Oct. 14

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New Senate: DEM 47             GOP 53

New polls: CO IA KS NC NH
Dem pickups: (None)

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McConnell and Grimes Attack Each Other in Debate

In their only debate, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) hit each other hard in their only debate last night. McConnell, in a work shirt with rolled-up sleeves--an outfit he never normally wears--said Lundergan Grimes was a novice who doesn't understand policy. She retorted that he is a self-dealing insider and obstructionist.

She also accused him of acquiring millions while in the Senate and profiting from the so-called "war on coal" as a result of his wife's connection to Bloomberg Philanthropies. She added that he's gotten rich while keeping Kentucky poor. He called her deceitful, because she knew that his wife had inherited the money. He also said her father made more money off the government than his Senate salary during the past 10 years. McConnell is worth $12 million, but 31 members of Congress are worth even more.

Grimes also attacked McConnell's ties to the Koch brothers, calling them henchmen who have financed his campaign. When the subject of climate change came up, McConnell dodged the issue. They also battled about the minimum wage, health care, and other topics.

Voter ID Laws Are Getting More Analysis

With all the court fights going on about restrictions on voting, including shorter hours and stricter requirements for voting, it is not surprising that more people are looking at the subject and writing about it. The conclusion is clear: there is virtually no in-person voting fraud. All of the new laws in 22 states are simply intended to suppress the vote, especially the Democratic vote. In close elections, this disenfranchisement of thousands of voters could make a difference. What is especially telling is that not a single state has done anything to crack down on absentee-ballot fraud, which is small, but definitely exists (e.g., people selling their ballot). This article looks at the relevant history and then examines the restrictions state by state.

Another article cites the biggest example of voter fraud, in which 24 voters may have voted illegally. In federal elections the margin is generally in the thousands. Even the 2000 Presidential election in Florida and the 2008 Coleman-Franken Senate race in Minnesota had margins of more than 300 and these are the closest in recent times.

Voters Prefer Republican Positions on Key Issues

A new Gallup poll shows that on the issues most voters care about, including the economy, the way the government works, jobs, ISIS, and the federal deficit, the Republicans have the advantage. Democrats have the advantage on some issues, including equal pay for women, abortion, the ACA, and climate change, but these aren't the top issues for most voters.

While this is good news for the Republicans, it is not the whole story. People vote for specific candidates, not parties. Votes are often about personal feelings, and a CBS poll showed that people think the Democrats understand them better than the Republicans by a 50% to 34% margin.

New Ads Attack Republicans for Cutting Ebola Vaccine Funding

The Director of the National Institutes of Health has said that an Ebola vaccine would have been ready by now had it not been for the cuts to the NIH budget. It took about a day for the Democrats to start airing ads blaming the Republicans for the lack of a vaccine, basically saying that if the Republicans weren't so fanatic about tax cuts, NIH could have been funded adequately and we would now have an Ebola vaccine. The ads are running in Kentucky, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana, and West Virginia, all states where a Republican lawmaker is a Senate candidate and his or her vote can be weaponized.

Democrats Don't Trust the Polls

In a reversal from 2012, when many Republicans thought the polls were "skewed" in favor of the Democrats, now the Democrats are saying the polls are not trustworthy. At the center of the controversy again is statistician Nate Silver, who was at the New York Times in 2012 but is now at ESPN. He predicted Obama's victory in 2012 and is now saying that it is more likely than not that the Republicans will capture the Senate this year.

To some extent though, the polls have become very politicized. The vast majority of polls taken nowadays are done by pollsters who are actually campaign consultants actively trying to help one party win. We (and Silver and others) try to discount these, but there is a lot of noise and not so much signal.

The bottom line is that of the six states the Republicans need to flip the Senate, only two (Montana and West Virginia) are in the bag. Another half dozen or so are tossups or close to that and no one really knows how they will turn out. In addition, independents have a shot at winning in two states. Finally, the polls at this stage try to determine who is a likely voter, but the Democrats are investing an unheard-of $60 million in their get-out-the-vote operation to turn unlikely voters into actual voters. If that works on a large scale--and it is far from a sure thing--pollsters may be discarding voters who ultimately do vote.

Eleven Questions that Will Decide the Senate

Politico poses 11 questions that could determine control of the Senate, as follows.

  1. South Dakota: Are the Democrats bluffing in the Badlands?
  2. Arkansas: Can Tom Cotton reassure the doubters?
  3. Louisiana: Will the runoff determine Senate control?
  4. Alaska: Will the Natives vote?
  5. Iowa: Can Democrats turn the race into a referendum on Joni Ernst?
  6. Kansas: Can newcomer Greg Orman handle the heat?
  7. North Carolina: Will the pizza guy play spoiler?
  8. Colorado: Can Gardner keep the gender gap to single digits?
  9. New Hampshire: Are ISIL and immigration as potent as Scott Brown thinks?
  10. Georgia: Will attacks on David Perdue's outsourcing break through?
  11. Kentucky: Can Alison Lundergan Grimes go three more weeks without saying if she voted for Obama?

Christie in Trouble with Religious Conservatives

While waiting for his troubles with the Bridgegate scandal to run its course, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) is laying the groundwork for a presidential run in 2016. One constituency that plays an outsize role in the Republican primaries is the religious right, and it is showing no sign of warming to Christie. For example, he was not invited to the Values Voters Summit in D.C. last month. He has also not been forgiven for appointing insufficiently conservative judges to the state courts, signing a law banning therapy attempting to eliminate same-sex attraction, and being nice to President Obama when the President toured New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. Some religious leaders compared him to former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, which is not a compliment coming from them.

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Colorado Mark Udall* 42% Cory Gardner 46%     Oct 04 Oct 08 SurveyUSA
Iowa Bruce Braley 45% Joni Ernst 48%     Oct 08 Oct 10 Rasmussen
Kansas     Pat Roberts* 41% Greg Orman 44% Oct 09 Oct 12 PPP
North Carolina Kay Hagan* 40% Thom Tillis 40% Sean Haugh (L) 7% Sep 30 Oct 09 High Point University
North Carolina Kay Hagan* 45% Thom Tillis 46%     Oct 10 Oct 12 SurveyUSA
New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen* 48% Scott Brown 46%     Oct 04 Oct 08 SurveyUSA

* Denotes incumbent

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