TIME 2014 elections

Democrats, Republicans Call Off Election Night Parties In DC

Welcome to the era of Citizens United

Correction appended, Nov. 3

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 Congressional 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.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the name of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

 

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 elections

Courts Shoot Down Voter ID Laws in Texas and Wisconsin

A polling location in Lipan, Texas seen during the last presidential elections in 2012.
A polling location in Lipan, Texas seen during the last presidential elections in 2012. Tom Pennington—Getty Images

Some say voter ID laws are discriminatory, while others argue they prevent voter fraud

The Supreme Court and a lower court blocked voter identification laws in Wisconsin and Texas Thursday, clearing the way for hundreds of thousands of voters in both states to have easier access to the polls as next month’s midterm elections loom near. The laws are two of many passed by several states recently in what supporters say are intended to clamp down on voter fraud, but detractors argue the rules are discriminatory and illegal.

The U.S. Supreme Court late Thursday blocked Wisconsin’s voter identification from taking effect, reversing a lower court order to let the law stand during next month’s midterm elections in a 6-3 ruling. Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, saying it’s troubling that the change comes so close to the midterms. Voter rights advocates, however, praised the ruling, with Dale Ho of the American Civil Liberties Union saying in a statement that it will “help safeguard the vote for thousands of Wisconsinites.” The ACLU is among the groups challenging Wisconsin’s voter ID law.

The Supreme Court’s ruling came down as a district court in Texas found that state’s similar voter identification law discriminated against black and Latino voters, violating the Voting Rights Act. The federal government and a slew of advocacy groups brought a suit to fight Texas’ law, which the state implemented just hours after last summer’s Supreme Court decision striking down a portion of the Voting Rights Act that required Texas and several other states to get federal government approval before implementing new voting laws.

In a statement, Texas National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Gary Bledsoe said voting rights advocates are “greatly encouraged by today’s decision.” However, the state of Texas said it will “immediately appeal” the ruling, according to a statement from the state attorney general’s office.

TIME 2014 Election

Court Blocks Parts of North Carolina Voting Law

North Carolina's law has been fiercely criticized by voting rights advocates

Updated at 10:05 a.m., Oct. 2

A federal appeals court on Wednesday blocked parts of a sweeping North Carolina voting law from taking hold ahead of this year’s midterm elections.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision to allow provisions of the law that eliminate same-day-registration and the casting of out-of-precinct ballots. The appeals court on Wednesday still allowed other portions of the law to stand, including the cut of seven early voting days. But in a 69-page opinion Wednesday, the appeals court said an August decision by the lower district court to allow the full law was flawed.

The decision comes just weeks before the early voting period is set to begin in the Tar Heel State on Oct. 23. “The right to vote is fundamental,” Judge James Wynn wrote in the majority opinion. “And a tight timeframe before an election does not diminish that right.”

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory issued a statement Wednesday saying though he was pleased most of the law will apply in November, the state plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. North Carolina’s law has been one of the most criticized by voting rights advocates since the Supreme Court ruled that parts of the landmark Voting Rights Act are unconstitutional, which opened the door for states to enact more voting restrictions.

TIME 2014 elections

This Candidate Will Pay For Your Gas to Smash a Toy Train

Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari
California Governor Jerry Brown, left, listens as Republican challenger Neel Kashkari speaks during a gubernatorial debate in Sacramento, Calif., on Sept. 4, 2014 Rich Pedroncelli—AP

The underdog Republican gubernatorial candidate is going to extreme measures to bring out supporters

Updated at 2:56 p.m.

On Wednesday afternoon at a Mobil gas station in Burbank, California, Republican candidate for governor Neel Kashkari will hand out $25 gas vouchers to people who will destroy a toy train.

The event—headlined “Do you want a free gas card?” in a fundraising email—will protest gas taxes associated with the state’s high-speed rail, which Kashkari has labeled the “Crazy Train.” Kashkari’s competitor, three-term Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, believes that the $68 billion project connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco will be a major economic boost.

Kashkari campaign spokesperson Mary-Sarah Kinner told the San Francisco Chronicle that the event is “not a rally.”

“Neel is offering drivers who smash a toy train $25 towards a tank of gas as part of his larger effort to underscore the point that Jerry Brown is increasing the cost of gas to pay for the bullet train,” she said.

The event is legal under California state law, according to Dr. Richard L. Hasen, a leading election law expert at UC Irvine Law School. “So long as there is not payment for voting, or voting for Kashkari in particular, I do not see a legal problem,” says Hasen.

But the event is another signal that Kashkari’s campaign is sputtering six weeks before election day. Brown holds a nineteen-point lead over Kashkari, according to aggregate polling data compiled by Real Clear Politics.

It struck Dr. Thad Kousser, a political science professor at UC San Diego, as “crazy” that the Kashkari campaign thinks it has to pay supporters to show up.

“If they can’t get a few activists to smash a toy train for free, I’m not sure the campaign can hope to mobilize the many millions of voters that they will need to win in November,” says Kousser.

TIME 2014 Election

Midterm Elections See a Surge in Ads About Energy and Environment

Projected to hit highest level ever

Political ads about energy and the environment will likely reach their highest number ever this election cycle, according to the Cook Political Report.

While these issues usually don’t rule the national polls of top midterm election priorities, there are several competitive races this cycle with energy at the forefront, especially in the Senate. There is also new outside money being spent on environmental issues, particularly from billionaire Tom Steyer, who has spent a reported $26.6 million of his own money this cycle to raise the profile of climate change through his super-PAC NextGen Climate Action.

“We’ve already seen more spots in U.S. Senate general elections alone (87,000 as of September 12) than we saw by this point in both Senate and House races in 2008 (56,000),” writes Elizabeth Wilner, a Senior Vice President of Kantar Media Ad Intelligence and contributing editor of the Cook Political Report. “If you add in 2014 House spots, we’ve nearly doubled the 2008 number (102,000). And with overall trends in advertising being what they are, with spot counts increasing over time, logic points to 2014 being the biggest cycle for energy/environment-related advertising, ever.”

Many of the “toss-up” Senate races this year have candidates bashing each other over energy industries that are economically or culturally important to the state. The prospect of the Keystone XL pipeline has ignited races from Michigan down to Louisiana, where Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is trying to prove how her chairmanship on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will help the state increase its offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has campaigned on his commitment to fight the “War on Coal” while his Democratic rival, Kentucky Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes, hit the airwaves to put distance between herself and President Barack Obama on the issue. In Colorado, the support for the green energy industry has thrust Republican Rep. Cory Gardner’s and Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s campaigns to cut ads with their candidates in front of wind turbines. And in Alaska, Democratic Sen. Mark Beigch has aired an ad of him driving a snowmobile over the ice of the Arctic Ocean to tout his efforts to expand drilling there. In a response ad for Republican opponent Dan Sullivan—a former commissioner of the Alaska’s Department of Natural Resourcesan X Games medalist criticized Begich’s “lame tricks,” driving skills and voting record.

Some energy industries appear to have a have a greater hold than others on donors’ wallets. While Democrats and Republicans are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to figure out who is more pro-coal in Rep. Nick Rahall’s southern West Virginia district, NextGen Climate Action has yet to receive much support, receiving four donations of $250, $500, $300 and $2,500 in August, according to Bloomberg.

TIME

Iowa Absentee Ballots Have Nearly Doubled Since 2010

Enthusiasm is building ahead of November's election to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin

Absentee ballot requests have nearly doubled in the state of Iowa since 2010, according to government statistics released Monday, reflecting higher voter engagement ahead of November’s election to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.

With 43 days to go until the state votes, Iowa Democrats have a sizable advantage over Republicans in early voting numbers. Almost 58,000 Democrats have requested an absentee ballot this year, up from around 34,318 four years ago, said Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz in a statement. Republican absentee ballot requests are at 31,099, up from 12,710, and the number of independent or “no party” requests have increased from 9,664 to 23,043. Overall there have been 112,178 requests this year compared to 56,725 in 2010.

Dr. Kedron Bardwell, a political scientist at Simpson College, says it’s too soon to tell if the numbers indicated an “enthusiasm gap” in the race between Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley and Republican state senator Joni Ernst. Bardwell notes that the Iowa Republican Party has placed more of an emphasis on voting in-person over absentee ballots in the past, but that recently-elected party chairman Jeff Kaufmann had vowed to close the early voting gap.

“This shows they have a long way to go in that respect,” says Bardwell. “If we see the Republican absentee and early voting numbers continue to lag the Democrats well into October, we will know it is a symptom of a larger problem, with Republicans increasingly playing ‘catch up.’”

TIME 2014 elections

Kentucky Democrat Takes Shots at Mitch McConnell and Obama in New Ad

"I'm not Barack Obama," says gun-toting senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, before lecturing Republican opponent on how to hold a firearm

Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes shows off her skeet shooting skills in a new ad distancing herself from President Barack Obama.

“I’m not Barack Obama,” says Grimes, decked out with earplugs, a shooting vest and yellow tinted glasses, and holding a semi-automatic Remington rifle. “I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA.”

Grimes also blasts her National Rifle Association-approved opponent, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for awkwardly holding a gun earlier this year at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

“And Mitch, that’s not how you hold a gun,” says Grimes. Her campaign confirmed that the firearm used in the ad is owned by the Democrat.

The ad follows a tradition popularized by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who famously shot a hole through cap-and-trade legislation in a 2010 campaign ad. Republicans have also picked up on gun imagery this year. Alaska Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan shot a television in protest of special interest advertising and Iowa’s Joni Ernst shot a target in protest of Obamacare.

McConnell is up by 5 points in the race, according to polling data compiled by Real Clear Politics.

Update at 12:05 p.m. on September 16

The McConnell campaign responds with a new ad.

TIME 2014 elections

Wendy Davis Campaign Accuses GOP Opponent of Ignoring Abuse Allegations

The ad accuses Texas Attorney General of doing nothing about allegations of abuse at a state run school in 2005

This post was updated at 1:50 pm.

The campaign for Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis released an incendiary ad on Monday accusing her Republican opponent, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, of ignoring allegations of abuse at a state run school in 2005.

“Young boys at a state run school are sexually abused,” the voice over says during the 30-second ad. After eleven months and a notification from a Texas ranger, the ad alleges, “Abbott does nothing.” In 2010, the West Texas State School, a juvenile detention center in Pyote, Texas, closed amid an abuse scandal that involved two former administrators at the center.

“What insider was Greg Abbott covering up for this time?” the ad asks.

The Abbott campaign said in a statement Monday that Davis’s allegations “distort the facts.” The campaign says Abbot was “not legally authorized to prosecute the crimes” at the facility until the local District Attorney requested assistance. Abbott’s campaign also cites an AP report that says the case was “quickly taken over” by Abbott after a request was made in 2007. The campaign suggests Davis is hoping to distract voters from questions about her ethics. “Texans deserve a candidate who puts public service before personal profit, and Sen. Davis’ behavior is unworthy of a candidate for Texas Governor,” Abbott campaign spokesman Matt Hirsch said in a statement.

The ad is just the latest negative ad to come out of the Davis campaign. In early August, the state senator’s camp released an ad alleging Abbott sided with a corporation and not the victim in a rape case that went all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. The Abbott campaign condemned that ad as “gutter politics.” “No one has a stronger record fighting the heinous crime of sexual assault than Greg Abbott,” a campaign spokesperson said in a statement to a local news outlet in August.

Davis is currently trailing Abbott by between 8 points and 18 points, according to poll data published by the Houston Chronicle.

TIME 2014 elections

Scott Brown Threatens Lawsuit Over Being Called a ‘Washington Lobbyist’

Former Republican U.S. Sen. of Mass. Scott Brown waits before a televised debate on Sept. 4, 2014 at WMUR in Manchester, N.H.
Former Republican U.S. Sen. of Mass. Scott Brown waits before a televised debate on Sept. 4, 2014 at WMUR in Manchester, N.H. Jim Cole—AP

At issue is the federal government’s definition of the word “lobbyist”. The Republican Senate candidate for New Hampshire currently trails his opponent by 6 points

The campaign for New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown threatened to sue Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig Sunday over a mailer calling Brown a “former Washington lobbyist.” Lessig’s Super PAC to end Super PACs, Mayday PAC, wrote the mailer in support of one of Brown’s Republican rivals, former state Sen. Jim Rubens, and to decry special interests’ influence in Washington.

“Scott Brown is not nor has he ever been a lobbyist,” wrote Colin Reed, Brown’s campaign manager, in a blistering letter to Lessig. “Ever… If you fail to immediately cease the mailer in question, we are leaving all our legal options on the table.”

Reed also said that Lessig’s actions violated Harvard’s honor code.

At issue is the federal government’s definition of the word “lobbyist” versus the popular one, i.e. “one who influences government official’s decisions.” The federal government considers only individuals who lobby 20 percent or more of his or her professional time serving a client as a “lobbyist.” In 2013, Nixon Peabody law firm hired Brown to advise in business and governmental affairs matters, focusing on the financial services and commercial real estate industries.

Lessig responded to the letter quoting the words of Clint Eastwood’s character “Dirty Harry” Callahan — “Go ahead; Make my day” — and offered to openly debate whether Brown was a “lobbyist.” Lessig also asked Brown if it was better to call Brown a former Massachusetts senator “who sold his influence to a DC lobbying firm.” Former Republican New Hampshire senator Gordon Humphrey, who cut an ad for Rubens on behalf of Mayday, released a statement calling Brown a former “lobbyist.”

Brown has narrowed the gap between himself and the incumbent, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, from 10 to 6 percentage points, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News/ YouGov survey.

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