New Senate: DEM 50             GOP 50

New polls: IL
Dem pickups: (None)
GOP pickups: AK CO MT SD WV

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Study Says that Citizens United Decision Helped Republicans

Today's news is all about that key ingredient in modern elections: money. A new study by political science researchers confirms what many people had long suspected: the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision has helped the Republicans in a measurable way. The study showed that the ruling gave the Republicans a 6-point advantage in state legislative races, In six of the states (Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee) the advantage was as much as 10 percent. In Colorado, Iowa, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, the Republican gain was 7 points. The study also found that as a result of the decision, more Republicans and fewer Democrats ran for office.

Political science "experiments" normally don't have a test group and a control group, but this one did. There are 22 states that had their bans on independent expenditures overturned by the Supreme Court. These formed the test group. The other 28 states never had bans on independent expenditures so nothing changed there. These formed the control group.

Candidates Make Their Pitch to the Koch Brothers

The Americans for Prosperity Summit, the Koch brothers semi-annual conference for conservative activists and candidates, was held in Dallas this weekend. Would-be presidential candidates interested in winning the Koch brothers nomination showed up and strutted their stuff to the 3000 assembled conservatives and especially to the big donors. Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul were there, as was Indiana governor Mike Pence and neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Cruz got the biggest ovation of all when he called for the impeachment of attorney general Eric Holder. The conservative brothers handed out $400 million in the run-up to the 2012 election and the candidates who came to the conference were all hoping for a large helping of the pie in 2016.

The candidates were all careful to express views on topics the Koch brothers care about, such as lower taxes and less government intervention in the economy, but were completely silent on issues that the libertarian brothers don't really care much about, such as same-sex marriage and abortion. One safe topic for all the candidates was bashing President Obama and Hillary Clinton and all of them did so at great length. It remains to be seen if the Koch brothers play a big role in the Republican primaries in 2016. No doubt they will be tempted to help their favorite candidate but that always entails the risk of backing the wrong horse. If a candidate they opposed wins the nomination and the presidency, he is unlikely to forget their early opposition. This year they were not active in the primaries for fear of offending either the tea party or the establishment, but with the stakes higher in 2016 they will surely be tempted to get involved, especially if the race comes down to a social conservative like Rick Santorum ("bad") vs. a fiscal conservative like Paul Ryan ("good").

For the Democrats, the Koch brothers are an irresistible target. In fact, even their residue is a target. In Detroit, a vast pile of toxic waste from an oil refinery owned by the brothers is playing a role in the Michigan Senate race between Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI)) and former Michigan secretary of state Terri Lynn Land (R). Peters is trying to (literally) tar his opponent with the residue, claiming that the Kochs have polluted Detroit and could care less about its inhabitants.

Steyer May Target Some Democrats in California

While most billionaires are Republicans, Democrats have a few, too. Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer, who is planning to spend $50 million of his own money to attack candidates who don't want to do anything to reduce climate change, is planning on targeting some Democrats as well as the Republicans he normally goes after. The Democrats he tries to defeat will all be in Democrat-on-Democrat races in November as a result of California's jungle primary system, in which the top two finishers meet in the general election, even if they are from the same party. The point of Steyer's move is to replace "bad" Democrats with "good" Democrats. Although $50 million from a single individual is a lot of money, it pales in comparison to the $300 million the Koch brothers are expected to spend this year.

Campaigns Spend a Billion Dollars before the Campaigns Even Start

The traditional start of political campaigning is Labor Day. Nevertheless, over $1 billion has already been spent before the show even hits the road. So far the most expensive race is the Kentucky Senate race at $36 million but North Carolina at $28 million could yet catch up. No Senate race has ever cost $100 million, but these two might conceivably get there before the voters go to the polls.

If the key races remain as they are now up until election day, the money is just going to pour in. If you look at the map above, you see eight states where the center of the state is white. This means the polls are within the margin of error and the race could go either way. The edge of the state's outline shows which way it is leaning at the moment, but with one new poll it could change. From the legend at the right of the map you can see the Democrats have a decent hold on 46 states and so do the Republicans. Thus the final outcome could be anywhere between a 54-member caucus for the Democrats (including the two independents who caucus with them) and a 54-member caucus for the Republicans. Most of the next billion is going to be spent in the eight tossup states. With attack ads on display day and night, television viewers in those states may be cured of their television habit by election day.

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Illinois Dick Durbin* 48% Jim Oberweis 41%     Aug 27 Aug 27 We Ask America

* Denotes incumbent

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