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Taylor's Withdrawal from Kansas Senate Race Getting More Complicated

Chad Taylor, the Democratic Senate nominee in Kansas, wrote a letter to the Kansas secretary of state Wednesday withdrawing from the race. Everyone agrees on that. There are arguments about everything else.

Very briefly summarizing what we said yesterday, Taylor was not able to get much name recognition and was having trouble raising money so he tried to withdraw from the race. While he didn't say so, he surely understood that Greg Orman, a wealthy businessman who briefly ran for the Democratic Senate nomination in 2008 and then dropped out, but who was running as an independent this time had a better chance than he did to defeat Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS). Polls showed that in a three-way race between Roberts, Orman, and Libertarian candidate Randy Batson, Orman had a substantial lead over Roberts of 10%. So Democrats were happy to see Taylor leave in hopes that Orman would win and caucus with the Democrats. Republicans were furious and wanted to keep Taylor on the ballot.

Kansas law states that a candidate who has been duly nominated (as Taylor was by winning a primary) can only withdraw if he declares that he is incapable of fulfilling the duties of the office. He only has to make a declaration, not state a reason. In his resignation letter, Taylor failed to make the declaration. Republican secretary of state Kris Kobach said that Taylor failed to meet the statutory requirements and thus must remain on the ballot. Since many Democratic voters are not political junkies like all of our readers they won't understand that voting for the Democrat is the wrong way to defeat the Republican, they might vote for Taylor anyway, thus splitting the anti-Roberts vote and re-electing Roberts. If Taylor can get his name off the ballot, the only choices would be Roberts, Orman, and Batson so many Democrats would probably vote for Orman and he could actually win. Imagine if control of the Senate depended on this race. Rick Hasen, an election law expert, has more here.

Now is where it starts to get hairy. Yesterday, Taylor released a statement describing what he did to get off the ballot. He asked Brad Bryant, the Director of Elections and Legislative Matters in the Kansas secretary of state's office for directions. He followed Bryant's directions and showed Bryant his letter of resignation. Bryant approved it. If Bryant's boss, Kobach, now claims advice given by state officials has no legal meaning, the resulting court case will be nasty. Also possible is that Taylor writes another letter clarifying why he withdrew, namely because he is incapable of fulfilling the duties of the office. Maybe he was just diagnosed with a fatal disease. He doesn't have to explain.

If Taylor is ultimately kept on the ballot, he could run ads saying "I am not a candidate," reminiscent of Christine O'Donnell's "I am not a witch" ads. In such ads he could say: "Your vote is extremely important and I don't want you to waste it on me since I am no longer a candidate. Please examine the remaining candidates, Pat Roberts, Greg Orman, and Randy Batson, and vote for one of them. But be sure to vote, just not for me. That would be throwing your vote away." Such an ad would give name recognition to both Orman and Batson and thus hurt Roberts but without looking partisan.

Also at issue is what happens if a court orders Taylor's name removed. State law suggests that the Kansas Democratic Party name a successor. Suppose they don't. What next? Suppose they name Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), David Koch, or some other Kansas Republican as their nominee in hopes of having low-information voters think they have a choice between two Republicans? In California, which now has a jungle primary system, general election contests between two Democrats happen all the time now. Some voters might think this also applies to Kansas. Of course if the Democrats tried this, the candidate would go to court, but the statute doesn't put any restrictions on who the Democratic Party names. If control of the Senate weren't at stake here, nobody would care, but it is so they do.

Part of the Republicans' problem in Kansas is that Roberts has run an extremely poor campaign. He hasn't aired any ads since his primary win more than a month ago and seems tired at 78. The NRSC has decided to pep things up by sending in the cavalry, Starting this weekend, political pinch hitter Chris LaCivita is going to be running the show for Roberts.

Political Stupidity is Bipartisan

Taylor could have avoided all this trouble by simply inserting 12 words in his resignation letter: "because I am not capable of fulfilling the duties of the office." He is a lawyer. He could have read the statute. It's not very long. He was just plain stupid for not doing so.

On the subject of stupidity, a jury yesterday convicted former Republican governor Bob McDonell of 11 felony counts related to selling his office for personal gain. He invented a "blame the wife" defense and claimed that while his wife was busy accepting expensive presents totalling $177,000 from a Virginia businessman, he never talked to his wife and thus didn't know what she was up to, even though he and his wife were living together until the trial began, when he moved out to a local church. Not surprisingly, the jury didn't buy it, especially not his claiming ignorance of who was paying $15,000 for the catering at his daughter's wedding and his thinking that the Rolex watch that he got as a present was paid for by his cash-strapped wife. McDonnell could have accepted a plea bargain the prosecutor offered and pleaded guilty to a single felony count. Believing that a jury would swallow a "I never talk to my wife" defense was really quite stupid. Now both McDonnells will spend years in prison.

But the grand prize for political stupidity has to be awarded to Hillary Clinton's 2008 pollster and strategist Mark Penn. Penn believed that Clinton would win hundreds of delegates on super Tuesday and the pesky upstart with the funny name would be washed out to sea. Clinton did win big in many large states, but Penn forgot to read the rules. In many states, the Democrats allocate delegates to the national convention proportionally and by congressional or state senate district. This was known almost a year in advance as every state had to submit a "delegate selection plan" to the DNC for approval. If a district had, say, 4 delegates and Clinton got 60% of the vote she would get 2.4 delegates to Obama's 1.6 delegates. But since delegates are actual human beings, largely party activists and office holders, after rounding, Clinton would get 2 delegates and Obama would get two delegates. Thus a landslide victory in district after district would buy Clinton nothing. Because Penn was so sure that Clinton would win in a landslide in the big states (which she did), he never thought about the upcoming primaries and caucuses. Obama did and realized that getting 5000 people to show up in underpopulated red states would net him a few delegates. Picking up a few delegates here and a few there eventually led to an insurmountable lead. Penn should have studied the rules.

Court Orders Early Voting To Be Reinstated in Ohio

Earlier this year, the Ohio legislature reduced the early voting period. In particular, it eliminated voting on the Sunday before election day. Ostensibly this was to save money but in reality it was because many black churches hire "souls to the polls" buses to take church members to the polls that day. By blacking out that Sunday, Democratic turnout would be reduced. The NAACP went to court over this and yesterday a federal judge, Peter C. Economus, ruled for the NAACP and ordered secretary of state Jon Husted to reinstate the original hours and days. He also told Husted not to prevent localities from adding additional hours if they chose to do so. Husted will most likely appeal the decision. It would be nice if elections were fought at the ballot box rather than in court, but this is the way America is in 2014.

Early Voting Is Starting Today

While election day is two months away, North Carolina is sending out ballots today. In Iowa, early voting begins Sept. 25. In fact, seven of the nine most competitive states have early voting. It is expected that a third of all votes will be cast before election day. Democrats will use the extra weeks of voting to try to get their most reluctant voters (young people, minorities, and single women) to cast a vote well before election day. They have allocated $60 million for the get-out-the-vote campaign in 10 key states. Republicans have countered this by reducing the days and hours of early voting in the states that they control, albeit not always with complete success (see the item about Ohio above). One consequence of early voting however, is that once someone has voted, debates that occur after the vote have no effect, no matter what is said.

Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis Each Attack the Other's Party

Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) and North Carolina house speaker Thom Tillis debated each other Wednesday but it was almost as if DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was debating RNC chair Reince Priebus. Hagan tried to tie Tillis to the Republican Party's ideology of cutting taxes for rich people and benefits for poor people. In turn, Tillis tied Hagan to Obamacare. Birth control, which a long time ago used to be a private matter between partners but since the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision is a big political issue came up. Tillis attempted to dodge the issue of whether employers should be required to provide birth control as part of their insurance policies by saying that it should be over the counter, so employers wouldn't be involved at all. Hagan replied that such a move transfers the cost from the insurance company to women and she opposes that. The race is a tossup.

The Top Eight Senate Campaign Gaffes

Since politicians talk all day long, it is not surprising they make mistakes once in a while. The media love these and often turn them into front page news. The Hill has made a list of eight big gaffes from Senate candidates, as follows:

  1. Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) disparaged Sen. Chuck Grassley as a "farmer from Iowa"
  2. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) said "Every time I get an opponent-- I mean, every time I get a chance ..."
  3. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) said that his opponent's military service gave him a sense of entitlement
  4. Scott Brown (R) forgot which state he was running in during a speech in New Hampshire
  5. Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) thought Israel's Iron Dome antimissile system protected Israel against tunnels
  6. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) was apparently unaware that Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) had lost his primary
  7. Rick Weiland (D) referred to his opponent, Mike Rounds, as "senator"
  8. Thom Tillis (R) referred to white people as the "traditional population"

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Louisiana Mary Landrieu* 41% Bill Cassidy 44%     Sep 02 Sep 03 Rasmussen

* Denotes incumbent

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