Oct. 15

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New Senate: DEM 47             GOP 53

New polls: AK ID ME NH
Dem pickups: (None)

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Democrats Give Up on Beating McConnell

Triage time is here and the DSCC has decided to give up on Alison Lundergan Grimes' attempt to defeat Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Grimes gave it a good shot, but despite McConnell's personal unpopularity in the state, Kentucky is red enough that many Kentuckians prefer a Republican they don't like to any Democrat. The money saved by not contesting Kentucky can be put into Georgia, where another woman, Michelle Nunn (D) is running even with a wealthy businessman, David Perdue, who has a record of outsourcing jobs. Georgia is not quite as red as Kentucky and a newbie whose career was built on advising companies on how to outsource jobs may be more vulnerable than a veteran senator with a vast amount of funds in his own warchest plus the full backing of the Koch brothers. The NRSC has also abandoned races, most recently Michigan, where their candidate, Terri Lynn Land, is floundering.

With Kentucky, Montana, and West Virginia lost, the Democrats can afford to lose only two more of their seats. Assuming the Republicans hold all their seats--which is not a certainty since Kansas, Georgia, and South Dakota are in play--the Democrats can't lose more than two of Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, New Hampshire, and North Carolina.

Alaska Veterans Are Up for Grabs

About 10% of Alaska residents are veterans and another 35,000 members of the Armed Forces are stationed on one of the state's numerous military bases (thanks to former senator Ted Stevens). Since Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan served in the Marines, he would seem a natural fit to the veterans. However, it is not so clear cut as that. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) has really worked for the veterans. For example, Begich was the champion of a system that allows veterans to be treated at local hospitals, rather than the nearest VA hospital, which is in Seattle, WA. As a consequence, Alaska veterans have not suffered long wait times that other veterans have. Nevertheless, many veterans are likely to go with the candidate who is a veteran, which is Sullivan.

Accidental Experiment Compares Polling Techniques

Most pollsters who work for media outlets use random digit dialing, basically, a computer or person dials a number in an area code or exchange at random. In contrast, most pollsters who work for campaigns get a list of registered voters and call people at random from that list. There is a lot of debate in the pollster community about these techniques. By accident, SurveyUSA released two polls of the Colorado Senate race this week (sponsored by different organizations), each one using a different technique. Nate Cohn of the New York Times interviewed the founder of SurveyUSA about why they did different polls for different organizations and what they learned from this experiment in which different clients wanted different types of polls of the same state at almost the same time.

One thing they learned, for example, was that among registered voters, 77% were 50 or older but in the random digit dialing sample only 53% were. Another was that among registered voters, 6% were Latino, vs. 16% among the random digit dialing sample.

Landrieu Tries to Move Away from Obama

President Obama is not popular in Louisiana and is dragging down Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), so she is trying to put more distance between her and Obama. For example, while she believes that climate change is caused by humans, she is from an oil state and wants to be very careful about implementing any policies that might hurt the oil industry. On health insurance, she supports the ACA, but wants a cheaper option (colloquially knownn as "junk insurance") available as well. She must walk a fine line between being a good Democrat and offending her voters.

Trackers Are Everywhere This Year

Many campaigns have volunteer or paid trackers who spend their days making videos of the opposition, in hopes of catching a candidate saying something dumb or damaging. A Democratic super PAC, American Bridge, employs 44 trackers in 41 states. They have logged 760,000 miles and produced 6,600 hours of footage. Most of it is useless, but sometimes there is a real gem there. The most famous piece of footage caught by a tracker was captured in 2006, when then senator George Allen, a Virginia Republican, referred to the Indian-American tracker as "macaca" and welcomed him to America, even though he was born in America. "Macaca" (literally a kind of monkey) is a Francophone racial slur (similar to the famous "n" word) that Allen undoubtedly learned from his French-speaking Tunisian-born mother. That piece of footage was the end of Allen.

Since then, there have been fewer "great moments in tracking," largely because candidates have become more careful of who is allowed to attend their events and who is allowed to film them. They are also more careful about what they say.

Republican Leader Attacks National Science Foundation

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, is demanding political reviews of grants issued by the National Science Foundation. Republicans have attacked science, especially evolution before, but a demand to allow his staffers to veto grants he doesn't like is something new. One grant in particular that he didn't like wanted to study the effect of human-set fires in New Zealand because it brings up the uncomfortable (for him) issue of the human role in climate change. Climate change is a political issue in many House and Senate races, with nearly all Democrats saying that it is real and caused by humans and most Republicans either denying that exists or saying that it is caused by natural forces.

Ann Romney Rules Out a 2016 Romney Presidential Bid

Ann Romney, wife of 2008 and 2012 candidate Mitt Romney, emphatically ruled out a third try by her husband. Mitt Romney has been traveling around the country helping Republican candidates, which naturally raised questions about why he was doing this. When really pressed if she would veto another run, she refused to quote General Sherman ("if nominated, I will not accept, if elected I will not serve") about her husband but it is clear she is not enthusiastic about the idea of dedicating two more years of her life to campaigning. Candidates' wives are often less enthusiastic about running than their husbands are. Another example is Columba Bush, wife of Jeb Bush, who is not at all keen on his running in 2016.

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Alaska Mark Begich* 45% Dan Sullivan 48%     Oct 08 Oct 12 Rasmussen
Colorado Mark Udall* 43% Cory Gardner 45%     Oct 09 Oct 12 SurveyUSA
Idaho Nels Mitchell 32% Jim Risch* 50%     Oct 09 Oct 12 PPP
Maine Shenna Bellows 25% Susan Collins* 68%     Sep 23 Sep 29 Pan Atlantic SMS
Maine Shenna Bellows 31% Susan Collins* 56%     Oct 06 Oct 12 IPSOS
New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen* 47% Scott Brown 48%     Oct 09 Oct 09 New England College

* Denotes incumbent

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