The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

What’s Wrong With Oregon Republicans?


Also in today’s Jolt:

Another Un-charismatic, Underachieving Partisan Democrat Coasts to Reelection

I know what you want to hear. You want to hear that Republican Monica Wehby has a shot at winning Oregon’s Senate race.

She’s trailing most polls by 10 to 20 points, so . . . sorry, no good news here.

You may ask, “What’s wrong with Oregonians?” Maybe a fair question is, “What’s wrong with Oregon Republicans?”

A pediatric neurosurgeon and mother of four, she appealed to moderate Republicans fed up with Obamacare and big government.

But polls now put Wehby behind by 10 to 15 percentage points.

A poll released last week showed only 52 percent of Republicans plan to vote for Wehby, while 22 percent said they’re still undecided.

The talk of a potential GOP upset here in Oregon earlier in the year wasn’t just hype; incumbent Democratic senator Jeff Merkley has genuinely “blah” numbers for a guy asking for another term. The percentage of Oregon voters who approve of the job he’s doing is usually in the low 40s, and the percentage who disapprove is in the mid-30s. He has mind-bogglingly low name ID for an incumbent U.S. senator; as noted yesterday, “Senator Merkley was recognized by 46 percent as his party’s candidate.” It’s as if he’s been in the Witness Protection Program.

Merkley is not a whirling dervish of raw political charisma, nor an unstoppable vote-accumulating machine. In 2008, Barack Obama received 1,037,291 votes in Oregon — 56.7 percent of the vote. That year, in his first statewide bid, Merkley won 864,392 votes, or 48.9 percent of the vote — 3.4 percent more than the incumbent Republican senator he beat, Gordon Smith. He underperformed the margin projected in most of the final polls.

Back in July, George Will wrote a column that made Republicans’ hearts skip a beat, declaring, “Senator Tom Coburn is retiring, but another doctor may be coming, straight from the operating room to her first elected office.”

The editorial board of the Oregonian, the state’s largest newspaper, chose to not endorse a candidate this year. They concluded Merkley was a shameless partisan hack, and then detailed the personal scandals in Wehby’s past years that made them deem her unworthy of support:

The collapse of Wehby’s campaign has been almost painful to watch. First was the late-breaking revelation this spring of a 911 call made in 2013 by estranged boyfriend Andrew Miller, who reached for the phone as Wehby entered his house without permission. He accused her of stalking him. Shortly thereafter, Oregonians learned that Wehby’s ex-husband had called the cops on her in 2009. According to a police report filed two years earlier, her ex accused her of “ongoing harassment.”

The incidents raise obvious questions about judgment and self-control, but just as significant are questions about anticipation. Did Wehby and her campaign really think these episodes wouldn’t come to light? If so, they were shockingly naïve.

Oregonians don’t expect such shocking and unnerving revelations from a potential senator. They expect it from their state’s first lady.

A lesson: In the lazy Democrat media’s template, every Republican is either dumb, evil, or old. Because they can’t portray a pediatric neurosurgeon as dumb, they’ll paint her as evil or a variant of it, crazy. Because we all know how ruthless and black-hearted those pediatric neurosurgeons are, right?

So what should we expect in November? Recent history suggests flawed Democratic candidates can coast along, relying on the Oregonians’ voting habits’ being set on autopilot — particularly in the state’s most populous counties.

Yesterday we discussed how it’s difficult, and perhaps impossible, for a Republican to win statewide in Oregon when they’re getting blown out in the state’s largest city, Portland. It’s not that Republicans need to win the land of microbrews, mustaches, fig-and-gorgonzola pastries, and a general hipster culture that’s convinced it’s still the counterculture no matter how widespread and popular it gets. But a winning GOP candidate would need to keep the margin manageable so the Republican margins in the rest of the heavily rural state could put him or her over the top.

Four years ago, in the previous midterm of the Obama era, longtime incumbent Ron Wyden ran for reelection. He was challenged by Jim Huffman, law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland. While his fellow Republican Chris Dudley came within 1.5 percent in the governor’s race, Huffman lost by 18 percentage points.

In 2010, Democrat John Kitzhaber won 198,157 votes here to Dudley’s 76,915 in Multnomah County, which includes Portland. That year, Wyden won 212,371 votes to Huffman’s 56,513 — an even more lopsided 76 percent to 20 percent margin. (And Huffman lived and worked in Portland!)

Tags: Oregon , Monica Wehby , Jeff Merkeley

Can This Really Be Wendy Davis’s True Goal?


Every once in a while, when a celebrity within the conservative movement hints at a presidential campaign, cynics will chuckle, “He’s really running for a Fox News gig.” In late 2011, four names mentioned as potential GOP presidential candidates were under contract with Fox News: Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich. Santorum and Gingrich ran, and won several primaries.

Down in Texas, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis is concluding her doomed campaign with increasingly embarrassing over-the-top attacks on Republican Greg Abbott — as NRO Cruise guest Guy Benson summarizes her argument, “He’s confined to a wheelchair, but cares not about people with disabilities. He’s married to a Latina, but may oppose interracial marriage.” Why the last minute, ultra-low mudslinging?

And now the Democrats begin to live with candidates who appear to want to win a cable-news contract more than they want to win actual votes. If this is true . . . how do all of her donors feel? How do Texas Democrats feel about her using their gubernatorial nomination as an $11 million audition tape for MSNBC?

We hear a lot of voices lamenting our nasty political environment, and uglier, harsher public discourse. If this campaign, with this tone, gets Wendy Davis an MSNBC gig, who is really responsible for the tone of our debate?

Was she playing a different game all along?

Tags: Wendy Davis , Texas , Greg Abbott


NRSC to Democrats: Just Try to Defend Picking Klain for Ebola Czar!


The Tuesday Morning Jolt features my last update from Oregon, a surprise about who’s paying the minimum wage in Kentucky, and then this news from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, seen here first:

NRSC to Senate Democrats: Just Try to Defend Picking Klain for Ebola Czar!

This morning the National Republican Senatorial Committee is hitting this year’s crop of vulnerable Democrat incumbents for meekly acquiescing to President Obama’s naming Ron Klain — as Andy McCarthy summarizes, a “sharp-elbowed Democratic political operative with no medical expertise” — as the “Ebola czar.”

Here’s the Mark Begich version:

Unfortunately, Mark Begich (D-AK) not only refuses to hold the Obama Administration accountable for the slow response to Ebola entering our borders, but it appears that he has taken his marching orders from the White House on a serious matter of public health. Instead, Begich’s Washington allies have resorted to spreading false and debunked claims, blaming others for the Administration’s failures. President Obama’s choice of Ron Klain as Ebola Czar is indefensible, yet Mark Begich once again refuses to hold the White House accountable.

“It is absurd that President Obama believes that a partisan lobbyist with zero medical experience should lead the national response to the Ebola epidemic, but Mark Begich is nowhere to be found,” said NRSC Press Secretary Brook Hougesen. “Mark Begich apparently believes that a partisan Washington lobbyist like Ron Klain is an appropriate choice for this position, which speaks to his lack of judgment and his refusal to stand up to President Obama’s poor decisions — even on matters of public health and safety.”

Will this make a big difference in the coming midterm elections? If nothing else, we may get some amusing moments of watching these Democratic senators trying to explain why Ron Klain is such a terrific guy for this job.

We know Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas greets questions about Ebola with a lengthy “uhhhhhhhhh,” and Senator Mark Udall of Colorado is having a tough enough time with any questions as is these days.

Tags: Ebola , NRSC

Michelle Obama, Proud to Support What’s-His-Name


Iowa’s Republican party welcomes Michelle Obama back to Iowa. The last time she was there, she spent a lot of time encouraging voters to support “Bruce Bailey” for Senate — a less than ideal endorsement for candidate Bruce Braley.

“It’s not often that we agree with Michelle Obama, but per her advice everyone should visit,” said Republican Party of Iowa spokesman Jahan Wilcox. “ is the perfect site to learn about the congressman’s support for Obamacare, cap-and-trade, and the rest of his job-killing policies that are hurting Iowans.”

Should have moved quicker on that URL, Congressman!

Tags: Michelle Obama , Bruce Braley

After Wheelchair Ad, Wendy Davis Polls at 32 Percent


Wendy Davis, defending her infamous “wheelchair” ad, a week ago:

The important thing about this ad is that voters now see Greg Abbott for who he is and of course in an election that’s entirely the point.

She was right! A new poll out this morning:

As early voters head to the polls for a landmark election in Texas, a new survey conducted for KHOU-TV and Houston Public Media shows Republican Greg Abbott with a commanding lead over Democrat Wendy Davis in the race for governor.

Abbott’s supported by 47 percent of likely voters surveyed for the poll, compared to Davis’ 32 percent. Another 15 percent were undecided.

The 32 percent in that poll is tied for her lowest total in a poll in 2014. Good work, ma’am.

Tags: Greg Abbott , Wendy Davis , Texas


Maybe All Those Obama Supporters Left the Iron On


Says it all, doesn’t it?

This is Maryland. Maryland. Obama won this state 62 percent to 36 percent. And even here, the magic is gone; the report says the crowd started leaving while he was still speaking.

Think about it — these are people who drove out to attend the event who chose to leave early.

Tags: Barack Obama , Maryland

How Do You Turn a Blue State Like Oregon Purple?


From the Monday edition of the Morning Jolt:

How Do You Turn a Blue State Like Oregon Purple?

If you want to talk about an overlooked all-time woulda-coulda-shoulda race that haunts the Republicans, let’s take a look at Oregon’s gubernatorial election in 2010.

The Democratic nominee was former governor John Kitzhaber, making a comeback bid after serving as in the office from 1995 to 2003. During those terms he fought with a Republican-held state legislature and famously declared, six days before the end of his second term, that the state was “ungovernable.”

The Republican nominee was former NBA star Chris Dudley, who spent a good portion of his career with the Portland Trail Blazers. He founded a charity, had charisma, and seemed like about as a good a candidate as Oregon Republicans had any right to expect.

The good news is Dudley won 694,287 votes, more than 100,000 votes than the last Republican gubernatorial candidate. That got him . . . 47.7 percent to Kitzhaber’s 49.2 percent — the closest any Republican had come in the last seven gubernatorial elections.

But there are no silver medals for coming in second in a governor’s race. Dudley moved to San Diego. In his third term, Kitzhaber went on to set up the abominably wasteful Cover Oregon system, which paid $305 million to Oracle for a web site that didn’t work.

Cover Oregon is, arguably, the single most expensive and most embarrassing failure of any state in recent memory. As HBO’s John Oliver mocked, “That has got to be a bitter pill to swallow for the people of Oregon — or it would be, if they could get the pill, which they can’t, because their [stinky] web site is broken.” In midsummer, a poll of the state found 20 percent thought Kitzhaber deserved “all” of the blame for Cover Oregon, 19 percent said “most,” and 37 percent said “some.”

But not a single big-name Oregon Democrat dared challenge Kitzhaber this year. Okay, correction — a guy with a big name, “Ifeanyichukwu Diru” challenged him, but he had no experience and almost no money. Even then, he won 9 percent against Kitzhaber in the primary.

This year, aiming to derail Kitzhaber’s ambitions for a fourth term — Republicans are running a candidate with no glamorous NBA career, 65-year-old state representative Dennis Richardson — a veteran and successful lawyer.

One poll had Richardson within 7 percentage points, but another one shows him trailing mightily — 50 percent for Kitzhaber, just 29 percent for Richardson. Note this depressing statistic:

The poll found that voters in general aren’t paying much attention to this election.

66 percent of respondents couldn’t name the Republican candidate for Governor, Dennis Richardson. And 59 percent couldn’t name the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Monica Wehby.

Governor John Kitzhaber did a little better; 62 percent could name him as the Democratic candidate for governor, but 38 percent couldn’t. Senator Merkley was recognized by 46 percent as his party’s candidate.

As I mentioned Friday, this is an example of “Set It and Forget It Leftism.” Dear Oregonians, I get it. Your state is gorgeous. If I had one of the world’s biggest bookstores, huge farmers’ markets, endless chefs experimenting with all kinds of local produce and seafood, an exploding menagerie of breweries, wineries, distilleries, and seemingly limitless mountains and rivers to explore, I might not be that interested in politics, either. But come on. Check in every once in a while.

The last time a Republican won a statewide race in Oregon was 2002 — Senator Gordon Smith. It is a depressing possibility that the GOP either cannot win, or faces enormous obstacles to win in the higher-turnout circumstances that occur when a state allows citizens to vote by mail. Oregon went to a complete vote-by-mail system in 1998, after growing use throughout the 1980s and 1990s.


A ballot box in downtown Portland’s Pioneer Square.

Like most other states, Oregon consists of heavily Democratic cities and heavily Republican rural areas. Check out how the Kitzhaber-Dudley vote split by county:


The northwestern corner is Astoria, the three blue ones in a line are Portland, its suburbs, and Hood River; along the coast is Lincoln County, which has Newport; and Lane County, which includes Eugene and Springfield. The little wedge sticking down from the north is Hood River County, which is not heavily populated and not quite heavily Democratic; in 2010, Kitzhaber won, 4,778 to 3,414. Once you drive out of Portland, on U.S. Route 30, it takes you up into the mountains overlooking the Columbia River, and RICHARDSON FOR GOVERNOR signs aren’t hard to find on the front lawns along the road. Signs for Kitzhaber are rare.

There are 3.8 million people in Oregon; 2.3 million live in the Portland metro area. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to win Oregon if you’re going to get blown out in Multnomah County, which includes Portland. In 2010, Kitzhaber won 198,157 votes here to Dudley’s 76,915 — 70 percent to 27 percent — rolling up a 121,242 vote margin. Kitzhaber’s final statewide margin of victory was 22,238.

Back in September, Richardson got a bit of help in advertising downtown:

The eye-catching, building-sized campaign ads have popped up across the Portland over the past few weeks.

They’re black and white and get right to the point — at least for those in the know:

“The bridge?
The website?
Rudy Crew?
The Elliott?
4 more years???”

The minimalistic message cost $200,000 and was a gift to Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep. Dennis Richardson from Seneca Sustainable Energy, one of the companies owned by the Eugene-based timber family led by Aaron Jones. His three daughters, co-owners of Seneca, recently contributed a combined $100,000 to Richardson’s campaign against Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber.

That ad referred to a quintet of scandals and missteps by Kitzhaber. A new sign is more direct:

That sign is posted at the extremely busy intersection of Burnside and 4th Avenue, right around the corner from the wildly overhyped and overrated Voodoo Doughnut, perhaps the Mecca of Portland hipsters. Will it do any good? Or will enough progressive-minded Portland residents simply feel sufficiently unenthusiastic about Kitzhaber to not vote for him this year?

Tags: Oregon , John Kitzhaber , Chris Dudley , Dennis Richardson

Blue Oregon . . . Strongly Opposed to Driver’s Permits for Illegal Immigrants


Something to keep in mind for future immigration debates: Oregon — deep-blue, heavily Democratic, crunchy, progressive, let-me-pour-you-another-organic-quinoa-microbrew Oregon — appears set to decisively reject a proposal to provide driver’s permits to individuals who cannot prove legal residence in the state.

The driver cards would be issued by the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division. As with a driver’s license, the recipient would have to pass the state’s written driver knowledge test and behind-the-wheel driver test, provide proof of residence in Oregon for more than one year, proof of identity and date of birth.
Unlike a license, the recipient would not have to prove legal U.S. residency.

The pro-measure Yes on Oregon Safe Roads political action committee has raised about $421,000, a relatively small amount for a statewide campaign. Meanwhile, the main opposition group has raised just over $37,000.

Despite the lop-sided fundraising, recent polling suggests the ballot measure will lose, heavily. Sixty percent of likely voters polled by Oregon Public Broadcasting earlier this month said they firmly or tentatively opposed a driver card. Only 31 percent firmly or tentatively supported the measure, OPB said. The margin of error was 4.3 percentage points.

It appears a wide swath of the population does not like the idea of giving driver’s licenses to people in the country illegally. Even if someone doesn’t necessarily approve of mass deportation, they may be wary — or downright staunchly opposed to the idea of changing existing laws to make life easier for illegal immigrants.

You may recall that journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who is not in the U.S. legally, recieved his first driver’s license in Oregon, applying there because the requirements for proof of residency were least strict in that state at the time. The state changed its laws in 2008.

Tags: Oregon , Illegal Immigration , Driver's Licenses

A Partisan Staffer With No Medical Background Is the New ‘Ebola Czar’


Meet the Obama administration’s new “Ebola czar”:

A former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden and also to then-Vice President Al Gore, Klain is currently President of Case Holdings and General Counsel of Revolution, an investment group. He has clerked for the U.S. Supreme Court and headed up Gore’s effort during the 2000 Florida recount.

The man has no medical background. His Twitter feed suggests that his preeminent skill is rooting for Democrats.


Tags: Ron Klain , Ebola

Oregon and Our Future of ‘Set It and Forget It’ Leftism


From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Oregon: Our Progressive Future of Corrupt Government and Oblivious Voters

Greetings from Portland, Oregon — the state with the most egregiously failing Obamacare exchange in the country, now set to reelect the governor whose administration oversaw that disaster and wasted all that money.

Okay, the CBS News/New York Times poll, conducted from September 20 to October 1, has Governor John Kitzhaber only up by 7 points against Republican Dennis Richardson. So it’s not a rout, and it’s not a slam-dunk. But Kitzhaber’s heavily favored.

Richardson is now focusing heavily on the scandals surrounding Oregon’s “First Lady”, the governor’s fiancée, Cylvia Hayes.

The Oregon Republican Party filed a state ethics complaint on Wednesday naming Gov. John Kitzhaber, his fiancée Cylvia Hayes and his political consultant Patricia McCaig.

It’s the second complaint filed with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission this week naming Kitzhaber and Hayes.

The governor made his own request on Monday, asking the commission for advice on whether the first lady is considered a “public official” and subject to state ethics laws. He also asked for guidance on whether Hayes’ private consulting work conflicted with her role as the first lady and self-described advisor to the governor.

In addition, Hayes admitted in recent days that she married an immigrant as part of a visa-fraud scheme in 1997 and had a role in an illegal marijuana-growing operation around that same time.

Richardson probably has to try to make the most of the stories surrounding Hayes, as it’s undoubtedly the biggest news to come out of the Oregon governor’s mansion in years. But the more salacious aspects probably generate some sympathy for Governor Kitzhaber; his fiancée hid a criminal past from him.

But it seems like relatively small potatoes compared to a state-exchange site that never worked properly, never enrolled a single citizen online (everything had to be done with pen and paper), and cost, oh, $305 million.

And the bad news for Oregon’s attempt at health insurance just keeps piling up.

A Klamath Falls woman who applied for health coverage through Cover Oregon says the insurance exchange mailed her the personal information of other applicants.

Ann Migliaccio told The Associated Press that she received documents last week containing the names and birth dates of two applicants from Hillsboro. She says the documents did not include Social Security numbers.

This is the 18th low-level security breach in the past six months, Cover Oregon officials said. They say the information inadvertently shared in these breaches included addresses, names, dates of birth and internal Cover Oregon IDs, but no Social Security numbers.

And piling up:

More than 12,000 people who purchased policies through Cover Oregon could owe money at tax time because of errors in tax credits issued by the health exchange.

The figure is updated from an estimate of about 800 people that exchange officials shared with the Legislature last month, only to realize they’d got it wrong.

A more recent internal staff estimate released under Oregon Public Records Law found errors in 12,772 policies, or 38 percent of those who received tax credits.

Portland intrigues me. If you are one of those despairing conservatives who think that the United States of America is caught in an inescapable whirlpool of progressive-driven decline, our future is probably going to look something like Portland.

And at first glance — or at least a visit — the progressive utopia of Portland has its upsides. The ludicrously restrictive zoning laws kept farmland close to the city, so there’s always plenty of locally grown food, produce, and so on for the run-amok foodie culture. There’s plenty of green space and parks. (Our old friend Mark Hemingway wrote one of the definitive takedowns of modern Portland.)

But the upshot of Oregon’s failed insurance exchange, and the seeming lack of any lasting public outrage, is the confirmation that a key element of modern progressivism is never, ever, ever getting upset about government spending if it’s done with the right intentions.

What’s revealing is how “progressive” does not necessarily mean “follows politics or news coverage of government at any level.” There’s a lot of “set it and forget it” Leftism going around. Because you would figure that any self-designated True Believer in the Power of Government to Improve People’s Lives would be breathing fire over something like this. Because all Cover Oregon’s debacle did was make a lot of money for Oracle, and whoever got the contract for those silly singing television commercials. Think about it — big, incompetent government, paying a fortune to a big, incompetent or insufficiently-competent corporate contractor, and most of the lefties in Oregon yawn or just shake their head in mild disapproval.

The formula here — a governing class, cozy with certain big, corporate contractors, coupled with a tuned-out electorate that reflexively elects and reelects the proper names from the progressive class — turns representative government into a giant con. The funny thing is that the stereotypical leftist from, say, the 1960s was extremely suspicious of the government, but that suspicion focused upon the military, the “military-industrial complex”, the intelligence agencies, the police . . . the spiritual and ideological children of those 1960s liberals walk around with enormous faith that the government knows what it is doing and it can be trusted with ever-more amounts of tax money.

Isn’t there any suspicion left over for state health and human services and insurance administrators? Any anger to spare for governors remaining oblivious at best to serious problems within their administration?

Some of these folks can summon skepticism about childhood vaccines, but not the Obamacare insurance mandate.

Tags: Oregon , John Kitzhaber , Dennis Richardson , Obamacare

Ed Gillespie Will Run Plenty of Ads in the Next Two and a Half Weeks


We’re at the time of year where every little decision is interpreted as a significant indicator of what will happen on Election Night. But Politico should have known better than to run a story with the screaming headline, GILLESPIE OFF THE AIR THIS WEEK, only to note . . . 

Republican Senate candidate Ed Gillespie has gone dark on Virginia television, three sources tracking the airwaves told POLITICO. An adviser to his campaign says they plan to go back up on Saturday.

Eric Wilson of the Gillespie campaign stated, “Since we went up on TV, we always switch off TV for a day or two between rotating new messages in.” You can argue whether that’s wise or not, but it’s not exactly unheard of — and how likely is it that the deciding factor in this race will be whether Gillespie is running ads on a Thursday night and a Friday night in mid-October? Tomorrow night the hipsters are out, and the families are at high-school football games.

And Gillespie’s campaign manager Tweets:

For a long stretch, Ed Gillespie trailed by a lot (20 points or so) and this race wasn’t competitive. Now the Republican is down only about 10 points, and now we learn Warner may have offered a job to a lawmaker’s child in an effort to influence a state legislator:

Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) said Monday that while he “brainstormed” with a son of former state senator Phillip P. Puckett about “possibilities that his sister might want to pursue,” he did not and would not offer a job to the daughter of a state lawmaker. 

As the Post reported Friday, Puckett’s son told federal investigators that Warner discussed the possibility of several jobs, including a federal judgeship, for Martha Puckett Ketron in an effort to dissuade her father from quitting the evenly divided state Senate.

Those allegations don’t mesh well with his “I’m a good guy who puts Virginia first” messaging. Also remember that Republicans can overperform their final polls here — last year, Ken Cuccinelli finished five percentage points ahead of his final RCP average.

Ed Gillespie is still an underdog, but this is a race to keep an eye on in the final weeks.

Tags: Ed Gillespie , Mark Warner , Virginia

Republicans Doing Just Fine in Early Vote in N.C., Iowa, Florida


Rmmember when the rest of the country laughed at Floridians for not being able to correctly fill out a ballot? A lot of Floridians — particularly Republicans — have gotten the early-voting part down:

More than 683,000 absentee ballots were cast as of Thursday morning, and Republicans continue to hold a solid lead over Democrats in returns, 48-35 percent.

That’s not huge news, in that Republicans typically overperform in absentee-ballot casting while Democrats do the same when it comes to early in-person voting. But Democrats have been expected to close the gap with Republicans in ballots cast. Instead, the margin has increased, to 13.7 percent.

Throw in the news from Iowa . . . 

. . . and North Carolina . . . 

. . . and it looks like reports of the Republican demise in early voting have been greatly exaggerated. Love it or hate it, early voting is a big part of the process now:

Tags: Early Voting , Iowa , North Carolina , Florida

Is 2014 Going to Be a ‘Wave’ Election? Sort of.


The past week has seen indisputably good news for Republican Senate candidates in Colorado and Iowa . . . and then some somewhat ominous news in Georgia, and perhaps Kansas and South Dakota.

Periodically, I’ll hear someone say, “If Republicans are winning in Iowa and Colorado, they’ll win in Georgia and Kansas.”

Eh . . . probably. Maybe. Sometimes you hear the inverse, that “if Republican Senate candidates aren’t winning in a landslide in red states like Georgia, Kansas, and South Dakota, it’s not a wave election.”

Even in a “wave” election, the party enjoying the wave loses some races, and it often includes at least one or two statewide races that they “should” have won.

Was 2010 a wave election? With Republicans gaining 6 additional Senate seats, 63 U.S. House seats, and 8 additional governor’s mansions, and adding more than 660 state legislative seats across the country, most observers would say yes. It was enough of a “wave” or pro-GOP year for Republicans to win Senate races in traditionally “blue” or purple states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, but . . . Republicans also lost Senate races in Nevada and Colorado. In California, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman didn’t perform much better than past losing GOP statewide efforts. Republicans picked up some U.S. House seats in New York, but their statewide candidates for governor and both Senate races lost handily. Democratic incumbents like Ron Wyden in Oregon, Patrick Leahy in Vermont, and Patty Murray in Washington won reelection without breaking a sweat.

Democrats were elated with most of the 2012 election results . . . but a few competitive Senate races didn’t break their way. Republican Dean Heller survived in Nevada by a percentage point as Obama won the state, and Jeff Flake hung on in Arizona. Democrats managed to reelect Jon Tester in Montana and elect Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota while Romney was winning those states, but couldn’t elect Bob Kerrey in Nebraska.

The short answer is, candidate quality and campaign quality matter. Sometimes the national mood generates a wind at a candidate’s back and it’s good enough to get them over the top. But a campaign that counts on that is usually going to be disappointed.

Right now, 2014 looks like it’s going to be similar to 2010, a “regional wave” election. Notice that three GOP Senate pickups are in the bag (Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia) and two more are looking pretty likely (Arkansas and Alaska). Then there’s Iowa and Colorado, both looking good for the GOP. Louisiana’s certain to go to a runoff, and that looks really good for Cassidy.

Now look at Democrats big three hope states. In Kansas, “independent” Orman has only led one of the last four polls vs. Pat Roberts, and it’s by PPP. In Georgia, Nunn’s led only one of the past ten polls, and that one was conducted on a weekend. In South Dakota, the Republican candidate has never trailed. None of them are safe bets for Democrats.

Add it all up, and you have a Republican gain of eight seats.

This doesn’t even count North Carolina, where Hagan’s lead is shrinking or New Hampshire, where Scott Brown led the last poll.

So by that measure, it looks like a wave election. But even then, there’s a catch — if the GOP sweeps all of the above races, they’ll have won in only three states that Romney lost — Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire.

The forecast is for a mild elephant stampede.

Tags: 2014 Midterms

When the Obama Administration Has Lost Jay Carney . . .


Wow. Please, Democrats, keep insisting that a ban on nonessential travel from the three most Ebola-stricken countries is a bad idea. Because you won’t believe who is urging a change in policy:

Former White House press secretary Jay Carney suggested Thursday that the White House take “substantive actions” in fighting Ebola, including putting in place flight restrictions.

“I think substantive actions need to be taken, and they may involve flight restrictions, they may involve moving all patients to specific hospitals in the country that can handle Ebola, and I think those would be wise decisions to make,” Carney said on CNN.

He continued, “I’m not an expert, but I think that would demonstrate a level of seriousness in response to this that is merited at this point.”

Polling indicates that broad, bipartisan majorities support restricting flights. A few House Democrats support the restrictions, but many others don’t.

Tags: Ebola , Jay Carney

Heck of a Week for Cory Gardner So Far


Remember when it wasn’t clear that Cory Gardner was the favorite in the Colorado Senate race? Back on . . . Tuesday?

This morning, “Gardner took 47 percent and Udall 41 percent in the Quinnipiac University survey of likely voters.” Eight of the past nine polls in Colorado show Gardner ahead.

Last night, in the final debate, Democratic senator Mark Udall was asked, “What’s the biggest non-issue in your mind that Congress keeps debating needlessly?”

He answered, “Benghazi.”

It’s not that Gardner needed any further help motivating his base, but Republicans are likely to rage over Udall’s answer, contrasted with Gardner’s response, that “the families of this country deserve an answer on Benghazi. I think it’s outrageous that people died and Senator Udall is refusing to provide answers for this country.” Udall said the biggest non-issue is GOP skepticism of renewable energy.

In a nice bit of irony, last night Udall accidentally called Gardner “Senator.”

Gardner debuted a new ad, declaring, “When my party is wrong, I’ll say it. When something is wrong, I’ll fix it.”

Finally, today a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee holds a hearing on Ebola. Gardner will be there.

Tags: Cory Gardner , Mark Udall

The CDC Needs an Ebola Plan that Accounts for Human Errors.


From the Thursday Morning Jolt:

The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself. Well, That and Ebola.

Fear is not always a bad thing*. Fear can be useful. Fear is an indicator that we care about something and fear losing something. Fear can be a powerful motivator to action.

For weeks, officials at the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Obama administration have told us that we have the very best people in government and medicine working on the problem of Ebola. They told us that they would “stop it in its tracks.” They assured us they could handle this. Anyone who said otherwise was fear-mongering.

Now they’re admitting to us they “dropped the ball.”

In the case of Amber Vinson, the Dallas nurse who flew commercially as she was becoming ill with Ebola, one health official said “somebody dropped the ball.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that Vinson called the agency several times before flying, saying that she had a fever with a temperature of 99.5 degrees. But because her fever wasn’t 100.4 degrees or higher, she didn’t officially fall into the group of “high risk” and was allowed to fly.

Thus, we see the familiar pattern, from the VA scandal, from, from insurance cancellations, to our foreign-policy crises. Someone notices a problem. The government assures us they’ve got this under control. People outside government publicly express doubts. Government officials scoff and dismiss the critics. And then the critics turn out to be a lot more right than the government admitted.

Rick Wilson’s chilling — and at least somewhat prescient — little story on Twitter from late July stands out for his main point that in a crisis, human beings make mistakes. That is not avoidable, no matter the preparation, the amount of resources, or the leadership. It’s baked in the cake. So a realistic plan has to have contingencies to deal with those inevitable human errors.

So far, it seems that the Centers for Disease Control designed and implemented a plan that would have worked . . . as long as no one made any mistakes.

If the screener at the Liberian airport where Duncan got on the plane had detected an elevated temperature, or he had not lied in his answers on the questionnaire, as Liberia’s government claims, the plan would have worked.

If he had clearly communicated that he had recently been to West Africa, and the hospital had clearly understood, the plan would have worked, or at least worked better.

If the first nurse indeed made (some yet undetermined) error in removing her protective gear, then yes, the plan could have worked better.

If the second nurse had not made the decision to get on an airliner while “being monitored,” and chosen to get onto a return flight with a 99.5-degree fever, the plan would have worked better.

And then the CDC “dropped the ball,” telling her it was okay to get on that flight.

The problem is that human beings make mistakes, and because of a variety of psychological factors — including fear and denial — they sometimes get worse at assessing risk and reward in circumstances like this one. Even people with a background in medicine and knowledge of the virus take risks that seem unacceptable to others. Nurses get on airplanes. The NBC News medical correspondent goes out for soup.

President Obama canceled his fundraising event and economy speech scheduled for today.

* A counter-argument from Paul Atreides: “Fear is the mind-killer.”

Tags: CDC , Ebola

New Ad: ‘Bruce Braley Insulted a Lot of Iowa Farmers.’


Today Freedom Partners Action Fund unveils another ad in Iowa, hitting Democrat Bruce Braley for comments he made at a fundraiser that insulted farmers by suggesting to the donors that without his election, they might have to deal with “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school” as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. FPAF states the ad purchase is approximately $1.2 million.

Tags: Bruce Braley , Iowa , Joni Ernst

A Tough Ad Aims to Persuade Hispanics in Colorado


If you’ve ever wanted to see a conservative group fighting for the votes of Hispanics . . . check out this ad — running in both English and Spanish — from the group Conservative War Chest. The group, which also ran the “Gang of Five” commercials earlier in the year, is running the ad in “a heavy rotation” starting today on Telemundo and Univision in Colorado.

The Spanish-language version:

Is this ad over the top? Or exactly the kind of direct sales pitch conservatives have failed to make in the past?

Tags: Mark Udall , Colorado , Cory Gardner , Hispanics

A Familiar Pattern Continues


Today the Centers for Disease Control admitted that the second Dallas health-care worker who was found to have the Ebola virus should not have boarded a commercial jet, particularly because she had a fever of 99.5 degrees when she boarded the flight. The CDC said it wanted to speak to the passengers who were on her flights.

At this moment, you may recall that August 29, President Obama assured us, “our experts, here at the CDC and across our government, agree that the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low.”

Or you may remember CDC director Tom Frieden pledging, “We will stop it in its tracks.”

This is a familiar pattern of statements and behavior from this administration, but with much higher consequences. We’re always being assured that the situation isn’t as bad as it looked.

August 9: “Because Israel is so capable militarily, I don’t worry about Israel’s survival.”

In May, “Our ability to mobilize international opinion rapidly has changed the balance and the equation in Ukraine.”

In January, he scoffed, that ISIS is the “JV squad.”

Back in September 24, 2012, he assured us that Benghazi terror attack was a “bump in the road.”

June 8, 2012, the private sector is “doing fine.”

People who already have health insurance “don’t have to worry.”

High gas prices and increases in the unemployment rate are, similarly, just “bumps in the road.”

Sometimes the assurances use the same trite terms . . . 

“The system worked,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano after the attempted bombing of a flight over Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009.

“The system worked,” said Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health after the first nurse tested positive for Ebola.

Tags: Barack Obama , CDC

Time for the House to Vote on Ebola Travel Restrictions


Last week 27 Congressional lawmakers, including three Democrats, wrote a letter asking the president to direct the CDC, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Border Patrol and other relevant agenciesto begin “more active screening of travelers from affected countries in West Africa.”

In addition, the letter urged Obama to “consider a possible quarantine for anyone who has traveled to the affected countries during the dormancy period, aside from responsible health and military personnel who have been sent there to fight the disease.” In addition, “we ask the State Department to impose a travel ban and restrict travel visas issued to citizens of the West African countries experiencing this epidemic, until such countries have defeated the epidemic. Such a ban should be instituted by suspending earlier-issued visas until further notice, halting the issuance of such visas, and denying entry to the nationals of such counties upon presentation of a passport from those countries at our ports of entry.”

The current approach isn’t working. We can’t get Americans to honor their own restrictions; why are we so certain that citizens of other countries are going to honor their restrictions? In the past two days, we’ve seen an NBC News medical correspondent break a quarantine because she wanted to go out for soup and one of the medical personnel who treated the initial case in Dallas, who also contracted Ebola, fly to Cleveland and back.

Why not reconvene the U.S. House of Representatives and pass either legislation or a “sense of the House resolution” calling for the administration to impose these new travel restrictions? Yes, members are out on the campaign trail right now, but for most, this is probably the best use of their time.

Get back to Washington, take the vote, see if the Senate does the same and see how the administration responds.

Forget your political opponent for a bit and think about this opponent.

Tags: Ebola , House of Representatives


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