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Five Undercovered Midterm-Election Stories

Bloomberg View Memo Pad Politics

Five Undercovered Midterm-Election Stories


Sept. 12 (Bloomberg View) — It’s terrific that we have six polling aggregators and forecasting models, each giving us rapidly updated odds for every Senate seat. It’s nice to have the chances of a Republican majority in the next Senate (continued aggregation-of-aggregation odds: tossup, very slight edge to Republicans).

But as many have noted, things aren’t going to change much depending on whether there are 51 or 50 Republican senators in 2015. A majority of 55 seats, up from a minority of 47 (more or less the edges of the likely range) would matter more. And Senate majorities are more important now than they were 30 or 40 years ago. So I have no complaint about the media focus on the Senate margin.

On the other hand. it’s not as if Senate margin is the only pressing question. So here are five things concerning the November midterm elections that could use more reporting and more attention:

Who are these senators? Party is more important than ever in the Senate, but single senators still matter. Whether it’s Ted Cruz, Elizabeth Warren, Tom Coburn or Dianne Feinstein, plenty of senators are far more than just generic Democratic or Republicans. It’s not just about ideology, the issues they care about can have important policy consequences, as can their styles. The media focuses on those in close races (and their strengths and weaknesses as candidates), but some coverage of the incoming sure winners would be great, too.

Governors! Perhaps because the Senate has a clear party contest story line, we’re getting plenty of coverage of that, even though most of the forecasters are handling both offices. Governors have huge policy effects. Let’s see more coverage.

State legislatures. The flip side of the entry above. I’ve seen a little mention of legislature importance down the road in the context of redistricting, but states are going to pass lots of laws in 2015 and 2016, and partisan control of chambers is going to make a major difference. And by the way, state legislation is contagious. So even for those in states without close contests, the electoral outcomes in other states may produce legislation that will eventually be adopted elsewhere or at the federal level. These are national stories.

It’s a cliché of media criticism, but it would be nice if we heard more about the candidates’ policy platforms. We’ve had some (Greg Sargent, for example, is tracking how Obamacare is being used), but it’s often in the context of how it plays in campaigns, not what it means after the election.

The House. It’s true that the most important thing to know about any House member is their party affiliation. Unlike with the Senate, by far the most important thing is who holds the gavel — and we know it’s going to be the Republicans in 2015. But margin of victory does matter, both for the next House and (especially) because the larger the margin, the greater the chances of hanging on to the majority. As usual, the total coverage for House elections tends to be somewhat less than that of single House special elections during slow spots in the electoral cycle.

So I’m not complaining. A lot of the coverage of control of the Senate is very good, and it is a legitimately important question. Just not the only one. Hey, reporters! We’re under the two-month mark; how about some good reporting that goes beyond control of the Senate.

AFP Photo/Jewel Samad

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  1. Dominick Vila September 15, 2014

    Evidence of how President Obama is being used can be found in states like Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott cynically blames Charlie Crist for the increase in unemployment caused by the Great Recession, and takes credit for the economic recovery and job creation that is evident nationwide.
    Let’s not confuse the Republican focus on demonizing President Obama and dismissing his achievements, with not understanding the benefit of jumping on his coattails to win elections…while Democrats try to distance themselves from President Obama for fear he would hinder their chances to be elected.

    1. Blueberry Hill September 15, 2014

      I think that the Dems trying to distance themselves from the President should be ashamed of themselves. They should stand together for the Democratic principals. The President is doing a great job when we consider all he has on his plate and that he is still cleaning up after the Tbagger/thuglicans.


  2. Eleanore Whitaker September 15, 2014

    Media tactics today resemble that of Al Capone. They underreport only those elections they know make the GOP look like the underdog. It’s why Americans today cannot believe a word they read in the media. Do you own fact checking.

    At present, every right wing, anti-Democratic media titan is demanding their media publish only the glowing reports on the GOP to make it appear the GOP is winning. Now, they’ve been trying another tactic. Now, they are using the threat of immigration reform to make it appear it’s totally a Democratic issue. When TX, AZ, and NM all started this BS by allowing the hiring of illegals to do “yard work” and “domestic cleaning?”

    The GOP has a back room plan that uses lies in the media to make voting Americans believe they have NO chance of voting for a candidate other than one who is GOP. How isn’t that treason?

  3. elw September 15, 2014

    What can you say, Jonathan is talking about real journalism and the media has become not much more than entertainment. Entertainment where beauty counts more than brains or real understanding what journalism is. The media gives the public what it seems to want simplified information that has little depth and can be delivered in a few short minutes. That one of the reasons I personally stopped watching network and cable news, it why I have turned to the Internets for information. The truth is the polling is interesting to follow but really only tells you what would have maybe happened on the day the poll was taken. The predictions made from them often change and are just as often wrong. Democrats have a lot to be proud of and they should stand up and say so, be honest about they stand for and clearly point to the difference between their policies and the GOPs. If they do that they will win and if we all get out and vote they will win. No one has a lock on this election yet, it is still up to us (the voters) who wins.

  4. Allan Richardson September 15, 2014

    A cable documentary on the human brain reported on an unbiased, non-partisan experiment that was recently conducted. Photos of both candidates in obscure local races that had been decided several years ago were shown to people in distant parts of the country who had known nothing about these elections because they were someone else’s local elections. They were asked to “vote” for one or the other candidate bases ONLY on their photos (the most flattering photos of each candidate, those published by their own campaigns, were used). These test subjects, who did not even know the NAMES of the former candidates, voted almost exactly the same way the original actual voters did. So perhaps too many voters care ONLY about how pretty/handsome, compassionate, competent, etc. a candidate LOOKS. That is something of which to be afraid for our country.

    1. Blueberry Hill September 15, 2014

      My late mother-in-law was like that. When she was up in age, she would vote for the best looking candidate. We would have to straighten her out that that is no way to choose a President. She finally got it. But that is pretty scary.


    2. ralphkr September 15, 2014

      Considering the parameters of the study, Allan, I can not criticize the outcome of the “election”. The candidates were completely unknown (no speeches, platforms, or names) so it was definitely not a political but a beauty election. I know that if I am shown a picture of Jimmy Stewart and of Hannibal Lectern (with barred mask to protect us from him from biting) I would most certainly vote for Stewart.

      1. Allan Richardson September 16, 2014

        True, if a person’s appearance in a photo is accompanied by “props” revealing more than his or her looks would do, that might be a reason to influence a “beauty only” vote; If Hannibal Lecter (before his capture) were photographed in a nice suit, smiling, he might give Jimmy Stewart a bit of a challenge.

        But of course, the point is that when voters DO have access to names, party affiliations, platforms, voting and/or business records, etc. they too often reach the SAME conclusion as the “voters” in this mock election reach with ONLY an unnamed picture of each “candidate.”

        THAT is what is so scary! Abe Lincoln could not win ANY election today with his “rustic” looks and his “tinny” voice, without a “P. R. makeover.”

        1. ralphkr September 16, 2014

          On the other hand, Lincoln was tall enough to be elected president as height seems to be one of the requirements to win an election.


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