TIME 2014 Election

Ebola Travel Ban Wins Support From Another Embattled Democratic Candidate

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

New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is the latest Democrat to open up to an Ebola travel ban

Over the past several days, New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown has not let up hammering his Democratic opponent about Ebola.

On Thursday, he called on President Barack Obama to institute a travel ban from West Africa. On Friday, he said Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, is “rubber-stamping the President’s policy,” by opposing his position. He also told Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade that if 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had won, Ebola wouldn’t be a problem. The next day he wrote a letter urging Shaheen to accept a travel ban, saying that the position goes “beyond partisan politics.”

By Monday, Shaheen could take no more. “Senator Shaheen has contacted New Hampshire officials about local preparedness,” her spokesman Harrell Kirstein said Monday afternoon, just days after Shaheen said a travel ban did not make sense. “She strongly supports any and all effective measures to keep Americans safe including travel bans if they would work.”

Brown and other Republicans in tightly contested Senate races have put Democrats on their heels by following public polls that show a majority of the country wants to combat Ebola with a travel ban, even though health experts warn that such a move would make the crises in West Africa worse and ultimately increase the likelihood that the virus travels again to the United States.

Shaheen joins an ever-growing cohort of vulnerable Democrats running for Senate that have moved on the issue. Over the past week, Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, and Georgia candidate Michelle Nunn, have announced they are in favor of some type of travel ban. On Friday, North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan even flip-flopped in favor of a ban, saying she supported it just days after saying it would not help.

Other Senate Democratic candidates may still shift under Republican and public pressure. On Tuesday, a Washington Post-ABC poll found that two-thirds of respondents support restricting entry to the United States for people who’ve been in the West African affected countries. The next Senate Democratic candidate to support a travel ban could very well be Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, who has advocated to expand airport screenings, but has faced pressure to commit to a ban from her opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

Dr. Pearson Cross, an associate political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, says that Landrieu could face a “high,” short-term political cost otherwise. “If Landrieu doesn’t support a travel ban it may be spun that she is insufficiently concerned with protecting America and Louisiana’s health and interests in the name of political correctness,” says Cross. “That could be used in a campaign ad and on the trail where people are quite concerned about this fast-moving and often misunderstood issue.”

On Friday, Cook Political Report, the nonpartisan election handicapper, threw the race from leaning Shaheen to a “toss-up,” citing the unfavorable Democratic environment, voters finally tuning in with two weeks left in the race and Brown’s campaign abilities. “There’s been a lot of public attention to the threat of Ebola, so it’s definitely playing here,” says Dr. Dante Scala, an associate political science professor at the University of New Hampshire. “I’m sure there’s a lot more concern about that among voters than there is about the Senate race itself. I think it transcends politics in that way.”

With the political winds growing so strongly, even the White House has, at times, encouraged Democratic candidates to criticize the administration over Ebola. Last week, Iowa Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley, who is running for Senate against Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst and said he would consider the travel ban, admonished the Administration for not acting fast enough. Asked about the comments, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that Braley was “somebody that has a reputation for being willing to speak truth to power, whether they’re in the same party as him or not.”

“I think this is another indication that he’s willing to do that,” Earnest added.

TIME 2014 Election

On the Road with Rand Paul

Can he fix what ails the GOP?

The tattooed and pierced longhairs never showed up to see Senator Rand Paul speak with students at the University of South Carolina in Columbia last month. Those in attendance drew instead from the preppy set, with brushed bangs, blue blazers and proper hemlines, some wearing sunglasses on neck straps like jock jewelry. They mostly hailed from college Republican circles, and the room where they gathered, a wood-stained memorial to the state’s old power structure, was named for the politician who led the fight to protect school segregation in the 1960s.

You could call them activists, even rebels in their way. But this was not a gathering of losers and outcasts. Paul knew this. And that was the whole point…

Read the full story here.

TIME 2014 Election

No One Should Be Excited About Winning the Senate

Views Of The U.S. Capitol As Congress Plans To Return Nov. 12
The U.S. Capitol Building on Friday, Oct. 3, 2014. Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Both parties quietly acknowledge gridlock will reign no matter who wins

When all is said and done next month, hundreds of millions of dollars will have been spent to influence a few million voters who will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

That power might not be worth the effort.

Behind closed doors, Democrats readily admit their Senate agenda is dead in the water, whether they win or lose. Republicans agree their pitch to radically alter the course of Washington by picking up a few seats after November is essentially a fairy tale. In conversations with more than two-dozen operatives and party strategists, none was willing to make the case against winning the Senate with their name attached, wary of upsetting those who have invested do much in the cycle. But several on both sides of the aisle argued that winning could actually be a bad thing in the long run.

“The irony of this cycle is that hundreds of millions are going to be spent fighting over an outcome that won’t impact the policy American’s see out of Washington one bit,” said one senior Capitol Hill Democrat. “If Democrats lose the Senate, the 2016 Democratic nominee can run against Congress and Senate Democrats would be poised to recapture it in two years. Unless or until the House changes, Washington won’t change.”

Republican operatives are quick to say the same about control White House, but express outright worry about the impact of taking the Senate their chances of doing so in 2016. “We’re promising people that things will dramatically change if we win the majority, but we all know that’s not going to happen,” said a Republican operative working on Senate races. “Where will that leave our candidates in 2016?”

In many circles, the talk is more than just a defeatist attitude. It’s strategic question that has rarely been voiced publicly. Operatives on both sides see upside in being in the minority next year. In Democrats’ telling, likely-candidate Hillary Clinton could run on a narrative of Republican obstruction to passing legislation on issues like income inequality, raising the minimum wage, and equal pay for women. Republicans, looking to boost a bench of governors eyeing the White House, see a potent message in allowing them to rail against Washington dysfunction.

“It really is a kind of prank prize, but more for Democrats than Republicans,” said Republican consultant Rick Wilson. “For the GOP, the chance of a Senate majority to block Obama’s Supreme Court nominees is worth all the agony, trouble, hard choices, and put-up-or-shut-up problems.”

Republicans know they may have substantially less latitude, not more, to oppose President Barack Obama outright if they gain the majority. They may be able to oppose specific nominees, but would be wary of earning an obstructionist title in practice, lest their 2016 candidates go down in flames. Others point to the fleeting nature of the potential Republican pick-up, with the GOP facing an unfavorable map in 2016 that is likely to result in losing seats.

Ultimately the biggest winners and losers are the Senators themselves, with the potential to see their power dramatically increased or diminished as committee chairmanships and the Senate agenda hang in the balance.

The primary fear among Democrats is nominations, particularly the potential or a vacancy on the Supreme Court, which Obama alluded to in conversations with donors this summer. After that, former Harry Reid aide Rodell Mollineau said, it’s about controlling the conversation in Washington. “Do you really want to spend the next two years on defense talking about national right to work laws and whatever harsh immigration policies Republicans come up with, or would you rather have a conversation about jobs and minimum wage,” he said.

On the Republican side, operatives now see the building up of expectations as necessitating a win, following the party’s 2012 defeat and inability to take the Senate during the 2010 wave. “Another loss would only further send the party’s political infrastructure down a spiral that will be hard to dig out of in time to fight against Hillary in 2016,” said one Republican operative focused on 2016 races. “We need momentum excitement coming out of November to get supporters engaged so we can start building the political behemoth that will be required to take on Hillary.”

TIME Congress

Montana Senator’s Degree Revoked Over Plagiarism Charges

John Walsh
Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) speaks on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on March 27, 2014 Charles Dharapak—AP

John Walsh is not seeking reelection

The Army War College revoked Montana Democratic Sen. John Walsh’s master’s degree Friday, almost three months after a report indicated he had plagiarized portions of a paper while enrolled as a student.

“Though I disagree with the findings made by the War College, I accept its decision with great humility and respect for the U.S. Military,” Walsh said in a statement. “I apologize to all Montanans for the plagiarism in my 2007 paper, and I am prepared to live with its consequences. I may not be a scholar but I am proud to have been a soldier who has served Montana and this great nation for 33 years in uniform.”

“As Montanans choose their next U.S. Senator over the next few weeks, I will continue proudly serving this state through the end of this term,” added Walsh, who isn’t seeking reelection. “I look forward to fighting for veterans and their families. I look forward to doing all we can for the small businesses that call our state home. I will keep fighting for the freedom of choice and equal pay for women, and for access to our public lands.”

Walsh dropped out of his race for another term in August. Montana Republican Rep. Steve Daines is favored to succeed him in the conservative state.

TIME 2014 Election

In Georgia, Perdue Counterpunches on Outsourcing

David Perdue, Michelle Nunn
Georgia Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Michelle Nunn, right, shakes hands with Republican candidate David Perdue following a debate, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, in Perry, Ga. David Goldman—AP

Facing a new and damaging attack on his jobs record a month before election day, Georgia GOP Senate candidate David Perdue and his allies have settled on a hard-knuckle strategy: accept the hit and strike back by talking about Obama.

Perdue defended recently unearthed comments he made during a 2005 court case that he spent “most” of his career outsourcing, saying this week that he was “proud” of his work as a businessman and politician. When his opponent, Democrat Michelle Nunn, bashed him in a new ad titled “In His Words” Tuesday, Perdue released one of his own soon thereafter saying that Nunn has been “hiding” her support of President Barack Obama’s “job-killing, big government policies.” That night in a rowdy debate, Perdue labeled Nunn’s moves on the outsourcing issue a “false attack” and said the government had “decimated entire industries.” On Thursday, the Nunn campaign created a new website and video dedicated to hammering Perdue over the outsourcing comments.

Georgia Republican strategists have provided Perdue cover, echoing the refrain that Nunn, if elected to the Senate, would be a proxy for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama. In a race that could determine who controls the Senate majority, that just might work.

“David Perdue is focused on making this election a choice about what direction the Senate and thus the country is going,” says Georgia GOP strategist Joel McElhannon. “With a Perdue vote, one opposes Obama and Reid’s agenda. With a Nunn vote, one supports it. That’s a very simple, focused choice he is presenting to the voters. It’s powerful and it works.”

“President Obama is about as popular as Ebola in Georgia right now,” he adds.

“The whole campaign is not going to focus on this particular [outsourcing] issue; I think you have to look at the whole picture,” says Eric J. Tanenblatt, who has helped raise money for Perdue, but also worked for Hands on Atlanta, a volunteer service organization, with Nunn. “I did think that David really drove home [in Tuesday's debate] what I believe is the key issue in this campaign—that we don’t need to continue down the path of Harry Reid and Barack Obama. Electing Michelle Nunn, while she claims to be independent…she is still a Democrat and will be a part of the Democratic caucus.”

Nunn’s campaign for its part sees that the tie-in to Reid and Obama is problematic. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won Georgia by nearly 8 points in 2012; Nunn has been around 3 points behind Perdue for months, according to Real Clear Politics. (Although, as the New York Times‘ Nate Cohen pointed out Wednesday, those polls could be underestimating black Democrats.) Gordon Giffin, the Nunn campaign chairman, calls the tactic “arrogant and dismissive,” but still recognizes the threat.

“I think that the only argument that the Perdue campaign seems to present is the notion that somehow Michelle is associated with President Obama and Harry Reid,” says Giffin. “They don’t address what she has to say about her own views, and that is in some ways arrogant and dismissive. She’s her own person; she’s got her own mind and thoughts.”

“That’s got to be responded to because she, like her father [former Georgia Democratic Senator Sam Nunn] was, is an independent thinker on behalf of Georgia,” he adds. “So that is an issue that has to be dealt with because it is distracting. It really doesn’t go to who she is or what she stands for.”

To counter the Obama drag, the campaign is pushing Nunn as a bridge between the two major parties, someone who understands that the president’s eponymous health care law, for example, needs to be reformed. Of course, they’re willing to use Perdue’s outsourcing comment to help her win.

“Mr. Perdue has made his business record the central qualification that he argues he has to be elected to the Senate,” says Giffin. “The more he’s out there saying you should elect me because of my business record and because I know how to create jobs the more you’ve got to say, ‘Yeah, you know how to create jobs in China and Singapore but not in the United States.’”

Independent analysts and even some Republicans agree that the outsourcing comments could pose a problem for Perdue. Andra Gillespie, an associate political science professor at Emory, says that Nunn’s attacks, in addition to the fact that Nunn and Perdue are “novices” running for an open seat, are “helping to keep the race competitive,” even though the historic voting trends give Republicans “the edge.” Todd Rehm, a GOP Georgia-based consultant, says that Nunn’s populist message has challenged Perdue to “connect his policies with the day-to-day lives of voters.” In such a tight race, Jennifer Duffy, a Senate election expert at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, says Democrats “have to hope” the outsourcing comments make Perdue look like “Romney 2.0—elitist and out for himself” to help fire up the base.

“In 2012, voters in Georgia decided that they disliked President Obama’s policies more than Romney’s shortcomings,” says Duffy. “In 2014, their choice is between Nunn, who Republicans have worked to portray as a proxy for the President and a less-than-ideal alternative in Perdue.”

TIME Senate

Ted Cruz: We Must Amend U.S. Constitution to Defend Marriage

Conservatives Gather For Voter Values Summit
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit, Sept. 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

The Texas senator called the Supreme Court's rejection of appeals to uphold same-sex marriage bans in five states "judicial activism at its worst"

Senator Ted Cruz (R—Tex.) announced Monday that he will introduce a constitutional amendment barring the federal government and the courts from overturning state marriage laws.

The announcement follows the Supreme Court’s decision Monday to reject the appeals requests of five states seeking to outlaw same-sex marriages, permitting gay unions to go ahead in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

“By refusing to rule if the States can define marriage, the Supreme Court is abdicating its duty to uphold the Constitution,” Cruz said in a statement. “The fact that the Supreme Court Justices, without providing any explanation whatsoever, have permitted lower courts to strike down so many state marriage laws is astonishing.”

Cruz described the court’s denial of appeals, which paves the away for an expansion of legalized same-sex marriage to as many as 30 states, as “judicial activism at its worst” and “a broad interpretation of the 14th Amendment” guaranteeing equal protection under the law, with “far-reaching consequences.”

The Texas Republican isn’t the first to propose amending the constitution over same-sex marriage. In 2013, following the Supreme Court’s striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R.-Kan.) introduced legislation for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (formerly R-Va.) proposed a similar amendment back in 2006.

TIME politics

Kirsten Gillibrand On Why She Hates the Phrase ‘Having It All’

The Senator from New York opens up about appearance, sexism and how competitive sports helped her succeed

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) hates the phrase “having it all.”

“I think it’s insulting,” she told TIME’s Nancy Gibbs at the Real Simple/TIME Women & Success Panel Wednesday night. “What are you ‘having?’ A party? Another slice of pie?”

“‘All’ implies that a woman staying home with her kids is somehow living a life half-full. What we’re really talking about is doing it all. How do we help women do all the things they want to do?”

Gillibrand knows a thing or two about doing it all. The junior Senator from New York has spent much of her five years in office fighting to address sexual assaults in the military and on college campuses, all while raising two young boys. She opens up about her journey in a new book, Off the Sidelines, which included a bombshell revelation that some of her fellow Senators had made comments about her weight, including the now-infamous “porky” comments. She dedicates a whole chapter in her book to how a hyper-focus on appearance affects women who run for office.

(MORE: Frozen Songwriter Kristen Anderson-Lopez on Her ‘Aha’ Moment)

“In my first race, my opponent went after me twice on two different kinds of appearance digs: the first was she’s just a pretty face, meaning I’m far too stupid to be in Congress. And I said ‘thank you,'” she said. “The second one was negative campaign mailers where he used a very unattractive picture of me where I happened to be doing a press conference outside and my hair is waving wildly. And he tints it green, so I looked like this crazy witch with crazy hair and a green face—as if to say ‘how could you possibly trust this woman?'”

“They’ve studied this and they’ve found when [a woman]’s appearance is commented on publicly during a campaign, it undermines her; it actually hurts her,” the Senator said. “And it doesn’t matter if the comment is positive or negative. It undermines her credibility.”

But how did Gillibrand gain the confidence to continue running for office, despite her detractors? She attributes a lot of that bravery to playing competitive sports as a girl. “When you play on a soccer team or a squash team, you lose a lot, so you’re not afraid of being in a competitive situation,” she said. “I all of a sudden realized you can win by losing. When you play a tough match, when you compete, you learn a lot about your opponent.”

She also learned through competitive sports that losing can be “a gift.”

(MORE: Tamron Hall on How Not Getting Jobs Helped Her Succeed)

“If you’re willing to fail, you’re willing to compete,” she said. “You will not only learn faster, but that fear is eliminated.”

She added that mentorship helps a lot in navigating those moments when you do fail. She said Hillary Clinton has taken a few moments here and there over the course of her career to guide her in the right direction, and it’s helped her immensely, encouraging audience members to reach out to other young women in a mentorship capacity.

“[Clinton] helped me make the right decisions at the right time,” she said.

(MORE: Kirsten Gillibrand on the 2014 TIME 100)

But Gillibrand was careful to add that, for her, success wasn’t just about empowering professional women to achieve their goals–it was also about helping poor women. “We have to break the glass ceiling, but we also have to clean the sticky floor,” she said, noting that women are the sole or primary breadwinners in 4 out of 10 American families. “All of these women who are working to provide for their kids also need basic support.”

In order to help those women, the U.S. workforce needs paid family leave, equal pay, and universal pre-K, she said, adding that we’re unlikely to see those advancements until there are more women in Congress. Gillibrand pointed to the debate over contraception as an example of how out-of-touch the mostly-male legislature is with women’s issues, noting that 98% of American women have taken some form of contraception in their lives.

“Basic rights that our mothers and grandmothers successfully fought for are still on the table,” she said. “I can guarantee you that if Congress was 51% women, we wouldn’t be wasting a day on whether women should have affordable contraception. We would be talking about the economy.”

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 Flowery 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 Election

Cosmopolitan Ditches ‘Sexiest Man’ Scott Brown in Senate Race

Scott Brown
In this Sept. 12, 2014 photo, Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown speaks during a campaign event at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. Elise Amendola—AP

Does he get no thanks for posing nude back in '82?

Cosmopolitan is “picking brains over brawn” in the 2014 Senate race in New Hampshire: the magazine is endorsing not Scott Brown, its 1982 “Sexiest Man in America,” but his competitor, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, the magazine said Tuesday.

“While we wish we could support the man who once posed nude in our pages, his policy positions just aren’t as solid as his abs were in the ’80s,” Cosmo said of the Republican candidate, a onetime Senator from Massachusetts who has decamped to the Granite State.

Cosmo added that Brown lagged behind incumbent candidate Shaheen in clarifying his positions on key women’s issues, including access to reproductive care.

“Brown said he disapproved of cutting family planning funding, but also supported a bill to defund Planned Parenthood,” Cosmo said. “And when reporters tried to ask him about his views on contraception access, he literally hid in the bathroom to avoid answering the question.”

In June 1982, Cosmo ran a two-page centerfold of a beaming, naked Brown, the winner of its “Sexiest Man in America” contest and then a 22-year-old law student at Boston College.

Two decades later, when Brown was a Senator and running for re-election in Massachusetts (he lost to the liberal Elizabeth Warren), Cosmo again lauded him as looking “pretty damn good for his age,” quipping “Vote for Brown. He Has One Hell of a Stimulus Package.”

Polls in New Hampshire have shown a tight race between Shaheen and Brown, who appears to be buoyed by the state’s discontent with President Barack Obama.

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.

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