Tags: Senate Elections

The Easy Way for Republicans to Count to Six


In today’s Morning Jolt:

The Easy Way for Republicans to Count to Six

The Republicans need to pick up six Senate seats to control the chamber. Let’s count to six.

The GOP wins Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. One, two, three. I know there are some folks spinning the chances of Republican Mike Rounds losing in South Dakota, but he has yet to trail a poll.

Four: In Arkansas, the latest poll puts Republican Tom Cotton up by 8 points. Pryor has not led a poll this month.

Five: In Alaska, Republican Dan Sullivan has not trailed in any poll since early August.

Six: In Colorado, Cory Gardner led nine of the last ten polls. Tuesday the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling released a survey putting Gardner up by 3 points, Udall only leading women by 4 points, and “Udall continues to struggle with his approval numbers, as only 37% of voters think he’s doing a good job to 52% who disapprove.”

Let’s add another. Seven: In Iowa, Joni Ernst led five of the last six polls, and the sixth is a tie.

We’ll get to some of the other Republican pickup opportunities in a moment, but let’s take a look at the big three seats they’re defending.

Kentucky: Democrats are excited by a Survey USA poll — conducted over a weekend — putting McConnell up by just one point. But the last time Survey USA polled Kentucky, at the beginning of the month, Alison Lundergan Grimes led by 2, so this survey represents movement in the GOP direction. That poll was the only one in the past 15 surveys to show Grimes ahead.

Kansas: Democrats were so, so, so excited about this race, and admittedly, Republican Sen. Pat Roberts is not out of the woods yet. But he’s led three of the last four polls, and the one that had him trailing was PPP. That survey noted, “By a 52/35 margin, voters in the state would rather Republicans had control of the Senate than Democrats. And among those who are undecided there’s a 48/25 preference for a GOP controlled Senate.”

Georgia: Keep in mind, if no one gets 50 percent, this one goes to a runoff. You know how many times a poll has shown Democrat Michelle Nunn with 50 percent? Try none. (For what it’s worth, Purdue hit that level of support in a few polls.) In 2008, Democrats cheered that their Senate candidate, Jim Martin, kept Saxby Chambliss from hitting 50 percent and forced a runoff. But then, in the December 2 election, without Obama on the ticket, Chambliss won big — 57 percent to 42 percent. This year’s runoff election in Georgia would be held January 6, 2015! How confident should Democrats be that they could sustain enthusiasm for several months?

None of the Democrats’ pickup opportunities look like sure things right now. Could Republicans lose one of those seats? Yes. Could they lose two? Conceivably, but unlikely.

So let’s imagine the bad scenario, where Republicans lose Kansas, and Georgia, and subtract two. We’ve gone from seven to five.

Back to the Republicans’ pickup opportunities.

Louisiana: This one is almost certain to go to a runoff. Mary Landrieu is polling exceptionally badly for an incumbent in the first round — 36 percent, 41 percent, 36 percent – and Republican Bill Cassidy is winning all the runoff polling.

Add a Louisiana win, and Republicans go from five to six — controlling the Senate again.

Then there’s North Carolina, where Kay Hagan keeps leading by a small margin. Maybe that $6 million in television ads from the NRSC does the trick and Tillis wins.

Then there’s New Hampshire, where Jeanne Shaheen’s hanging on, leading by three here and there, trailing by one over there. Scott Brown traditionally outhustles his opponents, and maybe he gets a bit of momentum in these final weeks.

So in the worst-case scenario, losing Georgia and Kansas, and not winning North Carolina or New Hampshire, the GOP still picks up Senate control by winning the runoff in Louisiana.

Somebody’s in a good mood this morning.

Tags: Senate Elections , Senate Republicans

Washington Post: Vote for Mark Warner Because He’ll Raise Your Taxes


Today’s Washington Post endorsement of Democratic Virginia senator Mark Warner is not surprising, but the editorial board’s case against Republican challenger Ed Gillespie is a revealing window on how people think in the city that takes what America makes:

We understand that Mr. Gillespie, who faced a competitive GOP primary, is loath to alienate Republican hard-liners. Yet his opposition to any new taxes — read: any compromise — is exactly the sort of promise that produces congressional paralysis and would defeat a bargain to cure the nation’s fiscal ills . . . 

Mr. Gillespie, a former lobbyist, national and state GOP chairman and top adviser to President George W. Bush, has deep political and policy experience. Unlike many Republicans who have been content to attack Obamacare, he proposed an alternative — albeit one that would offer far less protection to vulnerable patients.

Mr. Gillespie has the skills to be a bipartisan player in the Senate, as Mr. Warner has been. Yet by promising never to compromise on taxes, he has taken himself out of the hunt for an exit from America’s fiscal impasse.

If only the voters — who are constantly telling pollsters that they’re fed up with Washington business as usual and forcing lifelong politicians to make improbable claims to “outsider” status — were as reasonable as the Post’s editorial board. The argument seems to be that what’s good about Gillespie is that he is another get-along-go-along pol; but unfortunately, he’s not quite as easy as Warner.

The equation of “new taxes” with “compromise” — which the paper should really be embarrassed to make after the stunning non-apocalypses of the budget sequester and the partial shutdown of some non-essential government services last year — also elides a point the two campaigns have been arguing over. Though Warner claims Gillespie signed the tax pledge created by Americans For Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, and his campaign even flooded the press room with literature to that effect at Monday’s debate, Grover himself has shot that story down. As Post Virginia reporters Jenna Portnoy and Laura Vozzella point out, “Norquist tweeted late Monday that Gillespie did not sign the pledge: “Gillespie told me he would not sign pledges. He didn’t. He told the people of Virginia he wouldn’t raise their taxes. He won’t. Warner did.’”

The ed board’s case for Warner also mentions his successful governorship, “ability to cross partisan lines,” and the fact that many people still think he’s John Warner. (OK, not that last one.) But the only case against Gillespie is his opposition to “new revenue” to “tackle the nation’s fiscal problems in a balanced way.” In fact, as Ohio University economist Richard Vedder demonstrated in a 1980s study that has been repeated with the same results many times since, every dollar of tax revenue raised leads to more than one dollar of new spending by Congress. Studies of revenue-based deficit reduction efforts in other countries have shown the same.

Gillespie has closed some of his very wide polling gap against Warner, but other than a September Quinnipiac poll that showed him trailing by nine points, he has never come within double-digits of the incumbent. But the power of incumbency is not a ratification of bad math. Raising taxes only makes the country’s fiscal problems worse. Americans know that. Washingtonians don’t.

Tags: Mark Warner , Taxes , Senate Democrats , Senate Elections , 2014 Midterms

Another Projection of a GOP Senate Majority in the Midterms


The latest midterm election projection from The Monkey Cage over at the Washington Post will surely cheer Republicans, predicting the GOP will win control of the Senate.

They predict Republicans win currently Democrat-held seats in Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia and Iowa. Republicans keep their seats in Kentucky and Georgia; Democrats hold onto seats in Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Oregon.

However, the certainty of the projection seems a little… odd. They contend there’s a 98 percent chance that embattled incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan wins in North Carolina… and they also project Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell enjoys equally high odds of victory. Neither incumbent is likely to be so confident; polls show a close race in North Carolina and a small lead for McConnell in Kentucky

Tags: Senate Elections

This Just Handed to Me: The Conventional WIsdom on the Senate Midterms Has Not Changed.


There’s not a ton to disagree with in this new assessment from Nate Silver — “Republicans Remain Slightly Favored To Take Control Of The Senate” — but I’m left scratching my head at his suggestion that the GOP’s Jim Oberweis  is more likely to defeat Sen. Dick Durbin in Illinois than Ed Gillespie is to beat Sen. Mark Warner in Virginia. Really? Really?

Much to the frustration of the chattering class, the outlook for the Senate races hasn’t changed much during the summer. Republicans need six seats to win the Senate. (Yes, Sen. Angus King, independent of Maine, has said he will flip to the majority if the GOP takes over, but he won’t flip to the GOP for a 50-50 split.)

Republicans enjoy three near-automatic pick-ups of Democrat-held seats, in South Dakota, West Virginia, and in Montana, where incumbent Sen. John Walsh, dealing with a plagiarism scandal, is being urged to drop his reelection bid and/or resign from the U.S. Senate. Then there are three southern Senate Democrat incumbents who look vulnerable, but not quite toast yet: Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Bill Cassidy, Tom Cotton and Thom Tillis all just need their home states to follow their GOP instincts.

Then there are the vulnerable Democrat incumbents in red or purple states outside the South: the not-yet-determined GOP bid vs. Mark Begich in Alaska, Cory Gardner’s bid against Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado, and former Sen. Scott Brown’s effort against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire.

Perhaps this tier can include in Monica Wehby’s effort against Jeff Merkley in Oregon and Gillespie’s effort against Warner in Virginia, although Nate Silver obviously disagrees. (It looks like a really tough year for incumbent Democrat senators named Mark.)

Then there are two open seat races held by retiring Democrats in blue states where GOP women candidates are running surprisingly strongly: Joni Ernst taking on Bruce Braley in Iowa, Terri Lynn Land vs. Gary Peters in Michigan.

Then there’s the one Republican incumbent who needs to hold on, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. For what it’s worth, Silver sees an 80 percent chance McConnell holds on against Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Then there’s the one open seat race where a Republican is retiring in Georgia, where David Purdue needs to hold off Michelle Nunn.

If Republicans can just win the gimmees and then beat the incumbents whose first names begin with “M-A-R”, they’ll be in good shape.



Tags: Senate Elections

Just Don’t Pull a Duke, GOP Senate Candidates


From the first Morning Jolt of the week . . . 

Nate Silver: Republicans Are ‘Slight Favorites’ to Win Control of the Senate

The good news for Republicans: Nate Silver, the former New York Times, now ABC-affiliated statistics guru who a lot of lefties believe has near-divine attributes of clairvoyance, updated his assessment of the 2014 Senate races:

We think the Republicans are now slight favorites to win at least six seats and capture the chamber. The Democrats’ position has deteriorated somewhat since last summer, with President Obama’s approval ratings down to 42 or 43 percent from an average of about 45 percent before. Furthermore, as compared with 2010 or 2012, the GOP has done a better job of recruiting credible candidates, with some exceptions.

The caveat: Nate Silver also wrote that Duke had a 92.9 percent chance of beating Mercer in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Above: Nate Silver, hard at work in his laboratory.

Silver notes:

Especially in recent years, Democrats have come to rely on groups such as racial minorities and young voters that turn out much more reliably in presidential years than for the midterms. In 2010, the Republican turnout advantage amounted to the equivalent of 6 percentage points, meaning a tie on the generic ballot among registered voters translated into a six-point Republican lead among likely voters. The GOP’s edge hadn’t been quite that large in past years. But if the “enthusiasm gap” is as large this year as it was in 2010, Democrats will have a difficult time keeping the Senate.

When I say that, I’m a wishful-thinking over-optimistic spinning partisan hack. When he says it, it’s Science™!

For what it’s worth, the Democratic grassroots takes Nate Silver extremely seriously:

For the last few months, FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver has been largely absent from the political forecasting scene he owned in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

But that hasn’t stopped the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from sending at least 11 fundraising emails featuring Silver in the subject line over the past four months, even as Silver was building the foundation for his new website that’s launching Monday and was not writing regularly.

It’s all part of a digital fundraising game that will increase in intensity as the election draws nearer, as candidates, political parties, and other groups bombard their email lists with messages designed to draw contributions.

Silver’s latest take could get Democrats fired up and determined, or it could leave them dispirited and panicked. Monday morning, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued a memo declaring, “Nuh-uhhhh!”

Tags: Senate Democrats , Senate Elections , Senate Republicans , Nate Silver

The Big Senate Battles of 2014 Are on More
Pro-GOP Territory Than FL-13


From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

The GOP’s Win in Florida Isn’t Everything . . . but It’s Something Significant.

Look, if you’re a Republican, go ahead and do a little victory dance over the special election in Florida last night. We obviously don’t get as many victories to celebrate as we would like!

This is just . . . sweet:

[David] Jolly’s win in a Gulf Coast district just west of Tampa illustrated the political toxicity of the law known as Obamacare. Jolly favored repealing and replacing the law, which was a central focus of the campaign, while his Democratic opponent did not. The law’s botched rollout has heightened Democrats’ anxiety eight months before the midterm elections. The Florida result is likely to raise their concerns.

With Jolly holding the seat for Republicans, Democrats must pick up 17 seats to win back the House majority in the fall, a task widely viewed as extremely difficult given historical trends, President Obama’s political woes and the limited pool of competitive seats up for grabs. Jolly will have to defend his seat in the fall.

As expected, the margin was close Tuesday. Jolly outpaced Democrat Alex Sink by about 3,400 votes out of 183,000. The Associated Press called the race for Jolly less than an hour after polls closed.

This morning, almost every Democrat is insisting it’s not a big deal, and almost every Republican is insisting it’s a bellwether, a more ominous omen for the Democrats than their Perrier turning to blood and a rain of endangered frogs falling from the skies above DNC headquarters.

Here’s what it means: A not-so-great Republican candidate can beat a not-so-great Democratic candidate on neutral territory by emphasizing Obamacare. Yes, Alex Sink had run and won statewide and nearly won the governor’s race in 2010. But she also was gaffe-prone – or as Caleb Howe summarized:

Debbie Downer Wasserman Schultz declared,Tonight, Republicans fell short of their normal margin in this district.” Well, yes, because they were running a little-known former staffer and lobbyist who just got divorced and he’s now dating a woman 14 years younger than he is. The previous occupant of the seat, the late Bill Young, was elected in 1970 and looked like he was out of central casting for an elder statesman.

The normal margin in this district? Young ran unopposed seven times. That pushes the “normal margin” pretty close to 100 percent! (In recent cycles, Young won between 57 and 75 percent.)

Some prominent Democrats weren’t accepting their own side’s spin: “Dems should not try to spin this loss. We have to redouble our efforts for 2014. Too much at stake,” declared . . . Paul Begala.

In November, there will be better Democratic candidates on the ballot. But there will also be better Republicans on the ballot. Forget the House of Representatives; not only will the GOP keep control of it in a political environment like this, they could easily gain seats. David Wasserman, House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, declared, “If Dems couldn’t win an Obama CD with a solid candidate against a flawed R, expect a rough November. . . . Bottom line: #FL13 result suggests House GOP still on track for gains this November, perhaps in 5-15 seat range.”

We know the real fight in November is in the Senate races, and you know what’s less Democrat-friendly territory than this R+1 swing district? The states of West Virginia (R+13), North Carolina (R+3), Louisiana (R+12), South Dakota (R+10), Alaska (R+12), Arkansas (R+14), and Montana (R+7). Those are all currently Democrat-held seats. And there are seven of them.

If last night’s result means that a halfway decent Republican candidate can win on Republican-leaning territory by hammering away at Obamacare . . . then the odds of the GOP winning the Senate look very, very good. That means that the competitive Senate races in places like Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, and Virginia . . . that’s all gravy. Bonus seats. A cushion for the tougher set of seats up for reelection in 2016.

Almost hard to believe, isn’t it? Amazing what happens when Democrats get to enact the laws they want.

There are also some signs that the GOP get-out-the-vote efforts are finally starting to improve.

Dina Fraioli: “Jolly ran a better ground campaign. Republicans should be MORE proud of that. Obamacare hurt Sink, but didn’t kill her.”

Rick Wilson: “Be more proud of the fantastic field work by the @DavidJollyCD13 campaign and outside groups than the magical thinking this was Obamacare. I’m a media guy, and I am in awe of the hard work people did to pull voters for Jolly. Data, targeting, ground work, org fundamentals.”

Here’s what Stuart Rothenberg was writing back in January:

It’s rare in politics that anything other than a presidential contest is viewed as a “must win” — but the special election in Florida’s 13th District falls into that category for Democrats.

A loss in the competitive March 11 contest would almost certainly be regarded by dispassionate observers as a sign that President Barack Obama could constitute an albatross around the neck of his party’s nominees in November. And that could make it more difficult for Democratic candidates, campaign committees and interest groups to raise money and energize the grass roots . . . 

Given all of the advantages that Sink has — the district, her experience and proven electoral success, her money in the bank and her united party — and the problems the GOP nominee will face, shouldn’t the likely Democratic nominee be a clear favorite to win the special election, getting her party one seat closer to the majority in November?

Since most nonpartisan handicappers and analysts have for years expected this seat to go Democratic when it became open, a Republican victory in March would likely say something about the national political environment and the inclination of district voters to send a message of dissatisfaction about the president. And that possibility should worry the White House.

That’s a lot more fun to read when you know the outcome, isn’t it?

Tags: David Jolly , Alex Sink , Senate Elections

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