Welcome to The Tip Sheet, a daily political analysis of the 2018 elections, based on interviews with Republican and Democratic officials, pollsters, strategists and voters.
Where things stand
• The United States economy rose at a 3.5 percent annualized rate in the third quarter, the government announced Friday, outpacing expectations and providing the president’s party with a potential boost just ahead of the midterms.
The nation’s financial performance under Mr. Trump has been perhaps the strongest argument in favor of Republican success this fall, and the numbers can only help. On the other hand, Mr. Trump’s relatively low approval ratings have persisted through a humming economy since the start of his presidency, so it’s possible the latest news will change few minds.
• With officials in both parties seeing Democrats holding an edge in the race for the House, Republicans are spending more money than they’d like defending open seats that were once reliably red.
This week we flagged two races — one in Virginia and one in Florida — where little-known Republican candidates were effectively tied in polls with their Democratic opponents in districts that President Trump won easily. The Congressional Leadership Fund, the main House super PAC, has already gone on the air in Virginia’s Fifth District to boost the Republican candidate, Denver Riggleman, in his contest against Leslie Cockburn, a Democrat.
Now the well-funded group, called C.L.F. in the lingo of Washington, is going to do the same in Florida’s 15th District, where Ross Spano, a Republican, is facing Kristen Carlson, the Democratic choice. It is rushing $2 million in advertising to rescue the Lakeland-to-Tampa seat.
That is a significant sum of new money to put down this late for a single House district, especially one that President Trump carried by 10 points — and in a year when Republicans have been left to defend dozens of lawmakers across the country in the hopes of salvaging some fraction of their current majority. (Republicans can afford to lose no more than 22 seats this fall if they want to keep the House.)
But it reflects the difficulties Republicans are facing in seats where they lack incumbents and where their candidates are being significantly outraised. A New York Times/Siena College poll in mid-October found Mr. Spano and Ms. Carlson tied at 43 percent.
Putting down seven figures in a pricey media market like Tampa may only prove to be a precautionary move, but it’s already a win of sorts for Democrats: That’s money that won’t be directed toward even more competitive races.
• On the Senate side, it’s the Democrats spending more than they’d hoped on a race that should be far from their minds by now.
But the consistently closer-than-comfortable polling in the New Jersey race could not be ignored. Senate Majority PAC, the principal super PAC aligned with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, announced it was making an additional investment of $2.8 million into the race — weeks after pouring in $3 million to help its scandal-plagued incumbent, Senator Bob Menendez. (Mr. Menendez’s trial on federal corruption charges ended in a hung jury.)
The buy comes with a new ad painting Mr. Menendez’s Republican opponent, Bob Hugin, as “Trump’s deciding vote,” a line Mr. Menendez used frequently in their debate this week.
Mr. Hugin, a former pharmaceutical executive, added another $3.5 million of his own money last week, bringing his personal investment in the race to $27.5 million.
Political momentum has been with the Republican candidates lately in several hard-fought Senate races. For Democrats, the idea of losing the New Jersey seat — especially if they turn things around and have a shot at winning the majority on Election Day — is too much to stomach.
Final McCaskill-Hawley debate
• There were no knockout lines or moments Thursday in the final debate between Senator Claire McCaskill, a two-term Democrat of Missouri, and her challenger, Josh Hawley, the Republican state attorney general.
• They disagreed on just about everything, as you’d expect, though they both advocated health care protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Ms. McCaskill is running hard on the issue, and arguing that Mr. Hawley would undo the Affordable Care Act’s protections, while Mr. Hawley is pushing for alternatives and accusing Ms. McCaskill of “scare tactics.”
• With President Trump expected to return to Missouri — a state he carried by 19 points — to campaign for Mr. Hawley, Ms. McCaskill noted that she had voted with the president on issues 50 percent of the time. But she also had choice words about his character: “Just lie after lie after lie.”
• Public polling shows a tight race. Mr. Hawley has been projecting a fair amount of confidence lately.
Two endorsements for Beto
Representative Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic nominee (and progressive demigod) for Senate in Texas, got the endorsement of The Dallas Morning News. Though the paper also backed Senator Ted Cruz’s opponent in 2012, it supported Mitt Romney for president that year. Last week, The Houston Chronicle also endorsed Mr. O’Rourke, a shift from its support for Mr. Cruz in 2012.
Mr. Cruz holds a modest but stable lead in the race, according to several polls this month. The Times/Siena poll had him 8 points ahead of Mr. O’Rourke. The most recent poll, by CNN, had about the same margin.
Do newspaper endorsements matter much anymore? Campaigns tend to be skeptical. But they’d rather have them than not.
‘I won’t bite ya’
Check out this ad for John Barrow, the former conservative Democratic congressman from Georgia who is now the party’s nominee for secretary of state. It has one of the most memorable taglines of the cycle.