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A ‘circular firing squad’ in IN-SEN



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MIDTERM MADNESS: Indiana GOP race has turned into a “circular firing squad”

Alex Seitz-Wald and Leigh Ann Caldwell write about the incumbent Democrats who could get overwhelmed by a blue wave, too.

The Washington Post profiles conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein.

CA-39: A dispute over a voicemail is roiling the Democratic primary.

CA-GOV: Villaraigosa is up with his first ad.

FL-SEN: USA Today looked at how Marco Rubio’s close relationship with Bill Nelson is adding a wrinkle to the Senate race.

IN-SEN: Jonathan Allen and Ali Vitali report on the “circular firing squad” going on in the Indiana Senate GOP primary.

MO-SEN: The Post-Dispatch notes how Republicans are worried about the McCaskill/Hawley fundraising gap.

MN-SEN: Richard Painter intends to switch parties to run for Senate as a Democrat against Tina Smith, the Star Tribune writes.

OH-GOV: The New York Times highlights the left-v-left fight between Richard Cordray and Dennis Kucinich.

OH-12: POLITICO has the latest on the GOP civil war unfolding in the special election race to replace Pat Tiberi.

WV-SEN: National Republicans are feeling better about the GOP primary.

TRUMP AGENDA: Loyalty tests

The caravan of migrants seeking asylum in the United States has arrived at the border.

From NBC’s Mac William Bishop in Seoul: “North Korea’s promise to shut down its main nuclear weapons test site by the end of May is a significant symbolic gesture, but the move will have little impact on Kim Jong Un’s existing nuclear and ballistic missile programs, according to experts.”

The Washington Post reports on Trump’s loyalty tests in hiring even well-qualified agency staffers — and the headaches it keeps causing.

China is preparing to take a hard line on Trump’s trade policies, betting that its economy is resilient enough to stand up to the U.S., writes the New York Times.

Kim Jong-Un told South Korea’s president that he’ll agree to give up nukes if the U.S. promises not to invade.

Ronny Jackson isn’t coming back to work in his job as Trump’s physician.

James Comey told one of us(!) that the House GOP intel report on Russia is “a political document” and that he has “serious doubts” about Trump’s credibility as a witness.

Health care is a new front in the conflict between the Trump administration and transgender Americans.

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Murkowski reverses course, will vote to confirm Barrett to Supreme Court



WASHINGTON — Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, reversed course on Saturday and said that she now plans to vote in favor of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s final confirmation to the Supreme Court, which is expected to happen early next week.

Murkowski had initially said that she opposed voting on a nominee before the November election. Her vote in favor of Barrett all but ends any long shot hopes Democrats had of convincing some moderate and vulnerable Republicans to side against Barrett’s confirmation.

“I believe that the only way to put us back on the path of appropriate consideration of judicial nominees is to evaluate Judge Barrett as we would want to be judged: on the merits of her qualifications,” Murkowski said on the Senate floor Saturday afternoon.

“And we do that when that final question comes before us. And when it does, I will be a yes,” she said.

Murkowski, appearing to acknowledge that a vote for Barrett could be seen as a break from her previous opposition to a pre-election Supreme Court vote, said that she would still vote against a procedural hurdle on Sunday that will advance the nomination past a filibuster to the final vote.

“What I can do now is be consistent with the precedent that I have set for myself and oppose a process that I said should not move forward, and I’ve done that,” she said.

Murkowski opposed the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018. She is up for re-election in 2022.

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Brexit breakthrough as trade talks could enter crucial new phase next week



BREXIT negotiations could go into a crucial “tunnel” phase as early as Monday as a trade deal looks to be within reach.

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Supreme Court sides mostly with Republicans in last-minute voting cases



WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has faced a stream of last-minute appeals over election procedures since the spring, and most of the time it has rejected calls to allow less restrictive voting measures despite the pandemic.

That has generally meant that Republicans prevailed in seeking to block changes that would make it easier to vote, especially in casting mail-in ballots. Of 11 election-related cases filed as emergency appeals since April, Republican interests won in eight.

The court rejected Democratic efforts to lift an age eligibility requirement for mail ballots in Texas, or allow curbside voting and waive the witness requirement for mail ballots in Alabama, or suspend the witness requirement in South Carolina. And it put a hold on lower court orders that would have made it easier to get initiative measures on the ballot in Idaho and Oregon.

“I think a deference to the states is at work here,” said Edward Foley, an expert on election law at Moritz College of law at The Ohio State University.

That could explain why the court reached opposite conclusions on mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

On Oct. 20, the court rebuffed a Republican attempt to block a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that allows mail ballots to be counted if they arrive up to three days after election day. By contrast, the court granted a GOP request to block an extension on the mail ballot deadline that was ordered by a federal court in Wisconsin during the primary.

“The Pennsylvania case was coming from the state’s own judiciary rather than a federal court,” Foley said, and the state’s top election official was not supporting the Republicans.

Paul Smith of the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, who frequently argues election cases in federal court, agrees.

“There seems to be some feeling on the Supreme Court that state election officials should be left alone to make their judgment,” he said.

At the same time, he added, that has tended to allow Republicans to prevail, limiting voting opportunities.

In August, the Supreme Court denied an effort by Republicans to block lower court rulings that suspended the witness requirement for mail ballots in Rhode Island, but state officials supported that rule change making voting easier. And in October, the court rejected a Republican appeal seeking to block ranked-choice voting in Maine. There, too, the change was endorsed by the top court in the state, not by a federal judge.

Two more rulings could come at any time ahead of Election Day Nov. 3 from the U.S. Supreme Court, on Republican efforts to block lower court rulings that extend the mail ballot deadline in the presidential battleground states of Wisconsin and North Carolina.

Judge Amy Coney Barret’s confirmation by the full Senate is expected Monday, so she could jump in and vote on any of those pending emergency appeals, as well as others that will undoubtedly come before Election Day.

The vote in the Pennsylvania case was 4-4, one vote short of the number needed to grant a stay of a lower court ruling. Barrett’s arrival removes the possibility of further ties.

A third factor may also be at work in the court’s unwillingness to allow last-minute rule changes.

When the court ruled for Republicans in the South Carolina case, maintaining the signature requirement for mail ballots, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said that the Supreme Court has for years tended to disfavor such changes.

“This court has repeatedly emphasized that federal courts ordinarily should not alter state election rules in the period close to an election,” he wrote.

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