The TAKE with Rick Klein
Those are the stakes Tuesday in a red swath of North Carolina, in a district President Donald Trump won by nearly 12 points, but that now qualifies as genuine battleground territory. The last bit of unfinished business from 2018 is speaking to Democratic hopes -- and Republican fears -- about 2020.
Speaking of fear, concerns about the prospects for the economy are driving Trump's approval rating downward, from a high of 44% in July to 38% in the new ABC News/Washington Post poll out Tuesday morning.
Leaned Republicans who are worried about a trade war with China provide just 58% approval for Trump -- nowhere close to the 90% approval in his party overall. It points to a potential weak spot for the GOP, as well as potentially fertile ground for Democrats.
In the run-up to Thursday's Democratic debate on ABC, the candidates are positioning themselves as foils to a deeply polarizing president.
Their party, meanwhile, needs to position itself to win. Whether or not that happens Tuesday, districts like this, in states like North Carolina, are where the presidential race can be won -- or not.
The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks
According to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, Trump has slipped on his handling of the economy, from a 51% approval earlier this summer to 46% now. Plus, 60% of respondents are concerned that the trade dispute will raise consumer prices.
A majority of Americans see a recession on the horizon, according to the poll, and by a 3-1 margin they say the president's trade and economic policies have increased those chances. Expect the Trump campaign to look closely at those numbers from those who identify as independent or lean-Republican.
On the Democratic side, interesting that this weekend one candidate telegraphed plans to raise issues of the economy and deficits, specifically during the debate on Thursday.
"Republicans have made it abundantly clear that when they actually take office, they do nothing about debts and deficits. But for my generation, this is an issue that actually matters. And if Democrats don't lead on it, nobody will. It's not always been a fashionable subject on our side of the aisle, but I think it's time to talk about it and I wouldn't be surprised if it comes up on debate night," South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said on Sunday.
Could the Indiana Democrat be starting a new play for those independents?
The TIP with Jeffrey Cook
"When I come back here and I think of the courage of all those people and all those survivors and I think about those mass shootings and how one by one, if we had made and passed these sensible bills, we could have prevented some of this from happening," Klobuchar said Monday on the Senate floor, her voice trembling at times with emotion. "I don't know what our excuse is anymore."
She, like many of her Democratic colleagues have, thrown verbal punches at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for refusing to bring multiple bills designed to tackle universal background checks and violence against women, already passed by the House, to the floor for a vote without the green light from Trump.
Six in ten Americans are worried about a mass shooting in their own community, according to the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. Several Democratic candidates, including Klobuchar, appeared in a video produced by the advocacy group behind former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz, calling for a "#GunSafetyPresident." And on Thursday, Klobuchar's expected to drill into the issue on Houston's debate stage.
ONE MORE THING Democrats are mounting a major push across battleground states to court suburban voters -- a key voting demographic that was once the bedrock of the GOP but has been shifting away from the party in the era of President Donald Trump.
ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Tuesday morning's episode features ABC News' Katherine Faulders, who gives us the latest on Congress as they get back to work in Washington -- will they take action on guns or impeachment? Then, ABC News' Stephanie Ebbs explains how the federal government is responding to the rash of teen deaths allegedly caused by e-cigarette use. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
FiveThirtyEight's "Politics Podcast." In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast, the crew devotes the entire episode to discussing what each candidate's debate strategy might -- or should -- be, ahead of Thursday night when 10 Democrats share one stage for the first time. https://apple.co/23r5y7w
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