September, 2014

Rand Paul Goes Mainstream

Ryan Lizza: “In some respects, Paul is to Republicans in 2014 what Barack Obama was to Democrats in 2006: the Party’s most prized fund-raiser and its most discussed senator, willing to express opinions unpopular within his party, and capable of energizing younger voters. The Republican National Committee, which in 2008 refused to allow his father, Ron Paul, to speak at its Convention, recently solicited donations by offering supporters a chance to have lunch with Rand Paul. The only potential obstacle to a Paul Presidential candidacy in 2016 is his wife, Kelley.”

Said adviser Douglas Stafford: “Unless Kelley says no, he’s running.”

Party Bosses Place Their Bets

The Hill: “Five weeks before the midterm elections, party leaders are peering into their campaign bank accounts, doing their math and trying to figure out where to put their money — and where to abandon hope.”

“While it is unclear which party will be running the upper chamber in 2015, the states that will decide the race are now apparent. The decisions by D.C. power brokers are sure to be a disappointment for some candidates who will be left to the wayside.”

Landrieu Leads But Not By Enough to Avoid Runoff

A new CNN/ORC International poll in Louisiana finds Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) with a small lead over Bill Cassidy (R) in the U.S. Senate race, 43% to 40%.

“But this is Louisiana, and the election system can be complicated. There are nine candidates — Republicans, Democrats, and a Libertarian — on the ballot this November, and if no candidate crosses the 50% threshold, the race moves into a December runoff between the top two contenders.”

Ernst Pulls Ahead in Iowa

A new Des Moines Register poll in Iowa finds Joni Ernst (R) leads Bruce Braley (D) in the U.S. Senate race by six points, 44% to 38%.

“Just seven months ago, political analysts considered Braley almost a shoo-in for a seat held for 30 years by liberal Democrat Tom Harkin. Still, the 6-point deficit isn’t insurmountable with 37 days left until the Nov. 4 election, political analysts say. Twelve percent of likely voters remain undecided.”

Traficant is Dead

Former Rep. James Traficant Jr. (D-OH), “whose career as a colorfully combative congressional gadfly ended in 2002 when he became the fifth House member ever expelled, died Saturday at a hospital in his native Youngstown,” Roll Call reports.

The Vindicator first reported the news just days after Traficant was critically injured when the tractor he was driving at his family farm flipped over.

Senate Odds Tilt Back Towards Republicans

“If the polls of early September were a reminder that the Democratic path to 50 seats remains open, then the last two weeks were a reminder of how quickly that path could close,” the New York Times reports.

“Recent polls in Iowa, Colorado and Alaska have offered better news for Republicans. As a result, the Republicans are again slight favorites to retake the Senate, according to Leo, The Upshot’s Senate model. They have a 61 percent chance of retaking the chamber, up from 50 percent in the middle of last week.”

Interestingly, FiveThirtyEight gives Republicans a 60% chance and Sam Wang gives Republicans a 61% chance.

Third Parties May Tip Battle for Senate

“In an election year shaped by voter anger toward the political establishment, the outcome of an unusually large number of close Senate and governor’s races could be determined by the outsize role of third-party candidates,” the New York Times reports.

“The potential spoilers include a quixotic former three-term senator, a pizza delivery man and an Alaskan whose name, Fish, summons a favored native food. They represent independents, Libertarians and other parties that have suddenly become relevant — and could affect the balance of power in Congress and decide who runs the governor’s offices in several states.”

How Campaigns Can Poison Governing

Amy Walter: “There’s a reason why the people who run campaigns are rarely the people responsible for implementing policy. The job of a campaign operative is to work in absolutes – you win or you lose, there’s no gray area. The job of a policy operative, of course, is to look for the gray, to look for solutions within the increasingly narrowing options of our polarized political system.”

“However, the way one wins a campaign ultimately determines how an incumbent and his/her party can (or cannot) legislate. And, the way that both sides have boxed themselves in on tough issues like immigration, entitlements, and climate change on the campaign trail ultimately leaves little room for any meaningful compromise in a 2015 Congress.”

New Players Flood Opposition Research

Wall Street Journal: “The craft of opposition research–finding information that might put an opponent in a negative light–has long been a staple of political campaigns. This year, independent groups are taking a leading role, adding to the research done by candidates and party committees.”

“Like other parts of electioneering, such as buying TV airtime and soliciting donations by phone, opposition research is becoming a specialty of third-party groups. Two of the most prominent are America Rising, a 67-employee group that takes aim at Democrats, and American Bridge, whose 80-plus-staff targets Republicans. Both are backed by prominent donors–investor and money-manager George Soros, for example, has backed Democratic-aligned American Bridge, while hedge-fund founder Ken Griffin has given to America Rising.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“I think it is a compliment but I also think Republicans need to realize that if we’re going to win national elections again the same old same old that has been losing will not win again.”

— Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), in an interview with David Brody, on the White House saying he was the most interesting Republican.