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Thursday, October 27, 2016

WASHINGTON — There’s a hidden history to the nasty midterm election campaign that will, mercifully, end on Nov. 4. What’s not being widely talked about is as important as what’s in the news.

Underappreciated fact No. 1: The number of Democratic seats that are not in play this year.

In planning its effort to take control of the Senate, Republicans shrewdly launched challenges to Democrats in states that would not automatically be on a GOP target list. “Broadening the map” is wise when you’re in a strong position.

Two of the states on that extended list, Colorado and Iowa, have paid off for Republicans. It’s still far from certain that they will defeat Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado or Rep. Bruce Braley in Iowa, who is trying to hold retiring Sen. Tom Harkin’s seat. But Republicans have a clear shot at both, and this has strengthened their chances of taking the majority.

But just as striking is how many Democrats seem to have nailed down races the Republicans had once hoped to make competitive. This has narrowed the GOP’s path to a majority. Among them: Sens. Al Franken of Minnesota and Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Rep. Gary Peters of Michigan, who is likely to retain Sen. Carl Levin’s seat. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia is also polling well, though he was always favored against former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire is in a tougher race with former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, but she has led most of the way.

Democrats have benefited in these states from their opponents’ shortcomings. But what has been lost in the national news is underappreciated fact No. 2: How important economic issues have been in shoring up the party’s incumbents and in giving life to Democratic challengers in Georgia, Kentucky and (a much longer shot) South Dakota.

It’s commonly said that Republicans are nationalizing the elections against President Obama while Democrats are making them about “local” issues. That is true of North Carolina, where Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan has, so far successfully, targeted the unpopular Republican state government. But elsewhere, endangered Democrats are actually campaigning on a different set of national concerns related to economic worries. These include equal pay for women, relief for student loan recipients, and a minimum-wage increase. Several Democrats, including Shaheen and Michelle Nunn in Georgia, have made an issue of opposing the outsourcing of American jobs overseas.

This leads to underappreciated fact No. 3: Given Obama’s low approval ratings, Republicans could have been running away with this thing. They’re not, because they look more extreme and out of touch than they did four years ago.

An Oct. 15-20 Pew Research Center survey found that Democrats had a 21-point advantage among registered voters as the party “more concerned with the needs of people like me,” up from a lead of only 11 points in October 2010. Voters picked Republicans over Democrats as the party “more influenced by special interests” by 46 percent to 32 percent, a 14-point Republican deficit, up from 8 points four years ago. And on a new measure, voters declared the Republican Party “more extreme in its positions” by 52 percent to 36 percent.

Underappreciated fact No. 4: While opposition to Obama will motivate Republican turnout, particularly in contested red states, close races will hang on voters who are not casting ballots either for or against the president. The Pew survey found that 32 percent of voters saw their congressional ballot as a vote against Obama, and only 20 percent as a vote for him. That’s the GOP advantage.

But 45 percent said Obama would not be a factor in their decision. And within this group, 60 percent are Democrats or independents who lean that way and only 28 percent are Republicans or Republican-leaners. This is why Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and both Bill and Hillary Clinton have been in such demand on the campaign trail. Their messages, particularly Warren’s, have been about economics, which brings us back to fact No. 2. Warren has been especially effective in tagging the GOP as in league with the wealthy and the special interests, a lesson that forcefulness is more likely to grab voters’ attention than running scared.

Many Democrats quietly concede that the Senate playing field still tilts the Republicans’ way. If Democrats upset expectations, these underappreciated factors will be why. And if the Republicans prevail, the fact that the election has been so closely fought points to problems that even a victorious GOP will have to confront.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is [email protected] Twitter: @EJDionne.

Photo: Hillary Clinton, left, raises United States senator from North Carolina Kay Hagan’s hand in the air following her speech at the Charlotte Convention Center on Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014 in Charlotte, NC. Clinton joined Hagan at the convention center for an early vote event. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/MCT)

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  • Dominick Vila

    Effective campaigning, distractions, hyperbole, and outright lies tend to convince the most partisan among us, but what really makes a difference when it comes to voting is our pocketbook. In spite of all the Republican efforts to downplay or distort the economic achievement that ought to be evident to the most casual observer, the truth is that most Americans can see the difference between the economic chaos that prevailed when President Obama was inaugurated in January 2009 and where we are today. Another fact that cannot be forgotten is how we got to where we are today. The most remarkable aspect of our economic recovery and job creation record is that those gains were achieved in spite of robust Republican obstructionism.
    It is hard to ignore the comment made by Sen. McConnel when he said that the top priority for the GOP was to ensure that President Obama was a one-term president, their decision not to invest in infrastructure and other job creation projects, their rejection of the Veterans Jobs Act, and the promise made by several senior Republican leaders the day after President Obama’s inauguration to make it impossible for him to govern. Their tactic and actions are like a breath of fresh air for the most partisan among us, but they are poison for mainstream Americans, who are the majority in the United States.
    I expect the GOP to win most races in the South and the Bible Belt, but their chances in the rest of the country, especially in prosperous states, are slim to none. Their chances rest strictly on the outcome of races in red states, and voter turnout. Republicans are energized, determined, and are voting in unprecedented numbers for a midterm election. Control of the Senate, however, depends on how many Democrats decide to vote.

    • FT66

      Dominick, the way I see it the results of this midterm will go in history books. All my left hand fingers are all crossed. I can foresee something which has never happened in American history. I have also come to realise even republicans do really get it. They are not per see willing to vote for their Party though many say so. Take for example in Kansas. Who did ever expect Independent Candidate to be neck in neck with the incumbent? We admit our mistake in South Dakota, we could have advised the Dem Candidate to pull out and leave the Independent and Republican Candidates compete. But still, it is not over yet there. It is not true that Dems are not energised. Nov. 4th night next week will reveal the truth.

  • VoiceofReason613

    Democrats can win by stressing the following:

· The Tea Party has shifted the Republican Party so far to the right that Eisenhower, Nixon, and even Reagan would not recognize it or get nominated by
it today.

· Republicans are promoting policies similar to orworse than those that had such disastrous results during the George W. Bush administration, including converting a three-year major surplus into a major deficit, creating very few jobs,
and leaving the country on the brink of a depression, with over 750,000 jobs being lost per month when they left office.

· Republicans have obstructed efforts to get our country out of the ditch they left us in by consistently voting no on and filibustering many Democratic proposals to
improve the economy, some of which they previously supported.

· Republicans support continued tax breaks for major
    corporations and the
wealthiest Americans, while cutting basic social

    · Republicans
are in denial about the dangers from climate
    change, despite the views of
almost all climate scientists and the many wake-up calls we have already received in terms of severe climate events. 

    · A strong majority of Republicans voted against aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy and against background checks for arms purchases.

    * Republicans support: reducing the ability of the government to help people, ending Medicare as we know it. restricting women’s access to health care, privatizingSocial Security, and other harmful positions

    • Totally delusional. Yes, there is a divide in the republican party. That is because the RINOs don’t want their jobs in jeopardy. Just like all career politicians, they will do ANYTHING to keep their jobs, including treason. The Tea Party may be on the extreme side, but we need extreme if we are to have any chance of undoing all the damage this regime has caused to our country.
      Where, perchance, did this surplus come from? Last I knew, we were in debt by about 17 trillion dollars. That is not a surplus. What you hear from the regimes propaganda machine is just how good the economy, and job market is. We have more unemployed and more on public assistance than ever before. Jobs are low paying, part time jobs. Many jobs have become part time because of the illegal ACA.
      Republicans have done their best to stop any further failed liberal policies from being pushed through congress. Harry Reid has not put anything up for a vote that did not further HIS agenda. I applaud any efforts to stop the liberal agenda of further destroying our country.
      Climate change? HA. More politics designed to help the liberals sell their attack on American industries, like near outlawing the coal industry.
      Tax breaks? All the liberals want to do is spend more, and tax more, all the while printing more dollars, making our currency worthless.
      Background checks are already law. WHAT THE LIBERALS WANT IS A GUN REGISTRY, then confiscation. Just like every other tyrants rise to power, the Emperor must disarm the American people if he stands a chance of becoming King. Disarming would be really bad for our country, especially under this regime. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Our government is absolutely corrupt, lead by an illegal usurper.
      Our government was designed to be run by the people. Big government does not allow that. The more government gets involved, the less rights and freedoms we have. We need government out of our lives. They are there to serve us, yet under this regime, it is the people that are serving the Emperor.

      • stcroixcarp

        No, Kenny, liberals do not want to confiscate your guns. Liberals want to keep guns out of the hands of the insane and criminals in the first place. Gun registration does not mean confiscation, but it will aid law enforcement in tracking those rogue weapons that become instruments of crime. I would also favor requiring liability insurance on all guns. The Second Amendment is a right, but it does not absolve gun owners from responsibility. By the way, an emperor trumps a king in power. Your analogy is silly.

        • Exactly how is registration going to do anything to stop those that ignore laws from getting firearms? Criminals, by definition, do not follow laws. Why should someone that has, or is about to commit murder, worry about a weapons charge? It just does not happen. Gun control laws are not about guns. It is people control, as those that will follow the laws are already law abiding citizens.

          Liberals DO want to outlaw ALL firearms. There are several that have publically announced their intentions. One that stands our is Dianne Feinstein. She would have confiscated every forearm in America, if she had managed to get her bills passed. Firearm confiscation is one of the crown jewels of the liberal agenda. Saying that it isn’t true is just another lie from the lying liberals. They will say and do ANYTHING to get their agenda through. This is what this election is going to be about. Stopping the failed liberal policies and their agenda of systematically destroying our country to fit into what they think our society should look like.

        • Allan Richardson

          Out of the hands of the insane … maybe we ARE going after kenndeb’s guns after all!

      • irishtap

        VoiceofReason613 was referring to the surplus left to the recent Bush administration thanks to Bill Clinton, that W and the Republicans set forth to squander in urgent fashion. You state correctly how the Tea Party is extreme. You leave out the fact this was in process going back to the Gingrich led congress. Your complaints on the economy, jobless or working for peanuts, and rising percentage of destitute people within our society has increased ‘isn’t the result of the Obama administration policy.’ Rather it is the “direct result of GOP steadfast intransigence” against even moderate stimulus measures used to pull us out of previous recessions. Are you aware it is the American taxpayer who subsidizes the rent – healthcare – childcare services – and nutrition of WalMart’s low paid employees? The richest family in the country could easily raise the average hourly wage of these people to $15.00 an hour with the cost added to a cart at the check out, not exceeding 1 percent. That should bother you. I’m sorry kenndeb but, there is nothing in what you wrote about President Obama that has an inkling of documented fact anywhere near it. The man has more important things to worry about than your firearm. As for your comment against taxes – even Warren Buffet has railed against the absurdity of having people of his wealth class, pay a lower tax rate than his secretary. Taxes are investment for building society. If you elect people bent on starving government; you eventually lose your own rights when ‘privatized services’ are primarily interested in making a profit “off the taxpayer”, not the ‘greater good.’The truth is: the previous White House occupant grew the size of the federal government more than any of the previous six administrations, when he gave us Homeland Security Agency. Perhaps you can explain why Bush – fully equipped with a Harvard MBA, ended his two terms as the first administration in American history, with statistically insignificant job growth? I mean those are credentials folks like you drool over, right? Maybe you can answer why the ‘Medicare Drug Benefit Act’ was written without giving the government the right to negotiate drug prices? Isn’t that just comon sense business acumen?What do you have against the Affordable Care Act by the way? It was written at a Republican think tank (Heritage Foundation), it’s as conservative a piece of market driven legislation as you will find.
        Even if you’re a climate change denier kenndeb; what is wrong with us trending toward clean renewable forms of energy? Is it a biblical commandment we be enslaved to filthy polluting fossil fuels? Coal contributes to thousands of asthma related deaths each year – didn’t these Americans have the right to breathe clean air? Shouldn’t having clean air and water, be as basic a right as your right to bear arms? I’ve lived my entire life without owning a gun but go a minute without air it’s all over, isn’t it? If the mantra of the GOP, Tea Party is about “individualism” and standing on our own two feet; why do we subsidize enormously successful oil companies? Since when do corporations with “guaranteed customers” need our tax money to remain solvent? I admire your passion kenndeb. However passion without nuanced information is only useless noise.

  • Whatmeworry

    Dem’s can win by insuring that illegal aliens mail in there absentee ballots. In 2012 over 4 million were cast

    • charleo1

      Isn’t it amazing? Four million illegal ballots cast in 2012!All them GOP Governors, and the entire Ayrian Nation, can’t produce one? Maybe they are only looking at ballots cast for Obama? Or, maybe they are just lying? Do you know how they came up with the 4 million number? Or why wasn’t it 12 million, or 20 million? Don’t tell me you anti-gov. patriots are now believing the damn politicians? Who will save the Country??????

      • Whatmeworry

        are you trying to be funny? We know for certain that Al FRankin was elected because of 275 illegal votes. The absentee ballot program is rife with criminals voting.
        In Atlanta 1 PO Box at a UPS store received OVER 2100 absentee ballots. We know that in WI you can go to the Board of elections and pick up Handfulls of absentee ballots.
        So know voter suppression is alive and well since Barak took office

        • Whatmeworry is Dan M Ketter

          I’m Dan Ketter and i’m an idiot!

        • charleo1

          Not trying to be funny. I’m trying to get you, and others like you, to get serious. Or at least be honest, and leave some credibility in tact, by admitting the
          obvious. That the Right fears a big voter turnout.
          Because their policies, and positions are deemed to be pure crap, on the whole. And the more people that vote, the worse they do. As voter fraud has been proven to be nearly nonexistent, in study
          after study. Including the most in depth, Nation wide
          study conducted by the DOJ, at the request of the
          Bush Administration. Which found, there was exactly zero elections, going back 10 years, where
          voter fraud had been a factor in the outcome. That’s
          including Bush V. Gore, the closest National election
          in American history. In fact the DOJ study, found they could add up the total sum of all illegally cast
          ballots, and found not a single election where the combined total would have played a determinative
          part, in any election over the past 10 years. Also bearing the numbers out, is the nearly total lack of prosecutions charging anyone of the crime of casting an illegal ballot. The election of Al Franken
          was one of the most investigated elections ever held. So, your assertion 275 false votes elected him
          is ridiculous. Use your own head. Not the head they
          give you. He’s still Senator, Right? Wisconsin’s
          State Gov. is overwhelmingly GOP. And has been since 2010. So, hand full of absentee ballots? And,
          guess what, I couldn’t find a single instance where
          anyone was indicted, and brought to trial, for voting
          Republicans into office. So, what does, “handfuls
          of ballots,” mean? Think you’re being played? Oh
          yes you are. See, voter suppression is about elected
          officials using their authority to determine, or choose, who may, or may not vote. That’s right, the
          politicians trying to pick the voters, instead of the
          other way around. It won’t work for very long. And
          in the long run, their efforts will define the Party as
          being willing to violate the Rights of American to vote, in order to stay in power. Shame on the GOP.

        • Dannn Ketter married Linda Rayyy on the ugly tree

    • BillP

      Hey dimwit you make ridiculous statements that you can’s backup with any real provable facts. Still waiting for the website that you claim lists President Obama as a dues paying member of the New Socialist Party. You know you are just parroting the bs you read on some far right wing website and can’t back up this claim.

      • Whatmeworry

        I already provided you the source. Unfortunately your too mentally lazy to try.
        As for my statements everyone is backed up by 3-5 sources

        • Whatmeworry is Dan M Ketter

          Dannnny Ketter

        • BillP

          I went directly o the New Socialist Party website they don’t list any members. So instead of trying to deflect why don’t you just list the website that shows President Obama as a member? You claim your statements are backed up by 3-5 sources, list 2 and I will see if I can overcome my supposed mental laziness. Prove your claim of voter fraud. Otherwise you are just another angry troll who posts bs statements.

        • jlynn1960

          Failed English did you? Can you find the errors DK? I’m sure you don’t ask for your money back because the institution would want their diploma back? Silly fool.

        • Fat Dannnn Ketter

      • Whatmeworry is Dan M Ketter

        Dan Max Ketter is Williamsburg VA village idiot!

        • BillP

          I didn’t know his name but his reply to me was that he provided a source but when I asked for the specific website I got a non-answer reply. These trolls/idiots keep leveling charges but rarely if ever provide provable sources.

          • Whatmeworry is Dan M Ketter

            Dan won’t respond back since he’s been id:-). At 67, he may be the webs oldest troller.

          • BillP

            His recent reply was two words “try Google”. I guess he can’t list any websites that support his claim that the president is a dues paying member of some Socialist party. I guess I’m expecting too much from a troll.

    • Linda Rayyyy Ketter
      ugly ugly ugly