Sep. 11

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New Senate: DEM 48     Ties 1     GOP 51

New polls: GA IA NJ VA
Dem pickups: (None)

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Cotton Takes the Lead in Arkansas

Many articles have been written about how the Republicans are likely to take control of the Senate next year, but all of those have been based on the many opportunities they have, rather than actual leads in any of the swing states. It is one thing to say Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Alaska are red states, so the Republicans should win them, and something quite different to show that their candidates are actually leading outside the margin of error. For the first time, it does now appear that Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is leading Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) in Arkansas. Part of the problem in figuring out what is going on in Arkansas is the large number of junk polls done by partisans who have an axe to grind.

However, a new study shows that of the eight serious nonpartisan polls since the start of July, Cotton is ahead in seven of them. This probably indicates an actual lead, even though his margin is often 2-4% in them. If the differences between the candidates were just noise, one would expect Cotton to be leading in three to five polls, not seven.

One footnote here is a surprisingly large difference between registered voters and likely voters. Pryor is actually leading among registered voters but trailing among likely voters. This could either mean his supporters are not likely to vote or the pollsters aren't very good at figuring out who is going to vote. Both explanations are plausible.

Pelosi is Top Democratic Fundraiser

Republicans have long attacked Rep. Nancy Pelosi as the poster girl for everything they hate: a limousine liberal from San Francisco. But it turns out the real reason they hate her is not for her political views. After all, there are plenty of high-profile liberal Democrats in Congress. Their real problem with her is that she is a prodigious fundraiser. She has raised $80 million for the Democrats this cycle and $400 million during her tenure as leader of the House Democrats. Her ability to raise so much money is one of the main reasons she got into the House leadership in the first place. She has spent 200 days this year on the road, raising money all over the country.

Part of her success is that she is good at getting money from rich people--in no small part because she is a rich person herself and understands what motiviates them. She and her husband, Paul Pelosi, a venture capitalist, are worth an estimated $60 million. She didn't grow up rich but she did grow up in a political family (her father was mayor of Baltimore) and while not exactly a rags to riches story, it also helps with donors. Pelosi is hugely appreciated in the Democratic Party. DCCC chairman Steve Israel said that without her, they "wouldn't even have a prayer," which makes one wonder what will happen to the Democrats when she finally retires.

Intramural Battles Loom in 2016

While both parties have plenty of presidential contenders in 2016, they come from a relatively small number of states and may end up battling each other before making it into the big time. For starters, former governor Jeb Bush and current senator Marco Rubio are both from Florida. Current governor Rick Perry and current senator Ted Cruz are both from Texas. Ohio also has a potential pair of candidates: Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH). So does Wisconsin: Rep Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI).

The Democrats are in a different situation because if Hillary Clinton decides to run, nobody else will have a chance. If she passes on a run, though, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) may end up fighting with each other.

Today's Senate Polls

With a new poll in Georgia flipping it back to the Republicans, we now have a situation in which all five competitive Senate races in the South (Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, and Kentucky), plus Alaska, lean Republican. In contrast, the ones in the North (Colorado, Iowa, and Michigan) lean Democratic. In Kansas, the independent, Greg Orman, is a tad ahead. If this holds until election, we will have reached a kind of equilibrium, with the Democrats winning all the races in blue states and the Republicans winning all the races in red states. This would give the Republicans 51 or 52 seats in the Senate, depending on what Orman does. On the other hand, if you look at the map, eight states have white centers, meaning they are statistical ties and could go either way.

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Georgia Michelle Nunn 44% David Perdue 47%     Sep 05 Sep 08 SurveyUSA
Iowa Bruce Braley 43% Joni Ernst 45%     Aug 28 Aug 30 PPP
New Jersey Cory Booker* 42% Jeff Bell 29%     Sep 01 Sep 07 Fairleigh Dickinson U.
New Jersey Cory Booker* 49% Jeff Bell 36%     Sep 05 Sep 08 Stockton Polling Institute
Virginia Mark Warner* 53% Ed Gillespie 31%     Sep 02 Sep 07 Christopher Newport U.

* Denotes incumbent

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