Here are all the races I’m watching closely tonight

The Senate has officially fallen to the Republicans.
At 1:25 AM ET, I’m calling it quits on the updates, since I can’t wait for Alaska or the final Virginia call.

I’ll be updating with notes and observations here as I go tonight. Some won’t be called tonight or will go to runoffs later. Ordered alphabetically (italics = old update) and moved to lower section when called:

Alaska Senate: This won’t close until very, very late eastern time. Expect delays in counting.
– Added: Virginia Senate: Update 5: With 99.9% counted, Warner is currently squeaking to re-election by about 12,462 votes. || Update 4: Sen. Warner (D) finally edges ahead by a few thousand at 98.6% counted. || Update 3: This is basically coming down to how many more votes Warner can extract from populous Fairfax County, where he leads heavily with almost 40% still to be counted. || Update 2: Looking a little better with Gillespie (R) now under 50% at 90% counted, and I’m told by my DC sources that Warner will squeak by, but it’s going to be incredibly tight. || Update 1: It’s looking a bit more dire to me, overall and at the county level, than it ought to with 75% counted and the Republican leading over Sen. Warner (which was never expected in any polling or projections I saw). The Virginia 2006 Senate results by county, which narrowly delivered a Democratic win by very narrow margins, already don’t match the map tonight, even with Democratic northeastern Virginia still to come.

There are other important and very close races, obviously, all over the place. So these are just my particular picks to watch. If you want to nominate any additions, drop that in the comments! (My night-before predictions on the US Senate side is here.)

I’m using Politico/AP for my data.

Key Senate races already called

New Hampshire Senate: Sen. Shaheen (D) holds.
Michigan Senate: Open seat. Democratic hold.
Kentucky: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) re-elected. Much ado about nothing.
Kansas Senate: Update 2: It’s called for Sen. Roberts; Republican hold. Much ado about nothing after all. Update 1: Sen. Roberts (R) picking up steam in the lead, after very early Orman leads.
Georgia Senate: Update 2: This is called for Perdue (R) and will not go to a runoff, in a bit of a twist; the seat remains in GOP hands… another much ado about nothing race. || Perdue (R) is crushing Nunn (D) in this open R seat race with 71% counted. Expected to go to post-November runoff.
Iowa Senate: It’s called for Ernst (R); flips to Republicans. Update 2: Ernst (R) edges into the lead and toward the 50% mark in this open D seat after 46.4% counted. || Update 1: Braley (D) off to a good start.
North Carolina Senate: Tillis wins; Sen. Hagan (D) loses the seat. It’s officially all over for Democrats in the Senate. Update 3: Tillis (R) leading by 47,500ish votes over Sen. Hagan at 95.3% counted. || Update 2: Tillis (R) opens a narrow lead of 30,000ish votes over Sen. Hagan (D) at 79% counted. || Update 1: I predict this is resolved between 12 and 1 AM with less than a half a percentage point separating them, but right now Sen. Hagan (D) has a solid lead at 28% counted.
Colorado Senate: Update 3: It’s called for Gardner (R) over Sen. Udall (D); flips to Republicans. Update 2: Gardner (R) opening a hefty lead over Sen. Udall (D). || Update 1: Looks incredibly close so far…
Montana: Open seat. Flips to Republicans.
West Virginia: Open seat. Flips to Republicans.
Arkansas: Sen. Pryor defeated, flips to Republicans
South Dakota Senate: Open seat. Flips to Republicans. Much ado about nothing as Rounds cruises to 51% in a 3 way race.
Louisiana Senate: This will go to a post-November runoff. D incumbent, unresolved.

GOP gain 7 so far, with no losses of Republican-held seats now possible. Need 6 net wins to capture majority.


Other called races

Florida Governor: Update 3: It’s called for Gov. Scott (R). Bummer. Update 2: Rick Scott looking like he’s going to hold on for another term with 95% counted but the margin is about 86,000 votes statewide. Update 1: Incumbent Rick Scott (R) leading by over a hundred thousand votes with 81% counted.
Wisconsin Governor: It’s been called for Gov. Scott Walker (R), his third gubernatorial win in competitive statewide battles.
Michigan Governor: Gov. Snyder (R) re-elected. Update 1: This is probably going to incumbent Rick Snyder (R).
Kansas Governor: Update 3: It’s called for Gov. Brownback (R) in a huge and disappointing comeback for his radical agenda. || Update 2: Gov. Brownback (R) now taking a lead with 70.3% counted. || Update 1: Davis off to a good start against toxic incumbent Brownback (R).
Massachusetts Governor: Update 5: It’s called for Baker (R) by about 26,000ish votes. || Update 4: Baker now back in the lead by about 11,000 at 87.7% counted. || Update 3: 100 vote margin while the United Independent Party guy has over 52,000 votes. Good work, spiteful Democrats and Greens. || Update 2: Coakley surprisingly edging ahead of Baker. Might not be enough to win but this is good news. || Update 1: Baker (R) in the lead by what looks like a narrow but sustainable margin.
Maine Governor: The Boston Globe has called it for Gov. LePage (R) so I’m going with that, sadly. Update 3: 59.1% counted, LePage (R) leading by 17,650 votes and a few percentage points in this 3-way race. || Update 2: LePage (R) leading by about 14,000 votes at 45.8% counted. || Update 1: Gov LePage (R) up by a few thousand votes at 39.5% counted.


Final 2014 Senate Outlook

Assuming no unexpected party switching, the Republicans will win the Senate if they win at least six Senate seats (net). Here’s how things look the night before…

Likely Democratic seat losses (ordered by approximate likelihood, most to least, of flipping): West Virginia, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa (8, based on consistent polling)
Possible Republican seat losses: only Kansas (1; independent may caucus with Republicans anyway)
Possible extra Dem seat losses: North Carolina, New Hampshire (2)
Likely key Republican seat holds: Georgia, Kentucky
Likely key Democratic seat holds: only Michigan (1)

N.B. Georgia and Louisiana are both expected to go to runoff or second-round elections after November. These will probably still be Republican wins, but will likely be highly contested if they are the determining factor for chamber control.

Background stats recap
  • Going into the November 2014 elections, Democrats and their supporting independents control 55 seats out of 100.
  • 36 seats in total, including 4 special elections, are up for election this year. (Most were last elected in 2008.)
  • 21 Democratic seats are up for election this year.
  • Only 15 Republican seats are up for election.
Key states with retirements


  • West Virginia
  • Montana
  • South Dakota
  • Iowa
  • Michigan


  • Georgia
Light blue = Heavily contested Democratic-held seat. Light red = Heavily contested Republican-held seat. (Credit: Wikimedia)

Light blue = Heavily contested Democratic-held seat. Light red = Heavily contested Republican-held seat. Michigan is generally now deemed, by both parties, out of contention to flip. (Credit: Wikimedia)

Mitch McConnell tries to run for and against Obamacare

Mitch McConnell is trying to convince Kentuckians that if “Obamacare” is fully repealed, the popular state-run Kynect insurance exchange would magically keep going and not suddenly become meaningless. If it wasn’t obvious that he was blatantly lying to win votes, one would wonder what he thought the website does, if not for serving up private insurance plans regulated and formulated by the very law he wants to repeal, the Affordable Care Act. Repealing the standards, of course, would then make a comparison of plans impossible.

Radio Archive: Sasha and I discuss how Kynect was set up and why it works so well. [Produced October 29, 2013; Running Time: 14:13]
AFD 62 – Part 1 – Kynect discussion


The Susan Collins Dilemma

A new Buzzfeed article asks why no national resources were invested in trying to challenge Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine this year. Various people offer defenses or condemnations of the decision. But I think it raises bigger philosophical questions in strategic voting and campaigning that apply beyond Maine.

On the one hand, it makes complete sense to ignore this race. It wasn’t particularly close to begin with, she’s one of the more liberal Republicans left in Washington, and she’s very well liked by both Maine voters in general and many of the traditionally Democratic pressure/activist groups.

On the other hand, all those groups (and the national Democratic organizations) should have considered that no matter how much she has supported certain liberal positions, her Republican affiliation means she’ll be making a Republican Senate majority more likely (possibly even becoming the deciding factor), and that in turn means at least 50 far more conservative Senators voting against those issues and controlling the agenda. No matter how many votes she casts for Planned Parenthood, her vote for majority leader automatically outweighs that by a lot. I feel like they haven’t done that obvious math.

This is a good example why I have a problem when left-leaning independents (and some Democrats) say they want to keep an open mind and consider voting for moderate Republicans, even if they would never consider voting for a regular or right-wing Republican candidate. If I accept the premise that she’s moderate or even liberal — and I actually think there’s a lot in her voting record to dispute even that — her re-election alone makes it vastly more likely that a whole battery of extremist policies will be put forward and possibly even pass the Senate, even if she votes against them all. If you don’t support the overall Republican agenda, you can’t vote for their maverick/liberal backbenchers even if a specific candidate has voted or will vote the way you want on your issues, because as long as they support their party’s legislative majority, the mainstream position of the party is what will carry through.

I’m sure someone will now make the “but voting for moderate Republicans will make the party more moderate!” argument here, but I haven’t really seen evidence that it actually works like that in practice. Plus, the so-called moderates like Collins (and a few others) really tend to end up voting for the extreme agenda the vast majority of the time when the heat is on.

If they weren’t supportive of the bulk of the Republican agenda, the candidates wouldn’t be registered as Republicans in the first place — or they would have left the party like Lincoln Chafee or Jim Jeffords or Arlen Specter all did.

And in the end, don’t we want a clear choice between parties, agendas, and directions anyway?


Is Kansas about to vote out a Republican Senator AND Governor?

It’s been an unexpectedly competitive cycle in Kansas politics this year. Today’s news is that the Democratic Senate nominee Chad Taylor has dropped out of a three-way race with an independent against a Republican incumbent. (Oddly, this also happened in the Alaska Governor’s race earlier this week.)

The decision, from what I can parse from the candidate statement and recent polling, was motivated by the realization that the independent candidate, moderate and apparently reasonable ex-Democrat Greg Orman, might actually have a pretty good shot — in a two-way race — at beating incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts in November, even though he was in third in a three-way race. (It’s still jaw-dropping, too, that Sen. Roberts is so unpopular he almost lost his GOP primary to a deeply unethical doctor who had posted patient X-rays of fatal gunshot victims to his Facebook account repeatedly with joking captions.)

The decision for Taylor to drop out seemed to have been done in consultation with (or perhaps even pressure from) Kansas Democratic Party leaders. A PPP poll last month found Orman leading Roberts in a one-on-one race, and in a good position to hold that lead into Election Day as the undecideds come down on one side of the fence or the other.

It’s unclear which party Orman would caucus with if elected, since he’s picking up a lot of Republican endorsements in the state on his pro-business, economics-oriented platform — seems like he’s targeting disaffected moderate Kansas Republicans of the old Eisenhower mold — but there’s also a number of arguably left-leaning positions in his platform too, though that again might just be sane Republicanism that is now what passes for left-leaning. He’s been careful to stake out a position much closer to the pragmatic center than Roberts, certainly. I suspect that, as with Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the Senate Democrats, Orman would feel a lot more comfortable being conservative in the diverse Democratic caucus than trying to conform his pragmatism to the rigid lockstep extremism that has characterized the Republican caucus in recent years. Either way, I’m sure many Kansas Democrats feel it would be better to have Orman elected than have Sen. Roberts squeak into a fourth term in a 3-way race.

At minimum and regardless of outcome, this development might help Democrats nationally, by suddenly making a Republican Senator credibly more vulnerable and diverting crucial Republican resources out of other swing Senate seats where Republicans were trying to pick up a half dozen seats from Democrats to retake the majority this November.

Closer to home, in Kansas itself, creating a second competitive statewide race in Kansas could further help boost left and moderate voter turnout against the now-near-universally-loathed Governor Sam Brownback.
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Replacement MT Senate candidate will take on 1% opponent

Montana-State-Rep-Amanda-CurtisAfter U.S. Sen. John Walsh dropped out due to serious plagiarism, Montana Democrats have selected their new candidate for U.S. Senate this year — a young, progressive, first-term state representative, Amanda Curtis. Placed in a tough spot, the state party has picked an exciting candidate that breaks the mold and gives voters a true choice (and a reason to pay attention to the election).

Here’s some information from the Christian Science Monitor article on her selection by the state convention:

Curtis, 34, is a high school math teacher. She emerged as the front-runner earlier in the week after she received the endorsement of Montana’s largest unions and high-profile party leaders said they weren’t interested in running.

On Saturday, she appealed to working-class voters and portrayed [Republican U.S. Rep.] Daines as being in the camp of corporations and the wealthy. She said her Senate campaign would focus on issues that include campaign finance reform, tax reform and funding for schools and infrastructure that would create jobs.

“This is the worst job market in a generation, but the stock market is doing just fine. Wall Street is doing great,” Curtis said. “This recovery has not reached the rest of us.”

I know we still don’t really have a shot at holding on to this Senate seat. This was losing race even before the fiasco with Walsh, the appointed Senator. After all, State Rep. Curtis isn’t all that well known to voters, as a freshman member of a 100-member state House of Representatives (I think each district has only about 10,000 people in it, though she’s representing part of the City of Butte), even if she has been more vocal than most. (She was noted for some great speeches and a lot of YouTube videos on legislative activity, in 2013.)

Regardless, this is a pretty awesome choice for a replacement, in my opinion, and there’s nothing to lose at this point. If there’s any moment to go all in and just see how far a genuinely progressive message can go, this is it. She’s a teacher with a record of proudly supporting women’s rights, gay rights, and sensible gun control.
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Senate Dems force Montana Senator out of the race

The Democratic Party has forced appointed Montana Democratic Senator John Walsh to drop out of the race to win the seat on his own, after he was busted for extensive and very serious plagiarism last month. To recap what happened there:

An examination of the final paper required for Mr. Walsh’s master’s degree from the United States Army War College indicates the senator appropriated at least a quarter of his thesis on American Middle East policy from other authors’ works, with no attribution.

A further third of the content is cited but not quoted. Even the 800 word grand finale, for which Colonel Walsh had been praised by superiors, is directly ripped from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace paper. When busted, he denied he did anything wrong, though he and his staff blamed combat-related PTSD as some sort of convoluted explanation or excuse. That hardly seems fair to all the other men and women who have served and returned from deeply stressful situations and did not plagiarize heavily to advance their military careers before leveraging their service into a political career. Only last week did he walk back the PTSD explanation and accept “full responsibility.” The War College investigation looks like it’s on track to strip him of his master’s degree.

Anyway, Democrats forced Walsh out of the race finally this week in a last-ditch effort to put somebody better on the ballot. This was essentially a lost cause bid to retain that Senate seat many months before the plagiarism story, so it’s not a huge blow, and it’s better to have him off the ballot. They’ve got a number of reasonably competent contenders — one of whom is profiled below by the New York Times — but the main focus at this point is keeping Democratic turnout reasonably high in Montana for the benefit of other races this November:

Two Montana Democrats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said the party was considering Nancy Keenan, a former head of Naral Pro-Choice America, to become its nominee. Ms. Keenan has had conversations about the prospect with state Democrats, but she did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Democrats said an added imperative to fielding a strong candidate was the impact it would have on other races, notably the one for the state’s lone member of the House, in which they think their candidate, John Lewis, has a chance to take the seat from the Republicans. A number of contested state legislative contests are also on the ballot.

Ms. Keenan, a Montana native, left her post with Naral and returned to the Missoula area last year. She previously served as Montana’s superintendent of public instruction and has also served as a state representative.

One Democrat in the state noted that Ms. Keenan had a “national profile and national network” that would help her raise money quickly to give the party at least a chance to make the race competitive. Though Montana is a conservative-leaning state, it leans more libertarian on social issues such as abortion.

Much of this could have been avoided, too, if Democrats hadn’t engineered an early exit by Sen. Max Baucus (to become Ambassador to China) and if the Democratic governor hadn’t appointed one of the pre-existing candidates for the seat as the placeholder. They should have known better. In a set of 49 Senate appointments from 1956 to 2008 compiled by Nate Silver in December 2008, it was shown that of the 39 appointed Senators who sought election to their own terms, 20 of them were defeated in the primary of general elections. In other words, there’s slightly less than a 50-50 shot of an appointee winning the seat on his or her own, which doesn’t sound bad until put against the 88% re-election rate of Senators from 1990 to 2008.
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