Oct. 30

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New Senate: DEM 48     Ties 1     GOP 51

New polls: GA IA MI SD
Dem pickups: (None)

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New Senate Could Have As Many as 27 Women

A record number of 13 women are running for the Senate as Democrats or Republicans. There are currently 20 women in the Senate. In the best case, there could be 27 women in the new Senate because in two states (Maine and West Virginia) both candidates are women and only one is going to win and in four states the incumbent is a woman. Here is the list of female Senate candidates.

State Candidate Party
Georgia Michelle Nunn Democratic
Iowa Joni Ernst Republican
Kentucky Alison Lundergan-Grimes Democratic
Louisiana Mary Landrieu* Democratic
Maine Shenna Bellows Democratic
Maine Susan Collins* Republican
Michigan Terri Land Republican
Montana Amanda Curtis Democratic
North Carolina Kay Hagan* Democratic
New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen* Democratic
Oregon Monica Wehby Republican
West Virginia Natalie Tennant Democratic
West Virginia Shelley Moore-Capito Republican

Realistically, given current polling, the maximum number of new women in the Senate is four, from Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, and West Virginia, and of the four incumbent women, three of them could conceivably lose. Only Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is a shoo-in although Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is a likely winner. Of the other two, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) looks like she will probably win whereas Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) may finish first in the jungle primary on Nov. 4 but is less likely to win the runoff in December.

Colorado Senate Race Is All about Birth Control

Birth control is coming to dominate the final days of the Colorado Senate race. NARAL is launching a $450,000 ad campaign targeting young men and suggesting that if Cory Gardner (R) wins, the country will run out of condoms. Although many Republicans oppose various kinds of birth control, it is unlikely that even a Republican-controlled Senate will affect the number of condoms available. On the other hand, if Republicans do manage to ban some forms of birth control that they object to, it may cause some people to switch methods, but even if there is a surge of demand for condoms, the manufacturers could no doubt ramp up production.

However far fetched this ad may be, it could have an effect on low-information voters who have vaguely heard that Gardner opposes some forms of birth control but don't know the details. Democrats have long been targeting young women in Colorado, but this is the first major attempt to target young men.

Are There Really Many Moderate Voters?

It has been a staple of journalism for years that there are vast numbers of moderate voters in America and if the politicians would simply stop grandstanding, listen to the voters, and come together, Congress could do its work nicely and then sing kumbaya. However, two graduate students who have studied the voters carefully have come to a very different conclusion: the voters may actually be more extreme and the politicians are trying to tamp down the extreme positions of their constituents.

The problem is that most attempts to place voters on a left-right spectrum take a number of inputs and come out with a single position: left, moderate, or right. To consider a hypothetical, but not that unrealistic example, consider a voter who wants to have a maximum annual income of $1,000,000, that is, a 100% income tax on income above $1,000,000. He is thus an extreme leftist. Now suppose the same voter is also totally against same-sex marriage. Clearly, he is a right-winger. When these get averaged into one value, he comes out as a moderate. In surveys that included extreme positions on various issues, something mainstream polling organizations tend to omit, researchers got bimodal distributions, that is big bumps on left and right, but not so much in the middle. The bumps on the left were more extreme than what the Democratic Party wants and the bumps on the right were more extreme than what the Republican Party wants. Concluding that the average voter is thus a moderate really misses the point.

Sometimes Sure-Thing Candidates Fizzle Out

At the start of this election cycle, a number of candidates were hailed as breakthrough candidates who were going to do big things. Some of them did but some others fizzled. Here is a list of candidates who were touted to the moon earlier this year but have since been fallen to earth with a big thud.

Terri Lynn Land. When six-term senator Carl Levin (D-MI) decided to retire, Republicans could hardly stop salivating at the prospect of capturing his seat. While not their first choice, former Michigan secretary of state Terri Lynn Land looked like a strong candidate. But after she ran an ad in which there was dead air for 10 seconds, almost everyone labeled it the worst ad of the year and Land was finished. Last week the NRSC pulled all of her funding, which will allow her opponent, Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI), to cruise to an easy victory next week.

Monica Wehby. A pro-choice, female pediatric neurosurgeon looked like the ideal Republican candidate to take on Sen. Jeff Merkeley (D-OR) in mostly liberal Oregon. She even had a great slogan: "Keep your doctor, change your senator." She's now down by double digits so it looks like Oregon is going keep its doctors and its senators and Wehby is going back to helping sick babies.

Mike McFadden. In 2008, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) won his election by 300 votes after 6 months of hand-to-hand combat over every ballot. Clearly, he was going to have trouble dispatching wealthy self-funding businessman Mike McFadden who was going to tell the good people of Minnesota that while Franken was clowning around (he used to be a professional comedian) he was creating jobs. Didn't turn out like that. After he was elected, everyone was expecting Franken to be in the news constantly with a stream of clever one-liners aimed at the Republicans. Everyone was wrong. Franken has been a model junior senator, keeping a low profile and attending to his constituents. They clearly want him to do this for another 6 years.

Natalie Tennant. When Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) announced his retirement, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) immediately jumped into the race. Her father, Arch Moore, was a three-term governor as well as a three-year resident of federal prison on corruption charges. The Democrats thought they had a good answer in secretary of state Natalie Tennant. However, the Republicans have been able to tie Tennant to Obama's supposed "war on coal" and in dirt-poor West Virginia, that was fatal for her.

Ed Fitzgerald. When the Democrats landed Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald to take on wounded Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), it looked like a real dogfight. That is, until it came out that the police had once caught Fitzgerald in a parking lot at 4:30 A.M. with a woman who wasn't his wife. He wasn't charged with anything and nobody has any evidence that anything improper took place, but in politics, you are guilty until proven innocent, and sometimes even afterwards. Fitzgerald never recovered.

All this goes to show that while national trends are important, the actual candidates matter, too. "Generic" can't run for office.

Republicans Poised to Make Gains in State Legislatures

Assuming turnout next week is low, as it usually is in midterm elections, Republicans are poised to take control of even more state legislature chambers than the 59 of the 98 they have now. Nebraska has a nonpartisan unicameral legislature. In a number of states, the Democrats control only one chamber while the Republicans have the other chamber and the governorship. In Iowa, the Democrats control only the state senate, for example. Kentucky is a special case. If Republicans capture the governor's mansion (likely) and also the lower chamber, they are likely to repeal Kynect, one of the best-functioning health-care exchanges. They are also likely to pass a law allowing Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to run for both the Senate and the White House, something currently forbidden.

Few people know who their state senator or state representative is so they just vote a straight party ticket. With Obama's approval rating at 43%, more people are going to vote a straight Republican ticket than a straight Democratic ticket, which will ultimately give Republicans control of more state legislatures.

Obama Hides, Hillary Soars

A man twice elected to the White House is hiding under the rug while a former senator and possible future presidential candidate is everywhere campaigning. Obama is being treated like a pariah by his own party whereas Hillary Clinton is being received as a rock star. She has campaigned for Democrats in Kentucky, Nevada, Iowa, New York, Michigan, Colorado, and elsewhere. Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is actively opposed to Obama's coal and energy policy, called Kentucky "Clinton country." No other Democrat has anywhere near her star power, except one--her husband. In retrospect, she probably made the right (political) decision to "stand by her man" during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. She is now immensely popular.

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Georgia Michelle Nunn 41% David Perdue 49%     Oct 26 Oct 28 Monmouth U.
Georgia Michelle Nunn 46% David Perdue 46%     Oct 25 Oct 27 Rasmussen
Iowa Bruce Braley 45% Joni Ernst 49%     Oct 22 Oct 27 Quinnipiac U.
Michigan Gary Peters 50% Terri Land 35%     Oct 26 Oct 28 EPIC MRA
South Dakota Rick Weiland 31% Mike Rounds 45% Larry Pressler 21% Oct 22 Oct 26 Rasmussen
South Dakota Rick Weiland 32% Mike Rounds 43% Larry Pressler 19% Oct 21 Oct 26 SurveyUSA

* Denotes incumbent

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