In Search of the Midterms

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • JUST ONE MONTH BEFORE THE NOVEMBER ELECTIONS AND… the fate of the U.S. Senate isn't the only thing that's up in the air - so is the theme of this year's midterms. Pundits and politicians have been searching for a unifying idea for months. First it was the Republican-inspired government shutdown. Then the botched rollout of the Obamacare website. Then, perhaps, immigration reform (or the lack thereof.) Then the disquieting state of international affairs, led lately by the U.S.-fronted campaign against ISIS. According to ABC's RYAN STRUYK, with midterms around the corner, it's possible no single defining issue will emerge. One thing we do know: The state of the economy is still crucial. Thirty-five percent in last month's ABC News/Washington Post poll, a plurality of Americans, single out the economy and jobs as the most important issue in their vote for Congress.
  • COMING THIS WEEKEND: Actor, Kal Penn, is joining Fusion as a special correspondent for its midterm election coverage. Fusion's election coverage plans include a special live nightly primetime program " MIDTERM MAYHEM: THE ULTIMATE POLITICAL SMACKDOWN," which will air Sunday through Thursday at 9:30 p.m. Fusion anchors Jorge Ramos and Alicia Menendez will contribute reporting and insights to the program along with a range of additional correspondents and contributors. FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver will be a guest on the premiere episode this Sunday, Oct. 5. The program will also be live-streamed and featured on
  • AND THERE'S 2016 TO LOOK FORWARD TO, AS ABC's RICK KLEIN NOTES: The boomlets for Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush are part of the expected early silliness of presidential speculation. But there's a broader point to the attention to old names in a new campaign year. Through its donor base and elected officials - it's no accident that House Speaker John Boehner is on the Jeb bandwagon, too - the Republican establishment remains deeply concerned about the emerging 2016 field. The simmering party civil war isn't over, even if the boil is lower in the run-up to what's likely to be a good midterm year. The fact is, the establishment will find a place to park its support, whether it's with a Bush, a Romney, or someone else (Rob Portman?) among a field of first-term senators and little-known governors. Too many interests in the party have too much at stake for their not to be someone who fits their definition of a grown-up.

THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK': On Sunday, "This Week" reports the latest on the race to contain the first case of Ebola diagnosed on U.S. soil, and on the scandal engulfing the Secret Service. And the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week's politics, with CNN "Crossfire" co-host Van Jones, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, and Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, managing editors of Bloomberg Politics and co-hosts of the new program "With All Due Respect." Be sure to use #ThisWeek when you tweet about the program. Tune in Sunday:


ABC's RICK KLEIN: Help spot the disconnect, if not the cynicism, here. "Make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them," President Obama declared Thursday (probably to the dismay of red-state Democrats everywhere). Hours later, the president affirmed his commitment to act unilaterally on immigration this year … but after the election. "This is not a question of if, but when," the president said. But - critically - the White House is refusing to say what this action will encompass. The only thing we can definitively say about it is that it will come after voters cast those ballots the president is referring to. So maybe we should say this particular policy isn't among the "every single one" being voted on? The political dance involved with motivating Latino voters but not alienating other elements of the Democratic Party is obvious enough. But to suggest that the White House is eagerly promoting all of its policies simply can't be accurate if action on immigration is being delayed until after a political date on the calendar.


HILLARY CLINTON ADDS KEY LINE TO PRE-2016 STUMP SPEECH. Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky is just five days old and already appears to be a living embodiment of themes her grandmother, Hillary Clinton, could put to use on the campaign trail. ABC'S LIZ KREUTZ reports that during Clinton's prepared remarks at a women's real estate convention in Miami on Thursday, the former secretary of state used a line never heard before on her paid-speaking circuit: one about the future for her new granddaughter. "I think my granddaughter has just as much God-given potential as a boy who was born in that hospital on the same day," Clinton told the crowd at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, adding, "I just believe that. That's the way I was raised." While Clinton still says she has not made a decision about running for president, equality for women and girls is an issue very close to her and one she will likely bring with her on the campaign trail should she decide to run. Her comments indicate that the newest addition to the family is well-positioned to play a role in Clinton 2016 - even if just symbolically.

THE BUSH FAMILY THANKSGIVING WILL BE EVEN MORE AWKWARD THAN YOURS. With two former presidents, one former governor, the likely future land commissioner of Texas, one TV news correspondent and a strong-willed matriarch all sitting around one table, this year's Bush family Thanksgiving will be a gathering unlike any other in America. But it's clear that, like many other dining room tables across the country, the Bush's turkey and gravy will be served with a heaping side of political tension. And which member of the Bush clan is likely to be most uncomfortable? That would be former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who's thought to be contemplating a White House bid, ABC's ERIN DOOLEY reports. As Jeb Bush's son, Jeb Bush Jr., acknowledged last month, 2016 is "the 800-pound gorilla in the room" at family gatherings. Recent news reports suggest that Jeb Bush should expect to have his entire political life dissected by his famous family members, who all seem to think they know what's best for him. "I think he wants to be president," Jeb Bush's brother, former President George W. Bush, said on Fox News Thursday. "I think he'd be a great president."

IRKED BY CRITICS, OBAMA SAYS HE'S GOOD FOR BUSINESS. An apparently irked President Obama responded to critics who've called him anti-business, ABC's CHRIS GOOD reports, pointing to improved corporate profits and mocking Republican policies during his economic speech in Chicago on Thursday. Those critics' "notion is that this agenda I just outlined is somehow contrary to pro-business, pro-capitalism, free-market values," Obama said at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. The president had just reiterated some of the stump-speech points made during his "60 Minutes" interview-that the economy is better than when he took office, but that many Americans aren't feeling the benefit-and called for his usual array of economic measures: infrastructure spending, tax reform, clean-energy investment, greater availability of high-quality preschool education, immigration reform, student-loan relief, equal pay for women, paid maternity leave, and, of course, a higher minimum wage.

COLLEGE REPUBLICANS 'SAY YES TO THE DRESS' IN NEW AD CAMPAIGN. Is Rick Scott is the new Oscar de la Renta? He is according to a new ad released by the College Republican National Committee, ABC's KIRSTEN APPLETON reports. The Florida governor, who is seeking re-election in a tight race against Democrat Charlie Crist, is one of several candidates who are featured in a new series of online ads aimed at enticing young voters - especially women. The Committee's ads dubbed, "Say Yes to the Candidate," are a spin-off of TLC's "Say Yes to the Dress," a wedding-themed reality show, and they got a ringing endorsement today from none other than Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. "I think it's a pretty clever ad," Priebus said during a Q&A session at George Washington University. "Everything's micro-targeted now," Priebus added. "You've got to consider 'where can I place this ad that will get me to where I want?'"


WHY THERE IS A HUGE FACE ON THE NATIONAL MALL. The National Mall looks different today. You may only notice what looks like a zen garden while walking past it. But from up above the Washington Monument, you'll notice a face. ABC's VERONICA STRACQUALURSI reports the face is a 6-acre portrait shaped by Cuban American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada, who used 2,500 tons of sand and 800 tons of soil. The eye is made from gravel. But whose face is it? The portrait isn't of anyone famous. Instead, it is several faces merged into one. Rodriguez-Gerada told The Washington Post he photographed young men at the National Mall and created a composite image. Commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, the project was started on Sept. 2nd and finished Thursday. The giant portrait will be on display until October 31.


@NKingofDC: Obama talking manufacturing today MT @JedKolko: Yet again, manufacturing's share of employment hit an all-time low.

@AlexPappas: 'Lindsey Graham said if he is reelected to the Senate in November, he will begin exploring a bid for the presidency.' …

@Jordanfabian: Obama probably knew he would be heckled at @CHCI tonight, but he spoke there anyway

@streitfeldcnn: All right, I'll bite: what would a Clinton-Romney race look like?

@jonallendc: "This guy went through security, fully screened," USSS says of man who posed as lawmaker to get close to Obama.