Sep. 21

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New Senate: DEM 48     Ties 1     GOP 51

New polls:  
Dem pickups: (None)

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Only Four True Tossups Left

With only 6 weeks left until election day, we are beginning to get a better picture of what the outcome could be, although as we have often pointed out, in politics a week is a long time. Of the original tossup states, a few have moved one way or the other. Michigan now looks solidly Democratic, mostly because the Republican candidate, Terri Lynn Land, is simply not very good. Against all expectations, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), appears to be pulling away from North Carolina house speaker Thom Tillis (R), in no small part because although Obama is unpopular in the state, the North Carolina state legislature is even less popular and Hagan has made the education cuts Tillis pushed through it the centerpiece of her campaign.

Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Georgia appear to be moving into the Republican column due to the partisan tilt of the states. In Arkansas and Louisiana, incumbent senators are being tied to an unpopular President and little else matters. In Kentucky, the Democrats have an excellent candidate in Alison Lundergan Grimes and she is running against a very unpopular senator, Mitch McConnell, but the state is just too Republican for her. In Georgia, it is the same thing for an open Republican seat.

That leaves Colorado, Iowa, Alaska, and Kansas as true tossups. Colorado and Iowa are bluish purple states, and the Democrats may yet salvage them, but for the moment, the Republicans have statistically insignificant leads. Both could go either way. As Nate Cohn has pointed out, that leaves Alaska and Kansas as wild cards. Polling in Alaska has a poor track record. Since 2000, polls have been off by an average of 7 points. In a close race, that is almost the same as having no poll at all. The state has a large percentage of young people without a landline and relatively few media outlets, which means few polls by traditional pollsters using human interviewers. Fourteen percent of the population consists of Alaska Natives (Inuit and others who speak Eskimo-Aleut languages). All in all, Alaska polls aren't worth much. Currently we have Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) ahead of Dan Sullivan (R) by 5 points, but don't you believe it. Nobody really knows.

Finally, we have Kansas, which is easy to poll but the legal situation is unclear. The Kansas supreme court has ordered Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach (R) to accept the withdrawal of the Democratic Senate candidate and remove his name from the ballot, but a Democrat whose son works for embattled Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS) has sued, trying to force the Democrats to name a candidate, as required by state law when a candidate withdraws. If the situation remains as it is now, there is a fair chance that independent Greg Orman will defeat Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), but Orman has steadfastly refused to say with which party he will caucus. In short, control of the Senate is probably up for grabs. The situation in Kansas will eventually clear up when the courts have had their say, but polling in Alaska is not likely to get much better.

Democrats Try to Woo Older Voters with Social Security

A long, long time ago, older voters mostly voted for the Democrats because Franklin Delano Roosevelt created Social Security. As time went on, people who were elderly during Roosevelt's administration have all died off and been replaced by the new old, which are more Republican. Nevertheless, this year Democrats are targeting seniors more and more, especially on the issue of protecting Social Security. Their pitch has been: "The Republicans want to privatize Social Security." Republicans counter that unless something is done, Social Security will go belly up. Both parties are featuring not only the candidates, but also their parents in ads. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) appeared in an ad with his father, David Pryor, who was previously senator and before that governor of Arkansas. Not to be outdone, his opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), has run ads showing him helping his mom with grocery shopping. The parents of candidates have also played a role in Iowa. Democrats don't expect to win among the 65+ set, but reducing their losses could be crucial.

Getting Dressed Is Tricky--If You Are a Female Politician

A male politician could wear a blue suit every day of the year, possibly rotating his ties, and nobody would say boo. If a female politician wears the same outfit two times in a month, all hell breaks loose and her appearance overshadows everything, even if she is the most powerful woman in the world, as Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen discovered last year. For female politicians, what to wear is a big deal, not to mention a major expense. Sarah Palin found out the hard way when her $150,000 shopping spree became a dominant news story for several days during her run for Vice President in 2012. More recently, Debbie Wasserman Schultz has caught a fair amount of flack for merely asking the DNC to pay for some clothes when she had to appear at high-profile events where her clothes would certainly be judged. If a male politician has to attend formal events often, he may have to spend $1000 on a tux, but he can wear it for the rest of his life, no questions asked. It's just one of the many ways female politicians are judged. Assuming Hillary Clinton runs for President, she will no doubt try to find the most boring possible outfits and wear them consistently to try to avoid stories about her taste in clothes rather than her taste in laws.

In other industries, the sartorial rules are a bit different, but the result is the same. Consider the IT industry. Go to and type in "Marissa Mayer". You will find hundreds of photos of her--and she is wearing something different every time. Sure, as CEO of Yahoo she is rich and can afford a massive wardrobe. Now try the same experiment with "Mark Zuckerberg" or "Steve Jobs". They are much richer than Mayer yet three T-shirts seems to do the job for Zuckerberg (plus the suit he wore to his wedding). Jobs' wardrobe appeared to consist of a single turtleneck, even though he was worth $10 billion. Now try to imagine Debbie Wasserman Schulz or Hillary Clinton wearing the same outfit every day.

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