No single issue breaking through this election

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • The scattershot election
  • Which issues has ad money gone to?
  • Obama-Netanyahu meet
  • Secret Service problems continue

What’s this election all about? When people ask this year, “What’s this election all about?” it’s not an easy question to answer. There’s no one clear issue that has broken through. Remember, this election was supposed to be about health care — on the one year anniversary of the launch — or, maybe, on the other side, a government shutdown. Both issues have receded. Health care ad spending is still tops for Republicans (more on that below), and perceptions of the law seem to have set in. But the sting of, “ObamaCare!” doesn’t seem to have the same impact. One piece of evidence that issues aren’t sticking is that campaigns are latching onto news-of-the-day items. Unaccompanied minors border crisis. Cut an ad. War with the Islamic State group. Cut an ad (here and here). Combo IS and immigration. Check. Ebola. Yes, there was even one of those, too. The fundamentals of this election are clear. Democrats are defending more seats. It’s being played on conservative territory. President Obama is unpopular and in his second term, which doesn’t bode well historically. But no single issue is breaking through. Instead, the issues campaigns are raising seem intended to driving out their bases. And, in midterms — when turnout dips about 30 percent from presidential elections — maybe that’s what it’s all about.

Follow the ad money: The campaigns, of course, are trying to make these elections about something. Republicans want to nationalize them to capitalize on the dour national mood. Democrats want to localize and try to spur voter participation from base voters who don’t normally turnout in midterms. They are focusing on women, in particular — in Iowa and Colorado, specifically. In fact, Iowa voters have been the most inundated with ads than anywhere in the country. They’ve seen more than 11,000 ads so far — 57 percent have been pro-Republican, according to Kantar Media/CMAG data with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project. “Independent group ad sponsors have kept Republicans competitive in a number of the tightest Senate races over the past two weeks,” Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the project, said in a blog post. “This is a big change from earlier this month when Democrats were leading nearly everywhere.” The least positive campaign in the country — Senate, House, or governors, has been in Louisiana, where neither side has run a positive ad. More than one-in-four ads (27 percent) run to support Republicans have focused on health care. Following that for Republicans are: jobs (25 percent), the deficit (15 percent), immigration (14 percent), taxes (13 percent) and veterans (13 percent). The top issues mentioned in Democratic ads are: taxes (28 percent), jobs (15 percent), Social Security (15 percent), education (14 percent), Medicare (14 percent) and the environment (14 percent).

Obama meets with Netanyahu: Largely absent from the campaign trail — save fundraisers — is President Obama. Once again, the election takes a back seat Wednesday for the president and foreign policy takes center stage. He meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at 11:20 a.m. EDT before departing for Chicago Wednesday night. He delivers a speech on the economy Thursday. The meeting between Obama and Netanyahu comes just two days after Netanyahu told the United Nations: “Hamas is ISIS, and ISIS is Hamas. And what they share is what all Islamism shares: … they all have the same ideology, they all seek to establish a global militant Islam — where there is no freedom.”

Secret Service problems: Secret Service Director Julia Pierson faced a barrage of tough bipartisan questioning before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Tuesday. She tried to address recent failures by the agency to secure the White House complex. Throughout the hearing, Republicans and Democrats grilled Pierson on the recent White House fence jumper breach and the 2011 sniper incident. Pierson continually defended the Secret Service, but admitted mistakes had been made by agents. “It is clear that our security plan was not properly executed,” Pierson told members. “This is unacceptable, and I take full responsibility.” This comes on the same day that another report, broken again by the Washington Post’s Carol Leonnig, details how the Secret Service let the president ride on an elevator with an armed contractor who had a criminal record. Massachusetts Democrat Stephen Lynch’s response to Pierson: “I wish to God that you protected the White House like you’re protecting your reputation right now.” By the way, while Democrats and Republicans are pressing the issue, Democrats have privately expressed concern that the GOP will turn the Secret Service’s failures into a White House competency issue that could be used against them this fall.

First Ebola case in U.S.: The Centers for Disease Control announced Tuesday that the first Ebola diagnosis has been made in the United States. The patient unknowingly brought the disease from West Africa when he departed Liberia last month and is now in Texas. President Obama spoke with CDC director Tom Frieden Tuesday about identifying other cases, while the CDC reminded the public in a press conference that the infected are only contagious when exhibiting symptoms, and therefore his fellow travelers were probably not infected. Meanwhile in Liberia, U.S. troops arrived Tuesday to help build a field hospital to contain the disease. Remember, the president said on “Meet the Press” earlier this month, “Americans shouldn’t be concerned about the prospects of contagion here in the United States, short term.” But clearly the president was concerned enough to prevent that from happening by having U.S. troops take the lead.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1924, future President James Earl Carter, Jr. was born. Carter was the first president to be born in a hospital; where was he born? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Spencer Lucker (@Slucker1) and Kathryn P Fraser (@TravelArtGolf) for guessing Tuesday’s trivia: Who was the first black student enrolled at Ole Miss who had to be escorted in by federal troops? The answer was: James Meredith.


  • Fifty percent of Americans approve of President Obama’s handling of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll. This is the first time in eight months the president has received that level of support from a WaPo/ABC poll — on any issue.

  • The White House fence jumper was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday. Omar J. Gonzalez could face up to 15 years in prison for unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds, while carrying a dangerous weapon.

  • The White House announced Tuesday that Mr. Obama has approved a plan that allows Central American children to apply for amnesty in the United States.

  • A federal judge in Oklahoma on Tuesday ruled that Affordable Care Act tax subsidies cannot go to residents of states with a federal insurance exchange rather than a state-run exchange. The U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. ruled similarly to the Oklahoma court back in July, on the same day that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled the subsidies were valid.

  • Three senators are being considered for the attorney general nomination, but it would likely be a bad career move for all of them.

  • California Gov. Jerry Brown had a busy day Tuesday signing multiple bills into law, including several that dealt with privacy and spying, one that will gradually get rid of single-use plastic bags and one that temporarily allows law enforcement to seize guns from those a court has deemed are a danger to themsleves or others.

  • Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul may have adopted Brown’s “canoe theory” of politics, National Journal’s Shane Goldmacher writes, as he tries to court the establishment GOP and stay connected to his libertarian roots.

  • Tom Petri, R-Wis., was investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics for intervening on behalf of a defense contractor in which he owns a substantial amount of stock.

  • Democrats are pushing out that Sen. Mitch McConnell, who has always run as a pro-coal candidate in Kentucky, opposed the construction of a coal plant, while he was serving as a judge-executive.

  • Governor Mike Beebe has given Democrats legitimacy in Arkansas. But that may soon change as the term-limited governor leaves office amid one of the most contentious Senate races.

  • Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor claims Rep. Tom Cotton is not for protecting women and children in his latest ad, which features the director of an Arkansas women’s shelter.

  • House Democrats are calling malarkey on National Republican Congressional Committee campaign ads attacking them for voting in favor of bills that raised the debt ceiling, most of which were sponsored by Republicans.

  • Since Mr. Obama’s endorsement does not go over very well, red state Democrats, like Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, have found a new surrogate to stump for them: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.

  • Democrats’ fundraising email pitches were sounding desperate ahead of Tuesday night’s quarterly fundraising deadline.

  • Hillary Clinton is in New York Wednesday to fundraise for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who is facing former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown in her re-election bid.

  • Speaker John Boehner thinks former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has a “real shot” if he decides to run for the GOP nomination in 2016.

  • Majority Whip Steve Scalise is looking to change the rules governing caucuses, nearly 20 years after former House Speaker Newt Gingrich took away caucus bank accounts and offices, in an attempt to do away with them altogether.

  • Larry Craig, the former Idaho senator who was caught asking for sexual favors in a men’s bathroom back in 2007, has been ordered to pay back the Department of Treasury $242,353 for using campaign funds to cover his legal fees.

  • Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made secret plans to attack Cuba in 1976 because he was angered by Fidel Castro’s incursion into Angola. That’s according to documents newly declassified by the Gerald Ford Presidential Library.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.


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