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Now that the new Congress has been sworn in, Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court has faded into history’s mists. With the nomination’s passing came the obligatory statements from the Senate Majority Leader and the new Minority Leader.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “I’ve been clear throughout that the next president would name the next Supreme Court justice. Now, the president who won the election will make the nomination, and the Senate the American people just re-elected will consider that nomination.”

New Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-NY), issued a sour grapes statement through his spokesman, saying “What Senate Republicans did to Judge Garland, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution was appalling. Judge Garland is respected on both sides of the aisle. That he did not even get so much as a hearing will be a stain on the legacy of the Republican Senate.”

To the average voter, that sounds like “BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.” It sounds like sour grapes. The truth is that Democrats wanted to shift the balance of the Supreme Court for a generation when Justice Scalia unexpectedly passed away. Republicans essentially said ‘Not without a fight first.’

While Democrats express their sour grapes, the American people will move on. They’ll worry whether Senate Democrats will attempt to force families to continue using the ABACA. They’ll worry whether Democrats will insist on not protecting the US-Mexican border. People in Chicago will wonder if the Trump administration will be called in to deal with all of the gang-on-gang violence or whether they’ll be frequent targets of gang-on-gang violence.

Sen. Schumer has more than a little pressure on him. If he makes deals with President Trump, he’ll get booted by Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren for being too soft. If he takes a Warren-like hard line, he’ll imperil somewhat moderate Democratic senators for their 2018 re-election campaigns.

This MinnPost article poses the hypothetical question of whether Sen. Klobuchar will run for governor in 2018 rather than run for re-election to the US Senate. That’s a good question.

The article describes Sen. Klobuchar as “a political heavyweight”, which is fair considering the fact that she’s won her Senate races fairly handily. I don’t know, though, that she’s unbeatable. In the Senate, she’s co-sponsored lots of meaningless bills with Republicans. So what? She hasn’t distinguished herself as a leader on the biggest issues of the day. In fact, she’s avoided the toughest issues of the day.

There’s another consideration that Democrats haven’t talked about, which is that 2018 promises to be a difficult year for Democrats. There’s a definite possibility that Republicans could win enough seats in 2018 to have a filibuster-proof majority in 2019. If that happens, Sen. Klobuchar’s presidential ambitions immediately disappear forever. I can’t picture Sen. Schumer not pressuring Sen. Klobuchar to run for re-election to prevent that filibuster-proof GOP majority.

I don’t doubt that DFL readers of LFR are questioning my implication that a Republican would win that seat if Sen. Klobuchar ran for governor. That’s fair. Still, if Klobuchar ran for governor, I’d bet big money that a Republican like Pete Hegseth would jump in and defeat the DFL-endorsed candidate fairly handily.

Klobuchar could bridge Minnesota’s rural-urban divide: One of the loudest messages of the 2016 election is that many rural residents don’t feel understood or heard by the political establishments in Washington and St. Paul. In particular, many rural residents were upset by the costs of health care.

Sen. Klobuchar voted for the ACA, which means she’s partially to blame for Minnesota’s skyrocketing premiums and expensive premiums. It’s impossible to vote for that disaster, then insist that you’re blameless in the matter.

The only way she’d have credibility is if she voted with Republicans to repeal and replace the ACA. If she did that, the DFL base would treat her like she’d just proposed building a coal-fired power plant in Minneapolis.

Sen. Klobuchar is a formidable opponent. Still, I don’t want Republicans to think that she’s unstoppable. When she ran in 2006 and 2012, she ran in very pro-Democrat elections. That won’t be the situation in 2018. Further, she was protected by the media from scrutiny. While it’s true that the Twin Cities media will still protect ‘St. Amy of Hennepin County’, Sen. Klobuchar’s nickname, Minnesotans are in a totally different mindset.

I still find it difficult to believe she’ll give up her cushy Senate seat to run for governor.

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Initially, it sounded strange to say that John Kennedy has won the runoff in Louisiana to become the Senator-Elect. The race was called just 45 minutes after the polls closed.

The AP article said “Louisiana voters have chosen Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy to fill the state’s open U.S. Senate seat, giving the GOP a 52-48 edge in the chamber. Saturday’s election settled the nation’s last Senate seat for the term beginning in January. Kennedy was the front-runner the entire time. He defeated Democrat Foster Campbell, a state utility regulator whose chances were seen as such a long-shot that national Democratic organizations offered little assistance to Campbell’s campaign.”

That last sentence said everything. The people I’d talked with said their biggest worry was that Kennedy’s lead was so big that they sweated whether Republicans would turn out. Apparently, President-Elect Trump’s visit there yesterday fired up the GOP faithful to the point that Kennedy won a quick victory.

NPR is reporting that “The win by Kennedy, the state treasurer, will give Republicans a 52-48 majority in the Senate come January.”

It’s been an amazing year for Republicans across the nation. They defeated Hillary Clinton. They entered the year defending 24 Senate seats while Democrats were defending 10 seats. Republicans entered the election with a 54-46 seat majority in the US Senate. Many pundits expected Democrats to retake the majority in the Senate. Instead, Democrats finished with a net gain of 2 Senate seats.

Because of their performance this year, Republicans have positioned themselves to win a filibuster-proof majority in 2018. That’ll require recruiting great candidates with an appealing message. Still, it’s much easier recruiting top-tier candidates when you’re winning than when you’re losing.

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According to this article, Sen. Ron Johnson, (R-WI), just put together an ad that mocks ousted US Sen. Russ Feingold. The ad is appropriately titled ‘Skeletons’. According to the article, then-State Sen. Feingold was “low on name identification and cash – did a two-minute ad where he portrayed himself as a quirky, folksy, ‘Man of the People.’ In it, he compared his modest home in Middleton to the luxury mansions of his Democratic opponents, former Congressman Jim Moody and Joe Checota. The ad helped turn Feingold from an also-ran with support in the single-digits, into the front-runner.”

In the ad, Feingold gives “a tour of his own home, in which one of the first things he does is open a nearby broom closet, turn sheepishly to the camera, and say, ‘Look No Skeletons.'” This time, that scene repeatedly shows the skeletons that’ve accumulated in Feingold’s closet. One of the skeletons in Feingold’s closet is a headline that reads “Russ Feingold’s PAC funded fees, salaries for former staffers, himself.”

Another headlining ‘skeleton’ reads “Majority of Feingold campaign contributions coming from outside Wisconsin.” Still another headlining skeleton reads “Russ Feingold, critic of speaking fees as senator, cashed in out of office.”

The race in Wisconsin is tied. That sentence seemed improbable 6 months ago. Back then, most people thought Sen. Johnson was history. With Feingold’s skeletons multiplying, don’t count Sen. Johnson out. That would be a monumental mistake.

It’s been assumed for quite some time that Russ Feingold would defeat Ron Johnson and reclaim the seat Feingold lost in 2010. A funny thing happened on the way to Feingold’s victory celebration, though. Mr. Campaign Finance Reform got caught up in a major campaign finance scandal. According to the Boston Globe, “From 2010 through 2014, [David] Strouss and [Garrett] Bradley, along with founding partner Michael Thornton and his wife, donated nearly $1.6 million to Democratic Party fund-raising committees and a parade of politicians — from Senate minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada to Hawaii gubernatorial candidate David Ige to Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Over the same span, the lawyers received $1.4 million listed as “bonuses” in Thornton Law Firm records; more than 280 of the contributions precisely matched bonuses that were paid within 10 days.”

In that same article, Feingold “had received $45,000 in apparent straw donations from employees of the law firm.” Not that amazingly, “Within hours, his campaign announced they would be returning the $45,000 in donations.”

Apparently, Mr. Squeaky Clean isn’t so squeaky clean.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s endorsement isn’t like most political endorsements. You know that when you read “Few politicians can match Rep. Heck’s impressive resume. He is a medical doctor and is a brigadier general in the U.S. Army Reserve. Rep. Heck was last deployed to the Middle East in 2008 when he commanded a Baghdad-area combat hospital. He offers a moderate and sensible viewpoint on most issues and has made it a priority to improve health care in rural Nevada. His experience in the medical field and the military would be a welcome asset to the upper chamber, as would be his willingness to reach out across the aisle to find common ground.”

Most candidates would be thrilled to get such an enthusiastic endorsement. The LVRJ’s endorsement goes further, continuing with “Ms. Cortez Masto, meanwhile, shows no such inclination. She has long operated as a liberal partisan, even disobeying Nevada law when the governor directed her as attorney general to join a coalition of states opposed to Obamacare. During her time as the state’s top law enforcement officer, her decisions too often wreaked of politics, culminating in her indictment, eventually dismissed by a judge, of a sitting Republican lieutenant governor on the flimsiest of charges.”

Then comes the finishing blow:

Joe Heck is the far superior candidate.

Prior to that endorsement, Masto led Heck in the RCP average of polls 45%-44.5%. That’s a tight race. Let’s see if the LVRJ endorsement make a difference. If Republicans flip that seat, it isn’t likely that there will be a Democrat majority in the Senate.

Democrats thought they had a sure thing when Sen. Evan Bayh decided to run for the Senate in Indiana. Guy Benson’s Tip Sheet shows why politicians shouldn’t count their victories before the votes confirm it. The truth is that Sen. Bayh cares more about being a fat-cat lobbyist than he cares about doing the work of a real senator.

Benson highlights how unserious Sen. Bayh was about his most important responsibilities. Bayh has only himself to blame for his difficulties. In his tip sheet, Benson highlights the fact that “Although initially seen as a likely pickup, his campaign in recent weeks has been dogged by questions about his seriousness after leaked copies of his schedule as a senator appear to show he spent more time fundraising, traveling at taxpayer expense and potentially job hunting than being focused on his job in the Senate…the ambitious senator rarely showed up to hearings of the committee, particularly in the run up to the March 20, 2003, invasion of Iraq. According to attendance data on the committee’s website, Bayh only attended five of the 24 hearings Armed Services held between Jan. 1, 2003, and April 9, 2003, the day Hussein’s statue was toppled in Baghdad.”

Bayh ‘retired’ in 2010 rather than getting defeated. He was headed for defeat because he’d voted for the ACA. He’s still got that problem. Unfortunately for him, he’s now got this new problem to deal with. It’s one thing to miss a handful of meetings. Scheduling conflicts happen. It’s another thing to miss that many important meetings in that short of a period of time.

After seeing how many meetings of the Senate Armed Services Committee he missed, I won’t hesitate in questioning Sen. Bayh’s patriotism. Patriotism’s definition is “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.” It’s difficult to argue that Bayh displayed “devoted love” when he missed that many important meetings of the Armed Services Committee.

Why shouldn’t Hoosier voters question whether he’ll take his job seriously this time? The better option is to just elect Todd Young.

Late this afternoon, Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund the government, thereby avoiding a government shutdown.

First, “lawmakers in the Senate passed the bill 72-26.” Next, the “House passed the bill 342-85 Wednesday night to keep the government funded through Dec. 9.” That allows Congress to get out of town to campaign.

According to the article, the “CR will keep the government funded through Dec. 9 at current funding levels. Besides the regular government funding, it would also provide $1.1 billion in emergency funding to fight the Zika virus, but it’s offset by $400 million that would be taken away from programs Democrats view as crucial. In response to floods that ravaged Louisiana and other states recently, the legislation would also provide $500 million in supplemental funding.”

Now it’s off to the campaign trail for all of the House members and 34 senators. The next deadlines on their schedule are Nov. 8th, aka Election Day, and Dec. 9, which is when the CR expires.

One of the things that hasn’t drawn much conversation this month is whether Republicans will maintain their majority in the US Senate. At the start of the year, it looked like Sen. Schumer would be the next majority leader. While that’s still a possibility, it’s looking more like an uphill fight at this point. Josh Kraushaar’s article illustrates why things aren’t turning in the Democrats’ direction.

Kraushaar started talking about how Democrats had recruited “a highly cel­eb­rated Sen­ate can­did­ate with en­vi­able fa­vor­ab­il­ity rat­ings back home, Demo­crats cheered when this former statewide of­fice­hold­er de­cided to reenter polit­ics. He left of­fice after the Re­pub­lic­an wave elec­tion of 2010, and in the en­su­ing years spent much of his time away from his home state. Even so, he star­ted out ahead of his GOP rival in many early polls. One red flag: He hadn’t won a race in nearly a dec­ade, liv­ing more on his past polit­ic­al glory than any re­cent elect­ive ac­com­plish­ments.”

It’s true that Sen. Bayh started off with a “$10 mil­lion stock­pile”, which he’d been sitting on “since he re­tired.” Once again, sitting on a big financial war chest isn’t the determining factor:

A re­spec­ted WTHR/Howey poll re­leased Fri­day showed Bayh with a four-point lead, down from sev­en points in a Mon­mouth poll a month ago and a far cry from the double-di­git lead he re­cently held in Demo­crat­ic sur­veys. He’s only polling at 44 per­cent, des­pite near-uni­ver­sal name iden­ti­fic­a­tion. If Re­pub­lic­ans can keep chip­ping away at Bayh’s lead with car­pet­bag­ger at­tack lines, it would give them a des­per­ately-needed life­line in their bid to save their Sen­ate ma­jor­ity.

The fact that Bayh is “only polling at 44%” is rather striking.

Bayh is running in Indiana, which is solidly red in terms of the presidential race. That means, to win, Bayh will have to get lots of Trump voters to split their ticket and vote for him. I don’t see that happening, especially considering the fact that Gov. Mike Pence, (R-IN), is Trump’s running mate. This won’t help Bayh, either:

The Sen­ate Lead­er­ship Fund is spend­ing $4 mil­lion in ads over the next month to re­mind voters of Bayh’s checkered re­cord. Des­pite Bayh’s huge war chest, Re­pub­lic­an groups are keep­ing pace on the air­waves, ac­cord­ing to a Demo­crat­ic source.

A $4,000,000 ad buy against Bayh isn’t just a significant buy. It’s an eye-popping-sized ad buy this close to the election. Bayh’s lead dropped from 7 points to 4 points without the ad buy. As voters tune in and the ad buy kicks in, expect Bayh’s lead to shrink, especially if the ads tout the fact that Bayh voted for Obamacare. It doesn’t help Bayh that he’s campaigned with Hillary:

I’ve been skeptical of the Democrats retaking the majority in the Senate. This article doesn’t give me a reason to rethink my opinion.

Technorati: Evan Bayh, Hillary Clinton, Obamacare, The Establishment, Ticket-Splitting, Democrats, Mike Pence, Donald Trump, Republicans, Election 2016

Since the start of 2016 or earlier, pundits have predicted that Democrats would retake their majority in the US Senate. That’s been the conventional wisdom pretty much the entire year. According to this article, those predictions might be greatly exaggerated.

This article isn’t the only thing that points to a contrary outcome in November. The latest Quinnipiac Swing State Poll brought smiles to the NRSC leadership team. Quinnipiac’s poll starts by saying “Republican incumbent U.S. Senators in three critical swing states fare better today as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida leads either of two Democratic challengers, while Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey outpoints his Democratic challenger and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is in a dead heat with a well-known challenger, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released today.”

It then highlights the fact that “Sen. Rubio leads U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy 47-40 percent and tops U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson 48-40 percent.” Amelia Chasse talked about the Florida race in a rather unflattering light towards Democrats:

Another DSCC primary pick, Florida’s Patrick Murphy, has had his inflated resume methodically torn apart by a series of investigative reports, to the point where Salon called him a “disaster candidate.”

Prior to that, Chasse spoke about Katie McGinty, the Democrats’ candidate in Pennsylvania in an unflattering light:

Establishment groups spent nearly $5 million to drag Katie McGinty, a bureaucrat with a revolving door problem, through another contentious primary, only to have her claim to be the first in her family to attend college immediately exposed as a lie.

According to Quinnipiac’s Swing State Poll, McGinty trails incumbent Pat Toomey “49%-40%.” That isn’t the type of margin that’s likely to produce a November nailbiter. In Ohio, pundits predicted Rob Portman’s demise. That might not happen:

Sen. Rob Portman is in a dead heat with former Gov. Ted Strickland in Ohio. But that is an improvement for Portman, who earlier in the campaign was down as much as 9 points.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that Republicans are leading in the 2 biggest swing states and that they’re in much better shape in Ohio than they were a couple months ago.

Then there’s Ron Johnson. Though that race is tight, Wisconsin’s GOP GOTV operation is a powerful machine. Further, Feingold is running into difficulty explaining why he did nothing to fix the VA hospital in Tomah after getting notified about its difficulties.

That’s before talking about some potential GOP pickups. This video shows why Darryl Glenn has positioned himself well in Colorado:

Talking about a recent case of black-on-black violence in San Bernardino, CA, Glenn said that BLM wasn’t part of the solution before saying that what’s required is for policy leaders, community leaders and law enforcement to get together in a room and have a substantive conversation about the things that need to happen to end the distrust between law enforcement and minority communities. Couple the fact that he’s endorsed by Ted Cruz and that much of Cruz’s GOTV operation is now working for Glenn. That’s a powerful combination in Colorado.

Finally, don’t think that Harry Reid’s seat isn’t in play, too. If these things come together, it isn’t impossible to see Republicans holding a similar margin in 2017 as they have right now.

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