Why the Ebola News (Again) Doesn't Help Democrats

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With now another American testing positive for Ebola -- this time an American doctor in New York who had been treating Ebola patients in Guinea -- it’s worth asking: What is the real impact of the political conversation turning, once again, to Ebola? And here’s our answer: It gives Republican candidates another opportunity to nationalize their races. Democrats, as we’ve said before, want to localize their races and paint the portrait that their opponents are too radical. (Example: See them likely jump on Joni Ernst telling one of us yesterday that supporting a “personhood” measure wasn’t a mistake.) But every day that the conversation is a big national issue -- whether it’s Ebola, ISIS, or something else -- Democrats lose an opportunity to make their closing argument. Of course, it’s important to note that the reaction to this newest Ebola case doesn’t have quite the panic the earlier ones did; the public is beginning to understand that those MOST at risk are doctors and medical professionals dealing with Ebola patients, not the public at large. Indeed, here’s NBC’s Maggie Fox on why New Yorkers shouldn’t panic about this latest case.

An example of Republicans nationalizing this

Yet that doesn’t mean that some political candidates and outside groups won’t try to milk this newest Ebola case for all its worth. Just check out this fundraising solicitation for Arkansas Senate candidate Tom Cotton from the group Revive America PAC. “Obama says that his policies are on the ballot this November, and so they are. One of his policies is an illegal executive order granting instant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. Another policy of Obama's is to continue to allow incoming flights to America from Ebola-stricken West African nations. Frankly, this is just NUTS. There are now even rumors floating around Washington that Obama will begin importing Ebola-infected West Africans into the United States for treatment.” (The underscore is the group’s emphasis.) Now this is just ONE conservative group, and hardly a high-profile one. And we won’t be surprised to see some Republicans denounce this kind of tactic. But it’s a reminder of who you will see SOME elements trying to score points here.

What changes if Republicans win control of the Senate

With Republicans having more than a 50%-50% shot at winning control of the U.S. Senate, it’s important to note what a GOP-led Senate would change in Washington:

1. It would increase the number of vetoes President Obama has issued so far (just two) during his time in the White House. With Republicans controlling both the House and Senate, you can expect many more bills reaching his desk that he will oppose. Remember: It takes a two-thirds vote in each chamber for Congress to override a veto (so about 290 in the House and 67 in the Senate).

2. It would hinder Obama’s ability to make appointments to the executive branch and to the judiciary, even to the U.S. Supreme Court if there’s a vacancy. If Republicans have 51 votes at their disposal, then slam-dunks for confirmation become A LOT harder.

3. It would raise the profiles of the Republican and Democratic centrists -- like Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Joe Manchin, Angus King, Heidi Heitkamp. (And don’t forget Greg Orman or Larry Pressler, if they win on Nov. 4.) If legislation will need 60 votes to even reach Obama’s desk, then those centrists will become kingmakers.

And what won’t change

With the 113th Congress on track to reach a historic low in the number of bills becoming law, the GOP controlling the Senate won’t really change that. What will change is that legislation will likely die via presidential veto rather than due to inactivity in the House or Senate. As of last week, the 113th Congress had passed just 184 bills into law – fewer than the 195 the 112th Congress passed in the same time period.

Meet the Voters: Recapping Chuck’s stop in Iowa

Here is Chuck Todd’s dispatch after speaking with Iowa voters yesterday, especially regarding the uber-competitive Senate race between Joni Ernst (R) and Bruce Braley (D). And Chuck got a brief interview with Ernst (while the Des Moines Register didn’t), who said it wasn’t a mistake to support a so-called “personhood” measure in the Iowa state Senate.

TODD: Is abortion a priority for you?

ERNST: I would say that focusing on economic policy is very much a priority with me because that’s what I’m hearing from Iowans is economy and jobs and government spending. But, of course, I’m always going to try and find ways to promote life. I think that is important, I think Iowans, I think Americans support life. Even Congressman Braley said that the other evening during the debate. He supports life

TODD: So the personhood thing is a mistake?

ERNST: No, it’s not a mistake. It is stating that I do believe in life. I will never say that’s a mistake, because again I am always someone who is going to support life

Another observation of Ernst

Watching her on the campaign trail, it is obvious she is trying to appeal to the slice of Iowa voters who have voted for BOTH Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley over the last few decades. And note the word “Republican” isn’t on her campaign bus.

Today, Chuck heads to Wisconsin, arguably the most polarized state in the country. Here’s a question: Is Wisconsin one of the few states in the country where voter intensity might favor the Democrats? It’s harder to nationalize states without a Senate contest (say Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Maine, Florida).

What helps the GOP in ’14 could hurt in ’16

Don't miss these wise words from the Cook Political Report's Amy Walter: "What may propel the GOP to victory this fall is a relentless focus on an unpopular president. However, the more the GOP relies on ginning up their base to win an election, the harder it will be for them to do the sorts of things they need to do to win over non-base Republican voters in 2016."

Are the polls underestimating turnout in Colorado?

Yesterday, we noted how Colorado is the one state Democrats, Republicans, and pollsters all disagree over -- mainly because no one really knows what turnout will be given the mailed ballots. Well, Democrats now have data backing up their claim that the electorate might be bigger than many pollsters are expecting, according to a new poll of 400 Coloradoans who voted in the ‘12 presidential contest but not the ‘10 midterms, plus those who were recently registered. This poll, conducted by the Democratic-leaning group Project New America, finds that 82% of these so-called "drop-off" voters have received a ballot in the mail. And a combined 83% say they've already voted (22% of them) or are planning to vote (another 61%). Who are these drop-off voters? They're younger than Colorado's 2010 voters; more of them are minorities; and they're more likely to be Democrats. And according to the poll, they're backing Mark Udall (D) over Cory Gardner (R) by 14 points, 48% to 34%. And Gov. John Hickenlooper's (D) margin is even wider, 49%-32%. In political races, it's never a good place to be consistently trailing in the polls -- it means you're behind. And Udall is behind in Colorado. But in this case, Project New America is arguing that the polls aren't including everyone who will be mailing in their ballots.

New NBC/Marist polls coming out on Sunday

Speaking of polls, we will release new NBC/Marist polls from a whopping SIX states on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” -- Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, North Carolina, and South Dakota. Get ready for a deluge of numbers at 9:00 am ET on Sunday.

Another poll showing Nunn ahead in Georgia

And here’s another poll to chew on: A CNN survey has Democrat Michelle Nunn leading Republican David Perdue by three points among likely voters, 47%-44%. And if there’s a runoff, Nunn’s lead expands to four points, 51%-47%.

Countdown to Election Day: 11 days

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