Oct. 10

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New Senate: DEM 47     Ties 1     GOP 52

New polls: AK AR CO GA IL KS KY NH
Dem pickups: (None)

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Supreme Court Shoots Down Wisconsin Voter ID Law

Yesterday the Supreme Court by a 6 to 3 vote ordered the state of Wisconsin not to enforce its voter ID law next month. The Court didn't rule on the constitutionality of the law but merely said the state can't change the rules so close to an election. It is likely to rule on the merits of the case next year. This is a huge, if temporary, victory for the Democrats.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Texas Voter ID Law

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos struck down a Texas voter ID law, calling it an unconstitutional poll tax. Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott said he will immediately appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Ultimately it may go to the Supreme Court, which may well reverse the decision because it doesn't like changing the rules so close to an election.

Study: Voter ID Laws Reduce Turnout

The Government Accountabiity Office has released a new study that documents what many people already knew: when states pass laws that make it harder to vote, fewer people vote. Republicans have said that these laws are needed to prevent voter fraud, but the study found few examples of it for in-person voting. It is well established that there is not much voter fraud in all, but what does exist is almost entirely with absentee ballots (e.g., selling them), but none of the laws address absentee-ballot fraud. The Republican legislatures that have passed these laws do not want to tackle absentee-ballot fraud because many of the people who use them are businessmen who are out of town on election day and the elderly, both typical Republican constituencies.

Roberts and Orman Debate in Kansas

In the debate between Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and independent Greg Orman, Roberts basically answered every question with "my opponent is a liberal Democrat and a vote for him is vote for Harry Reid." In reality, Orman has repeatedly said that he wants both majority leader Harry Reid and minority leader Mitch McConnell to step down, but that didn't stop Roberts, who is clearly in trouble due to his age (78) and the fact that he doesn't have a house in Kansas.

The format didn't allow for any actual debate between the candidates. Mostly they just answered questions with prepackaged answers. At one point, though, Roberts slipped up when he said the House had passed an alternative to "Obamacare" and Harry Reid blocked it. No such thing happened. Although the House voted dozens of times to repeal the health-care law, it never approved a replacement. The two also argued about immigration. Orman said it is not realistic to round up and deport 11.5 million illegal immigrants. Roberts called this amnesty.

Debates sometimes have peculiar effects (think: Richard Nixon's five o'clock shadow in his debate with John Kennedy). Kansans know very little about Orman. But what they see in the debate is a tired old man (Roberts) who has been in a dysfunctional Congress for 30 years, and an energetic young man (Orman) who wants to change how Congress works. That could work for Orman, despite what is actually said.

Landrieu Fires Her Campaign Manager

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has fired her campaign manager, Adam Sullivan, and replaced him by the man who ran her brother's reelection campaign for mayor of New Orleans. Such moves are never made when candidates are happy with the current state of affairs. Landrieu has been leading her main opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) in most polls, but that is largely due to the presence of two other Republicans in the Nov. 4 jungle primary. What Landrieu is worried about is the one-on-one runoff with Cassidy on Dec. 6. Clearly she does not think Sullivan is doing a good job.

Republicans' End-game Strategy Comes into Focus

As we move into the final four weeks of the campaign, the Republicans' end-game strategy is becoming clear. The message is that the world is a dark and dangerous place, what with illegal immigrants massing at the southern border, ISIS taking over the entire Middle East, terrorists behind every tree, and Ebola threatening to decimate the population. And it is all the fault of the weak-kneed President Obama who doesn't show any leadership. The conclusion is that electing a Republican Senate will scare the dickens out of the immigrants, terrorists, and Ebola virus. Fear is often a powerful motivator. Historically, the Republicans have been more trusted to deal with national security, so if they can make the election about national security, it could work for them.

Have the October Surprises Already Happened?

Anyone who a year ago had predicted that there would be hot Senate races in Alaska, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, and South Dakota would not have been taken seriously, but here we are in October and they are hot as can be, with South Dakota the latest surprise. While Tip O'Neill famously said that all politics is local, in recent years the reverse has been true: all politics is national. Still, the candidates do matter and in each of these states there are local issues that matter.

In Alaska, the Democrat, Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) was born in Alaska and his father was a congressman from Alaska. In contrast, his opponent, Dan Sullivan (R), has spent little time in the state. This matters a lot in isolated Alaska. Also, the Democrats are putting a huge effort into registering Eskimos and getting them to vote, something new to Alaska politics.

Georgia had a nasty Republican primary but everyone expected the Republican nominee to cruise to an easy win over Democrat Michelle Nunn. However, it just came out that the Republican nominee, David Perdue, spent 12 years outsourcing American jobs to Asia. The Democrats are going to pour millions into ads making sure everyone in Georgia knows this.

The Kansas Senate race was completely upended when the Democrat withdrew. Now an independent, Greg Orman, appears to be leading. If he wins, there could be three or four independents in the Senate. Yesterday, RNC chairman Reince Priebus said Orman is not welcome in the Republican caucus. This is clearly an attempt to label Orman as a Democrat in order to help Roberts. If Orman is ultimately the deciding vote in the Senate, Orman will be able to order 50 crows, have them roasted, and get each Republican senator to eat one in public if that's what it takes to get him to join their side.

Kentucky is a red state but Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is so unpopular in his own state that secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) is keeping it surprisingly close. She has even led in a recent poll.

South Dakota is the strangest of all, with former three-term Republican senator Larry Pressler, who is now running as an independent, almost even with the Republican nominee, former governor Mike Rounds. Like Orman, he has refused to say which party he will caucus with. Yesterday, Pressler said that he would be a "friend of Obama" in the Senate. This might have been a move to get Democrats in the state to abandon their own candidate and vote for him. Democrats might now try to pressure their candidate, Rick Weiland, to pull a Taylor and end his campaign, even if it is too late to get off the ballot.

Huckabee Threatens to Leave Republican Party over Same-Sex Marriage

Former and possibly future Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee threatened to leave the Republican Party if it continues to downplay opposition to same-sex marriage (English translation: the Supreme Court didn't take up any same-sex marriage cases this week and nobody said boo). Don't believe it. Huckabee is potentially a serious presidential candidate in 2016 unless former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum runs. However much Huckabee believes in the issue, no politician with a shot at a presidential nomination will give that up because other people aren't championing his cause enough. He could run as the candidate who opposes same-sex marriage. It would give him a reason to run.

This issue just won't go away. If Huckabee runs and makes opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion his main campaign issues, it will put the other Republican primary candidates in a tough spot. They can't oppose him or it would be death in the primaries. But actively opposing same-sex marriage and especially abortion will be disastrous in the general election. If a male Republican were to run in the general election opposing abortion against a female Democrat (guess who) who supports abortion, the Republicans can forget any plans to reduce the gender gap. It will be awful. So Huckabee is not doing his party any favors by making idle threats like this.

Today's Senate Polls

We have a batch of Fox News polls today. They are nominally nonpartisan but historically have a Republican bias.

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Alaska Mark Begich* 40% Dan Sullivan 44%     Oct 04 Oct 07 Fox News
Alaska Mark Begich* 44% Dan Sullivan 50%     Oct 01 Oct 06 ORC International
Arkansas Mark Pryor* 39% Tom Cotton 46%     Oct 04 Oct 07 Fox News
Colorado Mark Udall* 37% Cory Gardner 43%     Oct 04 Oct 07 Fox News
Georgia Michelle Nunn 45% David Perdue 46%     Oct 02 Oct 06 SurveyUSA
Illinois Dick Durbin* 51% Jim Oberweis 38%     Oct 07 Oct 07 We Ask America
Kansas     Pat Roberts* 44% Greg Orman 39% Oct 04 Oct 07 Fox News
Kentucky Alison L.-Grimes 41% Mitch McConnell* 45%     Oct 04 Oct 07 Fox News
New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen* 47% Scott Brown 41%     Sep 29 Oct 05 U. of New Hampshire

* Denotes incumbent

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