Sep. 24

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New Senate: DEM 48     Ties 1     GOP 51

New polls: AK AR HI MI NC
Dem pickups: (None)

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Kansas Supreme Court Sends Orel Lawsuit to District Court

The twists and turns in the Kansas Senate race would make a great political thriller book or movie. Very briefly, when the Democratic nominee withdrew, the Kansas secretary of state, Kris Kobach (R) refused to take his name off the ballot, but the Kansas Supreme Court ordered him to do so. Then David Orel, the father of an aide to Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS), filed a suit to force the Democratic Party to name a replacement. The idea here is having any Democrat on the ballot, no matter how obscure, would siphon off votes from independent Greg Orman, who might actually beat Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS).

Now the Kansas Supreme Court has ordered the case to be first heard in the Shawnee County District Court. That could take weeks. Only then would it come back to the state Supreme Court, by which time the ballots would already have been printed and the case would be moot. In effect, the court's ruling is a win for the Democrats and a setback for the Republicans.

Republicans Are Going for a Scorched-Earth Attack in Kansas

Now that it appears likely that the Democrats won't have to field a Senate candidate in Kansas to replace the one who dropped out, the battle is getting serious. The NRSC sent in the cavalry and basically took over Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) campaign, replacing his people with battle-hardened national veterans. Their main focus will be personal attacks on independent Greg Orman, who has been leading Roberts in the polls.

The first line of attack on Orman is his association with Rajat Gupta, a former Goldman Sachs board member now in prison for securities fraud. They will drip out information about Gupta bit by bit to keep the issue alive until the election. But there will be more as soon as the oppo researchers have studied Orman more.

In addition to the attacks though, the Republicans are bringing in heavyweights, like former Kansas senator Bob Dole and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to try to convince the voters that Roberts is a great senator.

There is a downside to much of this (especially personal attacks that have nothing to do with the issues) and that is making Orman really angry with the Republicans. He hasn't said who he will caucus with but if he wins and is furious with the Republicans, he might just caucus with the Democrats to spite them. However, some Republican strategists are convinced that he will do that anyway, so they feel they have nothing to lose by infuriating him.

Why Aren't the Republicans Doing Better in the Senate Races?

Nate Cohn observed that in the generic House poll, Republicans hold a 7-point lead but when asked who they want to control the Senate, the voters say it is the Democrats by four. There are several possible reasons for this. One is that the Democrats are holding their own in Senate fundraising. Another is that Senate candidates are larger-than-life figures, almost like minipresidents, and people judge them on their own personalities and quirks, whereas for the House it is just the (D) or (R) that matters. It could also be that there really is a Republican wave coming, but it hasn't hit the shore yet.

What is also noteworthy is that Democrats do better in polls of registered voters and worse in polls of likely voters. This agrees with the well-established notion that Republican turnout is the same in midterms and presidential years but Democratic turnout drops precipitously in midterm years.

Why Control of the Senate Matters

No matter which party controls the Senate, no legislation will pass in the next two years because there is nothing the House will pass that Obama will sign. Nevertheless, a case can be made that control of the Senate matters. First comes the matter of court appointments. In his last two years, Obama could fill dozens of vacancies on the Courts of Appeal, but only if the Democrats control the Senate. Second, senators elected on Nov. 4 will still be seated come Jan. 20, 2017 and no matter who is sworn in as President then, the Senate will be handed hundreds of appointments to approve or reject and partisan control could make a huge difference. Finally, if the Republicans control both chambers of Congress, it will be a lot harder for them to run in 2016 against "Washington" since they won't be able to blame a dysfunctional Congress on the Democrats.

Magazine Where Scott Brown Posed Nude Endorses His Opponent

The Washington Post just answered a key question all aspiring young male politicians wonder about: "Should I pose nude for an international women's magazine? The answer is go for it, but don't expect the magazine to endorse you as a result. Case study: Scott Brown (R), the former senator from Massachusetts posed nude for Cosmo in his 20s, but the magazine just endorsed his opponent, Sen. Jean Shaheen (D-NH) because while they like Brown's abs, they don't like his policy positions on women's issues.

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson Says There is a Strong Chance He Will Run

Conservative favorite Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon, said there is a good chance he will run for President. If he were the only tea party candidate, he might do well, but most likely he will face some combination of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen Rand Paul (R-KY), and a raft of others. In a crowded field, he is not likely to stand out since the others will be able to raise more money more quickly. He also said he will make a decision by May, which is probably too late because the others are all running hard already.

On the Democratic side, former Virginia senator Jim Webb (D) also said that he was thinking of a run as well. Aaron Blake says that makes no sense at all for four reasons:

  1. He retired after one term in the Senate and hates campaigning
  2. His niche is a dove yet he was a blue dog and Reagan's Navy secretary
  3. He has negative charisma and makes Tim Pawlenty look like a superstar
  4. He has spoken proudly of his Confederate roots = wrong party

Basically, Webb has no real reason to run against Hillary Clinton except maybe boredom. In contrast, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), has an ideological beef with her and might run to force her to the left. Sanders doesn't care about winning, just ideology. In contrast, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD) might run because starting in January he will be unemployed and is looking for a job. He is young and ambitious and if he runs a good and clean campaign, Clinton might pick him as her running mate.

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Alaska Mark Begich* 41% Dan Sullivan 43%     Sep 18 Sep 21 PPP
Arkansas Mark Pryor* 38% Tom Cotton 43%     Sep 18 Sep 21 PPP
Arkansas Mark Pryor* 46% Tom Cotton 43%     Sep 13 Sep 18 Hickman Analytics
Hawaii Brian Schatz* 62% Cam Cavasso 25%     Sep 11 Sep 14 Merriman River Group
Michigan Gary Peters 41% Terri Land 39%     Sep 17 Sep 18 Rasmussen
North Carolina Kay Hagan* 45% Thom Tillis 41% Sean Haugh (L) 05% Sep 16 Sep 18 Global Strategy

* Denotes incumbent

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