Sep. 23

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New Senate: DEM 48     Ties 1     GOP 51

New polls: KY MI NC NH
Dem pickups: (None)

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Outside Spending Outpaces All Previous Midterms

Ever since the Citizens United decision told political donors that the sky is the limit, money has been pouring into politics like there is no tomorrow, already more than outsiders spent in all of 2010. Here are some of the amounts that have been spent so far in the top 10 Senate races alone.

State Pro-Democratic Pro-Republican
North Carolina $13 million $8 million
Iowa $9 million $6 million
Kentucky $5 million $11 million
Colorado $10 million $5 million
Arkansas $7 million $4 million
Michigan $7 million $4 million
Alaska $4 million $5 million
Georgia $1 million $5 million
New Hampshire $2 million $3 million
Louisiana $2 million $1 million

It used to be that the Democrats relied on small donors and Republicans on big ones but that is changing. Now the top 15 Democratic groups have outraised the top 15 Republican ones this cycle $453 million to $289 million. While millionaires and billionaires usually like lower taxes (and thus gravitate to the Republicans), some of them, especially the younger ones who made their fortunes in high tech, also care about the social issues, the environment, gay rights, and womens' reproductive health, which puts them on the Democrats' side. While the Democrats' cried in their beer after the Citizens United decision, it hasn't turned out to be all bad news for them.

Greg Orman Discloses his Assets

Kansas law requires candidates to disclose their assets and income in broad ranges and independent Senate candidate Greg Orman has now filed the form. His assets are somewhere between $21 million and $86 million and his income is between $917,000 and $4.5 million. So while he is no Mitt Romney, he's not poor either. His most valuable holdings are in real estate. Oppo researchers are going to be going over his filing with a microscope looking for nuggets they can use to attack him.

Wisconsin Has No Budget for Implementing Voter ID Law

The Wisconsin state legislature passed a law recently upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit that requires voters to present official ID to vote. However, the agencies affected, including the Division of Motor Vehicles (which issues voter ID cards), the Dept. of Health Services (which issues birth certificates), and Government Accountability Board (which is supposed to educate the public about the law) all have protested that they have no budget for the additional work the law will require of them. An estimated 300,000 voters in Wisconsin lack the requisite ID and if a substantial fraction of them try to acquire it, it is going to mean the state agencies involved will need more resources to handle the load, but there is no budget to hire extra workers or expand hours.

National Security Issues Are Emerging in Campaigns

While national security sometimes crops up in presidential campaigns, it is far less common in campaigns where the candidates are not running to become commander in chief. Nevertheless, with all the attention to ISIS lately, it is starting to emerge this year, generally to the advantage of people with military or foreign policy experience. For example, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who is challenging Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), is touting his time as an infantryman in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, candidates who go this route can be playing with fire because the public clearly does not want another land war in the Middle East.

Hillary Wants To Be President of the Waitresses, Bartenders, and Hair Stylists

As Hillary Clinton travels around the country giving speeches, it is becoming increasingly clear that she has no plans to sit around all day knitting booties for Chelsea's baby. Instead she is fine tuning her stump speech. It is going to be focused on the economic plight of waitresses, bartenders, hair stylists, and other middle-class people who thought that if they played by the rules and worked hard they would get ahead but are discovering the old formula doesn't work any more. Fighting for the middle class gives her candidacy a reason for being (other than simply it is time for a woman President). In 2008, she resonated with blue collar workers much better than Obama did and is clearly going to exploit her connection with them to the max. It is also a way of drawing a contrast with the Republicans, who she can easily paint as the party of millionaires and billionaires. It's not full-blown populism by any means, but the if the Republicans counter her by saying what the country needs is more tax cuts, it will be a tough sell to those waitresses, bartenders, and hair stylists.

Anyone who thinks she is not running should contemplate the fact that she just visited Iowa and her next stop is New Hampshire.

One thing she will have to master is how to be a watered-down populist while at the same time hanging out with the global elite at the Clinton Global Initiative's meeting in New York this week. To liberals, she is fine on social issues but too conservative on economic ones and to the extent she makes economic issues her reason for running, she is going to be criticized for talking about the common man and woman but hobnobbing with billionaires. Republicans are using the opportunity to attack Clinton on something other than Benghazi. Basically, like the liberals, they are pushing the angle that she is too entangled in the interests of the very wealthy to understand ordinary people. Clinton, of course, understands this very well, but she also understands that she is going to need close to a billion dollars to mount a successful campaign and these are the folks who are capable of providing it.

Boehner Says the Unemployed Don't Want Jobs

Apparently House speaker John Boehner is willing to help Clinton with her plan to position the Democrats as the party of the middle class and the Republicans as the party of the rich. After giving a speech on the economy, Boehner said the jobless were lazy. This is going to revive all the talk about how Republicans don't care about the unfortunate as well as Mitt Romney's 47% comment, etc. Gaffes like this don't matter until they strike a chord and people believe they have an underlying truth, which this one does.

Americans Want More Religion in Politics

Despite a clear constitutional mandate to keep church and state separate, a new poll shows that 72% of Americans think the role of religion in American life is declining and 56% don't like it. They think churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship should be more involved in politics. Even stronger, 32% think that priests, pastors, rabbis, and imams should be able to tell worshippers who to vote for, something currently forbidden to leaders of tax-exempt religious organizations.

Religious leaders have been involved in politics in a nonpartisan way for years. For example, many black churches organize "souls to the polls" buses on Sunday after services. As long as the leader of the congregation doesn't tell people how to vote, that's fine, but apparently more people need divine guidance to figure out who to vote for.

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Kentucky Alison Lundergan-Grimes 42% Mitch McConnell* 46%     Sep 08 Sep 12 IPSOS
Michigan Gary Peters 47% Terri Land 40%     Sep 18 Sep 19 PPP
North Carolina Kay Hagan* 42% Thom Tillis 40%     Sep 13 Sep 18 High Point University
New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen* 50% Scott Brown 44%     Sep 18 Sep 19 PPP

* Denotes incumbent

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