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Republicans focus on defending US Senate in campaign’s last week

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Republican campaigns took a defensive approach a week before elections to determine control of the U.S. Congress, with the party spending more to try to hold on to previously secure House seats and President Donald Trump preparing a six-day trip focused on Senate races.

The National Republican Congressional Committee on Tuesday launched a wave of ads targeting 14 House of Representatives races including defenses of eight incumbents and four currently Republican-held seats whose current officeholders are not running in the Nov. 6 elections.

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Trump’s planned blitz of Senate battleground states including Florida, Missouri and Tennessee follows an NBC/Marist opinion poll showing the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Arizona taking a 6 percentage point lead and a Quinnipiac University Poll showing Democrat Beto O’Rourke pulling closer to Republican Senator Ted Cruz in Texas.

A Reuters analysis of a trio of political forecasting groups showed the picture in the House brightening for Democrats.

Of 65 races seen as competitive or leaning against the incumbent party, the odds of a Democratic victory had increased in 48 as of Tuesday in the eyes of at least one of the three of political forecasting groups: Cook Political Report, Inside Elections and the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, according to the Reuters analysis.

Democrats would need a net gain of 23 seats in the House and two in the Senate to take majorities away from Trump’s fellow Republicans, which would put them in position to oppose the president’s legislative agenda. Opinion polls and political forecasters generally show Democrats having a strong chance of winning a House majority, with Republicans expected to keep control of the Senate.

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EARLY VOTING
Early voting has surged nationwide, with eight states already recording more ballots cast ahead of Election Day than in all of 2014, the last midterm congressional election cycle, according to University of Florida researchers.

“Many voters are looking for someone who will be a check and not just a rubber-stamp,” said Mike Levin, Democratic candidate in California’s 49th congressional district, which encompasses a wealthy suburban stretch between Los Angeles and San Diego.

Republican Darrell Issa currently represents the district, but is not seeking re-election.

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Until recently solidly Republican, the district had been trending Democratic in recent elections. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won it by 6 percentage points in 2012, but Democrat Hillary Clinton won it by 7 percentage points in 2016, a swing of 13 percentage points. This year, opinion polls give Levin an edge over his Republican rival, Diane Harkey.

“We talk a lot about the need to have a check on this administration,” Levin said in an interview at a campaign office in San Clemente.

The seat is among more than 40 that were held by Republicans who are not running for re-election, the highest number since at least 1930.

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Republicans are focusing their efforts on conservative districts Trump won by double-digit margins in 2016, particularly in rural areas. That has allowed Democrats to gain ground in more racially diverse urban and suburban districts like the one Issa represents.

In conservative areas where Trump remains popular, from upstate New York to southern Illinois, several Republican incumbents said they saw the odds as moving in their favor.

They said their chances have been boosted by the bruising debate around Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who was narrowly confirmed by the Senate after denying a sexual assault allegation.

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Anger over his contentious, protest-marred confirmation hearings and sympathy among conservatives toward Kavanaugh have boosted the enthusiasm of the Republican base, particularly in rural areas, candidates and strategists said.

Reporting by Scott Malone, additional reporting by Jason Lange in Washington and Tim Ried in San Clemente, California; Editing by Will Dunham


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Three judges suspended for drunken 3 AM fight at White Castle — that ended with two shot

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Three judges were suspended after engaging in a drunken shooting outside a White Castle.

"Three Indiana judges involved in a Downtown Indianapolis fight in May that ended with two of the judges shot have been suspended without pay after the Indiana Supreme Court determined they committed judicial misconduct," the Indianapolis Star reports. "In an opinion issued Tuesday, the court said judges Bradley Jacobs, Andrew Adams and Sabrina Bell 'engaged in judicial misconduct by appearing in public in an intoxicated state and behaving in an injudicious manner and by becoming involved in a verbal altercation.'"

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What Zelensky knew: The devastating and darkly ironic impact of Trump’s attempt to bribe Ukraine

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In their effort to exculpate President Donald Trump in the impeachment inquiry, Republicans put Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s denial that he ever felt pressure from the White House to open up investigations into Democrats at the center of their argument. A new GOP memo says that both leaders have acknowledged “there was no pressure” on the famous July 25 call that sparked the inquiry and thus argues that the allegations made by Democrats that Trump abused his power don’t hold.

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Greta Thunberg says ‘people must finally wake up’ to the fact Trump is ‘so extreme’ on climate change

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Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg said Tuesday that US President Donald Trump's climate change denialism was "so extreme" that it had helped galvanize the movement to halt long term planetary warming.

She spoke in an interview with AFP on the eve of her departure from North America where she has spent almost three months.

"He's so extreme and he says so extreme things, so I think people wake up by that in a way," the 16-year-old said from on board a sailboat preparing to depart from the East Coast town of Hampton, Virginia for Europe early Wednesday.

"I thought when he got elected, now people will finally, now people must finally wake up," she continued.

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