27 DAYS until Election Day … PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP pens an op-ed in USA TODAY with a dire message: “Democrats ‘Medicare for All’ plan will demolish promises to seniors”: “The truth is that the centrist Democratic Party is dead. The new Democrats are radical socialists who want to model America’s economy after Venezuela.
“If Democrats win control of Congress this November, we will come dangerously closer to socialism in America. Government-run health care is just the beginning. Democrats are also pushing massive government control of education, private-sector businesses and other major sectors of the U.S. economy.
“Every single citizen will be harmed by such a radical shift in American culture and life. Virtually everywhere it has been tried, socialism has brought suffering, misery and decay. Today’s Democratic Party is for open-borders socialism. This radical agenda would destroy American prosperity. Under its vision, costs will spiral out of control. Taxes will skyrocket. And Democrats will seek to slash budgets for seniors’ Medicare, Social Security and defense.” USA Today
— THIS IS UNUSUALLY dire language in the weeks before an election. Remember when jaws dropped after Democrats said Republicans were trying to push granny off a cliff during the 2012 election? The president of the United States is saying that Democrats are looking to model the U.S. off a socialist country whose leader is the hemisphere’s enemy No. 1 at the moment.
BREAKING … MIKE BLOOMBERG has registered as a DEMOCRAT.
— He posted a photo on Instagram at around 5:40 a.m. of him filling out the paperwork: “At key points in U.S. history, one of the two parties has served as a bulwark against those who threaten our Constitution. Two years ago at the Democratic Convention, I warned of those threats. Today, I have re-registered as a Democrat – I had been a member for most of my life – because we need Democrats to provide the checks and balance our nation so badly needs.” The Instagram post
REPLACING NIKKI … BEN WHITE in New York: “Dina Powell tops White House list for U.N.”: “Dina Powell, the Goldman Sachs executive and former senior White House official, is the top candidate to replace outgoing United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, two people familiar with the matter said Tuesday.
“Powell, who returned to Goldman in a senior role after leaving her job as President Donald Trump’s deputy national security adviser, is said to be strongly considering the job but also weighing family concerns. Powell already lives in New York, where the UN is based, but has young children and left the administration in part to spend more time with family. She is also said to be happy in her job at Goldman. …
“Two people familiar with the matter also cited as a possible concern the need for more extensive financial disclosure for Powell and potentially for family members than was required for her previous role in the White House. … Haley posted a picture on Twitter over the weekend of her on a boat with Powell and Powell’s fiancé, David McCormick, the co-CEO of the global investment firm Bridgewater Associates.” POLITICO … The pic
— @IvankaTrump: “It is an honor to serve in the White House alongside so many great colleagues and I know that the President will nominate a formidable replacement for Ambassador Haley. That replacement will not be me.”
THE BIG QUESTION: COULD TRUMP get Nikki Haley’s replacement confirmed before a new Congress is seated in January? That’s unclear to us. The already tricky vote dynamics for Trump get trickier if Democrats gain in any way.
WAPO’S JOSH ROGIN: “Haley’s departure sparks a battle for the future of Trump’s foreign policy”: John “Bolton is expected to push for an alternative candidate, though it’s not yet clear who that would be. Bolton has been consolidating power and exerting increasing influence over decision-making regarding national security personnel, with the help of his skilled deputy Mira Ricardel. Bolton is said to want a conservative hawk, someone more in line with his plans to continue challenging international institutions and international agreements. …
“Speculation around Bolton’s potential candidate centers on U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, a favorite of pro-Trump pundits who have already begun their public lobbying campaign. But Grenell’s confirmation for his current job was held up for months due to Senate Democrats’ concerns about his past undiplomatic behavior and derogatory remarks he made about women on Twitter. Since he has taken up his post in Berlin, Grenell’s aggressive style has angered his German hosts.
“Bolton and Trump may favor that more arrogant approach, but Grenell’s confirmation process would be tortured and slow. If Democrats somehow take control of the Senate, it would be impossible. That’s likely why Trump threw cold water on the idea Tuesday afternoon, saying, ‘He’s doing so well in Germany. … Rather keep Ric where he is.’” WaPo
— ELIANA JOHNSON: “Nikki Haley flips the script on Trump”
DEPARTMENT OF YA CAN’T MAKE IT UP … SEN. JON KYL (R-ARIZ.), who was named to fill John McCain’s Senate seat, has said that he will serve likely until the end of the year. He had been previously working as a lobbyist for Covington and Burling. How much was he making there? We might never know! He was granted an extension on his financial disclosure form until “no later than January 03, 2019.” He might be out of the Senate by then!
PLAYBOOK LOOK BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE MIDTERMS …
— SENATE MAJORITY WHIP JOHN CORNYN (R-TEXAS) was the special guest at a SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TEXAS) fundraiser last night at The Capital Grille on Pennsylvania Avenue. It raised $130,000 for Cruz, who is locked in a tough race with REP. BETO O’ROURKE. A source familiar with the event told us this: “Sen. Cornyn is making clear that it’s time to get off the sidelines and is prepared to help in any way he can.”
— PETE BUTTIGIEG, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., who made a run for DNC chair, is starting a push to boost 21 mostly young Democrats running for Congress. Buttigieg is going to contribute and raise money for the candidates, in addition to making swings through several districts.
THIS WEEKEND, for example, he is in South Carolina to raise money, rally and campaign with Joe Cunningham, the Democrat looking to succeed Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.). He will also campaign with Democratic candidates Abigail Spanberger in the Richmond area and Jennifer Wexton in Northern Virginia. The full list of candidates
— HOUSE DEMS COUNTERATTACK … HOUSE DEMOCRATS are unveiling a new project ahead of the midterms to try and counter Trump on the campaign trail — a series of state-level reports focused on the rising cost of health care, prescription drugs, infrastructure needs and wages. UP FIRST: a Pennsylvania report to coincide with Trump’s visit to Erie, Pa., tonight. The project … The Pennsylvania report
Good Wednesday morning.
TRUMP ON THE TRAIL IN IOWA … “Criticizing ‘wacko’ Democrats, Trump promotes ethanol, local Republicans at Bluffs rally,” by the Omaha World-Herald’s Roseann Moring and Aaron Sanderford in Council Bluffs, Iowa: “Republicans who were hoping President Donald Trump would take the fight to the Democrats were not disappointed at his Council Bluffs rally on Tuesday. Trump struck a confrontational tone at Tuesday’s rally in Council Bluffs, going after Democrats locally and nationally as he promoted ethanol and Republicans up for re-election. He offered the same defiant speech that he has in several other political rallies in the lead-up to the Nov. 6 election.
“‘The Democrats have become too extreme, and they’ve become, frankly, too dangerous to govern,’ he said. ‘They’ve gone wacko.’ As he repeatedly urged followers to get out and vote, he said, ‘The only reason to vote Democrat is if you are tired of winning.’ He said the midterm elections were about security and prosperity.” World-Herald
— CHRIS CADELAGO: “Trump’s midterm pitch: Vote for me”: “President Donald Trump, who as a candidate warned that he alone could fix the nation’s ills, is making the midterms a referendum on the one thing he appears most comfortable talking about: himself.” POLITICO
MIAMI HERALD’S JENNY STALETOVICH, DAVID OVALLE and ELIZABETH KOH: “Hurricane Michael grows stronger, ‘explicitly forecast to become’ Cat 4 before slamming into Florida Panhandle”: “Florida’s Panhandle scrambled to ready for its worst hurricane strike in at least a decade as Michael gained power overnight, on track to strike somewhere near Panama City Wednesday afternoon — possibly as a dangerous Category 4 system packing a thundering surge of seawater that could float cars and crest rooftops.
“More than 180,000 people were under evacuation orders along a stretch of the Panhandle better known for its small town feel and big white sand beaches.
“After forming quickly into a hurricane Monday, Michael made steady progress across the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday, gathering strength and plowing up the sea in its path. Water levels had already risen up to 2 feet above normal along the Gulf Coast, hurricane forecasters said, with heavy surf pounding some beaches and minor flooding near Apalachicola.
“At 11 p.m. Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center reported Michael’s sustained winds had reached 125 mph and forecasters predicted it will whip up even stronger before making landfall.” Miami Herald
SPOTTED: GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz — who represents a slice of the Florida Panhandle — on an Orlando-to-DCA flight last night. Pic
NEW POLITICO/MORNING CONSULT POLL … “Poll: Kavanaugh confirmation energizes Democrats more than GOP,” by Steven Shepard: “Republicans are touting the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as rocket fuel for the GOP grass roots in next month’s midterm elections, but it’s Democrats who appear more energized by the nomination fight, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.
“Kavanaugh’s confirmation is not popular: In the poll, which was conducted entirely after last week’s Senate vote, 46 percent of voters said the Senate ‘made the wrong decision‘ in approving the controversial judge, while 40 percent said it was right to elevate him to the high court.
“And following the GOP-led effort to push through his nomination, enthusiasm among Democratic voters has surged. More than three-in-four Democrats (77 percent) say they are ‘very motivated’ to turn out and vote in the midterms — more than the 68 percent of Republicans who also say they’re ‘very motivated.’” POLITICO
— “CNN poll: Democrats are fired up and maintain a strong 2018 lead,” by CNN’s Grace Sparks: “Four weeks out from Election Day, Democrats remain well ahead of Republicans in a generic ballot matchup, with 54% of likely voters saying they support the Democrat in their district and 41% backing a Republican, according to a CNN poll conducted by SSRS. This is the widest margin of support for Democrats in a midterm cycle since 2006, when at this point, the party held a whopping 21-point lead over Republicans among likely voters. …
“This year, Democrats’ enthusiasm about their congressional vote has increased and 62% now say they’re extremely or very enthusiastic to vote, up seven points since September among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.” CNN
BURGESS EVERETT and ANTHONY ADRAGNA: “Murkowski faces firestorm over Kavanaugh vote”: “Lisa Murkowski is facing fresh political fallout for opposing President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, as Republicans fret about her future in the GOP and whether Trump’s attacks on the Alaska senator will alienate her on future votes for his nominees.
“Her Senate GOP colleagues are defending her, pushing back against Trump’s vow to make her pay a political price for opposing Kavanaugh. But Murkowski may be censured by her state party over her vote and Republicans are growing uneasy with her standing in today’s GOP. She’s opposed both Obamacare repeal and Kavanaugh, putting her on the wrong side of the president on two critical votes over the past two years.” POLITICO
2020 WATCH — AP’S JULIE PACE, KEN THOMAS and STEVE PEOPLES: “Democrats warily eye Avenatti’s flirtation with 2020 bid”: “[Michael] Avenatti’s brash confidence is being closely watched by Democrats in Washington and key political battleground states with a mix of intrigue and trepidation. Trump’s victory over more experienced politicians in the 2016 campaign has reshaped traditional views of who would make a viable presidential candidate. Yet some party leaders are worried about trying to replicate Trump’s approach by backing another untested and unpredictable candidate — a concern that was heightened after Avenatti’s involvement in the recent Supreme Court confirmation fight.
“Still, Avenatti has so far managed to stand out among the senators, governors and mayors expected to vie for the Democratic presidential nomination. Early state operatives are offering him advice, and he’s sold out Democratic Party dinners in Iowa and New Hampshire. He’s scheduled to be in South Carolina this weekend, and has another trip to New Hampshire planned on Oct. 22.” AP
— @DylanByers: “I’m having lunch with Michael Avenatti @MichaelAvenatti at the Vanity Fair Summit and he’s proposing a three-round mixed-martial arts fight with Donald Trump Jr. @DonaldJTrumpJr for charity. No joke.”
TRUMP’S WEDNESDAY — The president will meet with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and FEMA Administrator Brock Long at 11:45 a.m. He is having lunch with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at 12:45 p.m. At 2 p.m., Trump will participate in a drug prices bill signing ceremony in the Roosevelt Room. He will then leave the White House for Erie, Pa. At 6:20 p.m., the president will meet with supporters at the Erie Insurance Arena. He will then headline a political rally before returning to Washington.
PLAYBOOK ELECTION CHALLENGE — Predict what will happen in key House, Senate and gubernatorial races — and compete for prizes come Election Day. The challenge
NEW WOMEN RULE PODCAST — ANNA sat down with CECILE RICHARDS for a live “Women Rule” podcast taping at the Texas Tribune Festival recently. Richards, who left as head of Planned Parenthood in May after 12 years, talked about her efforts to elect women this election cycle and how she’s open to running herself. Listen and subscribe
LATEST ON KHASHOGGI … “Turkish Officials Say Khashoggi Was Killed on Order of Saudi Leadership,” by NYT’s David Kirkpatrick in Ankara and Carlotta Gall in Istanbul: “Top Turkish security officials have concluded that the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on orders from the highest levels of the royal court, a senior official said Tuesday.
“The official described a quick and complex operation in which Mr. Khashoggi was killed within two hours of his arrival at the consulate by a team of Saudi agents, who dismembered his body with a bone saw they brought for the purpose. ‘It is like “Pulp Fiction,”’ the official said. …
“Fifteen Saudi agents had arrived on two charter flights last Tuesday, the day Mr. Khashoggi disappeared … All 15 left just a few hours later, and Turkey has now identified the roles that most or all of them held in the Saudi government or security services … One was an autopsy expert, presumably there to help dismember the body.” NYT
— “Khashoggi case: CCTV disappears from Saudi consulate in Turkey,” by The Guardian’s Martin Chulov in Istanbul: “Security camera footage was removed from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and Turkish staff were abruptly told to take a holiday on the day the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared while inside the building, Turkish authorities have claimed. …
“Investigators believe the squad responsible for his disappearance from the Saudi consulate spent several hours at the nearby consul general’s house before leaving for the airport in a convoy of six cars, one of which is thought to have carried the missing dissident or his body. A still-frame image emerged on Tuesday of Khashoggi striding towards the diplomatic mission before he disappeared. The black van that was allegedly used later to smuggle him away was parked next to the front door.” Guardian
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION — “EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler Engaged With Racist, Conspiratorial Posts On Social Media,” by HuffPost’s Alexander Kaufman: “Andrew Wheeler, the acting administrator of the [EPA], repeatedly engaged with inflammatory content on his personal Facebook and Twitter accounts over the past five years, including some in the past month. The previously-unreported interactions include liking a racist image of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on Facebook and retweeting an infamous ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theorist. The findings paint an embarrassing, if unsurprisingly partisan, picture of the 53-year-old former coal lobbyist and Republican aide. …
“In an email to HuffPost on Tuesday, Wheeler said he didn’t recall liking the image of the Obamas and clicked on tweets from conspiracy theorists without reviewing the source. ‘Over the years, I have been a prolific social media user and liked and inadvertently liked countless social media posts,’ Wheeler said. ‘Specifically, I do not remember the post depicting President Obama and the First Lady. As for some of the other posts, I agreed with the content and was unaware of the sources.’” HuffPost
SCOOP — “Federal investigators wiretapped George Norcross’ phones in 2016,” by New Jersey Playbooker Matt Friedman: “Federal authorities wiretapped the phones of New Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross for several months in 2016, according to a document obtained by POLITICO. The document — a letter from William McSwain, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, to an unidentified recipient whose ‘electronic, oral, and/or wire communications’ with Norcross were recorded — does not say why Norcross’ phones were tapped. …
“Norcross, whose insurance brokerage has millions of dollars in public contracts across the state, is one of the most powerful people in New Jersey — and arguably the single most powerful unelected person in the state.” POLITICO
BUSINESS BURST — “SoftBank Discusses Taking Majority Stake in WeWork,” by WSJ’s Eliot Brown, Dana Mattioli and Maureen Farrell: “SoftBank Group Corp. is in discussions to take a majority stake in WeWork Cos., in what would be a giant bet on the eight-year-old provider of shared office space, according to people familiar with the talks. The investment could total between $15 billion and $20 billion and would likely come from SoftBank’s Vision Fund … The $92 billion Vision Fund, which is backed largely by Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi wealth funds as well as by SoftBank, already owns nearly 20% of WeWork after last year committing $4.4 billion in equity funding at a $20 billion valuation.” WSJ
SPOTTED: RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel dining at RPM Italian with Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Caroline Wren, president of BlueBonnet Fundraising. How she got her start in politics: “In 2007 for Christmas I asked my parents for a flight to New Hampshire to go and campaign for John McCain. I showed up unannounced at the McCain New Hampshire HQ and luckily someone let me sleep on their floor and I spent a week waving McCain signs in the snow. From then on I was hooked and ended up taking a semester off from Auburn University to work on the McCain campaign and I’ve been in politics ever since.” Playbook Plus Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Raj Shah, principal WH deputy press secretary, is 34 (hat tip: Sarah Sanders) … Adam Nagourney … Healy Baumgardner … Eleanor Worcester … Brian Nick, VP of comms at Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, is 43 … Kevin Geary … California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is 51 … POLITICO’s Clea Benson, Jason Millman and Matthew Rohan … Victoria Lee … Jason Mida … Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) is 57 … Shrupti Shah, managing director of GovLab at Deloitte … former Democratic Illinois Sen. Adlai Stevenson III is 88 … Stanley Kay (h/t fiancée Rebecca Nelson) … Nathaniel Koloc … Algirde Pipikaite … Thad Logan … former Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) is 79 … former Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) is 53 … Dirk Maurer, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for countering WMD … Marty Smith … Deloitte’s Chrissie Del Tatto … Vincent-Immanuel Herr … Casey Enders … Dena Battle (h/t Kristina Baum) … Michael Long, senior adviser to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), is 36 (h/t Mitchell Rivard) …
… Guillermo Meneses, director of media relations at Blue Cross Blue Shield Association … Natalie Montelongo, national campaign strategist for immigrant rights at the ACLU (h/t Kristin Lynch) … Alexandra LaManna, who works on comms at Lyft (h/t Campbell Matthews) … Tanveer Kathawalla (h/t Renée Rinehart) … Sarah Sweeney … Spencer Anderson of the State Department … Tricia Messerschmitt … James Schuelke … Seth Levey of the Edison Electric Institute … Rosie Daly … Richard Flyer … Stefan Sambol … Zack Nacheman … Edelman’s Alessandra Pollare … Dan O’Meara … Don Burnette … B.J. Goergen, executive director of the Philanthropy Centre at J.P. Morgan … Carrie (Sarver) Hall … Megan McCafferty … Doug Rivlin … Victoria Glover … Lindsay Deloria … Michael Limperopulos … Katie Segoviano … Scott McAdams … Jim Cullinan (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)