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October 11, 2018

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is both the state's top election official and the Republican nominee for governor, and his aggressive "voter roll maintenance" has become an issue in his race against Democrat Stacey Abrams. Abrams, who is black, says Kemp is suppressing minority votes. Kemp has canceled more than 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012, including about 670,000 in 2017 alone, The Associated Press reports, and his office is sitting on more than 53,000 voter registration forms that ran afoul of the "exact match" system he put in place.

The "exact match" system, codified by the state's Republican legislature last year, sidelines a voter application if it doesn't exactly match the information on an applicant's driver's license or Social Security data. "If even an accent or a hyphen is missing from a name, the application gets blocked," reports Cameron Joseph at Talking Points Memo. Voters don't always know that their registration is blocked, AP says, and an analysis of records obtained through a public records request "reveals racial disparity in the process. Georgia's population is approximately 32 percent black, according to the U.S. Census, but the list of voter registrations on hold with Kemp's office is nearly 70 percent black."

Kemp says he is fighting voter fraud and has made voting easier for all Georgians, pointing to an online registration system and expanded mail-in voting. He blames the "exact match" racial disparity on the voter-registration organization Abrams founded in 2014.

On MSNBC Wednesday night, Rachel Maddow noted that 53,000 votes could decide a neck-and-neck race like the Abrams-Kemp one. "Honestly, this is outrageous enough that it seems almost impossible that the courts will allow this to stand," she said.

Kemp and Abrams have been sparring for years over voting rights, and you can read more about their history — and the 214 polling places shuttered with Kemp's encouragement, disproportionately in rural and blacker counties, since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 — at Talking Points Memo. Peter Weber

1:32 p.m.

The hosts of Fox & Friends aren't happy with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg's criticism of their network.

Buttigieg during a town hall event on Sunday night had called out Fox hosts, blasting "what goes on with some of the opinion hosts on this network" while criticizing some specific comments from Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson. "There is a reason why anyone has to swallow hard and think twice about participating in this media ecosystem," he said. He also said that a lot of people tune into Fox in good faith, even if "some of those hosts are not there in good faith."

In response, Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade scolded Buttigieg on Monday, telling him, "Don't hop on our channel and continue to put down the other hosts on the channel, or the channel. If you feel that negative about it, don't come."

Kilmeade went on to say that Buttigieg taking "shots" at the network's prime time lineup without going on the prime time shows "shows, to me, absolutely no courage."

Buttigieg had decided to participate in a town hall with Fox News after the Democratic National Committee had previously chosen not to partner with the network for 2020 debates, and after other Democratic candidates for president had turned Fox down for a similar event. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently did so while labeling Fox a "hate-for-profit racket." At his town hall, Buttigieg noted, "A lot of folks in my party were critical of me of even doing this with Fox News," to which moderator Chris Wallace joked, "I've heard that." Brendan Morrow

12:58 p.m.

Former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has a problem with the 20-something-strong Democratic primary field.

The ex-Senate majority leader retired in 2017 and is currently fighting pancreatic cancer, but that hasn't stopped him from taking shot after shot at President Trump over the past two years. Now Reid has broadened his view to Democratic targets, particularly those 2020 contenders he thinks should've run for the Senate instead, he tells The New York Times.

While Democrats have piled into the presidential race, the party has recently faced a "recruitment problem" when it comes to drawing Senate candidates, as the Times puts it. Reid suggests this stems from "a feeling that the Senate ... is not dignified like it used to be," and then said it was "a shame that someone like [2020 contender and Montana Gov.] Steve Bullock would not run for the Senate."

Reid particularly wanted to see failed Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke try again in 2020, this time for Sen. John Cornyn's (R-Texas) seat. O'Rourke "came to see me at my home" and "I told him I thought he should've run" for Senate instead of the presidency, Reid said. O'Rourke said "nothing" in return.

Still, Reid won't declare a favorite 2020 candidate just yet. "Everybody knows my affection for Joe Biden," Reid told the Times, but he added that Biden "knows — I've told him I can't endorse him." Then again, he did tell Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to seriously consider a 2020 run back in 2017 — and she listened. Read Reid's whole interview at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:02 p.m.

A Fox & Friends segment went completely off the rails on Monday morning as New Yorker after New Yorker showed absolutely no interest in chatting with Steve Doocy.

Doocy tried to conduct a man-on-the-street segment about a report that New York might start fining people who text while walking across the street. It did not go well to say the least, with Doocy's first attempted interview subject reluctantly offering a few words before shooting him down for more of a response and walking away.

From there, Doocy wandered around for more than a minute getting fully ignored by person after person, eventually realizing that trying to do a man-on-the-street segment about 20 minutes before most people have to be at work wasn't the best idea in the world.

“Can you tell that New York City is a very busy place?” he asks. "It is indeed." Watch the brutal segment via Media Matters for America's Bobby Lewis below. Brendan Morrow

11:57 a.m.

Rihanna is a nine-time Grammy winner, a more-than-occasional actress, a developer of several groundbreaking fashion collaborations, and a purveyor of skin-tone inclusive beauty products. Oh, and she's only 31.

So now that you've processed all that, let's throw another accolade into the mix. Robyn Rihanna Fenty is now the first black woman to head a major luxury fashion house, and playwright Jeremy O. Harris talked to her about it at The New York Times Style Magazine.

Earlier this month, LVMH announced that it was opening a fashion house under Rihanna's Fenty name. She'll join Dior, Givenchy, and Fendi under the Louis Vuitton umbrella — though she's already "as big as LVMH, if not bigger," Harris said. Rihanna was amazed at — but didn't doubt — that assertion, but said she had no idea it would be so historic until "months into" her work with LVMH. And while Rihanna hasn't necessarily felt like an outsider in the white-dominated fashion world, she did affirm that every step of the way, she's shown that she "will not back down from being a woman, from being black, from having an opinion."

Rihanna also discussed why she's using her last name for her fashion and beauty brands. It stems from seeing "celebrity brands" like "Hilary Duff and Hannah Montana have so much success" but eventually become "so oversaturated in the market that it diluted their personal brands," Rihanna said. She keeps her music on a first-name basis "so that you didn’t have to hear the word 'Rihanna' every time you saw something that I did," she continued. So you can expect to see "Rihanna" on her forthcoming ninth album, out sometime in the not-so-distant future.

Read the whole interview at The New York Times Style Magazine. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:18 a.m.

The winner of Game of Thrones turned out to be quite unexpected — but it wasn't as wildly unpredictable as you might have thought.

Leading up to the show's series finale, as fans endlessly debated who would ultimately emerge as ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, there were several obvious contenders. But much to the surprise of some fans, betting markets had someone else in mind: the person who ultimately emerged victorious in "The Iron Throne," who shall remain nameless as to avoid divulging spoilers.

In fact, the betting website Odds Shark days ahead of the show's final episode declared this person the -500 favorite to win the series, prompting USA Today to ask, "Are we missing something?" Writer Henry McKenna proceeded to delve into all the reasons this winner wouldn't make sense while offering that "maybe the oddsmakers know something we don't."

Indeed, Vanity Fair's Joanna Robinson noted in her post-finale assessment that "many regarded it as a fluke" when this character became the favorite to win, although she goes on to note that in retrospect, it actually makes a lot of sense. It's worth noting that there were leaks about the finale in recent weeks that accurately revealed the winner, which may have been the reason for the sudden jump in the betting odds; one bookmaker suspended wagers for that reason. Still, the winner had emerged as the favorite even going back to November of last year.

Ultimately, whether the choice of Game of Thrones' victor was satisfying is up for debate, and it's part of the reason the finale has proven to be so divisive. But if nothing else, those who followed the betting markets in their pools certainly had reason to celebrate. Brendan Morrow

10:26 a.m.

Game of Thrones fans' watch has ended, and the final bow proved to be predictably divisive.

Social media was immediately engulfed with negative reactions as the show's series finale, "The Iron Throne," wrapped up, with one particular heel turn from the previous week continuing to draw complaints. The ultimate victor also left many unsatisfied, with some fans feeling the series rushed into this conclusion at the end of an unnecessarily truncated final season and others complaining that certain plot points did not satisfyingly pay off.

On IMDb, the last episode currently holds a brutal score of 4.8 out of 10 with more than 70,000 ratings. Before this final season, no episode of Game of Thrones had even earned an IMDb score lower than 8 out of 10. For comparison, the famously hated series finale of Dexter has an IMDb score of 4.7.

Television critics have been a bit kinder, but not much. On Rotten Tomatoes, the episode holds a score of 57 percent, meaning 57 percent of critics gave it a positive review and 43 percent gave it a negative review. This is quite a drop from the season premiere, which scored a 92 percent approval rating among critics. The audience score for the show's last season is currently 37 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 2.5 out of 5.

These online reviews from fans should certainly be taken with a grain of salt considering those who hated something are always far more likely to rate it online than those who liked it. The reaction certainly wasn't all negative, with even some who were critical of previous episodes coming away from the finale pleasantly surprised.

Still, Game of Thrones is now almost certain to go down in history along with all of the other shows with famously divisive endings. Will this ending tarnish the iconic series' legacy like How I Met Your Mother, or will it actually gain more appreciation over time like The Sopranos? Only time will tell. Brendan Morrow

9:57 a.m.

It's apparently very unclear where President Trump stands with Rust Belt voters.

As the The New York Times put it in an article published Monday, "there's no boom in Youngstown [Ohio], but blue-collar workers are sticking with Trump." Yet a Politico story from the same day reveals that Trump is "scrambl[ing] to reverse his Rust Belt slide."

Both stories come ahead of Trump's Monday visit to Pennsylvania for a rally, and just after he made campaign stops in Michigan and Wisconsin. Trump is apparently "moving aggressively to shore up his support" in those three states, which he won in 2016 "but where his own polling shows him in trouble heading into 2020," Politico writes. Former Vice President Joe Biden has reportedly started to pull ahead in those states, according to people briefed on the Trump campaign's 17-state polling project.

"People close to the president insist they're not panicked," Politico writes. And if they take the The New York Times' word for it, they'd be right. Despite the fact that Rust Belters never saw the economic resurgence Trump promised, he "appears to have lost little of his blue-collar support here," the Times reports. The former Democratic chair of an Ohio county says his party "has lost its voice to speak to people that shower after work and not before work." Those voters "don't care" about Trump's tax returns, former chair David Betras continued, and they're bound to turn the Midwestern purple states red once again.

Of course, the 2020 election is still a year and a half away, and Democrats haven't even chosen a nominee yet. Let the speculation continue. Kathryn Krawczyk

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