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By David Lightman, McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Voters hate Washington, and they’ll get their chance to shake things up in November’s midterm elections.

The big question is whether the Republicans can win control of the Senate while holding the House of Representatives, which would give them control of the entire Congress for the remaining two years of Barack Obama’s presidency and set the stage for the 2016 elections.

At stake this fall are 36 of the Senate’s 100 seats, all 435 House seats and 36 governorships.

Republicans start with a decided edge:

-The most vulnerable Democrats are in states Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won two years ago.

-Republicans are already strong favorites to win Democratic-held seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia.

-The GOP’s strongest candidates survived primary challengers from Tea Party loyalists, who have often been volatile and potentially losing general election candidates in the past.

-Obama’s flagging poll numbers are making him a drag on Democrats. Voters, by a 41 to 32 percent plurality, say Obama makes them more likely to vote for a Republican, according to a McClatchy-Marist poll this month. Forty percent approved of how Obama was doing his job, the second worst showing of his presidency.

“Republicans are going to have a good election night. We just don’t know how good it’s going to be,” said Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.

Republicans need a net gain of six seats for a Senate majority. Independent analysts predict Republicans gains of four to eight seats.

Battleground-state Democrats continue to make good poll showings, since the Republican brand also is tarnished.

“The public is wary of both parties,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, as last fall’s partial government shutdown continues to hurt the Republicans’ image.

Republicans are likely to retain their House majority, but they don’t appear to be in a position to make a net gain in governorships.

Most closely watched will be Wisconsin, where Republican Scott Walker’s 2016 presidential hopes would end with a November loss. Polls show Walker, under fire because of aides’ fundraising tactics, in a virtual tie with Democratic businesswoman Mary Burke.

If there’s to be a big change, it’ll happen in the Senate, but even that’s no certainty.

“This is a Republican year, but it’s more a tilt than a wave,” said Sabato.

North Carolina

Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) and North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, the Republican, are locked in a clash of the status quos, Washington vs. Raleigh.

Hagan has to be careful not to appear too close to Obama without severing the tie.

Before the president’s speech in Charlotte to the American Legion last Tuesday, she protested that the administration “has not yet done enough to earn the lasting trust of our veterans and implement real and permanent reforms.”

But when Obama arrived at the North Carolina Air National Guard base, she greeted him warmly — a photo Republicans gleefully publicized.


Senator Mark Begich’s website features a press release headlined “Begich Tough on Obama,” detailing how the Alaska Democrat has stood up to the president.

Republican Dan Sullivan counters that Begich is a steady Obama loyalist. He opposed the administration on key votes only 2.9 percent of the time, according to a Congressional Quarterly study. This is a hard race to handicap; in a small state such as Alaska, personality often matters as much as philosophy.


Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has tried distancing herself from Obama, but can’t stray too far. African-Americans made up 29 percent of the electorate in her race six years ago and went for her 96 to 1 percent.

Her biggest challenge could be winning outright November 4. If no one tops 50 percent, the top two finishers will compete in a Dec. 6 runoff. Republican Bill Cassidy, a three-term congressman, is running about even with Landrieu. Trailing is conservative Rob Maness, a retired Air Force colonel.


Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) voted against Obama’s preferred positions 10.3 percent of the time last year, more than any other Senate Democrat. Still, Rep. Tom Cotton, a Republican freshman, is slamming Pryor for supporting Obama 90 percent of the time.

Pryor also needs to keep Democrats in line, and in a new ad, touts his support for the 2010 health-care law, which Republicans loathe. The 30-second spot features Pryor’s father, David, a very popular former Arkansas governor and senator.


Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat, is deadlocked with Republican State Sen. Joni Ernst in a contest for the seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Tom Harkin.

Gaffes have plagued Braley, notably a dispute with a neighbor about chickens and a reference to veteran Sen. Charles Grassley as “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school,” an insult both to farmers and the popular Republican.

Ernst, barely known a few months ago, surged into contention with a down-to-earth style. In one ad, she boasts, “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm, so when I come to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.”


Colorado Republicans got a boost this year when Rep. Cory Gardner, a personable conservative, challenged Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat.

Turnout in the Hispanic community, perhaps eager to show support for Obama’s efforts to revamp immigration laws, could decide this race. Obama rolled up a 3-to-1 margin in 2012 among Colorado Hispanic voters, who made up 14 percent of the state’s vote.

New Hampshire

Former Senator Scott Brown, who represented Massachusetts in the Senate until losing in 2012, is in a virtual dead heat with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, largely because of Obama’s plunging popularity.

Shaheen remains the favorite. She can pin the carpetbagger label on Brown and has been a savvy political organizer for decades.


Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who rarely has an easy re-election, is slightly ahead of Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in most polls.

This race is likely to go to the wire, as voters endure one of the costliest ad blitzes in Senate election history. Ousting McConnell, whose wily ways and hardball tactics have infuriated Democrats for years, is a huge Democratic priority.


Georgia could prove an annoyance for Republicans. Democrats have had little recent statewide success.

Democrat Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn, is by some accounts running ahead of Republican businessman David Perdue. Keys to victory here could be African-American turnout and whether Nunn can build a strong margin among women.


Three-term incumbent Senator Pat Roberts, a Republican, survived a Tea Party primary challenge in August, but with 48 percent of the vote. Complicating the fall political equation is independent Greg Orman, who is making a strong pitch to centrists.

“You can’t dismiss Orman,” said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “He’s got the money and he’s got the message. People are looking for someone who’s not Washington.”

Photo: Crazy George via Flickr

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was on CNN Sunday morning with Jake Tapper on his State of the Union show. In part because Democratic reps, like Republican reps, going on Sunday shows is about this coming election, and in part because newscasters are not particularly deep or creative when it comes to talking about politics, Tapper decided to spend a lot of time trying to get Ocasio-Cortez to attack Joe Biden for their differences of political opinions. Newsflash: Ocasio-Cortez, progressive hero, co-author of the ambitious Green New Deal environmental package, and Vice President Joe Biden aren't exactly on the same page as to how to handle climate change.

More to the point, Tapper asked Ocasio-Cortez whether or not she was bothered by the fact that Biden has not said he would outright ban fracking. The move to ban fracking in states across the country has been a seesaw battle of fossil fuel interests fighting against progressive environmentalism and science. Biden's refusal to provide full-throated support for a ban on fracking is disappointing to many of us on the left, but it isn't surprising. Even more importantly, it is below the most essential first step the progressive movement—and the country for that matter—needs to take: getting rid of Donald Trump and getting rid of the Republican majority in the Senate.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez isn't going to be pulled into a pointless argument about fracking with Jake Tapper. Her position is well-reported. So is Biden's. AOC explains very clearly that this is how politics work in a representative democracy.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: It does not bother me. I believe, and I have a very strong position on fracking. You know, the science is very clear, the methane emissions from fracking are up to 64 times more powerful than CO2 emissions and trapping heat in the air, and just from a perspective of stopping climate change there is a scientific consensus. However, that is my view. Vice President Biden has made very clear that he does not agree with the fracking ban and I consider that, you know—it will be a privilege to lobby him should we win the White House but we need to focus on winning the White House first. I am happy to make my case but I also understand he is in disagreement on that issue.

Tapper wonders whether this will depress the youth vote, a vote that AOC represents more closely than Biden. This, of course, is literally the only reason Trump and his surrogates have been bringing up this difference of positions the last couple of weeks. The hope is that it will depress the more progressive vote, while spooking some more conservative-leaning folks in fossil-fuel heavy states like Pennsylvania and Texas. Ocasio-Cortez points out that the youth vote over the past couple of years has not simply become more sophisticated since 2016, it has brought in more progressive candidates and officials into local elections. The turnout in 2018 showed that, and Ocasio-Cortez believes that this election is very clearly a choice between Donald Trump, someone who is a non-starter of a human being, and Joe Biden.

Tapper then plays a clip of Biden telling reporters that he isn't "getting rid of fossil fuels for a long time," but that he's talking about getting rid of the subsidies the fake free-marketeers enjoy in the fossil fuel industry. While Tapper is hoping that this will illustrate how Biden isn't AOC and the youth vote may be turned off by this statement, she sees it as an important step in the right direction.

REP. OCASIO-CORTEZ: When he says we are eliminating subsidies, I think that is, frankly, an important first step. A lot of folks who like to tout themselves as free market capitalists, while still trying to make sure they get as much government subsidy, and propping up of the fossil fuel industry as possible. ... If you do believe in markets, solar and renewable energies are growing less and less expensive by the day in many areas. They are starting to become less expensive than fossil fuels. When you eliminate government subsidies, it becomes more difficult for fossil fuels to compete in the market. I think while the vice president wants to make sure that he is not doing it by government mandate or regulation. I do believe that we are moving towards that future. I believe that there's a way and that we should push that process along but again, the vice president and my disagreements are, I believe, recorded and that is quite all right.