New polls: KY
Dem pickups : GA
GOP pickups : AK CO MT SD WV

News from the Votemaster

Chad Taylor Drops Out of Kansas Senate Race

In a completely unexpected move, the Democratic nominee for the Senate in Kansas, Shawnee County district attorney Chad Taylor, is abandoning his (hopeless) quest to unseat three-term Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS). He didn't have much name recognition or money so he gave up. Of course, it was hopeless from the start. Kansas hasn't sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1932. Did he just learn this from a history book someone recently gave him? No. The Kansas race has a peculiar twist to it. A wealthy businessman, Greg Orman, is also in the race (along with an unknown libertarian, Randy Batson). Orman has plenty of money in his campaign war chest and the last poll put him at 20%. If all the Democrats now jump on his bandwagon, he would be at 52% and could possibly defeat Roberts.

With the battle for the Senate being as tight as it is, this announcement throws a monkey wrench in the works. We have the unusual sight today of Democrats cheering that their own candidate dropped out and Republicans screaming about it. Roberts' campaign manager said: "Chad Taylor's withdrawal from the U.S. Senate race reveals a corrupt bargain between Greg Orman and national Democrats..." Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, a Republican, may try to block Taylor's withdrawal on technical grounds. Also, there is uncertainty about whether the Kansas Democratic Party must choose a new candidate or can leave the ballot line blank. Of course, if they are allowed to choose or forced to choose, they could pick Orman, but in Kansas that would probably work against him.

Orman is no tea party candidate. He is a moderate and his pitch is that Washington is broken and we need outsiders to fix it. As to his background, he has a degree in economics from Princeton and he later founded a company that makes energy-efficient lighting systems for industry (so he is clearly tuned into environmental issues). After the company reached a billion dollars in annual sales, he left to form a venture capital firm that helps small businesses.

Now here's the billion-dollar question: suppose the Senate winds up with 50 Republicans, 49 Democrats, and Orman. With whom will he caucus? We had a situation like this in Maine in 2012, where independent Angus King ran for the senate without saying which party he would caucus with. But there it was less surprising. King had been a lifelong Democrat until he ran for governor of Maine in 1994 and had been an aide to Democratic senator William Hathaway in the 1970s. While Mainers like the idea of an independent who is looking out for them, there was little doubt that King was really a Democrat at heart. With Orman, anything can happen. He is already on record saying that he is not too keen on voting for either Mitch McConnell or Harry Reid for majority leader. He would prefer a moderate, someone like Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) or Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). It is interesting that he picked two women as examples.

What really scares the daylights out of the Republicans is the possibility that Orman, like King, is a stealth Democrat. In 2008, Orman briefly ran in the Democratic primary for the Senate before dropping out. They are also probably aware of a PPP poll taken Aug. 14 to 17 that shows in a two-way race between Roberts and Orman, Orman leads 43% to 33%. Also noteworthy in this poll is that Roberts' approve/disapprove rating is deeply under water at 27%/44%. An approval rating of 27% for a three-term incumbent is never a good thing. On the other hand, Orman's rating is 24%/12%, with 64% not having an opinion. In short, Kansas voters don't like Roberts so they might vote for the not-Roberts candidate, even though they don't know who he is. This situation will lead to a massive campaign by both sides to define Orman. To the extent that the Republicans can paint him as a liberal Democrat, Roberts will win. To the extent Orman can paint himself him as a moderate, successful businessman who can break the deadlock in Washington, Orman wins.

The Koch brothers are based in Kansas and the last thing they want is an environmentally oriented independent who caucuses with the Democrats as their senator. No doubt if Roberts politely asks if they could perhaps write a couple of checks, his request will be met with a question: "How much?"

A debate is scheduled for Saturday. Without Taylor, Orman and Roberts will really go after each other. Up until now, Orman probably thought he was just going to have a little fun running for office. All of a sudden he could not only be elected to the Senate, but he could probably demand almost anything he wanted and get it. Chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee? Yes sir. Extension of the controversial Export-Import bank with a few billion dollars extra thrown in and earmarked for foreign buyers who want to buy Kansas corn and wheat? A done deal. End the filibuster? Gee, couldn't you just ask for bigger corn subsidies? But if you insist, all right. And you want to be majority leader as well? Are you serious? Would you settle for majority whip? The possibilities are endless. Also for corruption, except that Orman is very wealthy and buying a multimillionaire who is in the national spotlight is tough.

Roberts has been dogged by the problem that he does not own a home in Kansas, a problem shared with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Orman, who lives in Olathe, KS, can easily pick up the baton on this one and continue to hound Roberts as a creature of Washington, far removed from "Kansas values," whatever they are. The PPP poll cited above asked two questions about Roberts residency. By a margin of 61% to 18% voters thought he didn't spend enough time in Kansas. Also, 50% thought Roberts considers D.C. as his home and only 30% thought that he considers Kansas as his home.

Further muddying the waters is the Kansas gubernatorial contest, which pits Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS) against state legislator Paul Davis (D). The PPP poll cited above puts Brownback's approve/disapprove rating at 34%/55%, also not so great. The horse race poll puts Davis ahead 39% to 37% with 9% going to Libertarian Party nominee Keen Umbehr. Anyone who had predicted in January that Kansas would become a major battleground would have been dismissed by the "experts" as extremely naive.

No doubt the robopollsters like Rasmussen, PPP, and SurveyUSA are busy looking for Kansas (and national) media outlets who would like a poll of the race. Rasmussen used to do one-day polls, but there was so much criticism of this that the firm now does two-day polls. PPP and SurveyUSA normally do 3 or 4 day polls, which is considered more representative. If you call people Friday evening, you will discover lots of twenty-somethings are out partying so you get a skewed sample. Good pollsters will call back two or three times on subsequent days. So we are not likely to have any polling data until next week.

This new situation leaves us with the problem of how to score the Senate if Orman is ahead. Although it seems more likely that Orman would caucus with the Democrats, the Republicans will offer him the sun, the moon, the stars, and five distant galaxies of his choosing to become the majority party, so it is unsure where he will land if he wins (which he hasn't yet). For time being, we will score Kansas as a tie if Orman takes the lead.

What a difference a day makes!

Martin O'Malley Says He Will Run for President in 2016

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD) has told Democratic donors that he will run for President, even against Hillary Clinton. Of course, saying this and actually doing it are quite different. For starters, if, say, either Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) were to run, they would instantly attract support from the left. It is doubtful that O'Malley could get that kind of backing unless he suddenly turned into a superpopulist. Also, campaigns are expensive. How many big Democratic donors would want to help him, knowing that the Clintons have excellent memories for who their friends are and who their enemies are?

O'Malley is smart enough to know that the chances of his beating Clinton are pretty close to zero. So why would he bother? One theory is that if he runs a positive campaign, doesn't trash her too much, promises to support the Democratic nominee, does well in the all-but-certain primary debates, and gets enough votes to show that he is no lightweight, she might decide he is Vice Presidential material or maybe suitable for a nice job in her cabinet. Another one is that since he is only 51, this could just be a warmup run for 2020 in the event that the Republican wins in 2016 or 2024 in the event that the Democrat wins.

Campaigns Used to Begin after Labor Day

Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Martin O'Malley, and others are already running for President, 2 years in advance of the election. It wasn't always like this. In 1964, Barry Goldwater got the Republican nomination in July, took August off for a vacation, and began the general election campaign in September. That was normal then. Now the primaries begin 2 years before the election and the general election starts the instant a candidate is assured for nomination. Hillary Clinton is nominally on a book tour, but in practice, she is really starting the general election campaign. Pretty soon campaigns will start the day after election day, 4 years in advance.

Today's Senate Polls

With the resignation of Sen. Mitch McConnell's campaign manager as a result of a campaign he ran in 2012 bribing an Iowa state senator for his endorsement, the situation might change in Kentucky. Two new polls show little change from previous ones, but it is still early to see if the scandal affects McConnell. His opponent, secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes is already up with TV ads attacking McConnell about this, but it takes a while for these things to sink in. Polls next week should give a better picture.

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Kentucky Alison Lundergan-Grimes 41% Mitch McConnell* 46%     Sep 01 Sep 02 Rasmussen
Kentucky Alison Lundergan-Grimes 46% Mitch McConnell* 50%     Aug 28 Sep 01 ORC International

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster
Sep03 Roll Call's List of Vulnerable Senators
Sep03 Democrats and Dynasties
Sep03 Some Republicans Calling for Over-the-Counter Birth Control
Sep03 Secret News Is Released Friday Evening
Sep03 Kentuckians Do Not Want to Change the Law for Rand Paul
Sep02 Obama Spends Labor Day Talking to Labor Unions
Sep02 Hagan Popular with Banks
Sep02 Buying Access to Senators and Governors is Surprisingly Inexpensive
Sep02 Public Doesn't Believe the Economy is Improving
Sep02 Republicans Expect Small Gain in the House
Sep02 Another Take on Romney 2016
Sep02 Lankford Crushing Johnson in Oklahoma Special Election
Sep01 Study Says that Citizens United Decision Helped Republicans
Sep01 Candidates Make Their Pitch to the Koch Brothers
Sep01 Steyer May Target Some Democrats in California
Sep01 Campaigns Spend a Billion Dollars before the Campaigns Even Start
Aug31 Democrats Try to Energize Black Voters
Aug31 What Did Hillary Learn This Summer?
Aug31 Seventeen People May Have Voted Twice in 2012
Aug30 McConnell's Campaign Manager Resigns
Aug30 McDaniel's Challenge in Mississippi is Thrown Out by a Judge
Aug30 Obama Will Avoid States Where He is Unpopular
Aug30 Court Rules that Domestic Abuse Is Grounds for Asylum in the U.S.
Aug30 Another Rundown of the Senate Elections
Aug30 Rick Perry is Actively Running for President
Aug30 McConnell's Campaign Manager Resigns
Aug30 McDaniel's Challenge in Mississippi is Thrown Out by a Judge
Aug30 Obama Will Avoid States Where He is Unpopular
Aug30 Court Rules that Domestic Abuse Is Grounds for Asylum in the U.S.
Aug30 Another Rundown of the Senate Elections
Aug30 Rick Perry is Actively Running for President
Aug30 McConnell's Campaign Manager Resigns
Aug30 McDaniel's Challenge in Mississippi is Thrown Out by a Judge
Aug30 Obama Will Avoid States Where He is Unpopular
Aug30 Court Rules that Domestic Abuse Is Grounds for Asylum in the U.S.
Aug30 Another Rundown of the Senate Elections
Aug30 Rick Perry is Actively Running for President
Aug29 Models Vary Widely on Which Party Will Win the Senate
Aug29 Where Do Senators Live?
Aug29 Burke Has Slight Lead over Walker in Wisconsin Gubernatorial Race
Aug29 How Super PACs Communicate with Candidates without Talking to Them
Aug29 Republicans Plan to Keep Investigating Benghazi until 2016
Aug29 Congress is Getting More Partisan Every Election
Aug29 Internet Voting Is a Bad Idea
Aug28 On Secret Tape, McConnell Promises Koch Brothers Gridlock
Aug28 Nunn Running Clone of Most Effective 2012 Ad
Aug28 Obama's Action on Immigration Could Upend the Midterm Elections
Aug28 Republican Poll of Women: GOP Intolerant and Stuck in the Past
Aug28 Could Romney Run Again in 2016?
Aug28 Bobby Jindal Takes Step in the Direction of a 2016 Run