being repeatedly told that the American election process is deeply corrupted.

In fact, Mr. Mastriano’s candidacy has from its inception been propelled by his role in disputing the 2020 presidential election lost by Mr. Trump.

county by county, but election experts say they do not reflect factors as benign as changes in addresses.

“They’re in search of solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist,” Kyle Miller, a Navy veteran and state representative for Protect Democracy, a national advocacy organization, said in an interview in Harrisburg. “They are basing this on faulty data and internet rumors.”

Some Republican lawmakers have leaned on false claims to call for changes to rules about mail-in ballots and other measures intended to make it easier for people to vote. Several counties have already reversed some of the decisions, including the number and location of drop boxes for ballots.

Mr. Miller, among others, warned that the flurry of false claims about balloting could be a trial run for challenging the results of the presidential election in 2024, in which Pennsylvania could again be a crucial swing state.

In Chester County, a largely white region that borders Delaware and Maryland that is roughly split between Republicans and Democrats, the effort to sow confusion came the old-fashioned way: in the mail.

Letters dated Sept. 12 began arriving in mailboxes across the county, warning people that their votes in the 2020 presidential election might not have counted. “Because you have a track record of consistently voting, we find it unusual that your record indicates that you did not vote,” the letter, which was unsigned, said.

The sender called itself “Data Insights,” based in the county seat of West Chester, though no known record of such a company exists, according to county officials. The letters did include copies of the recipients’ voting records. The letters urged recipients to write to the county commissioners or attend the commission’s meetings in the county seat of West Chester, in September and October. Dozens of recipients did.

The county administrator, Robert J. Kagel, tried to assure them that their votes were actually counted. He urged anyone concerned to contact the county’s voter services department.

Even so, at county meetings in September and October, speaker after speaker lined up to question the letter and the ballot process generally — and to air an array of grievances and conspiracy theories.

They included the discredited claims of the film “2000 Mules” that operatives have been stuffing boxes for mail-in ballots. One attendee warned that votes were being tabulated by the Communist Party of China or the World Economic Forum.

“I don’t know where my vote is,” another resident, Barbara Ellis of Berwyn, told the commissioners in October. “I don’t know if it was manipulated in the machines, in another country.”

As of Oct. 20, 59 people in Chester County had contacted officials with concerns raised in the letter, but in each case, it was determined that the voters’ ballots had been cast and counted, said Rebecca Brain, a county spokesman.

Who exactly sent the letters remains a mystery, which only fuels more conspiracy theories.

“It seems very official,” Charlotte Valyo, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party in the county, said of the letter. She described it as part of “an ongoing, constant campaign to undermine the confidence in our voting system.” The county’s Republican Party did not respond to a request for comment.

Disinformation may not be the only cause of the deepening partisan chasm in the state — or the nation — but it has undoubtedly worsened it. The danger, Ms. Valyo warned, was discouraging voting by sowing distrust in the ability of election officials to tally the votes.

“People might think, ‘Why bother, if they’re that messed up?’”

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How Disinformation Splintered and Became More Intractable

On the morning of July 8, former President Donald J. Trump took to Truth Social, a social media platform he founded with people close to him, to claim that he had in fact won the 2020 presidential vote in Wisconsin, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Barely 8,000 people shared that missive on Truth Social, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands of responses his posts on Facebook and Twitter had regularly generated before those services suspended his megaphones after the deadly riot on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021.

And yet Mr. Trump’s baseless claim pulsed through the public consciousness anyway. It jumped from his app to other social media platforms — not to mention podcasts, talk radio or television.

Within 48 hours of Mr. Trump’s post, more than one million people saw his claim on at least dozen other media. It appeared on Facebook and Twitter, from which he has been banished, but also YouTube, Gab, Parler and Telegram, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

gone mainstream among Republican Party members, driving state and county officials to impose new restrictions on casting ballots, often based on mere conspiracy theories percolating in right-wing media.

Voters must now sift through not only an ever-growing torrent of lies and falsehoods about candidates and their policies, but also information on when and where to vote. Officials appointed or elected in the name of fighting voter fraud have put themselves in the position to refuse to certify outcomes that are not to their liking.

a primary battleground in today’s fight against disinformation. A report last month by NewsGuard, an organization that tracks the problem online, showed that nearly 20 percent of videos presented as search results on TikTok contained false or misleading information on topics such as school shootings and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

continued to amplify “election denialism” in ways that undermined trust in the democratic system.

Another challenge is the proliferation of alternative platforms for those falsehoods and even more extreme views.

new survey by the Pew Research Center found that 15 percent of prominent accounts on those seven platforms had previously been banished from others like Twitter and Facebook.

F.B.I. raid on Mar-a-Lago thrust his latest pronouncements into the eye of the political storm once again.

study of Truth Social by Media Matters for America, a left-leaning media monitoring group, examined how the platform had become a home for some of the most fringe conspiracy theories. Mr. Trump, who began posting on the platform in April, has increasingly amplified content from QAnon, the online conspiracy theory.

He has shared posts from QAnon accounts more than 130 times. QAnon believers promote a vast and complex conspiracy that centers on Mr. Trump as a leader battling a cabal of Democratic Party pedophiles. Echoes of such views reverberated through Republican election campaigns across the country during this year’s primaries.

Ms. Jankowicz, the disinformation expert, said the nation’s social and political divisions had churned the waves of disinformation.

The controversies over how best to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic deepened distrust of government and medical experts, especially among conservatives. Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept the outcome of the 2020 election led to, but did not end with, the Capitol Hill violence.

“They should have brought us together,” Ms. Jankowicz said, referring to the pandemic and the riots. “I thought perhaps they could be kind of this convening power, but they were not.”

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Democrats Spent $2 Trillion to Save the Economy. They Don’t Want to Talk About It.

“We in Georgia found ourselves trying to claw back from a historic pandemic, the likes of which we haven’t seen in our lifetime, which created an economic shutdown,” he said. “And now, seeing the economy open up, we’ve experienced major supply chain issues, which have contributed to rising costs.”

Direct pandemic payments were begun under Mr. Trump and continued under Mr. Biden, with no serious talk of another round after the ones delivered in the rescue plan. Most Democrats had hoped the one-year, $100 billion child credit in the rescue plan would be made permanent in a new piece of legislation.

But the credit expired, largely because Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia and a key swing vote, opposed its inclusion in what would become the Inflation Reduction Act, citing concerns the additional money would exacerbate inflation.

Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, was one of the Senate’s most vocal cheerleaders for that credit and an architect of the version included in the rescue plan. His campaign has aired Spanish-language radio ads on the credit in his re-election campaign, targeting a group his team says is particularly favorable toward it, but no television ads. In an interview last week outside a Denver coffee shop, Mr. Bennet conceded the expiration of the credit has sapped some of its political punch.

“It certainly came up when it was here, and it certainly came up when it went away,” he said. “But it’s been some months since that was true. I think, obviously, we’d love to have that right now. Families were getting an average of 450 bucks a month. That would have defrayed a lot of inflation that they’re having to deal with.”

Mr. Biden’s advisers say the rescue plan and its components aren’t being deployed on the trail because other issues have overwhelmed them — from Mr. Biden’s long list of economic bills signed into law as well as the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade that has galvanized the Democratic base. They acknowledge the political and economic challenge posed by rapid inflation, but say Democratic candidates are doing well to focus on direct responses to it, like the efforts to reduce costs of insulin and other prescription drugs.

Ms. Lake, the Democratic pollster, said talking more about the child credit could help re-energize Democratic voters for the midterms. Mr. Warnock’s speech in Dunwoody — an admittedly small sample — suggested otherwise.

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Biden, Florida’s DeSantis stress unity in Hurricane Ian recovery

FORT MYERS, Fla., Oct 5 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden met with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday to assess the devastation from Hurricane Ian, and stressed the need for a united federal and state effort for the lengthy recovery ahead.

Biden, a Democrat, and DeSantis, his potential 2024 Republican presidential rival, have clashed over multiple issues including COVID-19 vaccines, abortion and LGBT rights.

They largely set those differences aside during the visit to hard-hit Fort Myers as Biden pledged federal support for a cleanup and rebuilding effort that could cost taxpayers billions of dollars and take years to complete.

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Biden and DeSantis greeted each other warmly and stood shoulder to shoulder as they met with victims of the hurricane.

“Mr. President, welcome to Florida. We appreciate working together across various levels of government,” DeSantis, often a blistering critic of the president, told Biden during remarks after the tour.

“We’re in this together,” said Biden, who referred to DeSantis as ‘Guv,’ and complimented the “good job” the governor had done. “We’ve worked hand-in-glove. We have very different political philosophies.”

More than 100 people died and nearly 400,000 homes and businesses remained without power in Florida on Tuesday, five days after Hurricane Ian crashed across the state.

Biden opened his remarks by saying the storm showed climate change was real and needed to be addressed, something some in DeSantis’s Republican party have denied. “I think the one thing this has finally ended is a discussion about whether or not there’s climate change and we should do something about it,” he said.

Climate change is making hurricanes wetter, windier and altogether more intense, experts say.

The president also stressed the amount of federal help Florida receive for storm aid and as part of Democrat-backed spending, including $13 billion over the next five years for highways and bridges.

“The key here is building back better and stronger to withstand the next storm. We can’t build back to what it was before. You got to build back better, because we know more is coming,” he said.

Biden and his wife, Jill, arrived in Fort Meyers early Wednesday afternoon, two days after visiting Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory battered by Hurricane Fiona last month.

Biden got an aerial view of the destruction during a helicopter flight and called the destruction “horrific.”

BILLIONS OF DOLLARS, INSURANCE QUESTIONS

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell said it would cost the federal government billions of dollars to repair the damage from the storm.

“We are still very much in the lifesaving and stabilization mode. They are just beginning the assessments of what the actual extent of damages to the infrastructure. It’s going to be in the billions,” Criswell told reporters on Air Force One.

Biden and Criswell also suggested Wednesday that Florida’s insurance industry, which faces tens of billions of dollars in losses for the storm, could come under increasing scrutiny.

“The fact of the matter is, states like Florida, where they’ve had a lot of natural disasters because of flooding and hurricanes and the like – the insurance industry is being very stretched,” Biden said. “We’re going to have to have a hard look at whether or not the insurance industry can be sustained.”

Fort Myers Mayor Ray Murphy, who also manages commercial real estate, told Reuters he and Biden were having a friendly chat and “trying to encourage each other” in a colorful exchange picked up by a microphone.

“No one fucks with a Biden,” the president told Murphy, to which the mayor replied: “You’re goddamn right … That’s exactly right.”

Murphy, elected on a nonpartisan basis, said there was no mention of DeSantis in the brief conversation.

Biden visited Florida in July after a condominium complex collapsed and killed nearly 100 people, and stressed cooperation with DeSantis at the time.

But before Hurricane Ian hit, Biden had planned a rally in the political battleground state where Democratic officials expected the president to attack the governor.

On climate change, Biden has made reducing carbon emissions a focus of his presidency, while DeSantis backed funding to harden Florida’s defenses against flooding but also opposed some previous disaster-relief aid and pushed pension funds not to consider environmental impact when they invest.

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Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Andrea Shalal; Writing by Jeff Mason and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Heather Timmons, Aurora Ellis and Lincoln Feast

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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McCarthy Unveils House GOP’s Midterm Agenda In Pennsylvania

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy on Friday directly confronted President Joe Biden and the party in power, choosing battleground Pennsylvania to unveil a midterm election agenda with sweeping Trump-like promises despite the House GOP’s sometimes spotty record of delivering and governing in Congress.

McCarthy, who is poised to seize the speaker’s gavel if Republicans win control of the House in the fall, hopes to replicate the strategy former Speaker Newt Gingrich used to spark voter enthusiasm and sweep House control in a 1994 landslide.

The House GOP’s “Commitment to America” gives a nod to that earlier era but updates it for Trump, with economic, border security and social policies to rouse the former president’s deep well of supporters in often-forgotten regions like this rusty landscape outside Pittsburgh.

“What we’re going to roll out today is a ‘Commitment to America’ in Washington — not Washington, D.C., but Washington County, Pennsylvania,” McCarthy said at a manufacturing facility. “Because it’s about you, it’s not about us.”

On Friday, the House Republican leader stood with a cross-section of other lawmakers to roll out the GOP agenda, offering a portrait of party unity despite the uneasy coalition that makes up the House minority — and the Republican Party itself. 

The GOP has shifted from its focus on small government, low taxes and individual freedoms to a more populist, nationalist and, at times, far-right party, essentially still led by Trump, who remains popular despite the deepening state and federal investigations against him.

Propelled by Trump’s “Make America Great Again” voters, the Republicans need to pick up just a few seats to win back control of the narrowly-split House, and replace Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But even so, McCarthy’s ability to lead the House is far from guaranteed.

While Republicans and Trump did pass tax cuts into law, the GOP’s last big campaign promise, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, collapsed in failure. A long line of Republican speakers, including Gingrich, John Boehner and Paul Ryan, have been forced from office or chose early retirement, often ground down by party infighting.

“House Republicans are really good at running people out of town,” said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the Conservative Political Action Coalition, or CPAC.

McCarthy, first elected to office in 2006, is among the remaining political survivors of those House Republican battles, and he’s a new style of leader who has shown more ability to communicate than to legislate.

A key architect of the Republican “tea party” takeover in 2010, the California Republican personally recruited the newcomers to Congress — many who had never served in public office and are long gone. McCarthy was an early Trump endorser, and has remained close to the former president, relying on his high-profile endorsements to propel GOP candidates for Congress. He abandoned an earlier bid to become speaker when support from his colleagues drifted.

The “Commitment to America” reflects the strength of McCarthy’s abilities, but also his weaknesses. He spent more than a year pulling together the House GOP’s often warring factions — from the far-right MAGA to what’s left of the more centrist ranks — to produce a mostly agreed upon agenda.

But the one-page “commitment” preamble is succinct, essentially a pocket card, though it is expected to be filled in with the kind of detail that is needed to make laws.

“They talk about a lot of problems,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. “They don’t have a lot of solutions.”

In traveling to battleground Pennsylvania, a state where President Biden holds emotional ties from his early childhood, McCarthy intends to counter the president’s fiery Labor Day weekend speech, in which he warned of rising GOP extremism after the Jan 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, with a more upbeat message.

The event is billed as more of a conversation with the GOP leader and lawmakers rather than a stirring address in a uniquely contested state.

Along with as many as five House seats Republicans believe they can pick up in Pennsylvania in November, the state has one of the most watched Senate races, between Democrat John Fetterman and Trump-backed Mehmet Oz, that will help determine control of Congress. Top of the ticket is the seismic governor’s matchup between the GOP’s Doug Mastriano, who was seen outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, and Democrat Josh Shapiro.

“If you are a hardline, populist, and you really want anger, Kevin’s a little frustrating because he’s not going to be angry enough for you,” Gingrich said. “On the other hand, if what you want is to have your values implemented and passed in the legislation, he is a really good leader and organizer.”

Gingrich has been working with McCarthy and his team to craft the style and substance of the proposal. The former speaker, who has been asked by the Jan. 6 committee investigating the Capitol attack for an interview, was on hand Thursday in Washington, joining McCarthy as he unveiled the plans privately to House Republicans, who have been mixed on the approach.

Mostly, the GOP pocket card hits broad strokes — energy independence, security and an end to liberal social policies, particularly in schooling.

Conservative Republicans complain privately that McCarthy isn’t leaning hard enough into their priorities, as he tries to appeal to a broader swath of voters and hold the party together.

Many are eager to launch investigations into the Biden administration and the president’s family, with some calling for impeachment. Legislatively, some House Republicans want to fulfill the party’s commitment to banning abortion, supporting Sen. Lindsey Graham’s bill prohibiting the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

In a sign of the pressures ahead for McCarthy, dozens of House GOP lawmakers signed on to plans from Trump-aligned Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to prevent many gender reassignment procedures for minors, celebrating the Georgian as courageous for taking such a hardline approach.

She and others were invited to join Friday’s event, as McCarthy seeks their backing.

Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, has advocated for withholding federal funds as leverage for policy priorities, the tactic that engineered past government shutdowns.

“Putting out like, you know, principles about, ‘Well, we’ll secure the border.’ I mean, okay, but what are we gonna do about it?” Roy said. “The end of the day, I want specific actionable items that’s going to show that we’re going to fight for the American people.”

It’s notable that McCarthy alone has proposed a plan if Republicans win control of the House chamber. In the Senate, Republican leader Mitch McConnell has declined to put forward an agenda, preferring to simply run against President Biden and Democrats in the midterm election.

“Kevin’s done a very good job of being in position to become the speaker. And then the question is, what do you do with that? Schlapp said. “This helps as a road map.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Key Midterm Races To Watch For Congressional Control

Early in-person voting starts Friday in four states and mail-in ballots have already started going out in others.

With just under two months to go, the race for control of Congress is shaping up to be one of the tightest in recent history. 

And when it comes to which party controls the Senate, election experts say one contest stands out — Pennsylvania.

“The No. 1 race at this point that is likely to switch parties is one that could go from Republican to Democrat, which sort of defies the expectations we had at the beginning of this cycle when it looked like it would be an incredibly favorable midterm cycle for Republicans and a backlash to President Biden and the Democrats,” said Jessica Taylor, Senate and governors editor at The Cook Political Report.

Democrat John Fetterman is leading GOP Senate candidate Mehmet Oz in one of the closest watched races of the fall. 

Current Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is retiring. If Democrats flip his seat, the GOP needs to gain two seats somewhere else to retake the majority.  

Where could those seats be? Eyes are on Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire and Georgia, where the races are close and Democrats are defending seats they currently hold.  

It’s the opposite in Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida, where Republicans are in tight races to hold on to those seats.

Adding to the unpredictability this cycle is the lack of experience among some first-time Republican candidates. Primary voters in five of those eight states put their support behind rookies without any political experience.  

“There are voters that are just so frustrated at this point. And we see this in disapprovals, we see this in wrong track/right track numbers, that there are voters — and I’ve heard this in focus groups I’ve watched this year, too — they’re like, you know, just blow the whole system up,” Taylor continued.

Political outsiders can be successful — look at former President Donald Trump, who continues to be a big influence in the Republican Party.   

“Midterm elections are a referendum on the current president,” Taylor said. “However, we have never seen a former president be this involved and insert himself so much in a way that Democrats could make this a referendum on Trump.”

Trump’s endorsement has helped first-time candidates win their primaries. But it could be a hindrance in the general election when they’re up against Democrats. 

Source: newsy.com

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The Perennial Importance Of National Voter Registration Day

As states log record turnout in primaries this year, history shows an upward trend, with registration and turnout climbing for midterm elections.

Coast to coast, from sports leagues to unions, there was an aggressive push Tuesday to get voters registered. 

Just seven weeks before the critical midterm elections, operatives from both parties are trying to ensure their voters will be the ones showing up. 

As states log record turnout in primaries this year, history shows an upward trend, with registration climbing for midterm elections and turnout spiking even faster. 

It’s a trend activists hope to continue in an election season that will set the course for a Republican party trying to find its footing post-Trump, and a Democratic party seeking validation for an ambitious vision of the future. 

It’s a complicated picture in a midterm election like no other, yet just like every vote before it, it’s one that all boils down to who gets registered and who shows up.

Source: newsy.com

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GOP’s Graham Unveils Nationwide Abortion Ban After 15 Weeks

The bill would prohibit the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy with rare exceptions.

Upending the political debate, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced a nationwide abortion ban Tuesday, sending shockwaves through both parties and igniting fresh debate on a fraught issue weeks before the midterm elections that will determine control of Congress.

Graham’s own Republican party leaders did not immediately embrace his abortion ban bill, which would prohibit the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy with rare exceptions, and has almost no chance of becoming law in the Democratic-held Congress. Democrats torched it as extreme, an alarming signal of where “MAGA” Republicans are headed if they win control of the House and Senate in November.

“America’s got to make some decisions,” Graham said at a press conference at the Capitol.

The South Carolina Republican said rather than shying away from the Supreme Court’s ruling this summer overturning Roe vs. Wade’s nearly 50-year right to abortion access, Republicans are preparing to fight to make a nationwide abortion ban federal law.

“Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, we’re going nowhere,” the senator said flanked by women advocates from the anti-abortion movement. “We welcome the debate. We welcome the vote in the United States Senate as to what America should look like in 2022.”

Reaction was swift, fierce and unwavering from Democrats who viewed Graham’s legislation as an extreme example of the far-right’s hold on the GOP, and as a political gift of self-inflicted pain for Republican candidates now having to answer questions about an abortion ban heading toward the midterm elections.

“A nationwide abortion ban — that’s the contrast between the two parties, plain and simple,” said Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer.

Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington who is in her own fight for reelection, said Republicans “want to force” women to stay pregnant and deliver babies.

“To anyone who thought they were safe, here is the painful reality,” she said. “Republicans are coming for your rights.”

The sudden turn of events comes in a razor-tight election season as Republicans hoping to seize control of Congress are struggling to recapture momentum, particularly after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision sparked deep concerns among some voters, with signs of women voters peeling away from the GOP.

In a midterm election where the party out of the White House traditionally holds an advantage, even more so this year with President Joe Biden’s lackluster approval ratings, the Democrats have regained their own momentum pushing back the GOP candidates in House and Senate races.

Tuesday’s announcement set up an immediate split screen with Biden and Democrats poised to celebrate their accomplishments in a ceremony at the White House after passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and Republicans forced to answer for Graham’s proposed abortion ban.

“This bill is wildly out of step with what Americans believe,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement.

“While President Biden and Vice President Harris are focused on the historic passage of the Inflation Reduction Act to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, health care, and energy – and to take unprecedented action to address climate change – Republicans in Congress are focused on taking rights away from millions of women,” Jean-Pierre said.

Graham’s legislation has almost zero chance of becoming law, but it elevates the abortion issue at a time when other Republicans would prefer to focus on inflation, border security and Biden’s leadership.

The Republican bill would ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy, expect in cases of rape, incest or risks to the physical health of the mother. Graham said it would put the U.S. on par with many other countries in Europe and around the world.

In particular, Graham’s bill would leave in place state laws that are more restrictive. That provision is notable because many Republicans have argued the Supreme Court’s ruling leaves the abortion issue for the states to decide. But the legislation from the Republicans makes it clear states are only allowed to decide the issue if their abortion bans are more stringent.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who is one seat away from majority control, declined to embrace Graham’s legislation.

“I think every Republican senator running this year in these contested races has an answer as to how they feel about the issue,” McConnell said. “So I leave it up to our candidates who are quite capable of handling this issue to determine for them what their response is.”

The Democratic senators most at risk this fall and other Democratic candidates running for Congress appeared eager to fight against Graham’s proposed nationwide abortion ban.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the Democrat from Nevada tweeted that Graham “and every other anti-choice extremist can take a hike.”

Her Republican opponent, Adam Laxalt, has during his campaign insisted that abortion is protected in the state constitution, which it would no longer be under this bill.

In Colorado, another Democratic up for reelection, Sen. Michael Bennet, tweeted: “A nationwide abortion ban is outrageous.”

Bennet pledged “to defend a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, no matter what ZIP code she lives in. We cannot afford to let the Republicans take back the Senate.”

His opponent in Colorado, Republican Senate hopeful Joe O’Dea, who supports putting abortion access that had been guaranteed under Roe vs. Wade into law, agreed, in part: “A Republican ban is as reckless and tone deaf as is Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer’s hostility to considering any compromise on late term abortion, parental notification or conscience protections for religious hospitals.”

The races for control of Congress are tight in the split 50-50 Senate where one seat determines majority control and the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi can afford to lose only a very few seats.

Pelosi called Graham’s bill the “clearest signal of extreme MAGA Republicans’ intent to criminalize women’s health freedom in all 50 states and arrest doctors for providing basic care. Make no mistake: if Republicans get the chance, they will work to pass laws even more draconian than this bill.”

Republican leaders on Capitol Hill tried to hold the party together amid the differences.

“I think that what it’s attempting to do is probably change the conversation a little bit,” said Sen. John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, and second-ranking party leader.

“Democrats are implying that all Republicans are for a ban without exceptions, and that’s not true,” Thune said. “There are Republicans who are in favor of restrictions. And I think this is an attempt to at least put something out there that reflects the views of a lot of Republicans who are in favor of some restrictions.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Trump Moves To General Election Mode With Pennsylvania Rally

The stakes are particularly high for Trump as he lays the groundwork for an expected 2024 presidential run amid a series of legal challenges.

Larry Mitko voted for Donald Trump in 2016. But the Republican from Beaver County in western Pennsylvania says he has no plans to back his party’s nominee for Senate, Dr. Mehmet Oz — “no way, no how.”

Mitko doesn’t feel like he knows the celebrity heart surgeon, who only narrowly won his May primary with Trump’s backing. Instead, Mitko plans to vote for Oz’s Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a name he’s been familiar with since Fetterman’s days as mayor of nearby Braddock.

“Dr. Oz hasn’t showed me one thing to get me to vote for him,” he said. “I won’t vote for someone I don’t know.”

Mitko’s thinking underscores the political challenges facing Trump and the rest of the Republican Party as the former president was shifting to general election mode with a rally Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the first of the fall campaign.

While Trump’s endorsed picks won many Republican primaries this summer, many of the candidates he backed were inexperienced and polarizing figures now struggling in their November races. That’s putting Senate control — once assumed to be a lock for Republicans — on the line.

Among those candidates are Oz in Pennsylvania, author JD Vance in Ohio, venture capitalist Blake Masters in Arizona and former football star Herschel Walker in Georgia.

“Republicans have now nominated a number of candidates who’ve never run for office before for very high-profile Senate races,” said veteran Republican pollster Whit Ayres. While he isn’t writing his party’s chances off just yet, he said, “It’s a much more difficult endeavor than a candidate who had won several difficult political races before.”

The stakes are particularly high for Trump as he lays the groundwork for an expected 2024 presidential run amid a series of escalating legal challenges, including the FBI’s recent seizure of classified documents from his Florida home. Investigators also continue to probe his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

This past week, President Joe Biden gave a prime-time speech in Philadelphia warning that Trump and other “MAGA” Republicans — the acronym for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan — posed a threat to U.S. democracy. President Biden has tried to frame the upcoming vote, as he did the 2020 election, as a battle for the “soul of the nation.” President Biden’s Labor Day visit to Pittsburgh will be his third to the state within a week, a sign of Pennsylvania’s election-year importance.

While Republicans were once seen as having a good chance of gaining control of both chambers of Congress in November amid soaring inflation, high gas prices and President Biden’s slumping approval ratings, Republicans have found themselves on defense since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision protecting abortion rights.

Some candidates, like Doug Mastriano, the GOP’s hard-line nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, are sticking with their primary campaign playbooks, hoping they can win by turning out Trump’s loyal base even if they alienate more moderate voters.

Mastriano, who wants to outlaw abortion even when pregnancies are the result of rape or incest or endanger the life of the mother, played a leading role in Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election and was seen outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as pro-Trump rioters stormed the building.

But others have been trying to broaden their appeal, scrubbing from their websites references to anti-abortion messaging that is out of step with the political mainstream. Masters, for instance, removed language from a policy section of his website that labeled him “100% pro-life,” as well as language saying, “if we had had a free and fair election, President Trump would be sitting in the Oval Office today.” Others have played down Trump endorsements that were once featured prominently.

The shifting climate has prompted rounds of finger-pointing in the party, including from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who last month cited “candidate quality” as he lowered expectations that Republicans would recapture control of the Senate in November.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said those who complain about the party’s nominees have “contempt” for the voters who chose them.

“It’s an amazing act of cowardice, and ultimately, it’s treasonous to the conservative cause,” he wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Examiner.

Trump, too, fired back, calling McConnell a “disgrace” as he defended the party’s candidate roster.

“There’s some very good people,” he said in a radio interview. “You know, takes a lot of courage to run and they spend their wealth on it and they put their reputations on the line.”

Democrats have also piled on.

“Senate campaigns are candidate versus candidate battles and Republicans have put forward a roster of deeply flawed recruits,” said David Bergstein, the Senate Democratic campaign committee’s communication director. He credited Trump with deterring experienced Republicans from running, elevating flawed candidates and forcing them to take positions that are out of step with the general electorate.

“All those factors have contributed to the weakness of the slate of Republican candidates they’ve been left with,” he said. A Trump spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

In Pennsylvania, Republicans are hoping Oz’s shortcomings as a candidate will be overshadowed by concerns about Fetterman, who suffered a stroke just days before the primary and has been sidelined for much of the summer. He continues to keep a light public schedule and visibly struggled to speak at a recent event.

Republicans acknowledge that Oz struggles to come off as authentic and was slow to punch back as Fetterman spent the summer trolling him on social media and portraying him as an out-of-touch carpetbagger from New Jersey.

While Fetterman, whom Republicans deride as “Bernie Sanders in gym shorts,” leads Oz in polls and fundraising, Republicans say they expect the money gap to narrow and are pleased to see Oz within striking distance after getting hammered by $20 million in negative advertising during the primaries.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is helping finance a new round of Oz’s television ads, and the Senate Leadership Fund, a McConnell-aligned super political action committee, says it added $9.5 million to its TV buy — boosting its overall commitment to $34.1 million by Election Day.

“Regardless of what people may have heard in the primary, they’re going to realize that Oz is the best choice for Pennsylvania,” said Pennsylvania Republican National Committeeman Andy Reilly.

A super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., says it has made $32 million in television ad reservations in the state.

Oz has won over some once-skeptical voters, like Glen Rubendall, who didn’t vote for the TV doctor in his seven-way primary — a victory so narrow it went to a statewide recount — but said he’s come around.

“I’ve been listening to him speak, and I have a pro-Oz view now,” said Rubendall, a retired state corrections officer.

Traci Martin, a registered independent, also plans to vote for Oz because she opposes abortion, despite ads that aired during the primary featuring past Oz statements that seemed supportive of abortion rights.

“I hope he is (anti-abortion),” Martin said, “but the sad part is we live in an age when we see politicians say one thing and do another.”

 Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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President Biden To Help Unveil Obama White House Portraits

President Biden will be the rare president to host a former boss for the unveiling; he was Obama’s vice president.

It’s been more than a decade since President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, welcomed back George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, for the unveiling of their White House portraits, part of a beloved Washington tradition that for decades managed to transcend partisan politics.

President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, are set to revive that ritual — after an awkward and anomalous gap in the Trump years — when they host the Obamas on Wednesday for the big reveal of their portraits in front of scores of friends, family and staff.

The Obama paintings will not look like any in the White House portrait collection to which they will be added: They were America’s first Black president and first lady.

The ceremony will also mark Michelle Obama’s first visit to the White House since Obama’s presidency ended in January 2017, and only the second visit for Barack Obama. He was at the White House in April to mark the 12th anniversary of the health care law he signed in 2010.

Portrait ceremonies often give past presidents an opportunity to showcase their comedic timing.

“I am pleased that my portrait brings an interesting symmetry to the White House collection. It now starts and ends with a George W,” Bush quipped at his ceremony in 2012.

Bill Clinton joked in 2004 that “most of the time, till you get your picture hung like this, the only artists that draw you are cartoonists.”

Recent tradition, no matter the party affiliation, has had the current president genially hosting his immediate predecessor for the unveiling — as Clinton did for George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush did for Clinton and Obama did for the younger Bush.

Then there was an unexplained pause when Donald Trump did not host Obama.

Two spokespeople for Trump did not respond to emailed requests for comment on the lack of a ceremony for Obama, and whether artists are working on portraits of Trump and former first lady Melania Trump.

The White House portrait collection starts with George Washington, America’s first president. Congress bought his portrait.

Other portraits of early presidents and first ladies often came to the White House as gifts. Since the middle of the last century, the White House Historical Association has paid for the paintings.

The first portraits financed by the association were of Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson, and John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy, said Stewart McLaurin, president of the private, nonprofit organization established by first lady Kennedy.

Before presidents and first ladies leave office, the association explains the portrait process. The former president and first lady choose the artist or artists, and offer guidance on how they want to be portrayed.

“It really involves how that president and first lady see themselves,” McLaurin said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The collection includes an iconic, full-length portrait of Washington that adorns the East Room. It is the only item still in the White House that was in the executive mansion in November 1800 when John Adams and Abigail Adams became the first president and first lady to live in the White House.

Years later, first lady Dolley Madison saved Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Washington from almost certain ruin. She had White House staff take it out of the city before advancing British forces burned the mansion in 1814. The painting was held in storage until the White House was rebuilt.

President and first lady portraits are seen by millions of White House visitors, though not all are on display. Some are undergoing conservation or are in storage.

Those that are on display line hallways and rooms in public areas of the mansion, such as the Ground Floor and its Vermeil and China Rooms, and the State Floor one level above, which has the famous Green, Blue and Red Rooms, the East Room and State Dining Room.

Portraits of Mamie Eisenhower, Pat Nixon, Lady Bird Johnson and Lou Henry Hoover grace the Vermeil Room, along with a full-length image of Jacqueline Kennedy. Michelle Obama’s portrait likely will join Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush along the Ground Floor hallway.

The State Floor hallway one floor above features recent presidents: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Gerald Ford’s portrait and the likeness of Richard Nixon — the only president to resign from office — are on view on the Grand Staircase leading to the private living quarters on the second floor.

Past presidents’ images move around the White House, depending on their standing with the current occupants. Ronald Reagan, for example, moved Thomas Jefferson and Harry S. Truman out of the Cabinet Room and swapped in Dwight Eisenhower and Calvin Coolidge.

In the Clinton era, portraits of Richard Nixon and Reagan, idols of the Republican Party, lost their showcase spot in the Grand Foyer and were replaced with pictures of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Truman, heroes of the Democrats. Nancy Reagan temporarily moved Eleanor Roosevelt to a place of prominence in the East Room in 1984 to mark the centennial of her birth.

One of the most prominent spots for a portrait is above the mantle in the State Dining Room and it has been occupied for decades by a painting of a seated Abraham Lincoln, hand supporting his chin. It was placed there by Franklin Roosevelt.

Bill Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s portraits hang on opposing walls in the Grand Foyer.

Clinton’s would be relocated to make room for Barack Obama’s if the White House sticks to tradition and keeps the two most recent Oval Office occupants there, McLaurin said.

“That’s up to the White House, to the curators,” he said.

The association, which is funded through private donations and the sale of books and an annual White House Christmas ornament, keeps the portrait price well below market value because of the “extraordinary honor” an artist derives from having “their work of art hanging perpetually in the White House,” McLaurin said.

Details about the Obamas’ portraits will stay under wraps until Wednesday.

President Biden will be the rare president to host a former boss for the unveiling; he was Obama’s vice president. George H.W. Bush, who held Ronald Reagan’s ceremony, was Reagan’s No. 2.

Betty Monkman, a former White House curator, said during a 2017 podcast for the White House Historical Association that the ceremony is a “statement of generosity” by the president and first lady. “It’s a very warm, lovely moment.”

The White House portraits are one of two sets of portraits of presidents and first ladies. The National Portrait Gallery, a Smithsonian museum, maintains its own collection and those portraits are unveiled before the White House pair. The Obamas unveiled their museum portraits in February 2018.

Linda St. Thomas, chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution, said in an email that a $650,000 donation in July from Save America, Trump’s political action committee, was earmarked for the couple’s museum portraits. Two artists have been commissioned, one for each painting, and work has begun, St. Thomas said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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