Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Can The Democrats Keep A Senate Majority?


It will probably take more than prayers

The person with the most at stake, Harry Reid, is screwing up Democratic chances to hold onto the Senate in November. He's decided to roll the dice on two unlikely conservative Democrats in deep red states, Georgia and Kentucky. Predictably, both his candidates, Michelle Nunn and Alison Lundergan Grimes, are losing. But to really gamble big on these two states, he's completely cut off two progressives in states with records of being far more friendly to Democrats, Shenna Bellows in Maine and Rick Weiland in South Dakota. Bellows and Weiland are both making progress while Nunn and Grimes are both losing ground. So far the DSCC and their related Senate Majority PAC have spent $3,719,049 bolstering Grimes and, along with EMILY's List, $1,047,640 on Nunn. The DSCC, the Senate Majority PAC and EMILY"s List combined have spent zero on Shenna Bellows and zero on Rick Weiland.

Yesterday the NY Times' David Leonhardt a new political rating system by CrowdPac that does something neither Beltway political Establishment relishes: takes ideology into account. So, for example, a quick glance at his chart and you see that Brad Hutto, the "Democrat" running against Lindsey Graham, is basically exactly as conservative as Graham, something DWT has been warning Democrats about since last winter.

But we learned something too-- not that Mary Landrieu and Mark Pryor are the two most right-wing Democrats in the Senate, which we've known for years, but that the Democrat running against Pat Roberts in Kansas, Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, is almost as right-wing as Roberts and that anyone in Kansas who gives a damn about Democratic values should be voting for the Independent, Greg Orman. I didn't know that-- but Kansans do, and many have been calling for Taylor to drop out in favor of Orman.
In the race for U.S. Senate, Independent Greg Orman continues to gain ground.

In the latest KSN News Poll, conducted exclusively for KSN-TV by SurveyUSA, the race shows Republican Pat Roberts at 37 percent, Democrat Chad Taylor at 32 percent, and Orman at 20 percent. The margin of error is +/- 4.2 percent.

“At this point, I would say that it is anybody’s race,” said KSN Political Analyst Jeff Jarman. “Roberts’ numbers have been steady. Taylor’s numbers have been steady. It’s Orman who is gaining ground.”

In KSN’s first poll, Orman polled at 7 percent. The next poll showed him at 14 percent. To date, August 26, he is now polling at 20 percent.

“He’s gaining name recognition,” said Jarman. “Undecided voters appear to be breaking for Orman right now, and that’s not surprising,” he added.

KSN asked Jarman if Orman has a chance to win.

“Yes, absolutely he has a chance to win, but the real trick for him will be pulling decided Democrats and decided Republicans away from their candidates, towards a third party,” explained Jarman.
Another fake Democrat with a horribly conservative record is state Senator Connie Johnson, running for the Oklahoma Senate seat opening up because of Tom Coburn's sudden retirement. The other worst Democrats running-- and none has even a remote chance-- are Travis Childers (MS), David Alameel (TX), Joyce Dickerson (SC), Dave Domina (NE), and Matt Silverstein (OK).
Until now, it has been nearly impossible to compare the ideological gap in Senate and House campaigns systematically. But an online service making its debut on Tuesday, known as Crowdpac, aims to change that. Using the work of a Stanford political scientist, it gives an ideological score to all candidates, based on their donors and, for those who have held federal office before, their voting history. Other rating systems tend to be based only on votes and, as a result, don’t cover candidates who haven’t been in Congress before.

The Crowdpac database goes back to 1980, allowing for a portrait of American politics over the last generation. It shows, not surprisingly, that moderate candidates in both parties used to win elections more frequently than they do now. Today, elected officials within each party are more similar to one another-- and more different from the other side-- than in the recent past.

This partisan sorting means that congressional races have a more national flavor than they once did. If you know nothing other than a candidate’s political party, regardless of where the election is, you also know whether you are likely to agree or disagree with that candidate on most issues: abortion, guns, immigration, health insurance, tax rates, the climate, same-sex marriage, the minimum wage and the like.

Yet there are still differences that matter within the parties. Today’s Republican Senate caucus ranges from Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin on the right to Richard Shelby of Alabama, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mark Kirk of Illinois closer to the center, according to the new ratings.

Among senators who caucus with the Democrats, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Al Franken of Minnesota are on the left. Joe Manchin III and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Bill Nelson of Florida are more centrist.

…The model examines everyone who has given money to a candidate-- and every other candidate who has received money from these same donors, as well as the causes those donors support. A statistical algorithm is then able to place all candidates on a spectrum and give each a score.

The algorithm doesn’t know which side of the spectrum is conservative and which is liberal, but it doesn’t need to. Donors tend to sort themselves. The fact that the liberal Mr. Franken tends to share more donor connections with Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a Democrat near the middle of her party, than with the centrist Mr. Manchin says something about all three of them.
There's a problem though. The system's results are only tangentially related to reality, although it seems to work better in statewide races than in House races, where some of the results are absurd. Ro Khanna, a conservative California corporate Democrat who is being supported by Republicans and the Tea Party, for example, comes out as far more liberal than one of the most liberal Californians running for Congress, Ted Lieu. Leonhardt acknowledges that "[n]o one rating system is perfect" but still boosts CrowdPac, which I would call borderline useless for anyone serious about politics. "As is often the case," he wrote, "we get a more accurate picture of reality when we can look at it from multiple perspectives. So I welcome Crowdpac’s new perspective." I don't.

Yesterday, HuffPo's Pollster Model shows that the Democrats have a 52% chance of keeping a majority in the Senate, although they award 3 currently blue seats-- Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota-- to the GOP by wide margins. They rate 2 other states as 50/50 toss-ups: Iowa and Louisiana (and close calls in Arkansas and North Carolina, though both with the Democrats chances of holding on at 53%). So back to the unbearable lightness of being Harry Reid. As we began, Reid has screwed up royally in South Dakota and missed an opportunity in Maine but we haven't talked about Montana in a while. He brokered the catastrophic deal in Montana that had Max Baucus retire early for an ambassadorship-- not to a tropical island or a small Baltic state where he won't do any damage, but to China-- and then got Governor Steve Bullock to appoint his totally unknown lieutenant governor, John Walsh to the empty seat. A dull centrist, Walsh could never catch on among Democrats in a state that prefers populists like Brian Schweitzer and Jon Tester. (Too much for Harry to ever understand.) Walsh, already widely perceived as the Democrat mostly likely to lose his seat, was soon caught up in a lame ethics scandal and forced to withdraw. The DSCC, the Montana Democratic Party and had already wasted close to half a million dollars on Walsh's campaign and Walsh himself had raised $2,779,750 and spent $2,066,129. And then he was gone. The state party held a hasty convention a picked a bona fide populist champion, Amanda Curtis… just as Reid and DSCC chair Michael Bennet turned their backs on Big Sky Country.

Anyone who watched what Reid and Bennet did in South Dakota when they were denied their pet Blue Dog, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, shouldn't be surprised that they have no time for Curtis. But Republican corporate whore Steve Daines is not a popular figure and Montanans are giving Curtis a look-see, Harry Reid or no Harry Reid. No one in Montana gives a rat's ass what Happy Reid has to say about anything anyway.
Sporting a stud in her nose and still bearing the glow of youth, Amanda Curtis’ appeal isn’t lost on Montana Democrats even as pundits pan her 11th-hour campaign effort as hopeless.

Curtis, 34, is the Democratic nominee to replace U.S. Sen. John Walsh in the race against U.S. Rep. Steve Daines. If she wins, she would be the youngest U.S. senator in Washington, D.C.

Visiting the Flathead Valley last week, Curtis chatted amicably with supporters on her whirlwind campaign, which, in its first 10 days, has managed to squirrel away $180,000.

An attire of shorts and sandals was as common as neckties and skirts at the event in the downtown building, where more than 100 excited Democrats cracked open their checkbooks to support the nascent campaign and jostled for a minute of Curtis’ time.

Curtis, a Butte math teacher serving her first term in the Montana state house, has experienced a flood of support that is buoying her long-shot campaign, which is generating a level of enthusiasm that observers say is evidence of the energy that a candidate like Curtis can breathe into the “Blue Dog” Democratic party in Montana.

Curtis ran for an open Montana House seat in 2012, easily won the primary and was unchallenged in the general election. She wasn’t planning on running for re-election, however, because redistricting would have put her up against other Butte Democrats.

Speaking to the packed room at the KM Building on Aug. 27, Curtis quickly set herself apart from other politicians with salt-of-the-earth descriptions of her Montana childhood, when her parents divorced and her mother bought groceries on food stamps.

She viewed education as her golden opportunity, and she has made it a central point of her campaign.

“This election could decide who controls the Senate, and I don’t mean the difference between Republicans and Democrats,” Curtis said. “I mean the difference between the millionaires and the middle class.”

With $24,000 in student loan debt, Curtis supports lowering student loan interest rates, which is one of the focuses of her campaign stump speeches. As a teacher, she also has strong opinions about education, and says Common Core, the controversial national education standards opposed by many teachers’ unions, could be problematic if there’s a rush to implement it.

She’s been outspoken on a slate of other issues that many Montana Democrats running for national office won’t broach, including decrying overzealous supporters of gun-rights.

In the Legislature, after supporting a bill to remove language from Montana law that made sodomy a felony, she commended its passage through the House but,  in a daily YouTube video-- Curtis is known for her regular use of social media to update constituents on the Legislature-- she derided the 38 lawmakers who voted against it.

UPDATE: Holy Moley!

Ptayers answered! ConservaDem Chad Taylor withdrew from the Kansas Senate race today, making it possible for Democrats to unite behind the Independent, more progressive Greg Orman. Here's the letter Taylor sent to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach:

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At 11:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the Dems manage to lose the senate you know who, on the morning after election day, will "recognize" the mandate so delivered and vow to drop to new lows in pathological bipartisanship, probably also "pledging" to destroy all veto pens.
(I see BHO has 2 vetoes.)

John Puma

At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love reading your blog as I typically find it insightful and informative but on the issue of the DSCC I've found myself increasing disagreement with you.

While I am totally with you in criticizing Reid & Guy Cecil over not supporting Weiland (I've donated monthly to him ^_^), I'm really not at all convinced that we should compare their decisions to Guy Israel's pathetic record.

You're simply wrong about Michelle Nunn. The two most recent polls should her leading Perdue, including one commissioned by Republicans:

Also, while I think polling makes it repeatedly clear that Weiland is gaining ground, I'm really uncertain about what's happening in Maine. yes, she out raised Collins in small donations that one time (which is very impressive) and yes she's been running an impressive grassroots campaign, but there's been so little polling of Maine I really have no idea whether or not Bellows has been improving overtime. I hope she has, but its not clear.

As for Grimes, as a Kentuckian who has hate McTurtle for as long as I can remember I am not all convinced that she's LOSING ground.

Taking into consideration polling fluctuation, poll margin of error, and polling pre versus post McConnell's primary victory I see no reason to think that KY today is any less a Tossup today than it was one year ago.

Patty Murray whom you have quite rightly praised for her exemplary 2012 work employed Guy Cecil in 2012 so I'm really, really skeptical of your over all narrative of the DSCC failing in the 2014 election.

I'm royally pissed about Weiland being ignored, but I'm not at all convinced that Reid, Cecil, & the DSCC are screwing up.

At 2:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your richly empirical based criticism of Guy Israel, the DCCC, & Emily's List. And I agree with you that the DSCC has failed in its job in regard to Bellows and even more so with regard to Weiland (they at least got around to endorsing Bellows after all). BUT I am not at all convinced that the DSCC is, over all not doing a good job this election cycle. All things considered, thus far I'm inclined to think Reid, Cecil, & the DSCC are doing a decent job.

At 3:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, so as to not merely be a troll, my name is Conrad. ^_^

I do hope that you'll make a correction to your narrative.


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