in Georgia, the Senate race has been rocked by new revelations and a raw family dispute surrounding Herschel Walker, the Trump-endorsed GOP nominee who is now testing Trumpian tactics and assumptions.
Biden's meeting with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, as they jointly survey damage from Hurricane Ian on Wednesday, was previewed by the White House as "not the time" for political differences to be aired. It's not so likely that message will apply to Trump, who will be in Miami for a conference of conservative Latino leaders.
Meanwhile, Trump is standing by Walker -- his longtime friend and hand-picked Senate candidate -- even while Walker's son Christian makes clear he thinks his father isn't telling the truth. That son, for what it's worth, is a conservative influencer who has long been a public booster of DeSantis -- himself hardly a Trump favorite at the moment.
The overlapping storylines point to another stark reality: If the elder Walker hangs on amid the latest scandal about him, it will be an act of political survival straight out of the Trump playbook. The GOP's congressional hopes once again hinge on Trumpism, if not Trump himself.
The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper
National Republican figures are, so far, sticking by Walker after his forceful denial of a bombshell Daily Beast report that an ex-girlfriend claimed he paid for her abortion more than a decade ago. ("It's a lie," Walker said on Fox News.)
"They know they are on the verge of losing the Senate and they know that Herschel Walker is winning, so they have cranked up the smear machine," Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the GOP's campaign arm in the Senate, said Tuesday.
Trump, whose endorsement was critical to Walker's primary win, also reiterated his support on Tuesday.
"Herschel has properly denied the charges against him and I have no doubt he is correct," Trump said in a statement.
The accusations of mudslinging from the right are complicated, of course, by Walker's own son slamming him publicly via social media.
The results of Walker's race against Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock could determine the balance of power in the Senate. And, just 34 days before Election Day, the GOP has few options for recourse. Perhaps, like his presidential endorser's infamous "Access Hollywood' tape, a scandal of this nature may not be completely disqualifying for Walker in the current GOP.
The TIP with Alisa Wiersema
The debate over voting rights reached the nation's highest court on Tuesday as justices weighed potential limits on the Voting Rights Act. The case stems from the impact of the redistricting process in Alabama where new maps drawn by the majority-Republican legislature created a single majority-Black district, despite 27% of the state's population being Black.
A group of Black Alabama residents challenged the configuration, saying the map violates the Voting Rights Act, which requires states to provide minority voters with "an equal opportunity to participate in the political process." The group says the map dilutes the voting power of Black citizens and that the state is obligated to create another majority-Black district.
Meanwhile, Alabama defended the map by saying it was created in a race-neutral process and that the creation of a second majority-Black district would impose race-based discrimination.
"We're talking about a situation in which race has already infused the voting system. So can you help me understand why you think that the world of, you know, race-blind redistricting is really the starting point in this situation?" Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson asked Alabama's solicitor general, Edmund LaCour, during oral arguments.
Although LaCour replied that the effort was meant "to make sure that no one is being harmed," the case heightens the stakes of the existing power of the Voting Rights Act. Civil rights groups have already expressed concerns about the future of the landmark law following a series of decisions by the Supreme Court's conservative majority addressing racial discrimination in the voting process.
As reported by ABC News' Devin Dwyer, Tuesday's arguments demonstrated an openness from several of those justices to raising the legal bar for challenges to maps that may deny a minority group equal opportunity to elect preferred candidates. In one exchange, Samuel Alito suggested the current legal standard for challenges to maps is so broad that it could consistently skew toward plaintiffs, making it potentially impossible for states to win.
The court is expected to hand down a decision next year. But in the meantime, the contested maps will be in place for this year's midterm elections.
ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Wednesday morning with ABC's Lalee Ibssa breaking down the latest controversy surrounding Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker after he denied an ex-girlfriend's claim that he paid for her abortion years ago. Then, Quartz's Scott Nover reports on the latest about Elon Musk's offer to buy Twitter. And, ABC's Patrick Reevell walks us through Ukraine's stunning advances in the war with Russia. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
- President Biden and first lady Jill Biden will visit Fort Myers, Florida, to view damage from Hurricane Ian, receive a briefing on the storm response, speak with residents and deliver remarks. The Bidens will depart the White House at 10:15 a.m. ET and arrive in Fort Myers at 12:45 p.m. ET. The president will speak at 3:15 p.m. ET.
- Stephen Colbert's "Tooning Out the News" debuts a news season on Wednesday on Comedy Central, with episodes featuring New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Missouri Rep. Cori Bush, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and more.
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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back Thursday for the latest.