New Senate: DEM 49             GOP 51

New polls: IA KS
Dem pickups: (None)
GOP pickups: AK AR CO MT SD WV

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Suppose the Candidates Didn't Matter

It seems like a million years ago since many voters would proudly say: "I don't care about parties. I vote for the best person for the job. Now these voters are a vanishing breed. More and more, in "blue" states (those that vote for the Democrat in presidential elections) the voters pick Democrats up and down the line. Similar, in red states they vote for Republicans up and down the line. The days when Republicans Jack Javits and Al D'Amato could win seven consecutive Senate elections in liberal New York are long gone. We are almost to the point where the voters simply look for the (D) or (R) after the candidate's name and vote accordingly.

Suppose that were to happen this year for the Senate, with the nine contested races below simply going to the winner of the 2012 presidential election in that state. This is what we would get (with the numbers being the presidential election numbers).

State Obama 2012 Romney 2012
Alaska 41% 55%
Arkansas 31% 61%
Colorado 51% 46%
Georgia 46% 53%
Iowa 52% 46%
Kentucky 38% 60%
Louisiana 41% 58%
Michigan 54% 45%
North Carolina 48% 50%

Compared to the current Map, Colorado would be a Democratic hold and the Republicans would capture North Carolina and Louisiana, giving the Democrats 48 seats in the Senate and the Republicans 52.

As an aside, the New York Times forecasting model now gives the Republicans a 67% chance of capturing the Senate. While their methodology is totally different from ours, the results are roughly similar. Still, the election is more than 2 months away and a lot can happen between now an election day. For example, President Obama could make a unilateral move on immigration, generating calls for his impeachment, which could upend multiple races.

Hagan Hits and Hugs Obama at the Same Time

One of the problems of running for the Senate (as opposed to the House) is that most states are heterogeneous, whereas most congressional districts are not. The consequence is that Senate candidates must try to appeal to different groups that strongly oppose each other, something House candidates are spared. We saw this in action yesterday in North Carolina. Embattled Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) has been issuing press releases all week criticizing President Obama. Yet when he showed up in Charlotte yesterday to give a speech to the American Legion, she went to the airport to greet him and gave him a hug. So she is trying to run toward him and away from him at the same time.

Hugs in politics are a big deal, apparently, especially between two guys. Charlie Crist is still trying to undo the effects of his hug of Obama in Feb. 2009, when he was the Republican governor of the state. Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) enraged conservatives when he gave Obama a hug when Obama toured his storm-ravaged state in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

The Crist/Christie hugs may well have been spontaneous gestures from governors hoping for help for their states, but in Hagan's case it is surely more calculated. North Carolina used to be a deep red Southern state, but in-migration in recent decades is changing the state. Although Obama carried the state in 2008 and barely missed in 2012 (by 2 points) it is not yet as purple as Virginia but rapidly moving in that direction, largely due to the influx of Northerners to the Research Triangle Park area, which is home to many high-tech and financial companies. These people are Hagan's base and largely Democratic, so she has to show respect to the President when he visits. On the other hand, the western part of the state is still rural and Republican, so she can't cosy up to him too much. She indicated her independence from Obama by not riding to the convention in the presidential limousine--even though both were speaking there. It is a very delicate balancing act for her--and for all red state Democrats.

Crist Completes Transformation to Being a Democrat by Winning Primary

Former Florida governor Charlie Crist is a bit of a political chameleon. He was elected governor of Florida as a Republican in 2006. In 2010, he decided to forego a run for reelection and ran for the Senate instead, initially as a Republican. When it became clear to him that he would lose the Republican primary to now-senator Marco Rubio, he became an independent. While he lost to Rubio in the general election, he did manage to come in second with 30% of the vote. Finally, he completed his move to the left and is now running for his old job of governor again, this time as a Democrat. Apparently the state's Democrats are OK with that since he got almost 75% of the vote in the Democratic primary yesterday against former state legislator Nan Rich.

The general election battle will feature Crist against Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) who is running for reelection. Scott has vigorously pushed conservative policies in Florida during his first term as governor and has generated a huge amount of controversy as a result. The general is going to be extremely bitter and the amount of money spent in the gubernatorial race could approach $100 million. A Libertarian candidate, Adrian Wyllie, could complicate matters. Along with Wisconsin, this is going to be one of the marquee gubernatorial races in 2014.

Democrats Set 2016 Nominating Schedule

At a meeting of the Democratic National Committee, the party set its schedule for the early primaries and caucuses in 2016. Here is the schedule.

State Date Type
Iowa Feb. 1, 2016 Caucus
New Hampshire Feb. 9, 2016 Primary
Nevada Feb. 20, 2016 Caucus
South Carolina Feb 27, 2016 Primary

The Republicans will probably adopt the same schedule, especially since RNC chairman Reince Priebus is on record favoring a compressed primary season. January events do not fit into that model. It is less likely that any state will unilaterally move its caucus or primary in 2016 (as some did in 2012) because both parties now have severe penalties for doing so. The other states are free to schedule their nominating events any time from March 1 until the end of June. Every state wants its nominating event to have the most clout but it is never clear in advance what the best timing is for that. In a multiway race with no favorite (like the 2016 Republican nomination will be), going early helps winnow the field. On the other hand, in a bitterly fought race that goes down to the wire between two candidates who are fighting for the soul of the party (as 2016 might become for the Republicans--think Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz being neck-and-neck in June) going last is best.

Today's Senate Polls

A surprising thing is happening in Kansas. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) is not quite the shoo-in everyone expected due to the presence of a third party candidate, businessman Greg Orman, in the race.

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Iowa Bruce Braley 41% Joni Ernst 40%     Aug 22 Aug 24 PPP
Kansas Chad Taylor 32% Pat Roberts* 37% Greg Orman 20% Aug 20 Aug 23 SurveyUSA

* Denotes incumbent

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