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New nuclear threats raise risk from a 'cornered Putin': Experts

ILYA PITALEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Even before Russian troops invaded Ukraine, U.S. officials warned global peace would be endangered if Russian President Vladimir Putin were allowed to brazenly seize another sovereign country.

At the same time, analysts have warned that if he faced no option but defeat in that bid, the outcome could prove to be even more dangerous -- a so-called "cornered Putin."

Ukrainian successes on the battlefield have not only pushed Russian troops back but now have pushed Putin further into a corner -- forcing him to take a series of dramatic steps to reinvigorate his brutal campaign: a sweeping military draft, labeled as a "partial mobilization," to surge thousands of soldiers to the fight, and orchestrating what the West has called "sham" referenda in occupied territories in Ukraine -- intended to pave the way for them to be "annexed" -- considered, in Putin's view, to be part of Russia.

Most alarming, in a rare televised address, Putin also issued a new round of thinly-veiled nuclear threats -- warning that Russia will use "all available means" to protect what he now portrays as Russian people and territory.

While some of his rhetoric isn't new, the changed circumstances in the conflict are. ABC News spoke to experts and former U.S. officials about why Putin's latest saber-rattling escalates risks -- for both Putin and the world.

Losing the home crowd

Putin's "partial mobilization" to send Russians who have gone through military training to serve in Ukraine is broadly seen as a tacit acknowledgement that his military is failing to accomplish Moscow's goals in Ukraine.

But Max Bergmann, a former State Department official and the director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says it also puts Putin's control over his own country in question.

"What is clearly happening here is that the Russian military position in Ukraine is collapsing," he said. "Forcing people to go and fight in Ukraine is an extremely risky political decision. This is one of the most incredibly disruptive things that can be done to a society."

Although economic penalties for the invasion continue to have a mounting impact, Bergmann says the move will bring the war home to many Russians for the first time. And what's worse, he adds, is that Putin hasn't even officially called his invasion of Ukraine a war -- still describing it as a "special military operation."

"There's a total disconnect between the Russian government messaging that this is just some sort of tactical military effort in Ukraine, versus the need to suddenly rip men that have maybe at one time in their life served in the military for a year away from their families -- many with children -- and from their jobs, off to a battlefield where tens of thousands of people are dying," he said.

Despite the Kremlin's efforts to silence protest, Bergmann says if enough discontent builds, Putin risks losing public support, and with it, his grasp on power.

"He is gambling his entire regime over Ukraine," he said.

A powerful tool in Putin's arsenal is the state propaganda machine, but Bergmann believes Putin still has a steep hill to climb in portraying the war as defending the motherland.

"Putin hopes he can harken back to Russia's past of repelling invaders, whether it's Napoleon's army or Hitler's. But then, Russia was being invaded. It was an existential war. This is a war of imperial ambition," he said. "He's going to have to work incredibly hard to convince the Russian public that it's worth it to lose their husbands, fathers and sons in an oblast in Ukraine."

While the Russian president still appears to wield uncompromising control, Bergmann warns the tide can shift quickly.

"Autocratic regimes look incredibly stable until they're not," he said.

Buying time

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his speech this week to the United Nations General Assembly, warned Moscow was trying to wait his fighters out.

"Russia wants to spend the winter on the occupied territory of Ukraine and prepare forces to attempt a new offensive," he said in a recorded address.

Analysts also say buying time to move newly conscripted troops to the front might be the motivator behind other elements of Putin's strategy.

"Those troops will take a while to get to the battlefield," said John Hardie, deputy director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies' Russia Program. "It's definitely a game on his part."

Putin's latest efforts towards annexation, coupled with promises to defend its land, are likely aimed at giving Ukraine second thoughts about pursuing its counteroffensive -- and giving the West second thoughts about supporting it, Hardie and Bergmann said. But they say it's unlikely to prove effective.

"Putin's hope is that this causes Ukraine and the West to freak out to give some pause about further advances," Bergmann said. "But I think support for Ukraine will remain strong. And that Ukraine is going to advance militarily as it sees fit."

One senior administration official called the referenda a "crass and desperate" maneuver that would not alter the U.S. outlook on the conflict, and predicted that other powers around the world -- even those more closely aligned with Russia -- would not be significantly swayed.

Still farther to fall

If Putin's attempts to delay Ukraine's military progress fail, the most pressing question becomes whether he will make good on his threats to go nuclear -- and what the U.S. and its allies might do in response.

"It's something that you have to take very seriously. Russia has the world's largest nuclear arsenal," said Bergmann. "And when the Russian president starts making nuclear threats, it's something everyone has to pay attention to."

While both Hardie and Bergmann agree Putin doesn't appear ready to resort to the nuclear option, they say deterrence must be the priority. American officials have publicly and privately warned Moscow against using nuclear weapons, and Hardie said they should also press countries the Kremlin might be more receptive to listening to -- such as China and India -- to send the same messages.

But the consequences Russia could expect to face are less clear.

"Are we actually ready to do something more than sanctions? I tend to think we are probably not. I think the administration rightly wants to avoid World War III," said Hardie.

Because of this, the Biden administration's "strategic ambiguity" on repercussions is the best available avenue, he argues.

"If offers the benefit of leaving doubt in Putin's mind," Hardie said.

While Putin could ultimately disregard any doubts, Hardie says it will likely require Putin to grow considerably more desperate.

"I think this would be very much a last resort," he said, noting the Kremlin might test the waters first with demonstrations before hitting critical infrastructure or troop concentrations. "But I think we're a long way from that point."

But Hardie said a significant incursion into Crimea -- the peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 -- would likely move the needle much more, and that it's possible Putin will decide to protect any newly annexed territory with the same ferocity.

"We're in uncharted waters," he said.

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Voters in these states have abortion-related questions on the ballot in November

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Abortion access, legalized marijuana and antiquated laws on slavery are some of the topics that will be addressed in ballot measures in midterm elections.
When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, it ruled there was no right to an abortion granted under the Constitution, leaving it up to states to determine how to regulate the medical procedure.

In an August primary, Kansas became the first state to let voters decide on abortion since the court’s ruling, and residents overwhelmingly rejected a bid to remove abortion protections from its state constitution.

Five more states -- California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and Vermont -- have abortion-related questions on the ballot this November, leaving it up to voters whether to protect or restrict abortion rights in their respective states.

Initiatives to protect or expand abortion rights


California

In California, voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to prohibit the state from denying or interfering with a person’s “reproductive freedom,” granting Californians a fundamental right to choose to get an abortion or use contraceptives.

The measure aims to amend the constitution to protect reproductive rights already granted and protected by state laws.

In The Golden State, abortion is currently legal until fetal viability, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which generally is until 24 weeks’ to 26 weeks’ gestation.

Vermont

In Vermont, voters will decide whether to amend the state’s constitution to include a right to “personal reproductive autonomy,” which will include abortion.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group focusing on sexual and reproductive health, abortion is currently legal during any stage of pregnancy in Vermont, but there is no explicit protection granted under the constitution.

In 2019, Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, signed a bill stating abortion is a “fundamental right” and protecting rights to family planning, contraception and sterilization.

Michigan

Michigan voters will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would add protections for reproductive rights this November.

The proposed amendment defines reproductive freedom as "the right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including but not limited to prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care."

After Michigan’s Board of Canvassers failed to reach a decision on whether to add a question to the ballot, the state’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of adding the question.

A state abortion ban on the books since 1931 is also being challenged in court, but is not currently in effect. Last month, a state judge ruled that the ban is unconstitutional, prohibiting prosecutors from bringing charges against physicians who provide abortion services.

Initiatives to eliminate or restrict abortion rights


Kentucky

Voters in Kentucky will decide on an amendment to the state’s constitution that would specify that a right to abortion does not exist nor is the government required to allocate funding for abortion.

Abortion is currently banned in the state after a trigger law went into effect following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

Under the law, anybody who performs or attempts to perform an abortion will be charged with a Class D felony, punishable by one to five years in prison. The only exception is if the mother's health is at risk.

This ban and another ban, which prohibits abortions after six weeks, are currently being challenged in court. The Kentucky Supreme Court will hear arguments on Nov. 15 on whether to issue a temporary injunction on the ban until the legal challenges are resolved.

Montana

Montana voters will decide whether to approve of or reject a bill passed by the state legislature which would change the state constitution to define all fetuses “born alive” as legal persons, including those born after an abortion.

The proposal would define “born alive” as the complete expulsion or extraction of a human infant at any stage of development, who after extraction breathes, has a beating heart or has definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut or what the birth method is, according to the bill.

If approved by voters, the bill would grant any infant born alive the right to appropriate and reasonable medical care and treatment. A provider who fails to provide the medical attention could face a fine of up to $50,000 and up to 20 years in prison.

In August, the Montana Supreme Court upheld a district court ruling to block three abortion bans that were passed in 2021 while the litigation plays out.

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Arizona Democrats warn 'girls will die' after judge upholds near-total abortion ban

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(PHOENIX) -- Arizona Democrats gathered outside the Republican attorney general's office on Saturday to hit their Republican opponents on abortion and warn that women and girls will die in the state after a judge upheld a 121-year-old law on reinstating a near-total ban on the procedure.

"This law is about controlling women by attempting to control our bodies and our lives," said Democratic candidate for attorney general Kris Mayes. "Women and girls will die because of it…and it's a glaring black eye for the state of Arizona nationally."

Mayes said the law violates privacy rights of women in the state and that she would not enforce any abortion bans if elected attorney general.

"Under this ban, it's Arizona women and families who will suffer the most," said Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Democratic nominee for governor. "And as a mother, I'm furious that my 20-year-old daughter will have fewer rights than I did 50 years ago. The overwhelming majority of Arizonans support access to safe and legal abortion. This decision is a direct affront to what we the people, the voters, Arizonans, want."

Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson on Friday handed down a highly-anticipated decision in favor of a 1901 law prohibiting all abortions other than those necessary to save the life of the mother. The statute, which has language dating back to 1864, also mandates two to five years in prison for anyone who provides an abortion.

Hobbs' and Mayes' Republican opponents -- Kari Lake and Abe Hamadeh, as well as Senate candidate Blake Masters -- have all said they support the territorial-era abortion ban, but "are currently hiding under a rock somewhere," said Mayes, noting they haven't publicly weighed in since the ruling.

"Their silence speaks volumes," Mayes said. "That's for a reason. They know how absolutely unpopular this 1901 law is. They know how indefensible is it, and they know that when Nov. 8 comes, the people of Arizona are going to resoundingly reject this extreme abortion ban, this attack on the people of Arizona, by voting them down."

ABC News has reached out to the Republican campaigns on the decision. No candidate has offered a public comment.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, said through his spokesperson late Friday that the 15-week ban passed by the GOP-controlled legislature earlier this year would go into effect Saturday and would be the law of the land.

But the new law doesn't repeal the 1901 law, its Republican supporters say, which was in place until a court injunction in 1973 shortly after the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade established a constitutional right to abortion.

Hobbs said Saturday Ducey was deliberately being unclear about what exactly the rules are governing abortion access in the state to protect Republican candidates.

"It's clear that he's trying to create confusion about what is in effect," Hobbs said, "and hide from this deeply unpopular position that this 1901 ban is and provide some cover for Republicans. They know this is gonna hurt them at the ballot box."

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, has argued that the older law should take precedence and filed the motion in July to have the Pima County court lift the injunction after the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe.

Barrett Marson, a longtime Republican strategist in the state, told ABC News the decision coming down just weeks before early ballots go out in Arizona "has the potential to impact a wide range of races."

"This has gone from theoretical to real life, and this is not an issue Republicans want to talk about. They want to talk about the border, inflation, economy and crime," Marson said. "This is not the issue that Republicans want to run on, and they are going to be forced to answer to it."

But he also noted, that with a Republican majority in the state legislature, "This is now the law of the land, if you will, and there's nothing Katie Hobbs or Kris Mayes can do about it necessarily."

The White House ripped the decision as "dangerous" and potentially "catastrophic" as President Joe Biden leans into criticizing GOP attempts to restrict abortion access ahead of the midterms.

"Make no mistake: this backwards decision exemplifies the disturbing trend across the country of Republican officials at the local and national level dead-set on stripping women of their rights, including through Senator Graham's proposed national abortion ban," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement on Saturday.

Dr. Baharak Tabarsi, a family medicine doctor who joined the Democratic candidates but identified herself as an Independent voter, said she and her fellow health care providers are devastated by the decision.

"There's confusion, there's chaos and I will use the word moral injury towards clinicians having our hands tied behind our backs."

Abortion rights supporters are expected to gather Saturday outside the Arizona State Capitol at 5 p.m. MT / 8 p.m. ET.

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Republicans hammer crime in key Wisconsin races; Democrats say they want to distract from abortion

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(WASHINGTON) - Republicans are going on the attack in Wisconsin -- drawing a "fact check" in rebuttal from the state's Democratic governor -- as they press what they see as an advantage on the issue of crime and law enforcement support in the final weeks before crucial midterm races there.

A recent spate of ads released by GOP groups attacking the Democratic nominees running for office have pushed them to go on the defense, with incumbent Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday working to debunk, he said, a TV spot from the Republican Governors Association that claimed his policies played a role in the release of hundreds of violent criminals by the state's parole commission.

Democratic operatives say conservatives' focus on crime is a distraction from other key issues on which voters view them less favorably, like abortion access post Roe. Evers' Republican challenger, Tim Michels, opposes abortion in almost all cases.

"I'm principled; my wife and I, we know we have to answer to somebody higher than anybody on the face of this earth. We're pro-life because of our faith," he has said.

But a Marquette University Law School Poll released earlier this month analyzing Wisconsin's Senate and governor race showed that 61% of registered voters were concerned about crime. The issue ranked among the top-five issues for voters in the state.

In response to the RGA ad, which sought to link Evers to the release of "over 800 convicted criminals," "270 murderers and attempted murderers" and "44 child rapists," the Evers campaign said "of the 884 convicted criminals released under Gov. Evers' administration, nearly half were released because their release was required by law."

His campaign stressed that, in Wisconsin, "only the parole chair can decide who gets let out of prison on parole. The governor has no role in these decisions," adding that the parole chair, John Tate, "never received a full confirmation hearing" and that he was unanimously recommended for confirmation by a Republican-controlled Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety.

And as to the RGA ad's claims that the governor's "liberal policies" have made local communities less safe, Evers' campaign pointed out that the governor signed a bill in April preventing violent criminals and sex offenders from being released early from prison in the future. Evers contrasted that with Michels, who opposes gun law changes including so-called "red flag" legislation, which would allow law enforcement to remove firearms from people they believe may present a danger to themselves or others.

Michels said in June: "It's not the guns. It's a cultural problem today. And a lot of it is a byproduct of the whole 'defund the police' movement, where cops became bad guys."

The Republican Party and their Wisconsin nominees have also spotlighted two members of the law enforcement community who have publicly announced that they never actually endorsed Democratic Senate nominee Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, despite their names being initially filed under a list by the campaign detailing officers who support him.

Both La Crosse County Sheriff's Captain John Siegel -- who is running for county sheriff -- and Racine County Deputy Malik Frazier's names were listed but have since been removed by the Barnes campaign. The coalition of law enforcement that supports Barnes now includes 15 members, two of whom are active-duty sheriffs from Rock County and Green County.

Wisconsin Right Now first reported on Siegel's removal from the list. Siegel told the outlet that he never endorsed the lieutenant governor and that he did not plan to endorse anyone in the state's Senate race.

When reached by ABC News, Lt. Michael Luell, a spokesman with the Racine County Sheriff's Office, said that Deputy Malik Frazier "expressed some level of surprise" when he saw his name on the list of law enforcement who supported Barnes.

"[Frazier] stated that he may be personally supporting Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, but he did not intend to professionally endorse him, and that professional endorsement was a mistake made by the Barnes' campaign," Luell said. (La Crosse County Sheriff's Captain John Siegel did not respond to a request from ABC News for comment.)

The Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican-aligned super PAC, has recently published multiple ads targeting Barnes' support to eliminate cash bail, an issue that its supporter say would remove an excessive financial burden on people accused of even minor infractions -- but which the GOP ad contends would set "accused criminals free into the community before trial."

In a statement to ABC News in response to the negative ads, Maddy McDaniel, a Barnes campaign spokeswoman, said: "Ron Johnson defended the criminals whose insurrection injured 140 police officers. He loves to point fingers about crime, but then voted against police funding while Lt. Governor Barnes and Governor Evers actually invested in public safety and law enforcement."

Some outside Democratic strategists cast the Republican ads focusing on crime as "fear mongering" and a distraction from their other weaknesses on the trail.

"There's no question that [Republicans] want people to be scared," said Democratic strategist Joe Zepecki, adding, "They're trying to create an alternative environment that they think is better for them politically. But we know that the biggest story in American politics this year is the attack on women's reproductive freedom."

A new Spectrum News/Siena College poll released this week showed Evers with a 5-point lead over Michels in a race that FiveThirtyEight says favors Evers. The Spectrum/Siena poll also asked voters about their take on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that overturned Roe v. Wade, with 72% of Wisconsinites polled saying they want a new abortion law in the state versus relying on the state's "1849 law" that broadly bans the procedure.

In a Marquette Law School poll released last week, 51% of Wisconsin voters surveyed said Republican incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson "doesn't share their values" versus 41% for Lt. Gov. Barnes.

Zepecki, the strategist, said that he believes "nobody buys" that Evers is "just flinging open the jail cell or ushering people out into the streets. That's insane."

As for the two members of law enforcement who were removed from the list of endorsements for Barnes, Zepecki said he does not foresee that negatively influencing the relatively small share of undecided voters in Wisconsin.

"I think this is much ado about nothing," he argued. "This is the stuff that happens when you got campaigns that are trying to do 7,000 things with not enough staff and not enough time before Election Day, so I have a hard time believing that this has got to change anybody's mind in this election, particularly talking about the truly undecided voters."

Alec Zimmerman, a spokesperson for Johnson's campaign, had another view: "Mandela Barnes can't even tell the truth about who is endorsing his campaign -- voters shouldn't believe a word that comes out of his mouth."

On Wednesday, Johnson's campaign announced a bipartisan coalition of 51 sheriffs who had endorsed him.

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Black voters could push Stacey Abrams to victory in Georgia. Will they?

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Democrat Stacey Abrams knows by exactly how many votes she narrowly lost to Republican Brian Kemp in the Georgia governor's race four years ago -- and, to hear her tell it, she knows exactly who can help her win in their rematch this fall.

"One-point-six million new voters are added to the rolls after 2018. The margin in the 2018 election was … 54,723 votes. We've got 1.6 million opportunities to cover a 54,000 vote spread," Abrams told reporters at a campaign stop in Athens on Saturday.

As Abrams -- a former state lawmaker-turned-voting rights advocate who would be the first Black woman governor in the country's history -- works to mobilize Georgians, she is focusing, she has said, on untapped communities: Asian Americans, Latinos and more.

She has also increasingly emphasized outreach to Black voters, particularly Black male voters, whose crucial support has been wavering, according to some polls.

"If Black men turned out in their numbers and support me at the level they are capable of, I can win this election," Abrams said at an event in Atlanta earlier this month alongside popular radio host Charlamagne tha God, rapper 21 Savage and civil rights attorney Francys Johnson.

Before her event with Charlamagne and 21 Savage, Abrams campaigned at a Caribbean restaurant with Atlanta-native rapper Yung Joc.

"If you wanted a group of Black man to mobilize, you would not only want to kind of reach out to him and mobilize him but you want to also reach out to the people around him who are his kind of people," Chryl Laird, an associate professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland at College Park, told ABC News.

In 2018, Abrams won 93% of Black voters, who make up 30% of the Georgia electorate. Black men comprised 14% of voters and chose Abrams over Kemp 88% to 11%, according to exit polling data from ABC News.

Black women made up 16% of Georgia voters and went for Abrams 97% to 2%.

That pattern may not repeat in November -- a shift that, given Abrams' close defeat in 2018, could be decisive.

Kemp led Abrams 50% to 48% according to a poll last week of likely voters conducted by Quinnipiac University. Quinnipiac found that Black men supported Abrams over Kemp 87% to 12%, a 1-point shift, and Black women backed Abrams 94% to 5%, a 3-point drop.

Black conservatives say the reason for the change is clear: They cite Kemp's COVID-19 response and the state's economic performance.

"For the Black Georgians who vote and have watched [Kemp] over his last four years, they understand that he's been a good governor. And if it's not broke, why do you need to fix it?" Camilla Moore, chairman of the Georgia Black Republican Council, told ABC News.

Out on the campaign trail, Kemp emphasizes that history in his appeal to voters of color.

"I told people from day one what I was gonna do when I ran in 2018. A lot of people didn't really know who I was then. I got defined by a candidate that had twice as much money as I did, had the national media in her back pocket and never could really fight through that. And it's a different story now. Because I have a great record that I think resonates with all Georgians," Kemp said at a campaign stop at the University of Georgia on Sep. 10.

Abrams downplayed concerns about the polling while at an event over the weekend, arguing that the disengaged and newly registered voters were key to persuade.

Still, she acknowledged there was space to drive up Black voter turnout -- and she linked their potential apathy to the state's recent decades under GOP leadership.

"We know that there are still thousands and thousands of voters who are not engaged, especially Black voters. And we know that that is in part because of 20 years of Republican rule convincing Black voters that we've gotten everything we're going to get," she said.

'If you show up, things really will change'

In recent weeks, as Abrams works to expand her base of support, she has hosted events with Asian-Americans, Latinos and voters with disabilities, among others.

"I'm not going to leave any community untouched and unconnected with," she told reporters at the event with Charlamagne that was geared toward Black men.

On Sunday, Abrams led a fireside chat focused on gun violence in the Asian community, a group that has become the fastest-growing population of eligible voters in the country.

She was joined alongside families who've lost loved ones to gun violence, with much of the event centered around the Georgia spa mass shootings in March 2021.

"What is dismissed as a cultural conversation but must be understood as an issue of health care, of economics, of morality. We have the responsibility in the state to protect our people, and that protection should not be limited," she said.

Abrams also spoke at Atlanta's yearly celebration of Mexican Independence Day, attended the Asian Student Alliance Conference and has hosted several Latino-owned small business roundtables across Georgia.

Her campaign plans to use these events as an opportunity to earn the votes of communities that they feel have been left out of the political conversation, treating them as persuasion communities which, speaking to the 19th at the Buckhead Theater, Abrams described as people who need to be convinced to show up to the polls -- not who to vote for.

"If you show up, things really will change," Abrams said Monday.

She is right on the reality of Georgia's changing electorate, which has given her campaign an opportunity to court new or infrequent voters.

Though Black voters still make up a significant share of voters, the number of active voters who are Hispanic and Asian grew in recent years to 4% and 3%, respectively, according to a report from Georgia's secretary of state.

In the upcoming weeks, Abrams plans to hold a reproductive rights event focused on AAPI women, a Vietnamese roundtable, and speak at the Georgia Latino Film Festival.

"This is one of the first times that we've really had an opportunity to sit down with someone who was running for a major seat and talk about these issues," Rhea Wunsch, a Georgia college student and gun reform activist told ABC News, during Abrams' event with Asian Americans on Sunday.

While Abrams may downplay the polling, surveys show her push to persuade voters has some limits that Kemp doesn't face: A Monmouth University poll released Thursday found that she has a smaller ceiling to gain swayable voters' support compared to her opponent. Kemp had a lower unfavorable rating, according to Monmouth, and more Georgia voters had definitely ruled out voting for her (46%) over him (37%).

However, that poll showed Abrams has greater support from her party than Kemp does form his: 83% of Democrats said they will definitely vote for Abrams while 73% of Republicans said they will definitely back Kemp.

Abrams also sees a pathway to victory through infrequent voters and has been working for years on the ground to register voters -- efforts that other Democrats have credited, in part, with driving up turnout in the 2020 election cycle that saw both Senate seats flip blue.

"It's not about whether they're voting Republican or Democrat. It's whether they believe voting can work for them. And I want them to know that if they vote for me for governor, things that are going to be different," Abrams said Saturday.

Low-propensity voters are who, some experts say, will make the difference in the gubernatorial election, and it's a bloc that may not be reflected in polls.

"This race is going to come down to a few thousand votes. And so when you look at which candidate is going granular and finding -- literally meeting -- every eligible voter, it is Stacey. And the polls aren't going to represent that granularity," said Hillary Holley, executive director of Care in Action, a nonpartisan group advocating for domestic workers.

But Black voters -- and Black male voters -- remain key

Some advocates emphasize that courting Black voters will also be crucial for Abrams

"I don't want voters of color, Black voters and brown voters, to carry that weight by ourselves like the fate of democracy is just on Black voters here in Georgia," Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, told ABC News.

"You could not have seen the 'Georgia miracle' in the last election cycle without the turnout and participation from Black voters," Albright said, referring to the victory of Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

"It's going to take Black voters to have large turnout in order for this state to continue on the Democratic path," he said.

Throughout her campaign, Abrams has sought to energize Black male support through "Stacey and the Fellas" events and by touting policies geared toward them such as expanding Medicaid and establishing a small business investment fund in her "Black Men's Agenda." (The campaign also plans in the coming weeks to release agendas for Georgia's Latino and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.)

At Abrams' event with Charlamagne and others, a crowd of mostly Black men packed a production studio warehouse, filled with food, music and apparel. Community members cheered Abrams as she discussed a host of topics, from free technical college to supporting Georgia's booming entertainment industry.

"What Stacey has done as far as mobilizing people and bringing people together to come out and vote has been incredible," Charlamagne said.

Some voters said they, too, were encouraged.

"She understands the challenges of Black men in America but especially here in Georgia," said Paul Grant, a teacher in Lawrenceville. "And I think of all the candidates running, I don't know of anyone who will have a better understanding of what's needed to help Black men in Georgia. I know it's a priority."

Dontay Palmer, a nursing student at Georgia State University, agreed in lauding Abrams' efforts but noted that it may not translate to more ballots bearing her name.

"I like it. I think it's really cool. It's just getting everybody out," Palmer told ABC News of the outreach.

"We just don't have the information or access," Palmer continued. "So I love it that even if they're not going to vote for her, she's like, 'Hey, get information about the election.'"

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In heated debate, Arizona secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem reveals he sat for Jan. 6, DOJ interview

Samuel Corum/Getty Images

(PHOENIX) -- Arizona Republican secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem revealed during Thursday's debate that he has been interviewed by both the Justice Department and Jan. 6 committee about his alleged involvement in the Capitol attack.

This was the first time Finchem has publicly confirmed speaking on the matter with federal officials.

"They asked me, why was I there? I said, 'Well, I think you already know. I was there to deliver an evidence package to Representative Paul Gosar,'" Finchem, who was subpoenaed by the committee earlier this year, told reporters after the debate.

The four-term, far-right Arizona lawmaker, who continues to espouse the "Big Lie" and is running to be the state's chief election officer, revealed the Jan. 6 interview and Justice Department involvement in a back-and-forth on the debate stage with his opponent, Democrat Adrian Fontes.

"I was interviewed by the DOJ and the J-6 commission as a witness," Finchem said. "So for him to assert that I was part of a criminal uprising is absurd. And frankly, it is a lie." Finchem told reporters after the debate that the meeting was "a couple of months ago."

Fontes, the former Maricopa County elections recorder during the 2020 election, prompted the comment by bringing up Finchem's efforts to decertify President Joe Biden's win, Finchem's presence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and affiliation with the Oath Keepers militia group.

"Good," Fontes told reporters after the debate regarding the revelation that Finchem sat for investigators. "I hope they investigate, and if he did something wrong, I hope that they prosecute and convict him."

ABC News has asked Finchem's campaign whether he sat for more than one interview with federal investigators and whether he traveled to Washington for the sit-down.

Finchem, leaving the Arizona PBS studio immediately after the debate while reporters chased after him, said he was not asked by investigators about "Stop the Steal" coalition organizer Ali Alexander specifically, and when asked about Alexander's characterization of him as a "close friend," Finchem distanced himself, saying, "That's probably an exaggeration."

But on the debate stage, Fontes repeatedly tied Finchem to the insurrection.

"He's part of an organization that has called for the violent overthrow of our government. He has supporters and he himself has called for a civil war in this country, the stockpiling of ammunition for this very war," Fontes said. "It is an unhinged and violent aspect of Mr. Finchem that he'd rather not discuss."

"Last time I checked, to be at a place when something is happening is not illegal," Finchem countered. "I've been treated as a witness, not a subject."

Finchem claimed he was in Washington, D.C., at the time of the attack to deliver a book of information to Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., which he said contained evidence of irregularities in the 2020 election.

"I was there to develop -- or to deliver -- an evidence book to two congressional members of my constitutionally elected congressional caucus, so that they had the information that they needed to have in the well of the Senate, when they went to argue for a question in controversy," he said.

While maintaining that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election, Finchem said he has "no idea" if there were irregularities in the August primary, which he won, adding, "It is what it is."

When asked what changed from 2020 to 2022, Finchem said, "The candidates."

"Not the process, not the people running things, not the rules," Fontes replied, calling Finchem's comment "most telling."

On mail-in voting, Finchem said he doesn't support every Arizonan getting a mail-in ballot, like Fontes tried to have enacted in Maricopa County in 2020, and dismissed concerns he would try to restrict mail-in voting. He said, "I don't care for mail-in voting. That's why I go to the poll."

Fontes, who supports early and mail-in voting -- an option the vast majority of Arizonans use to cast ballots -- said, "Mr. Finchem wants to strip Arizonans of their capacity to vote by mail. That's dangerous."

Finchem has also previously said he supports getting rid of electronic voting machines in favor of a full hand-count of ballots.

When asked about the role of the federal government in Arizona's elections, Finchem said, "I think the federal government needs to butt out of states' rights. It is the legislature who names the time, place and manner of election, not the federal government."

Fontes interrupted to say, "I think Article One, Section Four of the Constitution of the United States of America would disagree with Mr. Finchem's assertion about who is charged with the time, place and manner of elections that clearly Congress plays a significant role and that happens to be the federal government, for your information, sir."

Fontes, who lost his reelection as Maricopa County elections recorder to Republican Stephen Richer, has used his 2020 loss to defend Arizona's election process.

"This could be the last election in our lifetime," Fontes told ABC News in a recent interview, expressing concern about the number of candidates on his ballot who deny the validity of the last election. "We can't depend on the legislature. We can't depend on the courts. We have to depend on the American people and Arizona's voters."

Voting starts in Arizona on Oct. 12.

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Elton John set to rock the White House Friday night

Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

(WASHINGTON) -- British pop legend Elton John is set to rock the White House on Friday night, playing for President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden in a South Lawn performance the White House says "will celebrate the unifying and healing power of music."

Biden has said his songs hold deep meaning for him and John, CNN reported, asked the White House if he could perform.

The event, dubbed "A Night When Hope and History Rhyme," is part of a collaboration with A&E Networks and The History Channel, according to the White House. The title of the event is a quote from Irish poet Seamus Heaney that Biden frequently uses in speeches and remarks, including when he accepted the Democratic nomination in 2020.

The event, before Cabinet secretaries and 2,000 invited guests, is to honor John's life and work, according to the White House, as well as to commemorate "the everyday history-makers in the audience, including teachers, nurses, frontline workers, mental health advocates, students, LGBTQ+ advocates and more."

Biden and his wife will make remarks.

John has a concert scheduled Saturday night at nearby Nationals Park, part of his "Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour." The 300-plus world tour dates are a farewell to his fans all over the world, according to the "Crocodile Rock" singer, part of a nearly 50-year career in music.

It's not the first time the singer has been at the White House. In 1998, President Bill Clinton invited him to play at a state dinner for then-U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, along with Stevie Wonder.

Biden has said that John's music has comforted his family at its most painful moments.

In his 2017 memoir, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, Biden recounted visiting his son Beau in the hospital one night shortly before Beau died of brain cancer. John had been at the White House earlier that day, Biden wrote.

When he reached Beau's bedside that night, Biden said, he sang "Crocodile Rock" to Beau -- just as he had to Beau and his other son, Hunter, many years before, after Biden's wife and daughter were killed in a car accident.

"The words came back like it was yesterday, but after the first few lines I started to get emotional and wasn't sure if I could go on," Biden wrote. "Beau didn't open his eyes, but I could see through my own tears that he was smiling. So I gathered myself and kept at it, for as much of the song as I could remember."

In addition to his music, John has also been lauded for his work as an AIDS activist, having testified numerous times on Capitol Hill in support of AIDS funding. To date, according to its website, the Elton John AIDS foundation has raised over $600 million since its inception in 1992.

John also has another presidential fan -- former President Donald Trump who reportedly wanted the Grammy award winner to play at his inauguration, but John declined.

Trump frequently plays John's music at his rallies and infamously reacted to the news of the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as "Tiny Dancer" blared in the background.

Trump even dubbed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "Little Rocket Man" in what appears to be a reference to John's song, "Rocket Man." The singer also performed at Trump's wedding in 2005 to his curreent wife, Melania.

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McCarthy rolls out House GOP 'Commitment to America' ahead of midterms

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(WASHINGTON) -- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Thursday rolled out an agenda that he says the House GOP would follow should it retake control of the chamber after this year's midterms.

The plan, dubbed the "Commitment to America," marks McCarthy's most concrete attempt to outline a policy agenda to try to persuade voters ahead of November's races, in which the GOP is favored -- but not guaranteed -- to flip the House. The proposal seeks to replicate former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America," an agenda released in 1994 when Republicans won control of the House for the first time in decades.

McCarthy's blueprint contains four overarching goals: creating "an economy that's strong," "a nation that's safe," "a future that's built on freedom" and "a government that's accountable."

In a video, the minority leader cast the plan as a panacea for the country's struggles, arguing the proposal would fix inflation, lower crime and other issues he lays at the feet of the Democratic majority in Washington.

"Violent crime is at record highs in our streets and neighborhoods. The border has become a national security crisis, with fentanyl killing our fellow citizens. Soaring inflation has shrunk paychecks and sent us into a recession. And our kids have fallen further behind thanks to school closures and lockdowns," McCarthy says in the clip, seemingly filmed in a grocery store.

"The White House and the Democrat majority in Congress control Washington. They're in charge. This is their record," he says. "And yet, they want you to give them two more years in power. But Republicans have a plan for a new direction -- one that'll get our country back on track."

McCarthy will formally roll out the plan at an event in Pennsylvania on Friday with a broad cross-section of House members, including moderates like retiring John Katko, N.Y., who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a prominent bomb-thrower.

The proposals largely lean on issues that Republicans believe are advantageous for them this cycle, including stubbornly high inflation, concerns over crime and increases in southern border crossings.

While intended to detail what an agenda could look like in a GOP House majority, the plan is light on specifics. Included in the "commitment" are platitudes like "support[ing] our troops," "exercis[ing] peace through strength with our allies to counter increasing global threats," "recover[ing] lost learning from school closures" and "uphold[ing] free speech."

The proposal also boasts of "rigorous oversight," though no specific investigatory efforts are laid out.

Among the more specific policy suggestions are "support[ing] 200,000 more police officers through recruiting bonuses" and "repealing proxy voting," which House members of both parties have relied on during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Republicans in Congress praised the plan on Thursday, saying it hits on the right policies.

"This is a guide a map to what we'll do to a majority and I think the future speaker is handling it exactly the way it should be," said Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "We've got the best candidates we've ever had, we've got the right message. It's about cost of living, it's about crime. It's about the border.

When asked if the plan was specific enough, Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon said, "More of this is what we believe in, and this is what we are going to fight for. And I think they are good and I embrace them."

The commitment was notably circumspect on one issue that has roiled the midterms: abortion.

"This election is about kitchen-table issues ... inflation," Emmer maintained. "You've got to have a position [on abortion], but [kitchen-table issues] are going to decide the election," he said.

The release of McCarthy's vision for his caucus comes amid what strategists and lawmakers of both parties have suggested is a turning of the midterm tide away from what was expected to be a red tsunami earlier this year.

The Supreme Court's June decision eliminating constitutional protections for abortion and a Democratic legislative hot streak this summer -- including passage of the Inflation Reduction Act -- have helped level the playing field as generic ballot polling shows Democrats closing the gap with the GOP.

The changed landscape has thrown into question control of the Senate, currently split 50/50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking ties, though Republicans are still favored by analysts to flip the House.

McCarthy's decision to release a plan runs counter to the strategy of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has said he will unveil an agenda only if the Senate is controlled by Republicans next year.

"If we’re fortunate enough to have the majority ... I’ll be the majority leader. I’ll decide, in consultation with my members, what to put on the floor," he said earlier this year.

Democrats, for their part, came out swinging Thursday against McCarthy's agenda, arguing that House Republicans are stoking divisions while President Joe Biden's plans are the ones that would actually tackle the nation's issues.

"Republicans are mistaken if they think their political stunt less than 7 weeks before the election will be enough to distract voters from their toxic record. While Democrats deliver critical investments, bring jobs back home from China, and fight to lower costs, Republicans stoke fear for power, obstruct popular legislation that will help everyday families, defend MAGA extremism, and push to ban abortion nationwide," said Chris Taylor, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

ABC News' Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

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Special master sets timeline for review in Trump docs case, says he must explain claims of privilege

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(NEW YORK) -- In a court filing on Thursday, the federal judge tasked with reviewing the FBI-seized materials from Mar-a-Lago directed federal prosecutors to begin producing the approximately 11,000 documents that were recovered last month from former President Donald Trump's Florida home.

The plan and timeline laid out by U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie states that by Monday, the Department of Justice must provide electronic copies of the materials not labeled classified to both Dearie and Trump's team.

For each document, Trump's attorneys must then say whether he is asserting attorney-client privilege or executive privilege or whether the document is a personal or presidential record, according to Dearie's latest directions.

For any document that Trump and his team mark as privileged and/or personal, they need to include a statement explaining the reasoning for the particular declaration.

The government has provided Trump and his lawyers with the documents that DOJ's "filter team" had found could potentially be privileged and Dearie said in Thursday's filing that Trump must then provide a log of his designations for the materials -- as to whether he is asserting privilege over something and whether it is personal or presidential -- to the government by Monday.

Trump's team has to submit a final and complete review of all the documents to the government by Oct. 14, according to the special master.

Both parties must submit a log of any disputed designations to the Dearie by Oct. 21. (Dearie said he needs the help of a retired federal magistrate, James Orenstein, to help with his review.)

Where there's a dispute with the government, the special master will resolve it.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday simplified Dearie's work by removing classified documents from his review and restoring the government's access to them as part of its investigation into how Trump, who denies wrongdoing, handled records after leaving office. Among the materials the FBI says it retrieved from Mar-a-Lago, court documents have shown, were 11 sets of documents of various classifications ranging from confidential to top secret and sensitive compartmented information.

The 11th Circuit's ruling Wednesday was a partial stay of U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon's order naming a special master and essentially freezing the government's work pending Dearie's review.

Cannon on Thursday modified her order in light of the appellate decision, striking the parts of her ruling that the special master needs to prioritize the documents marked as classified and submit interim reports and recommendations as appropriate.

Cannon also removed a measure that the classified documents and attached papers must be available for inspection by Trump's attorneys.

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House Democrats notch legislative victory on policing before the midterms

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(WASHINGTON) -- House Democrats on Thursday managed to chalk up another major legislative win before the midterm elections, approving a long-delayed package of changes to policing and public safety.

Moderate and progressive Democrats hammered out a deal on Wednesday after frenetic negotiations -- and on one of the House's last working days before entering a recess that will stretch past the November races.

This new package of bills would fund recruitment and training for police departments across the country and includes new language on police accountability.

The House narrowly cleared a procedural vote on Thursday after a standstill on the floor after some progressive Democrats objected to terms of the deal. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., voted "present" so her vote wouldn't count against Democrats in a planned move, which resulted in a 216-215-1 vote.

Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of of the key negotiators of the package, told reporters they had to make some last-minute updates to one of the pieces of legislation.

"There's a lot of process, conversations that had to be had to be engaged in," Omar said. "But we were ultimately hopefully successful. And I'm really proud of everyone for devoting as much energy to making sure our colleagues are able to pass their legislation."

The four bills passed by slightly wider margins later Thursday afternoon. The package now heads to the Senate, where its fate is unclear.

To address mental health crises, one of the bills, sponsored by California Rep. Katie Porter, would create a grant program for departments to hire and dispatch mental health professionals -- not law enforcement officers -- in instances involving individuals with behavioral health needs.

The package also includes a bill from Nevada Rep. Steven Horsford that would direct the Justice Department to establish a grant program for local agencies to hire detectives and victim services personnel to investigate shootings.

The legislation targets funding to smaller police departments with fewer than 200 officers; gives the DOJ the ability to preference applicants that use the funds for officer training to improve community safety and accountability; and allows the funding to not only go to officer pay and training but also be used for data collection regarding police and community safety.

Progressives have said they were particularly concerned about providing more grants and funds to police departments without including requirements on accountability for officers' actions.

Moderates have long insisted on bringing forth public safety bills as a way to fire back at Republican attacks that blame Democrats for rising crime. Polls show some key Senate races tightening, with GOP candidates pressing their opponents on the issue -- often citing advocates' "defund the police" slogan, despite Democratic leaders rejecting such messages.

While Republicans seek to paint Democrats as soft on crime, President Joe Biden has slammed members of the GOP both for denouncing federal law enforcement after an FBI search of former President Donald Trump's residence last month and for expressing support for those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Biden and Democrats pushed in the 2020 cycle for broader policing reform, including changes to the standard to prosecute police misconduct and qualified immunity, after the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.

But Senate Democrats ultimately failed to overcome Republican opposition to a major piece of legislation named after Floyd. Instead, Biden signed two smaller executive orders on policing earlier this year, on the second anniversary of Floyd's death.

Omar, who represents the district in Minnesota where Floyd was killed, was one of the harshest critics of the ongoing police reform efforts but gave her approval on Wednesday.

The package, she said, is "evidence-based, holistic legislation that addresses public safety and unifies the Democratic Caucus."

"After significant, deliberate negotiations, we are pleased to share that ... the bill will include a number of reforms to ensure funds are used to support smaller police departments, to invest in de-escalation and other important training, and for data collection and mental health," Omar and Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said in a joint statement.

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Beasley and Demings show how 'unique' swing-state Democrats are embracing law enforcement

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(WASHINGTON) -- During an August campaign event in Durham, North Carolina, former state Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, the Democratic candidate for Senate, proudly proclaimed that she does not support defunding the police.

"It's important that they have the resources to make sure that law enforcement officers stay safe," she said.

As Republicans have hammered President Joe Biden and his party as, in their words, soft on crime and insufficiently supportive of law enforcement, Beasley and other Democrats in swing-state races have been pushing back, running advertisements touting their support for police and appearing with local law enforcement officials on the trail.

For Beasley and Florida's Democratic Senate hopeful Val Demings, a state lawmaker and former Orlando police chief running against Sen. Marco Rubio, that also means touting their credentials.

"I've been a judge for over two decades," Beasley said at that Durham event. "I served as a judge and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina. And as a judge, I have always worked hard to uphold the rule of law as well as upholding the Constitution."

"As chief of police [in Orlando], I had to manage people, resources, and balance a $130 million budget during good times and bad times," Demings told ABC News in a statement

"The buck stopped with me," she added. "I always chose tough jobs and I know I made a difference in my community. I am proud to tell that story."

Both Beasley and Demings have either proposed changes to policing or, in Demings case, co-sponsored a major bill that Democrats said would overhaul the system in the wake of George Floyd's murder. But Demings has also stressed her support for increasing law enforcement funding -- with her website describing her as "tough-on-crime."

During the Durham campaign event, Beasley detailed how as a senator she would lobby for protecting due process rights for officers, increasing funding for training, addressing staff shortages and providing mental health services for law enforcement officers

Beasley and Demings' Republican opponents have also branded themselves as law enforcement supporters. Rep. Ted Budd, running in the North Carolina Senate race, has touted his endorsement from the state's trooper association. Meanwhile, Rubio has run ads featuring some law enforcement officers attacking Demings for her record on policing while in Congress.

Why Democrats are cautious about 'defund the police'

Broadly speaking, the "defund the police" movement is skeptical of law enforcement's accountability and effectiveness. It encourages divesting funds from police departments and allocating the money to non-policing forms of public safety and community support, such as expanding mental health and social services for people in crisis rather than tasking officers with responding.

The movement reached new heights following Floyd's murder by a police officer in Minneapolis in 2020.

While "defund the police" quickly became prominent among activists and many parts of the Democratic base -- and was embraced by some progressive lawmakers -- leaders in the party have long cautioned against the slogan, saying it's not their view or that it's reductive. On CNN in December of 2020, when asked if Democrats being tied to "defund" contributed to their losing House seats in the 2020 election, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said that he had come out before the election against "sloganeering."

"John [Lewis] and I sat on the House floor and talked about that 'defund the police' slogan, and both of us concluded that it had the possibilities of doing to the Black Lives Matter movement and current movements across the country what 'Burn, baby, burn' did to us back in 1960," Clyburn said.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., likewise said in May 2021, during a caucus call, that Republicans' attacks on the defund the police movement proved to be more damaging in the 2020 election than anticipated.

In his first State of the Union address, earlier this year, President Joe Biden made clear his stance on law enforcement, saying they need to be funded.

"The answer is not to defund the police," he said.

Some progressives disagree: "All our country has done is given more funding to police. The result? 2021 set a record for fatal police shootings," Missouri Rep. Cori Bush wrote on Twitter in March, rebutting Biden.

During an interview on "This Week" earlier this year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about the rise in certain kinds of crime and Democrats' division on the issue. Pelosi said defunding police is "not the position of the Democratic Party."

The Pew Research Center released a poll in October 2021 which showed that 47% of adults said that spending on policing in their area should be increased.

Beasley and Demings' messaging on law enforcement reflects both their values, they say, and what strategists call a campaign season calculation to appeal to voters. The two are major Senate candidates in battleground states, in a cycle in which Democrats need almost every victory in order to retain their majority in Congress from a resurgent GOP.

"There were allegations made that Democrats support defunding the police and it took a bit of time for Democrats to finally respond," said Xochitl Hinojosa, a Democratic strategist unaffiliated with either race. "And they responded forcefully because it is not true and Democrats do not support defunding the police. So now you're seeing Democrats tackle that issue head-on, which I think is smart to do."

Hinojosa told ABC News that Beasley and Demings are in a "unique situation" to discuss supporting police while still voicing support for some changes.

"I think that because of their backgrounds in law enforcement, they're able to not only talk about what they would do if they were to be elected, but they're talking about what they have done and their experience that puts them in a unique situation to tackle the issue head-on," Hinojosa said.

The issue of crime could be impactful in battleground races across the country. A Marquette University Law School Poll released earlier this month analyzing Wisconsin's Senate and governor race showed that 61% of registered voters were concerned about crime. The issue ranked among the top five issues for voters in the state.

When broken down by political affiliation, 71% of state Republicans were concerned compared with 47% of Democrats and 61% of independents.

Charles Franklin, the director of the Marquette University Law School Poll, told ABC News that the GOP had seized on crime as an issue to use against Democrats in the midterm elections.

"In the [Wisconsin's] Senate race, early negative ads and now current negative ads try to link [Lt. Gov.] Mandela Barnes to crime," Franklin said, referring to the Democratic challenger to incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson. (A Barnes aide told ABC News in response to the ads, "He [Johnson] loves to point fingers about crime, but then voted against police funding while Lt. Governor Barnes and Governor Evers actually invested in public safety and law enforcement.)

Hinojosa, the outside strategist, said that Democrats need to make clear their messaging on law enforcement, given voters' feelings. House Democrats -- mindful of the midterm elections and at the request of moderates sensitive to GOP attacks -- on Thursday worked to pass a package of police funding bills.

"They are talking more about tackling crime and community policing and ensuring that our law enforcement is trained and has the resources to be trained," Hinojosa said.

Demings, too, is keeping her credentials in focus on the trail. Her campaign emails still refer to her as "chief."

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More Democrats Than Ever Support The Palestinian Cause, And That’s Dividing The Party

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(NEW YORK) -- Twenty years ago, Tallie Ben Daniel was a college student wandering the campus of the University of California, Santa Cruz, when she came across a bumper sticker that read “Free Palestine.” Born to an Israeli family in Los Angeles, Ben Daniel had never heard the phrase before. “I had zero context for what that meant. And I didn’t understand,” she recalled. “Free Palestine from what?”

Today, Ben Daniel is an advocate for Palestinian human rights. She’s currently the managing director of Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization that challenges the way the Israeli government treats Palestinians. But her past confusion makes sense against the backdrop of the early 2000s.

In general, U.S. support for Israel was a common, unquestioned stance on both sides of the aisle, while the aftermath of 9/11 only deepened Americans’ rapport with Israel from the lens of solidarity against terrorism claimed by Islamic extremists. Even among those concerned for the Palestinians, many clung to the fleeting optimism that the Oslo Accords of the 1990s could yield a peaceful two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.

In 2001, when Gallup polled Americans on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, views were clear and consistent: Only 16 percent of Americans sympathized more with the Palestinians, while 51 percent sympathized more with the Israelis. Back then, this wasn’t even a particularly partisan issue — only 18 percent of Democrats sympathized more with Palestinians. 

Two decades later, though, the landscape has changed. The share of Americans with more sympathy toward the Palestinians has ticked up to 25 percent. And that support has more than doubled among Democrats: Today, 39 percent report feeling more sympathy for the Palestinians.

A confluence of factors over the past decade seems to be driving this shift. Social media has changed how war is witnessed across the globe — especially among young people — and a growing awareness of social inequities in the U.S. may be reshaping how some Americans perceive conflict internationally, too. But most of all, the Palestinian-Israeli question has become a topic that embodies an intra-party identity issue for Democrats, one that has increasingly pushed liberals to reconsider what constitutes progressive politics.

Summer 2014 marked one of the most deadly episodes of violence in Gaza. In May that year, Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed two Palestinian teenagers. In June, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped while hitchhiking in the West Bank and ultimately killed, and the IDF launched a full-force defense operation in response. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 73 Israelis were killed — 67 soldiers and six civilians. Meanwhile, 2,251 Palestinians were killed, 551 of them children. Those casualty numbers affected the way the world saw the conflict, and the narrative of justified self-defense that the IDF presented wasn’t universally accepted outside Israel, said Dov Waxman, director of the Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at UCLA.

“It’s really the last decade, during which so many events and shifts and factors have changed thoughts in the public domain,” Waxman said.” Indeed, myriad dynamics — for example, how U.S. social-justice movements drew parallels to the escalating violence of the 2010s and how Donald Trump’s allied stance toward Israel raised eyebrows during his presidency — have gradually moved the needle on how the American public views the Palestinians. 

Notably, what happened in 2014 was the first large-scale escalation in the age of widespread social media. In the years since, researchers have pointed to the ways in which social media has reframed how the international community observes war in real time, whether over the past decade with the Palestinians or this year with the Ukrainians. Whereas bumper stickers once spread messages locally, hashtags were now sending information buzzing around the globe. Until then, most wide-scale information, particularly about life in Gaza, came through mainstream media outlets. Now, for the first time, people around the world were exposed and had access to firsthand accounts from Palestinians, many of which challenged (or at least contextualized) the details reported by large outlets. Some posts also singled out headlines and language used by such publications, accusing their framing of the violence as unfairly neglecting the Palestinian struggle.

“That summer, it was just so clear, how disproportionate the violence was,” said Ben Daniel. “The Israeli government will often talk about their assaults as ‘it’s a war,’ but it became clear that there was only one side with a military.”

Her change in perspective is indicative of how Americans’ opinions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have shifted, too — with change especially pronounced among younger Americans. According to Pew Research Center data from March, 61 percent of American adults under 30 have a favorable view of the Palestinian people, compared with 56 percent who have a favorable view of the Israeli people. Ben Daniel thinks it’s important that these young Americans have also been witnessing growing civil rights movements at home.

“Around the same time, Black Lives Matter was having a resurgence. And alliances between folks at, say, Ferguson [Missouri] and Palestine shifted consciousness in general,” said Ben Daniel. She believes that the violence in Gaza in 2014 and the support of Black Lives Matter happening in tandem and underpinned by social media helped circulate comparisons to the conflict by paralleling police brutality in the U.S. with IDF tactics in Gaza.

Indeed, the Black Lives Matter movement, which formed following the July 2013 acquittal of the neighborhood-watch volunteer who killed Trayvon Martin, has aligned itself with the Palestinian cause. In 2014 and again in 2021, pro-Palestinian activists and Black Lives Matter activists have demonstrated their support for each other on social media.

As a growing share of Americans began confronting uncomfortable and embedded injustices in their own country, the parallel details in Palestinian accounts of systematic oppression contextualized a conflict halfway across the world in a new light. 

This comparison has been moving. But it has also been controversial. 

“It can be a starting point for people new to the conflict, but I caution against taking the comparison too far. That’s ignoring a lot of more complicated dynamics and history,” said Laura Birnbaum, the national political director of J Street, a prominent pro-Israel advocacy group that supports a two-state solution. Comparing the BLM and pro-Palestine movements isn’t something everyone will see as fair, Birnbaum said. She and other supporters of Israel don’t think it’s reasonable to analogize Jews in Israel as white, slave-owning colonizers when the Jewish state exists because of the historical oppression of its people. And some still see Israel in a precarious position as the only non-Muslim-majority country in the Middle East, Waxman said.

This is another place where age may come into play. Whereas some older generations of Americans lived through the latter half of the 20th century, when Israel’s existence was not necessarily considered a guarantee, millennials and Gen Zers are more likely to view Israel as a strong nation with ample financial and military power, Waxman said.

At the very least, the use of the BLM comparison shows how the framing of this conversation has changed. What was once a debate over the logistics of land division has now, for liberal Democrats, turned to a discussion about Palestinians’ human rights.

And that, Waxman said, helps explain why the pro-Palestine position has become a facet of progressive and Democratic identity. “In the past, supporting Israel was seen as aligned with or consistent with liberal values. And, increasingly, it’s seen as contradicting liberal beliefs and values,” he said. This shift has happened primarily among the most liberal Democrats. Gallup polling from February 2021 indicates that liberal Democrats sympathize more with Palestinians compared with Democrats as a whole, by 48 percent to 39 percent. Moderate and conservative members of the party still tend to sympathize more with Israel.

And that is exactly what we’ve seen with a small but growing set of politicians. Pew research from April 2016 showed a widening gap on this issue between supporters of Hillary Clinton and supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Meanwhile, the most publicly pro-Palestinian members of Congress — Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who herself is Palestinian American, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, whose hijab renders her visibly Muslim — have also aligned themselves with the party’s progressive left arm. This divide between moderate and liberal Democrats on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is evocative of recurring debates in the direction of the party across a host of issues. 

And the schism occurring within the Democratic Party over Israel is only further facilitated by how staunchly Republicans have doubled down on their support. Conservatives are more sympathetic toward Israel than ever, and interestingly, evangelical Christians, who skew overwhelmingly Republican, report even stronger pro-Israeli beliefs than Jewish Americans according to Pew. Meanwhile, Waxman and Ben Daniel also suggested that Trump’s close allyship with Israel’s then-prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem — a city claimed by both Israel and Palestine — as Israel’s capital only drove the notion of unconditional support for Israel further to the right.

The Palestine-Israel question has become an increasing variable in politics, determining campaign funding for certain candidates. Earlier this year, in the Democratic primary for North Carolina’s 4th Congressional District, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, helped raise about $2 million for state Sen. Valerie Foushee, who ran against and ultimately defeated pro-Palestinian and hijabi candidate Nida Allam, a Durham County commissioner. As is usually the case, however, the money in Foushee’s campaign didn’t go toward pro-Israel campaign messaging but instead to closer-to-home everyday issues that resonated with constituents on the ground, like Foushee’s pro-choice abortion stance.

That is indicative of the fact that, while the pendulum is shifting for Democrats, it hasn’t really affected policy yet, Waxman said. That’s because no matter their political identity or age, Americans don’t rate Israel as a high priority issue in their daily lives. “Americans aren’t voting on this, really,” Waxman said. “It’s too far removed compared to other, more everyday issues.”

That said, opinions on the Palestinian cause show that issues don’t have to dictate votes to be relevant within a party. This topic will likely continue to matter for Democrats, even if it doesn’t help get them elected. 

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Blinken says UN must tell Putin to stop 'reckless nuclear threats' over Ukraine

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(NEW YORK) -- Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday called on the United Nations to send a clear message to Russia's Vladimir Putin demanding an end to his "reckless nuclear threats."

Blinken, addressing a U.N. Security Council meeting, said Putin has "doubled down" on the conflict despite concerns from the international community about the months-long invasion of Ukraine.

"That President Putin picked this week, as most of the world gathers at the United Nations, to add fuel to the fire he started shows his utter contempt for the U.N. charter, for the general assembly and for this council," Blinken said.

"The very international order that we have gathered here to uphold is being shredded before our eyes," he continued. "We cannot, we will not allow President Putin to get away with it."

Putin on Wednesday announced a partial mobilization expected to conscript 300,000 Russian reservists to the fight after Ukraine recaptured parts of the Kharkiv region earlier this month, making a potential turning point in the conflict.

The Kremlin is also moving this week to hold "sham referendums" in Russian-backed regions of Ukraine for people to vote on whether to join Russia. Blinken urged all U.N. members to reject these referendums and declare that all Ukrainian territory will remain part of the Eastern European nation.

Blinken said Putin's war was a distraction from other pressing global issues the security council should address, including climate change, famine and international health security.

Blinken's Russian counterpart -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov -- was not in the room when the secretary of state spoke.

Blinken also discussed the mass graves uncovered in the recently recaptured Izium, stating the actions of Russian forces in the northeastern city are not acts of rogue units but fit a "clear pattern."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy implored world leaders to punish Russia in his virtual address to the U.N. General Assembly, in which he said Russia wants to prepare another offensive that would include "new Iziums."

"Russia wants war," Zelenskyy said. "It's true. But Russia will not be able to stop the course of history. Mankind and the international law are stronger than one terrorist state. Russia will be forced to end this war."

Blinken's remarks came one day after President Joe Biden, in his own address to the U.N. General Assembly, rebuked Putin for having "shamelessly violated the core tenants" of the group's charter.

Biden called for the U.N. to continue supporting Ukraine as he announced a U.S. commitment of $2.9 billion in global food aid as the war has disrupted supply chains and increased prices.

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House Majority leader gives outlook on control of Congress as midterms loom

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- As the November midterm elections quickly approach, all eyes are on the latest efforts by both parties to gain control of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-M.D.) spoke with GMA 3 Wednesday to discuss his outlook on the Democrats' chances of keeping their majority.

GMA 3: A recent Siena College-New York Times survey found Democrats up two percentage points over Republicans among registered voters. Here to discuss is House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer from Maryland. Leader Hoyer, thank you for being with us. And yes, T.J. just referenced that a lot is at stake. The power, the control of both the House and the Senate are at stake in that two percentage points. Difference is, as you know, razor thin. And we also know, looking back at 2016, not a lot of confidence necessarily in some of these polls that we're seeing. So how are you feeling heading into the midterms as a Democrat?

Hoyer: Well, I'm feeling good.

Yes, that poll shows [two percentage points] but we've had some real polls. And what I mean by real polls, voting people going to the ballot box, casting their votes for candidates and expressing their opinion. And we've had two huge victories, actually, three but two members, one in New York, Pat Ryan, in a district that the Republicans were expected to win.

And then 2,600 miles further west in Alaska, again, we had former Gov. Sarah Palin running and our candidate, Mary Peltola, the first Native American to represent Alaska. And she is doing very, very well. So we won two races that we weren't supposed to win, just this past four weeks.

And then the voters from Kansas, a red state with the Republican leadership, voted essentially 60-40 to make sure that a woman's right to choose was protected, [and] that her freedom to choose her healthcare options would be protected. So, you know, in a red state, a Republican state, that we won that election as well.

But going forward, we have some very, very good candidates. The polling data you showed was a two-point ahead. But we have been as much as four or five points behind so that the movement and the momentum and the direction of support is coming our way. So I am confident that we're going to hold the House. I think we can expand our membership in the Senate to beyond 50. And so I think that on Nov. 8, we're going to have a good night and I'm looking forward to it.

And I think we are showing that by the issues that we've adopted, whether it was the rescue plan, whether it was the infrastructure investment that we've made that's going to grow America and grow American jobs, or whether it was the bill that invests in science and chips to make sure that we rely on American technology, not a technology overseas that fails us. And then the inflation reduction plan where we're reducing the costs of healthcare for people, reducing the cost of prescription drugs, capping the cost of insulin, and we're going to make energy more available and more affordable for people. So I think that the issues are on our side, I think the people are on our side and I think the votes are on our side.

GMA 3: You talked about the polling and some of that polling that we look at has to do with the president's approval rating, which has improved as gas prices continue to drop. We know that streak of gas prices dropping into the 99 days. They ticked up a little bit. We'll see what happens then in the coming days and weeks. But also, look, food prices are at highs that we haven't seen in the past since 1979, actually the inflation we've seen. So I know Democrats and the president love to talk about gas prices as one indicator, but what do you do when people are still hurting by trying to put food on the table?

Hoyer: T.J., what we did is we passed a food and fuel bill, unfortunately, got almost no Republican support for it, which was directed at making sure we have competition in the food producing industry, that we have availability of supply chains in getting food to where it needs to be. Now, that's an uphill battle. Inflation is a serious issue that we are dealing with. That's why we passed the Inflationary Reduction Act to bring other costs down. Medical costs in particular down and energy costs down for people. But we've got to bring food prices down as well. Unfortunately, we have a war in Ukraine. That is creating a real challenge of starvation in Africa and some other places, not in America, but it is pressing prices up and we've got to get a handle on that. I go to the grocery store almost every weekend and see those prices rising and people are hurting and we're responding. And the Republicans don't have any response to inflation. They can complain about it. They can point the finger.

And as you know, T.J., I'm sure inflation is impacting people throughout the world. Why? Because the pandemic, in effect, shut down the supply and it shut down supply routes. And so there are shortages. But people are hurting and we're acting. The Republicans are simply talking and criticizing.

GMA 3: Let me ask you this. The president predicted and I'm going to quote him here, "If we lose the House or lose the Senate, it's going to be a really difficult two years." My question is, does it have to be difficult? Do you have any hope or belief that if either of those scenarios happen or one or both, could reach across the aisle, that Republicans and Democrats could work together to try and ease some of the pain that people are feeling in every part of their lives, especially when it comes to finances? Can you pass important legislation regardless?

Hoyer: We have passed important legislation. But very frankly, Amy, if you look at the record, when Paul Ryan was Speaker and when John Boehner was speaker just a few years ago, it was Democrats that stepped up to help them get legislation through that America needed because they couldn't get the votes on their own side, even though they had the majority, very frankly, with a four-vote majority. We passed major pieces of legislation without help, which were designed to put people -- put money in people's pockets, get kids back in schools, and get 250 million shots in arms. Not a single Republican voted for that bill.

And so, yes, there is a possibility of doing that. But let me tell you what's going to happen if the Republicans take over the House. They've said what they're going to do. They're going to investigate the president of the United States. They're going to try to tear him down. And our country is going to be deeply divided. And very frankly, what the Republicans have done, what Donald Trump has done is deeply divide our country, [and] polarize our politics. That's not good for our country. It's not good for our people. It's not good for success in the Congress of the United States. So I believe that Democrats over the years, whether it was Ronald Reagan, President George W. Bush, or any other president, we have seen Democrats support in a bipartisan way critical legislation. Frankly, we haven't seen that from our Republican friends. And I hope we do in the future.

But I don't want to see our country locked down by partisan politics. And that's what's going to happen, I'm afraid, if our Republican friends win the majority in the House of Representatives because their agenda is not a constructive agenda. It's a negative agenda. It's creating fear in people. It's creating division in our country. And that's not good for anybody. And it's not good for the world. And we're at war.

I'm wearing the Ukrainian flag as a symbol that we need to win this war against dictatorship and war criminals. And we need to be united to do that. And I think we Democrats, frankly, and I think Joe Biden, President Biden has worked all his life in trying to create bipartisanship. And so I will pursue that whatever happens in November.

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Biden's pick to lead National Archives faces unusually contentious hearing

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden's nominee to lead the National Archives and Records Administration faced lawmakers Wednesday in an unusually contentious hearing for a position not typically involving political fanfare.

During the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing, Republican senators raised questions about the records dispute that resulted in the FBI raid of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. Biden's pick to be the next chief archivist, Colleen Shogan, committed to promoting transparency at the National Archives generally, noting she was not involved in or briefed on the dispute.

Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma questioned why the National Archives' request for documents in Trump's possession was referred to the Justice Department.

"But as I understand it, when there is some concern about missing or damaged records in the general at the National Archives, at that point in time, to retrieve the records there is a voluntary exchange of communication with those individuals," Shogan said. "And as I understand it -- once again, I don't have any past knowledge of this -- the vast majority of the time the records are recovered and retrieved."

Republicans pressed Shogan on her past analysis of presidential speeches, pointing to a paper she wrote titled, "Anti-Intellectualism in the Modern Presidency: A Republican Populism." A scholarly work published by Cambridge University Press in 2007, the study described how leaders forge connections with the American people through presidential rhetoric. GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri accused Shogan of having "denigrated Republican presidents" in her writings.

"I will stand by my long experience -- over 15 years -- of nonpartisan service," Shogan said in response.

The historian and scholar has held a series of nonpartisan positions, including at the Congressional Research Service, and most recently was a senior vice president at the White House Historical Association where she has served under both Biden and Trump. She defended her paper and said it does not constitute judgement on the American people or any voter.

Jason R. Baron, former director of litigation at NARA, stressed the importance of the apolitical work done at the archives, noting presidential records belong to the American people and should never have ended up at Mar-a-Lago.

"It would be unfortunate to characterize the National Archives staff as having any political bias in the course of the events since President Trump left office," Baron said. "They have simply been fulfilling their important mission to the American people to preserve our shared history."

Shogan's nomination was broadly lauded by political scientists and historians after it was announced by the White House last month. She would be the first female Archivist of the United States if confirmed.

"Dr. Shogan has an outstanding record of executive leadership and service in government, an extensive record of research management, and an abiding commitment to the enduring value of the National Archives to our democracy and an informed citizenry," the American Political Science Association said in a statement.

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