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News from the Votemaster

McConnell's Campaign Manager Resigns

Jesse Benton, the man managing the reelection campaign of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has resigned. Benton is married to the granddaughter of former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul and ran Paul's 2012 presidential campaign. Earlier this week former Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe of $73,000 in dark money to endorse Paul in the 2012 Iowa caucuses and then lying about it. An investigation into whether Benton was involved in this or even knew about it is ongoing. If he did, he could face charges of filing a false campaign report with the Federal Election Commission, a federal felony.

Upon resigning, Benton said that he wouldn't do anything to distract from McConnell's reelection campaign (English translation: saving my own neck has priority over saving McConnell's). He also said: "Working for Mitch McConnell is one of the great honors of my life."

The resignation will hurt McConnell, who is in a tough reelection battle with Kentucky secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes. Losing your campaign manager is always disruptive because now McConnell has to find and work in a new one and the new one may want to do some things differently than the old one. Also, Benton has close ties to the tea party and libertarian groups. Last year, Benton said working for McConnell was "holdin' my nose for two years because what we're doing here is going to be a big benefit to Rand in '16 ..." That a McConnell victory could help Rand Paul in 2016 is certainly true. Having the Senate minority or majority leader of the Senate on your team is clearly valuable. The "holdin' my nose" part is likely to surface in the Grimes campaign in the coming weeks. If in public your campaign manager is your biggest fan but in private he doesn't think that much of you, why should the voters?

McDaniel's Challenge in Mississippi is Thrown Out by a Judge

Tea party candidate Chris McDaniel lost his runoff to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) in the Republican senatorial primary but never conceded. Instead, he went to court asking the judge to award him the nomination (itself a very strange thing to do) because Cochran had made a pitch to black voters, most of whom are probably Democrats. State law says that to vote in a primary, the voter has to intend to vote for the winner. Needless to say, this is virtually impossible to enforce because no one can tell how the voter ultimately voted in November. Furthermore, you can truly intend to vote for the primary winner at the time you vote but later change your mind due to something the candidate said later that you didn't like.

It's a stupid law but was passed because Mississippi does not register voters by party as many other states do. Smelling something fishy, McDaniel went to court claiming that surely all those black Democrats who voted for Cochran weren't going to vote for him in the general election. The judge didn't rule on the merits of the case but simply said that state law requires challenges to an election to be filed within 20 days of the election. McDaniel waited 41 days.

As to why large numbers of black voters went to the polls to vote for Cochran in the Republican primary, the reason is clear. Unlike McDaniel, who is against government spending for everything, Cochran is conservative, but not ideological. He sees his job as bringing in as much money as possible to his dirt-poor state. The black voters see the economic value of the projects Cochran brings home and preferred him to a potential backbencher who is opposed to bringing home the bacon. In November, most of them will probably vote for Democrat Travis Childers, who will have no seniority, but at least is friendly to the idea of bringing federal money to the state.

Obama Will Avoid States Where He is Unpopular

President Obama intends to do some campaigning for Senate and gubernatorial candidates after Labor Day, but he will studiously avoid red states where he could hurt Democratic Senate candidates. These include Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana, and North Carolina. On the other hand, there are states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Illinois that have tight races for senator or governor where he could help Democratic candidates, so his focus will be visiting those states. In the other states he may do robocalls to voters chosen from lists of people likely to vote Democratic--if they vote at all. A call from the President might encourage them to vote.

Court Rules that Domestic Abuse Is Grounds for Asylum in the U.S.

The Board of Immigration Appeals has ruled that a woman who has suffered domestic violence and would suffer it again if deported may get asylum in the U.S. This has major political implications. Many women who are in the U.S. illegally will now no doubt claim they will suffer domestic violence if sent home. As President Obama weighs whether to reduce the number of deportations, this ruling could help him. If he takes unilateral action, the Republicans will say that he is breaking the law, but now he can say he was just following the court ruling. Of course whether a woman really would be subject to domestic violence is very hard to either prove or disprove but it gives the Justice Dept. a fair amount of discretion.

Another Rundown of the Senate Elections

McClatchy has a nice story discussing all the key Senate races.

Rick Perry is Actively Running for President

Despite being indicted for misuse of his office as governor, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) is actively running for President. He has traveled to Iowa, New Hampshire, and even Israel, been on Sunday talk shows, national magazine covers, and even on late-night television. Needless to say, if he is convicted of any crimes, the show is over, even if the conviction is reversed on appeal. But even if he is found not guilty, going from a national laughingstock for not being able to name the three cabinet departments he wanted to abolish to a serious candidate is a steep hill to climb. His only chance is that Republican voters ultimately reject the tea party candidates as not electable and no establishment candidate enters the race. Then he could win the nomination as "none of the above." But it is the longest of longshots. Still, he is trying hard.

Today's Senate Polls

A few days ago we had a University of New Hampshire poll showing Scott Brown within 2 points of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). We questioned whether the race was really that tight or the poll was an outlier. Now another poll gives Shaheen a 6-point lead, more in line with previous polls and suggesting the University of New Hampshire poll was just a statistical fluke.

In South Dakota the race is surprisingly tight because there are not one, but three Republicans in the race: former governor Mike Rounds and former senator Larry Pressler and they are splitting the Republican vote. Almost all observers have said that Rounds is a shoo-in, but with Pressler as a wild card, it may be closer than expected. A little-known former Republican state senator, Gordon Howie, is also in the race. In West Virginia, the conventional wisdom seems correct: Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) will easily defeat West Virginia secretary of state Natalie Tennant.

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen* 50% Scott Brown 44%     Aug 27 Aug 28 PPP
South Dakota Rick Weiland 33% Mike Rounds 39% Larry Pressler 17% Aug 27 Aug 28 PPP
West Virginia Natalie Tennant 37% Shelley Moore-Capito 54%     Aug 15 Aug 23 R.L. Repass

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster
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