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
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. Darren McCollester—Getty Images

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
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. Mark Lyons—EPA

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 faith

This Election Proves That Our Country Is Stuck

US-POLITICS-OBAMA-CAMPAIGN
Supporters listen as US President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign rally for Tom Wolf, Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania Governor, at the Liacouras Center at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 2, 2014. SAUL LOEB—AFP/Getty Images

With each election, Americans become less confident that their leaders will make America more just, equal and free

Our country is stuck. We’ve lost sight of what government should be. And even when we do agree on problems that need to be addressed, special interests too often confound even the broadest compromises and the most basic functions of government.

On Tuesday, Americans delivered control of the Senate to the Republican Party, yet few believe—on the right or left—that this election will create the change so many long to see. With each election, Americans become less confident that their elected leaders will be able to do the things that will make America a more just, equal and free society for everyone.

Through the corrosive influence of money in politics, the corrupt process of gerrymandering electoral district lines, and racist voter ID laws, our government is becoming less reflective of the people it represents and more reflective of the special interests of those with special access to our elected leaders. Our democracy is broken and nothing short of a people’s movement for deep, systemic change will fix it.

The state-sanctioned violence perpetrated against young African American and Latino men in this country is abominable. It is cruel and sadistic, and undergirding it are myriad, malevolent forces that are destroying communities of color and poor communities across the country. And it’s getting worse everyday.

Moreover, the privileges and fears attached to whiteness and cultivated in white communities fuel it and stop many from standing against it. This reality directly contradicts every deep tenet of our Christian faith, and if we do not challenge it, we are complicit in it. We are called to celebrate, not destroy, human life. We are required to liberate not imprison the oppressed and to love and nurture, not to annihilate, our young people.

As a Christian, I read Romans 13 and believe that government has the responsibility to “not [be] a terror.” Yet again and again, unarmed African Americans fall victim to excessive use of police force.

Millions of other Americans are suffering and dying in poverty, due to the egregious sin of income inequality. In the country that has produced the most wealth in human history, too many families are having to choose between putting food on the table for their children and paying the electric bill during cold winter months.

We, as people of conscience, and we, the people, through our government, have a duty to take on root causes of racism, poverty and economic injustice. In the 72nd Psalm, King Solomon prays that he may use his authority to “defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.” It is our duty as people of faith to take leadership in our communities to solve the problems that are keeping so many people from flourishing.

As frustrated as I am by the shortcomings of our democracy, I am hopeful that out of our disappointment will spring forth activism rooted in a faith bigger than all of us. Though hope for just legislative solutions seems dead, I remain firm in my belief in a God of resurrection. Using the fierce and grounded (and biblical) model of love and non-violence, I am hopeful that Americans of all faiths can band together to work for real change on the issues plaguing us.

Nothing less than future of our democracy is at stake.

Rev. Dr. Serene Jones is President of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, where she also holds the Johnston Family Chair in Religion and Democracy. She is Vice President of the American Academy of Religion, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and author of Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME movies

5 Election Comedies to Get You Ready for the Polls

Because it's our civic duty to laugh

If Election Day were a comedy, this is how it would play out: One candidate would be unequivocally good, the other ruthlessly evil. Political operatives would control the play-by-play from a corner office far from the action. An unexpected candidate would emerge from nowhere in the eleventh hour, throwing the race into a tizzy. The deserving candidate would lose by a tight margin, but when the evil candidate’s fraud is revealed, the rightful victor would take the throne. Bad guys out, good guys in.

But Election Day is not a comedy, and good and evil aren’t two poles separated by an impossible distance. Good isn’t always as good as it purports to be. Good, alas, often loses. It’s refreshing, though, to visit a world as simple as the one these movies imagine. Perhaps you’re a jaded would-be voter in need of convincing that some good might come from pulling that ancient lever, or maybe you long to escape the disappointment of your candidate’s certain defeat, and find yourself instead enveloped in the warmth of Chris Farley’s glow.

Either way, here are five election comedies to motivate you, console you, and get you ready for the polls on Election Day.

Black Sheep (1996)

Black Sheep belongs to a class of movies that strikes you as pure comedic genius when you’re 12 and senseless drivel once your tastes have matured. But if you can tap into whatever lingering appreciation you have for scatological humor, it’s worth watching if only to spend 87 minutes with Chris Farley. Largely a vehicle for Farley’s brutishly brilliant physical comedy, Black Sheep has many of the elements of a typical election flick. Revolving around Farley’s Mike Donnelly, hapless kid brother to Washington gubernatorial candidate Al Donnelly, the movie pits familial love against political ambitions. Mike’s efforts to help the campaign unfailingly result in public embarrassment, threatening Al’s chances of success.

Like many in the genre, the movie focuses more on the campaign than the election itself. Donnelly is pure goodness, his dedication to his brother matched only by his concern for his would-be constituents. Incumbent Governor Evelyn Tracy is pure evil, sporting a win-at-all-costs mentality that counts fraud and slander among its tactics. It’s an absurd comedy of errors in which the younger Donnelly can’t seem to catch a break, but nestled between the pratfalls and the gags is one ingredient that often runs in short supply at the polls: just a little bit of heart.

Wag the Dog (1997)

The media is as crucial to the outcome of an election as its candidates’ campaigns, and Wag the Dog shows just how powerful the news can be — even when it’s fake. Like many good election movies, and a fair share of actual elections, this one revolves around a sex scandal. The sitting president is accused, less than two weeks before the election, of sexually assaulting a young girl. To distract from the scandal and inspire patriotism among voters, the White House hires spin-doctor Conrad Brean (Robert de Niro), who enlists Hollywood producer Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) to stage a fake war with Albania.

Wag the Dog is intelligent satire in contrast to Black Sheep’s inane Looney Toon-esque shenanigans. Released one month before the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the movie had Roger Ebert perceptively noting, “It is getting harder and harder for satire to stay ahead of reality.” Rather than dishing up an inspiring good-guys-win narrative, it reminds the audience — American voters — how gullible we can be in the face of an effective media campaign. “Why does a dog wag its tail?” the opening credits ask. “Because a dog is smarter than its tail. If the tail were smarter, the tail would wag the dog.” In Wag the Dog, we are the brainless tail, ever at the whim of the scheming dog.

Election (1999)

“Winning isn’t everything,” says Tracy Flick. “Win or lose, ethical conduct is the most important thing.” Reese Witherspoon’s Flick is desperate for political glory in this portrayal of a viciously contested race for student council president. For a story about student government, it has all the trappings of a full-grown adult election: sex scandals and personal vendettas, witch hunts and sabotage. Blaming Tracy for her part in an affair that got his best friend fired, popular teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) will do anything to take her down. His meddling leads to a contest that stands in stark contrast to the ideals he espouses in his social studies class.

Rotating between narrators, director Alexander Payne explores Tracy’s statement: Is ethical conduct more important than victory? And does it guarantee victory, or all but rule it out? Witherspoon delivers one of her most memorable roles as the type-A Flick, who sees victory as her destiny, and destiny as inescapable.

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Napoleon Dynamite may be a geek movie before it is an election movie, but the election between Pedro Sánchez (Efren Ramirez) and Summer Wheatley (Haylie Duff) plays a central role in the nerdy protagonists’ victory over their high school’s popular posse. Pedro is a transfer student whom Napoleon befriends and supports in his campaign for school president. He has the charisma of a sloth in a coma, always donning a blank stare above his bolo tie. His opponent, Summer, is equally uninspiring, banking on her social status to deliver her to victory.

Pedro’s election speech leaves much to be desired. When he promises the students, “If you vote for me, all of your wildest dreams will come true,” his tone is like that of a doctor delivering bad news. But a vote for Pedro is less a vote for change than it is a symbol of the underdog getting his due, a nerd with no ideas defeating a cheerleader with no ideas. Many a voter will sigh, waiting in line to cast her ballot, that she’s choosing the lesser of two evils, the better option between two mediocre choices. Napoleon Dynamite asks us to make this choice — and to compensate for its candidates’ lack of imagination, it gave us the dance scene of the decade.

The Campaign (2012)

The Campaign opens with a quote from Ross Perot, a presidential candidate perhaps best remembered for the size of his ears. “War has rules. Mud wrestling has rules. Politics has no rules.” And so the tone is set for opponents Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) and Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), an incumbent and an underdog vying for one seat in Congress. The Campaign offers a parody of modern elections that rings true for all its hyperbole. Gains in the polls are driven by strong hair and the frequency with which a candidate invokes America, Jesus and Freedom. Pandering is the rule, as Brady tells every group he meets — troops, farmers, audio installation specialists, and Filipino tilt-a-whirl operators — that they are the backbone of America.

In its best moments — when it’s not resorting to fat jokes and bathroom humor — The Campaign is funny because it’s so familiar. Big money decides who runs and what they stand for. Campaign managers shape candidates’ images, from their wives’ hairstyles to the eagle-inspired artwork adorning their living rooms. And a significant focus on attack ads, amplifying a particle of dirt into a full-blown dust storm, distracts from the time candidates spend discussing what they actually stand for. It would be farfetched to call The Campaign a cinematic feat. But it does make us consider the just-discernable line between reality and farce.

MONEY Social Security

Here’s a Quick Guide to Fixing Social Security

Band-Aid on Social Security card
John Kuczala—Getty Images

These changes could easily balance the program for the next 75 years. But reaching consensus on the mix of reforms is the real challenge.

Social Security likely will move back to center stage after this week’s elections. The program’s finances have eroded bit by bit for years, drawing calls for change every year. But nothing has been done. Now Congress could continue kicking this can down the road. Or it could decide to actually tackle the problem and change things, most likely as part of a broader look that also includes Medicare and Medicaid.

With favorable prospects for a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, stories already abound about raising the retirement age, changing the annual cost-of-living adjustment or raising the ceiling on earnings subject to the payroll tax.

AARP, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare and other Social Security support groups have gone on the offensive. Far from just defending the program from cuts, they are speaking out aggressively about the merits of raising benefits

All of which makes a recent report from the Social Security Administration particularly timely. It reviews more than 120 ideas for changing Social Security and calculates how each would affect the program’s future finances. The report was overseen by Stephen C. Goss, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration. If any source is both informed and free from political spin, it is this one.

Within this list are enough changes to balance the program several times over during the next 75 years. But then, this has never been the issue. Rather, the contentious debate has been over the “right” mix of changes. And people have not been able to agree on that.

Here’s a quick guide to the reforms that would have the biggest impact, according to the report. It is tempting to just add up the financial impact of each change to see if they erase the Social Security shortfall. But, as the report notes, some reforms would affect others. So although the sum of impact of the changes will give you a ballpark estimate, the actual results are likely to be a bit different.

Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA). The annual cost-of-living adjustment to Social Security benefits (1.7% for 2015) has received lots of attention, primarily from a proposal to substitute a less-generous “chained” Consumer Price Index for the current inflation measure used to set the yearly change. Using the chained CPI would close 19% of the program’s projected shortfall. A more draconian measure—reducing the COLA by a percentage point from what it would otherwise be—would cut 61% of the shortfall all by itself. However, senior’s groups think the COLA should be increased to more accurately reflect the larger weight of health costs for older consumers. This proposal would raise the shortfall by 13%.

Monthly Benefits. Adjusting the complex formulas used to calculate benefits could make big dents in the shortfall. Right now, benefit increases are tied to changes in average wages. Linking them instead to general price inflation could cut as much as 90% of the system’s shortfall. That’s because wages historically have risen by more than the rate of inflation, so this change would effectively reduce the size of future benefit increases. There also are a slew of suggested sweeteners that would reduce the pain of smaller increases, although they tend not to add much to the shortfall.

Retirement Age. The normal retirement age for benefits is now 66 and set to rise to 67 in the year 2027. Raising it to 68 over a six-year period would shave 15% from the shortfall, while increasing it to 69 over 12 years would cut 35% off the long-term deficit. Raising the age to 70 over a shorter time period, and automatically adjusting it to reflect expected longevity gains, would cut the shortfall by an even larger 48%—but that’s only if the hike is combined with an increase in the earliest age for claiming benefits from 62 to 64. Reducing benefits to early retirees is strongly opposed by senior and labor groups who argue that workers in physically demanding jobs are often forced to retire early for health reasons.

Payroll Taxes and Covered Earnings. The system could be balanced by raising the payroll tax rate from its current level of 12.4% (paid half and half by employees and employers). There is a separate payroll tax for Medicare. Other proposals would raise the wage ceiling subject to payment taxes, which will rise to $118,500 in 2015. These suggestions would have large effects on program shortfalls. Simply eliminating the wage ceiling for employer payments would cut 50% from the projected 75-year deficit. Raising the ceiling so that 90% of earned wages are subject to Social Security taxes would cut 48% of the deficit. The stiffest medicine – raising the tax rate from 12.4% to 15.5%—would balance the program all by itself, and then some. On the flip side, a proposal to exempt people with more than 45 years of earnings from payroll taxes would widen the deficit by 11%. Such a change, advocates say, would improve retiree incomes and stop penalizing older workers, who must continue payroll taxes even thought their benefits do not rise as a result.

Trust Fund Investments. Social Security reserves are now invested in a special issue of U.S. Treasury Securities. Putting some of these funds into the stock market has long been a high priority of many conservatives, and strongly opposed by liberal groups. If 40% of trust funds were invested in stocks, and if they earned an annual return of 6.4%, after calculating the effects of inflation, this would close 21% of the program’s long-term funding shortfall. For comparison, the report assumed the long-term returns of the special issue of Treasury securities would be 2.9% a year, after inflation.

Getting the “right” mix of changes would be terrific, but enacting even a mediocre compromises next year would be far, far better. Think about a series of trade-offs. One side might get a later retirement age and reductions in the rate of future benefit growth, from changes to the COLA and annual wage base. The other side could get hefty hikes in payroll taxes for wealthier workers and more protection for lower-income, early retirees. Now if we could only get Congress to start the negotiations.

Philip Moeller is an expert on retirement, aging, and health. His book, “Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security,” will be published early next year by Simon & Schuster. Reach him at moeller.philip@gmail.com or @PhilMoeller on Twitter.

More on Social Security:

3 Smart Fixes for Social Security and Medicare

Social Security is the Best Deal

Can We Save Social Security?

TIME 2014 Election

Mitch McConnell Makes His Closing Argument

GOP Senate Candidate Mitch McConnell Marches In Veterans Day Parade
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. Win McNamee—Getty Images

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

These 9 Slides Show the Surprisingly Low Impact of Libertarian Candidates

Despite growing numbers of candidates, they almost never even succeed as spoilers by throwing the race to one candidate or another.

Almost no one seriously thinks that Sean Haugh will be the next senator from North Carolina. But political observers in both major parties are worried that the pizza deliveryman and Libertarian candidate could siphon enough votes to sway the election, likely to be one of the closest in the country on Tuesday. And stakes couldn’t be higher: any one election could determine control of the Senate in 2015.

But which party has more to fear from Haugh? Kentucky Senator Rand Paul campaigned for Republican nominee Thom Tillis in early October, a move seen as an attempt to shore up Libertarian-leaning Republican voters. More recently, the American Future Fund, a conservative outside spending group, bet $225,000 that Haugh could flip the election in the Republicans’ with an ad campaign focused on his unembarrassed enthusiasm for marijuana, aimed to draw away younger supporters of Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan.

Though Haugh is currently polling at around 5 percent—more than the margin between Tillis and Hagan—he is very unlikely to spoil anything other than the hopes of a few misled pot smokers. While the threat of spoiler candidates makes for breathless headlines and titillating front-page reads, the real odds of this happening are extremely slim.

For starters, it is very rare for a Congressional contest to be decided by a margin small enough for a third-party candidate to make a difference. Of the 1,873 elections that TIME examined—every House and Senate race going back to 2006, not including special elections and runoffs—only 70 were won with less than 50 percent of the vote. A Libertarian candidate ran in 46 of them.

The threat of a spoiler candidate is further exaggerated by the common assumption that third-party voters would otherwise turn up at the polls at all.

“That’s the old style to think about voting,” says Stanford professor Jon Krosnick, a social psychologist and polling expert. “We’ve now come to recognize that the candidates influence turnout. The presence of the third-party candidate can lure people to vote who otherwise wouldn’t have voted at all.”

It’s impossible to know with any precision how people would have behaved without the presence of a third-party candidate. Even asking them in polls is unreliable, given that pollsters typically report unrealistically high turnout figures when they ask people if they voted.

The picture is confounded yet further by the fact that a distaste for the major parties is often the motivation that draw a person to a third-party candidate in the first place.

That’s a view shared by Emily Salvette, who drew 10,630 votes as a Libertarian in the 2012 race for Michigan’s 1st District. “I do honestly think that a lot of people wouldn’t have voted,” she says. “They’re not engaged anymore because they don’t like the choice.” The Republican in that contest, Congressman Dan Benishek, edged out his Democratic challenger by 1,881 votes.

Depending whose base you think Salvette drew from, you might call her either a spoiler or nearly one. But Salvette says she saw support from voters with a variety of viewpoints, including people who supported her views on everything from medical marijuana to gun rights.

This is where the spoiler math falls apart: 1,881 votes doesn’t seem like a large share of Salvette’s 10,630. But to tip the election to the Democrat, every single one of the people who voted for Salvette would have had to show up had Salvette not been in the race—very unlikely—and they would have had to break for the Democrat by a sizable margin of 59-41. The fewer voters that show up, the larger that margin needs to be.

Of course, it is typically the Republican candidate who feels more threatened by a Libertarian in the race.

“Republicans think that the Libertarian vote comes out of their column,” says University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. In fact, there’s evidence from exit polls in the 2013 Virginia governor’s race that Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who garnered 145,762 votes in a race decided by about 55,000, drew more support from winner Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat, than from Republican Ken Cuccinelli. The majority of Sarvis’ supporters said they otherwise would not have voted.

It’s certainly possible to find more compelling cases for spoilers. In 2012, Democrat Jim Matheson beat challenger Mia Love in Utah’s 4th District by 768 votes, while Libertarian Jim Vein received 6,439 votes—and earned some unkind attention from Republicans before the votes were fully counted. Even so, half of Vein’s voters would have needed to show up without him in the race, those supporters would have had to vote for Love over Matheson by at least a 61-39 margin to make a difference.

Even the most famous supposed spoiler in modern history–the 2000 presidential election in Florida–is less clear-cut than most of us recall. One statistical analysis of polls and ballot returns suggests that Nader’s supporters would only have broken for Gore over Bush by a 60-40 margin, if they broke for either candidate. That many of Nader’s supporters would otherwise have turned out and supported either major-party candidate is far from established.

When an election is that close, blaming a third-party candidate is the electoral equivalent of blaming Bill Buckner for spoiling the 1986 World Series for the Boston Red Sox: It is merely the most visible excuse for a loss that could have been reversed if one of a thousand factors had gone just a little better.

TIME

Obama Rallies Wisconsin Democrats for Mary Burke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–With reporting by Zeke Miller in Washington.

TIME 2014 elections

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

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

One poll doth not a trend make

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIME 2014 Election

Pelosi and Hillary Join Forces to Rally Democratic Women

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

The event brought together Clinton and Obama supporters from 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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