Oct. 07

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New Senate: DEM 48     Ties 1     GOP 51

New polls: IA KY MI NJ
Dem pickups: (None)

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The Battle about Who Can and Will Vote

It is well known that Republican turnout remains about the same in midterms as in presidential elections whereas Democratic turnout drops precipitously in the midterms. The two parties have responded very differently. The Democrats are trying very hard to get their marginal voters to the polls but the Republicans are trying equally hard to make voting difficult by requiring voter IDs that some voters don't have or reducing voting days and hours. The Republicans' strategy has led to numerous court fights, which in practice means that the Supreme Court gets deeply involved in a partisan political process, something not so good for democracy.

The Election Is in a Month and Nobody Cares

In a poll released yesterday, only 15% of Americans are following the midterms very closely. This is lower than the percentage of people following the problems at the secret service (21%). Among 18 to 29 year olds, only 5% were following the election closely. The amount of attention increased with age, but even among 65+ voters, it was only 25%.

The bottom line is that most Americans don't care about politics and don't seem to realize that a Democratic Senate would act very differently than Republican Senate and that this might well affect their lives.

Sparks Fly in Colorado Debate

One of the tightest Senate races in the country is in Colorado and the two candidates, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) really went after each other in yesterday's debate. Gardner accused Udall of voting with President Obama 99% of the time while Udall accused Gardner of being the 10th most partisan member of the House. Udall hit Gardner again and again for being pro-life. Gardner went after Udall for supporting "bailouts, handouts, and cop-outs." Udall said that Gardner wanted to return to a health-care system run by the insurance companies. Gardner said that Obamacare is a disaster and Udall voted for it. They agreed on nothing. At one point Udall said he was curious about what national problem he hadn't caused. Gardner said: "me too."

Republicans Don't Want to Talk about Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage

The Supreme Court punted on same-sex marriage yesterday, effectively making it legal in five states immediately and six additional states as soon as lower courts there get cases to rule on. Surprisingly, Republican candidates, who once used the issue as a way to galvanize their voters, don't want to talk about it. This silence is due to the fact that public opinion has shifted sharply. Ten years ago, few people supported the concept and almost no Republicans did. Now more than half the country does and any politician who opposes same-sex marriage in many states is as likely to galvanize his opponents as his supporters, so the safest course is mumble something about the courts having spoken and then move on to another subject.

There has been a lot of discussion of why the Court didn't take any of the five cases offered to it. It takes only four votes to take a case. The four Democratic-appointed justices could have voted to take all the cases but apparently that didn't happen. Most likely Justice Ruth Ginsberg voted no because she previously said that the Court shouldn't have ruled on abortion in Roe v. Wade because the Court got ahead of public opinion on that. By doing nothing, same-sex marriage will soon be available in 30 states and maybe more in a few years. If the Court takes a case in 2 or 3 years, by then it is likely to be legal almost everywhere anyway, so the Court won't take much heat for forcing the last couple of holdouts to join the majority. Also, the Court sometimes waits until two circuit courts disagree on some issue and that hasn't happen yet.

Tillis Accused of Conflict of Interest in Real Estate Deal

Thom Tillis, the Republican facing Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) may have had a conflict of interest as state legislator. Very briefly, on March 14, 2007, he bought a trailer park near Huntersville, in the suburbs north of Charlotte, NC, hoping to get some rental income and later sell it at a profit. Shortly thereafter, he introduced legislation into the state house to incorporate the area that included his trailer park into the town of Huntersville, which would have meant the park would suddenly get municipal services such as garbage pickups and police protection. This would have increased the value of his property. However, residents of the area that would have been annexed did not want to be part of Huntersville and the plan eventually failed. Nevertheless, Hagan is sure to go after Tillis now for using his power as a state legislator for trying to pass a bill that he would have profited from, even if he wasn't successful.

Republicans Brace for a Free-for-all in 2016

Politico has the photos of no fewer than a dozen serious potential Republican presidential candidates on the front page today. Party officials are scared to death of a long drawn-out fight going on for months in which they say horrible things about one another, all of which the Democrats record for playback in the general election campaign. And while the blood is flowing, Hillary Clinton is having pleasant debates with Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD) and/or Sen. Bernie Sanders(I-VT), but nothing serious and certainly nobody suggesting that she is not a proper Democrat.

Will the Democrats Have Their Own Adelsons and Friesses in 2016?

In 2012, billionaire Sheldon Adelson poured tens of millions of dollars into the primary campaign of Newt Gingrich, keeping him alive for months more than he would have been absent Adelson. Similarly, Foster Friess propped up Rick Santorum for months. The main effect that these donors achieved was to weaken Mitt Romney in the general election by keeping the primaries going longer than they would have without their money and also forcing Romney further to the right than he wanted to be. All of this hurt him in the general election.

It is possible that rich liberals may do the same thing in 2016 by supporting candidates running to the left of Hillary Clinton who would not be viable without a sugar daddy. The potential big donors are unhappy with Clinton on a number of points, including her her positions on economic inequality, regulation of Wall Street, climate change, and the role of money in politics.

Of course, to support an alternative to Clinton, there has to be an alternative to Clinton. Former Virginia senator Jim Webb is toying with a run, but he is far more conservative than Clinton and served in Ronald Reagan's administration as secretary of the Navy, so he's not a great choice. Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD) is a more probable candidate, but he surely knows that he has no real chance of beating Clinton. If his real goal in running is to have her pick him as her running mate, he will want to mostly talk about his achievements and not attack her, which is what the rich donors actually want. For the moment, that leaves Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who doesn't expect to become either President or Vice President, but might be happy to run just to nudge Clinton to the left. Of course, the rich donors are no doubt thinking of trying to get other high-profile politicians (think: Elizabeth Warren) to run, but most of them aren't going to be willing to take on the Clintons if they care about their futures.

Conservatives Attempting to Build a Permanent Ground Force

Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers political arm, is working on building a permanent ground force of paid employees working to support conservative causes not only in 2014 but also in 2015 and 2016 and beyond. These people are going to establish contacts in their communities, collect data, feed it into a centralized database. They will go door to door, find out how each voter stands on many issues, so that subsequent campaigns will know what the voter's hot button issues are. If this approach succeeds, it could give the Republicans a valuable tool for years to come.

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Iowa Bruce Braley 42% Joni Ernst 42%     Oct 01 Oct 03 Loras College
Kentucky Alison Lundergan-Grimes 46% Mitch McConnell* 44%     Sep 29 Oct 02 SurveyUSA
Michigan Gary Peters 49% Terri Land 42%     Oct 02 Oct 03 PPP
New Jersey Cory Booker* 53% Jeff Bell 38%     Oct 02 Oct 05 Monmouth U.

* Denotes incumbent

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