Sep. 15

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New Senate: DEM 49     Ties 1     GOP 50

New polls: DE
Dem pickups: (None)
GOP pickups: AK AR LA MT SD WV

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Democrats Outspending Republicans in Iowa Senate Race

In one of the closest Senate contests in the country, since June, Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) and his supporters have spent $9.2 million on the race compared to the $7 million that Joni Ernst (R) and her supporters have spent. Democrats are planning to spend another $10.8 million before election day compared to $8.3 for the Republicans, who are fretting about this. Iowa is a small state with inexpensive television time. Somehow the idea that if a viewer sees an ad 32 times he will be more likely to vote as instructed than if he sees it merely 25 times is questionable at best. At a certain point, viewers stop paying attention to ads and with so many in Iowa, that point will be reached soon if it has not already been reached. Still, all consultants tell their clients is raise more money and show more television ads.

Landrieu Reimburses Government for Campaign Travel

After an investigation by an outside law firm that looked at her travels the past 18 years and discovered that she had inadvertently charged $33,000 worth of campaign travel to her Senate budget, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) sent the government a check for $33,000 yesterday. She hopes this will be the end of the matter but that is very unlikely as her opponents will no doubt capitalize on it and keep bringing it up. It is far from clear whether she or any politician can do this right since many trips are a mix of official business (for example, helping constituents) and campaigning (for example, fundraising). In principle, senators are supposed to pro rate their travel to indicate how much of each trip was official and how much was campaigning.

In an attempt to put this issue behind her, Landrieu posted a spreadsheet to her Website showing how she prorated her travel since 2002. For example, on May 30, 2009 she took a 3-day trip that cost $865.00. Of this 29.59% was campaign time, so she reimbursed the government for $255.94. Is she sure it was 29.59% and not 29.58% or 29.60%? Even if we assume the trip was the full 72 hours, 0.01% is 26 seconds. Did she really keep records of campaign time vs. official time accurate to 26 seconds? Do other senators? Is eating lunch with a constituent in the hopes of getting a donation campaign time or official work time? It is absurd to think any senator can do this kind of calculation with any accuracy at all, but they are expected to.

Political Insiders Care about Data and Spending

A poll of political insiders asked them: "Which campaign trend are you paying closest attention to?" Among the 90 Democrats polled, the results were:

Among the 91 Republicans polled, the results were:

In short the Democrats care most about money and the Republicans care most about data.

Can You Be Too Conservative in Kansas?

Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is one of those rare politicians: after being elected as governor of Kansas in 2010, he actually implemented all the things he promised during his campaign. He turned Kansas into a lab for tea party policies. He slashed taxes, allowed people to carry guns in public buildings, privatized the management of Medicaid, and made it harder to qualify for welfare. As a result, the state is deeply in debt and many conservative Republicans are revolting and saying that for governor they will vote for Democrat Paul Davis, the minority leader of the state house. A number of polls show Davis with a small lead.

A lot of Republican politicians are watching this race and the reelection of Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) very carefully. The Karl Rove model for a campaign is on the line here. Rove's model was talk tough during the campaign, but when it comes to governing, forget all the tea party nonsense and pass laws that expand Medicare (Part D) and improve education (No Child Left Behind). Rove's core idea was that by the next election, the stupid rubes who voted for you will have forgotten everything. Furthermore, he didn't care at all about governing. All he wanted to do was win elections. Brownback and Walker are testing the hypothesis that you can actually govern on tea party principles and survive. A lot of politicians want to see how the experiment turns out.

Residency Becoming an Issue in More Senate Races

With "Washington" becoming more and more toxic by the day, where a senator or Senate candidate lives has suddenly emerged as the sleeper issue of 2014. Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) have already been attacked for not "living" in their home states (although Landrieu co-owns the house she grew up in with her mother and siblings), but now the issue has metastasized to other states. In Alaska, Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), who was born in Anchorage and whose father was a congressman from Alaska, is attacking his opponent, Dan Sullivan (R), for moving to the state at age 33 and 5 years later going to D.C. to work there. In Arkansas, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), who was born in Fayetteville, AR and whose father (an Arkansas native himself) served as governor, congressman, and senator from Arkansas, is attacking his opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), for not owning property in the state. In MIssissippi, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) is having to defend the fact that on his FEC filing to run for reelection he listed his house in D.C. as his address. And the mother of all nonresidents is Scott Brown (R), who is running for the Senate in New Hampshire after having served as senator from Massachusetts. The problem, of course, is that being a member of Congress is a full-time job so naturally members live in or around D.C., but the voters don't quite get that.

Sanders Releases His 2016 Platform

While Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) hasn't said whether he is running for the Democratic nomination for President in 2016 (assuming he first becomes a Democrat, he did announce his platform yesterday. It is called the "Agenda for America" and has three planks:

  1. National health insurance for everyone
  2. Ending the ability of billionaires to buy elections
  3. Helping middle class Americans economically

This a far more populist agenda than even former governor Howard Dean, a fellow Vermonter, had when he ran for President in 2004. Virtually every pundit in Washington believes Hillary Clinton already has the Democratic nomination in the bag, but a challenge from Sanders could force her to work for it. It might also help her since it would give her practice campaigning in the Fall of 2015 and Spring of 2016. It would also lead to an endless spate of stories on slow news days about whether America was more ready for a female President or a Jewish one.

Clinton is Busy Plotting Strategy

No, not that Clinton. The other one. Bill Clinton eats, drinks, and breathes politics in his every waking hour. While some politicians hate campaigning and see it as a necessary evil to achieve office, Bill Clinton loves campaigning and schmoozing with voters. He also has an encyclopedic knowledge of campaigns, strategy, tactics, and polling data, down to the precinct level. He also has the willingness to help out any Democrat who asks for his help, especially in his native South. Unlike Richard Nixon, who was obsessed with his batting average, Clinton will gladly help all Democrats, even if he privately thinks they are going to lose. Come 2016, he is going to have a lot of chits to call in for Hillary.

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Delaware Chris Coons* 49% Kevin Wade 34%     Sep 10 Sep 12 Rasmussen

* Denotes incumbent

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