Sunday, 19 May 2024

Answering Your Midterm Questions

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.

We warned you 2020 wasn’t far off: Before the race to replace him has even been called, Jeff Flake, the retiring Arizona senator, told Politico today that a Republican needs to challenge President Trump in the next election. And he didn’t rule out that he might be the one to do it.

What a way to end the week. Some my colleagues in the D.C. bureau and I were marveling at all the news of the past few days: the firing of Jeff Sessions; the (maybe unconstitutional?) appointment of an acting attorney general; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hospitalized; and… oh right, a midterm election with record turnout.

It’s a lot to process, even for those of us whose job is reporting it all. But, as we said when we started this newsletter, we’re here to help! So today, we’re going to answer a few of your questions from this week.

Jeff Gordon writes: I would love to know how Beto O’Rourke spent $68 million on his campaign.

That’s something I’d like to know, too! As many of you know, Mr. O’Rourke, a Texas Democrat, raised nearly $70 million for his Senate campaign. Unfortunately, we don’t have a complete picture of his spending quite yet. The last disclosures candidates were required to file to the Federal Election Commission covered spending only through mid-October.

So what do we know so far about where Mr. O’Rourke’s money went? Well, he spent more on digital advertising than any other single candidate, dropping $7.1 million on Facebook ads and another $2 million on online ads, according to reports from Facebook and Google.

His last F.E.C. report shows millions spent on setting up and running offices — charges like telephone service, payroll and technology — and handling the massive number of donations, with charges for processing credit card fees and T-shirts.

What Democrats want to know now is how much Mr. O’Rourke has left over. As of mid-October, his campaign had about $10 million in the bank. That money, or whatever is left of it, could be donated to other candidates — or repurposed for Mr. O’Rourke’s own political ambitions.

Kathie Whelchel asks: Do you have any thoughts on President Trump offering Kris Kobach a position in his administration as a consolation prize?

You aren’t the only one wondering whether Mr. Kobach, a Republican who lost his bid to be the governor of Kansas, could join team Trump. Given the value the president places on loyalty, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if Mr. Kobach ended up in the administration.

Over the past 48 hours, his name has emerged as a top pick to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Mr. Kobach was an early supporter of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign and served as vice chairman of the president’s voter fraud commission. He was also a source behind Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that millions of people illegally voted in the 2016 presidential race.

As for Mr. Kobach? He’s not commenting on the idea. A friend told The Associated Press that Mr. Kobach planned to go hunting.

Majda Jones wants to know: What can the lame duck House do between now and when the Democrats take over?

Lame duck sessions are notoriously unpredictable. But we know there’s one big issue that has to be tackled: Funding for some of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, expires on Dec. 8. The president has threatened a shutdown if Congress doesn’t fund his border wall. The final appropriations bill has to get 60 votes in the Senate, which means it can’t pass without some Democratic support. But, Democrats are in no mood to fund the wall after winning the House — a victory they view as a referendum on Mr. Trump. So it’s unclear how — or even whether — the government gets funded.

And there are a few other legislative loose ends, like negotiating a new five-year farm bill and extending some annual tax breaks.

Both parties also need to select new House leadership, a fight that’s particularly interesting for Democrats, given the number of new members who pledged during their campaigns to oppose Nancy Pelosi as speaker. On the Republican side, Kevin McCarthy, the outgoing majority leader, and Jim Jordan have already announced bids for minority leader.

Thanks to everyone who wrote in! If you have a burning political question, send it to [email protected].


Updates on undecided races

About 72 hours after the first polls closed, we are still waiting for some results. Here are a few marquee races that remain undecided:

Florida: Want to feel old? If the infamous Florida recount of 2000 were a person, they would now be old enough to vote. Once again, the state is gripped by postelection controversy, as two major races — for governor and senator — are close enough to trigger automatic recounts.

Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican nominee for Senate, has filed two lawsuits over voting results. His opponent, Bill Nelson, has filed a lawsuit of his own. And President Trump has gotten involved, accusing the Democrats of sending “their best Election stealing lawyer,” and promising to “expose the FRAUD!”

Georgia governor: Brian Kemp, the Republican, currently has 50.3 percent of the vote in his race against Stacey Abrams. Some provisional ballots remain, and county vote totals must be finalized by Tuesday. If his share drops below 50 percent, the race would be decided by a December runoff. Ms. Abrams is holding out hope — according to the A.P., her campaign has started reserving television airtime for runoff ads.

Arizona Senate: As of this morning, the Democratic candidate, Kyrsten Sinema, had taken a 9,000-vote lead over Martha McSally, according to The Arizona Republic, with an estimated 400,000 ballots still to be counted.

House races: There are congressional seats across the country still in play, including in New York, California and Texas. Our colleague Liam Stack has the latest on those races here.


What to read tonight

We talked a lot about 2018 being the “year of the woman.” Here’s how it all shook out. (Hint: Some records were broken.)

A federal judge blocked construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying the Trump administration “discarded” the effect it would have on climate change.

It was a long week. TGIF with a cartoon.


… Seriously

We wanted to end election week with a serenade. The future junior senator from Utah sings Johnny Cash. Mitt Romney’s back!

Enjoy your weekend!


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Margaret Kramer contributed to this newsletter.

Thanks for reading. Politics is more than what goes on inside the White House. On Politics brings you the people, issues and ideas reshaping our world.

Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at [email protected].

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