For a sense on how the national environment is shaping up for Senate Democrats, look no further than the Montana Senate campaign to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Max Baucus (D).
— It’s a race featuring a Democratic outsider with a compelling biography against a House Republican. It’s taking place in a Republican state — but one where Democrats have won 19 of the last 23 Senate races. And it’s emerging as an early test for how badly Obamacare will hurt Democrats, even those who didn’t vote for the law.
— Republicans landed their top recruit Wednesday in freshman Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT). After failing to get former Gov. Brian Schweitzer in the race, Dems settled on Lt. Gov. John Walsh, who led the state National Guard and boasts outsider credentials, without a voting record to scrutinize. Last month, in the wake of the government shutdown, being a House Republican was a problematic part of a resume. Now, given the president’s falling numbers, being a Democrat in a red state could be more problematic.
— Unlike incumbent senators who voted for the law, Walsh will have the freedom to distance himself from the White House as much as he needs to. But in an unexpected challenge, he’s facing some friendly fire from his own party. Schweitzer’s 77-year-old Lt. Gov., John Bohlinger, is challenging Walsh in the primary, and the former governor told Hotline that Walsh starts the primary at a disadvantage. There’s clearly no love lost between the former governor and Washington Democrats.
It’s appropriate that Montana is shaping up as an early bellwether, given that Baucus drew headlines for suggesting — in April 2013! — that the health care law’s implementation was becoming a train wreck. His successor will be determined by how badly that “train wreck” costs Senate Democrats next November.
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The national polls, once again, tell very different stories: Clinton leads by just one point in the IBD, Rasmussen, and LA Times tracking polls, while she shows a commanding 12 point lead in the ABC news poll and a smaller but sizable five point lead in the CNN poll. The Republican Remington Research Group released a slew of polls showing Trump up in Ohio, Nevada, and North Carolina, a tie in Florida, and Clinton leads in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Virginia. However, an independent Siena poll shows Clinton up 7 in North Carolina, while a Monmouth poll shows Trump up one in Arizona
Since the release of the Access Hollywood tape, on which Donald Trump boasted of sexually assaulting women, "Senate Republicans have seen their fortunes dip, particularly in states like Florida, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada and Pennsylvania," where Hillary Clinton now leads. Jennifer Duffy writes that she now expects Democrats to gain five to seven seats—enough to regain control of the chamber.
"Of the Senate seats in the Toss Up column, Trump only leads in Indiana and Missouri where both Republicans are running a few points behind him. ... History shows that races in the Toss Up column never split down the middle; one party tends to win the lion’s share of them."
"Some Republicans are running so far away from their party’s nominee that they are threatening to sue TV stations for running ads that suggest they support Donald Trump. Just two weeks before Election Day, five Republicans―Reps. Bob Dold (R-Ill.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), David Jolly (R-Fla.), John Katko (R-N.Y.) and Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican running for an open seat that’s currently occupied by his brother―contend that certain commercials paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee provide false or misleading information by connecting them to the GOP nominee. Trump is so terrible, these Republicans are essentially arguing, that tying them to him amounts to defamation."
Former Illinois GOP Congressman Aaron Schock "recently agreed to pay a $10,000 fine for making an excessive solicitation for a super PAC that was active in his home state of Illinois four years ago." Schock resigned from Congress after a story about his Downton Abbey-themed congressional office raised questions about how he was using taxpayer dollars.