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October 22, 2018

A CNN/SSRS poll of Florida's Senate and gubernatorial races released Sunday had some good news for Democrats that CNN says "could be an outlier" or "an indicator of renewed Democratic enthusiasm." In the gubernatorial race, Democrat Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, opened up a 12-point lead among likely voters over former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), 54 percent to 42 percent. Incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has a smaller 5-point lead over Gov. Rick Scott (R), 50 percent to 45 percent, within the poll's margin of error.

The Democrats, especially Gillum, are being buoyed by lopsided advantages among women, younger voters, and non-white voters. The Republicans have a wide lead on the issue of the economy and the Democrats dominate on the issue of health care. Gillum and Scott are seen getting a boost from their responses to Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle.

As CNN political analyst Mark Preston notes in the video below, the races are likely tighter than this poll suggests — according to the RealClearPolitics average, Gillum leads DeSantis by 3.7 percentage points, thanks largely to the boost from this CNN poll, and Nelson leads Scott by 1.3 points. FiveThirtyEight rates the Gillum-DeSantis race a "likely Democratic" pickup. Several reputable polls have registered greater Democratic enthusiasm.

SRSS conducted the CNN poll Oct. 16-20 on landlines and cellphones, contacting 1,012 adults, including 872 registered voters and 759 likely voters. The margin of error for registered voters is ±3.9 percentage points and for likely voters, ±4.2 points. "The Democratic advantages in the poll were similar across multiple versions of a likely voter model, including those driven more by interest in the campaign and those which placed stronger emphasis on past voting behavior," CNN notes. Peter Weber

6:04 p.m.

The House on Wednesday afternoon voted overwhelmingly to table a resolution proposed by Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) on whether to immediately consider articles of impeachment against President Trump, effectively killing the measure.

The final vote tally was 332-95 in favor of tabling. Every Republican voted to table, while Democrats were somewhat split with 95 showing support for considering impeachment, while 137 were opposed.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has long opposed immediately pursuing impeachment against Trump, fearing it will harm the Democrats' legislative agenda. Her camp seemingly held firm on Wednesday.

Green's resolution was focused primarily on the president's recent racist tweets targeting four Democratic congresswomen. It made no mention of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into 2016 Russian election interference, which has generally been the driver behind calls for impeachment in the past. Instead, Green said Trump had simply brought "contempt, ridicule, disgrace, and disrepute" upon the office of the presidency. Tim O'Donnell

5:58 p.m.

President Trump on Wednesday hosted an unannounced meeting with 27 survivors of religious persecution from 17 countries in the Oval Office, the timing of which has prompted speculation from his critics.

The meet and greet was televised, with Trump listening momentarily to stories of survival from several different people. Those gathered included people from the Uighur community in China, the Yazidi community in Iraq, and the Rohingya community in Myanmar, all religious groups that have recently been subject to brutal persecution either from their state governments or, in the Yazidis case, the Islamic State.

Also in attendance was Paula White, a non-denominational pastor who reportedly advises Trump spiritually. White, speaking after a few of the victims, thanked Trump for his "courageous leadership" in the fight for religious freedom for all people before specifically mentioning that, because of Trump, people in the U.S. could say "Merry Christmas" again.

The surprise event's timing has some people speculating that it could be a way for the president to stave off criticism from his racist tweets targeting four Democratic congresswomen. Tim O'Donnell

5:37 p.m.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) has exactly one touchy subject.

The 2020 contender isn't too worried that he didn't make the first Democratic debates, he told Politico in a Q&A published Wednesday. He's happy to say he thinks he was "Taylor Swift's No. 22" in reference to the number of Democrats who entered the 2020 race before him. And he won't shy away from his record of pushing ObamaCare to small-town Montanans while also promising to work with Republicans in Washington, D.C.

But don't you dare ask Bullock about what's on his feet, as Politico found out with this question:

On his monogrammed cowboy-style boots

A: "They're just custom boots."

Q: "No, come on. It sounds like there's a story."

A: "I'm happy to answer anything else but the boots."

Q: "Did you get them from a lobbyist?"

A: "Well, they're alligator boots. And I hunted an alligator...Yeah, so let's not write that."

Q: "Are you going to wear them at the debate?"

A: "Probably not now, thank you. I'm going to wear wingtips at this point."

Bullock has secured enough donors to make the second Democratic debates at the end of this month, where it will be an absolute crime not to ask him about the boots. Read the whole interview with Bullock at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:26 p.m.

Massachusetts prosecutors have dropped sexual assault charges against actor Kevin Spacey.

Spacey was accused of groping an 18-year-old man in Nantucket in 2016, prompting prosecutors to bring indecent assault and battery charges against him. Yet those charges were dropped in entirety due to the "unavailability of the complaining witness," the Nantucket District Court wrote in its Wednesday filing.

The alleged assault was originally reported to police in October 2016, but was made public in 2017, after actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of making an advance toward him when he was 14 and Spacey was 26. Police investigating the Nantucket incident said the accuser took video of the event, but after Spacey pleaded not guilty and the trial continued on, just where that footage and cell phone ended up came into question. The accuser pleaded his Fifth Amendment rights regarding the status of the phone, prompting Spacey's lawyer to move to have what he called a "compromised" case dismissed altogether.

Spacey at the time said he didn't remember the incident with Rapp, but apologized for what he called "drunken behavior." Spacey was then cut from his starring role in the final season of the Netflix show House of Cards, and several more allegations against him soon surfaced. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:02 p.m.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday provided provisional statistics suggesting that overdose fatalities likely decreased for the first time in three decades in 2018. While that's good news, the response by most experts is temperate for several reasons.

For starters, nearly 68,000 people died from overdoses, which is lower than 2017's total which topped 70,000, but still a high number. And 2018's numbers are still expected to increase once the complete data set comes in.

Further, overdoses caused by heroin and prescription painkillers decreased, possibly resulting from fewer opioid prescriptions from doctors, but deaths related to fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamines all continued to rise.

Finally, there's an important distinction distinction to be made. The data represents a decline in overdose deaths, but not necessarily overdoses, in general. Along those lines, Valerie Hardcastle, a Northern Kentucky University public health expert, told The Associated Press that the increased availablity of Narcan might be a major factor in the decline. Narcan is a nasal spray version of naloxone, a medication used to block the effects of opioids in an emergency situation.

"It's fantastic that we have fewer deaths, don't get me wrong," she said. "But I'm not sure it's an indication that the opioid problem per se is diminishing. It's just that we have greater availability of the drugs that will keep us alive."

Still, Stanford University professor Keith Humphreys called the preliminary data "the first real sign of hope we've had." Tim O'Donnell

4:58 p.m.

Don't expect to see any FaceApp memes coming from the 2020 Democrats anytime soon.

The Democratic National Committee on Wednesday urged every 2020 campaign not to use FaceApp, the popular app that allows users to apply filters to photos and has recently been used on social media to age-up pictures, noting it was "developed by Russians," CNN reports. The app was created by Wireless Lab, which is based in Russia.

The DNC's chief security officer, Bob Lord, told the 2020 campaigns the organization has "significant concerns about the app (as do other security experts) having access to your photos, or even simply uploading a selfie." Concerns were previously raised about the app, which notes in its privacy terms that by using it, you "consent to the processing, transfer and storage of information about you in and to the United States and other countries," The Washington Post reports. The company said on Wednesday that "the user data is not transferred to Russia."

Lord said in his warning to 2020 campaigns that "it's not clear at this point what the privacy risks are," per CNN, but that "the benefits of avoiding the app outweigh the risks." Brendan Morrow

4:42 p.m.

What could go wrong here?

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued recommendations Tuesday that propose cutting just how many nuclear power plant inspections it conducts every year. The suggestion is supposed to be a cost-saving measure, but as commission members and lawmakers have said, it could obviously backfire in a major way, The Associated Press reports.

There are more than 90 nuclear power plants in the U.S., and they're inspected by the commission once a year. Yet these recommendations suggest cutting the "time and scope" of inspections, and also reducing other types of inspections "from every two years to every three years," AP says. The suggestion comes both as President Trump's administration suggests regulatory cuts to save money, and as the nuclear power industry pushes the NRC to cut down on inspections.

Earlier this week, House Democrats in the Energy and Commerce Committee voiced their concerns about possible cuts in a letter to NRC Chair Kristine Svinicki, namely calling out the proposed replacement of inspector assessments with "industry self-assessments." The recommendations "may eventually lead to a disaster that could be detrimental to the future of the domestic nuclear industry," the letter continued. The NRC ended up not fully endorsing that suggestion in its Tuesday recommendations. Still, commission member Jeff Baran told AP that the recommendations would "take us in the wrong direction."

The suggestions will now face a vote from the entire commission, a majority of whom have been appointed or reappointed by Trump. While they make their decisions, may we suggest watching HBO's Chernobyl? Kathryn Krawczyk

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