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Midterm Roundup: Joni Ernst’s Flip-Flop-Flip

Here are some interesting stories on the midterm campaigns that you may have missed on Thursday, October 16:

• As other Republican candidates try to distance themselves as far as possible from their past support for fetal personhood bills, Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst is making the opposite play. On Wednesday, she told the Sioux City Journal editorial board that “I will continue to stand by” a pledge to support a personhood bill if she is elected to the Senate. As MSNBC’s Steve Benen points out, this amounts to a flip-flop-flip on the issue (although Benen suspects that Ernst may not fully understand the controversial policy). Ernst continues to lead Democrat Bruce Braley by 2 percent in the Real Clear Politics poll average.

• Colorado Senate candidate Cory Gardner is also struggling with his past support for personhood. Democratic incumbent Mark Udall’s campaign has been circulating this brutal clip from the candidates’ last debate, in which the moderator tells the Republican congressman that “a charitable interpretation would be that you have a difficult time admitting when you’re wrong, and a less charitable interpretation would be that you’re not telling us the truth.” Still, polls continue to show Gardner building on his narrow lead, and he now holds a 3 percent advantage in the poll average.

• Another poll suggests that Democrats have a real chance in Georgia’s tight gubernatorial and senatorial elections. The new survey from WRBL finds Republican governor Nathan Deal tied with Democratic challenger Jason Carter at 44 percent. In the Senate contest, Democrat Michelle Nunn leads Republican David Perdue 46 to 45 percent, within the poll’s margin of error. Deal and Perdue’s leads in the poll average are down to 2 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively, and a runoff appears increasingly likely in both races.

• Mayday PAC, the outside group that seeks to limit the influence of money in politics, released a new ad touting South Dakota Senate candidate Rick Weiland’s support for expanding Social Security. The ad is likely meant to contrast the Democrat with Independent candidate Larry Pressler, who is struggling with his past support for cutting Social Security benefits.

• And new polling suggests that Democrats may have an ace in the hole to save them in several tight races: raising the federal minimum wage.

Photo: Monica de Argentina via Flickr

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Midterm Roundup: Scott Walker Might Be In Trouble

Here are some interesting stories on the midterm campaigns that you may have missed on Wednesday, October 15:

• Having failed to oust Republican governor Scott Walker with an unapologetically progressive challenge in 2012, Wisconsin Democrats are trying a new tactic this year: moderation. There are signs that Democrat Mary Burke’s centrist challenge is gaining steam: She has drawn even with Walker in the latest Marquette University Law School poll, and Walker now leads by less than 1 percent in the Real Clear Politics poll average. But Walker still has one big advantage: His Republican base is a much safer bet to turn out in big numbers than Burke’s coalition.

• Due to the latest case of Ebola in Texas, President Barack Obama canceled his planned campaign rally in Connecticut with Governor Dannel Malloy. The Democratic incumbent could use all the help he can get in his re-election fight; he leads Republican Tom Foley by just 2 percent in the poll average.

• A new CNN/ORC poll of Colorado’s Senate race finds Republican Rep. Cory Gardner leading Democratic incumbent Mark Udall, 50 to 46 percent. The poll is the latest in a series to show Gardner in a good position, and he’s now up 2 percent in the poll average. Democrats maintain that Colorado polls have historically overestimated Republicans’ chances in Colorado, and that Udall’s support may be stronger than it presently appears.

• Two new polls find Republican Joni Ernst leading Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in Iowa’s Senate race. Quinnipiac has Ernst up 47 to 45 percent, while USA Today/Suffolk University shows her up 47 to 43 percent. The surveys push Ernst’s narrow lead in the poll average up to 1.6 percent.

• And if you’re overwhelmed by all of the predictions from various election forecasters, this handy chart from The Upshot should help you keep them straight.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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Castrating Conservative Principles In Iowa

There exists a government boondoggle that offends conservatives, liberals, environmentalists, oil refiners, cattle ranchers and taxpayers alike. It’s not easy to get that kind of Kumbaya going, but the corn-based ethanol program has done it.

This has put Joni Ernst, the Tea Party favorite for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat, in an awkward position. The Republican has vowed to both end government subsidies and preserve the freight loads of taxpayer dollars chugging into Iowa’s corn belt in the name of ethanol.

Her footwork goes as follows: She says she’ll end this subsidy when every other subsidy in the American universe also gets the ax. And, she forgot to add, when Martians colonize Neptune.

Thus, Ernst has castrated a bedrock conservative principle as easily as the pigs she claims to have desexed on her family farm.

Two fierce winds have made it especially thorny for conservatives to justify blowing huge sums on energy projects — for oil and gas in Alaska, as well as for ethanol in the Corn Belt.

One is the conservative respect for market forces. A boom in production has actually created an energy glut. The global price for oil recently sank below $90 a barrel.

The other is the successful conservative crusade to curb federal spending. There’s less money sloshing around for dubious programs, as well as the noble ones.

“National support for the ethanol program is collapsing as the reality of corn ethanol has become more and more apparent,” Craig Cox of the Environmental Working Group told me. EWG has been a forceful critic of U.S. farm programs and their impact on the environment.

The ethanol giveaway comes on top of the usual bonanza of farm subsidies. But now, because of the ethanol craze, “farmers trip over themselves planting every square foot they can find with corn,” said Cox, who’s based in Ames, Iowa.

The result has been fouled water supplies. There’s also a soaring world price for food — and for feed, hurting pig farmers and cattle ranchers.

Oil refiners are also taking it on the chin. Today’s big ethanol subsidy comes in the form of a mandate requiring refiners to blend 15 billion gallons of ethanol into motor fuels by 2015.

“There’s only so much ethanol that can be blended into the U.S. gasoline supply,” especially as fuel consumption declines, Cox noted. The blend is typically 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline.

The current flashpoint is a pending Environmental Protection Agency decision to possibly roll back the mandate. The American Petroleum Institute is leading the charge for that.

By the way, the one compelling rationale for ethanol was that it would reduce carbon emissions. And the blending mandate theoretically rests on ethanol’s cutting those greenhouse gases by 20 percent.

Recent science shows that on the contrary, ethanol increases them. But no matter.

“The funny little secret,” Cox said, “is the fine print in the 2007 energy law, which exempts all existing ethanol plants or plants that commenced construction from that requirement.” In other words, all 15 billion gallons stay.

Before we go, let’s make of a point of not pinning a medal on Ernst’s Democratic foe, Bruce Braley. He’s all for the ethanol scam. Liberals who support government programs should feel a special duty to weed out the dodgy ones.

Am I being unfair and unrealistic? After all, this is politics, and the corn folks make up a good hunk of Iowa’s voters.

Well, here’s the deal for Republicans: If you want to transfer huge sums of other taxpayers’ money into local scams, go ahead and try. Just expect to be mocked every time you call yourself a conservative. OK?

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

Screenshot: YouTube

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Midterm Roundup: Deadlocked In Georgia

Here are some interesting stories on the midterm campaigns that you may have missed on Monday, October 13:

• As early voting begins in Georgia, a new poll has the Peach State’s top races dead even. The Landmark Communications poll finds Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue tied at 46 percent in the state’s contentious Senate election. In the gubernatorial race, Democrat James Carter and Republican incumbent Nathan Deal are tied at 45 percent. Perdue leads by 2.7 percent and Deal leads by 3.2 percent in the Real Clear Politics poll averages, but it appears increasingly likely that both races could be headed for a January runoff.

• Another poll has found South Dakota’s Senate race getting tighter. The new survey, from GOP firm Harper Polling, shows Republican Mike Rounds hanging on to the lead with 37 percent of the vote, followed by Democrat Rick Weiland at 33 percent, and Independent Larry Pressler at 23 percent. Rounds’ lead has dipped into single digits in the poll average, and given the unpredictable nature of three-way races, it’s still anybody’s game.

• Polls of North Carolina’s Senate race have consistently shown Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan with a narrow lead, but the National Republican Senatorial Committee clearly believes that Republican challenger Thom Tillis still has a chance. On Monday, the group announced that it is buying an additional $6 million in airtime on his behalf.

• Republican Joni Ernst is clinging to a narrow lead in Iowa’s Senate race, according to a Rasmussen poll released Monday. It finds her ahead of Democrat Bruce Braley, 48 to 46 percent, with 5 percent still undecided. Ernst leads by just 1.2 percent in the poll average.

• And Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) may not be finished yet in Kansas’ wild Senate race. He trails Independent Greg Orman by just 3 percent in the latest Public Policy Polling survey, down from 10 points in the group’s previous poll. Orman now leads by less than 1 percent in the poll average.

Photo: Heather Kennedy via Flickr

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