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A memo for Democratic candidates from debate strategists Ron Klain and John Neffinger advises an aggressive approach to messaging in the 2018 midterms. The document, obtained by Axios, advises Democrats to stay on the offensive this year, to "smile ... and attack."

"Debates are much more confrontational now," argues Klain, who has worked with every Democratic presidential nominee since 1992. "The emphasis has shifted from persuading undecided voters to motivating your own supporters, and showing your supporters you'll fight for what you believe in."

That means goals like "staying above the fray" or "just getting my own message out" aren't good enough, the memo argues. This is not a time for going high when opponents go low.

Strategies thus include maintaining a small smile to look like you are the candidate having the most fun; preparing one-liner comebacks, especially if you're facing a Trump-y candidate who has a few favorite phrases; resisting the urge to play fact-checker on stage; and ending answers with direct attacks on the opponent. And when shaping the post-debate coverage, the memo concludes, "[l]ook for specific issues raised in the debate, especially (but not exclusively) gaffes or odd answers or behavior by your opponent." Bonnie Kristian

August 15, 2018
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On Tuesday, Jahana Hayes, the 2016 national Teacher of the Year and a first-time candidate, beat longtime regional politician and presumptive frontrunner Mary Glassman in the Democratic primary for Connecticut's 5th Congressional District. Hayes will face former Meriden Mayor Manny Santos (R) in the general election; Cook Political Report rates the district solidly Democratic. If Hayes wins, she will be the first African-American Democrat from Connecticut in Congress and the first black congresswoman from New England.

Being the first nonwhite Democrat elected to Congress in Connecticut "absolutely plays into everything," Hayes, 46, tells The New York Times. "Because while I see myself as someone who can be a representative of all people, I'd be lying if I didn't say that it would be important to so many people in my community. So many people in this state, and not just blacks, but for all people who want to show that we are a community that welcomes everyone." Peter Weber

August 14, 2018
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Minnesota, Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Vermont are holding primary elections on Tuesday. Republicans in key races in the upper Midwest have been battling over who can most forcefully renounce their former criticisms of President Trump, while Democrats are fighting to reverse recent losses in Wisconsin and hold off a Republican challenge in the race to replace outgoing, unpopular Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D).

In Wisconsin, eight Democrats are fighting to take on Gov. Scott Walker (R), with state schools chief Tony Evers the best known of the candidates. Two Republicans, state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R) and Marine veteran Kevin Nicholson, are battling to face Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D), and both parties have competitive races to replace House Speaker Paul Ryan (R) — Democrats will chose between iron worker Randy "Iron Stache" Bryce and Janesville school board member Cathy Myers, while former Ryan staffer Bryan Steil faces off against four lesser-known Republicans.

Vermont Democrats have four choices to challenge Gov. Phil Scott (R), including a transgender woman, former energy executive Christine Hallquist, and 14-year-old Ethan Sonneborn. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is expected to win the Democratic primary, then renounce the nomination and run as an independent.

In Minnesota, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) is vying for a shot at his old seat against Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, and the Democrats running to replace outgoing Gov. Mark Dayton (D) include Rep. Tim Walz (D), Attorney General Lori Swanson, and state Rep. Erin Murphy. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), appointed to replace former Sen. Al Franken (D), is running to finish Franken's term, and she will face Richard Painter, former ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush. The winner's likely Republican challenger will be state Sen. Karin Housley. The race for state attorney general has been roiled by a domestic abuse allegation against Democratic frontrunner Rep. Keith Ellison. Peter Weber

August 13, 2018
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On Sunday, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) flatly denied an allegation from the son of an ex-girlfriend that he had physically abused the woman, Karen Monahan. On Saturday, 25-year-old Austin Monahan claimed on Facebook that he found a video last year on his mother's computer of Ellison dragging his mom off a bed by her feet and berating her. "Karen and I were in a long-term relationship which ended in 2016, and I still care deeply for her well-being," Ellison said in the statement. "This video does not exist because I never behaved in this way, and any characterization otherwise is false."

A woman claiming to be Karen Monahan said on Austin Monahan's Facebook page that the video is authentic, but while Karen Monahan shared more than 100 text messages between her and Ellison with Minnesota Public Radio, neither MPR or The Washington Post could confirm such a video exists, despite requests to the Monahans. Ellison is deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee and the frontrunner in Tuesday's Minnesota Democratic primary for state attorney general. Austin Monahan tagged one of his rivals, state Rep. Debra Hilstrom, in his Facebook post, and she shared it on social media, calling on Ellison to address the allegations.

The "tenor" of the Monahan-Ellison text messages "at times was friendly, with the two acknowledging concern and care for one another, and at other times more combative over the terms of their break-up and the emotional pain Monahan said he caused her," MPR recounts. "There is no evidence in the messages reviewed by MPR News of the alleged physical abuse." Ellison's ex-wife, Kim Ellison, released a statement Sunday saying she wants "members of our community to know that the behavior described does not match the character of the Keith I know." Peter Weber

August 8, 2018
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Democrats in Michigan's 13th congressional district picked former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib in Tuesday's Democratic primary, and since there is no Republican running in November, she will almost certainly be the first Muslim woman ever elected to Congress. The Associated Press called the race for Tlaib, 42, over Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones early Wednesday. But with 96 percent of precincts reporting, Jones has a slight lead in the concurrent race to finish out the term of former Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), who resigned late last year amid sexual harassment allegations. If Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, pulls ahead in that second race, she will become the first Muslim woman in Congress a few months earlier. Peter Weber

August 7, 2018

President Trump traveled to Ohio last weekend to campaign for Republican Troy Balderson ahead of Tuesday's special election in Ohio's 12th congressional district. Balderson was in an unexpectedly competitive race against Democrat Danny O'Connor in a suburban Columbus district that voted for Trump by 11 percentage points in 2016 and has sent only one Democrat to Congress, briefly, since 1936.

In fact, with 100 percent of precincts reporting — and 3,435 provisional ballots and 5,048 absentee ballots yet to be counted — Balderson is up by just 0.9 points, or 1,754 votes. Trump's advisers had reportedly urged him to refrain from endorsing candidates, and he's having a mixed night: Balderson is up, and endorsee John James won in Michigan's GOP Senate primary, but in Kansas, Kris Kobach — whom Trump endorsed on Monday — is struggling in his bid to unseat Gov. Jeff Colyer (R). Peter Weber

August 7, 2018
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On Tuesday, voters in Ohio's 12th congressional district will send either Republican Troy Balderson or Democrat Danny O'Connor to Congress in a special election, while Kansas, Michigan, Washington, and Missouri hold primaries. Ohio's 12th district has been in Republican hands for decades, most recently Rep. Pat Tiberi (R), but polls show a tight race. Tuesday's winner will have to run again for a full term in November.

In Missouri, Republicans are expected to choose Attorney General Josh Hawley to challenge vulnerable Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) and voters will determine if Missouri becomes an anti-union "right to work" state. President Trump endorsed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach Monday in his GOP primary challenge against acting Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), and three Democrats are running to challenge the victor of that primary. Democrats are selecting nominees they hope will flip two House seats in Kansas, at least two in Michigan, and one in Washington. Democratic Reps. William Lacy Clay (Mo.) and Adam Smith (Wash.) face primary challenges from their left.

Michigan will also choose its nominees to replace term-limited Gov. Rick Snyder (R) — four Democrats and three Republicans are running — and Republicans will select their nominee to go up against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D); Trump has endorsed businessman John James over businessman Sandy Pensler. Democrats will choose the likely replacement for Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D) in the state's solidly blue 13th congressional district; Conyers resigned last year amid sexual harassment allegations. Peter Weber

August 6, 2018
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Voters in Ohio's 12th congressional district are electing a replacement for former Rep. Pat Tiberi (R) on Tuesday. President Trump won the district by 11 points and Republicans have held the seat almost uninterrupted since 1920 — Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) unseated the rare one-term Democrat in 1982 and easily kept the seat until 2000, when Tiberi took over — but polls show an unexpectedly tight race between Republican state Sen. Troy Balderson, 56, and Democrat Danny O'Connor, 31.

Republicans are pulling out all the stops. Trump held a rally for Balderson in Ohio on Saturday and tweeted his endorsement Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence has campaigned for him twice, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) made a campaign stop for Balderson, and Kasich endorsed him. If O'Connor wins in the northern Columbus suburbs, Democrats will plausibly claim momentum going into the midterms. National Republicans, who've spent $3.5 million on TV ads attacking O'Connor and another half-million on get-out-the-vote efforts, are working to keep the seat and deprive Democrats of a talking point. This is the last competitive election before the November midterms. Peter Weber

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