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Illinois’ financial crisis could bring the state to a halt

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Politics

Scott Walker, Wisconsin governor and former GOP presidential candidate, loses reelection bid

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Democrat Andrew Gillum was defeated in his bid to become Florida’s first black governor Tuesday, but the party flipped at least seven governorships after voters rejected some Republican candidates in the Midwest and the Sun Belt, including in Wisconsin, Kansas and New Mexico.

At times choking up during a speech at Florida A&M University, Gillum conceded his race to Republican Ron DeSantis, who is closely associated with President Trump.

“I sincerely regret that I couldn’t bring it home for you,” he told his supporters.

Gillum performed relatively well in Florida’s cities and suburbs. But DeSantis won massive margins from Florida’s rural counties, underscoring the advantage Republicans continue to hold in statewide elections there.

“Throughout the campaign, I knew the only thing I could control was how hard I worked,” DeSantis said in his victory speech. “And although I was confident in achieving a victory, I was at peace knowing I worked as hard as I possibly could, and I left everything out on the field.”

Including Florida’s, the 36 gubernatorial races on state ballots offered examples of America’s cultural and ideological divides under Trump.

Democrats flipped the governorships in Wisconsin, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Illinois, Nevada and New Mexico. The race remained too close to call in Georgia, where Democrat Stacey Abrams was running to become the first African American female governor.

In Wisconsin, Democrat Tony Evers bested Gov. Scott Walker, once a Republican star who ran for president in 2016. Walker survived a hard-fought recall vote in 2012, and was reelected in 2014, only to be denied a third term by the state schools superintendent.

In recent years, Walker has faced mounting voter concern about the condition of Wisconsin schools, but he also oversaw a robust state economy, including a 3 percent unemployment rate.

In Kansas, Democrat Laura Kelly defeated Secretary of State Kris Kobach, another Trump ally who is known for his unapologetic, hard-line views on immigration and who was the face of Trump’s anti-voter-fraud panel.

“This has been a battle to the finish,” Kobach said during his concession speech. “Headwinds all the way for our team. But that’s all right. We fought as hard as we could into those headwinds.”

In Illinois, Democrat J.B. Pritzker easily defeated Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) after one of the nation’s most expensive gubernatorial elections. Democrats also won the governorship in Michigan, where Gretchen Whitmer, a former state legislator, defeated Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to replace term-limited Gov Rick Snyder (R).

The Republican governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval, was also term-limited, and will be replaced by Democrat Steve Sisolak, who won out over Republican Adam Laxalt. “Today, people from every corner of the state stood up and turned out to stay it’s time to bring people together,” Sisolak, a businessman and county commissioner, told supporters in a victory speech. “It’s time to prioritize our schools, our jobs and our health care. It’s time to stop the petty politics and get things done.”

New Mexico voters selected Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. And in Maine, where Gov. Paul LePage (R) is term-limited, Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills defeated Republican Shawn Moody, a businessman.

But Democrats were nervously watching results in several other states. Abrams was trailing in her bid for Georgia’s governorship against Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a conservative Republican whose office has been accused of trying to suppress voter turnout. Kemp had a sizeable lead, but some counties had yet to complete counts in the Atlanta metro area.

In a speech early Monday morning, Abrams refused to concede the race and said she was prepared to face Kemp in a runoff.

“If I wasn’t your first choice, or if you didn’t make a choice at all, you’re going to have a chance to do a do-over,” said Abrams, who referenced attacks on voting rights that threatened minority votes in recent weeks.

“Some have worked hard to scare us away,” she said, “but we see the finish line.”

Republicans currently hold 33 of the nation’s 50 governorships. Of the 36 gubernatorial races on the ballot Tuesday, Republicans were defending 26 of them.

The outcomes of those contests will have major implications for Democratic efforts to build a state-level firewall against some of Trump’s policies, including his effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act and gut environmental and labor laws. In most states, governors and state legislatures will be drawing new congressional boundaries after the 2020 Census.

Several of the most hotly contested gubernatorial races took place in Midwestern states that formed the linchpin of Trump’s 2016 victory. Democratic leaders in those states view those contests as a major test of whether the party can win back the white working-class voters who abandoned the party in droves that year.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) beat Republican Scott Wagner, a former state legislator, in a state Trump carried by 44,000 votes two years ago.

In Ohio, Democrat Richard Cordray, a former Obama administration official, lost to Republican Mike DeWine for the seat left open by term-limited Gov. John Kasich (R). The contest was widely viewed as a dead heat heading into Tuesday as Cordray and DeWine, the attorney general of Ohio, battled over health care, jobs and the state’s opioid crisis.

In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, defeated Democrat Fred Hubbell.

Iowa has been trending Republican, including supporting Trump by about 10 percentage points in 2016. Hubbell sought to take advantage of voter unease over access to health insurance and the president’s trade war with China, which could impact the state’s agricultural community.

Republicans had additional reasons for optimism on Tuesday.

On the East Coast, Republican Govs. Larry Hogan of Maryland, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Phil Scott of Vermont, all moderates, won reelection.

In New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) defeated his Democratic challenger, Steve Marchand, the former mayor of Portsmouth.

Republicans also saw an opportunity to win back the governor’s mansion in Connecticut, where incumbent Dannel P. Malloy (D) decided not to seek a third term.

Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski, both businessmen, battled in a race that heavily focused on taxes and the state’s projected $2 billion budget deficit.

In Oklahoma, Democrat Drew Edmondson lost to Republican businessman Kevin Stitt, who campaigned as a strong supporter of Trump.

And in South Dakota, Democrat Billie Sutton — a former rodeo star who was paralyzed in a 2007 riding accident — lost to Republican Rep. Kristi L. Noem.

The Democratic incumbent who seemed most at risk of losing this year was Gov. Kate Brown (D) in Oregon, but she handily beat her opponent, Republican Knute Buehler.

Robert Samuels in Tallahassee, Vanessa Williams in Atlanta, and Annie Gowen, Scott Clement and Isaac Stanley-Becker in Washington contributed to this report.

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2018 Elections

Trump readies for 2020 campaign with no plans to change his approach

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President Trump plans to quickly focus on his reelection campaign following Tuesday’s midterm elections, believing his brand of divisive and confrontational politics will mobilize his supporters and carry him to a second term.

Fresh off an 11-rally, six-day campaign swing through key conservative states, Trump has begun talking about holding Make America Great Again rallies early next year, two of the president’s advisers said. He continues to judge his success by crowd sizes — which were large throughout his recent campaign blitz — and applause. Even as he was on the trail for other Republicans, Trump often focused on himself, touting his accomplishments and taking shots at potential Democratic presidential challengers.

But it’s an open question whether Trump can re-create the coalition of voters and swing-state victories that delivered him the White House — particularly on the same hard-line themes he relied on during the 2016 campaign and the first two years of his presidency. Trump didn’t campaign throughout the country ahead of the midterms, instead spending the bulk of his time in conservative territory where he remains popular while staying away from the suburban districts that helped hand Democrats control of the House on Tuesday.

“There is a certain segment of the population that has totally bought into the arguments he’s making and the way he’s making them, but it’s not a majority of the population,” said Michael Steel, who was an adviser to onetime House speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign.

Trump is preparing to portray Tuesday’s results in the best possible light, focusing on keeping control of the Senate and some victories in gubernatorial races.

“Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all,” he tweeted Tuesday night.

But there were plenty of warning signs flashing for Trump despite his positive rhetoric.

Along with losing the House, Republicans also couldn’t flip Senate seats in PennsylvaniaOhio and Wisconsin — key parts of the industrial Midwest that helped hand Trump the presidency in 2016 but where the GOP struggled to gain traction against strong Democratic incumbents this year. His poll numbers also remain mired around 40 percent.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who handily won reelection Tuesday, said in his victory speech that leaning into popular liberal policies, as he did in his own race, would be the “blueprint for our nation in 2020.”

“You showed the country that by putting people first and by honoring the dignity of work, we can carry a state Donald Trump won by nearly 10 points,” Brown said. “And you showed that we do it without compromising on women’s rights or civil rights or LGBTQ rights.”

To deal with the loss of the House, the president’s political aides were encouraging allies to characterize the setback as the result of historical trends and retirements rather than as an indictment of Trump, according to a person in contact with the White House. The White House has prepared detailed numbers on past midterm cycles to back up its case, this person said.

“I don’t know what else the White House could have done about it,” said Marc Short, Trump’s former legislative affairs director. “You have a record number of retirements in the House. We knew that months ago.”

Midterm elections are not necessarily an indicator of how a president will fare in a bid for a second term — President Barack Obama was dealt major losses in his first midterms in 2010 and then handily won reelection two years later.

Trump has shown no inclination that he’ll moderate his tactics ahead of 2020. Instead, he’ll probably be emboldened by a Democratic House, filled with members who will be hungry to investigate his administration and possibly launch impeachment proceedings against him, advisers said.

The president has started talking about how he would battle a potential Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was on track to lead House Democrats after losing the speaker’s gavel eight years ago. While his advisers have grown worried that he is not prepared for the onslaught of investigations, he has taken some pleasure in saying he will have a foil in House Democrats. At the same time, advisers said Trump might be open to dealing with the opposition party on certain issues and will probably welcome meetings with Pelosi more than some of his aides would like.

Pelosi’s spokesman said Trump called Pelosi on Tuesday night and acknowledged her call for “bipartisanship” in a speech to Democratic supporters.

Many Republicans are eager to continue to promote Pelosi as a political nemesis.

“There’s no question she was one of the biggest villains in the election for Republicans,” said Scott Jennings, a former adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who also worked in the George W. Bush White House. “So if she’s in charge, she’s already at a place in her own image where Trump can turn her into a great foil for the next two years, and the American people would probably appreciate it very much if he worked with Mitch McConnell to stop some of her worst impulses.”

Trump has taken several lessons from the midterm elections, according to his advisers, including that Congress is not as popular as he is and that immigration continues to rile up his base.

Trump gets regular briefings on what his numbers are in key districts and compares them with congressional candidates and what his numbers were in 2016. In private conversations with allies, he has shown no willingness to tone it down — instead talking about how he can ramp up his rhetoric and complaining that other Republicans are not following his lead.

“Are we going to win Pennsylvania?” he asked advisers recently on Air Force One as they traveled to the state that was key to shattering the Democrats’ “blue wall” in 2016.

In some ways, the president’s 2020 operation is more organized than other parts of his White House. Trump brought on Brad Parscale, who served as his digital media director on his 2016 campaign, in March, and a host of White House aides — including Justin Clark, the head of the Office of Public Liaison — are expected to transition to the campaign in the coming months.

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign and affiliated committees have raised more than $106 million, stashing away a massive sum and at an earlier time than his predecessors at this point in their presidencies.

At the White House on Tuesday evening, Trump assembled a crew of top-tier donors and political allies to watch the election returns — including billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, financier Stephen Schwarzman and real estate magnate Richard LeFrak — after spending the day on the phone and monitoring key congressional and gubernatorial races nationwide.

Corey Lewandowski, his first campaign manager, and David Bossie, a former deputy campaign manager, were also there, as were Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, political director Bill Stepien and senior aide Johnny DeStefano.

“The president has energized a staggering number of Americans at packed arenas and in overflow crowds at rallies across the country,” Sanders said as the polls began to close Tuesday night.

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Trump Reacts To Firing Of Peter Strzok, FBI Agent Who Sent Anti-Trump Texts

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The president wrote about “bad players in the FBI & DOJ” in his tweets about the dismissal.

FBI special agent Peter Strzok, who sent personal text messages critical of President Donald Trump and other politicians, including Democrats, has been fired ― and Trump is taking a victory lap of sorts on Twitter.

“Agent Peter Strzok was just fired from the FBI ― finally.” Trump tweeted. “The list of bad players in the FBI & DOJ gets longer & longer.”

The president also used Strzok’s firing to amplify his attempts to discredit the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, incorrectly describing Strzok as being “in charge” of the investigation. Robert Mueller removed Strzok from the special counsel shortly after the text messages were disclosed.

Trump seemingly also implied he was responsible for firing Strzok, though the decision was made by the FBI.

Strzok testified before congressional committees in July that some of the August 2016 texts he sent to former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he was having an affair, were in response to the “horrible, disgusting” comments then-candidate Trump made about the family of a fallen Muslim war hero.

Trump and his supporters, however, argued the texts were evidence of a “deep state” conspiracy to undermine Trump’s presidency.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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