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Battle Over Kavanaugh Intensifies Midterm Campaign

In five weeks, U.S. voters head to the polls to elect a new Congress and the outcome will have a profound impact on the next two years of Donald Trump’s presidency. Intensity is building for the Nov. 6 election, especially among opposition Democrats seeking to win back control of the House of Representatives. But the polarizing battle over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh seems to be mobilizing voters in both political parties, as we hear from VOA National correspondent Jim Malone.

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Kavanaugh Nomination Puts US Senate to the Test

A basic function of America’s constitutional system, filling a Supreme Court vacancy, has been thrown into chaos following accusations of sexual misconduct against nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the intrusion of hyper-partisanship into the judicial confirmation process. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the Senate is under intense scrutiny as it struggles to provide “advice and consent” in confirming or rejecting a Supreme Court nominee one month before midterm elections that could reshape Congress.

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Kavanaugh Nomination Puts US Senate to the Test

A basic function of America’s constitutional system, filling a Supreme Court vacancy, has been thrown into chaos following accusations of sexual misconduct against nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the intrusion of hyper-partisanship into the judicial confirmation process. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the Senate is under intense scrutiny as it struggles to provide “advice and consent” in confirming or rejecting a Supreme Court nominee one month before midterm elections that could reshape Congress.

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Kavanaugh Battle Intensifies Midterm Campaign

In five weeks, U.S. voters head to the polls to elect a new Congress and the outcome will have a profound impact on the next two years of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Intensity is building for the Nov. 6 election, especially among opposition Democrats seeking to win back control of the House of Representatives.  But both parties could become energized, depending on the outcome of the polarizing confirmation battle over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

During the weekend, President Trump was on the campaign trail in West Virginia, whipping up support for Kavanaugh and blasting Democrats.

“I’m not running, but I’m really running and that is why I am all over the place fighting for great candidates,” Trump told the crowd in Wheeling, West Virginia.  “You see what is going on, you see those horrible, horrible, radical group of Democrats and you see it happening right now.”

Emotional hearing

The fight over Kavanaugh has animated those in favor of the judge and those opposed in the wake of a sexual assault allegation made by California professor Christine Blasey Ford.

Ford detailed the alleged assault in emotional and riveting testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Brett’s assault on me drastically altered my life.  For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details.”

Supporters have rallied around Kavanaugh after the judge issued a combative denial later in the hearing.

“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace.  You have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy.”

A final Senate vote on Kavanaugh is on hold until the FBI completes an investigation related to the allegations aired in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.  Trump said Monday he wants a “comprehensive investigation” but he also added, “I’d like it to go quickly.”

Declining support

A new Quinnipiac University poll found that 48 percent of Americans surveyed oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation, while 42 percent are in favor.  Women voters in particular oppose Kavanaugh’s appointment by a margin of 55 to 37 percent.  Men support the judge, 49 to 40 percent.

Amid the furor over Kavanaugh, Trump is making a furious push around the country to help Republicans hold their narrow majority in the Senate.

“Promise me, you have to get out for the midterms,” Trump implored supporters during a recent rally in Las Vegas, Nevada.  “Don’t be complacent.  You have got to get out for the midterms.  You have got to vote.”

Many Democrats seem cautiously optimistic about their chances in November of flipping the House of Representatives back under their control.

But even House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says the party still has to follow through by turning out voters.  “Seeing the urgency and willing to take responsibility for what happens, understanding that you have to vote.  If you don’t vote, everything else is a conversation.”

And Democrats are also taking advantage of some star power of their own to rev up the party base including Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

Obama recently rallied Democrats in Pennsylvania, targeting those who have skipped voting in past midterm elections.

“They will say, ‘Well, I am going to wait until the presidential election.’  This one is actually more important.  This is actually more important than any election that we have seen in a long time.”

Trump as motivator

For both sides, there is little doubt that Trump will be the central figure in next month’s election.

“He has been out there endorsing people and working in a way that many thought when he was elected he would not be or working within the Republican Party and with other candidates,” said John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.

“So he is fully in, for better or worse, and he will certainly help some candidates in Republican places, but may turn off people in others.” Fortier is a frequent guest on VOA’s “Encounter.”

Democrats have been turning out in big numbers in special elections and in primaries since last year, and that is a positive sign for the opposition, said Jim Kessler, a senior vice president for policy at Third Way, a center-left policy research group.

“I expect Democrats to take the House. I now even think they might take the Senate, even though the map is so difficult out there. The excitement among Democratic voters is very, very high.  Republican voters are turning out too, but Democratic voters are really turning out,” said Kessler.

Many experts predict a Democratic takeover of the House would stop President Trump’s agenda in its tracks and put the White House on the defensive.  Some Democrats have talked about trying to impeach Trump.

In short, there is little likelihood of looking for common ground, according to George Washington University analyst Lara Brown.

“The truth is, we are just not in the 90s anymore, and by that I mean that there really is not an appetite on either side for compromise.

Trump is expected to stay busy on the campaign trail right up until Election Day, hopeful of blunting a Democratic surge that not only jeopardizes Republican control of both the House and Senate, but also could place severe constraints on his presidency.

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Kavanaugh Battle Intensifies Midterm Campaign

In five weeks, U.S. voters head to the polls to elect a new Congress and the outcome will have a profound impact on the next two years of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Intensity is building for the Nov. 6 election, especially among opposition Democrats seeking to win back control of the House of Representatives.  But both parties could become energized, depending on the outcome of the polarizing confirmation battle over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

During the weekend, President Trump was on the campaign trail in West Virginia, whipping up support for Kavanaugh and blasting Democrats.

“I’m not running, but I’m really running and that is why I am all over the place fighting for great candidates,” Trump told the crowd in Wheeling, West Virginia.  “You see what is going on, you see those horrible, horrible, radical group of Democrats and you see it happening right now.”

Emotional hearing

The fight over Kavanaugh has animated those in favor of the judge and those opposed in the wake of a sexual assault allegation made by California professor Christine Blasey Ford.

Ford detailed the alleged assault in emotional and riveting testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Brett’s assault on me drastically altered my life.  For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details.”

Supporters have rallied around Kavanaugh after the judge issued a combative denial later in the hearing.

“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace.  You have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy.”

A final Senate vote on Kavanaugh is on hold until the FBI completes an investigation related to the allegations aired in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.  Trump said Monday he wants a “comprehensive investigation” but he also added, “I’d like it to go quickly.”

Declining support

A new Quinnipiac University poll found that 48 percent of Americans surveyed oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation, while 42 percent are in favor.  Women voters in particular oppose Kavanaugh’s appointment by a margin of 55 to 37 percent.  Men support the judge, 49 to 40 percent.

Amid the furor over Kavanaugh, Trump is making a furious push around the country to help Republicans hold their narrow majority in the Senate.

“Promise me, you have to get out for the midterms,” Trump implored supporters during a recent rally in Las Vegas, Nevada.  “Don’t be complacent.  You have got to get out for the midterms.  You have got to vote.”

Many Democrats seem cautiously optimistic about their chances in November of flipping the House of Representatives back under their control.

But even House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says the party still has to follow through by turning out voters.  “Seeing the urgency and willing to take responsibility for what happens, understanding that you have to vote.  If you don’t vote, everything else is a conversation.”

And Democrats are also taking advantage of some star power of their own to rev up the party base including Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

Obama recently rallied Democrats in Pennsylvania, targeting those who have skipped voting in past midterm elections.

“They will say, ‘Well, I am going to wait until the presidential election.’  This one is actually more important.  This is actually more important than any election that we have seen in a long time.”

Trump as motivator

For both sides, there is little doubt that Trump will be the central figure in next month’s election.

“He has been out there endorsing people and working in a way that many thought when he was elected he would not be or working within the Republican Party and with other candidates,” said John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.

“So he is fully in, for better or worse, and he will certainly help some candidates in Republican places, but may turn off people in others.” Fortier is a frequent guest on VOA’s “Encounter.”

Democrats have been turning out in big numbers in special elections and in primaries since last year, and that is a positive sign for the opposition, said Jim Kessler, a senior vice president for policy at Third Way, a center-left policy research group.

“I expect Democrats to take the House. I now even think they might take the Senate, even though the map is so difficult out there. The excitement among Democratic voters is very, very high.  Republican voters are turning out too, but Democratic voters are really turning out,” said Kessler.

Many experts predict a Democratic takeover of the House would stop President Trump’s agenda in its tracks and put the White House on the defensive.  Some Democrats have talked about trying to impeach Trump.

In short, there is little likelihood of looking for common ground, according to George Washington University analyst Lara Brown.

“The truth is, we are just not in the 90s anymore, and by that I mean that there really is not an appetite on either side for compromise.

Trump is expected to stay busy on the campaign trail right up until Election Day, hopeful of blunting a Democratic surge that not only jeopardizes Republican control of both the House and Senate, but also could place severe constraints on his presidency.

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Trump Rallies in Tennessee to Boost Senate Hopeful Blackburn

President Donald Trump is back in Tennessee, trying to push U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s Senate bid over the finish line.

 

Trump headlined a high-dollar, closed-door fundraiser for Blackburn in Johnson City before appearing at a packed rally at the Freedom Hall Civic Center.

 

Blackburn is in a tight race against the state’s Democratic ex-Gov. Phil Bredesen, who, like other Democratic candidates across Trump country, has painted himself as a pragmatist willing to work with the president on certain issues. The Tennessee campaign is among several closely watched races expected to determine control of the Senate, and Republicans are desperate to defend a narrow two-seat majority in the face of surging Democratic enthusiasm.

 

And the stakes couldn’t be clearer. The rally comes as the FBI is continuing to investigate sexual misconduct allegations against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh — an FBI investigation that was forced by a small group of undecided senators who could sink the nomination. Trump earlier Monday disputed reports that his White House has tried to narrow the scope of the investigation and limit which witnesses the FBI could interview, saying he wants them “to do a very comprehensive investigation, whatever that means.”

 

Trump is planning a busy week of campaign travel, with trips to a handful of states including Mississippi, Minnesota and Kansas as he tries to boost Republican turnout for the midterm elections.

 

Blackburn’s contest, in a state that Trump won by 26 points, has drawn especially heavy interest from the White House, with repeat visits by both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

 

Bredesen has tried to distance himself from the national Democratic Party, presenting himself as an independent thinker who will support Trump’s policies when they’re beneficial to the state.

 

“I need to make clear to everybody my independence from all of the national Democratic stuff,” the former two-term governor recently told The Associated Press.

 

Blackburn and Bredesen are seeking the seat of Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who is retiring.

 

Bredesen, who would be the first Democrat to win a Senate campaign in Tennessee since Al Gore in 1990 if he’s victorious, has run TV ads in which he says that he’s “not running against Donald Trump” and learned long ago to “separate the message from the messenger.” He was holding an event in Chattanooga on Monday night that he’d hoped would be a debate with Blackburn, and he has been needling her for not agreeing to one.

 

Trump, as he has in other states, is expected to argue Bredesen is not the centrist he says he is and will wind up voting with Democratic leaders including Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi if he gets to Washington.

 

Blackburn, meanwhile, has stressed her ties to Trump, running ads that feature footage of his last rally in the state in May.

 

“Phil, whatever the hell his name is, this guy will 100 percent vote against us every single time,” Trump said at the time.

 

Trump offered an early endorsement of Blackburn in April, tweeting that she is “a wonderful woman who has always been there when we have needed her. Great on the Military, Border Security and Crime.”

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Trump Rallies in Tennessee to Boost Senate Hopeful Blackburn

President Donald Trump is back in Tennessee, trying to push U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s Senate bid over the finish line.

 

Trump headlined a high-dollar, closed-door fundraiser for Blackburn in Johnson City before appearing at a packed rally at the Freedom Hall Civic Center.

 

Blackburn is in a tight race against the state’s Democratic ex-Gov. Phil Bredesen, who, like other Democratic candidates across Trump country, has painted himself as a pragmatist willing to work with the president on certain issues. The Tennessee campaign is among several closely watched races expected to determine control of the Senate, and Republicans are desperate to defend a narrow two-seat majority in the face of surging Democratic enthusiasm.

 

And the stakes couldn’t be clearer. The rally comes as the FBI is continuing to investigate sexual misconduct allegations against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh — an FBI investigation that was forced by a small group of undecided senators who could sink the nomination. Trump earlier Monday disputed reports that his White House has tried to narrow the scope of the investigation and limit which witnesses the FBI could interview, saying he wants them “to do a very comprehensive investigation, whatever that means.”

 

Trump is planning a busy week of campaign travel, with trips to a handful of states including Mississippi, Minnesota and Kansas as he tries to boost Republican turnout for the midterm elections.

 

Blackburn’s contest, in a state that Trump won by 26 points, has drawn especially heavy interest from the White House, with repeat visits by both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

 

Bredesen has tried to distance himself from the national Democratic Party, presenting himself as an independent thinker who will support Trump’s policies when they’re beneficial to the state.

 

“I need to make clear to everybody my independence from all of the national Democratic stuff,” the former two-term governor recently told The Associated Press.

 

Blackburn and Bredesen are seeking the seat of Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who is retiring.

 

Bredesen, who would be the first Democrat to win a Senate campaign in Tennessee since Al Gore in 1990 if he’s victorious, has run TV ads in which he says that he’s “not running against Donald Trump” and learned long ago to “separate the message from the messenger.” He was holding an event in Chattanooga on Monday night that he’d hoped would be a debate with Blackburn, and he has been needling her for not agreeing to one.

 

Trump, as he has in other states, is expected to argue Bredesen is not the centrist he says he is and will wind up voting with Democratic leaders including Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi if he gets to Washington.

 

Blackburn, meanwhile, has stressed her ties to Trump, running ads that feature footage of his last rally in the state in May.

 

“Phil, whatever the hell his name is, this guy will 100 percent vote against us every single time,” Trump said at the time.

 

Trump offered an early endorsement of Blackburn in April, tweeting that she is “a wonderful woman who has always been there when we have needed her. Great on the Military, Border Security and Crime.”

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Pew Survey: America’s Image Worsens Under Trump

The image of the United States has deteriorated further among its traditional allies after a year in which President Donald Trump ratcheted up his verbal attacks on countries like Canada and Germany, a leading survey showed.

The survey of 25 nations by the Pew Research Center also showed that respondents from across the globe have less confidence in Trump’s ability to lead than they do in Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping.

Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has pulled the United States out of international agreements like the Paris climate accord and Iran nuclear deal, cozied up to authoritarian leaders like Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and criticized his neighbors and NATO allies.

In June, after a G7 summit in Canada, Trump refused to sign a joint statement with America’s allies, deriding his host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as “very dishonest and weak”. He has repeatedly attacked Germany for its trade surplus, low defense spending and reliance on Russian gas.

Last week, when giving a speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Trump drew laughter from world leaders when he claimed to have achieved more in his two years in the White House than almost any other U.S. administration in history.

The survey showed that America’s image, which took a big hit in 2017, Trump’s first year in office, continued to deteriorate in many countries in 2018, particularly in Europe.

Just 30 percent of Germans have a favorable view of the United States, down five points from last year and the lowest score in the entire survey after Russia, on 26 percent.

Only 38 percent of French and 39 percent of Canadians said they had a positive view of the United States, both down from last year. Mexico inched up slightly to 32 percent.

Faith in Merkel Highest

The countries with the most positive views of the United States were Israel, the Philippines and South Korea, all at 80 percent or above. Across all countries, the U.S. got positive marks, with 50 percent saying they had a positive view, compared to 43 percent who were negative.

Just 7 percent of Spanish, 9 percent of French and 10 percent of Germans said they had confidence in Trump’s leadership. In 20 of the 25 countries surveyed, a majority said they had no confidence in Trump.

Across all countries, an average of 27 percent of respondents said they had confidence in Trump. That compared unfavorably to Putin, on 30 percent, and Xi, on 34 percent.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the only leader in which a majority of those surveyed, 52 percent, expressed confidence.

French President Emmanuel Macron was just behind at 46 percent.

Despite Trump’s low ratings, 63 percent of respondents said the world was better off with the United States as the leading power, compared to 19 percent who preferred China in that role.

Allies took a dim view of the Trump administration’s position on civil liberties, with majorities in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia and Mexico saying the government did not respect the personal freedoms of its people.

Reflecting Trump’s “America First” stance, substantial majorities in 19 of the 25 countries surveyed said the United States did not take their interests into account when making international policy.

The survey was conducted between May and August, and based on interviews with over 900 people in each of the surveyed countries.

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Pew Survey: America’s Image Worsens Under Trump

The image of the United States has deteriorated further among its traditional allies after a year in which President Donald Trump ratcheted up his verbal attacks on countries like Canada and Germany, a leading survey showed.

The survey of 25 nations by the Pew Research Center also showed that respondents from across the globe have less confidence in Trump’s ability to lead than they do in Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping.

Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has pulled the United States out of international agreements like the Paris climate accord and Iran nuclear deal, cozied up to authoritarian leaders like Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and criticized his neighbors and NATO allies.

In June, after a G7 summit in Canada, Trump refused to sign a joint statement with America’s allies, deriding his host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as “very dishonest and weak”. He has repeatedly attacked Germany for its trade surplus, low defense spending and reliance on Russian gas.

Last week, when giving a speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Trump drew laughter from world leaders when he claimed to have achieved more in his two years in the White House than almost any other U.S. administration in history.

The survey showed that America’s image, which took a big hit in 2017, Trump’s first year in office, continued to deteriorate in many countries in 2018, particularly in Europe.

Just 30 percent of Germans have a favorable view of the United States, down five points from last year and the lowest score in the entire survey after Russia, on 26 percent.

Only 38 percent of French and 39 percent of Canadians said they had a positive view of the United States, both down from last year. Mexico inched up slightly to 32 percent.

Faith in Merkel Highest

The countries with the most positive views of the United States were Israel, the Philippines and South Korea, all at 80 percent or above. Across all countries, the U.S. got positive marks, with 50 percent saying they had a positive view, compared to 43 percent who were negative.

Just 7 percent of Spanish, 9 percent of French and 10 percent of Germans said they had confidence in Trump’s leadership. In 20 of the 25 countries surveyed, a majority said they had no confidence in Trump.

Across all countries, an average of 27 percent of respondents said they had confidence in Trump. That compared unfavorably to Putin, on 30 percent, and Xi, on 34 percent.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the only leader in which a majority of those surveyed, 52 percent, expressed confidence.

French President Emmanuel Macron was just behind at 46 percent.

Despite Trump’s low ratings, 63 percent of respondents said the world was better off with the United States as the leading power, compared to 19 percent who preferred China in that role.

Allies took a dim view of the Trump administration’s position on civil liberties, with majorities in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia and Mexico saying the government did not respect the personal freedoms of its people.

Reflecting Trump’s “America First” stance, substantial majorities in 19 of the 25 countries surveyed said the United States did not take their interests into account when making international policy.

The survey was conducted between May and August, and based on interviews with over 900 people in each of the surveyed countries.

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Obama Backs More Than 200 Democrats Ahead of Midterms

Former President Barack Obama is expanding his influence ahead of November’s midterm elections. On Monday, he released a second slate of endorsements for Democrats running for offices ranging from local to national, bringing the total to more than 300.

 

Among the most prominent candidates to win Obama’s support are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic congressional candidate who won an upset primary victory this summer in New York; Andrew Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor who is running for governor in Florida; and Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Arizona.

 

While the candidates that Obama endorsed stretch up and down the ballot — from gubernatorial hopefuls to aspiring state lawmakers — he notably declined to wade into several races that have captivated national attention. Obama did not endorse Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat challenging Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, or Phil Bredesen, a former Democratic governor of Tennessee who is now running for Senate against Republican Rep. Marcia Blackburn.

 

Obama’s endorsement might not be helpful to Democrats competing in southern states, where the former president isn’t popular. Bredesen said last month he wouldn’t welcome Obama or other party leaders campaigning for him in Tennessee.

 

Obama favored Democrats in close races across the country, veterans of his administration and past campaigns, and he also prioritized diversity. In a statement, Obama described the candidates as “Americans who aren’t just running against something, but for something.”

 

“The Democratic Party has always made the biggest difference in the lives of the American people when we lead with conviction, principle and bold, new ideas. Our incredible array of candidates up and down the ticket, all across the country, make up a movement of citizens who are younger, more diverse, more female than ever before,” Obama said.

 

The former president’s engagement in the political fray since leaving office has been limited and carefully crafted. He returned to the political stage last month with a speech in Illinois, in which he made a sharp break from the deference that past presidents typically show their successors, offering a scathing rebuke of President Donald Trump’s tenure.

 

Since then, as he has campaigned on behalf of Democrats in states like California, Ohio and Pennsylvania, he has largely shied away from as explicit indictments of the Trump presidency, instead imploring voters — particularly young Americans — to vote.

 

Hillary Clinton, the former Democratic presidential nominee, also tweeted words of encouragement for a slew of Democrats backed by Run For Something, a group launched in the aftermath of the 2016 elections to encourage young Democrats to enter politics.

 

“Pitch into their campaigns if you can, reach out to friends in their districts to encourage their support, or start with a like or a follow,” Clinton tweeted. “November 6th is only 36 days away, so there’s no time to waste.”

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