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None of the Above: Voters Are Holding Their Noses at the Polls

 / Updated 
Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., left, and Republican candidate for Senate Thom Tillis participate during a live televised debate at UNC-TV studios in Research Triangle Park, N.C., on Sept. 3.Gerry Broome / Pool via AP

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If anything sums up voters’ attitudes about this election, it’s these two newspaper endorsements that essentially admit, “We dislike both of these candidates, but if we had to pick one…” The Charlotte Observer, in an endorsement entitled “For U.S. Senate, disappointment vs. danger,” unloads on Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) before ultimately endorsing her. “Kay Hagan has been a disappointment to many voters who sent her to the U.S. Senate six years ago – and to this editorial board, which recommended her. She has done about the minimum you’d expect from a U.S. senator.” Ouch. But then it goes on to say, “It’s [Republican Thom Tillis’] positions that are the problem, and they are why North Carolina voters should send Hagan back to Washington and hope for something better.” Similarly, the Nashua Telegraph beats up on Republican Scott Brown in New Hampshire before endorsing him because it thinks he can be more independent than Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). “We have a few words of advice for Mr. Brown. Stop claiming you are from here. It’s disingenuous, and every time you say it, it sounds hollow,” the paper writes. The attitude expressed here is -- none of the above, but if I have to make a choice, I’ll do so, but I won’t like it.

Breaking down our six NBC/Marist polls

There are two big takeaways from the six NBC/Marist polls we released Sunday morning. One, the races are close and all within the margin of error. Two, most of the momentum -- though not all -- has been in the GOP’s direction.

  • In Colorado’s Senate contest, Republican challenger Cory Gardner holds a one-point lead among likely voters over incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., 46%-45%. Back in September’s NBC/Marist poll, Udall was ahead by six points, 48%-42%.
  • In Iowa, Republican Joni Ernst edges Democrat Bruce Braley by three points, 49%-46%. Earlier this month, Ernst’s lead was two points, 46%-44%.
  • In Kansas, independent Greg Orman has a one-point advantage over Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, 45%-44% -- down from Orman’s 10-point lead earlier this month in the NBC/Marist poll.
  • In Arkansas, Republican challenger Tom Cotton gets the support of 45 percent of likely voters, versus incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., at 43 percent. In September, Cotton’s lead was five points.
  • In North Carolina, incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and GOP opponent Thom Tillis are tied at 43 percent each. That’s down from Hagan’s four-point lead earlier this month. Libertarian Sean Haugh gets 7 percent of the vote.
  • The lone exception of a race outside of the margin of error was in South Dakota, where Republican Mike Rounds enjoys a 14-point lead over Democrat Rick Weiland, 43%-29%, while independent Larry Pressler, a former Republican senator, gets 16%.

GOP maintains its ad-spending advantage

We have updated ad-spending numbers in the 10 hottest Senate battlegrounds. And just like last time, the GOP has the advantage here with one exception -- North Carolina. Again, if you look only at the data from the FEC or the Center for Responsive Politics, you typically see Democrats with the edge. But ad-spending numbers are the only way to see how much the 501c4 groups, which don’t have to disclose their spending, are dumping in these contests. Here are the numbers for the general election (i.e, after the primaries in each state), courtesy of the GOP ad-buying firm Smart Media Group


Dem: $11.0 million

GOP: $14.1 million


Dem: $16.6 million

GOP: $22.5 million


Dem: $26.3 million

GOP: $30.3 million


Dem: $11.1 million

GOP: $11.8 million


Dem: $27.5 million

GOP: $28.5 million


Indie: $5.2 million

GOP: $8.0 million


Dem: $15.6 million

GOP: $24.0 million


Dem: $19.1 million

GOP: $23.2 million

North Carolina

Dem: $40.0 million

GOP: $39.4 million

New Hampshire

Dem: $10.6 million

GOP: $11.3 million

Total Dem: $178 million

Total GOP: $213 million

Total Indie: $5 million

Grand total: $396 million

Is saying someone is “giving this a serious thought” about 2016 the same as saying he’s likely to run?

Just an FYI: We’re not necessarily sure that Jeb Bush’s son, George P. Bush, said his father will “more than likely” run in 2016, as the headlines put it yesterday. Check out the transcript:

GEORGE P. BUSH: “I think it’s actually, I think it’s more than likely that he’s giving this a serious thought in moving forward,” George P. Bush told Karl aboard his campaign bus in College Station, Texas.

ABC: “More than likely that he'll run?”

BUSH: “That he'll run. If you had asked me a few years back, I would've said it was less likely.”

When you read the entire exchange, it appears George P. Bush is talking about his father THINKING about running, not that he’s more likely than not to run. It’s a little eye-of-the-beholder thing: If you truly want Jeb to run, you can see something in that transcript confirming your desire. But if you believe Jeb is in the same place he’s been in over the past year -- as we do -- then you see that in the transcript.

McCarthy says GOP needs to show it can govern. But will the base cooperate?

Politico has House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) saying Republicans must show they can govern if they want to have a chance in 2016. “I do know this,” McCarthy told Long Island donors. “If we don’t capture the House stronger, and the Senate, and prove we could govern, there won’t be a Republican president in 2016.” But here’s the challenge for GOP congressional leaders: John Boehner, Eric Cantor (who is now out of Congress), and McCarthy all have talked a good game about how they want to demonstrate they can govern. But time and again, the GOP base ends up calling the shots (we saw it during the shutdown; we also saw on immigration. And here’s the fundamental question: Would getting the Senate majority change the GOP base’s attitudes? Or will it only embolden it?

Countdown to Election Day: 8 days

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