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Kirsten Powers’ latest column apparently was written while she wore rose-colored glasses. Here’s what I’m talking about:

A year ago, few would have expected the GOP would be on the ropes in Kansas, Kentucky and Georgia. Kansas Republicans haven’t lost a Senate race since 1932. Now, Sen. Pat Roberts is nearly tied with businessman Greg Orman, an independent. GOP minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, who hails from a deep red state, has been in a fierce battle with Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Calling the McConnell-Grimes race as a “fierce battle” is wishful thinking. McConnell hasn’t had a big lead but he’s maintained a steady lead since a little before Labor Day:

As for Georgia, that race is tight but it’s misleadingly so. Noah Rothman’s post provides some interesting late-breaking information on that race:

Compared to a WXIA-TV pre-election tracking poll one week ago, Democrat Michelle Nunn is upside down. One week ago, Nunn led Republican David Perdue by 2 points, 46% to 44%. Today, in a dramatic reversal, Perdue is on top, 48% to 45%, a 5-point right turn in one of the nation’s most high-visibility contests. Polling for Atlanta’s WXIA-TV 11Alive was conducted by SurveyUSA.

That’s a significant change but that’s just part of the story. This is eye-popping information:

Worse for Nunn: among voters who tell SurveyUSA they have already returned a ballot, Perdue leads by 10 points.

That’s terrible news for Michelle Nunn because she’ll have to win a significant majority of votes on Election Day to win. While this race is likely heading for a runoff, the runoff isn’t Michelle Nunn’s friend. This is wishful thinking, too:

Republicans should be alarmed they’ve had to marshal so many resources to win in an environment that so overwhelmingly favors them. The number of baked-in advantages for the GOP this election cycle is remarkable.

There’s the landscape: Democrats are defending 21 seats; the GOP 15. Only one of those GOP states, Maine, went for President Obama in 2012. But the Dems are struggling to hold on to seats in seven states: Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia, that Obama lost.

Democrats gave up on West Virginia and Montana months ago. They thought they had a chance in South Dakota for a brief moment but that moment disappeared quickly. Alaska was competitive but that’s definitely a seat that will flip from blue to red soon after the polls close. Here’s a picture of the last couple of months worth of polling:

Arkansas isn’t that competitive, either:

It’s important to remember that Tom Cotton is a first term congressman and that Mark Pryor inherited his father’s political machine. I’d be stunned if Rep. Cotton opened up a double-digit lead against Sen. Pryor. In fact, I’d be predicting a major Republican sweep if Cotton led Pryor by 10+ points.

While South Dakota, Montana and West Virginia seem to be lost causes for Democrats, the most recent NBC/Marist poll shows Senate races in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas and North Carolina within three points. In Georgia, recent polls favor Democrat Michelle Nunn, who is fighting Rep. David Perdue. Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu leads her Republican opponent by a point, but is likely headed for a runoff. A Friday poll showed the Alaska Senate race in a tie.

That’s top-rate spin. Colorado and Iowa weren’t on any consultant’s list of potential blue-to-red flips at the start of the year. Treating these races like they were expected to be tight races is a bit disingenuous. Cherrypicking one poll out with the Democrat leading while ignoring the other 4-6 polls showing the Republican leading is a nifty trick but it’s misleading.

While I think Georgia is heading for a runoff, I wouldn’t be totally surprised if Purdue won it outright. If that happens, Republicans will be celebrating by midnight West Coast time.

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If people had said that Iowa was leaning Republican at the start of 2014, people would’ve said that that means Republicans were heading for a very good year. Based on the last 4 polls in Iowa, I’d say that Republicans were closing in on a strong year in the Senate:

Braley’s campaign is doing everything it can to frighten voters into voting for Braley:

With just weeks left in a tight Senate race that he started with an advantage, Democrat Bruce Braley is pressing to raise concerns among women voters about his Republican opponent, Joni Ernst, and take some of the sheen off the farm-raised, military veteran who rose from relative obscurity to GOP stardom during the campaign.

The all-abortion-all-the-time campaign worked so well for Mark Udall that they’re apparently shipping it to Iowa. A campaign is running on empty when their best hope is frightening people into staying home. That’s the Braley campaign’s only hope.

Frankly, it’s a high-risk attempt. Joni Ernst just isn’t frightening. She’s a military vet. She’s a state legislator. She’s got personality. It’s difficult to make someone with those attributes sound scary. One woman that is scary campaigned for Braley this weekend:

“What the Republicans are really fighting for is a world which there is less and less investment in your future, less and less opportunity for you and more and more protection for those at the top,” Warren told a crowd of about 500 people Sunday in the Iowa Memorial Union ballroom on the University of Iowa campus.

That Massachusetts windbag is all BS and no substance. There’s no question, though, that she’s the brightest star in the Democratic Party. The thing is that she’s talking generically. She isn’t directly talking about Joni Ernst. While her speech probably whipped the activists into a frenzy, it isn’t likely that she convinced independents that support Joni Ernst into supporting Braley.

If this race represented a Christmas stocking, Braley would be a lump of coal. He’s a check-the-box politician. He’s good enough to be a back-bencher but he isn’t good enough to be a star.

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These polls don’t inspire optimism for Democrats hoping to keep their Senate majority:

Mark Begich, the Democratic incumbent senator, hasn’t led in a poll since he ran an attack ad accusing Dan Sullivan of “signing off on the early release of a sex offender who now stands charged with murder and the sexual assault of a 2-year-old.”

The most recent polls show Sullivan with leads from 3 points to 6 points. Alaska is one of the most reliably red states in the country. Holding Alaska for the Democrats was always going to be an uphill fight. Throw in a major mistake by the Begich campaign and that uphill fight got more difficult. Then there’s Arkansas, where Tom Cotton is running a solid, mistake-free race:

Democrats hoped to flip either Kentucky (unlikely IMHO) or Georgia. Those states are still tight but the Democrat hasn’t led since mid-summer. Then they hoped Kansas would flip. That’s now slipping quickly away.

Democrats hoped Colorado and Iowa would be their firewall. They’re trending away from Democrats. The trend isn’t the Democrats’ friend in at least half a dozen states. That’s how you lose a senate majority.

From a macro level, Republicans did a great job recruiting candidates. Cory Gardner, Tom Cotton and Joni Ernst will be impressive senators if/when they’re elected. At this point, Republicans should win the Senate as long as they keep working hard and they avoid gaffes.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of races where Republicans stand to flip seats. Still, it gives people insight into how things are trending.

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Guy Benson’s post on Sen. Mark Udall’s recent difficulties highlights why Udall is fighting an uphill fight. Benson highlighted this video especially:

Here’s the transcript of the exchange between Sen. Udall and Rep. Gardner:

REP. GARDNER: I would just like to ask Sen. Udall this question. What is the price you’d put on carbon?
SEN. UDALL: Congressman, the price I would put on … is the opportunity we would miss if we don’t go all in. We’ve had floods, we’ve had fires, we’ve had doubts, we have the leading climate scientists in this state telling us it’s happening. We know it’s happening. Farmers know it’s happening. The ski areas know it’s happening. We all know it’s happening. So let’s lean forward. Let’s create our future. Congressman Gardner is looking backwards. Let’s look forward and embrace the future and embrace these technologies. They’re right there for the taking.
I’m looking forward to the next energy bill.
REP. GARDNER: What is the cost that you will put on with your tax?
SEN. UDALL: Congressman, the point is that we’ve shown that you can put a price on pollution. We’ve done it over and over again.
REP. GARDNER: How much?
SEN. UDALL: When we send those signals to the market. We’ve got a lot of market-oriented people here today. When we send those signals to the marketplace, our markets respond because we’ve got the best system of capitalism, we’ve got the best entrepreneurs. We’re going to innovate. That’s how we make the future. We’re in a global economic race and we’re going to innovate to create jobs and grow the economy.

Sen. Udall clearly didn’t want to talk about the size of his tax increase. His answer is typical liberal psychobabble. His answer wasn’t about the real world. It was purely in the hypothetical world. The other thing that’s clear is that Sen. Udall didn’t present proof that the government would be good at putting “a price on pollution.” That’s yet another piece of hypothetical, wishful thinking liberalism. No proof is needed because everything is settled according to Sen. Udall.

This debate wasn’t about debating the merits of their policies. For Sen. Udall, this was a GOTV operation. His statements are filled with pandering to the environmental activists that Democrats need to turn out en masse to offset President Obama’s drag on Democrats. It’s difficult to believe that Democrats buy climate change. I think it’s all about Democrats pandering to environmental activists for money and votes.

Still, Cory Gardner’s persistence was smart. He insisted that Sen. Udall put a price tag on Udall’s Cap and Trade legislation. Gardner wouldn’t let him talk about “the environment” in the theoretical sense. Gardner made Udall talk about it in dollars and cents specifics. I’m betting that the NRSC will soon be up with advertising that talks about higher energy costs hurting families that are already squeezed by the Obama-Democrat economy.

This is high stakes GOTV operations. For his part, Rep. Gardner has the better argument because it’s the question that people across the nation are asking.
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Bruce Braley just made a major mistake during his debate with Joni Ernst:

Braley tried to be tough on the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), saying he voted to authorize the airstrikes Obama ordered in Iraq and Syria.

The authorization to go to war is one of the toughest votes a congressman will ever cast. That’s why neither party whips the vote. Each congressman and each senator is left to make up their own minds. It’s a solemn event to the point that there’s very little in the way of conversations during the vote.

It’s difficult to think Braley didn’t notice that this wasn’t a vote to authorize military strikes. Politifact rated Braley’s statement during his debate with Joni Ernst as false:

On Sept. 17, less than two weeks before the debate, the House took two votes relevant to this question. The first was whether to attach an amendment, one related to the situation in the Middle East, to a broad spending bill. The House voted, 273-156, to attach the amendment to the bill.

The second was on passage of the bill itself, including the amendment. The bill passed, 319-108. In both cases, Braley voted in favor, along with a bipartisan majority. However, in the debate, Braley misstated what he was voting on.

Here’s the relevant text from the amendment that passed along with the rest of the spending bill:

“The Secretary of Defense is authorized, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to provide assistance, including training, equipment, supplies, and sustainment, to appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition and other appropriately vetted Syrian groups and individuals. … Nothing in this section shall be construed to constitute a specific statutory authorization for the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations wherein hostilities are clearly indicated by the circumstances.”

Perhaps Braley thought he had to embellish because Ernst is a war veteran. Perhaps, it’s because he thought that’s what people wanted to hear. Undoubtedly, it’s because he isn’t an honest person. Frankly, I think it’s at least partially because he isn’t that bright. Did he think candidates didn’t verify their opponents’ statements?

Braley’s put his foot in his mouth too many times to win. He isn’t a top tier candidate. That’s why he’s trailing in the RCP average of polls. In 2 polls, they were tied. In 2 other polls, including the latest Des Moines Register poll, Ernst had a 6-point lead. The PPP poll, which is definitely a Democrat-leaning poll, showed Ernst with a 2-point lead. If things don’t change quickly for Braley, he’ll definitely have an uphill fight heading into the stretch drive.

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This article highlights a questionable decision by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, aka the DSCC:

Democrats in Washington are taking a risky bet by quadrupling their investment in Alison Lundergan Grimes, a young and largely unproven challenger, who is running against Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).

Spending a fresh $1.4 million on a statewide TV ad bashing McConnell is a gamble for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which has six vulnerable incumbents and a long-held Democratic seat in Iowa to defend.

The only justification for this is that the DSCC thinks that flipping the Kentucky seat is their best shot at holding control of the Senate majority. This decision isn’t without considerable risk, starting with the fact that Ms. Lundergan-Grimes is a longshot at best.

It’s also possible that the DSCC realizes that Cory Gardner, Dan Sullivan, Joni Ernst, Bill Cassidy and Tom Cotton are likely to win their races. This information isn’t encouraging to the DSCC:

Some political experts expressed surprise that the Senate Democratic campaign committee thinks Grimes can win, given the direction of recent polls.

“When I saw them start up, I thought, ‘Well, maybe they made a commitment long ago that they would be there in October.’ My guess is, they reserve the right to not be there in late October because they’re in too much of a bind to spend money in a race where they don’t think there’s any chance,” said Al Cross, a longtime political commentator and professor at the University of Kentucky.

Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor for The Cook Political Report, said the conventional wisdom is that Grimes has an uphill path to victory. “She’s been behind in every poll but one for months,” she said. “The one poll she was ahead by a point was her own. I just think there’s been a conventional wisdom developing that she’s in trouble.”

While I wouldn’t put the McConnell seat in the Safe Republican column at this point, I wouldn’t have a problem putting it at the upper end of the Leans Republican category, which is just short of Solid Republican.

The fact that Iowa and Colorado appear to be slipping through the DSCC’s fingers is important. Neither of those seats were on the radar until this summer and last spring respectively. Braley and Udall haven’t run good campaigns, which is definitely contributing to their difficult situation. Udall is suffering from an anti-Democrat mini-wave in Colorado, too. If he loses, he should thank Gov. Hickenlooper for passing Colorado’s nutty gun grab laws this past year.

The political situation in Colorado has been difficult after that.

Braley doesn’t have to send a note. He just has to look in the mirror. He’s the candidate who’s repeatedly put his foot in his mouth throughout the campaign. He’s got as deft a touch as a bull in a china shop. What could possibly go wrong?

It isn’t like he criticized hog farmers in Iowa or something. Oh wait. That’s precisely what he did. That’s as politically stupid as running for statewide office in Wisconsin and announcing at your first press conference that you hate cheese and the Green Bay Packers.

Grimes’ campaign took a major hit when she ran a pro-coal mining ad that featured a British actor in a coal miner’s hard hat. She’s had tough sledding since. No amount of money will help her out of that hole anytime soon.

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The latest Des Moines Register (DMR) poll isn’t the type of news Bruce Braley and Harry Reid were looking for:

The ground under Bruce Braley has shifted. The Democratic U.S. Senate candidate is 6 points behind his GOP rival, Joni Ernst, according to The Des Moines Register’s new Iowa Poll of likely voters. Ernst leads 44 percent to 38 percent in a race that has for months been considered deadlocked. She leads nearly 4-1 with rural voters, and is up double digits with independents.

“Very interesting, and good news not just for Ernst but also for the GOP’s chances of taking the U.S. Senate,” said national political prognosticator Larry Sabato of “Sabato’s Crystal Ball.”

That’s the type of news that’ll give Joni Ernst an extra lift in her step. The horserace number isn’t the only part of the poll that should worry Braley’s campaign. Here’s another poll result that should frighten Braley:

And he’s suffering badly with rural voters. Only 15 percent support him compared with 58 percent for Ernst.

Losing farmers in Iowa by a 4:1 margin is the fastest path to defeat. That isn’t Braley’s only obstacle to overcome:

“I think he has an attitude about the voters and life in general which was indicated by what he said about Chuck Grassley,” said Democrat Dianna Fuhrmeister, a poll respondent who grows garden vegetables for a living in rural Iowa City. “He thinks he knows better than us.”

That’s why Ernst wins rural voters by a 4:1 margin. If there’s anything that’ll get a rural voter’s dander up, it’s being talked down to by a city slicker.

Fuhrmeister, who is registered as a Democrat but considers herself an independent, said her mind is made up to vote for Ernst, a state senator and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard. “She’s the veteran. She seems to have common sense,” she said.

Ernst’s lead isn’t insurmountable…if Braley finishes strong. I’m not holding my breath on that happening. Politico isn’t waiting for that to happen, either:

Braley’s remark, made at a private fundraiser in Texas last winter, seemingly disparaged Iowa’s popular 33-year senator for being a farmer, not a lawyer. Braley apologized to Grassley after the caught-on-tape remark was released in March. But that gaffe and others prompted the national political news outlet Politico last week to slot Braley’s campaign as No. 1 on its list of “the worst campaigns of 2014.”

Ernst has run a smart campaign that’s getting notice by the brightest lights in the conservative movement:

The Machine Shed restaurant, where the waitresses wear bib overalls and suggest a cinnamon roll the size of a loaf of bread as a breakfast appetizer, sells a root beer called Dang!, bandages made to look like bacon strips, and signs that proclaim, “I love you more than bacon.” For Joni Ernst, however, the apposite sign reads, “No one ever injured their eyesight by looking on the bright side.”

She, nourished by a cinnamon roll, is preparing for a bus tour taking her Senate candidacy to all of Iowa’s 99 counties, and she seems to love campaigning even more than bacon, not that any proper Iowa farm girl, her description of herself, would publicly rank bacon second to anything.

As more Iowans tune into the Ernst-Braley race, the more they’ll gravitate towards Ernst, partially because of her farm girl image, partially because she’s a military vet and mostly because she isn’t Bruce Braley.

The DMR poll is the most respected poll in Iowa. If Joni Ernst finishes strong, she’ll replace Tom Harkin in the U.S. Senate.

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This research isn’t good news for Mark Udall’s re-election bid against Cory Gardner:

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) Continues To Trail Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO). “Republican challenger Rep. Cory Gardner enjoyed a two-point lead over incumbent Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat in a new poll released Thursday morning.” (Brandon Rittiman, “Gardner Holds Slight Lead Over Udall In Recent Polling,” KUSA, 9/25/14)
•According To A New PPP Poll, Gardner Leads Udall By 2 Points, 47 Percent To 45 Percent. (Public Policy Polling Poll, 652 LV, MoE 2.6%, 9/19-21/14)

Today’s Poll Is The Third Consecutive Poll Showing Udall Down In The Polls. “However, the poll is third in a row recently to show an edge for Gardner, a trend which will have Democrats paying close attention to their effort to retain the seat.” (Brandon Rittiman, “Gardner Holds Slight Lead Over Udall In Recent Polling,” KUSA, 9/25/14)

There’s a distinct anti-Democrat trend in Colorado. It isn’t just that Rep. Gardner is leading Udall, though that’s big. Gardner isn’t the only high profile race where the Republican challenger is leading the Democrat incumbent.

It’s that Bob Beauprez is leading Gov. John Hickenlooper, (D-CO).

If this pro-Republican trend continues, this might turn into a pretty positive year for Republicans. From a nationwide standpoint, Kansas becomes less important if Gardner wins in Colorado. Simply put, Mitch McConnell will be the Senate Majority Leader next January if Gardner wins this November.

This is important:

The poll found only 8 percent of Colorado voters were undecided.

In congressional and senatorial races, the undecided generally break 2:1 for the challenger. If that’s true in this instance, that means Rep. Gardner will finish with 52%-53% of the vote. That isn’t a big margin but it’d represent a gigantic victory for Republicans. That’s all that’d matter in this instance.

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Stuart Rothenberg’s latest article predicts a GOP majority in the Senate:

While the current Rothenberg Political Report ratings don’t show it, I am now expecting a substantial Republican Senate wave in November, with a net gain of at least seven seats. But I wouldn’t be shocked by a larger gain.

Rothenberg then adds this:

But I’ve witnessed 17 general elections from my perch in D.C., including eight midterms, and I sometimes develop a sense of where the cycle is going before survey data lead me there. Since my expectations constitute little more than an informed guess, I generally keep them to myself.

This year is different. I am sharing them with you.

Then he explains why he’s expecting a big Republican wave in the Senate:

After looking at recent national, state and congressional survey data and comparing this election cycle to previous ones, I am currently expecting a sizable Republican Senate wave.

The combination of an unpopular president and a midterm election (indeed, a second midterm) can produce disastrous results for the president’s party. President Barack Obama’s numbers could rally, of course, and that would change my expectations in the blink of an eye. But as long as his approval sits in the 40-percent range (the August NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll), the signs are ominous for Democrats.

The generic congressional ballot currently is about even among registered voters. If that doesn’t change, it is likely to translate into a Republican advantage of a few points among “likely” voters. And recent elections when Republicans have even a small advantage have resulted in significant GOP years.

There’s a dozen political lifetimes between now and Election Day so things can change. Still, Stuart Rothenberg has been doing these predictions for decades. I’m willing to trust him because his explanation makes sense.

Predictably, Rothenberg says that Republicans will flip West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana. Democrats aren’t even competitive in those seats. Arkansas and Louisiana are both uphill climbs for Democrats because those states are increasingly Republican states. North Carolina is still close but that’s only because of North Carolina’s large African-American population.

If those states flip, that’s the 6 seats Republicans need for the majority. The bad news for Democrats is that those aren’t the only states that are competitive. Terry Lynn Land is virtually tied with Gary Peters in Michigan. Joni Ernst leads Bruce Braley in Iowa, though usually by less than a point. New Hampshire is suddenly competitive. In Minnesota, Al Franken is vulnerable because he’s been a do-nothing senator, with the exception of rubberstamping President Obama’s and Sen. Reid’s agenda. That’s before talking about how competitive Colorado and Alaska are.

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Ed Rogers’ post highlights the lengths to which they’ll go to run away from Harry Reid:

Georgia’s Democratic Senate candidate, Michelle Nunn, recently suggested she might not vote for Harry Reid to be Democratic Senate leader if she wins her election. That the first vote Democratic senators would take would be to reelect Harry Reid, and thereby support and maintain the status quo in Washington, is a potent weapon for Republicans to use against Democratic candidates. In a well-rehearsed statement, Nunn told reporters that she “looks forward to changing the composition in the leadership of the Senate” and “will vote for the Democratic leader that…best represents our capacity to get things done.”

It’s impossible to take this seriously. If Ms. Nunn abstains from voting, Sen. Reid will know who abstained. That’s the moment at which she’ll be ostracized by Sen. Reid.

This type of posturing embodies the deceit Nunn’s entire campaign is based on. (Remember the leaked memo of her campaign strategy that exposed how contrived and fabricated her image really is?) But she is not the only Democrat who is resorting to these tactics in an attempt to get votes. If reelected, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is not going to stand up to the president and make a difference on the Keystone XL pipeline. Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has already proven she doesn’t really care about coal, no matter what she says on the campaign trail. And the very notion that Nunn wouldn’t fall into lockstep with the Democrats as soon as she crossed into the Beltway is just ridiculous. Democratic candidates seem to be counting on voters being really stupid. It is painfully obvious that much of what they say is not sincere.

If Republicans don’t push Nunn, Grimes and Landrieu on their phoniness, they should be slapped silly. Lundergan-Grimes won’t push Sen. Reid or President Obama about coal. She’ll vote for the Democrats’ budget, which will give President Obama’s EPA the authority to decimate the coal industry. Landrieu won’t push President Obama over the Keystone XL Pipeline even though her state would benefit from building it.

Nunn, though, is the biggest phony of the trio, though. Sam Nunn was a truly moderate Democrat. His daughter, however, is a true believer in President Obama’s agenda. She’s also lacking his political skills.

This trio of Democrats come from famous political families. That’s the good news for Democrats. The bad news for Democrats is that they’re each as phony as a $3 bill. That might’ve worked in the 1990s but it doesn’t work in a TEA Party environment.

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