Senate Election 2014
While we should be cautious to read too much into a special election, there’s no denying that the Republican victory last night in Florida’s Thirteenth Congressional District (FL-13) is bad news for Democrats in the 2014 mid-term election, regardless of how they try to deflect it.
The spin from Democrats is that FL-13 had long-been held by Republicans and the district has a Republican tilt, albeit very slight, at R+2. This is true. But talking points miss some very important points.
First, this is a district twice won by President Barack Obama, so it’s more friendly to Democrats than they want to admit. Secondly, Democrats had the money advantage. Alex Sink, who lost last night, overwhelmingly outraised and outspent her Republican opponent, former lobbyist David Jolly, and outside groups backing the Democrat slightly outspent those backing the Republican candidate.
Third, Jolly was a lobbyist, and that point was frequently brought up by Sink and outside groups backing her campaign. Despite being pegged in populist rhetoric as a Washington insider, Jolly managed to win.
Nearly an hour after the House of Representatives passed a measure to ostensibly delay enforcement of the individual mandate, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that it would extend the “administrative fix” for canceled health plans through 2016 as well as extended the open enrollment period for 2015:
The Obama administration announced Wednesday it will let people with health insurance plans that don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act standard to keep them into 2017 if their states permit.
The administration also extended Obamacare’s open enrollment for next year by one month—it now will run from Nov. 15, 2014, until Feb. 15, 2015—and gave insurers more financial help in dealing with costs from new ACA enrollees.
The announced rule changes also simplified the paperwork that larger employers will have to file when the rule obliging them to offer affordable health insurance to workers begins in 2015.
Under the new rule, people who maintain those plans, and who renew them as late as Oct. 1, 2016, will be able to keep them until as late as 2017. The administration said the rule will apply to anyone currently in a non-compliant small-group plan, as well as an individual plan, and said it would be up to individual states to allow the extension, and to what extent.
TL;DR: Mitch McConnell feels threatened by principled conservatives and feels that they’re ruining the “Republican brand” by challenging him and other establishment Republicans. But really, the “Republican brand” is in shambles, and it’s time to re-define that brand to return to small-government principles.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) isn’t a happy camper these days. He’s locked in both a contentious primary and general election fight, losing rule battles against his Democratic counterpart, and has to contend with some members of his own party who are constantly willing to stand on principle, rather than the party line.
The rise of the Tea Party movement and conservative organizations have created havoc for McConnell and Republican leadership in the chamber, who enjoyed mostly distant rumblings from the political right in the past. But over the last few months, there has been a tiff between the Kentucky Republican and the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) that has now boiled over into the public.
Tom Knighton already touched on the new Washington Post/Pew Research poll showing that not even a majority of Americans express disappointment or anger for the Senate failing to enact the Manchin-Toomey amendment. In fact, the only group that is disappointed in failing to expand background checks is Democrats. A plurality of independents — 48%, to be exact — and 51% of Republicans describe themselves as “very happy” or “relieved” that the measure failed to pass.
As Chris Cillizza concludes, President Barack Obama “wound up losing the message fight over the gun legislation.” Of course, this is what happens when you waste political capital, as President Obama and the White House did, on an issue that only 4% of Americans really care about.
“Rather than a conversation centered on widely-popular measures supported by members of both parties,” he explained, “the debate — at least as people perceived it — became a wider referendum on the proper place for guns in society.”
We’re barely through with the 2012 elections, but the 2014 Senate races are heating up quite nicely. This is fun, right? You can see a map here of the 2014 and which way each state leans. I’m keeping a close eye on two of those races specifically: Georgia and South Carolina.
Georgia interests me because it’s my home state but also because it’s the reelection campaign of the man whose liberal idiocy prompted my entrance into political activism. Saxby Chambliss is certain to face a primary opponent, and I’m certain to support that opponent. The only question to be answered is who will decide to run against him. I wrote about this race and Chambliss’ potential opponents recently.
South Carolina also has my eye for two reasons. First, I grew up there, and the vast majority of my family lives there. Second, it’s an opportunity for the state to rid themselves of the biggest imbecile in the Senate. Lindsey Graham is also nearly certain to find a primary opponent, and that opponent is also likely to win my favor (especially if that opponent is Tom Davis).
The problem with these races – and really a lot of the races in the coming Senate election – is that the incumbent has had (at least) six years to build up campaign funds and become part of a system designed to keep him elected. Lindsey Graham has a war chest of over $4 million. That’s enough money to scare off a lot of quality candidates that would give him a run for his job.
With the dust finally clearing from the 2012 election, FreedomWorks, an organization that organizes and trains the grassroots, hosted over 100 activists from 19 states for a debrief on this year’s campaigns — finding out what tactics and strategies did and didn’t work.
This weekend also provided these Freedom Movement activists, all of which were flown into Washington, DC for the meeting at FreedomWorks’ headquarters, an opportunity to plan for 2014, as well as to receive some training in new techniques to help get their message out to new voters and to get an idea of what is going on in the negotiations over the so-called “fiscal cliff” and the status of ObamaCare’s state healthcare exchanges.
This morning, FreedomWorks hosted a press conference that give activists an opportunity to be heard by the media. Before turning over the press conference to activists, Matt Kibbe, President and CEO of FreedomWorks, explained that “[t]here’s more energy in this movement today than there was on November 6th,” adding that the the activists that showed up this weekend are focused on 2014 and ideas.
Kibbe also noted that the debate and negotiations on the “fiscal cliff” were somewhat peculiar. “I don’t know about you, but I feel like we went over the fiscal cliff a long time ago,” explained Kibbe.
Over the last six years, I’ve been watching Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) very closely. Back in 2008, Chambliss faced a tough challenge in a three-way, finding himself in a runoff against Jim Martin, a liberal Democrat.
Part of the problem was campaign organization. Insider Advantage quoted an unidentified Republican who said that Chambliss and company had the organization of a “bad state House race,” calling it a “embarrassing campaign.” There was also the perception of Chambliss among Georgia Republicans. Insider Advantage again quoted a unidentified Republican who said, “Saxby’s reputation is that he’s spent six years in Washington playing golf. He’s gone on lots of trips. He hasn’t done the down-and-dirty constituent work.”
“Saxby bragged about it his first four years – how much golf he was getting in. It was a real problem and it irked a lot of people,” said the unnamed Republican source. Many Republicans in the state were less than thrilled with Chambliss, who hadn’t been able to endear himself to the state party the way Sen. Johnny Isakson had.
Another issue that hurt Chambliss was that he had lost the support of many fiscal conservatives in Georgia because of his votes that put taxpayers at risk.
The Republican Senate primary in Mississippi has become ground zero for the battle between the GOP establishment and the grassroots.
In one corner there is Sen. Thad Cochran, who first went to Washington in 1973 and has fallen in love with the smell of the marble on Capitol Hill. In the other is state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a conservative seeking to shake up the status quo.
McDaniel, 41, is the one conservative primary challenger who has a legitimate shot of taking down an incumbent Republican. He’s saying the right things on the campaign trail, pushing fiscal conservative ideas and constitutional principles that appeal to base voters in Mississippi.
What helps McDaniel’s case is that Cochran has become one of the most squishy Republican in the Senate. The long-time Senate Republican recently earned a dismal 63% rating from the American Conservative Union, far worse than GOP colleagues facing primary challengers.
It would seem that McDaniel’s message is making headway, though polling out of the state has been scant. The most recent poll, conducted by Harper Polling, found Cochran’s lead in the race has fallen to 17 points from 23 points in December. Other polls, however, have found that the race is within single digits.
Not even a week after she resigned her post in President Barack Obama’s cabinet, The New York Times reports that former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is considering a bid for U.S. Senate in Kansas:
Several Democrats said this week that Ms. Sebelius had been mentioned with growing frequency as someone who could wage a serious challenge to Mr. Roberts, 77, who is running for a fourth term and is considered vulnerable. One person who spoke directly to Ms. Sebelius said that she was thinking about it, but added that it was too soon to say how seriously she was taking the idea.
Democrats say that Ms. Sebelius would be their best hope at winning in a tough state, especially if Mr. Roberts loses his primary to Milton Wolf, a Tea Party-backed radiologist who has alarmed mainstream Republicans with some of his actions, such as when he posted gruesome pictures of gunshot victims on Facebook.
Perhaps more significant, Ms. Sebelius would force Republicans to spend money in Kansas as they tried to fight off her challenge. Her family has a long history in the state, and she was a popular, twice-elected governor. In 2006, she was re-elected with 58 percent of the vote.
Sen. Angus King (I-ME), one of two independents in the Senate currently caucusing with Democrats, is openly tossing around the idea of switching sides should Republicans take control of the upper chamber this fall, according to The Hill:
“I’ll make my decision at the time based on what I think is best for Maine,” King told The Hill Wednesday after voting with Republicans to block the Paycheck Fairness Act, a measure at the center for the 2014 Democratic campaign agenda.
King’s remarks are a clear indication that congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle will have to woo the 70-year-old senator in order to recruit him to their side.
The Hill surmises that King’s caucus alignment could be the deciding factor if Republicans wind up evenly splitting seats with Democrats, in which case the tie-breaking vote would go to Vice President Joe Biden.
That’s an unlikely scenario, but if Republican leaders were to sweeten the deal with a plum committee assignment, it could be enough to woo him over and, thus, tip the scales of control of the Senate to the GOP. At the same time, however, Republicans will have to defend several potentially competitive seats in 2016, so that’s something that King will keep in mind as he makes a decision.
But if King does decide to caucus with Senate Republicans, it would be an unlikely relationship. He’s not exactly in lockstep the GOP’s positions. The Maine senator, for example, has been a more reliable vote than some of his colleagues who are actually Democrats.