TIME 2014 elections

Democrats, Republicans Call Off Election Night Parties In DC

Welcome to the era of Citizens United

Cancel the confetti cannons. Roll up the bunting. Democrats and Republicans won’t be partying on Tuesday like it’s 2006.

Election night in Washington D.C. traditionally features two big hotel ballroom parties on different sides of Capitol Hill. Organized by the congressional committees, Democrats and Republicans gather staffers, donors and volunteers to watch returns come in and celebrate together various victories.

Journalists come along for the ride, with cameras capturing the crowds’ reactions. Of course, some parties are less fun than others: John Boehner’s party in 2006 was markedly quiet, while Nancy Pelosi hosted a blowout bash. The roles were reversed as the returns came back in 2010.

But this year, the parties are off. Pelosi will do an event with donors and a press availability after the returns come in. “We’re welcoming volunteers and supporters into our office to make calls to turnout voters all over the country and we’ll be calling into the West Coast until late in the evening,” said Emily Bittner, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s spokeswoman

The staff at the National Republican Campaign Committee, which helps elect Republicans to the House, “will be working all night,” says spokeswoman Andrea Bozek.

Neither committee on the Senate side will be doing parties, either, sources say.

That said, Magnum Entertainment, a private company, will be holding a party for Republicans at Union Station, a little birdie tells TIME. A message left for Magnum asking who is funding the party went unanswered. But such an event would seem appropriate in an election where outside spending has already topped $770 million.

 

TIME

Obama Rallies Wisconsin Democrats for Mary Burke

President Obama attends a campaign event with Democratic candidate for Wisconsin Gov. Mary Burke while at North Division High School in Milwaukee, Oct. 28, 2014.
President Obama attends a campaign event with Democratic candidate for Wisconsin Gov. Mary Burke while at North Division High School in Milwaukee, Oct. 28, 2014. Larry Downing—Reuters

Burke gambles that Obama will drive out the base more than he drives away those unhappy with him

President Barack Obama did his best on Tuesday to remind Wisconsonites why they twice elected him President, only this time he turned on the full court press for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke.

“She will be your next governor as long as folks vote,” Obama told an overflow crowd before the event. “We need you to go talk to your friends, your neighbors, you coworkers. You got that cousin on the couch who’s watching the ol’ Packers games, but doesn’t always vote during the midterms. You have to go reach out and tell people that they’ve got to exercise their franchise, they’ve got to be good citizens.”

The event was at North Division High School, in a ward where Obama outpolled Republican Mitt Romney 843 to 5 in the 2012 presidential election, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The somewhat risky bet that Burke is making is that Obama, polarizing as he is, will help turn out Wisconsin’s urban Democratic base for her next Tuesday.

“Wisconsin is one of the most polarized states in the country and this race has been close for months,” says Nathan Gonzales, who follows gubernatorial races for the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. “When a race is this close anything could be deciding factor. The Burke campaign is making a calculated risk that having president Obama campaign for her will be a net boost on turn out and we’ll see on election day if that was the right decision.”

Burke is one of the very few candidates to welcome Obama, whose unpopularity in the polls has made him somewhat of a pariah amongst vulnerable Democrats in tight races. But Wisconsin’s labor-heavy, populist base hasn’t always loved Burke, a millionaire former executive at her family’s company, Trek Bicycle. Thus the gamble with Obama, whose presence risks putting off independent and suburban voters.

Walker, who is reviled by Wisconsin Dems who tried to recall him after he pushed through union-busting legislation, was quick to note that Obama is the fourth Washington surrogate to campaign for Burke in recent weeks. Former President Bill Clinton packed a Hyatt ballroom with nearly 1,000 supporters for Burke last week. First Lady Michelle Obama has made two visits. And Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has also put in an appearance.

“I think it reflects the fact that she’s the candidate of Washington. We’re not bringing Washington surrogates in,” Walker told reporters after an event Tuesday in Wausau.

At the same time, Walker isn’t without some outside help himself, though he’s been complaining about how he’d like more help. Walker, who is scheduled to campaign the Republican Governor’s Association Chair Chris Christie back in Wausau on Friday, on Monday dinged Christie for not providing enough support, only to walk it back hours later.

“Let me be clear: When I complain about the national groups that come in, I by no means am complaining about the RGA,” Walker told reporters. “Gov. Christie’s a good friend. He’s the only person I’m campaigning with this week who’s not from Wisconsin, and that’s because he’s a friend and he asked if he could come to the state and campaign.”

Walker is leading Burke by 0.2%, according to a Real Clear Politics average of Wisconsin polls. And he hardly suffered from financial neglect. RGA has spent more than $20 million for Walker. $5.2 million in 2010, $8.9 million in 2012 and $8 million in 2014. If you add up all the outside spending, Walker has a $4 million advantage, according to a GOP source.

Walker and Burke have also been fighting for the female vote. Walker announced a bus tour today for Women for Walker and began airing a television ad featuring Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch claiming that Walker supports equal pay for women. Democrats were quick to cry foul, noting that Walker signed a bill repealing the state’s equal pay law two years ago.

“We’re one week out and Scott Walker is launching his ‘Women for Walker’ bus tour and releasing a TV a touting his support for equal pay after repealing the state law,” says Marcy Stech, a spokeswoman for Emily’s List, a group that works to elect pro-choice women. “Mary Burke, however, has a real message to run on – one that provides economic opportunity for hard working families, that’s a message that is electrifying crowds across the state.”

Nationally, Democrats have focused on turning out unmarried women, a demographic that reliably votes Democratic but rarely shows up in off-presidential year elections. In some races, Democrats lead by double digits amongst women.

But Burke enjoys only a slight edge with women, 48% to Walker’s 47% according to the most recent Marquette Poll out Oct. 15. Obama, who remains relatively popular with unmarried women nationwide, could help change that. “This is one of the closest races in the country,” says Jennifer Duffy, who follows Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “If the President is going to Wisconsin, it is a sign that strategists believe he can motivate drop off voters. In a race this tight, every vote is going to matter.”

It was a point Obama certainly drove home in the lively campaign event. “Four years ago, Democrats lost the governor’s race in Wisconsin by just 10 votes per ward. Ten votes. Hmm-mmm,” he said, arching a brow as the crowd laughed. “Ten votes. Ten votes could be the difference between an economy that works for everybody, or an economy that just works for the few. Ten votes could decide whether nearly 600,000 Wisconsin workers are denied a raise, or whether they get the raise they deserve. Ten votes could decide whether tens of thousands of Wisconsin families remain without health insurance, or whether they finally get a chance to go see a doctor. Your vote will decide the course that Wisconsin takes.” The crowd roared its approval.

–With reporting by Zeke Miller in Washington.

TIME Congress

Why John Boehner’s Job Is About to Get Harder

John Boehner Holds Media Briefing At US Capitol
U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner during a press briefing on July 31, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Alex Wong—Getty Images

With 25 members retiring, many old moderates are being replaced by young firebrands 

House Republicans are expected to grow their majority by 5-15 seats in next week’s midterm elections—but don’t expect governing to get any easier for beleaguered House Speaker John Boehner.

Boehner lost a whopping 25 incumbents to retirement this cycle and another three in primary defeats. By comparison, Democrats only had 16 retirements, and they’re in the minority. Not only did Boehner lose one of his best friends in Congress—Iowa Rep. Tom Latham—and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, but several of his committee chairmen, including Ways & Means Chair Dave Camp, Armed Services Chair Buck McKeon, and Natural Resources Chair Doc Hastings. Many of the retirees were old lions who helped nurse the party through the government shutdown and fiscal cliffs—the adults in the room, one could say.

Ten of the 28 seats up for grabs because of retirements and primary losses are in swing districts where “Republicans have succeeded in nominating candidates who are conciliators, people who have proven that they will work with the business community, get things done,” says David Wasserman, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “In the 18 districts that are safe, Boehner’s going to end up with his fair share of rebels, people who campaigned against the Republicans’ and Democrats’ status quo in Washington.”

To put things in perspective, one of the first votes of this current Congress was to fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2013. That measure squeaked by the in the House 230-189. All 28 of the retirees and primary losers voted for the measure. If Boehner had lost just 12 votes—never mind 18—the government would have shut down.

“With 25 Republican members of Congress retiring, years of legislative expertise and wisdom are lost,” says James Thurber, head of American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. “Deep knowledge about lawmaking and policy will be replaced by highly ideological amateurs. This is a perfect formula for trouble for Speaker Boehner. He loses knowledgeable and trusted friends for an unpredictable and ungovernable caucus.”

Of course, the new class of firebrands in the next Congress will be offset by Republicans who will have beaten Democrats to win their seats, and all of those will be more moderate, having to defend more competitive seats. Republicans could pick up as many as 10 Democratic seats, or as few as a handful, depending on how the election goes.

And Boehner, who may also face a leadership challenge from Texas conservative Rep. Jeb Hensarling, has had a lot of practice dealing with recalcitrant members. “We live in a big country and it has bunch of different perspectives,” says John Feehery, a former top aide to ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert. “Boehner is pretty good at managing those perspectives and by letting the House work its will.”

Plus, Republicans elected Rep. Steve Scalise, a former head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, as House Majority Whip, the No. 3 position in leadership. The leaders hopes Scalise will act as a bridge to the conservative wing of the party.

Still, with Republicans poised to potentially retake the Senate, Boehner will have his hands full managing expectations. “Boehner’s biggest challenge is to manage the disappointment that will inevitably come from the Senate, especially if Republicans are in charge,” Feehery says. “They won’t be able to jam anything through the Senate and that will anger a lot of the new members.”

TIME 2014 Election

The Surprising Struggles of Mark Udall to Win Colorado Women

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) speaks to supporters as he kicks off his 'Mark Your Ballot' bus tour on Oct. 15, 2014 in Denver.
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) speaks to supporters as he kicks off his 'Mark Your Ballot' bus tour on Oct. 15, 2014 in Denver. Doug Pensinger—Getty Images

He is not the only Democrat in trouble with the one demographic Democrats bet would save them the midterms

If you live in Colorado, you might be forgiven for thinking the 2014 midterm elections are about one thing: abortion. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Monday released a new television ad hitting GOP Rep. Cory Gardner, who is challenging Sen. Mark Udall for his Colorado seat, for not “being honest with women.”

“Cory Gardner is trying to hide that he is sponsoring a new law to make all abortions illegal, even for victims of rape or incest,” says the DSCC release. The ad features OB-GYN Dr. Eliza Buyers, who slams Gardner: “Cory Gardner is wrong to make abortion illegal and just as wrong not to tell the truth about it.”

Udall himself has two other ads up targeting female voters. In one, another Colorado OB-GYN talks about Gardner’s “long record of fighting to roll back women’s access to health care.” And a second ad calls out Gardner “for personhood lies.” About half the ads he has run again Gardner have highlighted what Democrats call Gardner’s extreme stances on women’s reproductive rights.

The problem is Gardner refuses to play along. In March, he retracted his support for a measure on so-called personhood, or the belief that life begins at the moment of conception, and has since backed making contraception—though not all forms of it—available over the counter.

Now, with a week to go before the election, Udall is down 2.8 percentage points in polls, according to an average of Colorado polls by Real Clear Politics. More troublingly he’s down amongst female voters in at least two polls. If Udall loses women, he’s lost his seat.

Udall’s narrow focus helped cost him the support of the Denver Post, the state’s largest paper. “Rather than run on his record, Udall’s campaign has devoted a shocking amount of energy and money trying to convince voters that Gardner seeks to outlaw birth control despite the congressman’s call for over-the-counter sales of contraceptives,” the Post said in its endorsement of Gardner. “Udall is trying to frighten voters rather than inspire them with a hopeful vision. His obnoxious one-issue campaign is an insult to those he seeks to convince.”

And Udall isn’t the only Democrat struggling to turn the focus on women into a winning strategy. In Kentucky, Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes is even with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell with women, as is Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat fending off a strong GOP challenge from Rep. Tom Cotton in Arkansas. Like Udall, both Grimes and Pryor have invested heavily in turning out the women’s vote.

The “War on Women” is a playbook Democrats ran successfully in 2012, with significant assists from GOP senatorial candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock whose inopportune remarks on women and rape helped paint the party as out-of-touch on female issues. Unfortunately for Democrats, there have been no Akin and Murdoch repeats and candidates like Gardner have been much savvier in their messaging on women’s issues.

“A myopic focus on reproductive freedom and the ‘War on the Women’ does not seem to be an effective way to mobilize and motivate women in a year when the economy and jobs are at the forefront of voters’ minds, and GOP candidates have not made the same kinds of mistakes that Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock did in 2012,” says Jennifer Lawless, director of American University’s Women & Politics Institute. “In other words, courting the women’s vote is a smart move; the way several Democrats have gone about doing it has been not so smart.”

To be fair, the strategy is clearly working in other states like North Carolina, Georgia and New Hampshire where Democrats hold double-digit leads with women. And Colorado is notoriously difficult to poll. A Democratic poll released Monday showed Udall up by 9 points amongst female voters. Matt Canter, a spokesman for the DSCC, says that Colorado’s move to an all-mail voting system this cycle favors Democrats. Canter also noted that in the early voting returns thus far many female voters who did not vote in 2010 but did in 2012 are already turning out for Udall. “Public polls in Colorado were wrong in 2012 on Mitt Romney and they were wrong in 2010 on failed GOP Senate contender] Ken Buck,” says Canter. “We believe we maintain a strong advantage with women and that advantage is important for all these races.”

Certainly, Democrat Michael Bennet’s race against Buck is the template for Udall’s tough reelection. “In 2010 Michael Bennet was able to survive a midterm election in which Democrats lost their House majority in what Obama called a shellacking losing a record 63 seats and they barely hung onto Senate control because of his strength with women voters,” says Michele Swers, an associate professor at Georgetown University who specializes in women in U.S. politics. “Udall is trying to replicate that.”

The problem is, unless Udall’s polls are to be believed, “the gender gap in this race isn’t as great as it has been in past Senate races, notably 2008 and 2010,” says Jennifer Duffy, who follows Senate races for the non-partisan Cook Political Report.

Arguably, the focus on turning out the women’s vote has kept 2014 from being a wave year: the only seats in play are in purple or red states, not blue ones. Progressive Sen. Al Franken, for example, is sailing through to reelection in Minnesota.

But unmarried women, the demographic Udall is targeting, are notoriously bad drop off voters in non-presidential years and clearly they seem to be motivated in some states more so than others. Udall has bet his race on turning them out. If they fail to materialize, Democrats will have to ask themselves: Was winning women the right strategy for all of their races? And when does it work and when doesn’t it and why?

 

TIME 2014 Election

Democrat vs. Democrat Down To Wire in Silicon Valley House Race

Barack Obama, Mike Honda
President Barack Obama is greeted by Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., as the president arrives in Los Altos Hills, Calif., where he will attend a fundraising event Wednesday, July 23, 2014, during his three-day West Coast trip to Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. AP

California hopes the non-partisan, open system will lead to a more functional Congress

Don’t look now, but a moderate might get elected to Congress next month from California.

In California’s 17th congressional district, which encompasses much of Silicon Valley, two Democrats are on the ballot on Nov. 4. One is seven-term incumbent Rep. Mike Honda, 73, and the other 38-year-old former Obama Administration official Ro Khanna, who is trying to unseat his fellow Democrat.

Why wasn’t this battle decided in California’s June 3 primary? Honda and Khanna both “won” that primary: they both gained enough votes to advance to the general election and under California’s new rules—this is the second cycle the system has been in place—it doesn’t matter that they are both Democrats. In fact, seven out of California’s 53 congressional districts have two candidates from the same party competing in the General Election.

More than 30 years ago, California led the country in closing its primaries. But that, coupled with redistricting that gerrymandered safe seats, led to increasingly partisan politicians more afraid of a primary challenge than of losing to the other party. In other words: politicians more likely to blow up the government than make deals across the aisle.

So in 2010, Californians voted to take the parties out of redistricting and opened up its primary process in the hopes of electing people who didn’t think compromise is a dirty word, or at least seek to work with their opponents instead of vanquishing them.

Whether this political experiment has worked remains to be seen. But if any place in the country understands disruption and reinvention, it’s Silicon Valley. And the Honda/Khanna race, while troubling fratricide to most of the party, carries undertones of California’s intent: moderation.

Khanna spent a whopping $3 million to come in a distant second in the primary, which Honda won by 20 points. Honda has the endorsement of much of the establishment, including President Obama, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and the California Democratic Party. Khanna enjoys the backing of some deep-pocketed Silicon Valley tycoons, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and a campaign team drawn from Obama’s presidential bids.

Khanna burned through another $1 million post primary and by the end of September had just $218,000 cash on hand compared to Honda’s $965,000. “We were always the underdog going into this thing,” Khanna tells TIME. “But we will have enough money to compete on Election Day. We’ve built a strong campaign on a lot of retail politics.”

Khanna has been attacking Honda as ineffectual and unwilling the reach across the aisle to get things done. During the debate Khanna mocked Honda’s “bipartisanship.” Honda has been attacking Khanna as a Republican in Democratic clothing. “He sent out a mailer labeling me a liberal,” Honda tells TIME. “I am a Democrat. He is?” Honda has also been promoting his seniority and his ability to deliver for the district, including helping to secure a BART train extension to the area. And, yes, he has touted his “bipartisan” credentials working with Republicans on legislation and initiatives.

Polls show the race in a dead heat with just three weeks to go until Election Day. But just the fact that the race is a debate over which candidate would be more functional, pragmatic and less dogmatic is already a victory for state reformers.

TIME 2014 elections

No, Republicans Aren’t Yet Winning the Women’s Vote

Jeanne Shaheen,Scott Brown
United States Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), right, listens as her Republican rival, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown speaks during their debate , Monday, Oct. 6, 2014 in Conway, N.H. Jim Cole—AP

One poll doth not a trend make

The Associated Press dropped its latest national poll Wednesday ahead of the midterm elections due to be held in less than three weeks. The poll had a spate of expected findings: likely voters favor Republicans to take control of the U.S. Senate, the top issue remains the economy, and no one likes either party very much. Then, buried in the seventh paragraph of the story, was this nugget about women voters:

Women have moved in the GOP’s direction since September. In last month’s AP-GfK poll, 47 percent of female likely voters said they favored a Democratic-controlled Congress while 40 percent wanted the Republicans to capture control. In the new poll, the two parties are about even among women, 44 percent prefer the Republicans, 42 percent the Democrats.

Given Democrats’ unrelenting drumbeat on women—their women’s economic agenda, the GOP’s “War on Women”—for the last six months, this looked like surprising news. Democrats have staked the fate on the Senate on turning out one demographic: unmarried women, who vote reliably Democratic but tend not to show up in off presidential elections. Democrats have won women every year since the Reagan era except for 2010 and in losing them they lost control of the House and six Senate seats. Thus their strategy this year to turn out unmarried women in order to prevent a 2010 from happening all over again. If the AP poll is correct Democrats are in deep trouble.

Needless to say, paragraph seven led the Drudge Report much of the morning: “Poll shock: Women want Republicans!” That spawned a spate of headlines from conservative news sites. Townhall led with: “Poll: More Women Plan to Vote For Republicans in Midterms.” And Hotair blared: “Republicans closing the [gender] gap.”

But the poll is just one data point, and there is a good reason to be skeptical of a major shift in the female electorate. The reason is the voter screen that the AP used.

“Their likely voters screen in this survey is very similar to the 2010 electorate—i.e. more conservatives than moderates are likely to vote,” says Dave Winston, a GOP pollster. “But if you’re looking at variety of different surveys, the voter screening differences are huge, so you’re depending on how they phrase a question—are you likely to vote—or a series of questions to come up with who’s in the poll.”

Winston says the AP took steps after its polls proved off course in 2012 to correct what they saw as flaws in their survey-taking. But their new processes remain unproven. “The proof will be in the pudding,” he says.

The AP says they stand behind the poll. “The poll does show quite clearly that women who are likely to vote and have a preference for who controls Congress have shifted toward the Republicans. And I stand firmly behind that finding,” says Jennifer Agiesta, the AP’s director of polling.

Granted, every midterm electorate skews older, more conservative and more male and Democrats face an uphill battle trying to turn out a demographic that doesn’t usually vote, but this poll is either wrong or “it’s a precursor to a trend that none of us have spotted yet,” says Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who together with GOP pollster Ed Goeas does George Washington University’s Battleground State polls. “But I haven’t seen any other poll that shows that.”

“It seems off, honestly” Lake says. “We aren’t seeing any place where there isn’t a gender gap. We haven’t’ seen any polling that shows women trending Republican. You see men more enthusiastic for Republicans than women are for Democrats, sure. And women are sitting more undecided, which is why both parties are looking to convince women voters before election day, but we haven’t seen anything even approaching gender parity, let alone women trending Republican, in our polls of likely voters.”

The only other recent national poll that breaks out likely voters by sex came out with opposite results. Fox News found Dems winning women 44% to 35% amongst likely voters in a survey conducted Oct. 12-14. And polls in battleground states have Dems winning women by double digits and unmarried women by as much as 30 points in many cases.

“This just isn’t what we’re seeing in competitive races. North Carolina, New Hampshire, Colorado and Michigan all have decisive and, in some cases, historic gender gaps with women favoring Democrats,” says Marcy Stech, a spokeswoman for Emily’s List, which helps elect pro-choice female Democrats. “The GOP can try to cling to this national poll, but the reality is that they continue to be underwater with women voters in key races – women don’t trust them on the economic issues that matter to them and their families. Whether it’s ending gender discrimination in pay, raising the minimum wage or protecting access to health care, women voters know that it’s Democratic candidates who are squarely on their side and they’re going to show it at the ballot box.”

In 2012, Democrats benefitted from a couple of GOP senatorial candidates who said dumb things about women and rape, comments that turned off female voters, helping President Obama and the Democrats win big with women. This cycle, Republicans have avoided such missteps. Both Mark Udall in Colorado and New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen have turned away from War on Women ads and attack lines in the last week. But are Republicans winning women? The preponderance of state and other national polls indicate that isn’t happening.

TIME 2014 Election

Pelosi and Hillary Join Forces to Rally Democratic Women

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Doris Matsui, Nancy Pelosi
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gathers with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, left, and other Bay area congresswomen after speaking at a fundraiser for Democratic congressional candidates hosted by Pelosi at the Fairmont Hotel Monday, Oct. 20, 2014, in San Francisco. Eric Risberg—AP

The event brought together Clinton and Obama supporters from 2008

Three generations of Birmingham family women turned out on Monday to see House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rally for female Democratic candidates.

“It was fabulous, a wonderful event,” gushes Alanna Birmingham, 17, clutching one of the lunch’s floral centerpieces, a keepsake for her to take home. “You could just feel the energy in the room, all this beautiful female energy.” Birmingham was there with her mother and grandmother in a show of political unity the family hasn’t always enjoyed, especially when it comes to Hillary Clinton—and they weren’t the only ones.

Billed as “The Ultimate Women’s Power Luncheon,” the event raised $1.4 million for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from the 820 mostly women in attendance bringing the DCCC’s money lead of its GOP counterpart to a whopping $38 million with just two weeks to go before the election. The event also featured a set by singer Carole King (including a rendition of “Sweet Seasons” where she changed the lyrics to “Some times you win; sometimes you win” instead of lose).

But the 2014 midterms, where Dems are expected to lose seats in both chambers and possibly control of the Senate, were not the elections on most women’s lips at the lunch. Cynthia Birmingham, Alanna’s mother, was there to show early support for Clinton’s anticipated 2016 presidential bid, in part to make up for not supporting her primary candidacy in 2008. “I’m so excited to support Hillary in 2016,” she says.

Birmingham wasn’t the only one. California Reps. Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, George Miller and Barbara Lee—all close allies of Pelosi—were all in enthusiastic attendance on Monday and all endorsed Obama during the primaries in 2008. Indeed, many saw then Speaker Pelosi’s call in 2008 on super delegates to respect the will of the voters in their home states, rather than endorsing the candidate of their choice, as one of the nails in the coffin of Clinton’s candidacy. Though Pelosi very carefully never endorsed either candidate in 2008.

The event was a healing one for the Birminghams as well. Ann Birmingham, Alanna’s grandmother and Cynthia’s mother-in-law, was also in approving attendance, happy to see her women kin supporting the candidate she’s long adored. “I loved and supported Hillary back in 2008 and I will love and support her in 2016,” Ann says. “I was terribly disappointed when she lost.”

But all that was forgotten on Monday with Clinton and Pelosi hugging and kissing onstage and united in their common cause to not only elect more women to Congress, where women make up less than 20%, but to start a women’s empowerment movement in politics. “When women succeed, America succeeds,” both women—and the crowd—chanted over and over throughout the program.

“For too many women, for too many families they don’t just face ceilings for their dreams,” Clinton said, referring to the 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, or the 18 million Americans who voted to make her the first female Democratic presidential nominee in 2008, she famously referenced in her concession speech, “they feel floor has collapsed beneath their feet.”

Clinton lavished praise on Pelosi’s ground-breaking leadership as the first female speaker, a post she held from 2006 until Democrats lost the House in 2010. And Pelosi started her speech saying she hoped she would soon be surpassed. “I’m frequently introduced as the highest ranking woman in U.S. office; I’d like to give up that title. And soon,” she told a roaring crowd. “If Hillary Clinton, mother and grandmother, decides to run for president she will win… and she will be one of the best prepared leaders, one of the top presidents in the Oval Office. That she happens to be a woman is a bonus and a wonderful, wonderful thing. But she happens to also be a leader of visions and values.”

Indeed, Cynthia Birmingham says she’s supporting Clinton this time around because she’s an experienced, proven leader at a time when the country most needs that experience. “No one else in the field even comes close,” she says, “Hillary just blows them all away. It’s not so much that she’s a woman, but that she’s the best person for the job.”

TIME 2014 Election

10 People Who Will Face Pitchforks if Their Party Loses the Senate

Left: Reince Priebus; Right: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz
Left: Reince Priebus; Right: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Susan Walsh—AP; Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

The blame game is already in full swing, here’s a list of folks from both parties who’ll likely bear the brunt of the finger pointing should disaster strike

One side is going to lose, the Democrats or the Republicans. Such is the nature of most American elections. And that means someone will get blamed.

With polls showing a down-to-the-wire outcome in Senate races across the country, the blame game has already begun. The stakes, and tempers, will likely be higher if Republicans lose than Democrats, given the environmental headwinds that Democrats face. But neither side is immune from the fallout.

Below is a look at the top five folks who should, and probably already are, looking over their shoulders should their party lose the Senate this year.

If Republicans lose:

  1. Reince Priebus: The Republican National Committee chairman took over the party after the 2010 tea party wave and presided over its 2012 and 2014 strategy, promising voters and party leaders that the GOP would be resurgent. If the party falters next month, Priebus, whose two-year second term expires early next year, may find himself in the hot seat. The party’s much-publicized post-2012 autopsy remains a work in progress, and donors, who have helped the committee raise record amounts in recent years, may begin asking what he has to show for it. Working in Priebus’ favor is his firm control over the 168-member governing body of the party, but some are already threatening to abandon him if the GOP can’t take the Senate.
  2. Sen. Mitch McConnell: Even if the Senate minority leader survives the toughest challenge of his political career in what will surely by the most expensive Senate race in history, he’ll face a backlash from his conference if they lose the Senate. Not only will they say he sucked money from other races to fund an estimated $100 million battle to keep his seat, but he will now have overseen three consecutive losing cycles where odds and momentum should’ve handed Republicans control of the Senate. Sen. Ted Cruz has already refused to say if he’d vote for McConnell for leader—in the majority or the minority. Other candidates have also been muted or mum in their support for their potential leader. A loss of the Senate could mean a loss of McConnell’s leadership role if his party is outraged enough.
  3. Sen. Jerry Moran: The Kansas senator waged a stiff campaign to become the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee this cycle, promising to lead his party to the majority. In doing so, he edged out Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who was initially ambivalent about taking the post and became the vice chair of the group. But Moran’s leadership has been the subject of intense scrutiny among Republicans, many who would have preferred Portman to be in the top slot. The NRSC’s campaign against the insurgent Republican candidates has further put a target on his back should the party fail to win.
  4. Senate Conservatives Fund/ Sen. Ted Cruz: Boosting insurgent candidates against entrenched Senators forced Republicans to spend millions shoring up seats that would otherwise have been safe, waging primary battles instead of focusing on November. If Republicans lose, many moderate and business-types are sure to blame their party’s conservative elements. The Texas Senator was the face of that movement, and is hoping to capitalize on the scorn in order to boost a likely bid for the White House.
  5. Outside Money Groups: Republicans pioneered the use of Super PACs and shepherded in the rise of shadowy outside money groups in the 2010 and 2012 elections. But the groups’ outsized influence is waning, as Democrats have caught up on fundraising and have proven to deploy their resources more effectively. Republican donors were livid with former Bush political guru Karl Rove over the ineffective nature of his pro-Romney efforts in 2012. If Republicans fail to take the Senate, those calls will likely be louder and broader than ever before.

If Democrats Lose:

  1. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: The knives were already out of Wasserman Schultz’s back before early voting even began. Questions remain about how much President Obama supports the chair of the Democratic National Committee after his press secretary was asked if he has “complete confidence” in her last month and Josh Earnest responded that Obama had “strong confidence” in Wasserman Schultz. Strong does not equal complete. Though her second term does not expire until 2016, there are ways to force her out and certainly having the President turn against her publically would be hard to overcome.
  2. President Barack Obama: With approval ratings at 40%, the lowest they’ve been during his presidency, Obama was a pariah on the campaign trail. The most accomplished campaigner of the last six years, he was invited to just Illinois, Connecticut and Maine in 2014 to stump for candidates. With such stubby coattails, a loss of the Senate would be a tough referendum on the President’s legacy, especially since his astronomical popularity is what helped Democrats to historic majorities in the House and Senate in 2008. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. And oh, how angry Democrats will be with the President for dragging him down with him should they lose the Senate.
  3. Organizing for Action: The President’s historic “movement,” Organizing for Action, was supposed to be the magic bullet that could whip believers into a frenzy of electoral activity. If Democrats lose, critics will surely blame the overhyped OFA machine, which drew money early on from other needy areas and then never delivered. So much for hope and change.
  4. Guy Cecil: By all accounts the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ran the best possible campaign against the prevailing headwinds. The wizard had turned out a previous miracles, salvaging the Senate from odds and expectations in 2012. Losing it in 2014 won’t kill his career. But it may cost him his rumored next job: campaign manager of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid, especially if Democrats start blaming the lady herself for not helping enough.
  5. Hillary Clinton: The former Secretary of State is likely to declare a repeat bid for the White House in the coming months, but for years multiple groups have raised millions plotting her re-ascendance. Some Democrats have already argued that this money could have been better spent on 2014 Senate races, a chorus that may grow if the Democrats lose by a hair. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have been in demand among vulnerable Democrats all year, but she only hit the road after completing much of her book and paid-speaking tour. As Clinton gears up to run for president the last thing she may want to hear is ‘could you have done more.’
TIME 2014 Election

Vulnerable Democrats Run Away From Obama

Democratic Challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes And Senate Minority Leader McConnell Locked In Tight Race
Kentucky's Democratic U.S. Senate nominee, and Kentucky Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes speaks at the Fancy Farm picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky. on Aug. 2, 2014. Win McNamee—Getty Images

There's a reason the President isn't often seen on the campaign trail

In Monday night’s one and only debate for the Kentucky Senate race, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Democratic challenger refused to say whether she voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

“I have my disagreements with the President,” Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said. “The President is not on the ballot this year.” She added that it was her “constitutional right for privacy at the ballot box” to decline to name for whom she’d voted.

Though she did so clumsily and has been widely criticized for it, Grimes isn’t the only Democrat seeking a Grand Canyon of distance from Obama this campaign cycle. The President’s approval rating is at 42.6% and his disapproval rating is 10-percentage points higher at 52.3%, according to an average of national polls by Real Clear Politics. And he’s even more unpopular in states where Democrats are locked in tight races for control of the Senate like Kentucky, which he lost in 2012 by 23 points; Alaska, where he lost by 14 points; and Arkansas, which he lost by 24 points.

Democrats are hoping this election won’t be a referendum on the president, as midterm elections so often are. With just days left in the campaign, each race has become a smaller-scale war of parochial issues—most of them on which candidates can easily distance themselves from Obama.

As early as a year ago, Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, who is warding off a strong challenge in Arkansas, highlighted how he opposed the President’s gun control legislation in his first television ad of the cycle. “No one from New York or Washington tells me what to do,” Pryor said in the ad. “I listen to Arkansas.”

On energy, Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Begich of Alaska both ran ads distancing themselves from Obama’s positions. “[T]he Administration’s policies are simply wrong on oil and gas production in this nation,” Landrieu said in her spot. Begich bragged that he “took on Obama” to fight for oil drilling in the Arctic and voted against the president’s “trillion-dollar tax increase.”

Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado said in his first debate with Republican Rep. Cory Gardner that he is the “last person” the Obama Administration wants to see visiting the White House.

And while endangered Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan met Obama on the tarmac in North Carolina in August, going so far as kissing him on the cheek—footage that ended up in campaign commercials against her—she made clear ahead of his trip that she believes his Administration “has not yet done enough to earn the lasting trust of our veterans.” (Obama was there to deliver a speech on veterans issues.)

Even Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who isn’t up for reelection this cycle, has taken the President out to the woodshed in recent days for not doing enough to protect Americans in the wake of the financial crisis. “They protected Wall Street,” she told Salon in an interview. “Not families who were losing their homes. Not people who lost their jobs. And it happened over and over and over.”

Meanwhile, Warren, like former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is proving to be a powerful and popular surrogate these midterms, welcome in places like Kentucky and West Virginia where Obama dare not set foot.

All of which is why Obama’s spending his weekends during the final sprint to the election day golfing, rather than on the campaign trail. He’s done a huge amount of fundraising, but so far only two campaign events for incumbent governors in Illinois and Connecticut. There are a handful of other solid blue states where Obama can help—in his native Hawaii, for example—but First Lady Michelle Obama is much more in demand than he is. Michelle—who has an approval rating of 69%, higher than both Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton at the same point in their husband’s presidencies—has campaigned for Senate hopefuls in Michigan and Iowa and a gubernatorial candidate in Maine, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. And she’s scheduled to stump for gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Crist in Florida on Friday, not to mention a bevy of voter registration events in other states.

Running away from an unpopular second-term President is practically becoming a tradition in American politics. Before the 1998 midterm elections, Bill Clinton was plagued by the Monica Lewinsky scandal—though Republican overreach helped his party actually gain seats. And thanks to Iraq and Afghanistan, George W. Bush wasn’t very popular with his party in 2006, even before the financial crisis. Republicans lost both chambers of Congress that year.

“It’s a common phenomenon, running against a lame duck president,” says Prof. James Thurber, director of American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. “In the last two years of his Administration, Presidents have tended to be very unpopular, having used up their political capital.”

Still, Obama bears the distinction of being so polarizing that running against him has proven successful for Democrats almost from the moment he was elected. In 2010, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin ran an ad that showed him shooting climate change legislation endorsed by Obama with a gun. That same year Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly ran ads distancing himself from the President. Both men bucked an anti-Democratic wave to get elected to the Senate.

Democrats this year are hoping to repeat their strategy. Grimes ran an ad in September that showed her shooting skeet while declaring: “I’m not Barack Obama.”

Read next: Hey, Mitt Romney Cracked a Good Joke

TIME 2014 Election

New Hampshire Republican Disfigures Senate Race with Sexist Blog

"Does anyone not believe that Congressman Annie Kuster is as ugly as sin?"

What is going on in New Hampshire? You’d think the state with the first-in-history all female delegation—both senators, both House members and the governor—would be more enlightened, or at least more sensitive, when it comes to female candidates.

First, State Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Republican, wrote a blog post that sounds more like it was written by a blog troll, than an actual author. In it he compares the looks of the two candidates for New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District: incumbent Democrat Annie Kuster and challenger Marilinda Garcia, a 32-year-old Republican. He goes so far to call Kuster, a 58-year-old mother of two, a drag queen.

How attractive is Marilinda Garcia? You know how opposition ad makers usually go out of their way to find a photo of the opponent not looking his or her best. Well…Democrats and Annie Kuster supporters can’t seem to find a photo of Marilinda Garcia looking bad at all.

As for Annie….oh as for Annie…and before I continue, I offer that caution, caution, caution, gain [sic].
Let’s be honest. Does anyone not believe that Congressman Annie Kuster is as ugly as sin? And I hope I haven’t offended sin.
If looks really matter and if this race is at all close, give a decided edge to Marilinda Garcia.
Unlike Vaillancourt, New Hampshirites don’t seem to judge their candidates by appearance since Kuster is ahead in most polls and the non-partisan Cook Political Report has the seat “leaning Democratic.” Garcia, of course, put out a statement disavowing Vaillancourt’s remarks:
“State Rep. Vaillancourt’s recent comments about Rep. Ann Kuster are sexist and have absolutely no place in political discourse. Both Rep. Kuster and I have experienced this unfortunate reality of being a woman in politics. I hope that as time moves forward and more female candidates run for political office around the country, people will focus on the content of our ideas rather than what we wear and how we look.”
Then former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, who is challenging Sen. Jeanne Shaheen for her seat, proved definitively that alcohol, college kids, politics and cameras are a toxic mix for any candidate. According to a video posted by the New Hampshire Democratic Party, Brown had to ignore lewd and sexist heckling about his opponent and Elizabeth Warren, to whom Brown lost his Massachusetts Senate seat in 2012.
Brown appeared not to hear repeated shouts of “F**k Jeanne Shaheen!” “Elizabeth Warren sucks!” and “F**k her right in the p***y!” Apparently, there’s clearly something in the water in New Hampshire.

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