Sep. 26

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New Senate: DEM 47     Ties 2     GOP 51

New polls: AK CO DE OR VA
Dem pickups: (None)

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Early Voting to Begin on Tuesday in Ohio

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has ruled that an earlier district court ruling ordering Ohio to roll back its plans to reduce early voting is valid and thus must be enforced. The Ohio secretary of state, Jon Husted, complained about the decision, saying that legislators, not judges, should determine when voting can take place. His legal response is to ask for an en banc ruling, in which all the judges on the 6th Circuit get to vote on the case. If they agree to do this, they will have to move fast since otherwise voting will begin on Tuesday.

The issue isn't so much when voting starts but whether voting is allowed on the Sunday before election day when black churches typically charter buses to get parishioners to the polls after services. This is what Husted, a Republican, really wants to stop.

Pat Roberts Signed Mortgage Documents Saying He Lives in Virginia

A Kansas newspaper reported yesterday that on his mortgage documents, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) stated that Virginia is his principal home, rather than his second home. He has been plagued by accusations all year that he doesn't live in Kansas any more, and this new revelation just adds more fuel to the fire. His main opponent, independent Greg Orman, who was raised in Minnesota but who has lived in Kansas since 1992, is going to keep hitting him on this increasingly painful issue.

In other Kansas news, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin campaigned for Roberts yesterday, calling him a true conservative who stands with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). This will be news to Kansas conservatives who are still very unhappy for the way he treated his tea party opponent during the primaries and who has never stood with Cruz on anything. Roberts has been a generic moderate establishment conservative for 18 years in the Senate and one fiery speech by Palin is unlikely to convince anyone of anything. Still, Republicans need a way to get disaffected conservatives back into tent and having Palin, Cruz, and others like them swear undying fealty to Roberts until after the election is about the best they can do.

Finally, the tea party candidate Roberts defeated in the primary, Milton Wolf, is making overtures to Orman and might offer an endorsement provided that Orman agrees to caucus with the Republicans. To a large extent, such a deal would undercut Orman's appeal, since he is running as a centrist and attacking both parties as too extreme.

Social Conservatives Unhappy that Republicans Are Ignoring Their Issues

The Values Votes Summit with be held in D.C. this weekend and some of the leaders of social conservative groups, such as Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, are dismayed that Republicans are focusing on economic issues and ignoring their pet issues of abortion and same-sex marriage. Their lament is true, of course, since the establishment tried hard and successfully to defeat extreme candidates during the primaries to get candidates that would have some appeal to the middle and not just to the base. Their fear is that if the Republicans figure out that they can win by reaching out to moderate voters and ignoring the social conservatives, the latter will lose all the power that acquired when Karl Rove began making them the centerpiece of his campaigns.

For Republican strategists, the following calculation no doubt comes to mind. If you ignore economic conservatives and talk about abortion all day long, the economic conservatives might vote for Libertarian Party candidates, who are probably acceptable to economic conservatives on many points. If you ignore the social conservatives they have nowhere to go because libertarian candidates tend to implicitly support abortion and same-sex marriage by saying it is none of the government's damn business. Thus the social conservatives' lament and fear is largely well founded.

Republicans Worry about Running Out of Money

Somewhat surprisingly, some top Republicans are concerned about running out of money in the final weeks of the 2014 campaign. In particular, outside groups are not the gold mine they were in 2012, possibly because conservative donors poured money into 2012 races and ended up losing the White House and even Senate seats. For example, Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS has not reserved a penny's worth of airtime in the final two weeks of the Colorado Senate race, which is essentially a tossup. The Koch brothers' Freedom partners and the NRSC are each going to spend less than $1 million in the second half of October, compared to the $4.5 million the DSCC and closely allied Senate Majority PAC will spend then.

Heritage Foundation Disowns Its Own Health Insurance Plan

In 1993, when Hillary Clinton was cooking up a new health-insurance system, the conservative Heritage Foundation came up with a free-market alternative. The core of its plan was to make everyone buy insurance from a private insurance company. That is what the Affordable Care Act does. Now the Heritage Foundation is attacking the ACA, even though in essence it devised the plan itself.

More generally, conservative press releases and news outlets are often divorced from reality. Most impartial studies of the law have shown it has largely been a success, with 7.3 million people signed up as paying customers under it. Conservative outlets have pointed out the states where premiums have risen or insurers have fled the state but have completely ignored the much larger number of states where premiums have barely risen or even dropped and where new insurers have opened for business. Given the complexity of the law and the difficulty in judging it, people just believe what they are told. In the 1950s and 1960s, when the three television networks dominated the news, everyone at least got the same information. Now people who watch Fox News or MSNBC or who read RedState or Huffington Post get totally different "facts." This only leads to more polarization, as everyone is convinced they have the facts and other people don't.

Jeb Bush Gives Campaigning a Try, Discovers It's Tough

Former Republican governor of Florida Jeb Bush, the grandson of a Republican senator, son of a Republican President and brother of another Republican President, flew to North Carolina to endorse the Republican candidate for the Senate, Thom Tillis. That doesn't seem very hard, does it? Yet Bush discovered that his view on two hot topics, immigration reform and the common core plan to overhaul school curricula, do not play well at all to Republican audiences. Tillis quickly distanced himself from Bush's remarks. Now Tillis won't be hurt by a quickie appearance and even faster disappearance of a former governor, but it will give Bush some food for thought if he seriously considers running for President in 2016. He will have to contend with the fact that a large majority of the Republican primary electorate fundamentally disagrees with him on the issues he cares most about. While it is hard to tell about any politician, Bush gives the impression that he really cares about these issues and would be very hesitant to try to reverse course and suddenly deny everything he has been saying about them for years. Coupled with the fact that his Mexican-born wife hates politics, it seems increasingly unlikely that he will make the run in 2016, no matter how much money the donor class promises him. Running for President is almost as tough as being President, and you have to really want the job to go through what candidates have to go through, and publicly retracting everything he has said on two issues he cares about might be a bridge or two too far.

Does Hillary Clinton Want a Primary Challenge?

An article in the Daily Beast asks if team Hillary wants a primary challenge. Bob Shrum, who ran and lost the Democratic campaigns in 2000 and 2004, is deathly afraid of one, but it really depends on the challenger and how it goes. If Clinton gets some practice on the campaign trail and hones her debating technique and then demolishes the challenger, it could serve her well. If she loses her footing or blunders, it could hurt. What the article misses though is absent a Democratic primary, 100% of the media attention will be on the all-but-certain three-ring circus the Republicans will be running. There will be the tea party primary, the evangelical primary, and the establishment primary for weeks, maybe months, with the winners of each finally going after each other in the end. Having Clinton be absent from the news for 6 month can't possible help her. In contrast a small headline like "Clinton beats Sanders again in Missouri" has to work for her. If she can't dispatch Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD) decisively, she clearly will have a lot of trouble against a much meaner Republican who not only disagrees with her on 100% of everything, but hates her and possibly questions whether women should be in politics at all.

Today's Senate Polls

Two new polls in Alaska put Dan Sullivan (R) in the lead there in this key race.

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Alaska Mark Begich* 43% Dan Sullivan 48%     Sep 23 Sep 24 Rasmussen
Alaska Mark Begich* 43% Dan Sullivan 49%     Sep 14 Sep 17 Dittman Research
Colorado Mark Udall* 45% Cory Gardner 47%     Sep 19 Sep 21 PPP
Delaware Chris Coons* 50% Kevin Wade 23%     Sep 10 Sep 22 U. of Delaware
Oregon Jeff Merkley* 52% Monica Wehby 32%     Sep 22 Sep 24 SurveyUSA
Virginia Mark Warner* 48% Ed Gillespie 39%     Sep 17 Sep 22 Quinnipiac U.

* Denotes incumbent

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