Oct. 16

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New Senate: DEM 48             GOP 52

New polls: CO GA IA LA NC
Dem pickups: GA

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Arkansas Supreme Court Strikes Down Voter ID Law

Less than three weeks from election day, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down a 2013 law requiring a photo ID to vote. The decision was based on the state constitution, which says a person must be 18, a U.S. citizen, an Arkansas resident, and a registered voter in order to vote. The court said the law added a new requirement not present in the state constitution and was thus unconstitutional. Since the U.S. Constitution is not at issue here, it is unlikely the U.S. Supreme Court will take the case, unless it is to once again emphasize that it doesn't like changes to election procedures so close to elections.

This case is somewhat unusual compared to the other voter ID law cases in that it hinged on the state constitution's definition of an eligible voter. This issue may come back in future cases. If the state constitution gives explicit criteria for who may vote, then the legislature may not add additional requirements. This point hasn't come up before.

While the U.S. Supreme Court wasn't involved in this case (so far), it has been involved in many others involving election. Here is a rundown of how the Supreme Court has intervened in election law cases this year.

Roberts and Orman Fight about Abortion in Debate

In their final debate last night, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and challenger Greg Orman (I) talked about many topics, including abortion. Orman's position was basically, look, we've been discussing this subject for decades; can't we finally move onto more pressing problems? Roberts responded with a vigorous defense of the unborn. Orman came back by saying the Supreme Court decided this issue 40 years ago. It's settled law now.

The two also sparred over immigration. Orman wants to address the problem of children arriving at the U.S. border at the source. Roberts said that immigration can never be tackled without a Republican majority in the Senate. Roberts also acted like it was a sure thing Orman would caucus with the Democrats and used this to go after majority leader Harry Reid. At the conclusion, Roberts admired Orman's well-tailored suit and said Orman's rise to great wealth was the American dream and that he hoped this could be true for everyone in Kansas. Of course it is impossible for everyone to be above the average and wealth is all relative. The average Kansan now has things Louis XVI couldn't dream of. Louis had a nice house at Versailles, but it didn't have high-speed Internet and Louis didn't have a smartphone, a car, a frequent flyer account at any airline, a TV set, or even a measles vaccination.

Udall and Gardner Deal with Aggressive Moderator at Final Debate

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) tried to duck the tough questions at their final debate as politicians often do, but unusually aggressive moderators tried to pin them down. For example, while there has been a lot of talk about how women favor Democrats, a moderator asked Udall why he was doing so poorly among men.

Since it is the hype of the month, Ebola came up. Gardner wants to ban flights from West Africa (ignoring the fact that the first person to die of Ebola in the U.S. came in on a flight from Belgium). Udall didn't want to look like a wimp so he didn't object to the idea, but said this is a matter for the CDC, not Congress. (As an aside, for a good perspective on viral diseases, see this column by Ruth Marcus. Spoiler: forget Ebola and a get a flu shot.)

The moderators also went after Gardner on the matter of whether a zygote is a full-fledged person. In Colorado he is against the idea but in Washington he supports it. He basically just repeated his talking points on that. However, he has successfully hidden the fact that he is the 10th most conservative member of the House until now, but some of his conservative views came out last night. For example, he does not believe humans have contributed much to climate change. Now that all the Colorado debates have finished, it is into the homestretch in this crucial race.

Pryor and Cotton Tangle in Their Final Debate

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) threw knives at each other in their final debate. They used "Obama" and "Harvard" as slurs. At every turn, Cotton tried to tie Pryor to the unpopular Obama. Meanwhile, Pryor said Cotton was an entitled elitist beholden only to the Koch brothers. Both were very aggressive about tying the other to out-of-state interests. Harvard also played a role in the debate. Pryor said it was fine that Cotton went to an expensive college like Harvard, but not fine that he wants to eliminate the student loan program that he himself used to pay for Harvard.

Cotton talked about his military service in the Iraq war. Pryor, a cancer survivor, attacked Cotton for wanting to repeal the ACA but not offering a replacement. They argued over many other things as well.

All Models Predict a Likely Republican Takeover of the Senate

There are numerous media outlets, Websites, and others with models of the Senate election. All of them currently predict a Republican takeover of the Senate but they differ in the odds. Also, many of them note that its not over until the fat lady sings. There are almost three weeks to go and a lot can happen in 3 weeks. A 1% shift in the country could change the results because a dozen races are close to tossups. If Michelle Nunn (D) unexpectedly wins in Georgia, it's a whole new ball game, for example.

The New York Times has a good summary of the various models and predictions. They range from a 59% chance of a Republican takeover from Nate Silver to a 94% chance from the Washington Post.

With all probabilities, it is important to realize that, say, a 75% probability is not the same as a sure thing. If a family plans to have three children, there is only a 12.5% chance that all will be girls. Nevertheless, there are a lot of families with three girls. Here is a quick primer on probabilities as applied to politics.

Various Endgame Scenarios Are Possible for the Senate

Despite all the models and predictions, nobody knows how the Senate is going to go because so many races are so close. Roll Call has looked at three possible endgames for the Senate.

  1. The Republicans run the table: 53 R and 47 D
  2. It all depends on runoffs in Louisiana and Georgia: 49 R and 49 D before the runoffs
  3. The Democrats hold on by the skin of their teeth: 50 R and 50 D

At this point, 50 Democratic seats looks like a best-case scenario for the Democrats, but, once, again, the election isn't today and stuff happens, for example, the Democrats' $60 million Bannock Street project actually works and millions more Democrats vote than anyone was expecting.

NRSC To Put Another $6 Million into North Carolina

One state that the GOP had expected to be an easy win is North Carolina. It is not working like that. Sen Kay Hagan (D-NC) has led in nearly all polls for weeks. The NRSC has decided to gamble $6 million on that race in order to help state legislator Thom Tillis. The problem is that although President Obama is not popular in the state, Tillis himself is even less popular due to the cuts to education he rammed through the state legislature. The race is already the most expensive in the country and this new expenditure will only increase that even more.

Rand Paul Won't Be Getting Help from John McCain in 2016

Meghan McCain, the daughter of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), yesterday answered the question of what her father thinks of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a likely presidential candidate in 2016, with "They hate each other." McCain is probably not going to endorse Paul in 2016. On the other hand, he once called Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) "a wacko bird," so Cruz is not likely to get McCain's endorsement either. Fortunately, there are likely to be another dozen candidates in the Republican primaries, so McCain will have plenty of choice after all.

Today's Senate Polls

The Republicans seem to be holding onto a small edge in both Colorado and Iowa, two must-win states for the Democrats. Early in the cycle, these didn't look so competitive, but now they are very close. Also of note today is a new poll in Georgia showing Michelle Nunn (D) with an insignificant lead. Still, she had been trailing before. She has been pounding David Perdue (R) over the recent disclosure that he once said he was proud to be outsourcing American jobs to Asia. This was when he was a consultant to apparel companies that were trying to save money, not when he was appealing to the voters whose jobs were being shipped overseas. Finally, we have a slight correction today. The SurveyUSA poll announced Tuesday did not include Libertarian Party candidate, Sean Haugh, but he is still in the race and a few people are planning to vote for him, which may doom Thom Tillis (R), so he should be included.

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Colorado Mark Udall* 46% Cory Gardner 50%     Oct 09 Oct 13 ORC International
Georgia Michelle Nunn 48% David Perdue 45%     Oct 10 Oct 13 SurveyUSA
Iowa Bruce Braley 43% Joni Ernst 47%     Oct 11 Oct 14 Suffolk U.
Iowa Bruce Braley 45% Joni Ernst 47%     Oct 08 Oct 13 Quinnipiac U.
Louisiana Mary Landrieu* 43% Bill Cassidy 52%     Oct 13 Oct 14 Rasmussen
North Carolina Kay Hagan* 44% Thom Tillis 41% Sean Haugh (L) 7% Oct 09 Oct 12 SurveyUSA

* Denotes incumbent

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