TIME 2014 Election

Meet the Woman Who Could Keep Control of the Senate Up for Grabs

Amanda Swafford Libertarian Georgia Senate
Courtesy Swafford for US Senate

Libertarian Amanda Swafford considers forcing a Jan. 6 run-off in the Peach State’s Senate race a victory for third party candidates everywhere

There is a nightmare scenario that keeps most politicos working on both sides of the aisle up at night: after the midterm elections, and even through the anticipated Dec. 6 run off in Louisiana, control of the Senate likely won’t be decided until Jan. 6, the date a run-off in Georgia will take place, if any one candidate fails to muster 50% of the vote. It is this scenario that Libertarian candidate Amanda Swafford, who regularly pulls 5% in most polls, relishes.

“In that situation, if we did force a runoff,” Swafford tells TIME, “I’d say that’s a clear mandate from people of Georgia for a small government and less involvement in people’s lives.”

Small government has hardly been a theme in the race between Republican businessman David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn, who are competing to fill retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss’s seat. The two have spent millions firing at one another: Perdue accused Nunn of funding terrorists through her work with the Bush Family Foundation and Nunn said Perdue lost jobs and discriminated against female workers as CEO of Dollar General.

“If that nastiness continues in a run-off, the folks responsible for the run-off will probably just stay home,” Swafford says of her supporters. “And they will have to find new voters in order to win and they will be exceptionally hard.”

Perdue now leads Nunn by 3.4 points, according to an average of Georgia polls by Real Clear Politics. But Perdue has only broken the 50% threshold in one out five of the most recent polls, and he’ll need at least 50% of the vote to avoid a run-off. Swafford’s “mere presence on the ballot creates the potential for a run-off,” says Jennifer Duffy, who follows Senate races at the non-partisan Cook Political Report. “Overall, Libertarians tend to draw more from Republicans, so she is a bigger problem for Perdue than Nunn.”

But Swafford says that may not be the case with her voters, who she maintains are open to whomever makes the best case. Swafford isn’t even sure she’d caucus with the Republicans if, by some miracle, she were to be elected.

And so an unlikely figure could impact national politics. As of the end of June, Swafford had raised $7,683 for her senatorial bid. The single 37-year-old has kept her day job as a paralegal as she has mounted her campaign. “It makes for a lot of late nights and early mornings,” she says, “but I believe electing someone to the Senate like me, who knows what it’s like to work a job, have a boss, and make ends meet on a regular budget, would bring a valuable perspective to the Senate.”

Swafford is pro-choice and for the legalization of marijuana. And, like most Libertarians, she’s deeply suspicious of President Obama’s engagement abroad, particularly in Syria and Iraq. “Last year, the President wanted to bomb Syria for their chemical weapons, now he’s asking for their help to defeat another enemy,” she says. (Obama hasn’t actually asked Syrian strongman Bashar Assad for help in defeating ISIS.)

Swafford benefits from Georgia’s strong Libertarian history. It is home to 2008 Libertarian Presidential candidate Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman. And that same year, John Monds made history by becoming the first Libertarian candidate to draw more than a million votes—statewide or nationally—though he still lost his attempt to become Georgia Public Service Commissioner. Four years later, Libertarian David Staples made another bid for the same office and again broke the one million-vote threshold, though again fell short. But, unlike Swafford, both of those men faced only one rival from a major party, not two.

Swafford says she had no choice but to run statewide: Georgia’s ballot access laws for third party candidates for state races are some of the most restrictive in the country. “So, it’s either run for city council, or statewide,” says Swafford, who was elected to her hometown city council in Fiery Branch in 2010. If they lose this Senate seat, Georgia Republicans who control the state legislature might consider rethinking those restrictive third party laws. Because if politicians like Swafford can’t clinch state office, spoiling a statewide race is the second best—and clearly effective—option to get their ideas out. It turns out, some politics might be better off local.

TIME 2014 midterm elections

Drugs, Minimum Wage and Gambling: Inside 2014’s $1 Billion-Plus Ballot Initiatives

Demand for marijuana edibles is pushing several Colorado manufacturers to expand their facilities or move to larger quarters.
Steve Herin, Master Grower at Incredibles, works on repotting marijuana plants in the grow facility on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. Kent Nishimura—Denver Post via Getty Images

Bored with the midterms? There’s a lot of (expensive) drama on the ballot that doesn’t involve candidates

The 2014 elections are shaping up to be the most expensive in history, not for electoral campaigns, but for ballot initiatives. More than $1 billion has already been spent on them, according to the National Institute of Money in State Politics. And all that money could swing some key races.

Studies have shown controversial ballot initiatives can boost turnout as much as 8% in midterm elections, which typically see lower turnout than polling during presidential elections. Since Oregon first kicked off ballot initiatives in the early 1900’s, the practice has grown steadily — that is, until this year. Despite the increase in spending, 2014 actually has the least number of total initiatives — only 155 in 41 states, down from 188 in 2012—since 1988, reflecting state efforts to limit legislating by ballot.

Some of the millions already spent were intended to keep certain measures off the ballot. In Alaska, for example, oil and gas companies spent $170 per voter to block a bid to raise oil and gas taxes. In Colorado, energy companies also spent millions to keep fracking initiatives off the ticket. Also not making the cut this year: gay marriage and a push to break California into six states that, while strange, gained a lot of attention early on.

Perhaps the main issue on ballots nationwide this cycle is marijuana. Two states — Oregon and Alaska — plus the District of Columbia have initiatives to follow Colorado and Washington in legalizing recreational marijuana. But it’s a push to make Florida the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana that could impact an electoral race. Former Democratic Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s bid to get his old gubernatorial seat back could see a boost from the measure, as left-leaning voters tend to support marijuana reform. Crist allies have already spent $4 million on the initiative with opponents, including incumbent Florida Gov. Republican Rick Scott and Sheldon Adelson, spending $2.5 million to defeat it thus far.

Another big issue is minimum wage, with four red states—Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska and South Dakota—considering raising the minimum wage. Since 2002, all 10 ballot initiatives to raise state minimum wages have passed, and polling shows these initiatives look like they have good shots at approval as well. The pushes could help embattled Democratic incumbent Senators Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Mark Begich in Alaska.

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, another Democratic incumbent fighting to keep his seat, is hoping that a personhood amendment —which defines life as beginning from the moment of conception — will help him stick around. His opponent, Rep. Cory Gardner, also opposes the amendment, but has voiced support for personhood initiatives in the past, creating an opening Udall has been exploiting. North Dakota has a similar initiative on the ballot, and Tennessee has a measure that would allow the state legislature to amend the state constitution to strip out abortion rights.

However, some of the most expensive ballot issues are not national ones. In California, two initiatives — one to increase the limit of non-economic malpractice damages from $250,000 to $1.1 million and another requiring state approval of changes in insurance rates — could see as much as $100 million in combined spending to sway voters. And Oregon and Colorado have controversial initiatives mandating the labeling of certain foods that contain genetically modified organisms. Last year, companies like Pepsi, Coca Cola and Monsanto spent $22 million defeating a similar push in Washington where proponents spent $9 million trying to pass it.

Oregon also has a controversial immigration initiative that would uphold a law allowing four-year driver’s licenses for those who cannot prove legal presence in the U.S. Another big-spending item is a spate of gambling initiatives in seven states expected to draw more than $100 million, including a hard-fought initiative in Massachusetts that would repeal a 2011 law allowing gambling resorts that would halt construction on sites.

A gun rights conundrum could happen in Washington, which looks poised to pass two initiatives that countermand one another. One would require universal background checks for all guns, and another forbids more extensive background checks than those required at the federal level. Officials say such a situation has never happened before, and no one is sure what would happen if both pass. Also on guns, Alabama is also looking to become the third state after Louisiana and Missouri to pass a “fundamental right to bear arms,” making it harder to restrict firearm access.

Alabama is also seeking to become the eighth state to forbid state’s recognition of laws violating its policies, including all foreign law. This measure is a follow up to a bill introduced by state Sen. Gerald Allen last year that specifically references Sharia law.

Missouri and Connecticut are looking to joining 33 other states and the District of Columbia in early voting.

And, finally, Maine is looking to ban bear baiting, trapping or the use of dogs to hunt bears. Long live Smokey.

TIME 2016 Election

Hillary Clinton Calls for a Women’s ‘Movement’ Ahead of Elections

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Former Sec. of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin's annual fundraising Steak Fry, Sept. 14, 2014, in Indianola, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall—AP

“These issues have to be in the life blood of this election and any election”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday called for a women’s “movement” on economic issues ahead of the midterm elections.

“These issues have to be in the life blood of this election and any election,” the presumed 2016 Democratic front-runner said. “We need people to feel that they’re part of a movement, that it’s not just part of an election, it’s part of a movement to really empower themselves, their families and take the future over in a way that is going to give us back the country that we care so much about.”

Clinton was speaking on a panel at the liberal Washington think tank Center for American Progress.

Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who shared the stage with Clinton on Thursday, have pushed to make women’s economic issues the forefront of the party’s 2014 campaign. Democrats lost the female vote in 2010 for the first time since the Reagan era, and with it control of the House and six Senate seats. They are trying to avoid a similar Republican wave this year. “Why now? What is our strategy? Well, it’s because we want women to vote,” Pelosi told the crowd.

The issue is also near and dear to Clinton’s heart. Many of her advisors from her failed 2008 campaign say that, in retrospect, she should have emphasized the historic nature of her campaign more. Clinton lost women to Barack Obama in nearly half the primaries they fought.

As Secretary of State, Clinton focused on bolstering international support for women and girls. In her second political appearance after resigning from that office more than a year ago, Clinton kept her focus on those topics. “We talk about a glass ceiling, but these [minimum wage] women don’t even have a secure floor under them,” she said at the time.

The Democratic leaders lamented Thursday what they called Republican obstruction of the women’s economic agenda in Congress. The GOP has blocked Democratic efforts to raise the minimum wage—which disproportionally affects women—to $10.10 an hour, to fund universal pre-Kindergarten and other expanded child care efforts, paid maternity and paternity leaves and paid medical leave.

Clinton noted that by stymying women’s access to the workforce, the U.S. leaves 10% of increased GDP “on the table.”

“The argument is grounded in reality, but unfortunately the reality is not the context that these decisions are being made,” Clinton said. “Unfortunately, the Congress… is living in a reality-free zone. Politicians have to listen, and if they don’t it’s at their own peril.”

TIME 2014 Election

Georgia Senate Race Becomes a Battle of the Bushes

David Perdue Georgia Senate Race
David Perdue waves to supporters after declaring victory in the Republican primary runoff for nomination to the U.S. Senate from Georgia, at his election-night party in Atlanta, July 22, 2014. John Bazemore—AP

The former President endorses the Republican in the race while his son attacks

Former Dollar General CEO David Perdue flew to Kennebunkport, Maine over the weekend to seek former President George H. W. Bush’s endorsement of his bid to fill an open Senate seat in Georgia.

Bush’s endorsement of the Republican candidate should have been a no-brainer. But the former President has a special affinity for Perdue’s Democratic opponent, Michelle Nunn, who is on leave from her job as CEO of Bush’s Points of Light Foundation. Bush has said in the past that he was “lucky” to have Nunn, who came to work with the Bush Family Foundation after Points of Light merged in 1992 with City Cares, a national volunteer organization she’d started in Georgia.

Bush did end up endorsing Perdue but he didn’t mention Nunn, saying his support for Perdue grew out of his increasing opposition to the Senate Democratic leadership. Control of the upper chamber is at stake this November. “I have lost any confidence in the current Senate leadership, and believe David Perdue will be an independent voice for Georgia while working for positive solutions to our toughest challenges,” Bush, 90, said in a statement. “Barbara and I commend him to every Georgian voter who cares about America’s future.”

But then on Monday, Bush’s son Neil Bush, who is chairman of the Points of Light board, issued a statement expressing unhappiness with Perdue. At issue is a a Perdue campaign that says Points of Light gave money to “inmates and terrorists.”

“That’s ridiculous. It really makes my blood boil to think that someone would make that kind of an allegation, whether it’s an independent political group or a candidate for office,” Neil Bush, 59, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Anyone who makes that claim needs to understand the facts and then they need to denounce those claims. To attack an organization founded by my father, whose integrity is unimpeachable, to smear our organization for political gain, is in my opinion shameful.”

The line was drawn from internal research into its own weaknesses the Nunn campaign compiled, which was then leaked to the press. Perdue’s campaign on Wednesday said it had no plans to take down the ad, despite Bush’s criticism. “Michelle Nunn’s own campaign plan highlights serious concerns about her group’s association with terrorist-linked organizations,” said Megan Whittemore, a Perdue spokeswoman. “The people of Georgia will have to decide if that’s who they want representing them in the U.S. Senate.”

But opposition research documents tend to paint worst-case scenario attacks, and even FactCheck.org said the Perdue attack distorted Nunn’s leaked memo. “Actually, the grants refer to $13,500 that eBay sellers—not the foundation—donated to the U.S. affiliate of the international charity Islamic Relief Worldwide,” the group said. “Also, there is no evidence Islamic Relief USA, a federally approved charity, has ties to the U.S.-designated terrorist group Hamas.”

Nunn said in a statement that she was “appreciative of what Neil Bush said.”

“Washington can learn a lot from organizations like Points of Light,” Nunn said. “But David Perdue playing politics and falsely attacking an organization that helps so many is exactly what’s wrong with Washington and politics today. David Perdue should take down his dishonest ads and quit falsely attacking Points of Light.”

TIME

What Voters Care About Most: Economy, Healthcare and Terrorism

A new poll from Pew Research sheds light on key issues in the upcoming midterm elections

Republicans and Democrats disagree sharply over what issues matter most heading into the final stretch of the 2014 midterm elections, but among all issues the economy dominates as the preeminent concern.

About 83% of Americans ranked the economy as their chief concern, followed by healthcare (77%) and terrorism (75%). That’s a drop in importance of the economy from 90% in 2010. Healthcare and terrorism have essentially held steady since then. Republicans are more concerned about the economy and terrorism than Democrats.

For Republicans, foreign policy, the budget deficit and immigration loom largest among issues to consider in the upcoming election, each being named “very important” by at least 70% of polled voters. In contrast, Democrats are more interested in the environment and economic inequality by a similarly wide margins.

The poll also contains some good news for the GOP heading into the midterms: Republican voters are significantly more fired up and 12 percentage points more likely to say they will definitely vote than Democrats.

The survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center between September 2 and 9 and polls 2,002 American adults, including 1,552 registered voters.

TIME 2014 Election

Georgia Democrat Accuses Opponent of Pay Discrimination

Michelle Nunn courts women in a close Senate race

Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn’s Senate campaign is out with a new ad Friday, obtained first by TIME, hitting her GOP opponent David Perdue for pay discrimination when he was CEO of Dollar General.

From the ad’s script:

While Perdue was CEO of Dollar General over two thousand women sued the company for “engaging in a pattern of discrimination.”

An independent investigation found “female managers were paid less than similarly situated male managers.”

And Perdue’s company was forced to pay a settlement of over 18 million dollars.

If David Perdue didn’t do right by women at his company, why would he do right for Georgia?

Federal investigators for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that female store managers at Perdue’s Dollar General “were discriminated against” and “generally were paid less” than males under his tenure, according to a Mother Jones story confirmed by Georgia PolitiFact. Dollar General paid a settlement of almost $19 million to 2,100 female employees for not paying them equal wages.

Democrats nationally and in races like Georgia’s have pushed the idea that Republicans are not for equal pay and have spoken of the GOP waging a “war against women” on reproductive and economic policy. It has proven an effective message with female voters. Democrats lost the women’s vote in 2010, and with it control of the House and six Senate seats. Determined not to make the same mistake, they introduced a women’s economic agenda, including the Paycheck Fairness Act, which has been voted down twice in the Senate by Republicans this year. Republicans argue the bill is a sop to trial lawyers and have introduced their own version, which incentivizes employers to provide equal pay, rather than punishing them on the regulatory side, as the Democrats favor.

Nunn is trailing Perdue slightly—by 1.6 percentage points— in polls, according to an average of Georgia polls by Real Clear Politics. But she’s beating him amongst women, 45% to 33% in a recent CBS/New York Times survey. In order to win, she’ll need to maintain that edge and build on it. Thus the ads hitting Perdue as bad for women.

“Women understand the negative impact of Obama’s failed policies better than anyone, from losing their doctors due to Obamacare and feeling the effects of Obama’s economy on their hard-earned paychecks,” says Megan Whittemore, a spokeswoman for the Perdue campaign. “David absolutely believes in equal pay for equal work. That is the law and he has always supported that. Unlike Michelle Nunn who will make it harder for women to succeed, David will be a strong voice for Georgia’s women and families in the U.S. Senate.” Meanwhile, Perdue has an ad out hitting her as too liberal for Georgia.

 

 

 

TIME 2014 Election

Women Could Finally Make Up 20% of Congress This Year

Jeanne Shaheen
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen D-N.H. is surrounded by supporters to file her campaign paperwork to seek re-election on June 9, 2014 in Concord, N.H. Jim Cole—AP

Despite fewer women running for office in 2014

With women sitting atop half the Senate committees, it may feel like there are plenty of women in Congress, but the sad reality is only 18.9% of Congress is female. But every year, those numbers have been inching up and this cycle the share of women in Congress is set to finally breach 20%, according to new research.

Hitting the unprecedented 1:5 female/male ratio depends on the midterm elections, according to numbers compiled by Rutgers’ University’s Center for American Women in Politics. There are 15 women running for the Senate, 10 Democrats and five Republicans. Four are incumbents, three Democrats—Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire—and one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine.

Seven are running in states with open seats: Republicans Terri Lynne Land of Michigan, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Joni Ernst in Iowa; and Democrats Michelle Nunn in Georgia, Natalie Tennant in West Virginia Montana’s Amanda Curtis and Oklahoma’s Constance Johnson.

Four are challengers: Republican Monica Wehby in Oregon and on the Democratic side Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes, Maine’s Sheena Bellows and South Carolina’s Joyce Dickerson. But, overall, the number of women running for the Senate is down from the 18 women who ran in 2012.

On the House side, there are 108 Democratic women running and 53 Republicans. For Democrats, that number is down from the 118 Democratic women who ran in 2012. For Republicans, that number is slightly up from the 48 women who ran in 2012. That’s a victory for Republicans who have improved on their ability to get women through their primaries. Overall, however, they recruited 13% less women to run than the 107 GOP women who filed to run in 2012. This year, just 95 did despite a big recruitment push by GOP groups.

On the whole, slight gains are expected in both chambers, meaning the number of overall women in Congress could, finally, breach 20%.

TIME 2014 Election

‘War on Women’ Motivates Voters for Midterm Election, Poll Finds

Pro-Choice Emily's List
Pro-choice demonstrators rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Jan. 22, 2014. Susan Walsh—AP

Democrats are betting they can turn out women and minorities to the polls

The “War on Women” seems to be working.

Voters such as women and minorities, who often turn out in smaller numbers during off-year elections, are more motivated to vote when they feel women’s access to birth control and abortion are threatened, and if women and families’ economic security is imperiled, according to a new poll given exclusively to TIME.

“In 2014, women voters have made it clear that they won’t stand for attacks on their economic security or their reproductive healthcare,” said Stephanie Schriock, president EMILY’s List, a group that elects pro-choice women and one of the poll’s sponsors. “The Republican Party’s relentless assault on women’s rights and freedoms is backfiring, and as long as they continue to ignore the real needs of working families, the gulf between them and women voters will only continue to grow.”

Democrats have pegged their hopes this fall to turning out women and minority voters, who tend to drop off during non-presidential election years. To that end, they have introduced and campaigned on a women’s economic agenda that includes raising the minimum wage, which disproportionately affects women, expanding paid medical leave and access to childcare. In 2010, Democrats lost women for the first time in decades, and subsequently lost the House and six Senate seats. Democrats are determined not to repeat that mistake in 2014.

The poll of these drop-off voters in 18 swing states, co-sponsored by EMILY’s List, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and American Women, found that 23% of the drop-off voters surveyed ranked their enthusiasm for voting at less than half, but that number plummeted to 12% after hearing motivational messages about women’s health and economic security. Nearly three-quarters, or 74%, called the idea that failing to vote would be sending a message that they endorse the status quo a “very motivating” factor to vote. The same number said “helping working families get ahead” was a “very motivating” factor to vote.

Democrats have been pounding Republicans for their “War on Women,” not just on the economic front—for refusing to vote to increase the minimum wage and for Equal Pay, for example—but on the reproductive front. This strategy was highly effective in 2012, when two GOP Senate candidates made inartful statements about rape and abortion that turned off women voters nationally. The survey found that 70% of drop-off voters said they found reproductive rights and the chance to vote against a pro-life politician a “very motivating” factor to go to the polls in November. And 70% of those polled said allowing an employer to dictate what healthcare coverage a woman gets was a “very motivating” reason to vote.

“This poll confirms what we’re hearing from voters as our supporters knock doors and make phone calls in key states: issues like access to birth control and abortion will get voters to the polls this November,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president, Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Republicans, recognizing the problem, have introduced their own Equal Pay legislation and flexible work bills in both chambers, though the bills have yet to see votes. They’ve also made efforts to recruit more women to run for office, a campaign which has seen some progress in the Senate but has fallen short in the House. A recent poll commissioned by two GOP groups, including one backed by Karl Rove, found that female voters view the party as “intolerant,” “lacking in compassion” and “stuck in the past.”

Still, that may prove more of a problem for Republicans in 2016, when Democrats may have a woman, Hillary Clinton, on the top of the ticket, than in 2014. Drop-off voters are notoriously difficult to motivate and Republicans have had fewer gaffes than they did in 2012 concerning rape and abortion. Much will depend on how Democrats effectively make their closing arguments in the final weeks of the election.

Anzalone Liszt Grove Research conducted the telephone poll of 1,000 drop-off voters in 18 battleground states. It included oversamples of 100 Hispanic drop-off voters and 400 likely 2014 swing voters. Interviews were conducted Aug. 4-13. The margin of error for the sample as a whole is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The battleground states are: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

TIME 2014 midterm elections

Alaska Voters Get Ready for the Polar Primary

Alaska Senate Republicans
From left, U.S. Senate Republican candidates Joe Miller, Dan Sullivan and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell take part in a debate in Eagle River, Alaska on Aug. 4, 2014. Mark Thiessen—AP

Alaskans vote to pick which Republican will take on Democratic Sen. Mark Begich

Alaskans go to the polls Tuesday to decide the match up for the last big Senate race of the 2014 cycle. Voters there will pick which Republican will challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, a former Anchorage mayor seeking a second Senate term.

The GOP primary has already been messy. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell entered the race as the establishment favorite and 11 points up in at least one poll a year ago. However, Treadwell faltered on fundraising and organization, giving a window to Dan Sullivan, the former Natural Resources commissioner under once-governor Sarah Palin. Sullivan quickly cemented himself as the frontrunner, garnering the support of the likes of Karl Rove, and has lead in polls since.

That said, don’t discount the 49th state’s ability to surprise politically. The third candidate on the ballot is a living example of that: Joe Miller, a Tea Partier who beat Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary in 2010 but lost the general election to Murkowski, who waged a rare write-in campaign. Sullivan generally garners 30-40% in polls, with Treadwell pulling 20-25% and Miller coming in with 15%-20%. Polls, though, are notoriously unreliable in this state.

The nasty primary, replete with one Miller mailer depicting illegal aliens as gang thugs, has been expensive for Republicans, with Sullivan spending more than $3 million of the $4 million he raised by the end of July. Treadwell spent more than $1 million and Miller nearly $600,000. Begich enters the general election with more than $2 million cash on hand, having spent a whopping $5.2 million in ads promoting himself or attacking his would-be rivals, mostly focusing his fire on Sullivan.

And what Alaska primary would be complete without a bit of confusion? There’s also a Dan Sullivan running for lieutenant governor, which could addle some voters unsure of which Sullivan to vote for in which race.

Begich, who has carefully tended to Alaska’s needs anticipating a tough reelection, enters the general election slightly ahead of Treadwell and Sullivan in hypothetical head-to-head match ups and with a commanding lead over Miller. He will also likely benefit from a spate of third party candidates already on the ballot, including two Libertarians likely to draw votes from the GOP candidate.

The national winds run against Begich these midterms. Six in ten Alaskan voters disapprove of President Barack Obama, to whom Republicans are tying Begich. “Mark Begich has been a champion for [Obama’s] agenda in the Senate, voting with him a staggering 97% of the time leaving even Vermont Socialist Bernie Sanders—94% of the time—in the dust,” says Brad Dayspring, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which works to elect Republicans to the Senate. “Think about that, Mark Begich votes with President Obama more than socialist Bernie Sanders no matter the issue—costly energy taxes, spending increases, and of course, Obamacare.”

Every race is local, though, and given GOP infighting and Begich’s surprising polling resilience, most independent observers rate this seat as lean Democratic.

TIME White House

Obama’s Approval Rating at All-Time Low in New Poll

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama signs "H.J. Res. 76," a bill that provides an additional $225 million in U.S. taxpayer dollars for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014, in Washington. Evan Vucci—AP

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows even lower support for congressional Republicans

President Barack Obama’s approval ratings have dipped to a new low—40%—according to a new poll released Tuesday.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which was conducted by a Democratic pollster and a Republican pollster working together, has Obama’s favorability at 40% positive and 47% negative. NBC News reports that the decline in Obama’s polling numbers stems chiefly from a decline in support among Democrats and African Americans.

The President’s approval rating for his handling of foreign policy is particularly low, at 36%.

The approval rating for Congress is far worse, crouching down at 14%, a level where it has been for several years, but disapproval in Congress isn’t split evenly across the aisle. Americans view congressional Democrats (31%) more favorably than they do congressional Republicans (19%).

The President’s dismal numbers heading into a midterm spell trouble for the Democrats but not necessarily a tidal wave like in 2006 or 2010 — enthusiasm, pollsters said, is particularly low all around this campaign season.

The NBC/WSJ survey polled 1,000 adults between July 30 and Aug. 3 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.

[NBC News]

 

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