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News from the Votemaster

Hovde Narrowly Edges Thompson in Wisconsin Senatorial Primary

Businessman and tea party favorite Eric Hovde now appears to have caught up with and perhaps passed former governor Tommy Thompson in the race for the GOP senatorial nomination in Wisconsin. The nomination is important because Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) is retiring, so this will be an open seat. The Democrats are going to nominate Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the first openly lesbian member of Congress.

Thompson, whose real name is Tommy (not Thomas), is extremely well known and popular in the state, having served four terms as governor. Against Baldwin, he would be the favorite, but not a prohibitive favorite because although Wisconsin was once a Republican bulwark, the last time it went for a GOP presidential nominee was in 1984. Baldwin vs. Hovde would be an entirely different piece of cheese. While Hovde is wealthy and could buy all the television ads he wanted to, a very conservative candidate in a fairly blue state would make Baldwin the favorite.

Just to make things more complicated, the Republican primary is not a two-way race, but a four-way race, also featuring Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI) and Speaker of the Assembly, Jeff Fitzgerald. This makes the dynamics hard to understand. There will be blood all over the floor (well, the TV screens) before this is over on Aug. 14.

The PPP poll, conducted July 5-8, has Hovde at 31%, Thompson at 29%, Neumann at 15% and Fitzgerald at 9%.

Missouri Republican Primary Gets Nasty

Wisconsin is not the only Midwest state where a multiway Republican primary has turned into a nasty food fight. In Missouri, the battle for the Aug. 7 primary has really heated up. The three major candidates are State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), and wealthy businessman and tea party favorite John Brunner. They are starting to go after each other hammer and tongs. The problem for the Republicans, of course, is that negative images of the eventual winner formed during the primaries don't suddenly vanish after it is all over and these will certainly help the beleaguered incumbent, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

Needless to say, if Hovde wins the Wisconsin primary and Brunner wins the Missouri primary and the Democrats win both seats and hold the Senate 51 to 49, war will break within the Republican Party over the role of the tea party. A case can be made that tea party victories in Republican primaries in Delaware, Colorado, and Nevada in 2010 were responsible for the Democrats holding their majority in the current Senate.

Obama Has More Cash in the Bank than Romney

It has been widely reported that in June Mitt Romney raised $106 million to Obama's $71 million, but those two numbers don't give a complete picture of the financial situation. As of the end of May (the last month for which figures are available), Obama had $110 million in the bank vs. Romney's $17 million. Part of the disparity is that although Romney has been raising money all year, he has had a high burn rate due to the primaries. Obama was spared this expense. Also, Obama has been more efficient, spending only 5% of his take on fundraising to Romney's 25%. (You can't invite a billionaire to dinner, serve him rubber chicken, and then expect a big check.)

Karl Rove's Groups Expect to Spend $70 Million on Senate Races

American Crossroads, a 527 group, and its sister, Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4), are planning to spend $70 million on electing Republicans to the Senate. This is $20 million more than it spent on Senate elections in 2010. While he is technically only an advisor, to a large extent, George W. Bush's political guru, Karl Rove, is the brains behind the Crossroads groups.

For those readers uninitiated in the Internal Revenue Code, most 527 groups, including American Crossroads, are tax-exempt political groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to express a political viewpoint as long as they do not coordinate with specific candidates to help elect them or defeat their opponents. They must, however, disclose the names of their donors and detail their expenditures to the IRS periodically. In contrast, 501(c)(4) organizations operate for the promotion of social welfare. They can also take in and spend unlimited amounts of money, but do not have to disclose their donors. Whether Crossroads GPS is promoting social welfare is controversial, but no doubt it claims that it is protecting the American way of life, and thus qualifies. When Congress created this category of tax-exempt organization, it was thinking of homeowners' associations, veterans' organizations, and charities of all sorts, not extensions of the political parties. The Democrats in Congress are trying to pass a law that would require 501(c)(4) organizations to disclose their donors, but the Republicans are blocking it.

Florida and Iowa Blocking Former Felons from Voting

Nearly all states allow felons who have served their sentences to regain the right to vote. The idea is that the prison sentence is the punishment for the crime, not having your rights removed life long. However, the Republican governors of Florida and Iowa, two crucial swing states, are trying to make it harder for people who have served their sentences to vote once they have been freed. The governors are no doubt aware that 60% of the prison population consists of blacks and Latinos, groups that skew heavily Democratic.

Today's Presidential Polls

Finally some more polls, including a surprising one: a new PPP poll shows that Obama has a (statistically insignificant) lead in North Carolina, a state that he won in 2008, but which many observers think is sure to go for Romney this time, despite the Democrats holding their convention in the state's largest city, Charlotte. Maybe the South will rise again, but next time as Maryland. The Research Triangle Park area of the state is home to hundreds of high-tech and financial companies, and they are attracting many highly educated people from out of state to work there. The current balance between these people and the more traditional Southerners in the western part of the state adjacent to Tennessee and Kentucky is very close, but within a few years could make North Carolina another purple state, like Virginia.

Note that the map still shows North Carolina as favoring Romney, though, due to a SurveyUSA poll a bit less than a week ago. Please see the "Map algorithm explained" link above to see how multiple polls are averaged. An up-to-date list of all 2012 presidential polls is always available here or use the "Downloadable polling data" link above to get to all the raw data.

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Florida 45% 46%   Jul 09 Jul 09 Rasmussen
North Carolina 47% 46%   Jul 05 Jul 08 PPP
Virginia 50% 42%   Jul 05 Jul 08 PPP