GOP homes in on crime as debate messaging overlaps: The Note
If Oz wins, it may well be more about issues he raises than Fetterman's words.
The TAKE with Rick Klein
The biggest debate of the election cycle was about the outsized personalities in Pennsylvania -- and it was Democrat John Fetterman who was the first to mention the medical condition that couldn't help but draw notice.
"Let's talk about the elephant in the room: I had a stroke. He's never going to let me forget that," Fetterman said at the top of the first and only Senate faceoff in Pennsylvania, on Tuesday night.
But his GOP opponent, Mehmet Oz, wasn't there to remind voters of that or to highlight halting answers that went into immediate social-media circulation. Oz was on the attack on other fronts -- repeatedly calling Fetterman a "radical," "extreme" and "dishonest" -- and leaning in on crime and the southern border, where so many other Republicans are eager to go.
"John Fetterman takes everything to an extreme," Oz said. "We should be talking about crime and inflation."
He was, and they did -- just like the candidates for governor of New York, debating an hour earlier on the same night, two weeks before the election, were also doing. Republican Lee Zeldin said at his debate with Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul that he was there to "save our state" -- hitting on a theme that's recurred throughout debate season this fall.
The fallout of the Pennsylvania debate is impossible to handicap. Fetterman repeated a refrain about his campaign being about anyone who "got knocked down that had to get back up again." And while his doctor says he's ready to serve and his team has touted his resilience, his recovery could be an awkward journey for some voters.
But if Oz wins -- and he's had polling momentum, with more resources heading his way -- it's likely to be more about the issues he's raising than the words his opponent is using. In that sense, a highly unusual race could wind up looking something close to normal.
The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper
House Progressives are retracting a letter that called for President Joe Biden to engage in talks with Russia regarding its invasion of Ukraine.
The letter, signed by 30 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, stated that "if there is a way to end the war while preserving a free and independent Ukraine, it is America's responsibility to pursue every diplomatic avenue to support such a solution that is acceptable to the people of Ukraine."
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, subsequently issued a statement on Tuesday withdrawing the letter that drew intense criticism from within her party. She claimed it was "drafted several months ago" and "released by staff without vetting."
"As Chair of the Caucus, I accept responsibility for this," she wrote.
She later added that because the letter was issued after the House GOP leader, Kevin McCarthy, said there shouldn't be a "free blank check" from the U.S. for Ukraine, "The proximity of these statements created the unfortunate appearance that Democrats, who have strongly and unanimously supported and voted for every package of military, strategic, and economic assistance to the Ukrainian people, are somehow aligned with Republicans."
The controversy comes ahead of midterm elections that could shake up progressive ranks. It also puts a spotlight on intraparty divisions. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on the letter when asked Tuesday.
The TIP with Libby Cathey
In what could be an early sign of the ballot battles to come in 2022, a federal judge in Arizona will hear a newly filed lawsuit on Wednesday afternoon that is petitioning the court to block armed "vigilantes" from surveilling ballot drop box sites, according to court documents obtained by ABC News' Ali Dukakis.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Liburdi on Tuesday ordered an in-person hearing for the motion filed by two Arizona advocacy groups after reports of potential voter intimidation at two drop box locations over the last week.
"And things are getting worse," the lawsuit states. "On Friday, two of the drop box watchers were armed and wearing tactical gear, and again on Saturday, armed and masked individuals were gathered near drop boxes."
The Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino, in the complaint filed Monday, accused Clean Elections USA, the group's founder Melody Jennings and individuals who carried out ballot box surveillance associated with them of conducting a "coordinated vigilante intimidation campaign" -- in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 -- and "with the express purpose of deterring voters … from depositing their ballots."
Jennings, who was a guest last week on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon's podcast and talked there about finding "mules," a reference to the debunked "2000 Mules" film, posted on Truth Social over the weekend that some of the individuals at the drop boxes were not associated with her group. (Jennings and her attorney did not respond to requests for comment.)
Wednesday's hearing comes after Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, also the Democratic nominee for governor, announced Monday that she's already referred six cases of potential voter intimidation to the Justice Department.
"Immediate relief is necessary," the lawsuit stated. "Voting is already underway, and there are only 15 days left until election day. Defendants' organized vigilante groups have already turned away voters."
"Power Trip: Those Seeking Power and Those Who Chase Them" 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 Wednesday morning with ABC's Alex Perez on the latest details on the St. Louis school shooting. Then ABC News' MaryAlice Parks reports from Toledo, Ohio, on the rising crime rate and how it may impact the midterm vote. And Greenpeace's Lisa Ramsden explains the organization's new report on the difficulty of plastic recycling. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
- President Biden will speak at noon from the White House on "new actions to provide families with more breathing room" related to historic inflation.
- Later, he will meet with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and with Department of Defense officials.
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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.