News from the Votemaster
Yesterday, the Supreme Court reversed an appeals court decision that threw out a North Carolina law that made it harder to vote. The law, one of the most restrictive passed in recent years, eliminated same-day registration and said that votes cast in the wrong precinct will not be counted. Consequently, the law will go into effect for this year's election although the Court will make a final decision next year. Last week, the Supreme Court upheld an Ohio law that also limited voting, saying it was duly passed by the state legislature, which has the authority to determine how voting is done in the state. A decision on a Wisconsin law that also restricts voting is expected soon.
Up until now, all pundits have assumed that South Dakota was a done deal and former governor Mike Rounds (R-SD) would be the new senator. Now a new SurveyUSA poll puts Rounds at 35%, his Democratic challenger, Rick Weiland at 28%, but former Republican senator Larry Pressler, who is running as an independent is at 32%. Could this be a real horse race (or buffalo race)? Pressler, like Greg Orman in Kansas, has refused to say which party he would caucus with. Although he served three terms in the Senate as a Republican, he endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. If Pressler and Orman were both to win, they could work together to put pressure on both parties to change how the Senate operates.
Democrats are suddenly spending large amounts of money in South Dakota to hurt Rounds. They believe Pressler would caucus with them.
A poll of pollsters reveals two things: (1) most pollsters expect the Republicans to capture the Senate (with 51 seats) and (2) most pollsters expect greater than usual polling errors this year. The first prediction is based on current polls, Obama's poor approval rating, and the map, which favors the Republicans.
The second prediction is trickier. Response rates are way down, no matter how you measure them--and there are multiple ways to do so. The strictest way is to divide the number of completed surveys by the number of phone numbers dialed. The loosest definition includes partially completed responses in the numerator; for the denominator, it estimates how many of the dialed numbers were to actual registered voters. With the strictest definition, the response rate is 5-7%; with the loosest one, it is 19%. Either way, a huge amount of statistical correction is needed to ensure that every demographic group is properly weighted.
In principle, standard statistical techniques can be used to do the corrections, but only if the composition of the electorate is known. Usually it doesn't matter how many Eskimos vote, but in this year's close Senate race in Alaska, it matters a lot. Normally, turnout drops dramatically in midterm elections, but the Democrats are spending $60 million this year to get out the vote. It is hard for pollsters to estimate how successful it will be, for example, how many 18-29 year olds will vote.
Rather than live with tiny response rates and massive statistical corrections, some adventurous pollsters are turning to Internet polling (like YouGov). There is very little experience about how good this technique is, and it has its own problems such as a strong overrepresentation of highly educated, well-off, young white men and a strong underrepresentation poorly educated, impoverished, old black women.
An anomaly this year is that crucial races are in strange places, like Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina. Pollsters have lots of experience with Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, but very little with this year's key states, except for Colorado and Iowa, which are always swing states.
Yet another problem is mobile phone numbers. Calling (212) xxx-yyyy doesn't mean you have a New York voter. The voter could be in Florida or anywhere, actually. How do you poll New York if you can't tell which phone numbers correspond to New York voters? All in all, it looks like a tough year for pollsters, so expect surprises on Nov. 5 when the results are known (except for Alaska, Georgia, and Louisiana).
Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is that rarity, an honest politician. He campaigned as a tea party candidate and governed as a tea party governor. Now he is trying to deal with the fallout. He slashed taxes, leading to a budget shortfall that led the rating companies to downgrade Kansas debt. He cut spending on education, which angered parents. And much more. This led over 100 current and former Republican officials to endorse his opponent, state representative Paul Davis (D). So how does Brownback explain this? He blamed the media.
If Brownback loses in one of the most conservative states in the country, it is going to have a big effect on other governors who are considering actually carrying out their promises to the tea party. If tea party policies lead to defeat in Kansas, they are probably going to cause even more trouble in less conservative states.
The Colorado Senate race this year features two strong career politicians, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), fighting over national issues while billionaires on the left (Tom Steyer) and right (Koch brothers) flood the airwaves with vicious attack ads. This could be a preview of the 2016 presidential race. Like America, Colorado has a complex economy and a large and growing Latino population. It has also become something of a bellwether. In 2008, Obama won nationally by 8 points and in Colorado by 7. In 2012, Obama won nationally by 3 points and in Colorado by 4. So everyone is watching Colorado very carefully.
Abortion and birth control have played a large role in the campaign, to the point that Udall ran an ad saying he thought these issues were settled a generation ago. Nevertheless, there are some things in the campaign that are specific to this race. Gardner comes across as a nice young man, even though the National Journal rated him as more conservative than Rep. Michele Bachman (R-MN). Gardner does not support the Colorado ballot initiative that would declare a fertilized egg to be a person--even though he sponsored federal legislation that says precisely the same thing--leaving him open to charges of hypocrisy. Polls show this to be one of the closest races in the country.
With many people worried about Ebola, one might think that the Senate would hurry up and confirm President Obama's nomination for the vacant surgeon general position, the nation's top doc. One would be wrong. The NRA has condemned the nominee, Vivek Murthy, because he said gun violence is a public health issue, and many senators are scared of voting to confirm him, Ebola or no Ebola.
The surgeon general doesn't actually have much day-to-day authority in responding to epidemics, but he or she is the one who gives press conferences on health matters and tries to explain the issues to the public. There is so much misinformation about Ebola floating around (in reality it is far less of a problem than the flu), that having someone in a position of authority get out there and talk about it would be a valuable thing to have, but it is not to be for the moment.
In principle, majority leader Harry Reid can ram Murthy's nomination through since the filibuster has been abolished for cabinet and subcabinet appointments as well as for appellate judges. Reid won't do this because Democrats are as scared of the NRA as Republicans are. If the Republicans take control of the Senate, then the new majority leader will be able to stymie all appointments by simply not bringing them up for a vote. He might well follow this strategy to cripple the government and in 2016 campaign on the slogan "government doesn't work."
While Democrats view Karl Rove as an arch-conservative, conservatives don't see him that way at all. In fact, they see him as part of the problem not part of the solution. Rove's strategy is to back the most conservative candidate who can actually win. He has no interest in ideologically pure conservatives who will probably lose. As a consequence, many conservatives see him as the enemy because in primary fights he rarely backs the most ideologically pure candidate. Ironically, the Democrats don't have any strategist as good at raising vast amounts of money as Rove, so they are spared this sort of fratricide.
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||I||I %||Start||End||Pollster|
|Kansas||Pat Roberts*||42%||Greg Orman||47%||Oct 02||Oct 05||SurveyUSA|
|Kansas||Pat Roberts*||49%||Greg Orman||48%||Oct 02||Oct 06||ORC International|
|Massachusetts||Ed Markey*||56%||Brian Herr||30%||Oct 01||Oct 04||MassINC|
|North Carolina||Kay Hagan*||47%||Thom Tillis||45%||Oct 04||Oct 07||Suffolk U.|
|North Carolina||Kay Hagan*||48%||Thom Tillis||46%||Oct 06||Oct 07||Rasmussen|
|South Dakota||Rick Weiland||28%||Mike Rounds||35%||Larry Pressler||32%||Oct 01||Oct 05||SurveyUSA|
* Denotes incumbent
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Oct08 Rural Voters Abandon Roberts in Kansas
Oct08 Nunn and Perdue Engage in a Slugfest
Oct08 Judge Throws Out Gerrymandered Virginia Congressional Map
Oct08 Gubernatorial Contests Could Affect House Races
Oct08 Ted Cruz Poaching on Huckabee/Santorum Territory
Oct08 Republican Presidential Candidates Audition before Donors
Oct07 The Battle about Who Can and Will Vote
Oct07 The Election Is in a Month and Nobody Cares
Oct07 Sparks Fly in Colorado Debate
Oct07 Republicans Don't Want to Talk about Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage
Oct07 Tillis Accused of Conflict of Interest in Real Estate Deal
Oct07 Republicans Brace for a Free-for-all in 2016
Oct07 Will the Democrats Have Their Own Adelsons and Friesses in 2016?
Oct07 Conservatives Attempting to Build a Permanent Ground Force
Oct06 Is 2014 a Repeat of 2006?
Oct06 Obama Will Speak on the Economy Thursday
Oct06 Boehner Backs Gay Republican Candidates
Oct06 Bill Clinton to Campaign in Arkansas
Oct06 Do Debates Matter?
Oct06 Democrats Pouring Money into Firewall States
Oct06 $100 Million Could Pour into a Georgia During a Runoff
Oct06 Is the Romney Boomlet a Result of a Weak 2016 GOP Field?
Oct05 Could Control of the Senate Be Decided in Quinhagak?
Oct05 It May Take a Long Time to Count All the Votes in Alaska
Oct05 Democrats Starting to Rely on Super PACS
Oct05 Early Voting Is Already Underway in Iowa
Oct05 A Business Career Is Not Always a Plus
Oct04 What Will Orman Do If He Wins?
Oct04 Franken and McFadden Clash in Debate
Oct04 2016 Candidates Are Campaigning Already--for Other Candidates
Oct04 Economy Improves but Obama Doesn't Get Credit for It
Oct04 Republicans Push the Ebola Story for All It Is Worth
Oct04 Kobach's Actions in the Chad Taylor Case Could Cost Him His Job
Oct03 Wisconsin Voter ID Case Goes to the Supreme Court
Oct03 No More Senators Are in the Middle
Oct03 Pryor Says He Wants to Replace Reid--by Schumer
Oct03 Latino Groups Helping the Democrats
Oct03 Single Women Are the Democrats' Best Hope
Oct03 Bill Clinton Appears in Ad for Alison Lundergan Grimes
Oct03 Biden Says Vice Presidency is a Bitch
Oct03 Billionaires Begin Lining Up for Hillary Clinton
Oct02 Kansas Courts Says the Democrats Need Not Name a Candidate
Oct02 Pat Roberts is in Trouble, but Not a Dead Man Walking
Oct02 Court Orders North Carolina to Keep Same-Day Registration
Oct02 Changes to Election Procedures Close to the Election Are a Bad Idea
Oct02 Republicans Begin Spending on House Races
Oct02 Manchin Says that Energy-Producing States Will Be Dead without Landrieu
Oct01 Democrats Are Betting the Farm on the Ground Game
Oct01 Early Voting is about More than Convenience