The Election Recap

The Election Recap: Oct. 17, 2022

A notable subpoena, some eye-catching endorsements, and more

Welcome back to The Election Recap, your one-stop shop for the last seven days of midterms news. Let's get into it:

In the ring

Yes, it's still debate season. Yes, I still have to cover it. No, you cannot skip this recap of last week's most high-profile match-ups. For starters, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.) and his Democratic opponent Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes on Thursday held their second and final midterms parley, a contentious back-and-forth ruled unlikely to change the outcome of the election. As noted by my colleague Peter Weber, Barnes spent the debate attempting to "paint Johnson as an out-of-touch millionaire," while "Johnson aimed to portray Barnes as an 'actor' with limited private-sector job experience." The pair sparred over Social Security and Medicare, and also spent some time discussing the conflict in Ukraine, with both in support of arming Kyiv to fend off Moscow. In perhaps the most notable (or, at the very least, most viral) moment of the night, Johnson drew boos from the audience after failing to deliver a very … robust answer to the question, "What do you find admirable about your opponent?" On Friday, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) took to the debate stage against Republican challenger and former professional football player Herschel Walker, who is currently embroiled in controversy following reports that he paid for a woman's abortion in 2009 despite being publicly pro-life (Walker denies the allegations, though he recently claimed he did in fact give the woman a check without knowing what the money was for). During Friday's event, Walker tried to tie Warnock to President Biden's underwater approval ratings and the nation's inflation crisis, while Warnock slammed Walker for his many misleading and false claims about his personal life. To that end, Walker even at one point "appeared to flash a fake police badge to back up his claims that he was previously in law enforcement, something The Atlanta Journal-Constitution confirmed to be untrue," wrote The Week's Justin Klawans. (Walker subsequently told NBC News that the badge is "legit" and was given to him by law enforcement.) Later, on Sunday, Warnock stepped back onto the stage for a second debate with Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver, which Walker opted not to attend. As of Oct. 13, Warnock was leading Walker by 3.9 points, according to an average from FiveThirtyEight. Early voting in Georgia begins Monday.

It happened

They really did it, Joe. The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot on Thursday voted unanimously to subpoena former President Donald Trump as part of its ongoing inquiry into the 2021 attack. At the event's outset, committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) clarified that the proceedings were not an official hearing but rather a "formal committee business meeting" — a technicality that afforded the panel the opportunity to vote on the subpoena in public. "We are obligated to seek answers directly from the man who set this all in motion," Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said at the time, "and every American is entitled to those answers so we can act now to protect our republic." As noted by my colleague Catherine Garcia, it's likely the former president does all he can to resist the subpoena — though it may become a non-issue if Republicans soon regain the House and subsequently end the committee's investigation come January. That said, however, Trump has been reportedly telling aides that he would take the opportunity to speak with the panel so long as the conversation was aired live on television. He also shared his initial thoughts on the Thursday vote on his social media platform Truth Social, where he wondered aloud, "Why didn't the Unselect Committee ask me to testify months ago? Why did they wait until the very end, the final moments of their last meeting?" Then, on Friday, he posted a 14-page response to the panel, in which he once again pushed claims that voter fraud cost him the 2020 election and failed to confirm whether he'd comply with the subpoena. No matter what ends up happening, any effort to push Trump to testify represents a major escalation in the ongoing probe mere weeks before the highly consequential midterm elections.

Listen up

A Tuesday night NBC interview has sparked renewed debate surrounding the health of Pennsylvania Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate John Fetterman, who is continuing to recover after suffering from a stroke in May. The candidate has been open about his subsequent trouble with auditory processing — the ability to understand speech as it's heard — but some critics, including his Republican opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz, argue the resulting disability (and just the stroke in general) might render Fetterman unfit for office (especially since the Democrat won't release his medical records). So you'll imagine the firestorm that ensued when NBC's Dasha Burns, who spoke with Fetterman during the interview aired Tuesday, told fellow anchor Lester Holt that she didn't think Fetterman understood her as the two chatted before the taping. On camera, however, where the candidate used closed caption software to better understand what was being asked, Fetterman "appeared to have little trouble answering the questions after he read them," writes The Associated Press, noting NBC did show the candidate "fumbling for the word 'empathetic.'" While some have seized on the interview and Burns' remarks as reason to support Oz, other voters and pundits have decried NBC and Burns for what they've classified as ableist behavior. Fetterman's "comprehension is not at all impaired. He understands everything. It's just that he reads it and responds in real-time ... It's a hearing/auditory challenge," journalist Rebecca Traister, who interviewed Fetterman for a recent Intelligencer cover story, wrote on Twitter, per AP. And medical experts also seem to agree that closed captions are a common resource for those with auditory processing issues, "conditions which have nothing to do with overall intelligence," adds The Washington Post. For her part, Burns clarified that "[o]ur reporting did not and should not comment on fitness for office," the host tweeted Wednesday. "This is for voters to decide. What we push for as reporters is transparency. It's our job." The Fetterman campaign has raised over $1 million since the interview aired.

Cross-aisle support

Retiring Republican and Jan. 6 committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) last week opted to endorse several Democrats in the upcoming midterms, illustrating an increasingly rare showing of bipartisan support from Capitol Hill. Kinzinger also endorsed four Republicans and two independents, per The Washington Examiner. "Now more than ever, it's critical we elect leaders up and down the ballot who are loyal to the Constitution and willing to be a bulwark for democracy — regardless of their political party affiliation," Kinzinger said in a statement. "We must set partisan politics and ideology aside in order to preserve our nation's democracy." Notably, the lawmaker and Trump critic threw his weight behind four Democrats in secretary-of-state races, which the Examiner notes have been "ground zero for 2020 election discourse" (and will also prove key in maintaining integrity in both the 2022 and 2024 contests): Minnesota's Steve Simon, Michigan's Jocelyn Benson, Arizona's Adrian Fontes, and Nevada's Cisco Aguilar. Kinzinger also backed Trump target and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. In other races, he endorsed Democrats Josh Shapiro and Katie Hobbs for Pennsylvania and Arizona governor, respectively; GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is up for re-election in Alaska; Republican candidates Larry Lazor, running for U.S. House in Connecticut, and Thomas Knecht, running for state representative in Minnesota; and independents Evan McMullin, running for U.S. Senate in Utah, and Clint Smith, running for the House in Arizona's 5th Congressional District. Kinzinger issued the endorsements through his leadership PAC, Country First, per Politico.

Hanging chads

  • Herschel Walker is now "claiming to be quarter Cherokee, citing [a] story his mother won't back up." [The Week, HuffPost]
  • Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R) penned a op-ed in support of … well, himself. [Salt Lake City Tribune, Mediaite]
  • Don't look now, but Republicans have gained a slight edge over Democrats in November thanks to the economy: Poll [The Week, NYT]
  • Republican candidate for Arizona governor Kari Lake declines to say whether she'll accept the results of the election. [The Week, CNN]
  • The Biden administration asked Saudi Arabia to hold off on oil cuts until after the midterms, Saudi officials say. [Fox News]
  • First lady Jill Biden was reportedly booed during an appearance at the Philadelphia Eagles game Sunday night. [NY Post]

Coming up …

  • Even! More! Debates! Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp will spar with challenger Stacey Abrams at 7 p.m. ET on Monday; and Ohio Senate candidates Rep. Tim Ryan (D) and author J.D. Vance will meet for their second verbal match-up around the same time. Then, at 8 p.m. ET, Sen. Mike Lee and the Kinzinger-backed Evan McMullin will meet for a debate of their own. And finally, on Wednesday, Oregon gubernatorial candidates Tina Kotek, Christine Drazan, and Betsy Johnson will square off at 10 p.m. ET, per Politico.

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