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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.2.14

10/02/14 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
* In Kansas, the new Suffolk poll shows Paul Davis (D) leading Gov. Sam Brownback (R) by four, 46% to 42%. The same poll shows Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach up by five over his Democratic challenger, former state Sen. Jean Kurtis Schodorf, 45% to 40%.
* In Ferguson, Missouri, voter registration has soared in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting and subsequent crisis.
* In Wisconsin's gubernatorial race, the new Marquette Law School Poll shows Gov. Scott Walker (R) leading Mary Burke (D), 50% to 45%. The margin is greater than nearly all other recent polling in the state.
* In New Hampshire's U.S. Senate race, most recent polling shows Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) leading former Sen. Scott Brown (R), but the latest New England College Poll shows them tied at 47% each.
* In related news, Brown told Fox News this week that contraception and pay-equity measures aren't the kind of issues "that people care about."
* In Brown's other home state, the latest WBUR poll shows Martha Coakley (D) leading Charlie Baker (R) in Massachusetts' gubernatorial race, 44% to 41%.
Republican gubernatorial candidate winner Bob Beauprez addresses supporters at an election party in Denver on Tuesday, June 24, 2014.

Personhood trips up yet another Colorado Republican

10/02/14 11:41AM

In Colorado this week, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) faced off against former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) in a televised debate, and according to one of the local reports, their discussion got a little confusing when the issue of "personhood" measures came up.
"You have switched on personhood in this election," the governor told his challenger. Beauprez replied, "I am opposed to the personhood amendment."
"I said that," Hickenlooper interjected, prompting Beauprez to respond, "You said personhood. There's a big difference."
Admittedly, I didn't see the debate, and I can't say for sure that this report from the local CBS affiliate is exactly correct. But if the Republican really believes there's a difference between personhood and personhood, it might be time for the former congressman to up his game.
Personhood has been a problem for a high-profile Colorado Republican for the U.S. House; it's been a huge problem for a high-profile Colorado Republican for the U.S. Senate; and it's apparently now a problem for a high-profile Colorado Republican for governor.
Complicating matters, Beauprez whole approach to reproductive health is suspect.
Beauprez refused to answer what he called a "hypothetical" question on whether or not he would sign a ban on abortion and went on to say he opposes IUD contraceptives, which he labeled an "abortifacient", the equivalent to a drug that causes an abortion.
"I'm unabashedly pro-life," said Beauprez, who also said he respects those with other views and would uphold the law, which protects abortion, if elected governor.
It might be worth asking Beauprez if he actually knows what an IUD is.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks at an event on, Sept. 20, 2014, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo by Chris Carlson/AP)

Ebola shouldn't be the new political football

10/02/14 10:58AM

A couple of weeks ago, President Obama traveled to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to unveil an ambitious U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa, including money, materials, and military and health personnel. Almost immediately, the right started complaining bitterly.
"We are sending more soldiers to fight Ebola than we are sending to fight ISIS or other Muslim terrorists," Rush Limbaugh told his listeners. "I didn't know you could shoot a virus. Did you?"
Now that an Ebola case has been diagnosed in the United States, the right's politicization instincts are kicking in once more. Fox News' Steve Doocy went so far as to suggest the CDC may not be entirely trustworthy -- it's part of the Obama administration, Doocy said, which Fox News viewers believe "has misled a lot of people on a lot of things."
And then there's Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who's worried about Ebola and "political correctness."
[Paul] on Wednesday questioned President Obama's decision to dispatch 3,000 U.S. troops to West Africa to help combat the Ebola virus.
"Where is disease most transmittable? When you're in very close confines on a ship," Paul said on Laura Ingraham's radio show. "We all know about cruises and how they get these diarrhea viruses that are transmitted very easily and the whole ship gets sick. Can you imagine if a whole ship full of our soldiers catch Ebola?"
The senator specifically added, "I really think it is being dominated by political correctness."
Also yesterday, Paul talked about Ebola with Glenn Beck -- because, you know, that's what U.S. senators and prospective presidential candidates do -- and argued that the public may not be frightened enough. "I do think you have to be concerned," the Kentucky Republican told Beck. "It's an incredibly transmissible disease that everyone is downplaying, saying it's hard to catch.... I'm very concerned about this. I think at the very least there needs to be a discussion about airline travel between the countries that have the raging disease."
I'll assume the senator isn't recommending a flight ban for Dallas.
Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Scott Brown's noticeable absences on border security

10/02/14 10:15AM

Over the summer, former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) held a forum in his new home state of New Hampshire, where he focused much of his attention on border security. "We have a breakdown in immigration," the Republican argued. "So why is there a breakdown? Do we need more examiners? More judges? What is it?  I've had hearings on it. I've tried to work on it."
Unfortunately for Brown, this is about as true as his claims about secret meeting with kings and queens. Sean Sullivan reported yesterday:
Former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown (R) has run several attack ad scriticizing Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) for failing to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. But as a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, he missed all six hearings on border security that he was eligible to attend, records suggest.
Brown was absent from five hearings in 2011 and one in 2010, according to a review of public records and congressional transcripts and video. Of the six, four were full committee hearings and two were meetings of the subcommittee on Disaster Recovery and Intergovernmental Affairs, to which he belonged.
The obvious problem is that Brown has based much of his campaign on concerns about border security -- an issue he never showed much of an interest in until he left his home state to run somewhere new. Indeed, the fact that he skipped six out of six hearings on the subject during his brief tenure in the U.S. Senate suggests Brown's passion for border security is a sudden and unexpected development.
But arguably more important still is a basic question of honesty. Brown told New Hampshire voters that he's developed some expertise on this issue he never used to care about. "I've had hearings," the Republican boasted. "I've tried to work on it."
Except, it now seems clear that that he didn't.
A Secret Service agent watches as U.S. President Barack Obama boards the Marine One helicopter, Aug. 26, 2014.

NC's Tillis finds a way to politicize the Secret Service

10/02/14 09:40AM

The congressional hearing this week on recent incidents involving the Secret Service was alarming, and at times a little frightening. The Q&A and the revelations it produced were striking enough that they contributed to the Secret Service director resigning just one day later.
But watching the hearing unfold, there was one oddly refreshing thing about it: there was nothing overtly political about Congress' concerns. In a typical hearing, Democrats and Republicans are deeply at odds, with their own witnesses and agendas, but this week, both sides expressed sincere concern about the agency, its practices, and its lapses. The lack of partisan cheap shots was a welcome change of pace.
And then Thom Tillis decided to weigh in.
North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis criticized the Obama administration Wednesday for its handling of security breaches at the White House, saying the incidents reflect a need to be more serious about national security.  [...]
"How on earth can you protect the nation if you can't protect the White House?" Tillis said to the group.
Asked later about his comments, the Republican candidate, behind in the polls against Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), added, "It's just another example of failures in this administration. They need to start getting serious about homeland security and national security."
I just don't know what possesses someone to make remarks like these while seeking important public offices. Who's the intended audience for such nonsense?

GOP to women: elections are like shopping for wedding dresses

10/02/14 09:00AM

The Republican base tends to be older, which has forced the party to get creative when reaching out to younger voters. Earlier this year, for example, the RNC unveiled a pitch to millennials featuring a young man with ill-fitting clothes, awkwardly reading cue cards on energy policy. Last year, a Koch-financed group rolled out ads featuring someone in a creepy Uncle Sam costume with a giant head eager to perform gynecological exams.
But arguably nothing is quite as jaw-dropping as the latest Republican ad campaign targeting young women, which msnbc's Irin Carmon described as the party's "most condescending ad yet."
The College Republican National Committee thinks it has unlocked the key to speaking to young women about pending gubernatorial elections: Make it about pretty wedding dresses. That's how the party is attempting to win over a demographic it has long struggled to attract.
The committee is spending $1 million on digital ads like "Say Yes to the Candidate." Each one show a young woman eagerly browsing wedding dresses, in the mold of TLC's "Say Yes to the Dress," and treating each prospective dress as if it were a real-life candidate for office.
As best as I can tell, nearly identical ads have been created for Republican candidates in Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Each ad features a young woman named Brittany shopping for a wedding dress, facing pressure from her mother to buy a less appealing Democratic dress, and then celebrating the Republican dress instead.
In the Florida ad, for example, the young woman uses five words never before uttered together in the English language: "The Rick Scott is perfect."
Last month, the Republican message was that politics is like a lingerie party. This month, the Republican message is that politics is like shopping for a wedding dress.
Sometimes. it's hard not to wonder whether Republicans are trying to drive women voters away on purpose.

Jobless claims improve, stay below key threshold

10/02/14 08:38AM

For the first time since before the start of the Great Recession, initial unemployment filings have dropped below 300,000 for three consecutive weeks.
The number of people applying for new unemployment benefits fell by 8,000 to 287,000 in the last week of September, yet another sign that layoffs remain low and the labor market continues to improve.... Economists polled by MarketWatch expected claims to rise to a seasonally adjusted 298,000 in the week of Sept. 21 to Sept. 27.
The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell by 4,250 to 294,750, just a hair above an eight-year low. The four-week average reduces seasonal volatility in the weekly data and is seen as a more accurate barometer of labor-market trends.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it's worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it's best not to read too much significance into any one report.
In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are being created rather quickly. At this point, we've been below 330,000 in 26 of the last 29 weeks. (We've also been below 300,000 in 7 of the last 11 weeks.)
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) takes an elevator at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 5, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

GOP running out of options in Kansas

10/02/14 08:00AM

For Kansas Republicans, most notably Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the last several weeks have been devoted to a specific goal: creating a multi-candidate U.S. Senate race to help improve Sen. Pat Roberts' (R) odds. As of yesterday, those efforts have run their course.
A few weeks ago, when Democrat Chad Taylor announced the termination of his campaign, creating a head-to-head match-up pitting Roberts and Greg Orman (I), Kobach and his party tried to force Taylor to keep his name on the statewide ballot. The ensuing controversy went to the Kansas Supreme Court, which ruled that Taylor's name must be removed.
And while that seemingly ended the legal fight, Kobach had other ideas: he then demanded that Kansas Democrats pick a replacement candidate. This, too, led to a court fight, and as Dave Helling reported, the Republican litigation again came up short.
A three-judge panel in Topeka ruled Wednesday that Kansas Democrats need not nominate a candidate for the 2014 Senate race.
The ruling is expected to help independent Senate candidate Greg Orman's campaign against incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
The obvious question is, "Won't Kobach and the GOP just appeal this and keep the fight going?" He might try, but with Election Day now just 33 days away, there are some practical and logistical problems: Kansas has to send its ballots to be printed. Indeed, the deadline for completing the ballot was supposed to be yesterday. There was reportedly some chatter that Kobach's office might push it to today, but in either case, there simply isn't time for more pointless legal wrangling and emergency appeals.
Which suggests the process has run its course; Pat Roberts (R) will face Greg Orman (I). This obviously makes Republicans nervous from Wichita to Washington, and new evidence suggests those fears are well grounded.

Ebola response criticism and other headlines

10/02/14 07:54AM

U.S. ebola patient's nephew says he was the one who had to call the feds. (NBC News)

Koch group drops its guard in new attacks. (NY Times)

Voter registration surges in Ferguson, MO after Brown killing. (USA Today)

Grand jury considering the Ferguson shooting is being investigated for misconduct. (Washington Post)

Pres. Obama is in Illinois today to speak about the economy. (AP)

Hong Kong protesters face a tough choice as China draws a hard line. (NY Times)

Why Russia's president is "Putin the Great" in China. (Wall Street Journal)

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'Farmer' insult could cost Democrats Senate

'Farmer' insult could cost Democrats Senate

10/01/14 10:53PM

Kasie Hunt, MSNBC political correspondent, talks with Steve Kornacki about apparent good news for Democrats in Kansas, while Iowa Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley struggles to overcome an image problem with rural voters. watch