Oct. 13

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New Senate: DEM 47     Ties 2     GOP 51

New polls: GA IA
Dem pickups: (None)

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Pressler Says He Is Really an Independent

Republicans are worried that the surging independent in the South Dakota Senate race, Larry Pressler, is really a secret Democrat. Pressler has denied this and has said that he has supported both Democrats and Republicans in the past. Last week he said he was a "friend of Obama" but he has clarified that to mean he wants to work with Obama, not that he supports the President up and down the line.

Like Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Pressler has come under attack for not owning a house in South Dakota. He replied that his wife works in D.C. but he owns farmland in South Dakota. The issue of residency keeps coming up this year, even though being a Senator is really a full-time job and not one in which senators really live in their home states, zip over to D.C. to pass a couple of laws, then zip home again.

Billionaires Are Lining Up for Orman

While independent Senate candidate Greg Orman of Kansas is wealthy, he is by no means a billionaire. His net worth is below $100 million according to documents he has filed. But a surprising number of billionaires are coming out of the woodwork to help him, including investors Peter Ackerman and John Burbank, as well as Michael Bloomberg, and Jonathan Soros. Since the Republicans are pouring money into the state, largely to tar and feather him, being able to fight back helps.

Ernst and Braley Clash over the Environment

In their second televised debate, Iowa Senate candidates Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) and state senator Joni Ernst (R), fought over environmental issues. Ernst wants to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, saying the states can handle the job. Braley argued that she doesn't care about clean air and clean water.

Another hot issue is the Keystone XL Pipeline. When it was first proposed, Braley supported it; now he opposes it, and Ernst jumped all over him for flip flopping. Braley replied that at first he thought the oil (which would take extremely dirty Canadian tar sands to Texas for refining and export) would create American jobs and benefit American consumers, but after a closer look, now thinks it won't create so many jobs and the oil will be largely exported. The proposed route of the pipeline will not pass through Iowa, but it will pass through neighboring states and a break could pollute underground water supplies used in much of the Midwest.

Braley also went after Ernst for attending a secret meeting with the Koch brothers saying they are wonderful. Ernst replied that she never promised them anything in return. To a large extent, this shows what is wrong with politics. It is no doubt true that she didn't make any explicit promises to them. If she wins and votes the way they like, they will continue to support her. If she doesn't vote as they want, they will find a primary opponent to support in 2020. Nothing has to be written down.

The Internet Is Full

Ad buyers for campaigns have long known that there is only so much television time and if other candidates have already bought it, you can't. But many ad buyers always thought the Internet could not sell out. That's not entirely true it turns out. In particular, ads on YouTube are especially popular. A buyer can purchase an ad that the viewer has to watch all the way through before getting at the content requested. For a given piece of content, if a campaign buys the lead-in video until Nov. 4, then it is sold out and other campaigns can't have it. While there are an infinite number of cat videos, videos that people actually look at are smaller in number and the good ones are already gone.

Candidates Skip Their Day Jobs at Their Peril

Campaigning takes time--a lot of it. When incumbents hit the campaign trail or go beg for money, they often miss votes and committee meetings associated with their elected offices. All of a sudden, missed meetings are becoming a big deal, just like not owning a house in your state. In particular, North Carolina house speaker Thom Tillis has been lambasting Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) for fundraising. He said she did cocktails while ISIS grew. But people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. She shot back that he has missed official business in the legislature so much that his hometown newspaper called for him to give up his leadership role. Other candidates, in Iowa, Colorado, and New Hampshire have also fought over attendance records. This kind of attack works best when the candidate doing the attacking is not an elected official who has actual duties to attend to.

As Many as 40,000 Voter Registrations Not Yet Processed in Georgia

Georgia is the site of competitive races for governor and senator but the secretary of state, Brian Kemp (R), seems to be taking his time processing about 40,000 new voter registrations. His lack of interest in getting these processed fast led civil rights groups to file a lawsuit against him, charging voter suppression. According to the groups, some of the forms were turned in months ago, even as far back as March.

There are two marquee races in Georgia. Michelle Nunn (D) and David Perdue (R) are in a very close race for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Jimmy Carter's grandson, Jason Carter, is challenging Gov. Nathan Deal (R-GA). Both races are very close and the candidates could easily be separated by fewer than 40,000 votes.

The Battle for the Early Voters Is Ramping Up

The whole concept of "election day" is obsolete now, with 33 states offering some form of early voting. In 2012, the Democrats made a huge effort to get their votes banked early. Now the Republicans are starting to follow suit. Iowa, a key battleground, has had voting for two weeks. Georgia, another one, starts today. With two hot races there (for senator and governor), both parties are working hard to get their voters to vote early there.

Judge in Alaska Throws Out Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

A federal judge ruled yesterday that Alaska's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The state immediately said it would appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, even though that court has already struck down similar bans in Idaho and Nevada.

This issue injects another variable into the tight Senate race in the state. On the one hand, Alaska is a conservative state, which might play out with Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan attacking "judicial activism." But the state also has a deep libertarian tradition, so Sen. Mark Begich (D-AL) might reply by saying it is none of the government's business telling people who they can marry. The judge who made the decision, Timothy Byrgess, was appointed to the bench by George W. Bush and confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate.

Today's Senate Polls

New polls in Georgia and Iowa reinforce the conventional wisdom that the races in both states are essentially ties. The money will continue to pour into both states in the final three weeks as control of the Senate could hinge on these races. if one party wins both, it is likely to control the Senate.

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Georgia Michelle Nunn 46% David Perdue 46%     Oct 07 Oct 09 Landmark Communications
Iowa Bruce Braley 46% Joni Ernst 47%     Oct 03 Oct 08 Selzer

* Denotes incumbent

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