Top political reporters discuss Kansas in the midterms among other national topics

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KANSAS — CNN invited top political reporters to discuss this week’s “Inside Politics” forecast, where you get a glimpse of tomorrow’s headlines today. The nation is looking at Kansas to get an idea of what’s happening for midterms.

1. Kansas in the spotlight

Kansas is one of the deepest red states in the union, referred to as the ruby state. This year two of the four House races are heating up. CNN’s Manu Raju was in the 2nd District, in eastern Kansas, last week.

“It really shows the extent of the Republican problems in trying to keep the House this year. This is a district that overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump,” Raju said. “The Republican candidate is a novice, who’s made some mistakes. The Democratic candidate, Paul Davis, is raising a lot of money and could very well win.”

The contest also highlights a problem facing Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: if her party takes back the House, it’ll be thanks to candidates like Davis — who have pledged not to support her for speaker.

“By our tally roughly 29 Democrats in these competitive races have said they will not support Nancy Pelosi,” Raju said. “If her margin is very tiny, if they have a majority after the election, it will be hard for her to get the votes.”

People at home in Kansas may have noticed the spike in political advertisements dominating local television. Almost every commercial break is full of political ads from both Democrats and Republicans. It is noticeable both parties are spending a lot of money to get people’s vote, whether it actually works or not.

Last year the Kansas City Star did a scathing review of the state calling it “one of the most secretive, dark states.” In the article it noted how people didn’t really know how money was spent by the Republican Kansas government under governor Sam Brownback.

The article noted, “From the governor’s office to state agencies, from police departments to business relationships to health care, on the floors of the House and Senate, a veil has descended over the years and through administrations on both sides of the political aisle.”

The state has rotated over the years between Republican and Democrat governors. It’s likely one way or another that the citizens of Kansas will push for a more open government and candidates who show transparency, whether Republican, Democrat, or Independent.

2. Watch the non-voters

Turnout in the 2014 midterms set a postwar low. Polls show voter enthusiasm now is strong. There’s still a good chance that less than half of eligible voters will show up at the polls.

The Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson says to keep your eye on those millions of non-voters. “This is an election that is going to be decided not just by who goes out and votes, but by who decides not to vote,” Johnson said. “When I’m out there in the country looking for voters to talk to, I find people who are excited, but I also find a lot of people who can’t name their current representatives in Congress, who are just tired of politics. They’re tuning out.”

3. President Donald Trump’s next foreign trip

No matter how Election Day goes for Republicans, President Trump plans to quickly skip town — he’s traveling to Europe later that week to meet with allies and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

“Already there’s talk among foreign diplomats about what Trump’s standing is going to be when he arrives there,” the AP’s Julie Pace reports. “Is he going to be weakened by Republican losses or is he going to be emboldened by the GOP keeping the House and Senate, and avoiding those investigations that a Democratic House would launch?”

President Trump may take a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin while they’re both in Paris. “He watches American politics incredibly carefully,” Pace said.

4. Closer look at President Trump’s worldview

Philosopher Thomas Hobbes famously called the life of man “nasty, brutish, and short.” It’s a depressing world view — and one President Trump may share, says Politico’s Eliana Johnson.

“The Pittsburgh shooting gave us a revealing window into the president,” Johnson said. “His response was a bit different from what we’ve seen from other tragedies. He said violence is a permanent feature of humanity, it’s been going on for hundreds of years, and it’s likely to go on. It was a window into his Hobbesian view where people need to protect themselves against violence.”

One of the president’s immediate reactions was to talk about arming synagogues and expanding the use of the death penalty.

“It was such a stark contrast from the previous president, who said the arc of the world bends toward justice, and even the previous Republican president, whose goal was to stamp out tyranny in our times. This president seems to believe these horrible things are destined to happen and the best we can do is try to protect ourselves from them.”

5. Saudi pressure points

And from CNN chief national correspondent John King:

The domestic violence of recent days has pushed the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi from the headlines and cable news coverage, but new pressure on the Saudi regime is not far off — and not just because of a promised bipartisan, post-election push in Congress for more answers and tougher sanctions.

Another potential headache for the royal family is a court deadline in a lawsuit filed against the Saudi government by families of the 9/11 victims.

Two weeks ago, the Justice Department committed to provide long-classified documents sought by the families as they try to prove the 9/11 hijackers received assistance from employees and officials of the Saudi kingdom.

The documents are to be delivered in three waves; the first promised in November.

There has been no public description of what the FBI and Justice Department are prepared to declassify and provide to the families. But their legal team considers the commitment a giant development in the case, and one thing we do know is that attorneys representing the Saudi government fought fiercely, and unsuccessfully, to keep the documents out of the case.

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