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House Dem 204   GOP 190   Ties 41

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Dem pickups: (None) GOP pickups: AR CO IL IN ND PA WV WI PDA

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News from the Votemaster            

Supreme Court Could Become Partisan     Permalink

The Supreme Court's new term begins today. For the first time in memory there could be a partisan divide on the Court. Now there has been an ideological divide for years but not a partisan one. An ideological split pits liberals vs. conservatives. A partisan split pits Democrats vs. Republicans. They are not the same thing. When Barack Obama took office in 2009, two members of the Court, John Paul Stevens and David Souter were consistent liberals but were appointed by Republican Presidents (Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, respectively). As a consequence, it was hard to characterize any bitter 5-4 decision as "Democrats vs. Republicans" because the "liberal" side always had two Republicans (Stevens and Souter), two Democrats (Ruth Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer) and sometimes Anthony Kennedy. Starting today, here is the composition of the Court.










Justice Appointed by Sworn in Law school Religion Marital Age
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Clinton (D) 1993 Columbia Jewish Widow 77
Antonin Scalia Reagan (R) 1986 Harvard Catholic Married 74
Anthony Kennedy Reagan (R) 1988 Harvard Catholic Married 74
Stephen Breyer Clinton (D) 1994 Harvard Jewish Married 72
Clarence Thomas Bush 41 (R) 1991 Yale Catholic Married 2x 62
Samuel Alito Bush 43 (R) 2006 Yale Catholic Married 60
Sonia Sotomayor Obama (D) 2009 Yale Catholic Divorced 56
John Roberts Bush 43 (R) 2005 Harvard Catholic Married 55
Elena Kagan Obama (D) 2010 Harvard Jewish Single 50

As a consequence of this new composition, the first time Kennedy sides with the conservatives, all the pundits are going to point out that now the Court has become as politicized as Congress, with Democrats on one side and Republicans on the other. It is hard to tell what the consequences will be if this happens regularly. It is possible that public's respect for the Court will collapse if everyone comes to see the justices as political hacks. It is also possible that Kennedy, sensing this, decides to side with the liberals more often, simply to preserve the Court's reputation.

Another factor that could play a role is the presence of three women on the Court. Studies have shown that when the number of women in a decision-making body becomes substantial, the tone of the discussions changes. The group becomes more cooperative and tries to find a solution that pleases everyone rather than just a narrow majority. While some members of the Court, especially Scalia and Thomas march to their own drummers and are unlikely to be influenced much by the three women, there is every reason to believe that all-important Anthony Kennedy will at least listen carefully to what they have to say, especially if they are united.

Also noteworthy is that except for educational background, the all-Ivy-League Court is more diverse than ever. For most of the Court's history, it consisted entirely of married white Anglo-Saxon Protestant males. From the table above, it is clear such is no longer the case. It is unprecedented that there are no Protestants on the Court now, a factor that could play a role in separation-of-church-and-state cases.

While nobody is talking out loud about it, everyone in Washington knows that Ruth Ginsburg has had colon cancer and pancreatic cancer. Although her pancreatic cancer was caught early, in general, people with pancreatic cancer almost never survive 5 years. In her case, the pancreatic cancer was probably a result of the colon cancer metastasizing. Ginsburg absolutely does not want to be replaced by a Republican President and is thus very likely to resign "for personal reasons" some time before Jan. 20, 2013, probably well before it. If the Republicans capture the Senate, Obama may feel forced to choose a fairly conservative replacement in order to get him or her confirmed. In truth, it is surprising that Ginsburg, now 77, didn't resign this year so as to give Obama more leeway in naming a successor.

Republican Outsiders Outspend Democratic Outsiders 7 to 1     Permalink

A Supreme Court Ruling this year allows corporations, unions, and other outsiders to spend whatever they like supporting or opposing candidates and they are wasting no time in doing so. In 2006, outside groups not associated with candidates spent $16 million. This year outsiders are already up to $80 million and the elections are still a month away. Republican-oriented groups are outspending Democratic-oriented groups 7 to 1 this year. In many cases, the groups doing the spending are new and their donors are unknown. The consequence is that a few shadowy billionaires with some spare change can have a huge effect on the political landscape.

But even in this new world there are limits. For example, groups organized under section 501(c)(4) of the internal revenue code are supposed to be involved with civic affairs or social welfare--not politics. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is asking IRS to investigate and see if some of these groups may be violating federal tax law.

Angle Criticizes Republicans     Permalink

In a private conversation with the Tea Party senatorial candidate in Nevada, Scott Ashjian, that has leaked out the Republican candidate, Sharron Angle, trashes the Republican Party. If Angle and other tea party candidates win, a number of them may become loose cannons and minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may have a lot of trouble controlling them.

Nov. 3 Election News Wrapup Already Available     Permalink

CQ Politics has already written its news story recapping the Nov. 2 election. In fact, it has already written three of them. One for the case that the Democrats barely hold both chambers of Congress, one for the case that they lose the House and hold the Senate and one for the case they lose everything. Interesting reading.

Today's Polls: CO OH-01     Permalink

New Senate Polls

State Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct I I-pct Start End Pollster
Colorado Michael Bennet* 43% Ken Buck 48%     Sep 28 Sep 30 SurveyUSA

New House Polls

Cong. Distr. Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct I I-pct Start End Pollster
OH-01 Steven Driehaus* 41% Steve Chabot 53%     Sep 28 Sep 29 SurveyUSA

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