Sep. 20

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New Senate: DEM 48     Ties 1     GOP 51

New polls: IA KS
Dem pickups: (None)

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Kansas Ballots Will Go Out without a Democrat

Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach (R), gave the Kansas Democratic Party 8 days to come up with a successor to Chad Taylor, who withdrew from the race and whose withdrawal was affirmed by the state supreme court Thursday. However, when the chairwoman of the party, Joan Wagnon, said she was not going to do anything of the sort unless ordered to by a court, Kobach gave up and had the ballots printed anyway with no Democrat on them. They will be mailed to overseas voters this weekend.

However, the shenanigans aren't over yet. The father of one of Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS)'s staffers has filed suit asking the court to force the Democratic Party to name a successor, as required by Kansas law. The father, David Orel, is a registered Democrat, so he might have some standing in court. Kobach responded to this suit by ordering all county election officials to retain, unopened, all absentee ballots returned until Orel's suit is fully litigated.

Election law expert Rick Hasen doesn't think a court is likely to order a political party to put up a candidate when it doesn't think it has a suitable candidate. If this goes on too long and a second round of ballots is sent to overseas voters (including military voters), there may not be enough time for them to get back and be counted. Keeping track of which ballot is which could get complicated and is surely error prone since the ballots may not necessarily come back in the order they were mailed. Also, sending overseas voters a second ballot and asking them to vote a second time is encouraging voter fraud, something the Republicans are trying very hard to stamp out. Hasen is probably right that the court is not likely to want to touch this.

Finally, if the court does order the Democratic Party to put up a candidate, someone there could go through the Kansas telephone book and find someone named, say, S. Brownback. There are a number of them. Then it would offer that person something nice to agree to be a candidate (say, a free trip to D.C. and a photo op with the President). No doubt some Republican voters would think the candidate was the embattled governor, Sam Brownback (R-KS), who, if he loses, might indeed run for his old job as a senator some day. The whole thing is getting close to the theater of the absurd.

Now that control of the Senate may hinge on this peculiar race, outside groups, including those associated with the Koch brothers (whose base is Kansas) are waking up and starting to do oppo research on Orman and buy television time. The Democrats are probably going to keep quiet since the Republicans' will paint Orman as a secret Democrat. They won't pour money into this campaign since that would be the kiss of death. But they could quietly tell wealthy Democrats who are not closely tied to the party to help Orman.

Report (later retracted) Says Christie Not Involved in Bridge Closures

NBC TV yesterday reported that after 9 months of investigations, federal prosecutors have yet to uncover evidence that Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) was involved in the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in Sept. 2013. However, the report is based on a leak since the official report has yet to be issued. After the news story, NBC issued a retraction saying that the story was "imprecise." A big advantage of television journalism over print journalism is that even if you get it wrong, there won't be any photos with someone holding up a newspaper headlined DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN or Kerry Picks Gephardt.

Even if the leak is true, Christie hasn't dodged the bullet entirely yet since the New Jersey state legislature is conducting its own investigation into Bridgegate and other matters and has yet to issue its report. However, if the NBC report is true, it certainly helps Christie and may put him back into contention for the GOP nomination in 2016--unless the legislative report damns him and he is impeached. Of course, Christie would claim the impeachment is purely partisan (since the Democrats control the state house) but it would nevertheless provide ammunition to his primary opponents. Bill Clinton's impeachment didn't hurt the Democrats in the 1998 congressional elections, but Clinton himself wasn't on the ballot.

Christie is anathema to the tea party so they will do everything possible to stop him if he runs, but 2016 could be a rerun of 2012, with half a dozen tea party candidates splintering the vote letting Christie win small pluralities and most of the delegates. That is precisely what happened in 2012, where Mitt Romney edged out a large field of far more conservative candidates because his opposition was fractured.

Libertarians Willing to Accept Rand Paul Despite Airstrikes Comment

At a Libertarian gathering in Alexandria, VA, attended by 600 libertarian activists, the view was that even though Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) seemed to be backing away from his traditional isolationism when he called for airstrikes in Iraq, he was still the best Republican presidential nominee in 2016. The attendees felt that a certain amount of deviation from libertarian orthodoxy was tolerable if that is what it took to get nominated and elected. Previously, Paul was in favor of abolishing all foreign aid, including that to Israel, but as the primaries approach, he is backtracking on positions that may get him into trouble during the primaries.

Sheldon Adelson Finally Opens His Checkbook

Billionaire casino owner and Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, who has been sitting on his wallet so far this year, finally got around to writing a couple of checks. Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS got one for $10 million and so did the American Action Network, which helps Republican House candidates. Adelson's net worth is about $38 billion, so these two checks together represent about 0.05% of his bank account. Financially, this means about the same thing to him as a $5 donation means to someone with $10,000 in his bank account (except the latter probably needs the money more).

Adelson's hesitation this year is due to his bad experience in 2012 when he gambled away $100 million and got nothing in return. As a businessman, he is keenly aware of his return on investment and zero is not a good return. But with control of the Senate in play (and perhaps a larger House majority), he decided to roll the dice again.

Today's Senate Polls

Rasmussen is the first pollster to look at a race between Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and independent Greg Orman with no Democrat on the ballot. Orman leads by 5 points. A libertarian candidate, Randy Batson, is also in the race but Rasmussen didn't ask about him. This poll, from an organization that has skewed Republican in the past, is certain to shake up the Republican establishment and begin a torrent of negative ads to appear targeting Orman. In particular, as an investor, he has large holdings and there is bound to be one of them that is at least somewhat controversial.

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Iowa Bruce Braley 43% Joni Ernst 43%     Sep 17 Sep 18 Rasmussen
Kansas Chad Taylor 0% Pat Roberts* 40% Greg Orman 45% Sep 16 Sep 17 Rasmussen

* Denotes incumbent

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