The Note: Democrats see blue in Midwestern Trump country

PHOTO: President Donald Trump greets the crowd as he arrives for his "Make America Great Again" rally in Billings, Mont., Sept. 6, 2018.PlayKevin Lamarque/Reuters
WATCH Arizona Senate Race 2018: Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema

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The TAKE with Rick Klein

President Donald Trump’s flight to Montana for a western campaign swing that starts Thursday will have him fly over large swaths of Trump country — or, at least, what once could be considered as that.

But something is rumbling in the states that delivered Trump the presidency, suggesting bright spots for Democrats in places they once saw turning bleaker.

FiveThirtyEight’s new gubernatorial forecasts show the potential for a big blue shift through the Midwest. Democrats stand favored to win governor’s offices in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan, with toss-up races in Ohio and Gov. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin.

In this Aug. 17, 2017, file photo, Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, left, talks with Republican Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley in Sedalia, Mo.AP
In this Aug. 17, 2017, file photo, Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, left, talks with Republican Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley in Sedalia, Mo.

In the battle for the House, more than 30 competitive races stretch across 10 Midwestern states — including six seats in both Michigan and Ohio, three in Iowa, and two in Kansas. While Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is in a dead heat, Republican Senate pickup opportunities in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Minnesota have largely fizzled.

The race for control of Congress rightly will capture the biggest headlines over the next three weeks. But control of governors’ offices matters for items like Medicaid expansion and redistricting — and could herald regional realignments that matter in 2020 and well beyond.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

It is hard to imagine American voters driven to vote one way or the other by the international story this week about the missing American-based Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, and his suspected murder in Turkey.

But the growing scandal around the story — whether the Trump White House really cares; whether it will hold Saudi Arabia accountable; financial ties between the administration and the Saudis; and talk of arms deals and backroom negotiations — all feels very, very swampy.

And voters are tired of the swamp.

PHOTO: Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is pictured in Manama, Bahrain, Feb. 1, 2015.Hasan Jamali, File/AP, FILE
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is pictured in Manama, Bahrain, Feb. 1, 2015.

We see that playing out across the country. The fed-up-with-Washington sentiment has helped propel the astonishing number of candidates this year who are brand new to politics.

In the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, 76 percent of respondents listed “changing the way Washington works” as a top issue for them — ranking it above taxes and immigration.

The TIP with Adam Kelsey

Democrats like their chances of winning back a majority in the House, that much we know, but what happened to the party's dreams of controlling both chambers of Congress?

Gaining an advantage in the Senate was always going to be a steep climb, but in the last week alone, Democrats' hopes appear to be fading by the day due to a seemingly unending stream of bad news and self-inflicted wounds.

Take Sen. Heidi Heitkamp — already in precarious position as a red-state Democrat who opposed Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation — whose campaign mistakenly identified sexual abuse survivors in a newspaper ad.

PHOTO: In this Sept. 25, 2018 file photo, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp walks through the Senate Subway as she arrive at the Capitol, in Washington. Andrew Harnik, File/AP Photo
In this Sept. 25, 2018 file photo, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp walks through the Senate Subway as she arrive at the Capitol, in Washington.

Then there's Sen. Bob Menendez, who should be cruising to re-election in increasingly blue New Jersey, but instead has been forced to respond to unsubstantiated claims he visited underage prostitutes.

And in Arizona, the biggest headline out of the Senate debate between GOP Rep. Martha McSally and Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema Monday was McSally accusing Sinema of backing "treason" when, during a hypothetical discussion in 2003, she said she didn’t care if a radio interviewer joined the Taliban, and then McSally attacking her for protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A split Congress is still the most-likely scenario, but given the multitude of close Senate votes since President Trump took office, Democrats should be concerned that, if the last-minute embarrassments continue, the GOP's advantage there could get even bigger.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Thursday morning’s episode features Nate Silver, editor-in-chief of our partners FiveThirtyEight, who runs through their new midterm gubernatorial forecast. And, ABC News’ Ali Rogin explains what President Trump is asking his Cabinet to do about the ballooning federal deficit. https://bit.ly/2M7OS5c

ABC News’ "Powerhouse Politics" Podcast. Three ABC News reporters covering the Senate races in Arizona, Tennessee and Texas joined Political Director Rick Klein and Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl on the "Powerhouse Politics" podcast this week to give their insights on the three highly-watched contests. https://abcn.ws/2yJJHPq

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Donald Trump is back on the campaign trail, holding a Make America Great Again rally in Missoula, Montana, at 8:30 p.m. EDT. This is the president’s 33rd campaign rally since taking office.
  • Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., keynotes the 73rd annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at 6:30 p.m. in New York City. Earlier this month, Haley announced she would leave her post at the end of the year. Trump has yet to name a replacement.
  • Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill squares off against her Republican challenger, state Attorney General Josh Hawley, in a debate in St. Louis at 8 p.m. EDT. McCaskill’s seat is a key target for the GOP this cycle, after Trump carried the state by nearly 20 points in 2016, in a race that is set to be down to the wire.
  • North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Republican opponent Kevin Cramer face off in their first debate at 8 p.m. EDT in Bismarck. Heitkamp is in a tough re-election fight in a state Trump won by 36 points in 2016.

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