Paul Pelosi attack highlights jitters and stakes around midterms: The Note

And, Twitter has a new owner whose inclinations layer new risks, uncertainties.

October 31, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

A fair reading of the moment, eight days ahead of Election Day, includes an assessment that stark warnings have materialized -- that politics has grown not just polarized but radicalized to the extent that it's now dangerous for participants in all levels of the process.

A fair reading also puts the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul, on a bipartisan list that includes threats, plots and actual violence committed across the political spectrum. Those targeted in recent years include Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, as well as Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer -- and, of course, the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol that was committed by a pro-Trump mob.

With threats to election workers and officials and reports of intimidation tactics against voters, it also bears repeating that there are 185 candidates running for Congress or governor who deny the legitimacy of the last election. Two-thirds of them are virtual locks to win their races, according to data compiled by FiveThirtyEight and ABC News.

All of them are Republicans -- followers of an ex-president who falsely claims he won and who will be a more visible presence than the current president over the campaign's final week. Meanwhile, perhaps the most influential social media platform for political discourse has a new owner whose inclinations layer new risks and uncertainties onto it all.

President Joe Biden and other prominent Democrats are connecting conspiracy theories propagated by former President Donald Trump and many of his supporters to the attack on Paul Pelosi -- and warnings of what might come next.

"More people will get hurt," former President Barack Obama said over the weekend in Wisconsin.

Obama implored Democrats to turn outrage into turnout. But it may be that the election turns on different issues entirely: Nearly 50% of registered voters in the latest ABC News/Ipsos poll name either the economy or inflation as their No. 1 voting issue, with the main issues that Democrats are running on farther down the list.

However voters choose to prioritize issues, the threats to democracy are real and downright scary. It looks likely that the scope of those threats will only grow after the elections.

PHOTO: Paul Pelosi, husband of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, arrives for the Artist's Dinner honoring the recipients of the 44th Annual Kennedy Center Honors, Dec. 4, 2021, in Washington.
Paul Pelosi, husband of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, arrives for the Artist's Dinner honoring the recipients of the 44th Annual Kennedy Center Honors, Dec. 4, 2021, in Washington.
Ken Cedeno/Reuters, File

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

While the Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, has been front and center in the lead-up to the midterm elections, the nation's highest court is set to hear arguments Monday in two cases that could upend another decades-old court precedent: the consideration of race in college admissions.

Since 1978, the court has said, through numerous court challenges, that colleges and universities may consider the race of applicants as one of many factors if it is in the interest of promoting compelling educational benefits that come from a diverse student body.

Now, given the court's conservative tilt, institutions of higher learning are bracing for what could be the undoing of the long-standing practice of race-conscious admissions.

The cases, brought against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, respectively, are the brainchild of Edward Blum, a white conservative activist who has spent years challenging race-based policies in the courts.

"I'm a one-trick pony," Blum said in a recent interview with Reuters. "I hope and care about ending these racial classifications and preferences in our public policy."

If Blum is successful, the impact would reach beyond colleges and universities and impact how companies recruit diverse workforces, as well.

PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court justices pose for a group portrait at the Supreme Court, Oct. 7, 2022, in Washington.
U.S. Supreme Court justices pose for a group portrait at the Supreme Court, Oct. 7, 2022, in Washington.
Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

New York's Republican gubernatorial candidate, Rep. Lee Zeldin, was joined by one of his party's most high-profile political figures, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, on Saturday and will rally with another nationally recognized conservative governor, Virginia's Glenn Youngkin, on Monday.

In Hauppauge, Long Island, DeSantis -- who has long cast New York's Democratic leadership as a political foil to that of his home state -- said a Republican win in the race would be "the 21st century version of the shot heard around the world." New York has not elected a Republican governor since 2002.

The speculated 2024 presidential contender also drew from his own gubernatorial actions to bolster Zeldin's platform, although Zeldin supporters appeared less responsive to DeSantis' references to Florida, ABC News' Miles Cohen reports.

"In Florida, I can tell you when we had a prosecutor who was not following the law, I removed him from his post. And I can't wait for when Lee Zeldin becomes governor. He is going to go to Manhattan and he is going to remove the district attorney," DeSantis said, referring to when he suspended Florida State Attorney Andrew Warren, who refused to prosecute abortion crimes.

Youngkin will take to the stump with Zeldin on Monday in Westchester. The area's proximity to New York City could provide both Republicans the opportunity to continue raising the issue of crime and safety, which has become a major focal point for voters in the last weeks of the general election cycle.

Amid a tense political environment, it remains to be seen whether either Republican helps push Zeldin across the finish line, considering both DeSantis and Youngkin have their own distinct political brands that may not translate out-of-state.

PHOTO: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis campaigns alongside New York Republican gubernatorial hopeful, Rep. Lee Zeldin at a Get Out The Vote Rally, Oct. 29, 2022, in Hauppauge, New York.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis campaigns alongside New York Republican gubernatorial hopeful, Rep. Lee Zeldin at a Get Out The Vote Rally, Oct. 29, 2022, in Hauppauge, New York.
David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
Hulu

Power Trip

"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.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. "Start Here" begins the week with a breakdown from ABC's Josh Margolin of the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul, in their San Francisco home. Then, ABC's Elizabeth Schulze explains what Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter means for the spread of misinformation around the internet. And, ABC's Matt Gutman breaks down how the deadly Halloween stampede unfolded in Seoul, South Korea, over the weekend. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will host local children of firefighters, nurses, police officers and members of the National Guard at the White House for trick-or-treating.
  • "GMA3" will air from Dallas on Monday and include an interview with Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke.

Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

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

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