The Non-Wave Election

In the battle for control of the U.S. Senate, what’s most remarkable is how little has changed over the summer.

WASHINGTON - JUNE 21: Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee (L), and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, speak at a news conferece on Capitol Hill on June 21, 2012 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed its version of the farm bill, which will now have to be merged with a House version before final passage.
National Journal
Charlie Cook
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Charlie Cook
Sept. 5, 2014, 1 a.m.

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. Strategists in both parties have been ask­ing, “What’s the mat­ter with Kan­sas?” The Demo­crat­ic nom­in­ee’s sud­den de­cision to with­draw from the race this week will make it more com­pet­it­ive. Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Pat Roberts, who sus­tained some dam­age in his primary, will now face in­de­pend­ent can­did­ate Greg Or­man. Or­man has the back­ing of some of the mod­er­ate GOP lead­ers in the state. But that’s the only ma­jor change of the sum­mer, des­pite more than a bil­lion dol­lars already spent in what the ex­perts at Kantar Me­dia/CMAG es­tim­ate will end up be­ing $5.5 bil­lion to $6.5 bil­lion in total cam­paign ex­pendit­ures on all levels this elec­tion cycle.

Sen. Pat Roberts (Brendan Hoff­man/Getty Im­ages)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.

Among the three most vul­ner­able Demo­crat­ic seats—those in Montana, South Dakota, and West Vir­gin­ia—the biggest change since May is ap­poin­ted Sen. John Walsh’s with­draw­al in Montana after al­leg­a­tions of pla­gi­ar­ism sur­faced. While this is em­bar­rass­ing for him and Demo­crats, Walsh had little chance of win­ning any­way, so that doesn’t amount to a ma­jor de­vel­op­ment in my book. Re­pub­lic­ans still look likely to take the oth­er two.

Only one of the sev­en Demo­crat­ic toss-up seats has seen any real change over time—and that’s in the GOP’s fa­vor. In Iowa, Demo­crat­ic Rep. Bruce Bra­ley’s small lead over Re­pub­lic­an Joni Ernst has got­ten, well, smal­ler—to the point of ba­sic­ally dis­ap­pear­ing. In Michigan, the oth­er toss-up state where Demo­crats had something of an edge in late spring, Demo­crat­ic Rep. Gary Peters still barely out­polls former Sec­ret­ary of State Terri Lynn Land, the GOP stand­ard-bear­er.

The oth­er five Demo­crat­ic toss-up seats—those of Mark Be­gich (Alaska), Mark Pry­or (Arkan­sas), Mark Ud­all (Col­or­ado), Mary Landrieu (Louisi­ana), and Kay Hagan (North Car­o­lina)—were es­sen­tially even when kids got out of school for the sum­mer, and still are as classes re­sume. Hagan prob­ably pulled a few points ahead of state House Speak­er Thom Tillis, her GOP chal­lenger, late in the sum­mer as the highly po­lar­iz­ing state le­gis­lat­ive ses­sion was grind­ing to a dis­cord­ant end. But now that it is over, it ap­pears that the race has tightened up again. Landrieu is run­ning well ahead of Rep. Bill Cas­sidy, the likely GOP nom­in­ee in Louisi­ana. But with nine can­did­ates run­ning—three Re­pub­lic­ans, five Demo­crats, and one Liber­tari­an—the odds of the lead­er on Nov. 4 com­ing in be­low 50 per­cent are pretty good. Polling in­dic­ates that Landrieu’s lead turns in­to a dead heat in a run­off against Cas­sidy.

While the two vul­ner­able Re­pub­lic­an seats, in Ken­tucky and Geor­gia, re­main so, the GOP has pulled out front, as we sus­pec­ted back in the spring. Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell seems to have put a tiny bit of day­light between him­self and Sec­ret­ary of State Al­is­on Lun­der­gan Grimes, his chal­lenger in Ken­tucky. A very dis­cip­lined Mc­Con­nell cam­paign, along with the Demo­crat’s joint li­ab­il­it­ies of Pres­id­ent Obama and the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency’s “war on coal,” have com­bined to boost the in­cum­bent’s odds. Coal in Ken­tucky can be seen as ana­log­ous to en­ergy in Louisi­ana: Even though most voters’ jobs are not dir­ectly linked to coal in Ken­tucky or oil and gas in Louisi­ana, threats to those in­dus­tries serve as prox­ies for per­ceived Demo­crat­ic hos­til­it­ies to­ward both states. There is little doubt that if Landrieu, who’s the Sen­ate En­ergy Com­mit­tee chair­wo­man, were able to do what she wanted on oil and gas is­sues, she would be in a stronger po­s­i­tion for reelec­tion. But Landrieu’s abil­ity to lever­age that po­ten­tially key chair­man­ship is severely lim­ited by the very dif­fer­ent views on en­ergy policy held by Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In Geor­gia, where Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Saxby Cham­b­liss stepped aside and cre­ated an open seat, his wan­nabe GOP suc­cessor, former Ree­bok and Dol­lar Gen­er­al CEO Dav­id Per­due, ap­pears to be edging ever so slightly ahead of Demo­crat Michelle Nunn, the former head of the Points of Light Found­a­tion and daugh­ter of former Sen. Sam Nunn. Like Vir­gin­ia and, to a less­er ex­tent, North Car­o­lina, Geor­gia is be­com­ing less of a GOP lock thanks largely to demo­graph­ic changes, but it has a way to go be­fore it be­comes a purple state.

That leaves no few­er than nine very close races, at least half of them headed to­ward photo fin­ishes. But three Demo­crat­ic-held seats are already gone, and party strategists see sev­en more tee­ter­ing on the edge, com­pared with just two for Re­pub­lic­ans. Giv­en that equa­tion, you’d have to bet on the GOP.

What We're Following See More »
INDICTMENTS NOT PROOF OF COLLUSION
Rosenstein Holds Presser On Russian Indictments
3 days ago
THE DETAILS
Source:
CONTRADICTS TRUMP’S DENIALS
U.S. Indicts 13 Russian Nationals For Election Interference
3 days ago
THE LATEST

The indictment, filed in the District of Columbia, alleges that the interference began "in or around 2014," when the defendants began tracking and studying U.S. social media sites. They "created and controlled numerous Twitter accounts" and "purchased computer servers located inside the United States" to mask their identities, some of which were stolen. The interference was coordinated by election interference "specialists," and focused on the Black Lives Matter movement, immigration, and other divisive issues. "By early to mid-2016" the groups began supporting the campaign of "then-candidate Donald Trump," including by communicating with "unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign..."

Source:
“QUEEN FOR A DAY”
Gates Said to Be Finalizing a Plea Deal
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is finalizing a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller's office, indicating he's poised to cooperate in the investigation, according to sources familiar with the case. Gates has already spoken to Mueller's team about his case and has been in plea negotiations for about a month. He's had what criminal lawyers call a 'Queen for a Day' interview, in which a defendant answers any questions from the prosecutors' team, including about his own case and other potential criminal activity he witnessed."

Source:
ZERO-FOR-TWO
Another Defeat for Immigration Legislation in the Senate
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"The Senate on Thursday rejected immigration legislation crafted by centrists in both parties after President Trump threatened to veto the bill if it made it to his desk. In a 54-45 vote, the Senate failed to advance the legislation from eight Republican, seven Democratic and one Independent senators. It needed 60 votes to overcome a procedural hurdle. "

Source:
DISPUTE ASSERTION OF EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE
House Intel Panel Could Charge Bannon with Contempt
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"The House Intelligence Committee has scheduled a Thursday meeting to hear testimony from Steve Bannon—but it's an open question whether President Donald Trump's former chief strategist will even show up. The White House sent a letter to Capitol Hill late Wednesday laying out its explanation for why Trump's transition period falls under its authority to assert executive privilege, a move intended to shield Bannon from answering questions about that time period." Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee dispute the White House's theory, and have floated charging Bannon with contempt should he refuse to appear.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login