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The Washington Report – October 31, 2014

31 Oct 2014

The Washington Report – October 31, 2014


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This week’s Washington Report! To sign up for the direct email, click here.

 

MIDTERM ELECTIONS … IS THIS A WAVE ELECTION (Deep Dive) … ‘BET ON A GOP SENATE’ … PATH FOR DEMS? … SHOCK POLL … LONG DEAD BIGAMIST CONGRESSMAN STILL HAUNTS SOUTH JERSEY … and some other news of the week. Happy Halloween!

Good news about the weekend, you get an extra hour of sleep … clocks fall back at 2 a.m. Sunday.

Best,

Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Steve Moffitt, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala, Kate Venne, Kathryn Wellner and Ross Willkom)

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LAST FRIDAY BEFORE THE ELECTION  For those of you in the Milwaukee area, be sure to check out our own John Rogers on CBS 58 Tuesday evening. He will be providing election night analysis as the returns come in.

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FACT OF THE DAY Financial Times: “Nearly one in three American voters are expected to cast their ballots early in the US midterm elections.”

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IS THIS A WAVE ELECTION? The Fix, “There’s little question that the election in four days is going to be a good one for Republicans, largely c25292db8937c8e18d4ada8b_280x157because the unpopularity of President Obama has handed the GOP a convenient way to nationalize next Tuesday’s vote in their favor. But, will it be (or is it already) a “wave” election?  THAT DEPENDS ON WHAT DEFINITION OF “WAVE’ ELECTION YOU USE There is no standard definition for what a wave election is or what component parts an election has to have to qualify as a wave. 1) Some people say a wave election is simply when one party — running on a nationalized message — makes across-the-board gains in House, Senate and gubernatorial contests. By that admittedly-loose definition, the 2014 election seems very likely to qualify as a wave.  No one disputes that Republicans will make gains in the House and Senate. The governor’s picture nationally is murkier although there are plenty of scenarios where Republicans net a state or two. 2) By a slightly-more-specific definition, a wave election is dominated by a single national issue and where a party not only makes substantial gains in House, Senate and gubernatorial races but also has candidates win who, in a more neutral national environment, would have no chance to do so.

DEEP, DEEP, DIVE Using that definition of a wave election makes it considerably more debatable whether 2014 is (or will become) one. Let’s start with the size of Republican gains in past wave elections versus what the party might net [next week]. There have been three generally-agreed-upon wave elections in the past two decades: 1994, 2006 and 2010. In 1994, Republicans won 54 House seats, 10 Senate seats and 10 governorships. In 2006, Democrats won 30 House seats, six Senate seats and six governorships. In 2010, Republicans won 63 House seats, six Senate seats and six governorships. The average gain in those three elections was 49 House seats, 7 Senate seats and 7 governor’s mansions. NOT LIKELY REPUBLICANS WILL GAIN FOUR DOZEN SEATS ON NOV 4 Even the most pessimistic Democratic House strategists — and there are plenty of them — see a low double-digit loss as close to a worst-case scenario. Losing upwards of 20 seats is something that is close to unfathomable to them. (The reason for that is not because the environment today is that much better for Democrats than it was in, say, 2010. Rather, the five dozen seats Republicans won in that election coupled with a decennial redistricting process that same year that strengthened lots and lots of incumbents in both parties means that there are just not that many House districts susceptible to even a moderately large wave.) GOVERNORSHIPS Republicans are also not likely to net seven governor’s wins in 2014 either. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) is going to lose and Govs. Paul LePage (Maine), Rick Scott (FL) and Sam Brownback (KA) are all in nip and tuck contests. Republicans are on offense against Democratic incumbents in Illinois, Connecticut and Colorado and are well-positioned to pick up a Democratic-held open seat in Arkansas. But, it would take a major inside straight for Republicans to get to seven pickups — particularly since they are defending 22 of their own seats to just 14 for Democrats. THEN THERE’S THE SENATE The Senate is the place where Republicans could equal or even exceed the numerical standards of a wave election. …The fight for control of the Senate allows us to get into the second key element in Rothenberg’s formulation of what constitutes a true wave election: People winning who wouldn’t win in a less tilted national playing field. Under that definition, Republicans could win Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana — retaking the Senate in the process — without it being considered a wave election. The former three states were made almost impossible holds by Democratic retirements while the latter three incumbents were always going to face very tough races given the underlying partisanship of their states. YOU GET INTO WAVE TERRITORY… if Republicans also sweep Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina, and, especially, if they add New Hampshire to their win total.  The first three states are places where Democrats can and, in the case of Iowa, should win statewide elections in neutral political environments. …HERE’S THE KEY TO A WAVE… New Hampshire is the best example of all: If former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown beats Sen. Jeanne Shaheen that will have lots and lots to do with a very favorable national environment for Republicans.”

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SENATE RANKINGS The Fix, “In our final rankings of the 2014 Senate field, Republicans are well-positioned to win the six seats they need to retake the majority and have a reasonable chance to claim eight or even nine seats if the national environment continues to move against Democrats in the final days. Of the 13 races in which both parties are spending heavily, Republicans have the top eight pickup opportunities. That includes races that are effectively already over — open seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia — as well as badly endangered incumbents like Sens. Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mark Begich (Alaska) and Mary Landrieu (La.). Perhaps most surprising are Republicans’ prospects in Colorado and Iowa — two seats that were long assumed to be likely Democratic holds but, as of today, look like they are tilting slightly toward Republicans. Republicans have only three seats in any danger — Kansas, Georgia and Kentucky. Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) appears to have moved ahead of the persistent challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, and likewise, Georgia’s runoff system is making it more difficult for Democrat Michelle Nunn to pull of an upset there. Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.) remains in serious danger and, if one Republican incumbent loses, it will probably be Roberts. Taken in totality, Republicans have a number of paths to the six seats they need to take control heading into the 114th Congress. As Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee executive director Guy Cecil rightly pointed out in an interview with Plum Line’s Greg Sargent this week, there are “10 races that are within three points.” Given that competitiveness, it’s possible that Democrats see most close races tip their way and save their Senate majority. Possible. But not probable.”

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SABATO: ‘BET ON A GOP SENATE’ Politico Magazine, “While many races remain close, it’s just getting harder and harder to envision a plausible path for the Democrats to retain control of the Senate. Ultimately, with just a few days to go before the election, the safe bet would be on Republicans eventually taking control of the upper chamber. LIKELY WE WON’T KNOW ON ELECTION NIGHT Louisiana is guaranteed to go to a runoff (December 6th), and Georgia seems likelier than not to do the same. The Georgia runoff would be Jan. 6, 2015, three days after the 114th Congress is scheduled to open. Vote-counting in some states, like Alaska, will take days, and other races are close enough to trigger a recount.”

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LONG SHOT… PATH FOR DEMS TO KEEP THE SENATE? FirstDraft, “The question is increasingly insistent: Is there any way Democrats can hang onto the Senate given unfavorable polling and the difficult electoral landscape they face? Many party operatives concede that it is getting harder to envision, but there are narrow paths that would allow Democrats to win at least 50 seats. That would keep them in power because Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. would break any ties. Democrats can afford to lose a net of five seats at most. HERE’S HOW For argument’s sake, award Republicans four seats where they appear very strong and which are now held by Democrats: Arkansas, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. That means if Democrats fail to knock off any Republicans, they must then win at least five of six other battlegrounds: Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, New Hampshire or North Carolina. That’s a tall order and suggests the party’s limited prospects. But add three states to the mix where Republican-held seats are most at risk: Georgia, Kansas and, to a lesser degree, Kentucky. A victory in any or all of them — provided the independent candidate in Kansas could be persuaded to join Democrats in the Senate — gives the party breathing room. TALL ORDER It still seems more likely than not that Republicans will triumph.”

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COMMENT THAT [MAY] RESET THE SENATE RACE IN GEORGIA Politico, “[Republican candidate] David Perdue has run aggressively as a “job creator,” touting his record as a top executive with Fortune 500 companies as the chief selling point in his Georgia Senate campaign. Yet during a controversial chapter in his record — a nine-month stint in 2002-03 as CEO of failed North Carolina textile manufacturer Pillowtex Corp. — Perdue said he was hired, at least in part, to cut costs by outsourcing manufacturing operations overseas. … In a 2005 deposition, when asked about his experience with outsourcing, he responded, “Yeah, I spent most of my career doing that.” RESET This previously unreported comment offers the candidate’s unvarnished take on a hot-button issue is his campaign against Democratic Michelle Nunn.”

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MARY LANDRIEU SAID OBAMA’S RACE HURTS HIM IN THE SOUTH. CUE OUTRAGE The Fix, “Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) might want a do-over about now. Asked by NBC’s Chuck Todd why President Obama is so unpopular in Louisiana, Landrieu first gave a long answer about energy policy. But then she waded into more fraught territory: race. “I’ll be very, very honest with you; the South has not always been the friendliest place for African Americans,” Landrieu said. “It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.” She also said that women have struggled in the South, but her comments on race got much more attention — including a brief airing on “NBC Nightly News” — because that’s how it is with race. … The racial history of the South has played out at the ballot box. It exists. Landrieu isn’t breaking any new ground here. She is however, breaking an unwritten rule in politics — it’s best not to talk about race, unless it’s about how far we’ve come. Her opponents have pounced on her response, calling it divisive and suggesting she’s calling her own state racist. … Of course, read another way, Landrieu’s comments could be geared toward increasing black turnout. But she also has to get white support for a winning multiracial coalition. Southern Democrats have fared increasingly poorly among whites … and it’s hard to see Landrieu’s comments helping her navigate an already-tough tightrope.”

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5380b3fbae56e888ebc8f23d_290x174MIDTERM $$$$  “The 2014 midterm elections will be remembered for many things – hog castration, the inability for many pols to answers simple yes, or no, questions, aggressive flameouts – but officially this cycle has a place in the history books. It has been the most expensive midterm to date. ABC News reports that $3.67 billion was spent on Senate and House races this year – nearly a billion more than what was spent in 2006.”

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THERE WILL SOON BE ONE MILLION ADS RUN IN THE 2014 SENATE RACES … MORE THAN EVERY EPISODE OF JEOPARDY For Senate Ads only! The spending is centered where you’d expect: North Carolina, Louisiana, Colorado, and Arkansas — the states with the most tightly contested Senate races.  Last week alone, campaigns and their advocates ran 83,000 spots. If you figure each spot is thirty seconds long, that’s enough to fill five days of airtime on five channels for 24 hours straight. If you hit play on those one million ads (which, of course, includes repeats) on Jan. 1 at midnight, it wouldn’t finish playing until Dec. 13. By comparison, every episode of “Jeopardy!” ever filmed — starting back in the 1960s — comprises nearly 220,000 minutes of airtime. Meaning that the amount of time spent on Senate ads this year could have been used to show every episode of Jeopardy twice. (Center for Public Integrity)

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RESOLVED:  POLITICIANS SHOULD STOP USING DOGS IN THEIR ADS The Fix, “Disclaimer: I am a dog person. I love, love, love dogs — all dogs. In fact, I secretly judge people who don’t like dogs. (Well, I guess now I used to secretly judge them.) So I am basically the target audience of an increasing number of campaign ads featuring dogs this year.… We’re sure [using dogs in ads] focus-groups well and is seen as an antidote for straight-laced candidates. And yes, politics is a pretty cynical game. But do we really need to drag dogs into it? (I agree)

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HOUSE SPENDING The Cook Political Report rates 38 seats either as tossups or leaning toward one party or the other. … half of all independent spending reported to the FEC for general election races has gone to just a dozen seats, with two apiece in Arizona and Illinois… The bulk of House contests have seen virtually no outside spending this year, with 193 having less than $10,000 spent.”

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SHOCK POLL Millennials may be the new swing voters – Harvard Institute of Politics release: “A new national poll of America’s 18- to 29- year-olds … finds slightly more than half (51%) of young Americans who say they will ‘definitely be voting’ in November prefer a Republican-run Congress with 47% favoring Democrat control – a significant departure from IOP polling findings before the last midterm elections.”

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HOW ‘DODD-FRANK’ IS BECOMING THE NEW ‘OBAMACARE’ The Fix “If you don’t know what the Dodd-Frank Act is, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told an audience last weekend, “it’s Obamacare for banks.” Ryan, outgoing chairman of the House Budget Committee, was echoing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who’s been using that expression since at least April (and he used it again Wednesday night). Expect to hear the expression more, particularly once a new, probably-Republican-led Senate takes over on Capitol Hill in January. WHAT IS DODD-FRANK?  Dodd-Frank, a set of financial regulations passed in the wake of the financial crisis, has been cited by financial reporters, liberal publications, and (most importantly) Republican senators as a likely target for overhaul if the Senate changes hands. In particular, Dodd-Frank’s “Volcker Rule,” which limits speculative trading by banks, has been a Republican punching bag since its passage in 2010. The origin of the newly in-vogue phrase appears to be a April 2012 Weekly Standard piece by Peter Wallison. “The best way to understand the Dodd-Frank Act,” Wallison wrote, “is to think of it as Obamacare for the financial industry. Like its health care counterpart, it leaves the members of the massive financial services industry as privately-owned firms, but blankets them with so much regulation that they are no longer really independent operators.” … Even as talk of repealing Obamacare has waned on the campaign trail and the phrase itself continues to be dissociated from the popularity of its elements, the expression maintains its rhetorical force. To critics, “Obamacare” encapsulates big governance, bad policy-making, and top-down thinking. Couple that with banks — among the less-loved American institutions — and you have a rhetorical and political winner. It remains to be seen if the Senate will be turned over to Mitch McConnell in 2015 and it remains to be seen if his party will push for full or partial repeal of Dodd-Frank … but if this tagline continues to spread, we probably have our answer.”

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ISIS DEBATE IN LAME DUCK Reuters: “When lawmakers return to Washington after Tuesday’s congressional elections they will resume a debate they began with some reluctance last month on the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. … Congress appears ready for a broader discussion on the operations than it was prepared to hold during the run-up to the election. The temporary authorization for President Barack Obama’s plan to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels – one element of the campaign – expires on Dec. 11, so lawmakers will have to take up that issue when they return from recess on Nov. 12.”

NATIONAL SECURITY TEAM SHAKEUP COMING? NYT: “Of the three major players – Hagel, Rice and Secretary of State John Kerry – Rice is easiest to replace because her successor wouldn’t need Senate confirmation. But Kerry’s public statements have caused headaches for the White House, where aides have joked he’s like Sandra Bullock in the movie “Gravity” – “somersaulting through space, untethered from the White House. …Hagel, on the other hand, fared pretty well in the newspaper’s bombshell report on Obama’s national security team: The biggest complaint about the Pentagon chief was he keeps his mouth shut in meetings, reportedly for fear of his remarks leaking to the media.”

HAGEL’S EBOLA ISOLATION ORDER Politico: “All U.S. troops returning from the Ebola zone in West Africa must spend 21 days in isolation. His decision came one day after the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended that the 4,000 or more troops eventually set to deploy to Liberia and elsewhere to help fight the Ebola outbreak should be put in an effective quarantine. That’s despite the White House’s discouragement of quarantines for civilian medical workers and others.”

IN DARK ABOUT NSA ACTIVITIES The Atlantic: ” The truth is that Congress is alarmingly ignorant about NSA spying. Its inadequacy as an overseer isn’t entirely attributable to the national security state. There are too many issues for every legislator to master them all; surveillance policy is a particularly complicated; and national security is an area where too many in Congress undermine checks and balances by deferring to the president. Yet even the most diligent, knowledgeable members of the Senate intelligence committee consistently lack basic information that’s plainly needed for adequate oversight. This cannot be credibly denied by anyone who assesses the relevant evidence.”

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FACEBOOK DATA MINING FOR POLITICAL VIEWS Politico: “Facebook is mining its data of user’s posts to find out how users feel about certain candidates or issues and sharing that data with ABC News and BuzzFeed for use in their 2016 reporting … The data can … be broken down into sentiments by gender and location, making it possible to see how Facebook users in the key primary states of Iowa or New Hampshire feel about certain presidential candidates, or how women in Florida feel about same-sex marriage.”

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A SHORT-LIVED REPUBLICAN WAVE? Politico (EVEN BEFORE THE 2014 ELECTIONS ARE OVER!) “After two years of obsessive focus on the teetering reelection prospects of red-state Democrats, the attention is about to shift in a major way to blue-state Republicans. Six of them who rode anti-Obama sentiment to office in 2010 are up in two years, and they’ll face the dual challenge of a more diverse electorate and potentially Hillary Clinton atop the Democratic ticket….Even in the best-case scenario for the party, a Republican majority is certain to be slim. A half-dozen first-term Republicans are up for reelection in states President Barack Obama won in both 2008 and 2012: Mark Kirk of Illinois, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Rob Portman of Ohio, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Marco Rubio of Florida. Obama also twice carried Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Iowa, but the longtime incumbent would be much tougher to dislodge.”

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THE SENATE WON’T SEE ANOTHER OBAMA SENATOR Politico: “Despite recurring rumors to the contrary – the first lady is not interested in running for the Senate or any other office.”

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