Editor’s Note: This edition of Morning Score is published weekdays at 10 a.m. POLITICO Pro Campaigns subscribers hold exclusive early access to the newsletter each morning at 6 a.m. Learn more about POLITICO Pro’s comprehensive policy intelligence coverage, policy tools and services, at politicopro.com.
— A North Carolina state court ruled that the state’s congressional maps must temporarily be set aside, freezing next year’s House primaries.
— Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is strongly considering jumping in to the race for his old Senate seat in Alabama.
— With a week to go before Election Day, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and his Democratic opponent, Andy Beshear, both released ads highlighting their closing arguments.
Email the rest of the Campaign Pro team at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Follow them on Twitter: @POLITICO_Steve, @DanielStrauss4, @JamesArkin and @allymutnick.
Days until the Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia general elections: 7
Days until the Louisiana gubernatorial election: 18
Days until the Iowa caucuses: 97
Days until the 2020 election: 371
THE MAP LINES — It looks like North Carolina is headed for its second congressional remap this decade.
“A three-judge panel in Wake County preparing to hear a case over whether the congressional districts are politically gerrymandered granted a motion Monday to put the map on ice,” Campaign Pro’s Steve Shepard and Ally Mutnick reported. “The court said Democrats are likely to prove the districts violate the state constitution, and preparing to conduct the March 3 primary under the current lines would be improper.”
The maps are being challenged by Democratic-linked plaintiffs, who argue the map is an illegal partisan gerrymander. The plaintiffs “are likely to ‘prevail on the merits of this action by showing beyond a reasonable doubt that the … congressional districts are extreme partisan gerrymanders in violation’ of the state constitution’s ‘Free Elections Clause,’ the court said,” Steve and Ally wrote.
“But any new map would be in effect for only one election, as all states with more than one congressional district are required to redraw their maps following the 2020 Census. If the map is ultimately struck down, it would mark the second time this decade North Carolina has been forced to redraw its congressional districts.”
North Carolina Republicans seem resigned to the fact that if the map is eventually tossed entirely, there would be fewer Republicans in the delegation. “Fundamentally, it would be very, very difficult to keep 10 Republican seats. Nine is certainly possible. Eight is probably the magic number with the redraw,” GOP Rep. David Rouzer told them, noting he’s run under two different maps during his three elections.
OUT WEST — The hope that the West could be crucial in helping pick the Democratic nominee seems to have not come to fruition. “The region’s marquee contests in Nevada and California — one small early state, and one massive, Super Tuesday primary — have emerged as wide-open races. And the promise of an early California primary tilting the balance of the Democratic primary westward has fallen short,” POLITICO’s David Siders and Jeremy B. White reported. “Most campaigns are still spending far more time — and resources — in Iowa, the first caucus state, leaving Westerners to watch the campaign unfold primarily on TV.” Or as former California Gov. Jerry Brown said: “The West barely exists.”
THE REELECT — Vice President Mike Pence is headed to New Hampshire. He’ll file Trump’s name for the 2020 primary ballot on Nov. 7, and will also speak at a Politics and Eggs event, per WMUR’s John DiStaso reported.
CATTLE CALL — The AFL-CIO will host a presidential forum on March 12 in Orlando, Fla., a week before the Sunshine state’s primary. Candidates from both parties will be invited.
STAFFING UP — Joe Biden is staffing up for super Tuesday states. Molly Ritner will be his director of Super Tuesday states, Jessica Mejía will be California state director, John Laadt will be Massachusetts state director, and Jackie Lee will serve as Florida senior adviser.
POLLS POLLS POLLS — This week’s update from Morning Consult’s 2020 Democratic primary tracking poll (Oct. 21-27, 15,431 Democratic voters, +/- 1 percentage point): Biden, 32 percent (+1 from last week); Bernie Sanders, 20 percent (+2); Elizabeth Warren, 20 percent (-1); Pete Buttigieg, 7 percent (+1); Kamala Harris, 6 percent (unchanged); Andrew Yang, 3 percent (unchanged), Cory Booker, 2 percent (-1), Beto O’Rourke, 2 percent (unchanged).
THE SENATE MAP — Sessions is strongly considering a run for his old seat, POLITICO’s James Arkin, Burgess Everett and Jake Sherman reported. “Sessions would scramble the already crowded field of Republicans seeking to take on Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, who won a 2017 special election to fill the remainder of Sessions’ term and is widely viewed as the most vulnerable senator on the ballot next year,” they wrote. “Sessions has some high-profile allies pushing him to run for his old seat, including the conservative Club for Growth.”
“We are hearing that Sessions is seriously considering running for Senate again and that polling indicates he would be in very good shape. The Club for Growth has in the past and would once again encourage him to run for that Senate seat,” David McIntosh, the organization’s president, told James, Burgess and Jake. Sessions would have to decide soon; candidates have until Nov. 8 to qualify for the ballot. If he does get in (and consider his less-than-amicable breakup with the Trump administration), he still has $2.5 million in his war chest from past runs.
CLOSING ARGUMENT — There’s a week to go until voters cast their ballots in the bitter Kentucky gubernatorial election, and both Bevin and Beshear have released ads making their respective closing arguments.
Bevin’s closing argument offers a testimonial from President Donald Trump, while also highlighting the strength of the local economy. “This guy was a really successful guy,” Trump says in the ad, using footage from a rally. “This state is doing so well. You have your lowest unemployment numbers in history … He’s a terrific man and a terrific governor.”
Beshear’s ad takes a two-pronged approach: remind voters of Bevin’s often-abrasive feuds and try to pivot to health care. “Matt Bevin doesn’t share our values,” Beshear says in his own ad. “As governor, he’s tried to rip health care away from our families and he’s cutting public education. We can’t take four more years.”
— Beshear outraised Bevin in the final preelection filing period. Bevin’s campaign raised $642,000 from Oct. 7-21, and Beshear raised $820,000, with both getting sizable contributions from their respective state parties, per the Louisville Courier Journal’s Joe Sonka. Bevin has more cash on hand, $846,000 to $441,000.
— Bevin and Beshear also met for their fourth debate Monday, where they argued about public education and the economy, per the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Daniel Desrochers.
SPECIAL ELECTION WATCH — Democrats are jockeying to run in CA-25, pending Democratic Rep. Katie Hill’s resignation. Democratic state Assemblywoman Christy Smith quickly “announced her candidacy and dozens of endorsements in a show of strength likely designed to discourage others from jumping in,” Ally and Laura Barrón-López reported. “But Latino leaders are working to draft their own candidate, immediately signaling that the party apparatus should get behind a Hispanic candidate reflective of the district’s population, floating Secretary of State Alex Padilla as a potential candidate in a district where roughly four-in-10 residents are Latino.” On the Republican side: Mike Garcia said his plans wouldn’t change if former Rep. Steve Knight got into the race.
— Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has set the dates for the special election in MD-07 to fill the seat of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings. The primary will be on Feb. 4, and the special election will be April 28. Candidates must file to run by Nov. 20.
THE HOUSE MAP — Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), a former NRCC chair, is calling it quits. “Based on recent polling, strong fundraising, and the backing of my wife and family, I am confident I could earn the support of 2nd District voters for another term. I’m also optimistic that a path exists for Republicans to recapture a majority in the House, and that I could return for two more years as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Walden said in a statement, per POLITICO’s John Bresnahan, Melanie Zanona and Ally. “But I also know that for me, the time has come to pursue new challenges and opportunities.”
Walden’s OR-02 seat will likely remain in Republican hands, even as he is the only Republican in the Oregon delegation. Even in a bad year for Republicans, Walden won reelection by 17 points in 2018.
— Bold PAC, the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, is lining up behind Democrat Candace Valenzuela in the open-seat TX-24 and recently polled the Democratic primary in the district (there’s no clear frontrunner), The Hill’s Rafael Bernal reported.
THE I WORD — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter that the House will vote this week on a resolution formalizing the next steps of the impeachment inquiry. “The resolution — which Democrats are still finalizing and is expected to introduce Tuesday — will set procedural guidelines and move closer to potentially drafting articles of impeachment. The House is expected to vote on the resolution Thursday,” POLITICO’s Sarah Ferris, Heather Caygle and Kyle Cheney reported. “Some moderate Democrats are already anxious about the plan, after making clear to leadership that they wanted to avoid any unnecessary floor votes on impeachment.”
AD WARS — The Chamber of Commerce is going up with another ad, backing Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “Susan Collins is working with both political parties to expand critical apprenticeship programs,” the ad’s narrator says. “Thank Sen. Collins and ask her to keep fighting for apprenticeship programs.” Advertising Analytics tracks $111,000 in spending over the next week.
STAFFING UP — Senate Majority PAC announced its senior staff. Ghada Alkiek will be political manager, Tonya Fulkerson will be national finance director, Rachel Irwin is comms director, Emma Levin is senior adviser and Margit Westerman will be digital director. Diana Astiz is staying on as research director and senior adviser.
IN MEMORIAM — Former Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) died Monday after a three-year battle with encephalitis. The Charlotte Observer’s Jim Morrill and Brian Murphy have more.
CODA — QUOTE OF THE DAY: “You want to be everywhere at once. Like, [Julián] Castro, has a twin — that would be nice,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar joking on the hardest part of being on the trail to NBC News.