Senate page     Oct. 18

Senate map
Previous | Next

New polls: GA IL NC NY OH UT
Dem pickups: PA
GOP pickups: (None)

'Tis the Season

The midterm election is exactly 3 weeks away, which means we are in primetime for candidate debates. Here's a rundown of the biggies from yesterday:

It's hard to know what impact debates will have, barring a gross error by a candidate. If we had to guess, however, we would say that McMullin helped himself the most yesterday while Abrams helped herself the least. (Z)

Loan Forgiveness Website Attracts 8 Million Applications in 2 Days

It took the White House a good, long time to put together the website where people will be able to request forgiveness of some of their student loans. Was Team Biden mindful of the embarrassments of the Obamacare website roll-out, and so doing everything possible to be absolutely sure to avoid a repeat? Or did they want to time the launch so it happened in very close proximity to the midterms? Maybe some of both? Readers can reach their own conclusions.

In any event, the site is online now, and has been since late Friday. And in the 2 (business) days that it's been available, it's taken in more than 8 million applications without any notable difficulties. That's obviously a pretty good start. Ultimately, about 40 million Americans are eligible for forgiveness. The administration expects that about 32 million of them will actually apply, which means that Team Biden is 25% of the way to its goal.

There is no specific information about the demographics of the 8 million current applicants, or the other 24 million who are expected to apply. However, they will surely skew young, educated, and toward the less rich end of the spectrum. Those are all Democratic demos, these days. And if 10 percent of them (say, 2-3 million) are more motivated to vote in November in hopes of more of the same, that could certainly be a big deal.

Meanwhile, there is the small matter of court challenges, which certainly will not be resolved before the debt forgiveness is proffered. If the courts do get involved, we are not sure they can say "You know that $20,000 you don't think you owe anymore? You do, again!" And if they try it, well, that will certainly play into the Democratic narrative that the judiciary is out of control and that the time has come for some sort of big reforms. In short, this is a story that could unfold in some very interesting ways. (Z)

House Democrats Are Raking It In

In the last few cycles, particularly 2018 and 2020, Democratic donors spent a lot of their money on wild goose chases, lavishing cash on candidates who had little hope of winning, like Amy McGrath in Kentucky or Jaime Harrison in South Carolina.

There is considerable evidence this cycle that Democratic donors are not making the same mistake, and instead are sending the money to where it will do the most good. Consider, for example, a new analysis from Politico, based on the 65 most competitive House races this cycle. The Democrats have the fundraising lead in 50 of them (77%).

And it is not just that the Democrats are outraising their opponents in most races, it's also that, in many cases, the members of the blue team are utterly swamping members of the red team. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), for example, has $3.7 million in the bank as compared to just over $100,000 for her opponent. Rep. Angie Craig (DFL-MN) has $3 million, compared to just under $500,000 for her opponent. There are many other similar disparities, most of them in swing states or districts. Politico found a total of 27 districts where the Democrat's haul has at least doubled that of the Republican.

The saving grace for the Republican candidates, such as it is, is that the national committees and PACs are doing what they can to make up the difference. However, non-candidates pay much more for advertising than candidates do, so the money of the National Republican Congressional Committee and other such groups can only go so far. At the moment, the GOP PACs are trying to stretch their dollars with ads that tout multiple candidates at the same time.

In the end, this year's race for control of the House is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. As all readers know, "most money spent" does not necessarily correlate to "victory." However, money has more effect in local races than it does in statewide or national races. Further, money donated is most certainly a proxy for voter enthusiasm. By all indications, the enthusiasm is on the side of the Democrats right now.

That brings us to a second point. That Kansas election, where voters shocked the nation by voting overwhelmingly for abortion rights, was way back at the start of August. As we all know, a week is a lifetime in politics, which means that was about ten lifetimes ago. Since then, there have been no bright, red blinking reminders about how angry voters are about Dobbs.

Imagine, though, that some other Midwestern state—say, Iowa—was holding a similar sort of election today. Don't you think it would turn out similarly? And if and when it did, don't you think all the punditry pieces would be about how Dobbs is going to be the key to this election? As opposed to pieces like this one CNN ran this weekend, headlined "A Republican wave in the House is still quite possible." We just wonder if maybe Michael Moore might have the right of it, and the pundit class might be allowing distance to cause them to forget how eye-opening that Kansas result was.

And a third, and final point. It is implausible to poll 435 separate elections, or even 50-65 separate elections, in a meaningful way. So, projections for control of the House are primarily based on national measures (e.g., how Democrats do vs. Republicans on a generic ballot) and on past experience (e.g., the president's party usually loses seats in that president's first midterm election). But these things are very crude predictive tools, and may not be adequate for an election with so many X factors (abortion, the economy, Donald Trump, etc.).

This is not to say that we're predicting a Democratic hold when it comes to the House. What we are saying is that there are so many known unknowns, not to mention a few unknown unknowns, that we wouldn't want to bet any money on any possibility. Any outcome, from Democrats gain 5-15 seats to Republicans gain 15-25 seats, is entirely plausible. And nobody can know or predict what it's going to be until the votes are actually counted. (Z)

Grifters Gotta Grift

Donald Trump made a very big show of donating his presidential salary to various charitable causes. Actually, he made a big show for the first year or so he was president; then that bit of PR seemed to be forgotten. Maybe he kept donating the money quietly, without expecting any attention, and maybe he stopped making the donations. We're not sure which it is, though we do have an idea as to which is more likely.

If Trump did donate every dollar of his presidential salary, that would have been about $1.6 million. And, as we already kinda knew, he made most or all of that back by charging extortionate rates to the Secret Service when the USSS was required to rent rooms at Trump properties in order to protect Trump and his family. The House Oversight Committee is looking into the matter, and was compelled to make public some paperwork related to their investigation on Monday. Quite often, the Trumps charged the USSS double or triple the government-allowed rate, ultimately relieving the federal government of well north of $1 million.

Nobody seems to be saying exactly what might come of all of this. If the Democrats lose the House, then investigations like this one will come to a quick end, and will presumably be forgotten. The Oversight committee could refer the matter to the Department of Justice, but the DoJ already has plenty of Trump stuff on its plate without adding more. The main significance may be the extent to which the overpayments implicate the Secret Service in corrupt behavior. It is possible for the government-allowed rate to be waived, but it requires special paperwork to be filed and approved. The USSS may have deliberately fudged that paperwork as a favor to Trump. Given that the Secret Service already has several recent scandals on its ledger, change could be coming for that agency. (Z)

Walker Admits to $700 Payment

When it comes to the question of whether Herschel Walker paid for an abortion, the candidate's story seems to change every few days. At first, it was "I don't know this person, and never met them." Then it was, "OK, I know her, since she is mother to one of my kids, but I certainly never wrote her a check for $700." As of Monday, the story had morphed into "Yes, it's my check, but I don't remember what it was for, and it certainly wasn't for an abortion."

When this news first broke, our view was that the woman was telling the truth and Walker was not. That he keeps "discovering" new versions of his story certainly has done nothing to change our assessment. Meanwhile, it is Politics 101 that when you're dealing with something adverse, you pick an answer/some spin that adequately addresses the situation and then you stick with it. As Walker constantly revises his story, he keeps generating new headlines, and reminding everyone of what happened. This obviously serves to maximize the chances that the news will actually hurt him. (Z)

Ye Buys Parler

There are some news stories that, when we see them, we know instantly that we will write something. And there are some news stories that miss the cut by a mile. The tricky ones are the ones in between. We don't want to overlook something significant, but we don't want to waste readers' time, either.

We cannot recall a story, at least not recently, that was closer to that line than this one. On one hand, it was covered by every major outlet, and it was sent in by numerous readers. On the other hand, both of the key players involved are on the very fringiest fringes of relevance. So, we wouldn't blame you if you stopped reading about how Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, has reached a deal in principle to acquire the far-right social media platform Parler.

Ye, for his part, is barely a political figure. Yes, he ran for president in 2020, and he will likely keep running for president, like a modern-day Harold Stassen or Lyndon LaRouche. But he is not going to influence any elections, especially since it's not easy to get on the presidential ballot in most places. To the extent that he'll make any headlines in the future, it is overwhelmingly likely that they will be of the "Can you believe what Ye said now?" sort.

Parler, for its part, is barely a social media platform. It's in competition with many other platforms, like Gettr, Gab, and Truth Social for the relatively small number of right wingers who want to be able to spew forth venom for other right wingers to read, 300 characters at a time. Twitter, which is itself something of a cesspool, has 237 million active users daily. Parler, at its height (when it was being used to help plan the 1/6 insurrection), had 12.3 million active users monthly. These days, given that the platform has chased away everyone but the bigots and the incels, Parler is down to just 137,000 active users monthly. That's not only way, way, way fewer than Twitter (or Facebook, or Baidu, or TikTok), it's considerably fewer than gets. And we have not been a part of planning even one insurrection, nor are we backed by even one billionaire musician. Though if you're reading, Sir Paul McCartney, we're listening. We'd be happy to create a former Beatle Patreon tier, just for you. We could even create a slightly less expensive one for Ringo.

The amount that Ye is paying for Parler is unknown, but apparently it's worth it for him to get another round of media headlines. He will also use the platform to spew his bile, unfettered—he has really leaned into the antisemitism lately. "In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves," the musician explained in a press release.

That's all good and well and yes, Ye can technically say whatever he wants on his own platform. However, he seems to have overlooked a couple of small problems. The first is that for people to join or follow Parler, they have to download the app. And the two main app stores (Apple AppStore and Google PlayStore) have both banned Parler in the past, and could do so again, if it descends further into the muck. If nobody can access your platform, then does it really exist? Further, even if Parler manages to remain available, there's nothing that says Ye's utterances have to be paid any heed by the media. Already, "Ye said crazy thing #12 about the Jews" is getting old, and it isn't going to get much more interesting when he's shouting into the void that is Parler. Certainly, we are hoping this is the last time we have any reason to write about him or his new toy. (Z)

Question of the Day: I Read the News Today, Oh Boy

This week, we are running answers to questions we posted this Sunday. In each case, you'll hear from (V) and (Z) and then 10 readers whose submissions we've selected.

Yesterday, we ran answers about members of Congress who might not be the sharpest knives in the drawer. Today's question, from L.P. in Chippewa Falls, WI, is something of a long one:

I am a guy who consumes news. I have for a while thought maybe too much, and now am certain I consume it too much. I am just a guy and my detailed knowledge of current events and the degree I care about them has next to zero effect on how they play out. If there is any cause and effect relationship between the news and me, it is the news is causing me some serious mental distress. I can't be the only one and I am certain there are many of us out there who are in my current state. You two do a wonderful job at what you do and I appreciate it when you admit you are not experts in a topic and reach out to your readers for comment.

From politics, to economics, to world affairs—and, yes, even the very real threat of nuclear war—the news is front and center every day. I can't escape it. Is it that I care too much, is it fear of missing out, is it an obsessive problem? I would really like to know if you two experience this to some degree. How do you deal with it? Is it OK to take a break (if so, how?). You have a lot of readers who seem to have a vast amount of expertise in a lot of subject matters. I think it is safe to assume there are a good number who have a valuable opinion on this matter.

And now, the responses:

(V): I often get depressed. There is no way out until 10% of the MAGA-ites die off.

(Z): Burnout is definitely a problem. We have both written it before, and we'll write it again, but writing about Donald Trump, in particular, is not a lot of fun. Obviously, we can't run away from the news and still produce this site. But it should be clear that the snark, while amusing for readers, is also a coping mechanism.

V.M. in Cleveland, OH: I was a huge consumer of news for years. During the Trump years, I spent way too much time reading the news, especially when it pertained to a subject that I believed I needed to communicate with my Republican senator about. After months of his canned GOP responses, I gave up on him. Then I read the news feeling completely helpless to do anything about what went on from 2016 to 2021. That made me crazy anxious. My doctor put me on anti-anxiety medication, and had to up the dosage twice to keep me from panic attacks on a daily basis.

So, I finally decided I had to stop reading the news. Not only did it cause panic attacks, it kept me continually in a state of rage due to me feelings of helplessness. I decided that the only thing I would read every morning is It is intelligent, read by intelligent and clear thinking people, and gave clear political commentary while trying to be fair. And I needed to laugh again. Your snarky comments and sarcasm on outrageous behavior by the ignorant gave me relief. So that's my story. Now I just scan headlines to see if there is anything important I need to research or read more about. But as it's the same old, same old with most media outlets, I usually don't get any "news." It's usually stuff I already knew.

J.K. in Silverdale, WA: It's easier to take a break from a habit if you can identify what function or need the habit fulfills for you. News consumption can be especially tricky to break from if those in your social circle keep up with the news more than they keep up with the Kardashians. For me, and I suspect for many readers, is so much more than an informative political news site. V & Z have cultivated a sense of community that allows for the kind of meaningful exchange that I am engaging in right now. So, if you need to take a break, you may need to hang with people who don't follow the news for a while. If you have an opportunity to engage with very young children, that's usually a safe and entertaining option. And, no worries, we news junkies will always welcome you back.

A.S. in Bedford, MA: It sounds like you need to get the news consumption aspect of your life into better alignment with your needs. I have found the WOOP method (wish, outcome, obstacle, plan) helpful for this type of thing.

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA: I wholeheartedly support taking a break or cutting back on news consumption. I am so much happier since I stopped listening to NPR first thing in the morning. Now I carefully curate how I get the news and regularly impose periodic media blackouts on myself. I find myself looking more for original source material like the ISW reports for news about Ukraine or a newsletter from a leading epidemiologist for COVID info. And's synthesis of political news helps with my sanity there. Without the media filter that tends toward sensationalism, reading the news is much less likely to raise my blood pressure. I also tend to stay away from stories where there's nothing I can do and it's just going to depress and paralyze me. I need to stay in action mode and to do that, I need to maintain some optimism that my activism isn't completely futile. So, I make no apologies for avoiding grim news of death and destruction.

R.V. in Pittsburgh, PA: My obsession with the news began in my early twenties with the (second) Iraq war. Perhaps it was youth that made me more resilient the abuses of the American news cycle than I am today. For hours I would gorge on NPR, blogs, NYT, (ever since Kerry's loss, baby!), Air America (desperate, I know) and most importantly PBS' Frontline, the mother of all nightmares in your living room (who could forget the episode about the rise of assisted suicides with helium purchased from Party City?).

Post-January 6, I ran out of steam. Media theory à la Neal Postman and Marshall McLuhan opened me up to rethinking my habits as more banal stimulation than intellectual curiosity. But sometimes humor reveals the greatest truths. My catharsis came when stumbling upon the following cartoon, drawn for a humor book in 1982. It convinced me I had become a type of predictable media consumer, similar to sports fans or soap opera fanatics. If you see a bit of yourself in the drawing like I did, perhaps this may be the right time to reconsider your commitments to the news:

It says 'News Potatoes' are people who always want to know what's going on, 
watch nothing but news and documentaries, and are chronically anxious, cynical and suspicious of humanity.

G.K. in Blue Island, IL: I was torn on this topic until today. Torn because, while I share with L.P. in Chippewa Falls the virtually irresistible draw of news, politics, current events, etc.—along with the extreme level of anxiety it engenders, I feel a major deficit in American politics is the unengaged voter—that what would help most is for people to become more politically aware and take seriously the threats to democracy and personal freedoms before a mob of gullible extremists swarm the Capitol, and before Roe is overturned.

I say "until today," though, because I started the day having my faithful, loving dog of 16 years euthanized. In my grief, I find it hard to reconcile the time I spent riveted to CNN, Political Wire, Politico, et al., that could have been spent with Roxie (or the rest of my family). I still feel the truth of my views on unengaged voters, but it's exhausting and does me (and my family) no good to carry the weight of other people's ignorance. Short of starting my day with's recap, and possibly slapping the face of the next person who tells me they're "apolitical," I'm disengaging for the sake of those around me.

V & Z reply: Please accept our condolences on your loss. We are very sorry to hear about the loss of Roxie, though we are also confident you gave her a very happy life.

I.W. in Santa Clara, CA: The best thing for L.P. in Chippewa Falls to do is to choose an issue near to their heart, and to dedicate some time to addressing it. It doesn't matter what L.P. is good at—their skills will be needed and welcome in the community trying to work on said issue. If the goal is to create a better society, a better world, it will require every talent, every skill set to achieve.

A quote attributed to Margaret Mead seems appropriate: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Education, voting, homelessness, housing, poverty, and on and on—these problems and more can all benefit from the time and energy of all of us.

I strongly believe that L.P. will see, as so many before them have, that there are groups doing good in the community and that this effort often goes overlooked by the media.

In short, if you don't like the news: change it. Doing so will help those impacted as well as L.P. themselves

B.A. in Oskaloosa, KS: Your description of the mental distress that today's news can bring mirrors mine in many ways and so I feel your pain. What I have done for myself is a combination of things. I've done a lot of research and education, which includes looking primarily for sources with as little bias but with differing viewpoints as possible. On the education side, I've also taken a lot of history classes in order to gain perspective on human history (I'm also a data nut having worked in that field for many years). I've found that exercise helps with this problem as well as promoting overall health. Think easy stretching as well as brisk walking, especially outside (yoga, tai chi and qigong). And yes, I do take a break from news. This happens most frequently on the weekends, when it seems easier to let other activities distract me. To your question on the why of your distress, just asking the question already opens a door to answering the question. My final offering is something that helps me in the moment. When I hear, see or read something (any topic—doesn't have to just be politics) that causes a strong emotional response, I pause briefly to break the cycle of reacting to an emotional brain. That simple pause allows just enough space for my rational brain to take charge again.

J.M. in Silver Spring, MD: My own constant consumption of news (including is rooted in my obsessive hunger for knowledge of any sort. Like L.P., I am sometimes disturbed or upset by things in the news (usually GOP dirty tricks) and this angers me. I don't detach from the news so I can't say how best to do that, but I try to vent to friends who have the same reaction and we tend to calm each other down.

S.S-L. in Norman, OK: My goodness. You cannot possibly imagine how good it feels to have my experience put into words. I'm not as alone as I thought!

I have no social media and refuse to engage with comment sections. Yet I've historically checked the news probably twenty times a day. It's almost never good. The constant stress of tribalism, mass shootings, nuclear war and political BS triggers my OCD and anxiety, keeps me up at night, and is largely responsible for a heart arrhythmia that is now wreaking all sorts of havoc in my mind and body. Magically, when I get 8-10 hours of sleep for about ten days in a row, the arrythmia vanishes. But a couple days of 0-7, and I'm back to a skipped heartbeat every thirty seconds. So what do I do? Why, keep checking the news, of course.

I'm now trying never to type "news" into Google, and only skimming the headings on to look at legal matters and Freudenfreude. I'm not always successful. Still, I can't keep reading about politicians saying and doing things I can't control. It's not like these things affect my vote. I'll still vote the same, donate to certain causes, and do some advocacy in my own little corner of the universe, but I very much need to avoid absorbing negativity. Doctor's orders. I might leave the news altogether, at least until my heart is healed. I strongly suspect it would be good for me. I just don't want (V) and (Z)'s work to go unappreciated.

Mindfulness. Yoga. Books. Hot tea on cold and quiet mornings. These will be the things that get me through.

We got a lot of great responses; hopefully the ones we chose were instructive.

Tomorrow's question:

I am a professor at the Canadian equivalent of a community college. In such a setting, sometimes I end up in teaching classes that are outside of my direct field of expertise (political science masters, geography doctorate). If I were ever asked to teach a history class what general advice would you provide? I enjoy reading about history, but only took a couple of courses in undergrad on the subject. I imagine this advice would be germane to high school teachers, as well.

We've already gotten some very interesting answers we are looking forward to sharing. And there's still time for others to chime in. (V & Z)

Today's Senate Polls

The OH Predictive Insights riddle has been solved, courtesy of readers T.L. in Phoenix, AZ; R.L. in Tucson, AZ; J.S. in Christiansted, U.S. Virgin Islands; E.H. in Westford, MA; K.R. in Austin, TX; C.G. in Los Angeles, CA; A.M. in New York City, NY and B.R. in Glendale, CA. We hope we didn't miss anyone. Anyhow, Matt Owens and Scott Harkey gave their last initials to the ad agency they founded, OH Partners, and then that morphed into OH Predictive Insights. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Georgia Raphael Warnock* 46% Herschel Walker 44% Oct 16 Oct 16 InsiderAdvantage
Illinois Tammy Duckworth* 50% Kathy Salvi 36% Oct 10 Oct 11 Research America
North Carolina Cheri Beasley 44% Ted Budd 50% Oct 10 Oct 13 East Carolina U.
New York Chuck Schumer* 57% Joe Pinion 37% Oct 12 Oct 14 Siena Coll.
Ohio Tim Ryan 45% J.D. Vance 47% Oct 11 Oct 15 Suffolk U.
Utah Evan McMullin (I) 32% Mike Lee* 47% Oct 05 Oct 06 OH Predictive Insights

* Denotes incumbent

Previous | Next

Back to the main page