With Two Weeks to Go, Parties Brace for Midterm Showdowns

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We are officially two weeks out until Election Day, and the latest polls show the races to be close -- in Kansas, New Hampshire, and Kentucky. And here is something to consider: It was back in 2006 when the Republican Party was prepared and had good candidates, when there were plenty of tight contests, and when all of the close races broke the Democrats’ way. It’s possible that everyone could be right about this cycle: It’s close, competitive, and goes the GOP’s way. Conversely, Democrats hope their turnout operation, their candidates, and the surprising developments in Kansas and South Dakota prevent a 2006-like outcome. But brace yourself: We have a lot of close races, and they all COULD go in one direction.

Granite State of Mind

Speaking of close, the latest Suffolk poll has Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) leading challenger Scott Brown (R) by just three, 49%-46%. And the poll comes as one of your authors moderates a debate tonight between Shaheen and Brown at 8:00 pm ET, and it airs on NECN. Keep this in mind about New Hampshire: As the nation has gone, so has gone New Hampshire. We’ve seen it in the Senate contests (with Dems winning in 2008 and with the GOP winning in 2002 and 2010), and we’ve also seen it in that NH-1 district that seems to keep changing hands. If New Hampshire is a nail-biter on Election Night, we’ll see how the national winds are blowing. Ditto if the race is called earlier than expected for Shaheen. No state might tell us more about the national environment than New Hampshire.

The Outsiders

Last week, we looked at the general-election TV ad spending in the Top 10 Senate battlegrounds, and we found that Republicans were outspending Democrats in all of the key states. Well, we’ve crunched more of the numbers, and here’s another finding: The Dem and GOP outside groups (combined) are outspending the campaigns and political parties (combined). Of the total $377 million spent for the general election (read: after the primaries) in these states, a majority -- $192 million -- has come from outside groups (Super PACs and 501c4s). Not surprisingly, a greater proportion of the overall GOP spending (62%) has come from outside groups. By contrast, most of the Dem spending (62%) has come from the campaigns and committees.

  • Total spent by Dem campaigns + committees: $104,825,230
  • Total spent by GOP campaigns + committees: $80,103,709
  • Total spent by Dem outside groups: $64,074,801
  • Total spent by GOP outside groups: $127,788,455

The highest-spending outside groups in the Top 10 Senate battlegrounds

  • Crossroads/Crossroads GPS (R): $43,855,669
  • Koch-funded groups (R): (Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners, Generation Opportunity, Concerned Veterans for America): $33,103,162
  • Senate Majority PAC (D): $29,477,634
  • NRA (R): $9,582,932.32
  • US Chamber of Commerce (R): $8,476,024
  • NextGen Climate (D): $5,602,328 (Steyer)
  • Patriot Majority (D): $4,893,606

SOURCE: NBC/Smart Media Group. The ad-spending data for the general election is for 10 Senate contests in Arkansas, Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, and New Hampshire.

Is it closer than we all think in Kentucky?

Although it’s a robo-poll that doesn’t meet our methodological standards, the Bluegrass Poll conducted by SurveyUSA shows Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) leading Alison Grimes (D) by just one point, 44%-43%. It’s the second-straight Bluegrass Poll showing Grimes either ahead or within striking distance. We asked this question a couple of weeks ago -- before Grimes refused to say if she voted for Obama, and before the DSCC didn’t re-up its ads in the state -- is this race closer than the Conventional Wisdom and the other polls suggest? The Bluegrass Poll has been kinder to Grimes than the rest. Two weeks from now, we’ll find out who is right.

Alabama House speaker indicted

While the state doesn’t feature a top midterm contest this cycle, don’t miss the news out of Alabama. The Birmingham News: “Mike Hubbard, speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives and a powerful leader in the state Republican Party, has been indicted by a grand jury and charged with 23 counts, including using his office for personal gain and soliciting things of value. Late Monday afternoon, Hubbard reported to the Lee County Jail where he was booked. If convicted, Hubbard faces a maximum penalty of two to 20 years in prison and up to $30,000 in fines for each count. Hubbard, 52, who led a historic Republican takeover of the state Legislature during the 2010 election, was charged after an investigation in his home county that has lasted more than a year. The charges against Hubbard include 23 class B felonies.” This is a reminder: One-party rule leads to these kinds of stories: the best way to prevent ethics issues is to have more competition between the parties.

Ebola fears

We’ve written here over the past few weeks about how Ebola has evolved into a midterm issue as Republicans seek to nationalize the elections and capitalize on waning faith in government. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows why the fear factor might be working: 45 percent of adults say they are very or somewhat worried that they or someone in their family will get the virus. More than four in 10 Americans also said the government isn’t doing enough to protect Americans (although when it comes to faith in hospitals, local health agencies and the CDC, the public is more confident.) And there’s plenty of misinformation out there too: A quarter of respondents said Ebola can be transmitted through the air.

Countdown to Election Day: 14 days

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