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A White House staffing shuffle could come after midterms

Here are the stories our top political reporters are talking about in this week's "Inside Politics" forecast...

Posted: Oct 22, 2018 8:13 AM
Updated: Oct 22, 2018 8:13 AM

Here are the stories our top political reporters are talking about in this week's "Inside Politics" forecast, where you get a glimpse of tomorrow's headlines today.

1. More White House turnover ahead

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The White House staff has already seen a record amount of turnover -- 58%, according to a study from the Brookings Institution. And Julie Hirschfeld Davis of The New York Times says to expect a lot more after the midterms.

"White House Counsel Don McGahn has left. There's already a new counsel in the White House. But beyond that, there are a bunch of other people in the West Wing who have been eying the exits," Davis said. "I think we're going to see a big turnover, and that could have a big influence in how we see this White House operate under a new Congress.

2. A new press secretary?

One of those exits could be Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Some observers think President Trump already acts as his own top spokesman, which makes the press secretary job less important.

"It doesn't seem to be at the top of anyone's mind who could be the next press secretary," CNN's Kaitlan Collins said. "I think the question now is, does it really matter? Because there are basically zero press briefings now, I think we've had two since Labor Day.

"And the president has been on this media blitz where he's talking almost every single day. He's all over the place, all the time, and so there really hasn't been that much of an uproar over the lack of press briefings," Collins said.

3. McConnell's gift to Democrats

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did a round of interviews last week in which he said repealing Obamacare and making cuts to entitlement programs remain on his agenda. Democrats are already using his words against him.

"He made some comments to us a few days ago about how the rising deficit emphasizes the need to cut Social Security and Medicare for the long haul," Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur said. "Democrats picked up on that to paint the Republicans as the party that wants to rip a hole in the safety net."

But McConnell also said such cuts probably won't happen without bipartisan buy-in.

"McConnell did say that it's unlikely that a unified Republican government can go after Social Security and Medicare," Kapur said. "He's not saying they're going to do it. But Democrats want to go in the exact opposite direction. They want to expand Social Security, they want to expand Medicare, and they want to raise taxes to cover it."

4. Eye on governors' races

Democrats are poised for pickups in state houses across the country after losing gubernatorial races in key states like Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin during the Obama era.

And that will have an impact well beyond the states themselves.

"The folks that win this year are going to be in office after the next census, meaning they are going to have a role in redrawing the district lines across the country," said Jonathan Martin of The New York Times. "That will shape House politics for the next decade. Keep in mind that in 2010, the GOP had a very big year and that helped them solidify those lines for the next decade. If the same thing happens this year for Democrats, I think 2018 could be hugely important."

5. A third-party setback

And from CNN Chief National Correspondent John King:

A new group hoping to make a 2018 down payment on building a new third-party movement got a big setback this past week. Unite America's best statewide hope this year was Alaska. But independent Governor Bill Walker suspended his campaign the other day and endorsed the Democrat. That came days after Walker's running mate bowed out for making inappropriate comments to a woman.

There is profound dissatisfaction with both major political parties. But Unite America is the latest third-party effort to learn how difficult it is, for reasons ranging from bad luck to strict ballot-access laws, to lay the building blocks for sustained success.

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