Oct. 11

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New Senate: DEM 47     Ties 2     GOP 51

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

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Washington Post Model Gives Republicans 95% Chance of Capturing the Senate

Many media outlets have models that assign probabilities of each party capturing the Senate, but none are as extreme as that of the Washington Post, which gives the Republicans a 95% chance of capturing the Senate. Nate Silver's model puts it at 58% and the New York Times says it is 66%.

In our view, 95% is very extreme. Both Iowa and Colorado are tossups and Alaska is quite difficult to poll correctly. If the Democrats can win two of those three and if Greg Orman wins in Kansas and caucuses with the Democrats, they will barely hold their majority. Furthermore, while the Republicans are ahead in Georgia, Kentucky, and South Dakota, none of them are in the bag yet. We don't assign probabilities, but 95% seems very extreme. The Republicans are definitely ahead right now, but it is not a done deal yet.

Denver Post Endorses Cory Gardner

The Denver Post, Colorado's largest newspaper, has endorsed Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) for the Senate. Newspaper endorsements may not be worth a lot, but the Post has a strong track record. Of its most recent 11 endorsements for President and Senate, 9 of them have won, so it is something of a bellwether. Eight of the 11 picks have been Democrats.

Blank-Slate Candidates Are on the Rise

Independent Senate Candidates Greg Orman (KS) and Larry Pressler (SD) won't say which party they will caucus with. Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes won't say who she voted for in 2012. Angus King wouldn't say which party he preferred during his 2012 Senate run. While some politicians define their position on every issue, others are finding that staying intentionally vague even on basic issues--like which party they prefer--resonates with the voters. Maybe this is a bit of a throwback to earlier days when some voters would say: "I don't care about party labels; I vote for the best candidate for the position." Nowadays, it sometimes seems that all that matters is the (D) or (R) after the candidate's name. Nevertheless, we are starting to see candidates who prefer being a blank slate and who hope the voters will see in them what they want to see.

Federal Election Commission Has Stopped Functioning

The Federal Election Commission, which is supposed to enforce federal election law, is completely deadlocked. It consists of three Democratic appointees and three Republican appointees and they do not agree on anything. For five years it has written no important regulations and not made any attempt to enforce the nation's election laws.

This week Democratic commissioner Ann Ravel made a concession to the Republicans allowing them to draft rules consistent with the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. She is hoping for concessions from the Republicans in return, but many observers think this is unlikely. In particular, one thing that the Republicans absolutely do not want under any conditions is rules that require political organzations to disclose their donors. One of Republican commissioners said that the commission shouldn't achieve through regulation that which could not be achieved through legislation. It seems doubtful any rules are forthcoming.

Hillary's Potential Opponents Won't Attack Her

Although Hillary Clinton is the odds-on favorite to win the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, the race might attract a few challengers. It is expected that none of them will hit her hard and that is already starting to be the case. Former Virginia senator Jim Webb, who is mulling a completely hopeless bid, had the opportunity to criticize Clinton on Meet the Press and declined it. He would be running to her right. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who would be running to her left, also passed up the chance to say anything critical of her. Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD), who would be running for running mate on a ticket headed by her has never said anything critical of her and certainly won't going forward. He has substantial accomplishments in Maryland and will simply showcase them to demonstrate to her that he is a loyal Democrat and a good campaigner. At 51, he can wait 10 years until his turn comes.

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Iowa Bruce Braley 39% Joni Ernst 38%     Oct 04 Oct 07 Lukens Company
New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen* 49% Scott Brown 46%     Oct 03 Oct 03 New England College
New Jersey Cory Booker* 48% Jeff Bell 39%     Oct 05 Oct 08 Stockton Polling Institute
Virginia Mark Warner* 47% Ed Gillespie 37%     Oct 01 Oct 06 Princeton Survey

* Denotes incumbent

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