Archive: September 19, 2014

Rowland Found Guilty Again

Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland (R), "a political rising star who crashed a decade ago in a corruption scandal, fell again Friday when a jury in federal court found him guilty in a low-rent scheme to collect secret pay checks from rich Republican congressional candidates," the Hartford Courant reports.

Is Christie the GOP Frontrunner Again?

"Influential Republicans in early presidential primary states believe New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is poised to once again become a frontrunner for the party's 2016 nomination, following a news report that he is no longer a target of federal scrutiny for his role in a bridge-closing scandal," the Washington Post reports.

"Christie's wealthy friends in Republican finance circles also expressed confidence that the governor has escaped what has been seen as the leading obstacle to his potential candidacy."

Bernie Sanders Recorded a Folk Album

Seven Days has unearthed a folk album recorded by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in 1987, while he was the mayor of Burlington, VT.

Daily Beast: "While savoring these songs, the listener might wonder, you know, how the hell something like this ever happened... The senator's office, sadly, doesn't have much to say about their boss's old record making the rounds this week."

Orman Lead in Kansas

A new Rasmussen survey in Kansas finds Greg Orman (I) leading Sen. Pat Roberts (R) for U.S. Senate, 45% to 40%.

The survey shows the head-to-head match up now possible when Chad Taylor (D) is kept off the ballot.

Toss Up in Iowa

A new Rasmussen survey in Iowa finds Joni Ernst (R) and Bruce Braley (D) deadlocked in the U.S. Senate race, 43% to 43%.

On Wonk Wire

Some great clicks over at Wonk Wire:

Republicans May Change Rules to Save Boehner

"House Republicans are quietly discussing a proposal that could fundamentally alter the way future speakers of the House are chosen, according to multiple GOP sources, with the objective of avoiding a repeat of John Boehner's embarrassing reelection vote in 2013," National Journal reports.

"Under the proposed tweak, any Republican who votes on the House floor in January against the conference's nominee for House speaker - that is, the candidate chosen by a majority of the House GOP during its closed-door leadership elections in November - would be severely punished. Specifically, sources say, any dissenters would be stripped of all committee assignments for that Congress."

A Candidate Who Says Nothing

Molly Ball: "That Clinton is a risk-averse, pragmatic politician has been her hallmark for years, of course--it's just another way in which her current persona offers nothing new or surprising. Has America ever been so thoroughly tired of a candidate before the campaign even began?"

Biden Praises Packwood at Women's Event

In the middle of a speech championing women's issues and condemning sexual harassment, Vice President Joe Biden offered warm words for former Sen. Bob Packwood (R-OR) who resigned after 10 women accused him of sexual harassment, Business Insider reports.

GOP Candidate Suggests War with Mexico

North Carolina congressional candidate Mark Walker (R) suggested war with Mexico might be a way to stop immigrants coming across the border, TPM reports.

Said Walker: "I will tell you if you have foreigners who are sneaking in with drug cartels to me that is a national threat. And if we got to go laser or blitz somebody with a couple of fighter jets for a little while to make our point, I don't have a problem with that either. So yeah, whatever we need to do."

Bonus Quote of the Day

"The battleground for control of the Senate is now Kansas."

-- Former Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS), quoted by ABC News, on news the Democratic candidate will be allowed to drop off the ballot to force a two-way race.

Many Want Their State to Secede

A new Reuters poll found that almost a quarter -- 23.9% -- of those surveyed said they were strongly or provisionally inclined to have their states secede from the United States.

"Secession got more support from Republicans than Democrats, more from right- than left-leaning independents, more from younger than older people, more from lower- than higher-income brackets, more from high school than college grads. But there was a surprising amount of support in every group and region, especially the Rocky Mountain states, the Southwest and the old Confederacy, but also in places like Illinois and Kansas. And of the people who said they identified with the Tea Party, supporters of secession were actually in the majority, with 53 percent."

Paul Rips GOP on Minority Voters

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) slammed the Republican party for not reaching out to minorities, Politico reports.

Said Paul: "So many times, Republicans are seen as this party of, 'We don't want black people to vote because they're voting Democrat, we don't want Hispanic people to vote because they're voting Democrat.' We wonder why the Republican Party is so small. Why don't we be the party that's for people voting, for voting rights?"

Quote of the Day

"Let's see if you can write this whole story without mentioning how fat I've gotten."

-- North Carolina congressional candidate Clay Aiken (D), quoted by the Washington Post.

Burke Plagiarized Jobs Plan

Large portions of Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke's (D) jobs plan "appear to be copied directly from the plans of three Democratic candidates who ran for governor in previous election cycles," BuzzFeed reports.

"Burke's economic plan Invest for Success copies nearly-verbatim sections from the jobs plans of Ward Cammack, who ran for Tennessee governor in 2009 before withdrawing from the race, a 2008 plan from Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, and John Gregg who ran for governor of Indiana in 2012 and lost to Mike Pence."

If Republicans Win the Senate

"Senate Republicans are planning aggressive action to intensify oversight of the Obama administration and move conservative legislation long stymied by the Democrats if they win control of the upper chamber in the midterm elections," the Washington Examiner reports.

"Republican leaders are promising a complete makeover of the chamber that goes beyond changes in legislative priorities... Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, expected to become the next majority leader as long as he wins re-election on Nov. 4, plans to return power to the committees and promote a freewheeling debate process that allows members to shape legislation through a vigorous amendment process."

Politician Accused of Dropping Pants Drops Race

Joe Sorrentino (D), a New Jersey borough council candidate, "is bowing out of his race after revelations that he allegedly shouted racist slurs while mooning patrons of a local diner," New Jersey Advanced Media reports.

Said Sorrentino: "I regret what happened, and I have worked every single day to prove that I am not the man that the report says."

Scotland Votes Down Independence

"Scotland has voted to stay in the United Kingdom after voters decisively rejected independence," the BBC reports.

"UK Prime Minister David Cameron said he was delighted the UK would remain together and said the commitments on extra powers would be honoured. Mr Cameron said the three main unionist parties at Westminster would now follow through with their pledge of more powers for the Scottish Parliament."

Paul Adjusts Foreign Policy Views

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) "is making adjustments to his foreign-policy profile that is bringing him more in line with his party's mainstream and a step away from its isolationist libertarian wing. That could ease his path to the nomination, but is also creating openings for critics and rivals," the Wall Street Journal reports.

GOP Pushes Early Voting Efforts

"Republicans are trying to boost their early-voting efforts after lagging behind Democrats in the past two election cycles, spending unprecedented sums at the state level and launching a national campaign to get GOP voters to cast ballots before Election Day," the Wall Street Journal reports.

"With early voting beginning Friday in three states, the GOP's efforts have the potential to affect the outcome of close races. Campaigns that bank early votes can then spend their resources chasing supporters with less reliable voting histories, who may need a push to the polls."

Archive: September 18, 2014

Rift Widens Between Obama and Generals

"Flashes of disagreement over how to fight the Islamic State are mounting between President Obama and U.S. military leaders, the latest sign of strain in what often has been an awkward and uneasy relationship," the Washington Post reports.

"Even as the administration has received congressional backing for its strategy, with the Senate voting Thursday to approve a plan to arm and train Syrian rebels, a series of military leaders have criticized the president's approach against the Islamic State militant group."

Federal Charges Ruled Out for Christie

"The U.S. Justice Department investigation into New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's role in "Bridgegate" has thus far uncovered no information he either knew in advance or directed the closure of traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge," NBC News reports.

Taylor Allowed Off Kansas Ballot

"The Kansas Supreme Court issued a decision laden with political intrigue Thursday that overruled the state's top elections officer and declared Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Chad Taylor could pull himself from the November ballot," the Topeka Capital Journal reports.

"In the middle of a wild campaign for the seat held by three-term Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, the high court's opinion thwarted the decision of Secretary of State Kris Kobach to prohibit Taylor's exit from race."

Rick Hasen: "The big unanswered question is what happens to the other statute which appears to require Democrats to replace a withdrawn candidate on the ballot."

Gingrich Not Happy with GOP

Newt Gingrich is not thrilled by the current state of the Republican party, Roll Call reports.

Said Gingrich: "The fact that we do not have positive themes and positive issues is going to cost us seats this fall because moderates and independents aren't going to turn out. It's an enormous mistake."

He added: "You have to sound like you're more than anti-Obama, and you're more than some ... politician whose primary role in life is to raise money for your consultant to buy attack ads. It's pathetic ... and it's turning people off."

Perdue Maintains Lead in Georgia

A new Rasmussen survey in Georgia finds David Perdue (R) leading Michelle Nunn (D) by five points in the U.S. Senate race, 46% to 41%.

Democrats Losing Support of Women Voters

American Interest: "The most interesting finding of a recent NYT poll on voter preferences before the midterms: The Democrats have lost their edge with women. Though the NYT write-up of the poll doesn't mention the change, it shows up in the accompanying graph. When asked "If the 2014 election for United States House of Representatives seats were being held today, would you vote for the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate in your district?" women favor Democrats over Republicans by one point only, 43 to 42 percent."

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

"Democrats, we don't win elections in Kansas. Republicans lose elections."

-- Former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D), quoted by the Lawrence Journal-World.

Measuring the Strength of the Two Parties

Sean Trende and David Byler make an interesting attempt to measure the relative strength of the two political parties and find that the Republicans -- despite their many problems -- are not a party in decline as many assume.

Midterm Polling is Volatile

First Read: "It's really hard to get a handle on this year's race because the likely-voter modeling is so divergent, even among good pollsters with good reputations. It's ironic: In the past two weeks, we've seen a tremendous amount of polling, and it's created more uncertainty that anything else."

"That said, this year should be a reminder as to why to be leery of any political handicapping site only using released polls as their basis for prediction. These aggregation and regression analysis sites are trying to find accuracy with incredibly inaccurate data. That's not exactly scientific."

Scotland Votes on Independence

The BBC rounds up the final polls and explains why polling a "yes" or "no" question is not as easy as it seems.

Carl Bialik: "For the election junkies who want to watch results as they come in, I've put together a guide to how early Friday morning could unfold: when the 32 local councils can be expected to report their constituents' vote counts, what percentage of the electorate each area represents, and which way voters from each area can be expected to lean."

Bonus Quote of the Day

"I have to say that after the events I've been facing over the past few days, assassination would be a welcome release."

-- British Prime Minister David Cameron, quoted by National Review.

Secret Campaign Spending Set to Break Record

Mother Jones: "A milestone passed in late August: According to the Center for Responsive Politics, dark-money groups--nonprofits created under the 501(c)(4) and (c)(6) sections of the US tax code--had by then surpassed $50 million on elections. These groups, unlike political action committees and candidates' campaigns, do not have to disclose their donors. So some of the key players looking to sway election results remain in the shadows. This was a new record and seven times the amount of dark money spent by the same point on House and Senate elections in 2010. And this week, dark-money spending for the 2014 cycle reached $63 million--just shy of the $69 million in dark money spent during the entire 2008 presidential election."

"Every politician knows that campaign season begins in earnest after Labor Day. If recent history is any guide, there is sure to be an unprecedented last-minute blitz of dark-money spending."

Senate Control May Not Be Decided on Election Day

Kyle Kondik: "There are all sorts of reasons why you shouldn't, unless in the next seven weeks one side or the other -- probably the Republicans -- starts opening up a clear lead in enough races to give them a clear majority. If neither side does, control of the Senate could remain up in the air -- for a while."

GOP Senate Majority Still In Doubt

Karl Rove: "The president's job approval numbers are lousy, no Democrat in a competitive Senate race polls regularly above 50%, GOP enthusiasm is high, and independents are trending Republican. The midterm environment is terrible for Democrats--yet each passing day provides evidence as to why a GOP Senate majority is still in doubt."

On Mark Sanford's Oversharing

Matt Bai: "If you missed Mark Sanford's tortured, meandering Facebook post about his various relationship and family troubles last weekend, I'm afraid you're out of luck. The Republican Party's Lord Byron apparently thought better of it and decided to take the post down."

"Maybe Sanford's sons impressed upon him that he had become the single most embarrassing parent in America. Or maybe Sanford suddenly realized that he wasn't actually 15 and was under no compulsion to vent his conflicted emotions on social media... Or perhaps Sanford took down the post because it occurred to him, too late, that his digital soliloquy constituted a thoroughly reckless act -- not just for himself or for his family, but also for all of Washington, where the last thing any of us really needed was to further erode the boundary between private lives and political careers."

Udall Trails in Colorado

A new Quinnipiac poll in Colorado finds Cory Gardner (R) leading Sen. Mark Udall (D) by eight points in the U.S. Senate race among likely voters, 48% to 40%.

How Gary Hart Forever Changed American Politics

The New York Times excerpts Matt Bai's forthcoming must-read book, All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid.

"The Hart episode is almost universally remembered as a tale of classic hubris. A Kennedy-like figure on a fast track to the presidency defies the media to find anything nonexemplary in his personal life, even as he carries on an affair with a woman half his age and poses for pictures with her, and naturally he gets caught and humiliated. How could he not have known this would happen? How could such a smart guy have been that stupid?"

Quote of the Day

"Things have gotten really out of whack, folks."

-- Vice President Joe Biden, quoted by The Hill.

Wehby Admits Plagiarism Problem

Monica Wehby's (R) U.S. Senate campaign "acknowledged problems with plagiarism in some of her issue documents and removed them from her website," the Oregonian reports.

"Her campaign blamed a former staffer, and it was clear from the context that Wehby and her aides were referring to her former campaign manager, Charlie Pearce, who is now running Dennis Richardson's campaign for governor."

'Chickens' Hit the Campaign Trail

"An unusually large number of campaigns this year have turned to chicken-suited men--and they're mostly men--to distract opponents, steal press attention and, occasionally, make a point," the Wall Street Journal reports.

"Chicken men have played a role in Senate contests in Iowa and Minnesota. They have clucked at Democrats running for governor in Wisconsin and Florida for declining primary debates and at the Republican running for lieutenant governor in Nevada... Behind the fowl play: Chickens make good copy, drawing attention to candidates who often are underfunded and looking for free media coverage."

Americans Lose Faith in Obama on Terrorism

A new New York Times/CBS News Poll finds that for the first time in his presidency, more Americans disapprove of President Obama's handling of terrorism than approve of it.

"With midterm elections approaching, Americans' fears about a terrorist attack on United States soil are on the rise, and the public is questioning Mr. Obama's strategy for combating the militant organization calling itself the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Most respondents say the president has no clear plan for confronting the group, and that he has not been tough enough in dealing with it."

Liberal Activists Blast Clinton

"Emails sent by liberal activists and obtained by The Hill reveal significant dissatisfaction with Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016."

"The critical messages about the former first lady show that she has a long way to go to assuage skepticism from influential voices on the left. The Hill reviewed hundreds of emails from a progressive members only Google group called the 'Gamechanger Salon,' a forum where nearly 1,500 activists, strategists and journalists debate issues and craft messaging campaigns."

Archive: September 17, 2014

Democrats Turn on DNC Chief

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz "is in a behind-the-scenes struggle with the White House, congressional Democrats and Washington insiders who have lost confidence in her as both a unifying leader and reliable party spokesperson at a time when they need her most," Politico reports.

"Long-simmering doubts about her have reached a peak after two recent public flubs: criticizing the White House's handling of the border crisis and comparing the tea party to wife beaters."

Obama to Personally Control Strikes in Syria

"The U.S. military campaign against Islamic militants in Syria is being designed to allow President Obama to exert a high degree of personal control over the campaign, going so far as to require that the military obtain presidential sign-off for any strike in Syrian territory," the Wall Street Journal reports.

"The requirement for the Syrian strikes will be far more stringent than those in Iraq, at least at first, to assure the Syrian air campaign remains strictly limited, in an attempt to mitigate the threat that the U.S. could be dragged more deeply into the conflict, according to the U.S. officials."

Conversation with Nate Silver

Nate Silver, founder and editor of FiveThirtyEight, joined us on the Political Wire podcast for a discussion of his very latest 2014 midterm election forecast.

Listen here:

Subscribe via iTunes or RSS to get episodes automatically downloaded.

Special thanks to the Cook Political Report for sponsoring this episode. If you don't subscribe, you're missing a lot.

Peters Maintains Lead in Michigan

A new Denno Research poll in Michigan finds that Gary Peters (D) had a solid lead over Terri Lynn Land (R) in the U.S. Senate race, 45% to 38%.

In the race for governor, Mark Shauer (D) edges Gov. Rick Snyder (R), 43% to 40%.

Wehby Plagiarized Her Economic Plan Too

Large portions of an economic plan released by Oregon Senate candidate Monica Wehby (R) "appear to be heavily plagiarized from multiple sources, including one section that copies word-for-word from a plan put out" by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), BuzzFeed reports.

"Likewise, portions of Wehby's plan also copy sections nearly-verbatim from the economic growth plan of a 2012 congressional candidate named Gary DeLong and a survey from Karl Rove's group, Crossroads."

Earlier, it was reported that Wehby's health care plan was also lifted from Crossroads.

Fox News Polls Key Senate Races

Fox News released several polls in key U.S. Senate races:

Kansas: Sen. Pat Roberts (R) 40%, Greg Orman (I) 38%, Chad Taylor (D) 11%

Iowa: Bruce Braley (D) 41%, Joni Ernst (R) 41%

Louisiana: Bill Cassidy (R) 51%, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) 38%

North Carolina: Sen. Kay Hagan (D) 41%, Thom Tillis (R) 36%

Average of the Forecasts Shows a 50-50 Senate

With so many new election forecasts this year, Vox just averages them and finds they predict an evenly divided U.S. Senate.

Gardner Grabs Lead in Colorado

A new USA Today/Suffolk University Poll in Colorado finds Cory Gardner (R) just ahead of Sen. Mark Udall (D) in the U.S. Senate race, 43% to 42%.

In the race for governor, Gov. John Hickenlooper is slightly ahead of challenger Bob Beauprez (R), 43% to 41%.

Walker Pulls Ahead in Wisconsin

A new Marquette University Law School poll in Wisconsin finds that Gov. Scott Walker (R) is slightly ahead of challenger Mary Burke (D among likely voters, 49% to 46%.

Burr Denies Retirement Rumors

Despite rumors that he would retire, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) told National Journal that he plans to run for re-election in 2016.

"Democrats are angling for a top-tier recruit in 2016, hopeful that former Charlotte Mayor and current Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx might decide to run. With access to the president's political network, North Carolina Democrats think they could give Burr a robust challenge. But Burr says Foxx told him he's ruled out running."

On Wonk Wire

Some great clicks over at Wonk Wire:

Begich Maintains Lead Over Sullivan

A new Hays Research poll in Alaska finds Sen. Mark Begich (D) leading Dan Sullivan by five points, 39% to 34%, with 22% still undecided.

Hays warns that the "race has been quite volatile with each candidate taking the lead at various times throughout the past few weeks."

In the race for governor, Bill Walker (I) leads Gov. Sean Parnell (R) by eight points, 33% to 25%, with 31% undecided.

Begich Attacked as Pretend Snowmobiler

Dan Sullivan (R) accused Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) of "pretending to ride" a snowmobile in a new ad.

Wall Street Journal: "It's not the first time Republicans have launched accusations that Mr. Begich needed a stunt double for his TV ads. A super PAC backing Mr. Sullivan called Alaska's Energy, America's Values suggested it wasn't Begich in the snowmobile ad in an April radio message."

Huntsman Discussed Independent Bid

Jon Huntsman "has engaged in discussions with supporters in recent months about pursuing another White House bid -- this time as an independent, according to three sources close to Huntsman," BuzzFeed reports.

Huntsman told the Deseret News earlier this month that he was a "strong no" on a 2016 presidential bid.

Not All Forecasting Models are Equal

Nate Silver: "I don't like to call out other forecasters by name unless I have something positive to say about them -- and we think most of the other models out there are pretty great. But one is in so much perceived disagreement with FiveThirtyEight's that it requires some attention. That's the model put together by Sam Wang, an associate professor of molecular biology at Princeton."

"That model is wrong -- not necessarily because it shows Democrats ahead (ours barely shows any Republican advantage), but because it substantially underestimates the uncertainty associated with polling averages and thereby overestimates the win probabilities for candidates with small leads in the polls."

Kevin Drum: "If Wang's prediction of this year's Senate race turns out to be more accurate than Silver's, I almost hate to think what might happen. Silver's head is going to explode or something. In any case, this is far more fun than you normally get from a couple of geeky poll aggregators."

Democrats Running More Ads in Key Senate Races

The Wesleyan Media Project finds that Democrats have run more ads than Republicans in Kentucky, North Carolina, Michigan, Iowa, Louisiana, Colorado, Arkansas, Georgia and Virginia over the last two weeks.

Republicans have only been on the air more than Democrats in Alaska.

Quote of the Day

"On any given day, 16 of my members decide they're going to go this way, and all the sudden I have nothing. You might notice I have a few knuckleheads in my conference."

-- Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), quoted by The Hill.

Wehby Plagiarized Health Care Plan

Oregon Senate candidate Monica Wehby's (R) health care plan appears to have been plagiarized from a survey done for Crossroads GPS, BuzzFeed reports.

Said a campaign spokesman: "The suggestion that a pediatric neurosurgeon needs to copy a health care plan from American Crossroads is absurd. Dr. Wehby is too busy performing brain surgery on sick children to respond, sorry."

Coakley Ahead in Massachusetts

A new WBUR-FM/MassINC Polling Group poll in Massachusetts finds Martha Coakley (D) leads Charlie Baker (R) in the race for governor by seven points, 41% to 34%.

Potential warning sign for Coakley: The Boston Globe reports Baker "enjoys a huge, nearly 11-to-1 cash advantage over the Democratic nominee."

Where are Democrats in Ohio?

Rick Klein: "An announcement out of Ohio that political junkies should take note of: There will be no debate in the Ohio governor's race this year. That's not a total surprise, given the fade of Democratic candidate Ed FitzGerald in his race against incumbent Gov. John Kasich. But it underlines the fact that we're seeing an uncommonly lame political year in a state that always seems to find a way to capture the nation's Election Night attention. Here's guessing voters aren't complaining about getting a break. But Democrats may come to mourn the fact that they didn't field a serious challenge against Kasich, a possible 2016er, when the time comes to start organizing anew in Ohio. The GOP's decision to convene in Cleveland in two years looks smarter by the week."

No Democratic Lock on Electoral College Yet

Tom Holbrook: "In the current period, Democratic candidates have a distinct advantage in close national contests. If the average state-level vote is 50%, the expected Democratic Electoral Vote count is 319. If the average Democratic state vote drops to 48%, Republicans would be expected to pick up Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Ohio, but Democrats would still have a fighting chance, with an expected Electoral Vote count of 257. And, of course, if Democrats carry 52% on average across the states, they win a comfortable Electoral Vote margin. What is most impressive here is not just the Democratic advantage, but how that advantage has shifted since the 1970s, where the Democratic Electoral Vote was much more proportional to the national popular vote."

"There is still no evidence of a Democratic 'lock' on the Electoral College, but the data presented here do make a clearer case that Republican presidential candidates face an uphill battle, and that their position has deteriorated over time. The political landscape has changed appreciably in the last forty years and that change is politically consequential."

Is Congress Abdicating its War Powers?

"There's one power Congress has that it doesn't want: The power to declare war," Bloomberg reports.

"And that's certainly so seven weeks before congressional elections."

"The House will vote today on an amendment that gives the administration the authority to train and equip Syrian rebels as part of President Barack Obama's strategy for destroying Islamic State. But it is silent on whether the president can deploy U.S. forces in the region. Some say Congress is setting a dangerous precedent by abdicating its war powers."

Obamacare Fades as a Campaign Issue

"Though Republicans continue to hammer away at the Affordable Care Act, the health-insurance law is losing some of its punch in the 2014 campaign," the Wall Street Journal reports.

"Polls show that voters don't see the law as a top concern, and both Democrats and Republicans say the election will turn on a range of issues."

Politico: "A year ago, it looked like Obamacare was going to have a huge role in this year's elections. And not in a good way -- as a symbol of government incompetence and the Republicans' main case against President Obama's record. Now, it's clear that the health care law not going to be the centerpiece of the November campaigns, in a good way or a bad way. It's going to be more like the wallpaper."

Shaheen Up Big in New Poll

A new New England College poll in New Hampshire finds Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) leads Scott Brown (R) by double-digits, 51% to 40%.

Ernst Opens Up Lead in Iowa

A new Quinnipiac poll in Iowa finds Joni Ernst (R) leading Bruce Braley (D) in the U.S. Senate race, 50% to 44%.

Said pollster Peter Brown: "The tale of independent voters tells you all you need to know about the Iowa Senate race. These independents are perhaps the most important voter bloc in the electorate and Ernst is ahead 7 percentage points among them, just about her overall lead. The key to any comeback by Braley will be chipping away at her lead among independents."

The RCP polling average shows the race is a toss up.

Hickenlooper Trails in Colorado

A new Quinnipiac poll in Colorado shows Bob Beauprez (R) with a double-digit lead over Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) in the race for governor, 50% to 40%.

Opponents of Independent Scotland Hold Slight Lead

"Scottish supporters of staying in the United Kingdom are 4 percentage points ahead of secessionists with just a day to go before Scots vote in an independence referendum, three different opinion polls showed," Reuters reports.

"The United Kingdom's fate remains uncertain as the three surveys - from pollsters ICM, Opinium and Survation - showed support for Scottish independence at 48 percent compared to 52 percent backing union."

GOP Holds Big Lead in Generic Ballot

A new CBS News/New York Times poll finds Republicans hold a six-point edge in the generic congressional ballot among likely voters, 45% to 39%.

World Events Overwhelm Democratic Message

New York Times: "Events overseas have undermined Democrats' strategy to tie their midterm prospects to an economic theme that includes calls for a higher minimum wage, reducing income inequality, pay equity for women and help with college tuition. Instead, the public and Congress have been overwhelmed this summer by a border crisis, an Ebola outbreak in Africa and, most notably, the terrorist threat from the Islamic State, also known by the acronym ISIS."

"Democrats, pointing to President Obama's effectiveness in drawing an economic contrast with the Republican Mitt Romney in 2012 and to the 2006 midterm races in which they took over the House and the Senate, still believe the strategy is sound."

Biden Kicks Off Voter Drive in Iowa

Vice President Joe Biden "will help kick off a 10-state voter turnout tour for a liberal group called 'Nuns on the Bus' today with an outdoor event on the west terrace of the Iowa Capitol," the Des Moines Register reports.

"For the nation's first Catholic vice president, this is a chance to attach himself with religious leaders who embrace a message on economic equality that syncs with his soul... Still, this is Iowa. The political implications are ever-present."

Archive: September 16, 2014

Grimm Leads in Re-Election Bid

A new Sienna College poll in New York's 11th congressional district finds Rep. Michael Grimm (R), despite being under federal indictment, is locked in a tight battle against challenger Domenic Recchia (D), 44% to 40%.

When Politics Went Tabloid

A must-read: All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid by Matt Bai.

How the Gary Hart affair "marked a crucial turning point in the ethos of political media-and, by extension, politics itself-when candidates' 'character' began to draw more fixation than their political experience."

Democrats Build a Big Money Firewall

"If Democrats cling to their Senate majority this fall, it will be in large part because of a well-funded group connected to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that has helped build a formidable firewall around vulnerable incumbents," the Washington Post reports.

"Senate Majority PAC, fueled by billionaires and labor unions, has been the biggest-spending super PAC of the 2014 midterm contests. Together with an allied tax-exempt group, Patriot Majority, the pro-Democratic effort has poured at least $36 million into ads and voter outreach... The groups' early, aggressive presence in pivotal Senate races spotlights how, four years after being dramatically outgunned in the outside money game, Democrats are now some of its most adept players."

Princeton Professor Sees Democrats Holding Senate

Daily Beast: "The list of pundits, political analysts, and numbers-crunchers who are predicting Republicans will win control of the Senate in November is long, including Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight. The folks at The New York Times' The Upshot are saying it could be a tie. But Sam Wang of Princeton stands almost alone in forecasting that the Democrats will just barely hold their Senate majority."

Wang's latest forecast finds Democrats have a 78% chance of holding control of the Senate.

Women Haul in the Big Bucks

Patricia Murphy: "One of the most persistent myths in politics -- that women shy away from campaigns because they don't 'have the stomach' for fundraising --is taking a beating this election cycle as women have emerged as top money makers, both for their own campaigns and on behalf of other candidates and national campaign committees."

Hagan Maintains Edge in North Carolina

A new Public Policy Polling survey in North Carolina finds Sen. Kay Hagan (D) leading challenger Thom Tillis (R) in the U.S. Senate race, 44% to 40%.

Kansas Justices to Decide Whether to Remove Taylor

Based on oral arguments, Rick Hasen thinks it is likely the Kansas Supreme Court will quickly issue an order removing Chad Taylor's (D) name from the ballot. The decision would be a big blow to Sen. Pat Roberts (R) who is fighting a challenge from Greg Orman (I).

A new poll shows Taylor still receiving 6% of the vote in the Kansas U.S. Senate race even though he's no longer campaigning and wants off the ballot.

Scott Ahead in Florida

A new SurveyUSA poll in Florida finds Gov. Rick Scott (R) with a 5 point lead over challenger Charlie Crist (D), 44% to 39%, with Libertarian Adrian Wyllie at 7% and 9% still undecided.

Are Democratic Super PACs More Effective?

"Outside liberal groups are running more effective ads in key Senate races by sticking to the script, while conservative groups focus too much on their own agendas, Republican strategists say," the Washington Examiner reports.

"While many conservative groups focus on their traditional messages, left-leaning super PACs and nonprofits are working together and tailoring their ads to the themes Democrats are campaigning on, allowing them to reinforce the candidates' messages -- and the party's overall arguments about the election."

Bonus Quote of the Day

"Pat Quinn is not the folksy, bumbling fool he'd like us to think he is. He knows what he's doing. He knows what he's done."

-- Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner (R), quoted by the Chicago Sun Times.

Obama Stays Out of the Campaign

First Read: "Looking at the president's schedule this week, you'd be hard pressed to know that a major national election is just seven weeks away. It's painfully obvious that the White House has concluded that the best political assistance they can provide Democrats is for the president to go be president. And so this week, he's clearly embracing the commander-in-chief title, even when it comes to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa."

"So with exactly seven weeks until the midterm elections and with the president's approval ratings stuck in the low 40s (mid- to high 30s in many of the battlegrounds), Obama brandishing his commander-in-chief credentials also might be the best way for the White House to assist Democrats this fall."

Jindal Mulling White House Bid

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) told TPM that he's considering a White House bid.

Said Jindal: "It is true. There's no reason to be coy. I am thinking, I am praying about whether I'll run in 2016. I said I won't make that decision until after November."

Begich Still Leads in Alaska

A new Harstad Strategic Research poll in Alaska finds Sen. Mark Begich (D) leading challenger Dan Sullivan (R) in the U.S. Senate race by five points, 45% to 40%.

Shaheen Maintains Edge in New Hampshire

A new American Research Group poll in New Hampshire finds Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) leads challenger Scott Brown (R) in the U.S. Senate among likely voters, 50% to 45%.

Roberts Trails in Kansas

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Kansas finds Greg Orman (I) leading Sen. Pat Roberts (R) in the Senate race, 41% to 34%, with another 6% still choosing Chad Taylor (D) even though he's ended his campaign.

What Could Go Wrong for Republicans?

Charlie Cook: "Two things may be keeping Republican strategists up at night: money and the Democratic ground game. Perhaps the biggest untold story of this election is how so many Republican and conservative donors, at least those whose last name isn't Koch, have kept their checkbooks relatively closed... Many Republican and conservative donors appear to be somewhat demoralized after 2012. They feel that they were misled about the GOP's chances in both the presidential and senatorial races that year, and/or their money was not well spent. In short, they are giving less if at all, and it has put Republican candidates in a bind in a number of places."

"Another reason things might not turn out for Republicans is if the highly touted Democratic Senate ground game comes together. Clearly the Obama campaign and Democratic allies had a superior voter-identification and get-out-the-vote operation two years ago... In midterm elections, if Democrats can crank up the turnout among young, female, and minority voters, then their chances of success this year increase."

The Power Broker Turns 40

Forty years ago today, Robert Caro's magisterial 1,296-page life of New York master builder Robert Moses rewrote the rules of biography, the Daily Beast reports.

It's one of the greatest books ever written on power and politics.

Democrats Rebound Slightly in Senate Forecast

Nate Silver says his Senate forecast "is pretty darned close."

"As you can see, there hasn't been an across-the-board shift. Republicans' odds have improved in several important races since the launch of our model. Democrats' odds have improved in several others. But the two states with the largest shifts have been Colorado and North Carolina -- in both cases, the movement has been in Democrats' direction. That accounts for most of the difference in the forecast."

Election Lab now shows Democrats with a 51% chance of retaining the Senate.

Scandal-Plagued Lawmakers Bounce Back

"For the bad boys of Congress, 2014 is shaping up to be an awfully good year," Politico reports.

"As they endure humiliating headlines, damaging federal investigations and tough scrutiny of their personal lives, scandal-tarred lawmakers aren't just surviving this midterm year. In many cases, they're thriving. By any traditional standard of acceptable behavior for politicians, they should be dead men walking."

Cameron Warns Scotland Ahead of Vote

British Prime Minister David Cameron warned Scotland that citzens vote for independence on Thursday "there's no going back from this, no rerun," the New York Times reports.

Said Cameron: "If Scotland votes yes, the U.K. will split, and we will go our separate ways forever. Independence would not be a trial separation, it would be a painful divorce."

Meanwhile, the leaders of the three main British political parties renewed a pledge to grant Scots "extensive new powers" if they reject secession.

Quote of the Day

"If I could have just melted in tears, I would have. But I had to just sit there and talk to him and I switched the subject and I didn't hear another word he said, but I wasn't in a place where I could tell him to go fuck himself."

-- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), in an interview on HuffPost Live, on a labor leader who told her she was too fat to win a statewide election.

Pryor Holds Lead in Arkansas

A new Answers Unlimited poll in Arkansas finds Sen. Mark Pryor (D) leads challenger Tom Cotton (R) in the U.S. Senate race, 46% to 42%.

Archive: September 15, 2014

Diversity Gap in the House Widens

David Wasserman points out that "89 percent of House Republicans are white men, compared to just 47 percent of House Democrats. For some context, according to 2013 Census estimates just 31 percent of U.S. residents are non-Hispanic white males."

"Even in the last two years, the demographic chasm between the parties has widened. Eight members of the 113th House of Representatives have been elected in special elections since 2012. All six Republican winners have been white men, five of whom prevailed over women in their primaries. Both Democratic winners have been women who prevailed over men in their primaries."

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

"This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home."

-- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), quoted by the Huffington Post, on the threat posed by ISIS.

GOP Lawmaker Claims ISIS is on the Border

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) says ISIS "currently is or has operated on the U.S. border in the past couple weeks," BuzzFeed reports.

Said Franks: "It is true, that we know that ISIS is present in Ciudad Juarez or they were within the last few weeks. So there's no question that they have designs on trying to come into Arizona. The comment that I've made is that if unaccompanied minors can cross the border then certainly trained terrorists probably can to. It is something that is real."

Bonus Quote of the Day

"They're trying to get you to check your brain at the door, start foaming at the mouth. The last thing they want you to do is think."

-- Bill Clinton, quoted by The Hill, on the Republican party.

Bevin Likely to Run for Kentucky Governor

"A bruising primary challenge to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) left Matt Bevin (R) with two things: A loss at the ballot box and $5 million worth of name recognition. Now the Louisville businessman is hoping to cash in some of that political legwork in another high profile race: Kentucky governor," the AP reports.

Said Bevin: "I have not ruled it out. If anything, it is more likely."

Iowa is a True Toss Up

According to a Smart Politics analysis of U.S. Senate race ratings, the odds of a pick-up in Iowa's contest between Rep. Bruce Braley (D) and Joni Ernst (R) are closer to 50-50 than any other contest in the country, with Alaska close behind.

Franken Holds Big Lead in Minnesota

A new Minneapolis Star Tribune Minnesota Poll finds Sen. Al Franken (D) leads challenger Mike McFadden (R) by double digits, 49% to 36%.

In the race for governor, Gov. Mark Dayton (D) leads challenger Jeff Johnson (R), 45% to 33%.

Sanders Sounds Serious About White House Bid

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) told Meet the Press that he is thinking about running for president in 2016 as either a Democrat or an independent.

Said Sanders: "I think anybody who speaks to the needs of the working class and the middle class of this country and shows the courage to take on the billionaire class, I think that candidate will do pretty well."

First Read: "He seemed to be leaning toward running as a Democrat (instead of his current status as an independent), but it's worth asking if that will fly with Democratic voters in a Democratic primary."

Obamacare Critic Won't Say How She's Covered

New Hampshire congressional candidate Marilinda Garcia (R), one of the most avid critics of Obamacare, declined to tell New Hampshire Public Radio to say how she gets her own health insurance coverage.

Dead Heat in New Hampshire

A new CNN poll shows New Hampshire's U.S. Senate contest in a dead heat with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and challenger Scott Brown (R) tied, 48% to 48%.

Democrats also released an internal poll claiming Shaheen had an eight point lead, 51% to 43%.

Kasich Headed for Landslide Win in Ohio

A new Columbus Dispatch poll in Ohio finds Gov. John Kasich (R) leading challenger Ed FitzGerald (D) in the race for governor by a 2-to-1 ratio, 59% to 29%.

Grimes Shoots

Alison Lundergran Grimes (D) has a new ad out featuring her skeet shooting and chastising Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) by saying, "Mitch, that's not how you hold a gun."

The Senate's Secret Book of Rules

USA Today: "The U.S. Senate has for years lived by a secret book of rules that governs everything from how many sheets of paper and potted plants each Senate office is allotted to when Senators can use taxpayer money to charter planes or boats. The document has never been available to the public -- until now."

U.S. Senate Handbook:

GOP Official Resigns Over Sterilization Remarks

Russell Pearce, who has recently served as the Arizona Republican Party's first vice chair, resigned his post in the wake of criticism over his comments about contraception, the Arizona Republic reports.

Said Pearce: "You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I'd do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations...Then we'll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job."

Hagan Widens Lead in North Carolina

A new American Insights poll in North Carolina finds Sen. Kay Hagan (D) with a nine point lead over challenger Thom Tillis (R) in the U.S. Senate race, 43% to 34%.

A new Elon University poll shows Hagan ahead by four points, 45% to 41%.

Quote of the Day

"In the art of politics he's Michelangelo, and in the science of politics he is Einstein. He follows political results like a baseball junkie follows box scores. Because he has campaigned in so many places, he has absorbed and integrated millions of data points, yet can assemble them into a narrative that folks can follow."

-- Paul Begala, quoted by Businessweek, on Bill Clinton.

Bayh Will Not Run for Indiana Governor

Former Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh (D) told the Indianapolis Star that he won't try to win back his old job in 2016 was a "governing decision, not a political decision."

Said Bayh: "I didn't want to be a symbolic governor. I didn't want to just have the job for the title or for my ego. If I was going to run for governor and be governor, it was going to be because I had a realistic belief that I could get big, good things done for the people of Indiana. In the current political and legislative climate that was going to be problematic."

Paul Shifts Views to Seek Broader Appeal

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) "has built a reputation as a libertarian ideologue, a Washington outsider guided by a rigid devotion to principle," the Washington Post reports.

"But his policy vision is, in fact, a work in progress. While he has maintained his core support for cutting spending and protecting Americans' privacy rights, Paul has shaded, changed or dropped some of the ideas that he espoused as a tea party candidate and in his confrontational early days as a senator. As the prospect of a 2016 presidential bid looms larger, Paul is making it clear that he did not come to Washington to be a purist like his father, former congressman Ron Paul (R-TX)."

Palin Family Gives Their Side of the Brawl

"Palin has not commented publicly on the episode, and there is little doubt that the former Alaska governor would rather talk about anything else. But RealClearPolitics spoke with a source close to the Palin family, who wanted to provide their version of the events in question."

Clinton Teases White House Bid in Iowa

Hillary Clinton laid down a placeholder for a 2016 presidential bid Sunday during the feel-good nostalgia festival that was the Harkin Steak Fry, the Des Moines Register reports.

"She teased her White House ambitions by referring to 'that other thing' -- and elicited a reaction of delight from the audience of about 10,000 on a sunny hillside in rural Indianola."

Said Clinton: "Well. It is true. I am thinking about it. But for today, that is not why I'm here. I'm here for the steak."

Huffington Post: Hillary Clinton all but announces her presidential campaign

Revolt in Kansas Over Conservative Experiment

"Although every statewide elected official in Kansas is a Republican and President Obama lost the state by more than 20 points in the last election," Gov. Sam Brownback's (R) "proudly conservative policies have turned out to be so divisive and his tax cuts have generated such a drop in state revenue that they have caused even many Republicans to revolt," the New York Times reports.

"Projections put state budget shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually, raising questions of whether the state can adequately fund education in particular."

"This has boosted the hopes of the Democratic candidate, Paul Davis, the State House minority leader, who has shot up in the polls even though he has offered few specifics about how he would run the state. Many disaffected Republicans might give Mr. Davis their vote because, if nothing else, he is not Mr. Brownback."

Martinez Looks Safe in New Mexico

A new Albuquerque Journal in New Mexico finds Gov. Susana Martinez (R) leading challenger Dave King (D) by a wide margin, 54% to 36%.

Voters Split on Generic Ballot

A new Politico poll finds the two parties "were closely matched on the 2014 ballot, with 42% of likely voters planning to vote Democratic and 41% picking Republicans."

"That's a slight shift in the Democratic direction since July, when a Politico poll showed Republicans with a 2-point edge. But the movement can largely be explained by a shift in the polling sample: Since the poll tests only states and congressional districts that are the most competitive in the country, that list now includes more Democratic-leaning seats."

Archive: September 14, 2014

Bonus Quote of the Day

"Hello Iowa -- I'm ba-ack!"

-- Hillary Clinton, quoted by The Hill.

Battle for the Senate is a Toss Up

Just as some prominent election prognosticators seem ready to give Republicans the Senate, two forecasting models show the battle is essentially a toss up.

The Upshot now gives Republicans a 52% chance of winning control of the upper chamber, while Election Lab gives the GOP a 50% chance. The Votemaster also has the race as a toss up.

For comparison, FiveThirtyEight gives Republicans a 58% chance of taking the Senate.

Quote of the Day

"I think that I was not useful to him anymore -- he made the engagement thing four months before the elections. So this is not about his son, this is about his career and his ambitions."

-- Maria Belen Chapur, quoted by the New York Times, on Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) breaking off their engagement in a very public way.

New Poll Finds Quinn Leading in Illinois

A new Chicago Tribune poll in Illinois finds Gov. Pat Quinn (D) leading challenger Bruce Rauner (R) in the race for governor by double-digits, 48% to 37%.

Nearly every other recent poll has shown Rauner leading this race.

Archive: September 13, 2014

Quote of the Day

"The reliance on air power has all of the attraction of casual sex: It seems to offer gratification but with very little commitment."

-- Former CIA Director Michael Hayden, quoted by U.S. News & World Report, on airstrikes against the Islamic State.

Polls in Scotland on Independence Too Close to Call

"A series of tight polls ahead of an independence referendum next week suggests Scots might well make a momentous decision to secede from the United Kingdom," the Wall Street Journal reports.

"That reflects a surge of pro-independence fervor in the past several weeks. But aggregations of recent survey data still give the 'no' camp, which favors remaining in the U.K., a modest lead, and enough voters are undecided--and divining their intentions is sufficiently difficult--that the outcome of the ballot is too close to call. "

Clinton Laying the Groundwork for Another Run

Hillary Clinton "has said publicly that she will decide early next year whether she will undertake a second campaign for the presidency. But inside the Clinton operation, the groundwork is already quietly being laid for a candidacy," the New York Times reports.

"Mrs. Clinton is getting in better physical shape, a necessity for any potential candidate who faces the rigors of the campaign trail. Friends said she has more energy and has also been practicing yoga."

Maher Picks Unlikely Target to Defeat

Comedian Bill Maher named Rep. John Kline (R-MN) "as the viewer-nominated GOP lawmaker the funnyman wants to oust from Congress in his 'Flip a District' challenge," The Hill reports. "But Maher will have a tough time trying to defeat Kline, who's not a top Democratic target and is expected to cruise to a seventh term."

The Fix: "As it happens, Kline faces a rematch this year with the same guy he beat by eight points in 2012, former state Rep. Mike Obermueller (D). Except Obermueller this time is dealing with a much less favorable environment. And the Cook Political Report, which has rated 29 Republican seats as being potentially in play in the 2014 election, doesn't even include Kline among the least-vulnerable on that list."

Proposal to Split Up California Fails to Make Ballot

"A proposed ballot measure to carve California into six states failed to qualify for the November 2016 ballot Friday after election officials determined that backers did not collect enough valid signatures," the Sacramento Bee reports.

Archive: September 12, 2014

Sanford Calls Off Engagement

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) has a remarkably personal Facebook post detailing his struggles with his ex-wife Jenny. He also calls off his engagement with Maria Belen Chapur.

"No relationship can stand forever this tension of being forced to pick between the one you love and your own son or daughter, and for this reason Belen and I have decided to call off the engagement. Maybe there will be another chapter when waters calm with Jenny, but at this point the environment is not conducive to building anything given no one would want to be caught in the middle of what's now happening."

O'Malley Goes Big in Iowa

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's (D) "incipient presidential campaign already has 11 staffers on the ground in Iowa, working to elect Democrats and build valuable connections for 2016."

"Several sources have told the Daily Beast that the Maryland governor, a War of 1812 aficionado, has placed staffers through the Iowa Democratic Party's coordinated campaign, the umbrella organization that runs field efforts for all the Democratic candidates."

Democrats Solidify Leads in Must-Hold Senate Races

Nate Cohn: "A few months ago, the Democratic path to a Senate majority looked long and arduous... But today the Democratic path to victory looks as clear as it has at any point this year. That path remains narrow, to be sure. The Democrats will probably still need to sweep those five fairly close races. Yet with just two months to go, the Democrats appear to have an advantage in four of them. And the Democrats have other opportunities that might give them more breathing room."

"If Colorado and Michigan are penciled into the Democratic column, the Democrats would then need three more states to get to a majority. The Democrats have a fairly broad set of options for those states, but the likeliest possibility is that the election comes down to three states: Alaska, Iowa and North Carolina."

GOP Now Leads in the Generic Ballot

The HuffPost Pollster average shows Republicans have taken the lead in the generic congressional ballot for the first time this year.

Thirteen Days in September

Coming next week: Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David by Lawrence Wright.

New York Times: "In his minute-by-minute account of the talks Wright intersperses a concise history of Egyptian-Israeli relations dating from the story of Exodus. Even more important is Wright's understanding that Sadat, Begin and Carter were not just political leaders, but exemplars of the Holy Land's three internecine religious traditions."

Quote of the Day

"I owe America a global apology."

-- Sarah Palin, quoted by the Huffington Post, for being on the losing ticket for the 2008 presidential election.

GOP Lawmaker Dismisses Criticism for Male-Only Fundraiser

Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) was criticized by challenger Gwen Graham (D) "for organizing a men only fund-raiser," the Tampa Bay Times reports.

The event included this on the invitations: "Tell the Misses not to wait up because the after dinner whiskey and cigars will be smooth & the issues to discuss are many."

Southerland laughed at the criticism: "I live with five women. That's all I'm saying. I live with five women. Listen: Has Gwen Graham ever been to a lingerie shower? Ask her. And how many men were there?"

GOP Voters Continue to be More Engaged

Pew Research: "Republican voters are 15 points more likely than Democrats to say they've given a lot of thought to the election, and 12 points more likely to say they definitely will vote. GOP voters also express more enthusiasm about voting in the upcoming midterm."

"As a result, while the so-called generic ballot among registered voters slightly favors the Democrats (47% plan to vote for the Democratic candidate, while 42% plan to vote Republican), the likely electorate is more favorable to the GOP than the overall electorate. When the generic ballot is narrowed to a subset of voters most likely to cast votes in November, the result is more divided: 47% support the Republican candidate, while 44% favor the Democrat."

Ford Drops Mayoral Race

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has ended his re-election bid but his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, is replacing him in the mayoral race, the Toronto Star reports.

"Rob Ford was polling, after a chaotic, scandal-filled term, in second place, behind John Tory but ahead of Olivia Chow, when stomach pain sent him to the hospital Wednesday. The head of his health-care team at Mount Sinai Hospital told reporters Thursday that Ford has a 'fair size' mass in his abdomen."

Close Races in Georgia

A new Atlanta Journal Constitution poll in Georgia finds the race for governor is in a dead heat with Gov. Nathan Deal (R) barely ahead of challenger Jason Carter (D), 43% to 42%.

In the race for Senate, David Perdue (R) holds a slightly bigger lead over Michelle Nunn (D), 45% to 41%.

However, a new InsiderAdvantage poll finds Deal with a four point lead in the governor's race, 44% to 40%, and gives Perdue a 10 point lead in the Senate race, 50% to 40%.

Palin Party Turns Into a Rumble

"Police are investigating a brawl that took place in South Anchorage over the weekend involving around 20 people. A witness said it happened during a joint birthday party thrown in part for Todd Palin," Alaska Dispatch News reports.

"The Anchorage Police Department said a 'verbal and physical altercation' took place late Saturday night between multiple people outside a South Anchorage home in the 900 block of Harbor Circle, in the Oceanview neighborhood."

Amanda Coyne: "A nice, mellow party, until the Palin's show up. There's beer, of course, and maybe other things. Which is all fine, but just about the time when some people might have had one too many, a Track Palin stumbles out of a stretch Hummer, and immediately spots an ex-boyfriend of Willow's. Track isn't happy with this guy, the story goes. There's words, and more."

On Wonk Wire

Some great clicks over at Wonk Wire:

Clinton Heads to Iowa This Weekend

"You know it's a big event when the 42nd president of the United States is getting third billing," the Des Moines Register reports.

"Thousands of die-hard Iowa Democrats will gather Sunday on a hot-air balloon field in Indianola for U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin's 37th and final political steak fry as an elected leader. But while the hearts and minds of attendees will be sentimentally set on Harkin, a liberal champion retiring after 40 years in Congress, the eyes of the national political media will focus on featured guest Hillary Clinton -- the once and potentially future presidential candidate who is returning to Iowa for the first time since her defeat in the 2008 caucuses. Her husband -- some guy named Bill Clinton -- will be there, too."

First Read: "As we've said before, this is Hillary's first trip to Iowa since her defeat there in Jan. 2008. And as we've said before, it's the clearest sign yet that she's approaching the point of no return for a 2016 run -- if she's not running, that answer has to come soon."

Kirk Suggests First Lady Might Run for Senate

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) "is invoking first lady Michelle Obama as a possible 2016 opponent in a recent fundraising appeal, citing the 'press and rumor mills' as his source -- even though she has shown no interest in running for elected office," the Chicago Sun Times reports.

Udall Leads in Colorado

A new Denver Post poll in Colorado finds Sen. Mark Udall (D) leads challenger Cory Gardner (R) by 4 percentage points in the U.S. Senate race, 46% to 42%.

Missouri Enacts Waiting Period for Abortion

"The Republican-controlled Missouri legislature has enacted one of the most stringent waiting periods for women seeking abortions, overriding a veto by the state's Democratic governor, Jay Nixon," the New York Times reports.

"The bill, which will take effect next month, increases to 72 hours, from 24, the amount of time a woman must wait to undergo an abortion after first receiving counseling. It does not make exceptions for rape or incest."

GOP Holds Big Advantage in Midterms

A new Fox News poll finds likely voters prefer a Republican for Congress over a Democrats by a 47% to 40% margin.

"Recent Fox News polls of registered voters have shown a narrow Democratic advantage, although the lead bounced back and forth between the two parties for most of the spring and summer. Almost all Republicans and Democrats plan to vote for their party's candidate. Independents are twice as likely to say they would back the Republican over the Democrat, yet the largest number say they would vote for a third-party candidate or are still undecided."

In states with active U.S. Senate races, likely voters would back the Republican candidate in that race by a 48% to 39% margin. And when looking at the results in just the 14 Fox News battleground states, that GOP edge widens to 53% to 35% among likely voters.

Kansas Supreme Court Will Hear Senate Ballot Dispute

The Kansas Supreme Court said that it will hear the case of Chad Taylor (D), "a former Senate candidate who has filed a lawsuit seeking to be removed from the ballot. The outcome of the case could carry substantial implications in the battle for the Senate majority," the Washington Post reports.

"In a two-page order, Chief Justice Lawton R. Nuss said the court will hear oral arguments on Tuesday morning. It will not be heard by a district court, as requested by Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R)."

Paul Hits New Hampshire Hard

Boston Globe: "Perhaps more than any other potential 2016 presidential candidate," Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) "is putting an early emphasis on New Hampshire, a state where his father did well in 2012 and where the 'Live Free or Die' motto may provide a template for his ideology. He already has paid staff in the state, talks frequently with local activists, leads in an early poll, and on Thursday night arrived for his third trip of the year."

"New Hampshire, perhaps better than any other state, neatly illustrates the promise and the peril of any Rand Paul presidential campaign. Paul can capitalize on the passion that his father, Ron Paul, then a US House member from Texas, brought to some segments in the party during presidential bids in 2008 and 2012. But at the same time, Paul must distance himself from his father's ideology enough to be seen as a viable contender, not just a fringe candidate."

GOP Leads Most Governor's Races

Nate Cohn: "Republicans hold a narrow but broad advantage across this year's governor's contests, according to the newest round of data from The New York Times/CBS News/YouGov online panel of more than 100,000 respondents. They hold at least a nominal lead in 22 of this year's 35 governor's races."

"The sizable Republican advantage is mainly a reflection of incumbency. The Republicans won 23 of 37 states in 2010, and all but three of those Republicans are running for re-election this year. The three retiring Republicans are all from red states."

Democratic Tax Strategy Flops

President Obama and his Democratic allies "hoped to capitalize on the recent wave of companies ditching the U.S. to slice their tax bill as a populist issue to fire up the progressive base and bash Republicans as slaves to corporate interests. So far, rather than becoming the political whopper that Democrats dreamed of, the issue has turned out to be pretty much a massive dud," Politico reports.

"At the same time, Republicans seem increasingly comfortable arguing that companies looking to "invert" by moving their official address out of the U.S. highlights the disaster of the American Tax Code and the need for a complete overhaul, not another one-off fix sure to be shredded by corporate accounting wizards."

Archive: September 11, 2014

Cruz Booed Off Stage

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) "abruptly walked off stage at a gala for Middle Eastern Christians after he was booed for urging the audience to stand behind Israel and Jews," Bloomberg reports.

Cruz was the keynote speaker at the inaugural conference of a nonprofit group called In Defense of Christians.

"Christians have no greater ally than Israel," Cruz said, prompting a first round of jeering... He left the stage a short time later, telling the audience "if you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, I will not stand with you. Good night and God bless."

Hickenlooper in Tight Re-Election Race

A new Denver Post poll in Colorado finds Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) barely ahead of challenger Bob Beauprez (R) in the race for governor, 45% to 43%.

Kerry Says U.S. Not at War with ISIS

Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN he would not say the United States is at war with ISIS because the administration's strategy includes "many different things that one doesn't think of normally in context of war."

Said Kerry: "What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counterterrorism operation. It's going to go on for some period of time. If somebody wants to think about it as being a war with ISIL, they can do so, but the fact is it's a major counterterrorism operation that will have many different moving parts."

Hagan Up in North Carolina

A new Civtas poll in North Carolina finds that Sen. Kay Hagan (D) leads challenger Thom Tillis (R) in their race for the U.S. Senate, 46% to 43%.

A new Rasmussen survey finds Hagan ahead by six points, 45% to 39%.

Peters Holds Wide Lead in Michigan

A new Suffolk University poll in Michigan finds Gary Peters (D) leading Terri Lynn Land (R) in the U.S. Senate race by nine points, 46% to 37%.

Said pollster David Paleologos: "Recent independent ads linking Terri Lynn Land to the Koch brothers appear to be working. Land's favorability is upside-down, with a higher unfavorable rating."

Meanwhile, the race for the governor is much tighter, with Mark Schauer (D) leading Gov. Rick Snyder (R) by two points, 45% to 43%.

Bonus Quote of the Day

"I may not run in 2016, but I've spent the last 20-plus months preparing. If I don't run, it won't be because I'm not prepared."

-- Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

South Carolina Speaker Steps Down

South Carolina Speaker Bobby Harrell (R) "suspended himself" from office, "one day after being indicted on charges of misconduct of office and misusing campaign funds," the AP reports.

"The indictments allege that Harrell reimbursed himself with campaign funds for nonexistent airplane flights and other false claims."

GOP Holds Huge Edge on Terrorism

Gallup: "The Republican Party has expanded its historical edge over the Democratic Party in Americans' minds as being better able to protect the U.S. from international terrorism and military threats. At this point, 55% of Americans choose the GOP on this dimension, while 32% choose the Democratic Party. This is the widest Republican advantage in Gallup's history of asking this question since 2002."

Big Gender Gap Keeps Democrats in the Game

First Read: "In our latest survey, women preferred a Democratic-controlled Congress by seven points, 47%-40%. Although that's down from our previous polls and although Republicans have an ever bigger lead among men (12 points), do note that our Sept. 2010 NBC/WSJ poll showed Democrats with just a three-point edge among female voters, 46%-43%. Bottom line: Democrats holding on to the Senate will largely come down to whether they win women by double digits in November."

Quote of the Day

"Some people would call it chivalry, some people call it sexism -- that the man should come forward and not let the woman do time on his behalf."

-- U.S. District Judge Robert Scola, quoted by the Miami Herald, who gave former Rep. David Rivera's (R-FL) friend, Ana Alliegro, a one-year jail sentence.

New Jersey Downgraded Again

"New Jersey had its credit rating cut one step by Standard & Poor's, handing Chris Christie his eighth downgrade, the most ever for a Garden State governor," Bloomberg reports.

Obama's Breathtaking Expansion of War Powers

Jack Goldsmith: "Future historians will ask why George W. Bush sought and received express congressional authorization for his wars (against al Qaeda and Iraq) and his successor did not. They will puzzle over how Barack Obama the prudent war-powers constitutionalist transformed into a matchless war-powers unilateralist. And they will wonder why he claimed to 'welcome congressional support' for his new military initiative against the Islamic State but did not insist on it in order to ensure clear political and legal legitimacy for the tough battle that promised to consume his last two years in office and define his presidency....[Obama's] announcement...marks his latest adventure in unilateralism and cements an astonishing legacy of expanding presidential war powers."

Byron York: Five things that could go horribly wrong with Obama's action in Iraq

Overblown Reaction to ISIS?

The New York Times reports that as President Obama "prepares to send the United States on what could be a yearslong military campaign against the militant group, American intelligence agencies have concluded that it poses no immediate threat to the United States. Some officials and terrorism experts believe that the actual danger posed by ISIS has been distorted in hours of television punditry and alarmist statements by politicians, and that there has been little substantive public debate about the unintended consequences of expanding American military action in the Middle East."

Wonk Wire: Terrorism is not a major worry for Americans.

Students Asked to Compare Bush to Hitler

Some Washington, D.C. public school 7th graders "were assigned the rather unpatriotic task this week of comparing Adolf Hitler to former President George W. Bush. But now the school district wants you to know that such an intellectual exercise is not part of the official D.C. curriculum," the Washington City Paper reports.

GOP Mobilizes to Save Roberts

"The GOP's political machine is kicking into overdrive to save a Senate seat in Kansas that's suddenly complicating its path to the majority," Politico reports.

"With polls showing Sen. Pat Roberts in serious trouble against independent Greg Orman, top Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, are leaning on big-ticket donors to fill the long-time Kansas senator's campaign coffers. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and John McCain of Arizona are planning to barnstorm the state on Roberts' behalf. And in a bid to boost the senator's sagging poll numbers, the Roberts campaign is planning an ad blitz to cast his long record and seniority in Washington in a more positive light."

Cruz Moves Hint at White House Bid

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) "is continuing to send signals that he's running for president," Politico reports.

"The Texas senator's chief of staff, Chip Roy, a former top hand to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is leaving his role as chief of staff and will play a larger role in Cruz's political office, according to an aide with knowledge of the changes. He will gradually transition from the congressional office to serve as a senior political adviser for Cruz."

GOP Senate Increasingly Likely

Larry Sabato: "For several months, we've held steady on our range of expected gains for Republicans in the Senate: a net of four to eight seats. With Labor Day in the rearview mirror and with less than 55 days to go until the midterms, we're giving Republicans a slight bump: Our new range is a Republican net of five to eight Senate seats."

"This means that the best-case scenario we can now envision for Democrats is a 50-50 tie in the Senate, with Vice President Joe Biden's tiebreaking vote narrowly keeping Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) as majority leader."

"The likeliest outcome remains a Republican gain of six or seven seats, which we noted before Labor Day and stand by now. That would be good for a narrow 51-49 or 52-48 Republican Senate majority."

The Hill: "Senate Republicans are brimming with confidence they will be in the majority next year -- and say Democrats are beginning to acknowledge privately that harsh political reality."

Get Off John McCain's Lawn

Huffington Post: "Wednesday was former White House press secretary Jay Carney's first night as a CNN commentator, so the network did the nice thing and brought John McCain on to yell at him for a while about President Obama's speech on ISIS. Since McCain loves both TV and arguing, it made for a lengthy brawl. Carney mostly kept his cool and defended his former boss as McCain accused him of lying about lots of things. It ended when McCain left to appear on every other television channel on earth."

Lloyd Grove: "Jay Carney may have been hoping for a smooth debut as CNN's 'senior political commentator.' Instead, he was violently mugged on live TV by Senator John McCain."

McConnell Holds Solid Lead in Kentucky

A new Magellan Strategies poll in Kentucky finds Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) leads Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) in the U.S. Senate race by eight points, 50% to 42%, with Libertarian David Patterson at 6%

Ford Leaves Campaign Trail as Tumor is Found

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's "future in the mayoral race is again in question after he was admitted to hospital with an abdominal tumor on Wednesday... Doctors are still looking for a definitive diagnosis... It is not yet known what kind of tumor Ford has," the Toronto Star reports.

Ford was complaining of "left, lower quadrant abdominal pain" for three months before the pain became "unbearable" Wednesday morning, a doctor said.

Slight Majority Leans Against Independent Scotland

A new Survation poll in Scotland suggests 53% will vote in a referendum next week to stay in the United Kingdom while 47% will vote for independence.

Obama Extends Legacy of War

"In ordering a sustained military campaign against Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq, President Obama on Wednesday night effectively set a new course for the remainder of his presidency and may have ensured that he would pass his successor a volatile and incomplete war, much as his predecessor left one for him," the New York Times reports.

Ernst Just Ahead in Iowa

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Iowa finds Joni Ernst (R) with a slight lead over Bruce Braley (D) in the race for Senate, 45% to 43%.

Wolf Headed for Landslide

A new Quinnipiac poll in Pennsylvania finds Tom Wolf (D) has a commanding 24-point lead over Gov. Tom Corbett (R) among likely Pennsylvania voters with a little more than seven weeks until the election, 59% to 35%.

Archive: September 10, 2014

Obama Would Give More Speeches if Networks Let Him

Jay Carney: "The truth is we would do it more, but the networks, especially the broadcast networks, are not always willing to say yes. The threshold question is, you know, is it of national significance on a major issue something that the president feels the American people need to hear about? Matters of military force are the most obvious circumstances that merit a prime time address. There are also issues around significant domestic legislation, or national issues. He did a national speech launching health care reform that was primetime. It's not a well you can go back to that often, though, because it requires the networks to give the time." 

Democrats Push Bill to Let Military Train Enemies of ISIS

Senate Democratic leaders "prepared legislation to expressly authorize the United States military to train Syrian rebels to help battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and House Republicans appeared ready to follow their lead," the New York Times reports.

"The flurry of activity means that Congress is likely to weigh in on the looming military action before the midterm elections in eight weeks. House Republicans have called an emergency meeting for Thursday morning to discuss their options, and leaders are leaning toward a vote to express some support for a broader campaign against ISIS."

Bill Clinton is America's Favorite Politician

"When Bill Clinton left the White House in January 2001, Americans had experienced quite enough of the boisterous Big Dog and his unending dramas, both personal and political," the Los Angeles Times reports.

"All of which makes it rather remarkable that today Clinton, as reviled a figure as ever served in the White House, stands as arguably the most popular political figure in America."

"It's not just his desirability to campaign for Democrats who, apart from distant fundraising assistance, want absolutely nothing to do with the current occupant of the White House. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed that, alone among today's major political figures, Clinton is seen in an overwhelmingly positive light, with 56% approving of the former president compared to 21% who disapprove."

South Carolina Speaker Indicted

South Carolina Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell (R) has been indicted "on charges of using campaign funds for personal expenses, filing false campaign disclosure reports and misconduct in office," The State reports.

"It was the first time in memory, and maybe in history, that a sitting House Speaker has been indicted."

Candidates Will Draw Straws Unless Voter Brings ID

Jackson Clarion Ledger: "Unless a lone affidavit voter shows up with a valid photo ID before next Tuesday, Glenn Bolin and Stephanie Bounds will draw straws to see who becomes Poplarville alderman."

"In a special election runoff Tuesday, Bolin and Bounds each received 177 votes. But one voter showed up at the polls without a photo ID, as now required by law in Mississippi, and voted affidavit. That voter has five business days to bring in a valid ID, and could determine the election."

Cheney Attacks Obama Ahead of Speech

Dick Cheney "delivered a prebuttal of sorts" ahead of his nationally-televised statement tonight on combating the Islamic State, according to Business Insider.

Said Cheney: "In a few hours we'll hear what he has in mind for the terrorist onslaught currently in Iraq. We can hope for -- and we should look for -- signs of a forceful, bold, and immediate strategy to defeat ISIS. We can say already, however, that such a plan would mark an abrupt and dramatic departure from his rhetoric thus far."

He added that Obama was pursuing "utterly failed" policies that were "willfully blind" of what is needed to maintain U.S. security.

Conversation with Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark

Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark, authors of Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs and Washington Handshakes, joined us on the Political Wire podcast for a fascinating discussion of political jargon and what it really means.

Listen here:

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Special thanks to the Cook Political Report for sponsoring this episode. If you don't already subscribe, you're nuts.

Carney Joins CNN After Leaving White House

Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney will join CNN as a political commentator, Politico reports.

He will start tonight as President Obama makes a prime-time statement about combating the Islamic State.

The Midterm Tipping Point?

First Read: "The other major headline from our new NBC/WSJ poll is how Republicans have the clear advantage heading into November's midterms. Two-thirds of voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction -- a higher percentage than at this point in the 2006 and 2010 midterm elections. Obama's overall approval rating stands at 40%, tied for his all-time low in the poll. And Republicans hold a two-point advantage, 45%-43%, on which party should control Congress. That margin expands to 10 points - 50%-40% - in the states holding this year's most-competitive Senate contests."

Obama's Prime Time Challenge

President Obama will address the nation in a prime-time speech at 9 p.m. ET on the threat posed by the Islamic State.

Morning Line: "The president's challenge tonight -- the day before the 13th anniversary of 9/11 -- is to sell military action to a war-weary country skeptical of military intervention and of his ability to lead. By the way, don't expect it to be a long speech, which may indicate an address meant to make the moral case but short on detail."

First Read: "It's also worth pointing out that Obama's speech tonight is unusual for a president outlining a strategy for military action. Why unusual? Because the country is already there; in some ways, it's the public trying to rally the Commander-in-Chief."

Scott Brown's Lady Problems

Stephen Colbert absolutely skewered Scott Brown on his show last night. It's hilarious.

Quote of the Day

"Someone came up and said, 'Hey, you know, I'd love to meet Scott.' ... He said, 'I always thought Scott was kind of a phony from Massachusetts.' And I said, you gotta sit down with him, because -- he sat down, they had their little conversation, he walked away. You know what he said? He goes, 'That guy was -- he's not a -- he's a phony from New Hampshire that just happened to live in Massachusetts for a little while. He's more New Hampshire than most people we have in New Hampshire.'"

-- New Hampshire GOP official Chris Sununu, quoted by the Washington Post, introducing New Hampshire U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown (R).

Snyder Clings to Narrow Lead in Michigan

A new Detroit News-WDIV poll in Mihchigan shows Gov. Rick Snyder (R) leading challenger Mark Schauer (D), 44% to 42%.

Said pollster Richard Czuba: "The dynamics are not the same as they were four years ago. This is a true toss-up."

Nunn Closes the Gap with Perdue

A new SurveyUSA poll in Georgia finds David Perdue's (R) lead over Michelle Nunn (D) went from 9 points to 3 in he last three weeks ago, 57% to 44%.

In the race for governor, Jason Carter (D) edges Gov. Nathan Deal (R), 45% to 44%.

Obama Rebuffed at Top Golf Courses

President Obama "was turned down at several top golf courses in Westchester while he was visiting the area over Labor Day weekend," sources tell NBC New York.

"The Trump National Golf Club, the Winged Foot and Willow Ridge were among some of the elite courses that rebuffed the president's request to tee off there... Club managers apparently did not want to inconvenience their high-powered and high-paying members over Labor Day weekend by shutting down their courses to accommodate the president."

People Really Don't Like the Republican Party

The Fix: "The reclamation project that is the Republican Party has long been stunted by one pesky fact: People freaking hate the Republican Party."

"Poll after poll shows President Obama is unpopular and the Democratic Party is a little more unpopular. Neither, though, can touch the GOP, whose congressional contingent has a whopping 72 percent disapproval rating in the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll. Nearly half of Americans -- 47 percent -- say they 'strongly' disapprove of the GOP."

Clinton Allies Portray Her as More 'Decisive' than Obama

"Allies to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are casting a stark distinction between a decisive, assertive Clinton and a pragmatic, deliberative President Obama on foreign policy," The Hill reports.

"As Obama seeks to make the case for military action against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in a prime-time address on Wednesday, Clinton supporters are saying that she would have approached the battle with ISIS in a completely different way if she were commander in chief."

Obama Ready to Authorize Air Strikes in Syria

"President Obama is prepared to authorize airstrikes in Syria, a senior administration official said on Tuesday, taking the military campaign against the Sunni militant group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, into new and unpredictable terrain," the New York Times reports.

"But Mr. Obama is still wrestling with a series of challenges, including how to train and equip a viable ground force to fight ISIS inside Syria, how to intervene without aiding President Bashar al-Assad, and how to enlist potentially reluctant partners like Turkey and Saudi Arabia."

Washington Post: "The president does not believe he needs Congress's approval for expanded airstrikes against the Islamic State on either side of the Iraq-Syria border, according to foreign-policy experts."

GOP Uses Middle East Crisis in Midterms

Politico: "In campaigns across the country, Republicans are seizing on what they call the Obama administration's feckless response to Islamic State militants as part of a broader case to voters to turn against Democrats in November. Their argument: Barack Obama is a disengaged figure whose power needs to be checked."

Foley Leads in Connecticut

A new Quinnipiac poll in Connecticut finds Tom Foley (R) leads Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) by 6 percentage points, 46% to 40%.

Rounds Well Ahead in South Dakota

A new Survey USA poll in South Dakota finds Mike Rounds (R) comfortably ahead of Rick Weiland (D) in the U.S. Senate race, 39% to 28%, with Larry Pressler (I) at 25%.

Archive: September 09, 2014

Tierney Ousted in Massachusetts Primary

Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) "has conceded in his Democratic primary race against upstart Seth Moulton (D), an Iraq War veteran who waged a strong campaign against his fellow Democrat," the Boston Globe reports.

"Moulton, a Harvard University graduate and Marine veteran, went after Tierney with negative advertising that claimed he'd passed just one bill in his 18 years in Washington, D.C."

Fear of Terror Attack Soars

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll finds that 47% of Americans believe the country is less safe now than before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"That's a significant increase from even a year after the twin towers fell when in September 2002 just 20% of the country said the nation was less safe. The level of fear across America also is up substantially from last year when 28% felt the same way."

Said pollster Peter Hart: "The beheadings are so chilling to the American public. The only things I think of equal impact are the self-immolations back in Vietnam."

Big Majority Say Congress Is Worst in Their Lifetime

A new CNN/ORC poll finds that a whopping 83% of Americans say they disapprove of how Congress is handling its job, while 65% describe it as the "worst Congress of their lifetime."

Cheney Says Obama Backed Muslim Brotherhood

Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) told the Daily Beast that Vice President Dick Cheney said to House Republicans this morning that President Obama "has actually done things that have supported the Muslim Brotherhood." The former vice president then went on to name the Muslim Brotherhood as "the beginning of all the Islamist groups that we're dealing with now like Hamas and ISIS."

In Fleming's account, Cheney said that by "facilitating the Muslim Brotherhood...our policies have been exactly opposite to where they should be."

2016 GOP Field Lacks Foreign Policy Credentials

New York Times: "As President Obama prepares to announce his strategy on Wednesday for combating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, there is no shortage of condemnation from Republicans like Mr. Paul, Mr. Cruz and Mr. Jindal, who are considering running for president in 2016. Yet they, like almost every Republican who might try to succeed Mr. Obama, have a common résumé gap: foreign policy experience."

"In fact, several of them will have to confront an especially glaring paradox. Like Mr. Obama when he first ran for president, they are relatively young first-term senators, with limited experience beyond the country's borders."

Crist Slightly Ahead in Florida

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Florida finds Charlie Crist (D) leading Gov. Rick Scott (R) in the race for governor, 42% to 39%.

Heidemann Abruptly Quits in Nebraska

Nebraska Lt. Gov. LaVon Heidemann (R) has resigned, the Omaha World-Herald reports.

Heidemann also quit as running mate for Pete Ricketts (R), just one day "after a court issued a protection order to his sister, who alleged that he grabbed her wrist and pushed her in a quarrel over their elderly mother."

Kasich Discusses Possible White House Bid

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) was asked by the Columbus Dispatch if he would run for president if he wins re-election this year.

Said Kasich: "I have never really sat down with my great friends, with my close friends that I've known for 30 years, and said, 'What do you think?' Until you do that, you can't even think about it, because I think most of 'em would probably say no."

He added: "It's a big, big commitment. It's about the family ... and the other thing is, I like the job I have. I like being governor. I think I can influence the national debate, perhaps, by what we do here. You know, I tried to run for president once... It was really brutal."

Peters Widens Lead in Michigan

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Michigan finds Gary Peters (D) matching his largest lead ever over Terri Lynn Land (R) in the U.S. Senate race, 43% to 36%, with third party candidates combining for 7%.

Key finding: "The story of the race is Land's continually declining favorability. She has dropped a net 28 points since December, from starting out at +11 (34/23) to falling all the way down now to -17 (32/49). Michigan is a Democratic state to begin with, and Peters is getting 12% of the Republican vote, while only 5% of Democrats say they're going to vote for Land."

In the race for governor, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is barely ahead of Mark Schauer (D), 43% to 42%.

Kasich Holds Big Lead in Ohio

A new Akron Buckeye Poll in Ohio finds Gov. John Kasich (R) with a solid lead over challenger Ed Fitzgerald (D), 40% to 21%, with a large 39% still undecided.

Bonus Quote of the Day

"It's an election year. A lot of Democrats don't know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don't want to change anything. We like the path we're on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long."

-- Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), quoted by the New York Times, anticipating President Obama's remarks tomorrow night on combating ISIS.

Cheney Says Obama Ignored Terror Threat

Dick Cheney told House Republicans that the United States took its eye off the terror threat during President Obama's watch, The Hill reports.

"His appearance at the House GOP's weekly conference meeting was notable in coming a day ahead of Obama's address to the nation on the threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria."

Human Mounts Bid in New Hampshire

A candidate who legally changed his name to "human" is running against New Hampshire state Rep. Rose Marie Rogers (D) in a primary today, the AP reports.

Quote of the Day

"First of all, I think she's fantastic and incredibly strong. But the problem with inevitability is it's sometimes interpreted as entitlement and I think that voters want competition and they want their candidates to have to work for it. We don't have to really get too deep into that because she hasn't declared yet, but it's just a concern that I hope her campaign keeps in mind."

-- Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), quoted by the Palm Beach Post, on Hillary Clinton.

An Ugly Election Ahead for Democrats

Charlie Cook: "The Democrats whom I have talked and emailed with in recent weeks seem increasingly resigned to an ugly midterm election. Of course, it's not likely to be the wipeout that 2010 was--after all, in the House, the best news for Democrats is that you can't lose seats you don't have. After losing 63 seats in 2010 and getting only eight back in 2012, Democrats don't have that many more they can lose."

"While the contest for the majority in the Senate has many facets, none is more important than whether Democrats can hold onto any of their six most vulnerable seats: those that are up in states that Mitt Romney carried in 2012. Three of them--the open seats in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia--look pretty hopeless for Democrats. The remaining three incumbents--Mark Begich in Alaska, where Romney won by 14 points; Mark Pryor in Arkansas, which Romney carried by 24 points; and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, where Romney won by 17 points--all look increasingly problematic for Democrats... If Democrats get wiped out in red states, that could be the whole ball game when it comes to Senate control."

Republicans Move to the Middle

"With primary season over, the GOP is beginning to inch back to the center," The Hill reports.

"Republican Senate and House candidates have begun to loudly embrace more moderate policies such as an increase in the minimum wage and over-the-counter birth control in an effort to win over swing voters and soften their image. GOP strategists say the battle between now and Election Day to decide control of the Senate and the size of Republicans' House majority will focus on that sliver of voters in the middle."

Most See Obama as a Divider

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that Americans by a 17-point margin say President Obama "has done more to divide than to unite the country, a rating worse than George W. Bush's early in his poorly rated second term - and one that's deteriorated among Obama's supporters as well as among his critics."

Colbert Says Obama Stole Immigration Reform Idea from GOP

Stephen Colbert is angry with President Obama's delay on immigration reform: "He stole that idea from the Republicans. They've had the idea of putting off doing something about immigration reform for over a decade."

Obama's Words Come Back to Haunt Him

New York Times: "When President Obama addresses the nation on Wednesday to explain his plan to defeat Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria, it is a fair bet he will not call them the 'JV team.' Nor does he seem likely to describe Iraq as 'sovereign, stable and self-reliant' with a 'representative government.' And presumably he will not assert after more than a decade of conflict that 'the tide of war is receding.'"

"As he seeks to rally Americans behind a new military campaign in the Middle East, Mr. Obama finds his own past statements coming back to haunt him. Time and again, he has expressed assessments of the world that in the harsh glare of hindsight look out of kilter with the changed reality he now confronts."

Obama Ratings Hit New Lows

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that only 43% of Americans say President Obama is a strong leader, the lowest reading since he entered the White House. Just over half the country says his presidency has been a failure, although partisanship colors that judgment.

"His overall foreign policy ratings are his lowest yet in a Post-ABC News poll. A majority says the president is too cautious when it comes to international problems and specifically in dealing with Islamic State militants. His handling of Russian aggression in Ukraine receives somewhat better marks, but more than 4 in 10 still say he is too cautious."

Many Administration Jobs Not Filled

A Politico analysis "of the 15 Cabinet agencies plus several other departments with high-priority policy agendas found a recurring theme for the outgoing Obama administration: plentiful job openings and several slots where long-term vacancies could have real-world consequences for policies from national security to the economy and the environment."

Archive: September 08, 2014

Orman Leads Roberts in Kansas

A new SurveyUSA poll in Kansas finds Greg Orman (I) leading Sen. Pat Roberts (R) in the U.S. Senate race, 37% to 36%.

Chad Taylor (D), who dropped out of the race but may remain on the ballot, would get 10%.

Staffer Accuses Top Republican of Ethics Violations

Roll Call: "A former communications director for House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers sent reporters a 1,959-word email Monday accusing the Washington Republican of 'retribution' in connection with an ethics complaint against her office -- a serious charge that is the latest alleged impropriety in an ongoing Ethics Committee investigation."

Voters Split on Scottish Independence

A new TNS poll in Scotland finds 39% opposed to independence for Scotland, 38% in favor of independence and 23% who don't know.

Congressional Approval at Just 14%

"With less than two months to go before the midterm congressional elections, 14% of Americans approve of how Congress is handling its job. This rating is one of the lowest Gallup has measured in the fall before a midterm election since 1974."

LBJ and Reagan

Out this month: Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America by Jonathan Darman.

Republicans Set to Gain at Least 7 Senate Seats

Stu Rothenberg: "While the current Rothenberg Political Report ratings don't show it, I am now expecting a substantial Republican Senate wave in November, with a net gain of at least seven seats. But I wouldn't be shocked by a larger gain."

"I've witnessed 17 general elections from my perch in D.C., including eight midterms, and I sometimes develop a sense of where the cycle is going before survey data lead me there. Since my expectations constitute little more than an informed guess, I generally keep them to myself. This year is different. I am sharing them with you."

Roberts Has Only Been Home 7 Times This Year

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) said he's "damn proud" to live in Dodge City, KS but added he's only been home "about seven times" this year, BuzzFeed reports.

Is Boxer Ready to Retire?

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) "says she has yet to make up her mind about seeking a fifth term in 2016, but there's no shortage of signs that the Democrat may be opting out," the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

"It's not just that she has less than $200,000 in her campaign account, compared with $3.5 million at this stage before her last election fight. Some comments from those who know the 73-year-old senator are also telling."

Lawmaker Defends Right to Fire Gays

Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) compared the right to fire gay workers with the right to smoke cigarettes on private property, ThinkProgress reports.

Said Pittenger: "You need to respect the autonomy of somebody running their business. It's like smoking bans. Do you ban smoking or do people have the right to private property? I think people have the right to private property. In public spaces, absolutely, we can have smoking bans. But we don't want to micromanage people's lives and businesses. If you have a business, do you want the government to come in and tell you you need to hire somebody? Why should government be there to impose on the freedoms we enjoy?"

Baseball Could Decide the Midterm Elections

Roll Call: "For most of the country, this October's television airwaves are filled with two things -- baseball and politics -- and the two rarely mix. But the mid-autumn climax of Major League Baseball could impact the Senate playing field in key states where teams are primed to make the playoffs. Televised sports make for a desirable market for political advertisers because viewers are less likely to record and fast-forward through commercials."

Bonus Quote of the Day

"If John McCain were in charge we'd be in seven different wars right now across the world."

-- Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), quoted by BuzzFeed.

Braley Has Lead in Iowa

A new Loras College poll in Iowa finds Bruce Braley (D) leading Joni Ernst (R) in the U.S. Senate race by four points, 45% to 41%.

Quote of the Day

"I believe in being a happy conservative."

-- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), in an interview with David Brody.

On Wonk Wire

Some great clicks over at Wonk Wire:

Why the Battle for the Senate Matters

Morning Line: "It's easy to dismiss this election and say it doesn't matter all that much, because there will be continued gridlock. And in a lot of ways, because of the 60 vote threshold to pass almost any legislation, that's true. But here are two reasons why the election does matter: (1) this is an obvious one, but it's about tone and power positioning. For the first two years of the Obama presidency, Washington was dominated by Democrats. Then one piece shifted to Republicans with their taking the House after the 2010 midterms. Obama was re-elected in 2012 and Democrats held the Senate but now that is threatened. If Republicans take the Senate, it will be a further erosion of this president's leverage in his last two years. (2) A more practical and overlooked area is judges. When Majority Leader Harry Reid changed the rules to require just just a simple majority to fill lower court vacancies, this president has been able to fast track his nominees. If Republicans control the chamber, it will be much harder for this president to get them through."

Said Jeff Greenfield: "With control over the Senate machinery and all committees, I'm not sure Obama could put a single federal judge on the bench-not to mention the end of whatever domestic agenda he might have."

Tierney in Tight Primary Fight

Three new polls -- from Emerson College, Public Policy Polling and Remington Research -- find Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) in an unexpectedly tight primary race with challenger Seth Moulton (D).

Reed Will Raise Money for Carter

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D) "says he will host a fundraiser for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter later this month. Reed divulged the plan exclusively to 11Alive News, ending an impasse in one of the year's most unlikely political dramas."

Said Reed: "I said that I was going to support the nominee of the party and I'm getting ready to do more for Jason Carter more than he ever did for me."

Gay Marriage Ruling Could Open 2016 Door for Portman

Cleveland Plain Dealer: "He could be hailed as farsighted, a serious leader who opened his party's doors for all people and generations. Rob Portman could be the Republican Party's first post-gay-marriage presidential candidate."

"Social conservatives say a Portman presidency, let alone candidacy, cannot happen for that very reason - that Republicans will vote in primaries to reject someone who flipped on gay marriage. Social conservatives see the issue as fundamental to their values."

"Yet several forces, political as well as demographic, may converge to render a presidential candidacy by Portman, the Ohio Republican U.S. senator, as at least nominally viable. Key to this is the fact that a Portman candidacy could align with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that would end the legal and constitutional fight over same-sex marriage. Such a ruling could come by next summer, well before the Republican voters go to the first 2016 caucuses and primaries."

Where Paul Ryan Thinks

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) told the Washington Examiner that many of the ideas in his new book, The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea, "came to him while sitting in a tiny tree stand, bow hunting for deer in rural Wisconsin."

Said Ryan: "A lot of it actually came from that. It is hard to explain to people who aren't hunters. It is very peaceful, very cathartic. It really is pretty much the only 'me time' I have anymore and it just helps you clear your mind."

The Richest Members of Congress

Roll Call has its annual list of the 50 richest members of Congress.

Nagin to Report to Prison

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin "was due to report to federal prison on Monday to begin serving a 10-year sentence for corruption during the years when the city was struggling to recover from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina," Reuters reports.

Politics of Terror Returns

"The politics of terrorism have returned with a vengeance for the midterm elections," The Hill reports.

"National security dominated the first election cycles after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, with Democrats fearful of being labeled unpatriotic if they criticized then-President George W. Bush. The Republican advantage eroded years later as public opinion soured against the Iraq War. By the time President Obama sought reelection in 2012, he was able to tout the killing of Osama bin Laden to portray Democrats as the party of strength in foreign policy."

"But now, with the 13th anniversary of 9/11 just days away, Obama and the Democrats are back on the defensive."

How the GOP Can Win the Senate

The AP lists five ways the GOP can win control of the U.S. Senate in the midterm elections.

Supporters of Scottish Independence Take Lead

A new YouGov poll finds "supporters of Scottish independence from Britain have taken their first opinion poll lead since the referendum campaign began, indicating a real possibility that they might win."

"With less than two weeks to go before the Sept. 18 vote, the poll put the 'Yes' to independence campaign on 51% against 'no' camp on 49%, overturning a 22-point lead for the unionist campaign in just a month."

Romney Foreign Policy Team Stays Together

Josh Rogin: "Early in 2013, leaders of the foreign policy team that guided presidential candidate Mitt Romney regrouped under a new banner and began working to influence lawmakers and potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates, keeping their work secret."

"Now the 'John Hay Initiative,' a nonprofit organization named after the private secretary to Abraham Lincoln who eventually rose to be Teddy Roosevelt's secretary of state, is planning its first public event, a national security speech by 2016 hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio on September 17 in Washington."

Archive: September 07, 2014

Romney Says He Would Have Been Better

Mitt Romney said there's "no question" he would've been a better president than President Obama, The Hill reports.

Said Romney: "I think the president is really out of touch with reality with what's going on in the world."

Obama Will Lay Out Strategy to Defeat Islamic State

President Obama "will lay out plans this week for expanding the U.S. military campaign against the extremist group Islamic State, including the possibility of airstrikes on the militants in their Syrian strongholds," the Wall Street Journal reports.

"His appeal for support to a divided Congress and a doubtful American public comes as the U.S. military is broadening its month-old campaign of air attacks against the Sunni fighters in Iraq. An intense barrage of Americans airstrikes on Sunday hit militants trying to seize control of the strategic Haditha Dam in Iraq's Sunni heartland northwest of Baghdad."

New York Times: "The planned speech suggests that the president may be moving closer to a decision on whether to expand the month-old air campaign against ISIS in Iraq into Syria, and it is Mr. Obama's latest attempt to answer critics who charge that he lacks a viable plan or the fortitude to go after the group."

Maureen McDonnell Predicted Jail

Six months before Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and his wife Maureen were charged with public corruption, the Washington Post reports the first lady made a stark prediction to her manicurist: "Her husband would go to jail, she said, and it would all be her fault."

"In December, prosecutors offered to let the former governor plead guilty to just one count of lying to a bank. Maureen McDonnell would avoid charges entirely. He flatly declined, refusing to plead guilty to a crime he has said he did not commit... Maureen McDonnell has told friends and supporters that he declined the deal without consulting her."

Cruz Says Instability May Inspire Him to Run for President

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) hinted in an interview that "growing instability around the world could help convince him to run for president in 2016," Politico reports.

Said Cruz: "It increases my interest in doing everything I can to change the direction we're on. The American people in 2014 and also November 2016 are going to be looking for leaders who want to work to restore America's leadership in the world."

Clear Path to Senate Majority Opens for Republicans

Nate Silver: "Pollsters are picking up the pace after a slow start in this midterm election season... The bottom line is not much has changed. The FiveThirtyEight forecast model gives Republicans a 65.1% chance of winning the Senate with the new polling added, similar to the 63.5% chance that our previous forecast gave them on Friday."

"But the path to a Republican majority is becoming a little clearer -- and the problem for Democrats is that it runs through six deeply red states."

Meanwhile, The Upshot gives Republicans a 61% chance of taking the Senate.

Bonus Quote of the Day

"My time has come and gone."

-- Mitt Romney, in an interview on Fox News, insisting he's not running for president again.

GOP Wants to Move Quickly to Keep Government Open

A House GOP leadership aide told BuzzFeed that no final decisions have been made on the exact timing for a continuing resolution vote, but acknowledged "our objective is to get it done quickly."

"With the election less than two months away, leadership is eager to wrap up its 10-day session without committing any unforced errors, focusing instead on message votes on jobs and energy. Speaker John Boehner's ability to control his caucus is tenuous, and the short time between now and election day means he doesn't have time for a messy, drawn out fight to pass major legislation."

"Aides suggested the quick turnaround on the continuing resolution is to keep the Republican Party's 'Trouble Makers Caucus,' led by Sen. Ted Cruz, from organizing any sort of rebellion and prompting another government shutdown."

Obama Admits Golf Optics are Bad

President Obama "said he was near tears while talking to the parents of slain U.S. journalist James Foley, and he appeared to express some misgivings about his decision to play golf minutes after delivering an angry public statement about Foley's killing in Syria three weeks ago," the Washington Post reports.

Said Onama: "I should've anticipated the optics. Part of this job is also the theater of it. It's not something that always comes naturally to me. But it matters."

McConnell Opens Up Lead in Kentucky

A new NBC/Marist poll in Kentucky finds Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) has opened up an eight point lead over challenger Alison Grimes (D) in the U.S. Senate race, 47% to 39%.

Cotton Leads in Arkansas

A new NBC/Marist poll in Arkansas finds Tom Cotton (R) leads Mark Pryor (D) by five points in the U.S. Senate race, 45% to 40%.

Udall Holds Lead in Colorado

A new NBC/Marist poll in Colorado finds Sen. Mark Udall (D) leads challenger Cory Gardner (R) by six points in the U.S. Senate race, 48% to 42%.

Perry Calendar Shows Policy Study Sessions

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) "has quietly set up weekly meetings with business titans and media heads and hunkered down with policy experts -- many from George W. Bush's administration and Mitt Romney's campaign," according to a review of his official calendar by the Dallas Morning News.

"Perry has frequently said that if he jumps into another presidential race, he will not make the same mistakes he did during his disastrous outing in 2012. One of the most damaging was his struggle discussing policy issues in depth. In the most evident display of his intentions, the calendar shows Perry is studiously preparing for another run."

Quote of the Day

"I'm being honest now about the politics of it."

-- President Obama, in an interview on Meet the Press, about his decision to delay action in immigration reform.

Will Dark Horse Candidates Upend GOP Race Again?

"As the 2016 White House race begins to form, more than a few dark horse GOP candidates could end up breaking away from the pack. With the Republican presidential field wide open, the campaign could be a repeat 2012, when even candidates thought to be longshots briefly stole the spotlight and spiked in the polls," The Hill reports.

"Republican National Committee rules have changed since then, shrinking the debate schedule that gave underdog candidates a chance to leap out front. Still, the lack of any clear front-runners, the rise of single-candidate super-PACs and the ease of reaching voters online with less money and free media makes it easier than ever for anyone to gain traction with a catchy message."

Archive: September 06, 2014

Le Pen Would Beat Hollande in Runoff

A new poll finds far right candidate Marine Le Pen would defeat French President Francois Hollande in a runoff by eight points, 54% to 46%.

"The survey confirmed earlier polls showing Le Pen leading all other contenders in the first round. But it was the first time she had been shown ahead of a mainstream candidate in the second round - a scenario regarded to date as unrealistic."

Scott Holds Slight Edge in Florida

A new Mason-Dixon poll in Florida shows Gov. Rick Scott (R) leading challenger Charlie Crist (D) in the governor's race, 43% to 41%.

Cuomo Briefly Campaigns

Three days before the Democratic primary on Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) "lurched into re-election mode on Saturday with a pair of campaign stops in Manhattan and Queens," the New York Times reports.

"It was his first political outing of the campaign season, and a modest one at that. But it also offered a preview of how Mr. Cuomo, who is seeking a second term, plans to frame his case for re-election as the general election in November approaches."

Obama Will Delay Immigration Action Until After Elections

President Obama "will delay executive action on immigration until after the midterm elections, White House officials said Saturday, a bow to political pressure from Democrats in tough Senate races who had complained the expected action could hurt their campaigns," the Wall Street Journal reports.

"The delay breaks Mr. Obama's promise, broadcast from the Rose Garden in June, that he would act on his own by summer's end to set new policy on immigration. It was widely expected that Mr. Obama would act without Congress to scale back deportations of illegal immigrants and possibly offer work permits to many people in the U.S. illegally. Now, the White House is saying that the president will act by year's end."

Bush's Daughters are Not Republicans

Neither of former President George W. Bush's twin daughters are registered as Republicans, the New York Daily News reports.

Jenna Bush Hager mistakenly signed up with the Independence Party in New York when she meant to declare herself an independent. Records show her sister, Barbara, is registered to vote in Texas as unaffiliated with any party.

GOP Candidate Holding 'Hobo Stew' Fundraiser

San Luis Obispo County supervisor candidate Lynn Compton (R) is holding a "hobo stew" fundraiser, the Cal Coast News reports.

"The Compton campaign is planning an Oct. 5 fundraiser at the Oceano train depot in which attendees are invited to come dressed in hobo attire and eat soup dubbed hobo stew."

A New Down-Ballot Battle

Patricia Murphy: "The office of secretary of state was once little more than a pit stop on the road to higher office--four years of resume building that included inglorious duties like licensing beauticians and other small businesses, maintaining state historical records, and running around the state handing out proclamations to civic groups. But more than three dozen secretaries of state across the country have one duty that's as serious as they come: They oversee and administer elections."

"Over the last several years, secretary of state offices have taken on a new and more controversial role as partisan legislatures pushed changes to election laws and secretaries of state were charged with making decisions on everything from ballot language to voter eligibility to voting hours and crucial calls in contested elections. The decisions ultimately affect not only who votes in elections, but often who wins them... As the jobs have gained prominence and power, so has the pressure for the two parties to win them."

Davis Discloses Abortion in New Memoir

Wendy Davis (D), "in her memoir due out next week, discloses the most personal of stories preceding her nationally marked fight against tighter abortion restrictions: a decision she and her then-husband made 17 years ago to end a much-wanted pregnancy," the San Antonio Express News reports.

McDonnell Conviction Could Spur More Corruption Cases

"The prosecution of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell could have far-reaching effects on federal public-corruption cases -- making it easier for prosecutors to bring ­charges against those accused of abusing their official powers," the Washington Post reports.

Roberts Set to Debate Independent Challenger

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) "is preparing for his first debate with a surprisingly strong independent campaign challenger in a race that has become an unexpected battleground in the broader fight for control of the Senate," the AP reports.

"The race was upended this week. Democrat Chad Taylor ended his campaign, presumably boosting Orman's chances. Meanwhile, Roberts overhauled his struggling campaign."

New Jersey Downgraded Again

"Wall Street analysts at Fitch Ratings today downgraded New Jersey's bond rating for the second time this year, citing the state's poor economic performance, Gov. Chris Christie's rosy revenue forecasts -- which failed to materialize -- and his decision to plug the resulting budget gap by cutting $2.4 billion in funding for the state's strained pension system," the Newark Star Ledger reports.

Archive: September 05, 2014

Flashback Quote of the Day

"Just reading books. I've got 25 books on my night stand. Actually 26... I got a bunch of them there I'd like to read. But that, honestly, a little R and R and a lot of pleasure reading is what I'd like to do."

-- Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), quoted by the New York Times last year, on what he wanted to do once leaving office.

A History of the Republican Party

Out this month: To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party by Heather Cox Richardson.

McCain is Most Frequent Guest on Sunday Morning

The Upshot notes the most frequent guest on the Sunday morning talk shows has been Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). The second most popular guest is Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Clinton Plans Decision in January

Hillary Clinton said that she would probably decide on a potential presidential bid from the start of next year, Reuters reports.

Said Clinton: "I am going to be making a decision...probably after the first of the year about whether I'm going to run again or not."

Quote of the Day

"Mr. Brown, tear up those talking points. For heaven's sake, you vote with President Obama more than you vote with the Republican Party."

-- Bob Smith (R), quoted by the Concord Monitor, in a GOP Senate debate with Scott Brown (R).

Parnell Campaign Mistakenly Sent Political Email

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell's (R) "re-election campaign mistakenly sent a fundraising email to an unknown number of state employee inboxes, prompting the state Department of Administration to quickly notify all 18,000 employees that using state resources for 'partisan political purposes' is illegal," the Alaska Dispatch News reports.

Deval Patrick is Open to a White House Bid

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) "walked closer towards a run for the White House, acknowledging it is on his radar screen," WMUR reports.

Said Patrick: "There are a lot of people who have asked me to think about it. I'm under no illusions. It's a huge decision, not just for me but for my family."

When pressed, he added: "Maybe, but not right away."

The Clinton Factor

Morning Line: "While everyone is focused on what Hillary Clinton will do in 2016, don't look beyond this election so quickly and what Bill Clinton is doing. Friday, for example, he's in Florida stumping in Miami for Charlie Crist, the once critical former Republican governor trying to win again as governor -- this time as a Democrat. Flying below the radar, Clinton has been to Kentucky twice for Alison Lundergan Grimes and will be in Iowa next week for the Harkin Steak Fry."

Politico notes that Clinton has done "more than 20 events for Democratic hopefuls from Florida to Kentucky to Rhode Island as the party's most sought-after surrogate and rainmaker... It's President Barack Obama whom many campaigns are steering clear of, and Bill Clinton who is in high demand."

A Non-Wave Election

Charlie Cook: "Now that Labor Day is behind us, the most remarkable thing about this midterm election is how little has changed since Memorial Day. In the closest and most crucial contest, for control of the U.S. Senate, only the race in Kansas looks fundamentally different than it did three months ago."

"One question has become more pressing as Election Day nears: Where is the Republican wave? For Democrats, the good news is that there doesn't appear to be an overwhelming Republican tide this year; the bad news is that Democrats could well lose the Senate even without such a wave. Six of the most competitive races are Democratic-held seats in states that Mitt Romney carried by 14 points or more. With a map like that, Republicans don't need to dominate the country; they just have to win some select states."

Conversation with John Avlon

John Avlon, editor in chief of The Daily Beast and author of Wingnuts: Extremism in the Age of Obama, joined us on the Political Wire podcast for a discussion of the 2014 midterm elections and the state of our political debate.

Listen here:

Subscribe via iTunes or RSS to get episodes automatically downloaded.

Special thanks to the Cook Political Report for sponsoring this episode! If you're not a subscriber, you should be.

Cotton Has Edge in Arkansas

A new CNN/ORC International poll in Arkansas finds Tom Cotton (R) leading Sen. Mark Pryor (D) in the U.S. Senate race, 49% to 47%.

Bush Sends Signals About 2016 Presidential Run

"Republican strategists and fundraisers say Jeb Bush's closest advisers have been quietly spreading the word that they should avoid committing to other possible presidential candidates until he decides on his own course after the November election," the Wall Street Journal reports.

"The message from Mr. Bush's inner circle during the past few months is in part an effort to bat down speculation that the former Florida governor has ruled out a 2016 run, say GOP donors and strategists who have spoken with the Bush camp."

Cassidy Has Edge in Louisiana

A new Rasmussen poll in Louisiana finds Bill Cassidy (R) leading Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) in the U.S. Senate, 44% to 41%.

Rauner Maintains Lead in Illinois

A new We Ask America poll in Illinois finds Bruce Rauner (R) topping Gov. Pat Quinn (D) in the race for governor, 46% to 37%, with Libertarian Chad Grimm at 7%.

Brown Way Ahead in California

A new Field poll in California finds Gov. Jerry Brown (D) crushing challenger Neel Kashkari (R) in the race for governor, 50% to 34%.

Burke Leads in Wisconsin

A new We Ask America poll in Wisconsin finds Mary Burke (D) leading Gov. Scott Walker (R) in the race for governor, 48% to 44%.

Archive: September 04, 2014

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

"All I can say is my trust belongs in the Lord."

-- Former Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), quoted by the Washington Post, leaving the courthouse after being convicted on 11 corruption charges.

Taylor Will Remain on Ballot in Kansas

Chad Taylor (D), who attempted to withdraw his U.S. Senate bid in Kansas yesterday, will remain on the general election ballot, Secretary of State Kris Kobach ruled, the Kansas City Star reports.

Taylor did not properly declare that he was incapable of fulfilling his duties if elected as state law requires.

This will almost certainly end up in court.

McDonnell Found Guilty of Corruption

Bob McDonnell (R) is the first Virginia governor convicted of a felony, the Richmond Times Dispatch reports.

A federal jury convicted the former governor on 11 of 13 counts and his wife, Maureen, on nine of 13 counts. Both "sobbed openly, but quietly as the verdicts were read."

The Washington Post notes both McDonnells face "decades in federal prison, though their actual sentence will probably fall well short of that."

Sentencing is scheduled for January 6.

Gay Marriage Bans Overturned in Wisconsin, Indiana

"The gay marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana are both unconstitutional, a federal appeals court in Chicago unanimously ruled, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

"The decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld lower court decisions in Madison and Indiana and helps set up an eventual ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the historic question."

GOP Takes Over Roberts Senate Campaign

National Republicans "moved to take control of the campaign" of Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), "a day after his hopes for re-election and those of his party for taking control of the Senate were threatened by the sudden withdrawal of the Democrat in the race," the New York Times reports.

The NRSC "is sending a longtime party strategist to Kansas to advise Mr. Roberts and will seek to hire a local lawyer to challenge the move by the Democrat, Chad Taylor, to get off the ballot on the last day candidates were allowed to do so."

Markell Apologizes for Sexy Model Photo

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) "is creating a stir on Twitter this morning after a suggestive photo was included in a tweet from his account," the Wilmington News Journal reports.

"Markell apologized via twitter, saying his staff was attempting to determine how the photo of a scantily clad adult female was included in a tweet promoting an education initiative to assist the state's most disadvantaged students."

Democrat Could Remain on Ballot in Kansas

Despite filing papers with the Kansas secretary of State to withdraw from the U.S. Senate race, Chad Taylor (D) could be stuck on the ballot this fall, The Hill reports.

"Two election law statutes have raised questions about whether Taylor gave sufficient cause to remove himself from the ballot, and, if so, whether Democrats must ultimately choose a candidate to replace him."

Rick Hasen: "This could well end up in court, and I don't have a good sense for how the courts would rule on this question."

Paul Says He's Not an Isolationist

Rand Paul: "Some pundits are surprised that I support destroying the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militarily. They shouldn't be. I've said since I began public life that I am not an isolationist, nor am I an interventionist. I look at the world, and consider war, realistically and constitutionally."

"I still see war as the last resort. But I agree with Reagan's idea that no country should mistake U.S. reluctance for war for a lack of resolve."

Judge Orders Expanded Early Voting in Ohio

"A federal judge has blocked an Ohio law trimming early voting and ordered the swing state's elections chief to set an expanded voting schedule," the AP reports.

Rick Hasen: "This is a significant case, which could potentially make it to the Supreme Court. It expands voting rights in a broad way, and makes it difficult for a state like Ohio to cut back on any expansions of voting rights that it puts in place. The big question is where the stopping point is in a decision like this, and how to justify calling it unconstitutional for a state like Ohio to make a modest cutback in early voting while allowing many other states to offer no early voting at all."

Roberts Stopped Campaigning After Primary

The Rothenberg Political Report says that Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) "has not been actively campaigning for about a month now."

"The lack of a strong campaign infrastructure is one of the fundamental reasons why Roberts is in severe danger. He can't count on the the traditionally red hue of Kansas in federal races to bail him out. Senate Minority Mitch McConnell is a long-time incumbent with deep negatives, but the sheer past performance of Kentucky would not be enough to pull him to victory in this environment. He has been running one of the most aggressive campaigns in the country for years. The same cannot be said for Roberts."

Bonus Quote of the Day

"They should know we will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice. Because hell is where they will reside. Hell is where they will reside."

-- Vice President Biden, quoted by CNN, on ISIS.

Court to Revisit Ruling on Obamacare Subsidies

"The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to revisit a ruling that struck down the ObamaCare subsidies issued through the federal exchange," The Hill reports.

"The announcement of the second hearing is a victory for the Obama administration, which suffered a defeat in late July when a three-judge panel threw out the subsidies, ruling they were not legitimate under the Affordable Care Act."

Is Clinton Too Cozy with Wall Street?

When asked whether Hillary Clinton is "too cozy" with Wall Street, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told Yahoo News, "I worry a lot about the relationship between all of our regulators, government, Wall Street. I worry across the board."

Quote of the Day

"If we can't build a fence high enough... we ought to go to China and see how they built a wall."

-- Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), quoted by the Bangor Daily News, on illegal immigration.

Actor Accused in Sex Crime Appears in Campaign Ad

The actor featured in a campaign ad for Kansas gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis (D) "was previously suspended from a teaching job in connection with inappropriate conduct with a student and had been arrested in connection with solicitation of sodomy in a law enforcement sting," the Topeka Capital-Journal reports.

Davis's campaign pulled the commercial and apologized for including the actor in the spot.

House GOP May Bring Back Press Briefings

New House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is leaving the door open to bringing back weekly pen and pad briefings with reporters, but a final decision hasn't been made, Politico reports.

GOP Has No 2016 Frontrunner

Larry Sabato: "In our latest shuffle of the 2016 Crystal Ball presidential outlook, we've decided that the Republican first tier is...empty. Our Republican friends might object, but deep down, we think they would be hard-pressed to argue for any single name to head this long list: There's simply no one in the field who is clearly more likely to get the nomination than a half-dozen or more others."

Will Senate Control Hinge on Kansas?

Sam Wang looks at the stunning news that Chad Taylor (D) dropped his Senate bid in Kansas allowing Greg Orman (I) to have a clear shot at taking down Sen. Pat Roberts (R).

"An Orman win could have a seismic effect on who controls the Senate. Orman says that he would caucus with the Senate's two other independents, Bernie Sanders and Angus King. Both Sanders and King currently caucus with the Democrats. To be fair, Orman is not just a Democrat in disguise-he has promised to vote out Democrat Harry Reid as Majority Leader if he gets the chance. But Orman says that he wants to break the current gridlock in the Senate, and Senate Republicans have been gumming up the works on legislation and judicial appointments. So while Orman would be far from a shoo-in to vote for every Democratic position, he would certainly not be involved in any alliances with the Republicans."

First Read: "The Republican Party in Kansas is bitterly divided. Roberts has his own set of problems, thanks to missteps that only reinforce the image that he's gone too Washington. And in this political environment, it's a big problem. Couple the two issues together -- a divided state GOP and a bitter electorate at all things Washington -- and suddenly you see a true bipartisan populist uprising of sorts that could start shaking more than just Kansas."

10 Midterm Races That May Impact 2016

National Journal: "With just 62 days to go until Election Day, the focus of the political world is on the 2014 midterms. Senate control hangs in the balance, and a number of highly competitive, currently neck-and-neck races will help determine who comes out on top."

"But what happens on November 4 has a big impact for the 2016 election as well. There are many pivotal Senate, gubernatorial, and even down-ballot contests that carry implications for the next presidential race, some involving future White House prospects and others from parties testing future messages."

Judge Upholds Louisiana Gay Marriage Ban

A federal judge's ruling "that upheld Louisiana's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage didn't just break a streak of more than 20 federal court victories for same-sex marriage couples, it took a swipe at the apparent unanimity of federal judges to date," the New Orleans Times Picayune reports.

Boehner Wants to Shame Senate in Short Session

Speaker John Boehner outlined the September legislative agenda in a conference call with House Republican lawmakers, describing a scheduled 12-day session that will be "brief, but busy," Roll Call reports.

House Republicans' "closing argument" before they depart for the campaign trail ahead of Election Day will be moving legislation while the "do-nothing Senate plans to spend the final legislative days before November talking about the Koch brothers."

French President's Jilted Lover Tells All

Daily Beast: "She's baaack--literally with a vengeance. Just eight months after President François Hollande rode into the tabloids on the back of a bodyguard's scooter, the bedroom farce at the Elysée Palace is getting a provocative second act. Valérie Trierweiler, France's erstwhile first lady, returns to the spotlight with a top-secret tell-all set to hit French bookstores en masse on Thursday. Spoiler: she's not happy. And her memoir's timing couldn't be worse for Hollande's flailing presidency."

Congress Lays Groundwork for War on ISIS

As President Obama "weighs U.S. options for confronting ISIS, the insurgent group in control of parts of Iraq and Syria, lawmakers in both the House and Senate are moving to ensure that the administration has the authority to take military action if necessary," Roll Call reports.

Wildstein Discussed Bridge Closure with Officer

"As thousands of commuters were stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge during lane closures apparently ordered by  Gov. Chris Christie's (R) aides as political payback, a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police lieutenant with ties to Christie was eating breakfast with the executive who ordered the closures," the AP reports.

Can Young Candidates Fix Our Government?

David Gergen: "At a time when national politics is so broken, a new generation of young men and women who first cut their teeth in service to others are now venturing into the political arena, offering us fresh, idealistic leadership that may be our best hope of breaking out of today's mess."

"This new wave of candidates comes from two vital streams in American life: young veterans coming home from protecting their country overseas along with others who served their country back home as volunteers in classrooms, hospitals, shelters, and beyond. Veterans and social entrepreneurs -- they are joining forces and could become a new, powerful force for change."

Presidential Approval or Generic Ballot?

Nate Cohn: "Usually, election watchers can get a good read on the mood of the electorate by looking at presidential approval ratings or at the generic ballot, which asks voters which party they would prefer to control Congress. Historically, they're fairly interchangeable. Leo happens to use the generic ballot; the Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog uses the president's approval rating."

"This year, the two metrics are not so interchangeable. Mr. Obama's approval ratings are stuck in the low 40s -- around 42 percent... That's lower than at this time in 2010, so it's easy to see why so many have taken the president's ratings as a sign of an impending catastrophe for Democrats.... The generic ballot, on the other hand, puts the Democrats ahead by about 2 points among registered voters. That's nothing like 2010, when the Republicans had opened a 3-point lead on the generic ballot by early September after making steady gains over the summer."

Archive: September 03, 2014

Democrat Drops Senate Bid in Kansas

The race for U.S. Senate in Kansas "no longer has a Democrat," the Wichita Eagle reports.

Chad Taylor (D) "dropped out of the race Wednesday, opening up room for independent candidate Greg Orman to face Sen. Pat Roberts (R) head-on in November... Taylor's decision to drop out comes on the same day that Orman was endorsed by more than 70 former Republican lawmakers."

DNC Chief Says Walker's Policies are Like Domestic Violence

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz ripped Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) policies by comparing them to acts of domestic violence against women, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Said Schultz: "Scott Walker has given women the back of his hand. I know that is stark. I know that is direct. But that is reality. What Republican Tea Party extremists like Scott Walker are doing is they are grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back. It is not going to happen on our watch."

GOP Favored to Take Control of Senate

The latest FiveThirtyEight forecast gives Republicans a 64% chance of winning control of the U.S. Senate.

Key takeaway: "An equally important theme is the high degree of uncertainty around that outcome. A large number of states remain competitive, and Democrats could easily retain the Senate. It's also possible that the landscape could shift further in Republicans' direction. Our model regards a true Republican wave as possible: It gives the party almost a 25 percent chance of finishing with 54 or more Senate seats once all the votes are counted."

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

"I am not going to create one job, it is not my job to create jobs. It's yours."

-- Scott Brown (R), quoted by TPM, at a campaign stop in New Hampshire.

McConnell Leads in Kentucky

A new CNN/ORC International poll in Kentucky finds Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) holds a slim four point edge over challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), 50% to 46%.

Key finding: "What might be a troubling data point for Grimes is the number of Democrats -- 16% -- who said they are supporting or leaning towards supporting McConnell."

A new Rasmussen survey has McConnell ahead by five points, 46% to 41%.

Trolling the Trackers

National Journal: "Some trackers have been following the same candidate for years--around the state, around the country, on planes, on buses, in town halls, in swanky fundraisers--all on the off chance that they'll get the candidate on tape saying something politically distasteful or flip-flopping on a position."

The Inside Story of How Billionaires Took Over Politics

Out next month: Political Mercenaries: The Inside Story of How Fundraisers Allowed Billionaires to Take Over Politics.

What If Republicans Don't Win the Senate?

First Read: "The GOP got all of its desired candidates in the top Senate races -- meaning there isn't a flawed Christine O'Donnell, Todd Akin, or Sharron Angle... Republicans not winning back the Senate and not picking up double-digit House seats could be a nightmare for the party. For one thing, it will hurt recruiting in 2016 (which expects to be a tougher year map- and electorate-wise). It could spark leadership fights. And it would rekindle the central ideological debate inside the party -- should it be more conservative or more pragmatic? (Conservatives will argue if the party comes up short, that the compromise candidates didn't fire up the base; the establishment wing will argue that the brand damage done by the conservative wing was to blame.)"

"Currently, there are two schools of thought among Republicans. One school (those focused on the Senate races) is that winning back the Senate is the end-all, be all. But the other school of thought (especially those with an eye on 2016) is that they'd prefer coming JUST short of Senate control, because a GOP in charge of both the House and Senate could potentially help Hillary Clinton. But don't underestimate the negative consequences of a Republican Party coming up short with this map and in this political climate."

Democrats Have Ground Game Advantage

GOP sources tell Politico "that an ambitious Democratic turnout initiative will give the party a potentially significant 1- or 2-percentage point boost in some key states."

Senate Forecast Barely Gives Republicans the Edge

The Washington Post's forecasting model now suggests Republicans have only a 52% chance of winning control of the U.S. Senate -- down from an 86% chance in July.

"It's not that races have narrowed, but that the model has begun weighting information differently -- mainly by (a) incorporating polling data (where possible) after the relevant primaries, and by (b) increasing the weight that polls have in the forecast. What this suggests is that in several states, Democrats are arguably 'out-performing' the fundamentals."

Bonus Quote of the Day

"It's a punch to the gut."

-- Secretary of State John Kerry, quoted by The Hill, on the beheading of journalist Steven Sotloff by ISIS.

Who Runs for Office?

Pew Research: "Our data show that those who say they have sought office tend to be white, male and well-educated. In fact, while women account for half of the adult population, they are just a quarter of those who say they have run for office. This is in keeping with other research that has documented the imbalance... There is a similar imbalance when it comes to race and ethnicity, with whites disproportionately more likely to have sought office and blacks and Hispanics less likely to have done so."

'Vapid Granolas' Not Wanted

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) is looking for an intern this fall but "mushy pleasers/appeasers" should not apply, the Washington Post reports.

From the help-wanted ad: "HINT: vapid granolas who fear guns, hate babies, are ashamed of America, and think Islamic terrorists and illegal aliens are just misunderstood will not be comfortable here."

Rauner Belongs to $100K Wine Club

Despite flaunting his $18 watch in campaign ads, the Chicago Sun Times reports that Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner (R) disclosed that he belongs to a an "exclusive wine club that cost upward of $100,000 to join."

A Brief History of Ex-Governors Returning to Power

Though Charlie Crist (D) is seeking to become just the second ex-governor to return to his old job from Florida since statehood, a new Smart Politics analysis finds that nearly 150 have done so across the nation since the late 1700s.

Coakley Has Solid Lead in New Massachusetts Poll

A new University of Massachusetts at Lowell poll finds Martha Coakley (D) leading Charlie Baker (R) in the race for governor by nine points, 41% to 32%, with venture capitalist Jeff McCormick (I) at 7%.

Coburn Wants a Constitutional Convention

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is pushing for a national convention to amend the Constitution," The Hill reports.

"The Oklahoma Republican, who has grown disenchanted with gridlock in Washington, will officially launch his effort after he retires from the Senate in a few months. Support for a convention of the states to overhaul the nation's charter document has increased among conservatives, who are frustrated by Congress's failure to reform entitlement programs."

Political Consultants Win Even When Clients Don't

Brendan Nyhan: "Why is the campaign consultant market so inefficient? First, it suffers from what social scientists call an asymmetric information problem. The buyers (candidates) know much less about the service being provided than the sellers (consultants) -- the same reason that consumers have a hard time making informed choices on health care. As a result, consultants are often hired based on their prominence or relationships with party insiders rather on than their past performance or other measures of quality."

"Second, there are few good sources of data about firm performance. Consultant client lists are often not broadly publicized, preventing firms from being held accountable for their performance in past campaigns."

O'Malley Will Run Even If Clinton Does

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has Democratic fundraisers that "he would enter the presidential race even if front-runner Hillary Clinton is a candidate, suggesting she would face at least some competition for her party's nomination from an established elected official if she runs," the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Top Friday News Dumps of the Summer

National Journal notes the Friday news dump is "alive and well" and compiles a list of the biggest news dumps of the summer.

GOP Leads in Generic Ballot as Most See Nation Off Track

A new George Washington University Battleground Poll finds that 70% of likely voters nationwide feel that the country is on the wrong track. Just 21% say that the nation is headed in the right direction.

Republicans hold an edge on a generic congressional ballot, 46% to 42%. In states with a competitive U.S. Senate race, the GOP has a 16-point advantage on this generic ballot, 52% to 36%.

Said pollster Ed Goeas: "All of these measures exceed where the GOP was at this point in the 2010 cycle."

Quote of the Day

"Whatever these murders think they'll achieve by killing innocent Americans like Steven, they have already failed. They failed because, like people around the world, Americans are repulsed by their barbarism. We will not be intimidated. Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to fight against these terrorists and those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget and that our reach is long and that justice will be served."

-- President Obama, quoted by McClatchy, on the beheading of journalist Steven Sotloff.

Rowland Heads to Trial on Conspiracy Charges

Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland (R) "is due in court on Wednesday for the start of his trial on charges of violating U.S. campaign finance laws by seeking backroom consulting jobs on two Republican congressional campaigns," Reuters reports.

Hartford Courant: "Few criminal trials promise better plot lines than John Rowland's latest encounter with federal prosecutors, scheduled to begin Wednesday barring another last-minute surprise. Rowland is a politically gifted -- but, in the government's view, entirely incorrigible -- three-term former Republican governor. He is accused, for the second time since he was forced to resign from office in 2004, of subverting the political process for personal gain."

Cuomo Avoids Talk of Campaign

Next Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) name "will appear on the Democratic primary ballot across New York State. But in the meantime, he seems determined to avoid discussing his re-election much at all," the New York Times reports.

"For months, Mr. Cuomo, who is heavily favored to win a second term, has seldom discussed his candidacy. During the legislative session, which ended in June, he responded to questions about politics by imploring reporters to wait until the political season."

Durbin Holds Small Lead in Illinois

A new Harper Polling survey in Illinois finds Sen. Dick Durbin (D) with a six point lead over challenger Jim Oberweis (R) in the U.S. Senate race, 44% to 38%.

Scott Holds Lead in Florida

A new Tampa Bay Times poll in Florida finds Gov. Rick Scott (R) leading challenger Charlie Crist (D) in the race for governor, 41% to 36%, with Libertarian Adrian Wyllie at 6%.

A new Gravis Marketing survey shows the race tied, 37% to 37%, with 26% still undecided.

Archive: September 02, 2014

Nunn Holds Slight Edge in Georgia

A new WRBL/Ledger-Enquirer/PMB poll in Georgia finds Michelle Nunn (D) holds a slight lead over David Perdue (R) in the U.S. Senate race, 45% to 43%.

In the race for governor, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) leads challenger Jason Carter (D), 44% to 42%.

Second American Journalist Beheaded by ISIS

"The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has beheaded Steven J. Sotloff, the second American executed by the Islamic militant group, and posted a video of it on the Internet," the New York Times reports.

"The execution of Mr. Sotloff, 31, came despite pleas from his mother aimed directly at ISIS's top leader seeking mercy for her son, a freelance journalist who was captured in northern Syria a year ago."

Vital Statistics on Congress

Brooking has released a new update to Vital Statistics on Congress. It used to be a must-read reference book and now it's a fantastic website.

Wolf Maintains Huge Lead in Pennsylvania

A new Robert Morris University Polling Institute poll in Pennsylvania finds Tom Wolf (D) leads Gov. Tom Corbett (R) by a wide margin, 56% to 25%, among likely voters.

Quote of the Day

"Well they can come over and do same-day registration and say they want to come down and vote. So if they feel compelled to do so, come on down."

-- Scott Brown (R), quoted by, encouraging out-of-state voters to vote for him in New Hampshire.

Grimm's Trial to Start After Election

A federal judge set a December 1 trial date for Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) "on charges of tax evasion and hiring undocumented workers, rejecting arguments from the Staten Island Republican that jurors might be prejudiced by negative election ads," Newsday reports.

Roll Call: "Democrats had hoped Grimm's trial would begin in October, leading to weeks of negative press in the run up to the midterms. But Grimm's legal troubles still imperil his re-election hopes."

On Wonk Wire

Some great clicks over at Wonk Wire:

Sanford's Ex-Wife Wants Psychiatric Evaluation

Jenny Sanford is demanding her ex husband, Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) undergo psychiatric evaluations and complete an anger management program as part of their ongoing divorce proceedings, WCSC reports.

Power of Incumbency Could Save Democrats

Morning Line: "Incumbents traditionally have an advantage because voters in those states have already elected them statewide, giving them natural bases -- and fundraising networks and turnout operations -- to get 50 percent. What's more, the candidates Democrats have in some of these red states are legacy candidates. In other words, not only are they personally well known, their families are too. The Landrieus, Pryors, Begiches, and Udalls are near political royalty in their respective states. But will their personal dynasties pay the dividends needed this fall and be enough to overcome the national environment? It could be for some but not for others. How many survive could be the difference between a Democratic and Republican Senate for the last two years of Obama's presidency."

Kentuckians Don't Want Paul Running for Two Offices

A new SurveyUSA poll in Kentucky finds that two-thirds of registered voters in the state -- including a majority of Republicans -- oppose changing the law to it easier for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to run for president and re-election at the same time.

Landrieu Attacked for Representing Washington, DC

A new American Crossroads ad attacking Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) is just brutal and very effective.

Alaska Democrats Back Independent for Governor

"The Alaska Democratic Party broke with long tradition Monday when its central committee voted 89-2 to not field a gubernatorial ticket and instead put its weight behind the independent campaign of Bill Walker and Byron Mallott," the Alaska Dispatch News reports.

"The vote to support the fusion ticket was contingent on Walker dropping his Republican Party affiliation. Mallott will quit as the Democratic Party's nominee for governor, as will his running mate, state Sen. Hollis French. But Mallott will remain a Democrat, executive director Kay Brown said after the vote at party headquarters in a Spenard bungalow."

Why Republicans Hold an Midterm Edge

Morning Line: "First, with primary season all but wrapped up -- Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island hold the last primaries next Tuesday -- Republicans have done all they can structurally to prevent problematic candidates from emerging, unlike in years past. But most importantly, it's where these races are taking place -- largely in conservative-leaning states. In fact, of the 12 states with competitive Senate races that are likely to decide the outcome of control of the Senate, Republican Mitt Romney won nine of them in the 2012 presidential election by an average of 16 points. And that's in a year when Republicans lost the Electoral College by 126 votes. (Republicans need to net six states seats to wrest control.)"

"What's more, if you add in the three states won by President Obama, Republicans still have an 11-point advantage. Democrats are defending more states -- 10 of the 12 are seats held by Democrats. And the two Democratic targets are in states Romney won by an average of 15 points. Plus, the demographics of who shows up in midterm elections favor Republicans. The electorate in midterms is generally whiter, older, more likely to be married and have better paying jobs."

Mayor Ousts Man for Not Standing During Pledge of Allegiance

Winter Garden, FL Mayor John Rees asked police to remove a man from a City Commission meeting because he refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

"Rees said he considered the man's refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance to be disrespectful to American military troops who are serving overseas and others who have given their lives in defense of freedom."

Majority Still Opposed to Scottish Independence

A new YouGov poll finds support for Scottish independence has risen eight points in a month.

The No camp are now six points ahead of the Yes campaign, 53% to 47%, down from 14 points in mid-August and 22 points early last month, excluding undecided voters.

The Political Education of Mitch McConnell

Out this month: The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell by Alec MacGillis.

More Think U.S. Does Too Little Abroad

A new Pew Research/USA Today finds a large majority of Americans think the world is a more dangerous place than it was several years ago.

"Republicans, Democrats and independents all are more likely to say the U.S. does too little to solve world problems, but the shift among Republicans has been striking. Last fall, 52% of Republicans said the U.S. does too much to help solve global problems, while just 18% said it does too little. Today, 46% of Republicans think the U.S. does too little to solve global problems, while 37% say it does too much."

The 10 Most Vulnerable Senators

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) tops the Roll Call list of the most vulnerable senators.

GOP Performing Below Expectations in House Races

"Tepid fundraising, underperforming candidates and a lousy party brand are threatening to deprive House Republicans of the sweeping 2014 gains that some top party officials have been predicting this year," Politico reports.

"Politico interviewed more than a dozen top strategists from both parties about their outlook for the House in the midterms, and their assessment was nearly unanimous: Republicans are on track to expand their majority by only five or six seats, or roughly half their goal. The conversations covered everything from advertising strategies to fundraising to polling."

Massachusetts Voters Not Engaged as Election Nears

A new Boston Globe poll finds that 74% of Massachusetts voters said "they were uncertain for whom to cast their ballot in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, and 60% were undecided in the race for treasurer."

Obama Approval Drops to New Low in California

A new Field Poll in California finds President Obama's approval ratings "have fallen to a record low in California, with nearly as many voters now disapproving of the job Obama is doing as approving."

"Only 45% of California voters hold a favorable view of Obama's job performance... down 5 percentage points from June and dropping below 50% for the first time since late 2011. Disapproval climbed to 43%."

Cantor Heads to Wall Street

Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) plans to join boutique investment bank Moelis & Co. as he embarks on a new career on Wall Street, the Wall Street Journal reports.

"Cantor lost his seat in Congress when he was defeated in a June primary. Rather than continue as majority leader, he stepped down from the post last month."

Bloomberg says Cantor will be paid at least $3.4 million this year.

Durbin Leads in Re-Election Bid

A new We Ask America survey in Illinois finds Sen. Dick Durbin (D) leads challenger Jim Oberweis (R) in the U.S. Senate race, 48% to 41%.

Republicans Plan Policy Agenda for Senate

"As odds improve that the GOP will control both chambers of Congress next year, Senate Republicans are starting to plan an agenda intended to extract policy concessions from President Obama without inducing the capital's market-rattling brinkmanship of recent years," the Wall Street Journal reports.

"Republican senators say the emerging plans aim to show voters that the party can successfully govern--enacting GOP policy while avoiding a sharply confrontational tone that some Republicans fear could endanger the party's electoral prospects in 2016. Some of the top goals include approving the Keystone XL pipeline, passing accelerated rules for overseas trade agreements, speeding up federal reviews of natural-gas exports and repealing the 2010 health law's medical-device tax."

NATO to Create Rapid Response Force for Eastern Europe

"As Ukrainian leaders warned on Monday of 'a great war' with Russia, NATO leaders meeting in Wales this week were expected to endorse their most concrete response yet to increased Russian military intervention in Ukraine: establishing a rapid-reaction force capable of deploying quickly to Eastern Europe," the New York Times reports.

"The new force of some 4,000 troops, capable of moving on 48 hours' notice, will be supported with logistics and equipment pre-positioned in Eastern European countries closer to Russia, with an upgraded schedule of military exercises and deployments that are intended to make NATO's commitment of collective defense more credible and enhance its deterrence."

Wealthy Donors Take Advantage of Giving to Unlimited Candidates

The Washington Post notes that "wealthy political contributors have more access than ever to candidates since the ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. More than 300 donors have seized the opportunity, writing checks at such a furious pace that they have exceeded the old limit of $123,200 for this election cycle."

"Together, 310 donors gave a combined $11.6 million more by this summer than would have been allowed before the ruling. Their contributions favored Republican candidates and committees over Democratic ones by 2 to 1."

Archive: September 01, 2014

Citizens United Case Helped Elect More Republicans

Washington Post: "The 2010 Supreme Court decision that helped usher in a new era of political spending gave Republicans a measurable advantage on Election Day, according to a new study."

"The advantage isn't large, but it is statistically significant: The researchers found the ruling, in Citizens United v. FEC, was associated with a six percentage-point increase in the likelihood that a Republican candidate would win a state legislative race."

"And in six of the most affected states -- Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee -- the probability that a Republican would be elected to a state legislative seat increased by 10 percentage points or more. In five other states -- Colorado, Iowa, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming -- Republican candidates were seven percentage points more likely to win."

House Republicans Don't Expect Government Shutdown

"Almost a year since the last partial government shutdown began, many House Republicans say they have little desire to start another," the Wall Street Journal reports.

"With one month before the government's funding runs out on Sept. 30, Republicans said they expect to pass a short-term spending measure to prevent a high-stakes clash just before November's midterm elections... Several members also said their desire to avoid legislative feuding in September extends to the Export-Import Bank, a federal trade agency that supports U.S. exporters and whose charter expires at month's end."

Christie Makes Mexico Trip as Foreign Policy Test

As Gov. Chris Christie (R) "prepares to go to Mexico this week for a rare, official trip outside the United States, aides insist that his intent is to deepen New Jersey's economic ties to Latin America and showcase his commitment to Hispanic voters back at home," the New York Times reports.

"But at a moment of spiraling global mayhem, from Ukraine to Iraq, Mr. Christie's trip will double as a closely watched chance to demonstrate a level of acumen and adroitness on foreign policy that has so far eluded him as he weighs a run for the White House."

"Republicans leaders are convinced that Mr. Obama's second-term foreign policy -- guided by an instinctive reluctance to use force and the mantra 'don't do stupid stuff' -- has created an opening for a compelling Republican critique in 2016, and they are eager to find an authoritative statesman to deliver it."

Archive: August 31, 2014

Franken Maintains Lead in Minnesota

A new SurveyUSA poll in Minnesota finds Sen. Al Franken (D) well ahead of challenger Mike McFadden (R), 51% to 42%.

In the governor's race, Gov. Mark Dayton (D) leads challenger Jeff Johnson (R), 49% to 40%.

Senator's Refusal to Resign Changed South Dakota Politics

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader has the fascinating story of how Sen. Karl Mundt (R-SD) suffered a massive stroke in 1969 but would not resign.

"Mundt, the state's longest serving member in Congress, never would resume his duties as a senator, though he would occupy that office for three more years. His refusal to resign and allow outgoing Republican Gov. Frank Farrar to appoint his replacement before leaving office himself had profound consequences for South Dakota politics that ripple through today."

"Political observers have speculated on why Mundt stayed, despite urgings from longtime friends, prominent local Republicans and even the Nixon White House. The episode is one of South Dakota's prominent political mysteries."

Political Ads Flood the Airwaves

Associated Press: "Election Day is just two months off and the national tab for the 2014 campaign already stands at $1 billion. Before it's all over, the bill for the first midterm election since both Democrats and Republicans embraced a historic change in campaign finance is likely to grow to $4 billion or more."

Bonus Quote of the Day

"If you watch the nightly news, it feels like the world is falling apart... And I can see why a lot of folks are troubled.... the truth of the matter is, is that the world has always been messy."

-- President Obama, quoted by BuzzFeed, at a Democratic fundraiser.

Rubio Changes Tune on Immigration

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) "is singing a new tune on immigration as he eyes a possible 2016 presidential run, but it may not be enough to win over disaffected conservatives just yet," The Hill reports.

"Rubio was a leading champion of the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate last year. But in a letter to President Obama and a series of four media interviews this week, he made clear that he now favors additional measures to secure the border before there is even talk of a pathway to legal status for those in the country illegally."

The 5 Worst Campaigns of 2014

Washington Post: "Happy Labor Day weekend! In politics, this marks the final period of calm before a whirlwind nine weeks leading up to Election Day. It's also a good time to reflect on the 2014 election cycle so far -- full of dramatic twists, turns, unexpected triumphs and bitter disappointments. Sometimes all in the same day."

"There have also been a handful of unmitigated disasters. We're talking about the campaigns that failed miserably, after kicking off full of promise, in most cases."

Hawaii Governor Blames Loss on Gay Marriage

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) told the Associated Press that he lost his bid for re-election in a Democratic primary because of his decision to call a special session to legalize gay marriage.

Said Abercrombie: "Republicans crossed over en masse to vote in the Democratic primary, and then the religious factor came in. Doctrinally I was outside the circle and paid for it."

McConnell Expands Lead in Kentucky

A new SurveyUSA poll in Kentucky finds Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) strengthening his lead over his challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), 46% to 42%.

Quote of the Day

"If the president has no strategy, maybe it's time for a new president."

-- Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), quoted by the Washington Post, on President Obama stating that the administration has no strategy yet for dealing with ISIS.

Democrats Rally Black Voters in Effort to Save Senate

"With their Senate majority imperiled, Democrats are trying to mobilize African-Americans outraged by the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., to help them retain control of at least one chamber of Congress for President Obama's final two years in office," the New York Times reports.

"In black churches and on black talk radio, African-American civic leaders have begun invoking the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, along with conservative calls to impeach Mr. Obama, as they urge black voters to channel their anger by voting Democratic in the midterm elections, in which minority turnout is typically lower."

Archive: August 30, 2014

McConnell Campaign Manager Quits Amid Scandal

"Jesse Benton resigned as Sen. Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) campaign manager following reports that he had emerged as a figure in an endorsement scandal during the 2012 Iowa presidential caucus," the Louisville Courier Journal reports.

"In an emailed statement Friday evening, Benton denied any involvement in the scandal, in which Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson admitted receiving payments from U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's campaign before switching his endorsement to the congressman. He had previously backed U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann."

Obama Weighs Delay in Action on Immigration

President Obama "is considering a delay of his most controversial proposals to revamp immigration laws through executive action until after the midterm elections in November, mindful of the electoral peril for Democratic Senate candidates," the New York Times reports.

"The president vowed in late June to act unilaterally, declaring a deep frustration with what he termed Republican obstruction in Congress... But now Mr. Obama and his aides appear to be stepping back from a firm commitment to that timing, a move that could draw fire from immigration advocacy groups who are expecting decisive action soon."

Judge Strikes Down Texas Abortion Law

"A federal judge invalidated a major Texas abortion regulation that would have shut down 19 licensed clinics next week, ruling that it created 'a brutally effective system' designed to close abortion facilities, not to improve women's health as state lawyers had argued," the Austin American Statesman reports.

Neck-and-Neck in Arkansas

A new Rasmussen survey in Arkansas finds Sen. Mark Pryor (D) barely ahead of challenger Tom Cotton (R) in the U.S. Senate race, 44% to 43%.

Archive: August 29, 2014

Judge Dismisses McDaniel Challenge

A Mississippi judge has tossed out Chris McDaniel's (R) challenge to that state's June 24 GOP primary runoff results, ending another chapter in one of the most bitterly contested U.S. Senate primaries in recent memory, CNN reports.

Jackson Clarion Ledger: "McDaniel is taking the long holiday weekend to mull whether he'll accept defeat from the June 24 GOP U.S. Senate primary, or continue his appeal to the state's high court."

America's First Real Post-Cold War President

Stuart Stevens: "Every President has to deal with a chaotic world that often seems focused on wrecking havoc on America's self-interest. Presidents fail at foreign policy objectives more frequently than they succeed. Yet rarely have we seen a President so openly struggle with a declaration of American purpose and goals. Some of this is undoubtedly due to President Obama's personality and the reluctance he shows in leading on many issues, foreign and domestic. But for the first time since JFK, we have a President who is not a product of the Cold War era--and the ramifications of that are profound."

Peters Keeps Lead in Michigan Senate Race

A new EPIC-MRA poll in Michigan finds Gary Peters (D) leads Terri Lynn Land (R) in the U.S. Senate race by six points, 45% to 39%.

Obama Hints He'll Delay Action in Immigration

President Obama "is suggesting that he will defer his self-imposed deadline for announcing an expected change in immigration policy, as the White House wrestles with the political and legal dilemmas involved in making significant alterations without congressional approval," the Los Angeles Times reports.

This would "bow to the concerns of Democratic lawmakers running in Republican-leaning states who have expressed opposition to Obama's plans to act unilaterally on the hot-button issue."

Greg Sargent: "The case goes like this: In the core red states that will decide Senate control, there are very few genuinely persuadable voters left. Base turnout will be decisive. Any action by Obama risks further inflaming the GOP base at a time when the fading of Obamacare as a major issue, and the lack of 2010′s seismic levels of rage, could mean core GOP voters aren't quite as engaged as during the 2010 shellacking."

Baker Catches Coakley in New Poll

A new Boston Globe poll in Massachusetts finds Charlie Baker (R) has edged ahead of Martha Coakley (D) in the race for governor, 38% to 37%.

Is Rick Perry Really Ready for 2016?

Dan Balz: "He has waded into national issues. He has taken on President Obama over border security. He has spoken critically of the administration on foreign policy at the Heritage Foundation. He has appeared on Sunday talk shows and given numerous interviews. Along the way, he has scooped up favorable coverage from a once-scornful media."

"Oh, yes. He also was indicted by a grand jury in Austin -- two felony counts of abuse of power."

The Des Moines Register reports Perry is headed to Iowa next week.

Cruz Builds Out Team for 2016

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) "is expanding his political operation, a move sure to stoke speculation that the Texas Republican plans to run for president in 2016," the Washington Examiner reports.

"In recent weeks, the Cruz team signed contracts with three Republican consultants with national experience and ties to some of the early presidential primary states."

GOP Doesn't Need a Wave to Win

Amy Walter: "Despite dismal numbers for President Obama, a public deeply pessimistic about the direction of the country, and a Senate battleground based almost solely in red states, Republicans aren't running up the score in Senate races, even in deep red states. Many are asking: why hasn't the bottom dropped out on Democrats yet? The answer is: it already did."

Why Obama's Gaffe Stings

Chris Cillizza: "As with all gaffes, the worst ones are the ones that confirm people's pre-existing suspicions or fit into an easy narrative. That's why '47 percent' stung Mitt Romney so much, and its why 'don't have a strategy' hurts Obama today."

Washington Examiner: "There are gaffes -- and then there are gaffes... Rather than the average inartful comment that disappears after a few news cycles, the no-strategy line could help cement charges that Obama lacks the competency to handle multiple crises at once."

Deal Assumes Hispanic Student is Illegal Immigrant

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) has come under fire after making a statement that a Hispanic student attending a forum was an illegal immigrant, WGCL-TV reports.

Said Deal: "There's a fundamental problem that can only be resolved at the Congressional level and that is to deal with the issue of children, and I presume you probably fit the category, children who were brought here."

The student responded: "I'm not an illegal immigrant. I'm not. I don't know why you would have thought that I was undocumented. Was it because I look Hispanic?"

Romney In Demand by GOP Candidates

"Mitt Romney, widely criticized by Republicans for losing a presidential race that many thought to be winnable, is suddenly one of his party's most sought-after campaigners," the Wall Street Journal reports.

"He has lent a hand to GOP Senate candidates in Arkansas, North Carolina, Iowa and New Hampshire in a travel schedule that has included three-dozen fundraising events and rallies in the past year."

The Week: The amazing resurrection of Mitt Romney

What Book Should Obama Read?

Rick Perlstein: "The Book of Job, maybe. It's the best story I know at driving home the fact that the world just isn't always a reasonable place. Not grasping that, I think, is Barack Obama's tragic flaw: He still seems to stubbornly believe that if he just explains clearly and calmly enough to his friends across the aisle why his ideas will bring the greatest good to the greatest number, there'll finally be no more Red America and no more Blue America. But my 18 years studying conservatism has convinced me the right just doesn't work that way -- they're fighting for civilization stakes, and he's a liberal, so, Q.E.D., he's the enemy. His longing to compromise with them just ends up driving the political center in America further to the right."

Capitol Hill Buzzes with Predictions of Government Shutdown

Byron York: "A few weeks ago Washington was buzzing with predictions that Republicans will impeach President Obama. Now, Washington is buzzing with predictions that Republicans will shut down the government."

"Both have come mostly from Democrats facing long odds in November's midterms, hoping the GOP might do something suicidal before voters go to the polls. For them, sheer ecstasy would be Republicans shutting down the government while keeping House offices open to draft articles of impeachment. The only problem is, well-connected Republicans insist it's not going to happen."

Landrieu Claims Parents' Home as Her Voting Address

"In Washington, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) lives in a stately, $2.5 million brick manse she and her husband built on Capitol Hill," the Washington Post reports.

"Here in Louisiana, however, the Democrat does not have a home of her own. She is registered to vote at a large bungalow in New Orleans that her parents have lived in for many decades, according to a Washington Post review of Landrieu's federal financial disclosures and local property and voting records."

Democrats See Benghazi Inquiry Stretching Into 2016

"A House Republican-led investigation of the 2012 terrorist attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, will extend well into next year, and possibly beyond, raising concerns among Democrats that Republicans are trying to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential prospects," the New York Times reports.

Wall Street Journal: Is the stage set for a 2016 campaign about foreign policy?

Lawyers Present Closing Arguments in McDonnell Trial

"After weeks of sometimes deeply personal testimony, tedious and tawdry exhibits and scores of witnesses, jurors in the corruption trial of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, today will hear closing arguments," the Richmond Times Dispatch reports.

O'Malley Offers Staff to South Carolina Democrats

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), "a 2016 White House aspirant trying to win backing in the first Southern presidential primary state, is sending four aides from his political-action group to help the S.C. Democratic party with the November election," the Columbia State reports.

"No other major Democratic candidate has offered staffing help to the state party."

Archive: August 28, 2014

White House Now Insists Obama Has a Strategy for ISIS

The White House is pushing back after President Obama's stated his administration currently doesn't have "a strategy" for dealing with ISIS, Business Insider reports.

"White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest subsequently insisted that Obama specifically articulated a 'comprehensive strategy' for dealing with the Islamic State during the briefing... Overall, Earnest said the word 'strategy' at least 24 times during his CNN interview."

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

"I don't want to put the cart before the horse. We don't have a strategy yet."

-- President Obama, quoted by CNN, on how the United States will deal with the ISIS threat in Iraq and Syria.

Pence Will Visit Iowa

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) will soon visit Iowa to support the re-election campaign of the state's governor, the Washington Post reports.

"Pence's trip, set for Sept. 8, is the latest sign that he is considering a 2016 presidential bid."

Forecast Shows Democrats Outperforming Expectations

Sam Wang has updated his Senate forecast which shows Democrats with a 70% probability of retaining control of the upper chamber.

One reason his forecast is more favorable to Democrats than others is that he's relying more on actual polls than so-called "fundamentals."

"This year's Senate race is harder than any electoral forecast that the other forecasters have ever had to make. To be frank, 2008 and 2012 were easy. My own experience is guided by 2004 Presidential race, which was as close as this year's Senate campaign. In 2004, I formed the view that the correct approach is to use polls only, if at all possible."

Does Obama Have a Foreign Policy?

Matt Bai: "If you've been at the beach and missed the latest world news, let me briefly catch you up. Terrorists in Syria and Iraq have been overrunning the countryside, pausing to savagely murder an American journalist. Pakistan is reeling from political crisis. The Russians just made an incursion into Ukraine, the Israelis have been blowing up every other building in Gaza, and Ebola's rampaging through West Africa."

"All of which has led to some of the most blistering criticism of Barack Obama's presidency -- and not just because he found time to golf. Republican leaders have called Obama feckless and incompetent, a man without a grand plan."

Even Brownback's Poll Shows a Toss Up

An internal poll released by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) shows him barely ahead of challenger Paul Davis (D) in the race for governor, 43% to 42%.

McConnell Pledges No Government Shutdown

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) "tried to quash talk that he would allow another government shutdown if he becomes Senate majority leader next year," CNN reports.

Said McConnell: "Of course not. Remember me? I am the guy that gets us out of shutdowns."

Brian Beutler: "He's threatening to use the appropriations process as leverage to extract concessions. That's a government shutdown fight. And no matter how he plays it, he will unleash forces he and other GOP leaders have proven incapable of restraining."

Schauer Pulls Ahead in Michigan

A new EPIC-MRA poll in Michigan finds Mark Schauer (D) has edged ahead of Gov. Rick Snyder (R) among likely voters by two points, 45% to 43%.

Said pollster Bernie Porn: "I would have bet that Snyder would have a significant lead at Labor Day. The fact that Schauer is up by a couple of points against an incumbent ... probably spells that this is going to be a close race."

Wolf Headed for Landslide Win in Pennsylvania

A new Franklin & Marshall College poll in Pennsylvania finds Tom Wolf (D) with a 25-point lead over Gov. Tom Corbett (R) in the race for governor, 49% to 24%.

Said pollster Terry Madonna: "The big takeaway here is that the race has not changed because Corbett has not changed. His narrative remains the same, and that's the fundamental problem for his campaign."

Corbett would be the first Pennsylvania governor ever to be denied a second term.

Quote of the Day

"The best part of my life is I've been hired to work for the people of the state of Maine and I'm very humble and very proud. The worst part of my life is newspapers are still alive."

-- Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), quoted by the Bangor Daily News.

RNC Will Spend $100 Million on Voter Turnout

The RNC "is on track to spend more than $100 million in the midterm campaign, with virtually every dime plowed into the party's new digital voter-turnout program," the Washington Examiner reports.

"If the program is effective, Republican campaigns will have access to a modern get-out-the-vote operation that has been the hallmark of the Democrats' success in recent election cycles. But if it fails to deliver as advertised, Republican candidates will be stuck with another subpar voter turnout program and without the resources the GOP traditionally sent to their campaigns in midterm years."

Why Libertarians Won't Help GOP Win Youth Vote

Alan Abramowitz: "An analysis of data from the 2012 American National Election Study raises serious doubts about the claim that a candidate with libertarian views would have strong appeal to younger voters. In fact, the data indicate that younger voters tend to hold relatively liberal views on social welfare as well as cultural issues. Only a small minority of voters under the age of 30 can be classified as libertarians. Moreover, both younger and older Americans who hold libertarian views already vote overwhelmingly for Republican candidates, so nominating a candidate with a libertarian philosophy would be unlikely to gain many votes for the GOP."

Utah's Polygamy Ban Partly Struck Down

"A federal judge finalized the order striking part of Utah's bigamy law and gave one more victory to the family from the television show Sister Wives. The long legal battle over polygamy in Utah now appears headed to the appeals courts," the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Archive: August 27, 2014

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

"I've been indicted by that same body now for I think two counts, one of bribery, which I'm not a lawyer, so I don't really understand the details here."

-- Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), quoted by the Houston Chronicle, talking about the indictments against him of which bribery was not one.

GOP Report Says Party Intolerant to Women

A detailed report commissioned by two major Republican groups paints a dismal picture for Republicans, concluding female voters view the party as "intolerant," "lacking in compassion" and "stuck in the past," Politico reports.

"Women are 'barely receptive' to Republicans' policies, and the party does "especially poorly" with women in the Northeast and Midwest... It was presented to a small number of senior aides this month on Capitol Hill, according to multiple sources involved."

Both Parties Brace for Obama Immigration Decision

"Both political parties are in a state of high anxiety over the possibility that President Obama will allow millions of illegal immigrants to remain in the country, fearing that White House action on the issue could change the course of November's midterm elections," the Washington Post reports.

"In the past few days, Democratic candidates in nearly every closely fought Senate race have criticized the idea of aggressive action by Obama. Some strategists say privately that it would signal the president has written off the Democrats' prospects for retaining control of the chamber, deciding to focus on securing his own legacy instead."

Iowa Lawmaker Guilty of Receiving Illegal Payments

Former Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson (R) has pleaded guilty in federal court to receiving concealed payments from then-Rep. Ron Paul's (R) presidential campaign and then obstructing the investigation into the incident, the Des Moines Register reports.

The ISIS Economy

"The Islamic State runs a self-sustaining economy across territory it controls in Syria and Iraq, pirating oil while exacting tribute from a population of at least eight million, Arab and Western officials said, making it one of the world's richest terror groups and an unprecedented threat," the Wall Street Journal reports.

"That illicit economy presents a new picture of Islamic State's financial underpinnings. The group was once thought to depend on funding from Arab Gulf donors and donations from the broader Muslim world. Now, Islamic State--the former branch of al Qaeda that has swallowed parts of Iraq and Syria--is a largely self-financed organization."

Walker Holds Edge in Wisconsin

A new Marquette Law School poll in Wisconsin finds Gov. Scott Walker (R) with a slim lead over challenger Mary Burke (D) in the race for governor, 48% to 44%.

Deadlocked in Iowa

A new Suffolk University/USA Today poll in Iowa finds Joni Ernst (R) and Bruce Braley (D) tied in the race for U.S. Senate, 40% to 40%.

GOP Lawmaker Threatens Government Shutdown

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said "the threat of another government shutdown could be Republicans' leverage to pass border security and immigration legislation this fall," the Des Moines Register reports.

Said King: "If the president wields his pen and commits that unconstitutional act to legalize millions, I think that becomes something that is nearly political nuclear... I think the public would be mobilized and galvanized and that changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution and how we might deal with that."

What to do in Syria?

First Read: "Strikingly, it was exactly a year ago when Washington was debating about what to do in Syria -- back then, it was over the Assad regime's chemical weapons. A year later, Syria is once again in the news -- this time over whether to strike ISIS in the region. Of course, the circumstances are different. Assad's chemical weapons weren't viewed as the same threat to the United States that ISIS is (if unchecked). And a year ago, when it wasn't election season, members of Congress were eager to debate whether to authorize limited airstrikes in Syria."

"Today, in the midst of campaign season, many politicians (though there are some exceptions like Sens. Tim Kaine and Bob Corker) are notably silent on the subject... Despite those differences, the larger storyline is the same between Aug. 2013 and Aug. 2014: Syria remains the Obama administration's most difficult foreign-policy problem. (How do you curb the Shiite Assad regime? How also do you stop the Sunni ISIS militants there?) And Syria presents the danger that if you start getting involved, it becomes hard to stop. "

Bonus Quote of the Day

"There's only one thing Barack Obama needs to keep his grip on power. He needs the U.S. Senate!"

-- Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), quoted by the New York Times Magazine.

Crist Wouldn't Be First Party Switcher Elected in Florida

Morning Line: "If Charlie Crist wins the governorship -- for the second time -- this fall he would become the first governor in Florida history to ever win as a member of two different parties... Crist would also be only the second Florida governor in 117 years -- and only the second since it achieved statehood -- to serve two non-consecutive terms. Gov. William Bloxham served as governor from 1881 to 1885 and was later elected again 12 years later... Crist, though, would not be the first party-switcher in state history to serve as governor. Three Florida governors before him actually switched parties before holding office, but none to the Democratic Party."

Roll Call: How and when to switch political parties

Boehner Haters Head Back to Congress

Bloomberg: "Ten of the 12 House Republicans who didn't support John Boehner's 2013 selection as speaker are cruising to November victories, despite the business community's attempts to knock some of them off."

"It's an ominous twist in the Republican civil war between the Tea Party and the business community. Neither side had enough power to annihilate the other, so the fight goes into the 2016 presidential campaign. The House rebels could thwart the work of Senate Republican candidates, who were backed by corporate cash and have promised to move legislation."

GOP Candidates Credit Koch Brothers for Their Rise

"Three top Republican Senate candidates heaped praise on the political network built by the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch during a secretive conference held by the brothers this past summer," the Huffington Post reports.

"For all three, the association with the Koch brothers' network is likely to provide kindling for their opponents, who have already argued that the Republicans are steered by deep-pocketed conservatives."

Hagan Doesn't Avoid Obama

Rick Klein: "The pictures of Sen. Kay Hagan greeting President Obama in Charlotte weren't on the Charlie Crist level. (That level of political infamy ranks alongside the Joe Lieberman-George W. Bush embrace, history enshrined by Crist's victory in the Democratic primary for governor Tuesday.) Yet how Hagan handled the presidential visit suggests a realization that while Obama can't and won't help virtually any endangered Democrat this year, the president's negative effects are already baked into the electoral cake."

McConnell Explains Plans to Shut Down Government

The Nation has audio of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) telling a room of conservative activists how Republicans will shut down parts of the government if they gain control of the U.S. Senate.

Said McConnell: "So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what's called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We're going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board (inaudible). All across the federal government, we're going to go after it..."

Ex-Lt. Governor Rips Scott in New Book

In a new book, former Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll (R) "describes the misery of being in a 'boys' club' led by Gov. Rick Scott (R), who showed no interest in her ideas to reach out to black and Hispanic voters and whose staff members treated her shabbily, the Miami Herald reports.

"Her story hits bookstores on Wednesday -- her birthday. By coincidence, her grievances about Scott will spill into public view on the very day he will launch his general election campaign for a second term."

Quote of the Day

"I had the chance of running. I didn't win. Someone else has a better chance than I do. And that's what we believe, and that's why I'm not running. And you know, circumstances can change, but I'm just not going to let my head go there."

-- Mitt Romney, in an interview with Hugh Hewitt.

Worst Comeback Attempt Ever

Former Rep. David Rivera (R-FL), "who served in Congress from 2011 to 2013, officially lost his hapless comeback bid Tuesday, falling short in the Republican primary election in Florida's 26th district," National Journal reports.

"It may have been the worst congressional comeback attempt of all time. Rivera lost the nomination, but he dominated the headlines. Throughout the race, he faced questions about his role in an alleged 2012 campaign finance scheme, sparred with the media, and even briefly suspended his campaign for unclear reasons--only to restart it just two weeks before the election."

Obama Will Bypass Congress on Climate Agreement

"The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress," the New York Times reports.

"In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world's largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate."

"To sidestep that requirement, President Obama's climate negotiators are devising what they call a 'politically binding' deal that would 'name and shame' countries into cutting their emissions. The deal is likely to face strong objections from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from poor countries around the world, but negotiators say it may be the only realistic path."

IMF Chief Under Investigation for Fraud

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde "has been placed under formal investigation by French magistrates for negligence in a political fraud affair dating from 2008 when she was finance minister," Reuters reports.

Archive: August 26, 2014

McDonnell Apologizes for Taking Gifts and Money

New York Times: "Five days of grueling, often contentious testimony by Bob McDonnell, the former Virginia governor accused of corruption, ended Tuesday with an apology from Mr. McDonnell for accepting so many gifts and so much money, but an emphatic denial that he had conspired with his wife to sell his office."

"The federal trial, already 22 days long, could go to the jury as early as Wednesday."

Rubio Hints at Government Shutdown Over Immigration

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) says that Republicans will fight unilateral action by President Obama on immigration through the budget process, the Huffington Post reports.

Said Rubio: "There will have to be some sort of a budget vote or a continuing resolution vote, so I assume there will be some sort of a vote on this. I'm interested to see what kinds of ideas my colleagues have about using funding mechanisms to address this issue."

"After Congress returns on Sept. 8, lawmakers will have just 10 working days to come to consensus on a continuing resolution to fund the government or risk a shutdown... Adding immigration to the debate would complicate matters further and potentially trigger a domestic crisis on the eve of the Nov. 4 midterm elections."

Close Three-Way Senate Race in Kansas

A new SurveyUSA poll in Kansas finds Sen. Pat Roberts (R) just five points ahead of challenger Chad Taylor (D) in the U.S. Senate race, 37% to 32%, with independent Greg Orman at 20%.

Police Union Won't Back Democratic Convention in Brooklyn

A New York Police Department union leader said he will not back Mayor Bill de Blasio's (D) bid to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention, warning that New York City is reverting to its crime-ridden "old days" under the administration, Newsday reports.

Is Obamacare Helping Some GOP Governors?

Sam Wang notes that Republican governors who supported Obamacare's Medicaid expansion are being rewarded for it in recent polls.

"According to these data points, Republican governors who bucked their party's stance and accepted the policy are faring better with voters--in these races, an average of 8.5 percentage points better. Considering that crusading against Obamacare has been a core part of the G.O.P. playbook, this 8.5-point difference may come as a surprise. But it doesn't necessarily mean that voters' sentiments are driven entirely by health-care policy. Think of the Medicaid expansion as a 'proxy variable,' one that is predictive of stands on many other issues."

Behind Rick Perry's Indictment

"The trail to Rick Perry's indictment began with way too many drinks and a drunken-driving arrest for Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County district attorney, that was captured in embarrassing detail on videotape," the New York Times reports.

"But the conflict between Republicans who control state government and the Democratic district attorney's office has been playing out for years, forming a complicated back story to the unfolding legal drama known as the State of Texas v. James Richard 'Rick' Perry."

Franken Up in Minnesota

A new SurveyUSA poll in Minnesota finds Sen. Al Franken (D) leading challenger Michael McFadden (R) in the U.S. Senate race by nine points, 51% to 42%.

In the race for governor, Gov. Mark Dayton (D) leads challenger Jeff Johnson (R) by the same margin, 49% to 40%.

Iowa is a Toss Up

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Iowa finds Bruce Braley (D) barely leading Joni Ernst (R) for U.S. Senate, 42% to 41% with third party candidates splitting 5%. In a straight head to head the two are tied at 42%.

"This represents a significant tightening from PPP's last poll in May when Braley led 45/39, but is consistent with most public polling since the primary."

GOP Odds of Taking Senate Grow

The Upshot now gives Republicans a 67% chance of winning control of the Senate.

"Recent polls are one big reason. As we discussed last week, the latest evidence from Georgia has been favorable for Republicans. In West Virginia, polling continues to suggest that Natalie Tennant, the Democratic secretary of state, is a long shot to win. In Alaska -- an important state for Democrats to hold -- a Rasmussen poll released on Monday suggested the race was close. (Polls from Rasmussen were Republican-leaning in 2012, but these house effects are not very consistent between cycles. This cycle, we estimate Rasmussen polls have been perhaps a little more Republican-leaning than those of the typical pollster, but not much.)"

Republicans Much More Optimistic Ahead of Midterms

Pew Research: "With just over two months before the midterm elections, Republican voters are widening the 'expectations gap' with the Democrats. About six-in-ten (61%) Republican and GOP-leaning registered voters think their party will do better than in recent elections -- roughly double the share of Democrats (32%) who feel similarly about their party's chances."

"This gap has not reached the same levels of the GOP's margin before their large 2010 gains or the Democrats' expectations in their 2006 sweep of both houses of Congress."

The Second Most Important Race This Year

Noam Scheiber: "Everyone knows the most important political race in the country this fall is the race that determines control of the U.S. Senate... But what's the second most important election in the country? You might be tempted to say it's another competitive race like Louisiana, Arkansas, or Colorado. But I'd argue that the second most important election isn't a Senate race at all. In fact, it's one whose winner won't even hold office in Washington, at least not right away. It's the campaign for governor of Wisconsin, which pits incumbent Scott Walker against Mary Burke, a little-known executive at the bike manufacturer Trek. And it could shape U.S. politics for years to come."

Blaming the Wife

Eleanor Clift: "People are expected to protect the people they love, which is why spouses aren't compelled to testify against each other. It's called spousal privilege. But some politicians operate under a different set of rules--call it 'Blame the wife'--and as a strategy, it's on full display in the corruption trial of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen."

"A political wife taking the heat for what are ultimately her husband's transgressions is not a new phenomenon. Richard Nixon famously invoked wife Pat's modest cloth coat in his Checkers speech in 1952 as dubious evidence that he had not taken improper campaign gifts. Hillary Clinton took the brunt of the blame for her husband's failure to get health-care reform passed, and she was the primary target in the Whitewater and Travelgate scandals that plagued her husband's White House."

Coming to the End of Primary Season

First Read: "It's the next-to-last primary day of the midterm cycle, with Arizona, Florida, and Vermont holding their nominating contests, as well as with Oklahoma deciding its runoffs. And our focus today is on the two states with gubernatorial elections -- Arizona and Florida. Arizona is worth watching because Democrats have a real shot in the general election to succeed term-limited Jan Brewer, especially if Republicans nominate anyone too conservative."

Roll Call has 4 things to watch in today's primaries.

Sanders Gears Up for White House Bid

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is weighing "a presidential primary challenge against Hillary Clinton and hopes to capitalize on Democratic concerns over Clinton's coziness with Wall Street banks," The Hill reports.

Said Sanders: "I'll be going to New Hampshire and I'll be going to Iowa. That's part of my trying to ascertain the kind of support that exists for a presidential run."

Left unsaid: "Sanders has not said whether he will run as an independent or a Democrat."

Quote of the Day

"Since 2009, the president has played more than 185 rounds of golf. Expensive vacation homes, fine dining, spontaneous trips, private concerts by the world's top music artists; Obama's life seems more like that of a celebrity than a president."

-- Alabama GOP Chairman Bill Armistead, quoted by the Birmingham News.

Paul Ryan's Favorite Books

The Week asked Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) for his 6 favorite books on economics and democracy.

Jonathan Chait: "The request was a bit mischievous, as Ryan has tried (since his ascension from backbencher to his current role as chief ideologist of the Republican party) to downplay his love of Ayn Rand and her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged. And now, the volume that Ryan once handed out to all his staffers, listed as one of his three most frequently reread books of any kind and cited as the entire reason he got into public service, no longer makes the top six list of books on politics and economics."

"So it seems the lesson Ryan has drawn from the harmful publicity surrounding his Rand fixation is not that he shouldn't associate himself publicly with crackpot authors but merely that he should find different crackpot authors."

Biden's Secret Fundraisers

Vice President Joe Biden "has been crisscrossing the country attending closed-door fundraisers and donor events for Democratic House candidates -- but you won't find many on his schedule," Politico reports.

"None of these side events were on the official public schedule -- and they came with strict rules for the elite group of participants from Biden's office: No emails. No Facebook or Twitter posts, before or after. Phone is best, they tell everyone involved. Nothing written at all -- that would complicate security and require approval from the White House. All told, Biden's done more than two dozen of these unofficial events, tacked on to government and campaign trips, with more under-the-radar appearances already planned."

Is a GOP Wave Coming?

Politico: "So where's the wave? This is President Obama's sixth-year-itch election. The map of states with contested Senate seats could hardly be better from the Republicans' vantage point. And the breaks this year--strong candidates, avoidance of damaging gaffes, issues such as Obamacare and immigration that stir the party base--have mainly gone the GOP's way, very unlike 2012."

"Nonetheless, the midterms are far from over. In every single one of the Crystal Ball's toss-up states, (Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina), the Republican Senate candidate has not yet opened up a real polling lead in any of them. Democratic nominees have been running hard and staying slightly ahead, or close to, their Republican foes."

GOP Staffers Ready to Cash In If Senate Flips

"Washington's lobby firms are being inundated with phone calls and emails from GOP staffers looking to jump to the private sector if Republicans capture the Senate in November," The Hill reports.

"With GOP odds of a takeover growing, high-ranking aides are checking in on their value 'downtown' at law and lobby firms, where they could command salary offers of up to $500,000 per year."

FEC Rules By Not Acting

New York Times: "The three Republican and three Democratic appointees of the Federal Election Commission had reached yet another deadlock... The case was just one of the more than 200 times in the past six years that the commission has split votes, reflecting a deep ideological divide over how aggressively to regulate money in politics that mirrors the partisan gridlock in Congress."

"But instead of paralyzing the commission, the 3-to-3 votes have created a rapidly expanding universe of unofficial law, where Republican commissioners have loosened restrictions on candidates and outside groups simply by signaling what standards they are willing to enforce."

Will Disapproval of Congress Lead to Higher Turnout?

Gallup: "Americans' disenchantment with Congress may lead to higher voter turnout on Election Day this year. In the last five midterm elections, voter turnout has exceeded 40% when Congress' approval rating was low, but turnout was below 40% when Americans were more approving."

Archive: August 25, 2014

British Intelligence Identifies Man Who Beheaded Journalist

"British intelligence said a London rapper who traveled to Syria last year to fight with Islamist militants is suspected of beheading American journalist James Foley last week," USA Today reports.

"British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 identified the killer and named Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 24, as a key suspect... Abdel Bary, also known as L Jinny or Lyricist Jinn in London, left a budding music career that included appearances on BBC Radio in 2012."

Coakley Slips in Massachusetts

A new Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll in Massachusetts finds Martha Coakley's (D) "seemingly insurmountable lead has dwindled to a dozen points in the Democratic race for governor." Coakley now holds just a 42% to 30% advantage over Steve Grossman (D) with just 15 days left before the Sept. 9 primary.

In the Republican contest, Charlie Baker (R) is coasting to his party's nomination with a 70% to 11% lead over Mark Fisher (R).

Brown Flip Flops on Climate Change

"Former Sen. Scott Brown (R), now running for Senate in New Hampshire, over the weekend was pretty clear: science has not proven that climate change is real. But back in 2012, when Brown was running for re-election in Massachusetts, he said that he "absolutely" believed climate change is real and that it is a result of both man-made and natural causes," TPM reports.

On Wonk Wire

Some great clicks over at Wonk Wire:

In Search of True Libertarians

A new Pew Research survey finds that just 11% of Americans describe themselves as libertarian and actually know what the term means.

Is the Polling Industry in Crisis?

Nate Silver: "There is no shortage of reasons to worry about the state of the polling industry. Response rates to political polls are dismal. Even polls that make every effort to contact a representative sample of voters now get no more than 10 percent to complete their surveys -- down from about 35 percent in the 1990s."

"And there are fewer high-quality polls than there used to be. The cost to commission one can run well into five figures, and it has increased as response rates have declined.1 Under budgetary pressure, many news organizations have understandably preferred to trim their polling budgets rather than lay off newsroom staff."

Sullivan Takes Early Lead in Alaska

A new Rasmussen survey in Alaska finds Dan Sullivan (R) edging Sen. Mark Begich (D) in the race for Senate, 47% to 45%.

Democratic Migration Offsets Growth in Red States

The Upshot: "Over the last few decades, residents of many traditionally liberal states have moved to states that were once more conservative. And this pattern has played an important role in helping the Democratic Party win the last two presidential elections and four of the last six. The growth of the Latino population and the social liberalism of the millennial generation may receive more attention, but the growing diaspora of blue-state America matters as well."

"The blue diaspora has helped offset the fact that many of the nation's fastest-growing states are traditionally Republican. You can think of it as a kind of race: Population growth in these Republican states is reducing the share of the Electoral College held by traditionally Democratic states. But Democratic migration has been fast enough, so far, to allow the party to overcome the fact that the Northeast and industrial Midwest contain a smaller portion of the country's population than they once did."

Export-Import Bank is Midterm Election Wildcard

New York Times: "In an election cycle where no single issue is animating voters, the relatively obscure lender, which provides loans and loan guarantees to foreign buyers of American products, has become an unlikely source of prominent campaign friction."

"The fight over whether to reauthorize the bank, which Congress must do by the end of September to sustain its operations, has roiled Capitol Hill in unexpected ways, creating a divide between the Tea Party movement and establishment Republicans. It also is providing an avenue for Democrats to showcase their support for American companies and to try to drive a wedge between business interests and Republican candidates."

DesJarlais Wins by 38 Votes

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) has officially won his primary race, barely squeaking past Jim Tracy (R), who conceded after more than two tense weeks following the Republican primary in Tennessee's 4th district, Roll Call reports.

"DesJarlais was among the most vulnerable House incumbents this cycle, thanks to personal scandal that dried up his fundraising ability and made him a pariah among some of his peers in the Tennessee delegation. Proceedings from a 2001 divorce arose in October of 2012 that revealed DesJarlais had encouraged an ex-wife and former mistress to have multiple abortions."

Nunn Won't Say If She'll Vote for Reid

Michelle Nunn (D) "served notice to her fellow Democrats that she wasn't a sure vote for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to keep his job -- should her party keep control of that chamber in November," the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

Said Nunn: "I look forward to changing the composition in the leadership of the Senate. The way that we're going to change Washington is to bring more people to recognize - to have the humility to recognize - that there are good ideas on both sides of the aisle... I will vote for the Democratic leader that I think best represents our capacity to get things done and move things forward."

States with the Highest Gubernatorial Re-Election Rates

A Smart Politics analysis of the more than 665 gubernatorial elections conducted since 1963 finds that 102 of 406 governors were defeated in their reelection bids (25.1 percent), with incumbents from six states notching a perfect record during this span: Vermont (18 for 18), Connecticut (7 for 7), Wyoming (6 for 6), Pennsylvania (5 for 5), North Carolina (4 for 4), and Tennessee (4 for 4).

New Florida Districts Won't Take Effect Until 2016

"Florida's flawed congressional districts may remain in place for two more years and newly drawn boundaries for seven north and central districts don't have to take effect until 2016," the Tampa Bay Times reports.

"Judge Terry Lewis upheld the revisions to the state's congressional map approved by the Florida Legislature during a three-day special session earlier this month. But he said the current configuration, which he ruled unconstitutional a month ago, could stand for the 2014 election."

Flashback Quote of the Day

"What is it about August?"

-- Former President George H.W. Bush, quoted by the Associated Press.

Expectations for Executive Action Rise as Obama Returns

"Expectations are high that President Obama can move ahead with controversial executive actions now that he has returned from his vacation," The Hill reports.

"Obama's two weeks on Martha's Vineyard were plagued by dual crises, in Iraq and in Ferguson, Mo. But his break was also something of a blackout period for news about actions the White House is weighing on immigration reform and so-called corporate 'inversions,' a business maneuver companies use to reduce their tax burdens."

Quote of the Day

"If you go back to how brutal my campaigns were, it was difficult to turn off the campaign switch and to remember to turn to governing."

-- South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), in an interview with The State, on how anger from her 2010 race shaped her governing style.

Will a 'Disconnected' President Take Down Democrats?

A tough few weeks during President Obama's vacation "left the impression of a disconnected president, frustrated with both the expectations and the limitations inherent in being the nation's leader at this moment in history," the Washington Post reports.

"It also led to worries -- expressed privately -- among Democratic party strategists that Obama's seemingly long-view approach to international and domestic conflicts could spell doom for the party's chances in the midterm elections, which are only about 10 weeks away."

Pell Claimed Unpaid Internship was 'Critical Experience'

In the wake of a new poll showing his Democratic primary opponent Clay Pell (D) gaining ground in the race for Rhode Island governor, Angel Taveras (D) made public an email in which Pell claimed an unpaid summer internship between his sophomore and junior years at college as "critical experience" at the State Department, the Providence Journal reports.

Did McDaniel Wait Too Long to Challenge Election?

"Chris McDaniel's first hurdle in his lawsuit to overturn his loss to Thad Cochran is a doozy: He may have waited too late to file it," the Jackson Clarion Ledger reports.

"As he worked for weeks building a case and campaigning that the election was stolen from him, McDaniel's team said a 20-day deadline applies only to challenges of county and local elections, not a statewide U.S. Senate primary. Others, including the secretary of state, agreed with him."

Democrats Adopt 2016 Primary Calendar

"The Democratic National Committee, or DNC, approved rules for its 2016 convention along with a primary schedule that will begin with the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, 2016, followed by voting later that month in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina," the AP reports.

"The 2016 framework is in line with plans pushed by Republicans and gives states incentives to hold their primary contests between March and June, aiming to avoid a front-loaded calendar that encroaches on the Christmas holidays."

Secrets of the Clinton Library

"Six months after the National Archives began releasing long-withheld Clinton White House documents, thousands of pages of the most sensitive records are still not yet public. But hints of their contents emerged during a Politico recent review of the gaps in the library's public files."

A Campaign About Nothing

"America seems resigned to a Seinfeld election in 2014--a campaign about nothing," John Avlon notes.

"To an exhausted electorate, the final midterms of the Obama presidency are failing to drive much mainstream excitement, and no clear national themes have emerged despite the high-stakes fight for the Senate. DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz essentially admitted as much when she dismissed the idea of Democrats running on any national message, seeking instead to focus on local themes."

Democrats Buck the Federal Government

Politico: "Challenging federal power in sometimes-theatrical ways has been a hallmark of Republican politicians -- particularly among the GOP's more colorful governors -- since President Barack Obama took office. But now, with Washington, D.C., in a state of permanent chaos and a host of liberal policy priorities frozen in place, leaders in Obama's party are starting to stir up trouble of their own."

"They're defying the feds chiefly on social policy, with immigration and drug enforcement the key flash points of 2014."

Archive: August 24, 2014

The Myth of the Third Term Curse

Despite assertions otherwise, Jeff Greenfield says Americans "are probably pretty OK with giving a party a third term in the White House."

"Viewed through this prism, the idea of an American electorate 'reluctant' to give a third straight White House term to a political party looks far less convincing, and far more the product of highly 'contingent' events. Indeed, the only recent example where voters clearly rejected a third term for the incumbent party was 2008--when a collapsing economy and the Iraq misadventure doomed John McCain's hopes of succeeding George W. Bush. And it's certainly possible that a continued fall in Obama's approval ratings will prove a burden to Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat in 2016."

Quote of the Day

"I think that's what scares the Democrats the most, is that in a general election, were I to run, there's going to be a lot of independents and even some Democrats who say, 'You know what? We are tired of war. We're worried that Hillary Clinton will get us involved in another Middle Eastern war, because she's so gung-ho."

-- Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), quoted by the Associated Press, labeling Hillary Clinton a "war hawk."

D'Souza Compares Protesters to ISIS

Just published: Obama's America: Unmaking the American Dream by Dinesh D'Souza.

The Daily Beast notes that D'Souza -- recently convicted on campaign finance violations -- compared protesters in Ferguson, MO to ISIS in Iraq in a recent interview promoting the book.

Said D'Souza: "The common thread between ISIS and what's going on in Ferguson is you have these people who basically believe that to correct perceived injustice, it's perfectly okay to inflict all types of new injustices. Behead guys who had nothing to do with it. Go and loot shops from business owners who were not part of the original problem whatsoever. And all of this is then licensed by the left and licensed, to some degree, by the media."

Democrats Build Ground Game in Arkansas

Molly Ball says Democrats are building an extensive ground operation in Arkansas in an attempt to re-elect Sen. Mark Pryor (D) in a tough midterm election environment.

"Democrats aren't advertising this office and 39 others like it that are scattered around Arkansas--in fact, their locations are a closely guarded secret. When I visited last week, having tracked it down through creative public-records sleuthing, I took Chita Collins, the field organizer on duty there, by surprise. But I wanted to see the evidence of what Democrats have been claiming they're building in states like this one, and what could be crucial to their uphill quest to keep the Senate: an Obama-style community-organizing effort of unprecedented scale for a non-presidential election."

GOP Firm Interviews 200K Voters Per Month

"The conservative political data firm i360 is polling more than 200,000 registered voters every month in an effort to offer Republicans unparalleled voter turnout capabilities in the midterm elections and beyond," the Washington Examiner reports.

"The Democrats have been at the forefront of collecting data on prospective voters and using the information to drive turnout, far outpacing the Republican Party's data-mining efforts. But i360 believes it has turned a corner, with company officials asserting that the firm's access to proprietary survey data on millions of Americans offers Republicans an advantage in the competition to sway public opinion and influence the vote."

Will Iowa Tip Senate to Republicans?

"Iowa was never supposed to be a Senate battleground for Democrats," The Hill reports.

"Following two cycles where it was GOP missteps and subpar candidates who cost them winnable races, the tables have turned and it's now Democrats who are scrambling to right Rep. Bruce Braley's flagging campaign before it's too late."

Mayor of the World

The New York Times says "the man who flirted with a presidential run has one last aspiration: mayor of the world."

"Michael Bloomberg, 72, has vowed to give away his $32.8 billion fortune before he dies. In doing so, he hopes to sharply reduce high smoking rates in Turkey, Indonesia and other countries; bring down obesity levels in Mexico; reduce traffic in Rio de Janeiro (and Istanbul); improve road safety in India and Kenya; prevent deaths at childbirth to mothers in Tanzania; and organize cities worldwide to become more environmentally friendly and efficient in delivering services."

Blair Advised Kazakhstan Leader After Massacre

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair "gave Kazakhstan's autocratic president advice on how to manage his image after the slaughter of unarmed civilians protesting against his regime," the Telegraph reports.

"In a letter to Nursultan Nazarbayev... Mr Blair told the Kazakh president that the deaths of 14 protesters 'tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress' his country had made. Mr Blair, who is paid millions of pounds a year to give advice to Mr Nazarbayev, goes on to suggest key passages to insert into a speech the president was giving at the University of Cambridge, to defend the action."

Walker Says He Was Unaware of $700K Donation

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said that he played "no role in soliciting cash from a mining company for the Wisconsin Club for Growth during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections, adding that no one should be surprised that the pro-business governor backed legislation helpful to the firm," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

The Washington Post notes Walker's "aggressive efforts" to raise money for the Wisconsin Club for Growth, "which allegedly served as a de facto arm of his campaign, are the latest details to emerge about a controversial two-year investigation of whether Walker's campaign illegally coordinated with outside groups."

Tight Race in Maryland

A new OnMessage poll in Maryland shows a very close race for governor with Anthony Brown (D) just ahead of Larry Hogan (R), 45% to 42%.

Archive: August 22, 2014

Poll Shows Nunn Leading in Georgia

A new Landmark Communications poll in Georgia finds Michelle Nunn (D) leading David Perdue (R) in the U.S. Senate race by seven points, 47% to 40%. Libertarian candidate Amanda Swafford received 3% while 10% are undecided.

Most other recent polls have found Perdue with a growing lead.

Perry Puts Mugshot on Campaign Schwag

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's (R) new political action committee unveiled a T-shirt featuring Perry's mug shot, Business Insider reports.

The caption under Perry's mug shot says he's "wanted" for "securing the border and defeating Democrats."

Politicians Aren't More Corrupt Than Usual

FiveThirtyEight: "According to Gallup, Americans think that political corruption has become more widespread over the past several years. And yet the best data we have on political corruption doesn't bear that out. The Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department reports statistics on corruption cases to Congress every year, and although it might be a stretch to say that the country has gotten less corrupt over time, the problem certainly hasn't grown."

Axelrod Says Democrats Were Wrong About Bush Vacations

David Axelrod told the New York Daily News that he wishes Democrats didn't criticize former President Bush when he went on vacation because presidents are "never off-duty."

Said Axelrod: "We used to pillory George Bush for going to his ranch and we were wrong."

He added: "The demands and pressures of the presidency are relentless, and we ought to want our presidents to get small breaks to relax, even in-and maybe especially in -- the midst of crisis."

Bonus Quote of the Day

"Well, I am flattered because she is a strong leader. I am a strong independent leader. I am a strong female independent leader. And I do believe they use that as a distraction. Rather than focus on me, they're focusing on someone else. She is the kind of politician I admire because she speaks what's on her mind."

-- Iowa U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst (R), quoted by the New York Times, on being compared to Sarah Palin.

Obama Inc.

"The presidency of Barack Obama has catapulted a network of former advisers into lucrative positions," The Hill reports.

"Members of the president's brain trust have steadily moved outside the administration in recent years, capitalizing on their association with the Obama brand to launch careers as advisers, consultants and hired guns."

Obama Signals All Out War on ISIS

"The Obama administration signaled Thursday that the United States has begun a new war against the so-called Islamic State, and that group's operatives will not be safe from America's wrath in Iraq, in Syria, or wherever they can be tracked down," Eli Lake reports.

"The most notable rhetorical tell came from Obama himself. In the aftermath of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Obama vowed to bring the attackers to justice. This week Obama struck a different tone, saying: 'When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what's necessary to see that justice is done.'"

"The difference between bringing suspects to justice and seeing that justice is done is roughly the same as the difference between treating terrorism as a crime and as an act of war."

Democrats Plan Midterm Ground Strategy

Daily Beast: "With fewer than 75 days left until Election Day, Democrats across the country are feverishly moving from planning to implementing a vast, multilayered turnout operation that they hope will make the 2014 mid-term elections look more like a victorious Obama presidential year and less like the sort of mid-term wipeout that cost them the House majority in 2010."

Did Weiland Accidently Concede Senate Race?

South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate Rick Weiland (D) says it was a "light moment" when he called opponent and former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) "senator" during a public forum, the AP reports.

Weiland quickly corrected his remark to "soon-to-want-to-be senator."

McDonnell Corruption Trial Turns Into a Soap Opera

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) "laid bare his troubled marriage during a remarkable day of testimony that revealed he and his wife are living separately for the trial and he is staying in his parish priest's rectory," the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

"Anchoring McDonnell's account of his marital drama was an emotional email the former governor sent his wife, Maureen, in September 2011. It conveys his love but deep heartache over a shattered marriage that worsened over time."

Daily Beast: The five weirdest revelations of the McDonnell trial

Quote of the Day

"He realized I wasn't as irrational or as crazy as people thought."

-- Rev. Al Sharpton, in an interview with Politico, on how he became President Obama's confidant on race.

Obama Returns to Golf

New York Times: "Presidents learn to wall off their feelings and compartmentalize their lives. They deal in death one moment and seek mental and physical relief the next. To make coldhearted decisions in the best interest of the country and manage the burdens of perhaps the most stressful job on the planet, current and former White House officials said, a president must guard against becoming consumed by the emotions of the situations they confront. And few presidents have been known more for cool, emotional detachment than Mr. Obama."

"Yet the juxtaposition of his indignant denunciation of terrorists and his outing on the greens this week underscored the unintended consequences of such a remove. If Mr. Obama hoped to show America's enemies that they cannot hijack his schedule, he also showed many of his friends in America that he disdains the politics of appearance. He long ago stopped worrying about what critics say, according to aides, and after the outcry over Wednesday's game, he defied the critics by golfing again on Thursday, his eighth outing in 11 days on the island."

Ryan Wants Romney to Run Again

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) "dodged questions about his 2016 plans Wednesday but said he would be a big backer of Mitt Romney if he were to make another run for the White House," The Hill reports.

Said Ryan: "I'd drive his bus if he asked me to."

Reaction to Shooting in Ferguson Divided Along Racial Lines

A new New York Times/CBS News poll shows "most whites reserving judgment on whether the fatal shooting of the teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo., was justified. Most blacks say it was not."

"The poll also shows significant differences in how blacks and whites view the unrest that has gripped Ferguson since Mr. Brown's killing. Most whites say they think the actions of the protesters have gone too far, while blacks are more evenly divided."

Capitol Hill Computers Banned from Editing Wikipedia

Gawker: "Congressional IP addresses just got blocked from Wikipedia for the third time in two months, all because somebody working in our government couldn't stop editing Laverne Cox's page on their work computer."

Coakley Maintains Lead in Massachusetts

A new Boston Globe poll in Massachusetts finds Martha Coakley (D) leading Charlie Baker (R) in the race for governor by seven points, 41% to 34%.

Coakley has a big lead in the Democratic primary, topping Steve Grossman (D), 45% to 24%.

Malloy Trailing in Connecticut

A new Rasmussen survey in Connecticut shows Tom Foley (R) leading Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) in the race for governor, 45% to 38%.

Perry Makes the Most of Indictment

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) left for "a three-day jaunt to Washington and the presidential testing ground of New Hampshire, vowing to beat his abuse-of-power charges," the Dallas Morning News reports.

"For Perry, a stop at a friendly think tank where he's pitched books, policies and his candidacy wasn't so much about trying to change the subject as to make the most of a legal predicament that -- in the worst case -- could leave him behind bars for decades."

Archive: August 21, 2014

Shaheen Barely Leads in New Hampshire

A new WMUR poll in New Hampshire finds Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) leading challenger Scott Brown in the U.S. Senate race by just two points, 46% to 44%.

Last month, Shaheen led the race by 12 points.

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

"At some point, I'm entitled to be normal."

-- Former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R), quoted by the Washington Post, on why he drove Jonnie R. Williams Sr.'s Ferrari.

Florida Gay Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

A federal judge on ruled Florida's gay-marriage ban unconstitutional and ordered the state to recognize marriages legally performed elsewhere. The judge, however, immediately stayed his order until after the appeals process is completed, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Write Judge Robert Hinkle: "When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Florida's ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination. Observers who are not now of age will wonder just how those views could have been held."

Minnesota GOP Bans Its Own Candidate

"The Minnesota Republican Party's endorsed candidate for Supreme Court is pushing back against the party's attempts to keep her away from its State Fair booth," the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

"Michelle MacDonald showed up at the booth on the fair's first day Thursday and was asked several times to leave. Party officials passed a resolution a day earlier that bans her from the booth because of a pending drunken driving case."


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