TIME 2014 Election

Exclusive: Women Turned Out for Hillary in the Midterms

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Campaigns With Jeanne Shaheen In New Hampshire
Darren McCollester—Getty Images Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) campaigns with U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan (L) at Nashua Community College in Nashua, N.H. on Nov. 2, 2014.

Clinton's appearances on the campaign trail gave discernable bumps in female support to various Democrats, according to an analysis by Correct the Record, a pro-Hillary group

In the aftermath of the Democratic shellacking, episode 2, in the 2014 midterm elections, many pointed fingers at Hillary Clinton as an electoral loser.

“Somebody should ask Hillary Democrats why they got wiped out tonight. Clearly, Hillary is yesterday’s news,” Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and rumored 2016 presidential hopeful, said in an email to Breitbart News — just one of the many times he linked the Democratic drubbing to the party’s likeliest 2016 presidential candidate.

Added another 2016 potential GOP candidate, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, “I think in many ways [Clinton] was the big loser on Tuesday because she embodies everything that is wrong with Washington,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. Even journalists piled on. “The loser from last night in the a 2016 context: Hillary Clinton,” said Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin.

Not so fast, says pro-Clinton group Correct the Record. The group, linked to Democratic Super PAC American Bridge, compiled polling data that shows Clinton delivered discernible bumps in female support to most of the candidates for whom she appeared or stumped, according to an analysis obtained exclusively by TIME.

Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina and Colorado’s Mark Udall both saw three percentage point bumps amongst women after Clinton appeared with them in the final weeks of campaigning, according to an analysis of polls before and after Clinton’s visit by the group.

Though both Hagan and Udall lost, Clinton gave incumbent Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in Colorado a turbo charge: his lead amongst women nearly tripled from a 4.8% advantage a to 12% lead after Hillary’s visit, and Hickenlooper eked out a win.

In New Hampshire and Illinois, incumbent Democratic Govs. Maggie Hassan and Pat Quinn both saw eight percentage point boosts, though it wasn’t enough to save Quinn. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Michigan Senate candidate Gary Peters saw their support amongst women go up five percentage points apiece after Clinton’s visits.

Georgia gubernatorial hopeful Jason Carter got a 4 percentage point bump, though it didn’t help him to victory. And Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana got a 2 percentage point boost, helping her beat out Bill Cassidy 42% to 41%, though she didn’t avoid a Dec. 6 run off.

“Women’s support for Clinton translated to support for the candidates she backed in 2014, despite an overwhelming trend against Democrats in the election,” Correct the Record said in a statement released with the analysis, pointing to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s success with female voters in 2013 after Clinton campaigned for him as further evidence of the trend.

Of course, much of this support could simply be women breaking in the final month of the campaign one way or another. It’s impossible to say if Clinton was the deciding factor. And, while support amongst women who voted was boosted in each case, the number of women voting was at the lowest levels since the GOP wave of 2010, meaning that off-presidential year voters were not successfully turned out at the polls.

That said, it’s clear Clinton didn’t have a negative impact on female voters, and her underlying message of women’s empowerment could remain a potent one for 2016, should she run, where women are expected to show up in larger numbers at the polls.

Read next: Another Year of the Woman? Not Exactly

TIME

Mitch McConnell’s Secret Weapon: His Wife

Elaine Chao Mitch McConnell Kentucky
Mark Lyons—EPA US Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, waves to supporters with his wife Elaine Chao during his victory celebration at the Marriott East Hotel in Louisville, Ky. on Nov. 4, 2014.

Campaign insiders say Chao was a driving force of his reelection campaign

The weekend before the midterm election, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, campaigned at a restaurant in Montgomery County, east of Lexington. Chao introduced McConnell to the packed house, but after the event was done McConnell sat down to grab a late lunch with a staffer. A woman and her two daughters approached the leader and asked for a photograph. His aide said, “Sure thing, can you just wait until the leader is finished eating?”

“Sure,” replied the women, who then continued to stand, staring at the leader as he ate.

Chao then sat down and she motioned for the woman and her daughters to join her at the other end of the table. And for 10 minutes, Chao engaged the family. “Are you two sisters?” she asked. They shyly nodded.

“I grew up with a lot of sisters, too. There’s nothing better than girl power,” she said, regaling the girls with stories of her five younger sisters and her family, who arrived in the U.S. from Taiwan on a freight ship in 1961, when Chao was eight, fleeing the communist revolution on mainland China. By the end of her stories, the girls were beaming and giggling.

McConnell, 72, was never one for retail campaigning. Childhood polio left him tender and averse to backslapping. To avoid it on the campaign trail, he’ll often grip a person with his left hand on the upper arm, holding them away from him, as he shakes their hand with his right. He’s also hard of hearing, which means in loud rooms he often misses what people say. But on the campaign trail, Chao, 61, makes up for her husband’s shortcomings.

Over the past two years, Chao headlined fifty of her own events and attended hundreds more with and on behalf of McConnell. She also raised “a huge part” of McConnell’s $30 million war chest, says John Ashbrook a spokesman for McConnell. But, perhaps most importantly, she was the campaign hugger.

Dr. Noelle Hunter said she’s formed a “special bond” with Chao over the past year, after McConnell worked to recover Hunter’s eight-year-old daughter, Muna, from Mali, when she was taken there by Hunter’s ex-husband. The political science professor, who was the subject of one of McConnell’s most memorable campaign commercials, was a former Democrat until she met the McConnells at a parade in Paintsville last year in August. “I went to shake her hand and she just grabbed me and held me gave me a mom-type hug,” Hunter said. “She said, ‘We are praying for you to get Muna home.’ She was so warm and gentle. I’d never met her before. I had no idea she even knew about my situation. And it meant the world to me that clearly these two people were talking about Luna over the dinner table.”

Chao is also the one who keeps tabs on various political allies across Kentucky. “She very actively listens. She really pays attention and remembers details about people,” says Kelly Westwood, head of the Kenton County women’s Republican group. “She doesn’t see them for months and then says, ‘I know you sprained your arm, how’s it going?’ Or, ‘How’s you bid for city council going?’ She remembers everything.”

It is perhaps Chao’s personal touch that helped McConnell offset his opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes’ attacks on him as anti-women. Chao starred in several ads on McConnell’s behalf talking about his record on women’s issues. In the end, McConnell beat Grimes 56% to 41%. “The biggest asset I have by far is the only Kentucky woman who served in a president’s cabinet, my wife, Elaine Chao,” McConnell said at the annual Fancy Farm GOP political picnic in August.

Soon after that event, Kathy Groob, the founder of a Democratic PAC, Elect Women, mocked Chao’s heritage on Twitter. “She’s not from KY… She is Asian and [President George W.] Bush openly touted that,” Groob said. Groob also referred to Chao as McConnell’s “Chinese wife,” and said McConnell is “wedded to free trade in China.

Groob deleted the tweets and shut down her account. The Kentucky Democratic Party also condemned them.

Perhaps the only thing that really angers McConnell is when Chao is attacked. This has happened before, in 1996, when surrogates for his opponent that year (Democrat Steve Beshear, who is now governor of Kentucky) started saying, “It’s time to elect an All-American family to represent Kentucky.”

“It was a racial slur in my view and it infuriated the Senator,” says Billy Piper, a longtime former McConnell aide, who remains close with the leader. “He is not ever going to take it when she gets attacked.”

Chao is proud of her family’s history. Not only did they struggle against communism in a very personal way, but her father came to the U.S. with nothing and built a multi-million dollar shipping business.

And that legacy of hard work rubbed off on Chao, who wanted to give back to the country that gave her family so much. She graduated from Mount Holyoke and Harvard Business School before becoming a White House fellow in the Reagan Administration. She served as deputy Transportation Secretary under George H. W. Bush and director of the Peace Corps. In the Clinton era, Chao was named the head of the United Way before becoming Secretary of Labor for all eight years under George W. Bush.

McConnell, who married Chao in 1993, often quips: “People remark that I’m in a mixed marriage. I don’t see it that way. In my first marriage, I married a Liberal. Now that was a mixed marriage. With Elaine, she and I understand one another.”

Read next: Go Inside Senator Mitch McConnell’s Winning Campaign

TIME 2014 Election

Another Year of the Woman? Not Exactly

Mia Love
Rick Bowmer—AP Republican Mia Love celebrates with her supporters after winning the race for Utah's 4th Congressional District during a GOP election night watch party in Salt Lake City on Nov. 4, 2014.

Congress looks to only marginally expand its female presence with four races still too close to call

You may have seen post-election stories trumpeting the fact that there are now 100 women in Congress. While that may sound like a lot, it doesn’t actually represent much progress. In fact, the 2014 midterm elections, where kind of a dud for electing women.

At first glance, this election seems like a winner for female candidates, says Jennifer Lawless, head of American University’s Institute on Women and Politics. Senator-elect Joni Ernst became the first woman elected to Congress from Iowa. Gina Raimondo was elected the first female governor of Rhode Island. Utah’s Mia Love became the first Republican African-American woman elected to Congress. And 30-year-old Republican Elise Stefanik became the youngest Republican woman ever elected to Congress with her upstate New York win.

“These victories undoubtedly represent important milestones for women’s representation,” Lawless says. “But upon closer inspection, the 2014 midterm elections hardly amounted to a ‘Year of the Woman.’”

First of all, 100 is a net add of just one seat in the 113th Congress with the special election of Democrat Alma Adams in North Carolina on Tuesday night. The 113th started with 99 women nearly two years ago: 20 in the Senate and 79 in the House.

For the 114th session starting in January, the very best estimated outcome is a net increase of five seats, assuming all four women in too-close-to-call elections win those races. Still outstanding in the Senate is Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu’s Dec. 6 run off. If she wins the total number of women in the Senate will go up by one to 21. If she losses the 114th Senate will not have net gained any women from the 113th.

On the House side, there are currently 80 women, including Adams. That number will go up to at least 81 in the next session and could rise to as much as 84 if Republican Martha McSally wins her challenge in Arizona and if incumbent Democrats Louise Slaughter of New York and California’s Julia Brownley, both of whom are leading their challengers by less than 600 votes, retain their seats.

Even if all four women win these contested races, the total female representation in Congress would still fall short of 20%—only 19.6% if they reach 105, according to Kelly Ditmar, a scholar at Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics. “These are really incremental gains,” Dittmar says. “While we’re excited to welcome new women to Congress, the numbers aren’t increasing in any significant pace forward. The trend is almost stagnating.”

TIME White House

Why Barack Obama Never Talked To Mitch McConnell on Election Night

Election Night for Senator Mitch McConnell, the senior United States Senator from Kentucky. A member of the Republican Party, he has been the Minority Leader of the Senate since January 3, 2007.
Christopher Morris—VII for TIME Sen. Mitch McConnell at his election night celebration in Louisville, Ky. on Nov. 4, 2014.

For the second time, the President struggles with Election Night well wishes to Republicans. But Vice President Joe Biden got through.

President Barack Obama called to congratulate Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell on winning the job of Senate leader between 12:30 and 1 a.m. Wednesday morning. The only problem: By then, McConnell and his wife, former Secretary Elaine Chao, had already left for home and some much needed sleep after a grueling campaign, McConnell aides say.

MORE: See all the election results

The President left a message.

Vice President Joe Biden, by contrast, called about an hour earlier, and was able to get through to his longtime Senate colleague. McConnell aides say they expect he’ll connect with the President later Wednesday and that he’s looking forward to having lunch at the White House on Friday.

This isn’t the first time the Obama White House has struggled to connect with an Election Night phone call, as I reported exclusively in 2011.

On the night that Republicans won control of the House in 2010, the White House Press Office came to a startling realization: They had no contact information for Speaker-to-be John Boehner. In President Obama’s first two years in office, he’d reached out to House Republicans so little that they had no reason to get to know—or even get phone numbers or e-mails for—Boehner’s staff. Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse was asked to call his fishing buddy, Nick Schaper, who was Boehner’s new media director at the time. Schaper gave the appropriate names and numbers to Woodhouse, who then relayed them to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Update from Zeke Miller:

From a White House Official:

Last night the President phoned dozens of House, Senate, Gubernatorial candidates of both parties, and members the House and Senate leadership. The list of those lawmakers he connected with are below, and he is continuing additional calls throughout the day.

Senator Harry Reid

Senator Dick Durbin

Senator Michael Bennet

AR Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson

SD Senator-elect Mike Rounds

WV Senator-elect Shelly Moore Capito

MI Senator-elect Gary Peters

Senator Lindsey Graham

Senator Jim Inhofe

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Leader Nancy Pelosi

Governor-elect Tom Wolf, PA

Senator-elect James Lankford, OK

Senator-elect Tom Cotton, AR

Governor John Kasich

Senator Susan Collins

Senator Ed Markey

Senator Jeff Sessions

Senator Cory Booker

Senator Tim Scott

Senator Al Franken

Senator Mark Pryor

Congressman-elect Seth Moulton

Governor Robert Bentley

Governor Bill Haslam

Read next: Obama Says He Wants to ‘Get Stuff Done’

TIME 2014 Election

McConnell: No Shutdowns, No Full Obamacare Repeal

An exclusive interview with TIME about his plans as Majority Leader

Sen. Mitch McConnell was giddy, not an emotion often seen in the sober 72-year-old Kentuckian. But that’s the only way to describe TIME’s interview with him in Perry County, Kentucky, on Monday afternoon.

Asked to imagine it was Wednesday morning and he wakes up majority leader—a position he’s aspired to, he says, since the 5th grade—McConnell strikes a conciliatory tone, saying he hopes to work with President Obama and Senate Democrats. He said there would be no shutdowns on his watch, despite the fact that he plans to use funding bills to force changes in Obama’s policies.

MORE: See all the election results

Notably, a full repeal of Obamacare was not on his mind, but rather a partial repeal through the appropriations process. Finally, he named his new top priority: keeping the Senate in 2016 (though winning the White House is also “not unimportant”).

Below are lightly edited excerpts from the interview.

mitch.no.asterisk.indd

Top priority?

I think we need to do everything we can to get America back to work. And exactly which bill comes up first will be determined after discussing that with my colleagues and with the Speaker. Some examples of things that we’re very likely to be voting on: approving the Keystone XL pipeline, repealing the medical device tax, trying to restore the 40-hour work week, trying to get rid of the individual mandate. These are the kinds of things that I believe there is a bipartisan majority in the Senate to approve.

Also, we’re going to want to see what kind of things we might be able to agree on with the President. After all, he’s going to be there for two more years. Maybe there are things that we can agree on. I’ll give you a couple of examples where there may be areas of agreement: comprehensive tax reform and trade agreements. Most of my members think that America’s a winner in international trade. The president hasn’t sent us a single trade bill in six years. I hope he’ll do that.

Would you undo the nuclear option?

Oh, we’ll discuss that when we get back.

You realize that now you’ll have to up your face time with the President, not a man you profess to enjoy spending time with?

Well, I’m the one who’s cut the deals that we’ve had. All of them. Biden and I did the December 2010 extension of the Bush tax cuts; the August 2011 budget control act, which actually led to a reduction in government spending for two years in a row for the first time since the Korean War; and the Dec. 31 fiscal cliff deal 2012, which made 99% of the Bush tax cuts permanent and saved virtually every family farm and small business in my state from being sold by altering the Death Tax exemption. So I’m not fundamentally opposed to negotiating with the President and his team and, in fact, I’ve been the one who’s done that in the past. So, sure, he’s going to be there for two more years, so we’re going to sit down and talk to him and see what we might be able to agree on.

You didn’t mention immigration reform, will that be possible in the next two years?

We’re going to discuss that after the election.

What if the president does some sort of executive action on immigration?

Well, he’s done a lot of that sort of thing and the way that you push back on executive overreach is through the funding process. We’re going to pass a budget. We’re going to pass appropriations bills. Appropriations bills are going to have prescriptions of certain things that we think he ought not to be doing by either reducing the funding or restricting the funding.

But if you pass spending bills that he vetoes, doesn’t that lead to the possibility of a government shutdown?

Well, what happens when he vetoes an appropriations bill is you re-pass it.

Is there a possibility of a government shutdown?

No. There is no possibility of a government shutdown. Remember me? I’m the guy that gets us out of government shutdowns. (He laughs.)

MORE: The weirdest moments of Election Day 2014

You said to me once that you’d be most like George Mitchell as majority leader, do you still believe that?

Yeah, I do. The other hero of mine is Mike Mansfield. The Senate needs a lot of institutional repair. We need to get back to normal, and normal means that senators can offer amendments and actually get votes and the committees actually work. And we actually work occasionally or Fridays. There are a number of things that we need to do to become more productive. Some of it has to do with rebuilding relationships across the aisle and some of it has to do with just simply working harder.

What about building relationships within your own parties. Presidential hopefuls like [Texas Senator] Ted Cruz?

Look, we have a big party. Everybody from [Maine Senator] Susan Collins to Ted Cruz. There are lots of different points of view. Bringing them together, that’s my job and I work on it every week.

Isn’t restoring normal order risky, though, given that you have eight members up in blue states in 2016?

The first thing we need to do is be a constructive, right of center governing majority in the House and Senate.

MORE: Your guide to the 2016 GOP primary field

So, in 2016, what’s your top priority?

Well, it’ll be to keep the majority, of course.

What about winning the White House?

Well, that’s not unimportant. Obviously, winning the White House is the most important thing and I think we’re going to have a good shot at it.

Read next: The Challenge for the New Republican Majority

TIME 2014 Election

How to Watch the 2014 Elections, Hour by Hour

GOP Senate Candidate Jodi Ernst Casts Her Vote In Her Iowa Hometown
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images Voters get an 'I VOTED TODAY' sticker after casting their ballots on election day at the Red Oak Fire Department on Nov. 4, 2014 in Red Oak, Iowa.

An expert’s guide on where to look for bellwethers and hints as the returns come in

Political junkies will be obsessively hitting refresh on their browsers Tuesday evening, searching for results as polls begin to close starting at 7 p.m. Eastern Time. If you are one of those people eager for returns and you don’t want to wait for the Associated Press to call states for one candidate or another, here’s a guide on what six election experts said to look for in the early returns.

The fate of the Senate hangs in the balance, so those 12 close races will be the most closely watched. Republicans need six seats to take back the majority, assuming that they do not lose any of their own.

The first races to watch will be in New Hampshire, which is a small state and counts votes fairly quickly. For a glimpse of which way New Hampshire is trending, check out the returns from Hillsborough County. A quarter of the state lives there and it includes Manchester and Nashua, two of the largest towns in the Granite State. Nashua, in particular, is a political black hole of independent voters and a mix of both parties. There’s a reason why Hillary Clinton campaigned there with incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen on Sunday. Whichever way Hillsborough is going is the way New Hampshire is going—and maybe the country.

A word of caution for the impatient: even if the trend is a GOP wave, it’s unlikely that the fate of the Senate will be known until 1 a.m. Wednesday when Alaska polls close. And given its geographic challenges, Alaska is notoriously slow in counting votes. The fate of the Senate is more likely to be known later Wednesday morning.

But it’s entirely possible that the Senate races in Louisiana and Georgia will go to runoffs, which will be triggered if no candidate wins 50% of the vote. Those are due to be held Dec. 6 and Jan. 6 respectively. So it is conceivable that the fate of the Senate may not be known until after the new year!

7 p.m. ET polls close in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia and Vermont

Georgia has a close Senate race between Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue, who are both looking to fill retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss’s seat. It also has a close governor’s race between incumbent Republican Nathan Deal and Democrat Jason Carter, President Jimmy Carter’s grandson. Both races could go to run offs. But for early indications on which way things are going look at turnout in Atlanta. If Democrats are going to the polls in greater than expected numbers, it could be a good night for Nunn and Carter.

Kentucky is home to the most expensive Senate race in the country between incumbent Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and his Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state. As in Georgia, look for heavy urban turnout for a Grimes win. Light turnout favors McConnell.

Virginia isn’t a close race. Incumbent Democrat Sen. Mark Warner is expected handily beat GOP challenger Ed Gillespie, but for indications of an early wave look at Prince William’s County returns. Prince Williams is an exurb of Washington, D.C., and swings Virginia. If it’s going heavily Republican, that bodes badly for Dems nationally.

7:30 p.m. ET polls close in North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia

Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito is likely beat Democrat Natalie Tennant to fill retiring Democrat Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s West Virginia seat, but look for the results of West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District. Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall has fended off GOP challenges for decades. If Republicans decisively oust him, that’s an indicator of a wave.

8 p.m. ET Polls close in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Tennessee

There are close gubernatorial races in Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. For a sense of which way the tide is flowing look to Massachusetts and Rhode Island. If Democrats Martha Coakley and Gina Raimondo are losing in these blue states, Republicans are in for a good night.

In Florida, look at the 2nd Congressional District’s returns. If incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Southerland is beating off a strong challenge from Democrat Gwen Graham, then Republicans are doing better than expected, which would also bode well for Gov. Rick Scott, who is in a toss-up race with former Gov. Charlie Crist.

As I mentioned before, New Hampshire is a great bellwether state. Its 1st Congressional District flips almost every cycle. If Democrat Rep. Carol Shea-Porter is managing to fend off a strong challenge by former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta (for the third time in a row!), then Dems are having a really good night. On the other hand, if Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District is losing to Republican Marilinda Garcia, Democrats are having a terrible night. Both will be early indicators for how Shaheen is faring against Republican Scott Brown in the Senate race.

8:30 p.m. ET polls close in Arkansas

Former President Bill Clinton is looking to keep Arkansas blue—or at least a purplish tone. He has an uphill battle. But if Democrat Patrick Henry Hayes is beating GOP businessman French Hill in Arkansas’s 2nd Congressional District, then it could be a better than expected night for the Democrats running for governor, Senate and in the other close House race in Arkansas’s fourth district.

9 p.m. ET polls close in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming

In New York’s 1st Congressional District, if Republicans finally succeed in knocking off Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop after a decade and millions of dollars worth of attempts, then you know it’s a good year for the GOP.

Conversely, if Republican Rep. Terry Lee is losing his Republican-leaning seat in Nebraska’s 3rd Congressional District in a Republican-leaning year, that’s a bad night for the GOP.

10 p.m. ET polls close in Iowa, Montana, Nevada and Utah

The Senate race in Iowa to fill retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin’s seat is a nail biter. Democrat Bruce Braley is taking on Republican Joni Ernst. There are two close House races in Iowa that could be bellwethers. Democrat Staci Appel is running against David Young, a former GOP Senate staffer, in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. And Marionette Miller-Meeks is trying for a third time to oust Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. The fate of Appel and Miller-Meeks will give clues about which way Iowa is going.

11 p.m. ET polls close in California, Idaho, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington

Hawaii has a tight gubernatorial race after incumbent Democrat Neil Abercrombie lost his primary to State Sen. David Ige. Ige is facing a strong GOP challenge from former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona. If Obama’s childhood home goes red, well that tells you something.

1 a.m. ET polls close in Alaska

If you’re still awake, Alaska has close gubernatorial and Senate races. Heavy turnout in Anchorage would favor incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich and independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker. Low turnout would favor GOP Senate challenger Dan Sullivan and incumbent GOP Gov. Sean Parnell.

TIME 2014 Election

Mitch McConnell Makes His Closing Argument

GOP Senate Candidate Mitch McConnell Marches In Veterans Day Parade
Win McNamee—Getty Images Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell waves while riding with his wife Elaine Chao in the Hopkins Country Veterans Day Parade on November 2, 2014 in Madisonville, Kentucky.

He could lose the title of Senator on Tuesday, or gain the title Majority Leader

Amidst the rolling hills of southeastern Kentucky, many of them cut into odd-shaped pyramids by miners, a tiny plane touched down Monday afternoon bearing Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Kentucky senator Rand Paul. McConnell was stopping in the city of Hazard to pay his respects to the coal community and deliver his closing argument on why he should be granted a sixth term over Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Greeting him on the tarmac was House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, since Hazard is part of his congressional district. Though the television series The Dukes of Hazzard was filmed in Georgia (and added a ‘z’), it was based on this Hazard County and the local government regularly names people it honors “Dukes of Hazard.” McConnell is one such Duke and has been for decades. Hazard is also one of the poorest areas of Kentucky.

“Welcome to the hottest part of the state for Mitch McConnell,” Rogers, a fellow Republican, told the cheering crowd of about 50 people. “There’s a reason for that. It’s partly to do with coal, but it’s also because eastern Kentuckians realize the importance of clout. Eastern Kentuckians know and appreciate clout when they see it. We need help. We know and admit that.”

At this, Paul, a potential 2016 presidential candidate who comes from a corner of the Republican Party that doesn’t necessarily believe in government welfare, nodded his head, smiling. He wasn’t there, after all, to debate the direction of the Republican Party, but to support McConnell’s reelection bid. McConnell was in the race of his life against Grimes, a dynamic 35-year-old Democrat. But in the final days, polls seemed to be going McConnell’s way and he told a local television crew in Hazard that he felt confident going into Election Day.

A lot rides on his reelection. Tuesday could be the first of McConnell’s final days as a senator, but it could also kick off his final days as Senate minority leader, with his party poised to pick up the seven seats needed to win control of the chamber. “There is one thing me and my opponent agree upon. We agree that she’s a new face. She is,” McConnell told the booing crowd. “But a new face to do what? A new face to vote for the President’s agenda. A new face to vote for Harry Reid in the Senate, A new face for no change at all. A new face for the status quo. I want to change America and take us in a different direction.”

McConnell, to some degree, based much of his campaign on the argument that as Senate majority leader he will be able to do wondrous things for Kentucky. Grimes notes in her speeches that despite McConnell’s 30 years in office—and 8 years as minority leader—Kentucky is still struggling and ranks at the bottom of many national indicators.

McConnell disputes that notion. “Kentucky has never been better positioned than we are now. Your congressman is the chairman of the appropriations committee, one of the two most important committees in the House, my junior senator, who — do you like that?” he asked a laughing, cheering crowd — “is literally redefining for Americans what it means to be a Republican, and we could have the one person in the senate who sets the agenda in the Senate. Everybody’s got a vote but everybody’s not equal in influence. Only one senator gets to set the agenda and that’s who leads the majority.”

The question is: if McConnell wins the majority, which way will he take the party? Towards Paul’s new brand of Republicanism or Rogers’ bring-home-the-bacon Republican Party? McConnell has spent $55 million straddling those questions in the primary and general election. And on Tuesday, he’ll potentially win himself the prize, or quandary, of being responsible for answering them in the majority.

TIME 2014

Kentucky Democrat Tears Up on Campaign Trail

Alison Lundergan Grimes
J. Scott Applewhite—AP Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes at a campaign rally in Lexington, Ky., at Transylvania University, Nov. 1, 2014.

"You are people who can't be bought," Alison Lundergan Grimes said

The Kentucky Democrat who is giving Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell the toughest reelection race of his career teared up during a speech Sunday just two days before the election.

“You are the messengers that Mitch McConnell can’t buy. He can buy the airwaves,” Grimes said, choking up, her eyes welling with tears, “but not the hearts and minds of each and every one of you… You know that after 30 years of Mitch McConnell we can do better. And I tell you, this strong independent Kentucky woman, I’ve got kick still in me.”

Grimes, 35, who is Kentucky’s secretary of state, was talking about McConnell loaning his campaign $1.8 million on Oct. 24, on top of the whopping $53 million he’s already raised to beat Grimes. In the emotional speech before a largely union crowd, Grimes blasted McConnell, 72, for being in the pocket of “millionaires and billionaires,” and said she would “work for the people of Kentucky” if elected.

Grimes had campaigned Saturday with Hillary Clinton, who she said is one of her lifelong political idols. Clinton famously won the New Hampshire presidential primary in 2008 after welling up emotionally at a campaign event. For Clinton at the time it was a pivotal, if inadvertant, event. Prior to New Hampshire, she’d run on an almost wooden campaign of toughness, trying to show she could be commander-in-chief, almost burying the historic nature of her campaign. But rather than painting her as weak, Clinton’s tears had a humanizing effect. After her New Hampshire victory, largely on the back of female voters, she sought to appeal to women more, but the push came too little too late to save her candidacy (a mistake many say she’ll rectify in 2016).

Grimes, by contrast, has spent her entire campaign focused on turning out women, emphasizing equal pay, childcare and McConnell’s votes against the Violence Against Women’s Act. And running for Senate isn’t the same as running for an executive office, where voters question a candidate’s ability to be a commander-in-chief. But Grimes’ frustration on Sunday was genuine and similar to Clinton’s in its sense of almost hopeless exasperation: the raw honesty looking a potential hard-taught close loss in its face.

Grimes was down in an NBC/Marist poll out Sunday, 41% to McConnell’s 50%, though her campaign says its internal polls show a race still evenly split. “We remain confident in the accuracy of our own polling, which for months has shown this race a dead heat,” says Charly Norton, Grimes’ spokeswoman. Mitch McConnell’s panicked $2-million check to himself and his sleazy, illegal voter suppression tactics suggest he sees the same.”

On Sunday, Grimes also grew visibly angry waving a mailer sent out by the Kentucky Republican Party that she said amounted to voter suppression. Grimes’ campaign is suing the party over the mailer, which warns Democrats that if they vote on Tuesday they could be committing an “election violation.”

“He thinks that another six years on top of the 30 he’s already had constitutes change, well we don’t buy that,” Grimes said. “He thinks that we can’t live without his seniority, well has he seen that we’re at the bottom of every national indicator that’s out there? Henderson, are ya’ll better off after having Mitch McConnell for the last 30 years?”

“No!” roared the crowd of more than 150.

McConnell is poised to be Senate Majority Leader if Republicans recapture the upper chamber.

TIME 2014 Election

Sarah Palin Plays Surprise Role in Already Surprising Governor’s Race

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) walks onstage to speak at the 2014 Values Voter Summit in Washington on Sept. 26, 2014.
Mark Wilson—Getty Images Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) walks onstage to speak at the 2014 Values Voter Summit in Washington on Sept. 26, 2014.

She backed an independent candidate over her own former running mate

Kansas and South Dakota aren’t the only states with late breaking October surprises involving surging Independent candidates. In Alaska, Republican Gov. Sean Parnell is fending off a challenge from Independent Bill Walker, who this week got the surprise endorsement of Sarah Palin.

Parnell used to be Palin’s lieutenant governor and her endorsement of an Independent, who is running with a Democrat as his lieutenant governor on a “unity ticket,” completes the political break up between the erstwhile running mates.

Palin’s backing comes after Parnell undid her signature legislative achievement, a hike in oil and gas taxes. Palin and other supporters of the measure tried to reinstate the taxes in a ballot initiative, but that failed after a close vote in the primaries. Parnell campaigned against it.

Parnell has come under fire for the resulting budget shortfalls without the taxes. He’s also been criticized for his handling of accusations of sexual assault and misconduct in the Alaska National Guard. In a debate last week, Walker said Parnell “acted immediately” when oil companies complained of being taxed too much, but that it took four years after chaplains raised concerns about misconduct for him to fire the head of the state’s National Guard.

“The bottom line is, I acted immediately, and I want you to quit saying that I didn’t,” Parnell replied.

“Governor, you must understand, you’re not the victim here,” Walker quipped.

Walker, 63, is a former mayor of Valdez and until the primary he was a registered Republican. Byron Mallot, who won the Democratic primary, agreed to drop out and run as Walker’s lieutenant governor if Walker agreed to abandon his party label. Both sides recognized that in a three-way race, Parnell would win. But Mallot and Democrats were so committed to defeating Parnell, they made the deal with Walker.

Palin’s endorsement came as a surprise. “There have been lots of surprises in this whole process,” Walker told The Independent. “But that was a good surprise.”

Still, it might not help that much. “Palin endorsing Walker might not be the worst thing for Parnell,” says Jennifer Duffy, who follows gubernatorial races for the non-partisan Cook Political Report. A recent Public Policy Poll found that more than half of Alaskans have an unfavorable view of Palin and some 30% blamed the former governor for allegedly starting a brawl at a birthday party in Anchorage in September.

That said, the one place Palin does still hold sway is with the hard right voters—essentially Parnell’s base.

Walker leads Parnell by 1.8 percentage points, according to an average of Alaska polls compiled by Real Clear Politics. But Alaska is notoriously difficult to poll and the Senate slug out between Democratic incumbent Mark Begich and former Alaska attorney general under Palin, Dan Sullivan, has sucked all the oxygen out of the gubernatorial race. “It’s been a hard race to follow,” Duffy says. “The Senate race ate up nearly all the TV time so I don’t know how much of the candidates’ message is getting out.”

National Democrats have largely stayed out of the race, but they have been delighted to see it drawing away national money. In the final weeks of the campaign, the Republican Governor’s Association has put $1.3 million into a new independent expenditure group formed to support Parnell.

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