POLITICO Playbook: What two new polls tell us about the midterms

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With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

HAPPENING NOW — The funeral of QUEEN ELIZABETH II is underway. Watch live via BBC WaPo: World watches Britain lay its longest-reigning monarch to rest Related read: Ben Schreckinger, with a letter from London: “A Massachusetts Yankee in Queen Elizabeth’s Queue”

THIS WEEK — Today: Clinton Global Initiative kicks off in NYC. … Tuesday: U.N. General Assembly opens its first day of high-level debates. … Wednesday: President JOE BIDEN speaks at UNGA. The Atlantic Festival opens in D.C. … Thursday: Autumn begins.

TOP-ED — “We Have a Bill to Help Prevent Another Jan. 6 Attack,” by Reps. LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.) and ZOE LOFGREN (D-Calif.) in the WSJ: “It’s past time to reform the Electoral Count Act to make clear Congress can’t overturn an election result.”

BRACE YOURSELF — “Why we may not know who won the Senate on Election Day,” by Zach Montellaro: “Trump-aligned candidates on the ballot have signaled they could mimic the former president and use any delays in 2022 to undermine confidence in the results again.”

IS 2022 A ‘WAVES’ ELECTION? — Evidence that the 2022 election will likely be closer than originally thought continues to mount. Two new polls give a sense of the contours of the race.

FIRST, THE NBC POLL: The latest NBC News poll paints a decidedly mixed portrait of the election. Seven weeks out, voters are evenly split at 46% in their preference for which party should control Congress next year. Biden’s approval rating has risen to its highest in 11 months, while DONALD TRUMP’s favorability has dropped. Sixty-one percent oppose the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, 63% said their income is falling behind the cost of living, and “threats to democracy” ranked as the issue most important to voters.

For our money, the most interesting overall takeaway came from the Democratic and Republican pollsters who jointly conducted the survey for NBC:

— Instead of a “wave” election, 2022 may be a “‘waves’ election, where unprecedentedly strong crosscurrents push voters in different directions, with an end result that may not be what we expected,” said Democrat JEFF HORWITT of Hart Research Associates.

— Indeed, 2022 is effectively two campaigns running in parallel: “There is a campaign about the economy, cost of living, crime and border security, and Republicans are winning this campaign,” said Republican BILL MCINTURFF of Public Opinion Strategies. “But there is a second campaign on abortion, democracy and climate change, and Democrats are winning that campaign.”

Key takeaway for the GOP: If they want to make major gains in this cycle, they’ll need to do what they can to try and change the focus of the campaign to issues like the economy or immigration.

ONE WAY TO PIVOT: You can probably expect more efforts like Florida Gov. RON DeSANTIS’ Martha’s Vineyard stunt, simply to try and change what issues are receiving the most media coverage.

ONE WAY NOT TO PIVOT: Here, via WMUR’s Adam Sexton, is New Hampshire GOP Senate nominee DON BOLDUC on Democratic Sen. MAGGIE HASSAN’s focus on abortion rights: “She just wants to hang on with dear life. Well guess what? Your views are not consistent with the average Granite Stater, number one. Number two, get over it. This is about the economy.”

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Right on cue, Hassan’s campaign launched a new digital ad, “Won’t Get Over It,” hitting Bolduc for the comment. Watch the spot

SECOND, THE NYT/SIENA POLL: Republican dreams that a huge swath of Latino voters will run to their side do not appear to be coming true — yet. That comes from the latest NYT/Siena College poll, which shows Democrats maintaining a hold on the Latino electorate. Asked which party’s candidate they’d vote for if the election were held today, 56% of Latinos sided with the Democrats, compared to 32% for the Republicans.

“The idea that the Republicans were ever going to win the Hispanic vote was always a farce and a pipe dream at best,” FERNAND AMANDI, a Democratic strategist who helped BARACK OBAMA win Florida in 2008 and 2012, told Playbook on Sunday night. “The only question was whether or not the Democrats would be able to replicate historic high percentages of support from the Hispanic vote.”

But Republicans can drastically reshape American politics without winning a majority of the Latino vote — and in that effort, they’re already making inroads:

— “Younger male Hispanic voters … appear to be drifting away from the party, a shift that is propelled by deep economic concerns,” write NYT’s Jennifer Medina, Jazmine Ulloa and Ruth Igielnik.

— “Republicans are performing best with Hispanic voters who live in the South, a region that includes Florida and Texas. … In the South, 46 percent of Latino voters say they plan to vote for Democrats, while 45 percent say they plan to vote for Republicans. By contrast, Democrats lead 62 to 24 among Hispanic voters in other parts of the country.”

— “Republicans also have strength among Latino men … who say, by a five-point margin, that they would vote for Mr. Trump if he were to run again in 2024.”

The notion that “demography is destiny” and that a growing Latino population would result in an unassailable Democratic majority is proving to be a canard. And it’s one made worse by Democratic complacency in engaging Latino voters, says Amandi: “They don’t seem to be hustling the vote quite as much as we see the Republicans do.”

Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.

‘THE PANDEMIC IS OVER’ — Biden sat down with SCOTT PELLEY for an interview that aired on the Sunday night season premiere of “60 Minutes.” The full interviewThe newsiest bits:

  • On Covid-19: “The pandemic is over.” More: David Cohen and Adam Cancryn report that this statement by Biden “was not part of his planned remarks,” and “caught several of his own health officials by surprise.” 
  • On the threat of a Chinese attack on Taiwan: Pelley: “Would U.S. forces defend the island?” Biden: “Yes, if in fact there was an unprecedented attack.”
  • On running in 2024: “[I]t’s just an intention. But is it a firm decision that I run again? That remains to be seen.”
  • On Ukraine: Pelley: “You’re already north of $15 billion in terms of those commitments. How far do you go?” Biden: “As long as it takes.” 
  • On inflation: “We’re in a position where, for the last several months, it hasn’t spiked. … It’s been basically even. And in the meantime, we created all these jobs … and prices … have gone up, but they’ve come down for energy. The fact is that we’ve created 10 million new jobs. … [T]he unemployment rate is about 3.7%, one of the lowest in history. We’re in a situation where manufacturing is coming back to the United States in a big way. … So, I — look, this is a process. This is a process.”

The other interview on “60 Minutes” also made news: Iranian President EBRAHIM RAISI “ruled out a meeting with Joe Biden on the margins of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) this week,” as The Guardian’s Julian Borger writes.

ALL EYES ON TURTLE BAY — In person for the first time in three years, world leaders are gathering in Manhattan this week for UNGA, where the war in Ukraine will be the major topic of discussion, AP’s Edith Lederer reports. Ukrainian President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY will be the only one allowed to pre-record his speech. The queen’s funeral has complicated matters: “Diplomats and U.N. staff are scrambling to deal with changes in travel plans, the timing of some events and the logistically intricate speaking schedule for world leaders.”

STORM CHASING — Hurricane Fiona knocked out power to the entirety of Puerto Rico as it slammed into the island Sunday. Five years after Hurricane Maria, this Category 1 storm dumped dozens of inches of rain, causing major flooding and “catastrophic” levels of damage, Gov. PEDRO PIERLUISI said. Power slowly started to be restored later in the day. More from USA Today

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ALL POLITICS

GEORGIA ON MY MIND — The GOP is working to define Sen. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-Ga.) negatively for voters, after rueing their failure to do so in 2020, Natalie Allison and Burgess Everett report this morning. It’s a hard task with a pastor, but some Republicans are zeroing in on Warnock’s finances and growing wealth: “Warnock’s opponents are zeroing in on a unique $7,400 monthly housing allowance he receives as pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. The stipend amounts to nearly $90,000 in income that appears to far exceed his housing costs back home, money that’s exempt from income taxes.” Warnock says he’s done nothing wrong.

ON THE TRAIL — DeSantis hit the road Sunday, stumping for Republicans in Kansas and Wisconsin. And in both stops, either he or the candidates alongside him said they hoped to remake their state governments in Florida’s image under DeSantis.

In Kansas: “I think America’s education governor currently resides in Tallahassee, not Topeka,” said Kansas AG DEREK SCHMIDT, who’s running for governor, per The Kansas City Star. Kansans gave DeSantis a standing ovation on the border and his controversial migrant flight, per CNN.

In Wisconsin: “With TIM MICHELS as governor, you’re going to be able to do everything Florida has done and more on the issue of election integrity,” DeSantis said in Green Bay, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Related read: “In Wisconsin, Election Skeptics Deploy as Poll Watchers for Midterms,” WSJ

— Virginia Gov. GLENN YOUNGKIN is expected to campaign next month with Arizona GOP gubernatorial nominee KARI LAKE, demonstrating his willingness to align with the party’s most extreme candidates, Alex Isenstadt reports this morning. JIM CLICK, a megadonor in Arizona, helped facilitate the connection after finding himself recently impressed by Lake.

CASH DASH — Democrats aren’t the only ones contending with a young new crypto megadonor spending big on pandemic preparedness-focused candidates: RYAN SALAME pumped $13.4 million into GOP primaries this year, the Washington Examiner’s David Drucker reports. The 29-year-old Bahamas-based Massachusetts native, who leans libertarian, donated to 15 candidates through his American Dream Federal Action super PAC. Thirteen of them won, including Senate nominees KATIE BRITT in Alabama and Rep. TED BUDD in North Carolina. Salame focused on politicians “who supported his passion for pandemic preparedness.” He says he’s in politics for the long haul, but will play a smaller role in the general election.

MAR-A-LAGO FALLOUT

MASTER OF HIS FATE — Why did Trump’s legal team put forth as a special master candidate RAYMOND DEARIE, who was ultimately tapped for the role? They believe his tenure on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court “made Dearie a deep skeptic of the FBI,” Axios’ Jonathan Swan and Sophia Cai reveal. Dearie has drawn bipartisan plaudits, and it’s not clear from any publicly available evidence whether Trump’s lawyers’ assessment of his stance is just a guess or something more.

THE WHITE HOUSE

SPORTS BLINK — The Atlanta Braves, last year’s World Series champions, will visit the White House for a celebration Sept. 26, the White House announced.

CONGRESS

RASKIN ASKIN’ — Rep. JAMIE RASKIN (D-Md.) has emerged of late as an investigative star among House Dems. But he faces a tough battle to lead the Oversight Committee Democrats next year — because, at 59, he’s still junior to Reps. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-Va.) and STEPHEN LYNCH (D-Mass.), Jordain Carney reports this morning. Each of the three has high-profile backers; current Chair CAROLYN MALONEY (D-N.Y.) is staying out of it. “Running to lead his party on Oversight is a gamble for Raskin, cutting against the caucus’ penchant for doling out plum positions according to seniority,” Jordain writes. But “Raskin could find his bid boosted as an array of younger members vault up the ranks.”

ANOTHER ONE — Sen. TAMMY BALDWIN (D-Wis.) has Covid-19 (only “minor symptoms,” she tweeted). That would seem to be the nail in the coffin — if it wasn’t already sealed shut — for efforts to codify same-sex and interracial marriage rights before the election: Baldwin has been leading the effort to recruit GOP supporters.

JUDICIARY SQUARE

HAPPENING TODAY — Jury selection begins in Trump associate TOM BARRACK’s trial on charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent, WSJ’s James Fanelli and Rory Jones report. Barrack stands accused of illegally trying to influence U.S. policy on behalf of the United Arab Emirates; he’s pleaded not guilty. It “will amount to the latest major legal test for the Justice Department’s aggressive new posture in cracking down on foreign influence efforts in the U.S.,” Caitlin Oprysko wrote in her preview last week.

AMERICA AND THE WORLD

ILLUMINATING READ — “After Texas Sent Him to Washington, One Migrant Launches a New Life,” by NYT’s Miriam Jordan: “LEVER ALEJOS, who was delivered to the nation’s capital courtesy of Gov. GREG ABBOTT, has found plenty of work. ‘I feel fortunate the governor put me on a bus to Washington.’”

WAR REPORT — U.S. Central Command said rockets attempted — but failed — to strike a U.S. base in Syria on Sunday, per ABC. No fingers pointed yet at a possible culprit.

BEYOND THE BELTWAY

GETTING SCHOOLED — The American Principles Project and other national conservative groups, backed by megadonor RICHARD UIHLEIN, are putting money and energy into local school board races as the latest front in the culture wars, Andrew Atterbury reports this morning from Tallahassee. Initially energized by pandemic-era battles over school policies, they’re now “seeking to shape how potentially difficult discussions on race and gender identity happen — or don’t — in classrooms across the country.” And nationally funded ads and mailers have helped secure a panoply of victories in Florida and beyond.

BORDER SONG — “Border Wall Construction Resumes Under President Joe Biden,” by The Intercept’s Ryan Devereaux: “The Biden administration laid out its plans to rev up work on completing Donald Trump’s signature project.”

MEDIAWATCH

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL — Under the relatively new stewardship of PATRICK SOON-SHIONG and his family, the L.A. Times newsroom has felt an “awkward and at times tense relationship” with its billionaire owner, Daniel Lippman, Chris Cadelago and Max Tani report in a big investigation. Soon-Shiong’s focus can come and go, but his daughter NIKA’s political activism and involvement with the paper has made some staffers uncomfortable about the ownership family affecting news coverage.

And tensions flared in the D.C. bureau when KIMBRIELL KELLY and JACKIE CALMES clashed, which ended with Calmes moving to the opinion section. “Frustration in the bureau has lingered, however. At least eight journalists out of a staff of 30 have left the bureau since Kelly took over [in fall 2020], though she noted that eight had been added ‘within the last year.’”

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY — The Sunday shows, a longtime D.C. staple, are struggling with lower ratings and booking travails — and rejiggering some of their approaches to try to stay fresh, WaPo’s Paul Farhi reports. ABC’s MARTHA RADDATZ and JON KARL are doing more interviews on the road for “This Week.” SHANNON BREAM is the new face of “Fox News Sunday.” And NBC’s “Meet the Press” has tried a streaming spinoff. But all the Sunday shows are at the mercy of technological, media and political change: Newsmakers have way more avenues to reach the public now, and many of them are friendlier than a tough on-air interview.

Tim Kaine played harmonica onstage with Willie Nelson and the Avett Brothers at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Kat Cammack mixed up some fighter aircraft in her Air Force birthday tweet.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Daniel Lippman reports that Greg Norman, the Australian golfer-turned-CEO of LIV Golf, is coming to Washington to meet with members of Congress and attempt to reshape the golf tour’s public image amid ongoing criticism of its Saudi ties.

“LIV Golf is coming to the Hill this week to meet with lawmakers from both parties,” spokesperson Jonathan Grella told Playbook in a statement. “Given the PGA Tour’s attempts to stifle our progress in reimagining the game, we think it’s imperative to educate members on LIV’s business model and counter the Tour’s anti-competitive efforts.” ICYMI: “LIV golf lobbies up,” by Hailey Fuchs

NEW LISTEN — Molly Jong-Fast is launching a new podcast, “Fast Politics,” on iHeartRadio on Sept. 26. Three times a week, she’ll head “behind the headlines with the people who make them.” Website

MEDIA MOVE — Al Weaver starts today as a full-time Senate reporter for The Hill. He previously co-wrote the newspaper’s Morning Report newsletter.

TRANSITIONS — Merith Basey has been named executive director of Patients For Affordable Drugs and Patients For Affordable Drugs Now. She most recently has been executive director of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. … Annie (Humphrey) Woerpel will be director of federal advocacy at PhRMA – Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. She most recently handled health care- and science-related issues for Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), and is a John Boozman alum. …

… Lacy Nelson is now director of comms for Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service. She most recently was comms director for Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), and is a Raphael Warnock, Doug Jones and Katie Hobbs alum. … Eddie Martin Jr. is now deputy executive director for racial equity at the Center for Law and Social Policy. He previously was senior director of equity and engagement at Health Care for the Homeless. … Karry La Violette is now SVP of advocacy and policy for the American Academy of Dermatology. She previously was SVP for government affairs and director of advocacy center for the National Community Pharmacists Association.

ENGAGED — Alex Knapp, director of policy and advocacy for the Boys and Girls Club of America, proposed to Grace Segers, a staff writer at The New Republic and a CBS alum, on Friday on the Georgetown waterfront, four years to the day after their first date there. Alex made a cutout of their cat, Pumpkin, so he’d be with them during the proposal. The couple were introduced in 2018 by their friend Nissa Koerner-Schostak. PicAnother pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) … Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) … Instagram’s Andrea Saul … Washington Examiner’s Michael BaroneToby ChaudhuriMichaela Johnson of Rep. Debbie Dingell’s (D-Mich.) office … David PittmanGreta CarnesJeannie Bunton of the Consumer Bankers Association … Potomac Square Group’s Chris CooperSarah Davey Wolman of the Raben Group … Smithsonian Magazine’s Teddy ScheinmanSonali Desai of Rep. Judy Chu’s (D-Calif.) office … Monica CrowleyBen Cantrell of Rep. Markwayne Mullin’s (R-Okla.) office … Ariana MushnickJohn Byers of Rep. August Pfluger’s (R-Texas) office … retired Army Lt. Gen. Patrick M. HughesWill HackmanCurtis RhyneFrank KonkelNeal UrwitzKimberly HalkettBruce AlpertAdam Temple Brian Phillips Jr. of the House Homeland Security Dems … Erin Pelton … Penguin Random House’s Stuart Applebaum Barry ScheckDavid Silber 

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