Monthly Archives: September 2014

Significant recent polls

Here is an update on some significant recent polls on political races around the country.

First, a CNN poll in North Carolina showed Republican nominee Thom Tillis still trailing incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan by a narrow margin. This race so far has been one of the more disappointing races for the GOP, as Hagan’s unpopularity offers a prime opportunity to pick up this seat. But there is still time for Tillis to turn it around. One possible complication is the Libertarian’s third party candidate, who is probably taking votes from Tillis.

(R) Tillis 43% (D) Hagan 46% (L) Haugh 7%

Second, a University of New Hampshire poll found incumbent Republican Governor Paul LePage within the margin of error against his Democratic opponent – trailing by only 2%. Here, an independent candidate is complicating things for Democrats, just as he did in 2010 – the only way a Tea Party conservative like LePage has a chance to win in a blue state like Maine.

(R) LePage 38% (D) Michaud 40% (I) Cutler 12%

Third, a South Dakota poll showed Republican candidate Mike Rounds with a double-digit lead over two opponents. Rounds does not have as much support as one would like to see, but the lead is solid.

(R) Rounds 39% (D) Weiland 26% (I) Pressler 24%

Fourth, a PPP poll confirms a new development in the Iowa Senate race – Republican Joni Ernst has slipped slightly ahead, a huge development for the GOP if it holds. The poll shows a narrower margin than the poll released on Saturday by the Des Moines Register which shows Ernst up by 6 points.

(R) Ernst 44% (D) Braley 42%

 

 

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Brazil may soon have evangelical President

There’s an interesting story on Reuters today about next month’s presidential election in Brazil.

Marina Silva, an environmentalist running neck and neck in polls with incumbent President Dilma Rousseff, is a Pentecostal Christian who often invokes God on the campaign trail and has said she sometimes consults the Bible for inspiration when making important political decisions.

The article goes on to talk about the growing influence of evangelicals, who numbered only 5 percent of the population in 1970 but grew to nearly a quarter today. It also highlights some similarities and differences between American and Brazilian evangelicals. Basically, Brazilian economic politics are to the left of American politics, and both major candidates, including the evangelical, call themselves socialists and support “robust” welfare programs. The evangelical candidate is also an environmentalist. Obviously, all of these positions would be anathema to most American evangelicals who are conservative like me. But Brazilian evangelicals share American’s opposition to abortion and gay marriage, perhaps even more strongly than we oppose it here, as both are illegal in Brazil and the political environment on social issues has obviously not moved to the left as far as the American environment has.

Here in American politics, I have often wondered why it doesn’t seem possible for any left-leaning individuals to support liberal policies on economics, environmentalism, and other things, while still remaining faithful to the Bible theologically as well as fully opposed to abortion and gay marriage. There’s no logical reason why one couldn’t, it seems to me, and often I think conservative Christians are too “religious” in their economic views, speaking as if socialism is against the Bible. (I think socialism is a bad idea, but more for pragmatic reasons than biblical reasons: I don’t think it works well. Although I do think socialism may infringe on property rights, but there is probably room for disagreement there, biblically speaking). But every time I encounter a Christian who leans toward the left on economics, etc., it seems like inevitably that person can’t be bothered to worry too much about abortion and gay marriage other than paying lip service to opposing abortion – as if the liberal positions always take priority. They may even support gay marriage. And usually, for some reason they tend to be squishy on biblical authority as well: is the bible really inerrant? is homosexual behavior really a sin? They often lean toward “no” on those questions. But Brazil’s politics confirms what I’ve long suspected: there is no necessary, logical connection to being a Christian and supporting conservative economic policies. (Of course, it’s not necessary to be liberal or socialist either, to be clear. Sometimes liberal evangelicals act as though conservatives are unbiblical or something). Here in the U.S., I’m not sure what exactly led to social conservatives aligning with fiscal conservatives and libertarians on economic issues so uniformly, but perhaps the two parties are so thoroughly divided on social issues, particularly abortion, that there is a tendency to conform on other issues as well, in order to fit in.

I wish Brazil’s evangelicals the best. But I do hope they remember what the Lord told the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 4:6): “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” They may install one of their own in the presidency and continue gaining in influence, but they need to remain humble and remember that the future of their nation is in the Lord’s hands. And power can corrupt an evangelical just like a Catholic or a nonreligious person. Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson, in their excellent book Blinded by Might, detailed the mistakes of the American religious right after their triumph in Reagan’s victory in 1980. I pray Brazil’s evangelicals avoid that mistake, or else Brazil may turn out to be worse off because of it.

 

Ohio Democratic gubernatorial campaign implodes

Being an Ohioan, I took special note of a story in yesterday’s New York Times that details the implosion of the Democratic campaign for governor in Ohio. The Democratic nominee is Ed Fitzgerald, the county executive of Cuyahoga County (the most populous county in the state). For some reason, the Democrats cleared the way for him to run without serious opposition in the primary, even though he was not very well known or tested in a big race. A couple incidents from his past came to light this summer that seriously hurt his candidacy: first, about two years ago he was found by police at 4:30 a.m. in a parked car with a woman who was not his wife. Second, it was learned that he did not have a driver’s license at the time: in fact, he drove for years without a valid license. His campaign has collapsed, losing donors and workers, trailing badly in the polls, and (Democrats worry) threatening the viability of other Democrats running for lower office in the state.

Democratic silliness in Colorado race

Mark Udall must really be feeling the pressure in Colorado.

Udall’s campaign has been decrying a new ad from his opponent Cory Gardner. “To go after my late father…that’s just low,” he said. Other Democrats have taken up the cry. “It’s disgusting…beneath a candidate running for the Senate…Gardner should apologize to Sen. Udall and his family and pull the ad.”

Here is this terrible, low-down attack ad:

Oh my! “My opponent is a really nice guy.” What a disgusting insult! “His dad ran for President”. What a horrible charge! Unthinkable!

Nonsense. Democrats are clearly feeling the heat here. They’ve been blasting Garder for months, attacking him as indifferent or even hostile to women (talk about despicable attacks!), drawing on the “war on women” line that they’ve used before. And it doesn’t seem to be working. Gardner has led in the last five polls. For an attack ad, this one is very mild. In fact, it’s a very good ad, attacking his opponent while looking nice himself. The danger in attack ads is that it will also drive up the negative rating of the candidate airing the ad, because although voters respond to negativity by viewing the “attackee” more negatively, they don’t like negativity and so view the attacker more negatively as well. This one does a good job avoiding that danger, and Udall’s campaign knows it.

You can donate to Gardner’s campaign here.

Former Rep. Traficant dies from farming accident

There was news of a tragedy today, as former Rep. James Traficant was taken off a respirator and passed away after having been terribly injured earlier in the week. On Tuesday a tractor flipped over on him at his family’s farm near Youngstown, OH. You may remember Traficant as the Democratic representative who was expelled from Congress in 2002 after being convicted on federal bribery and racketeering. He had faced similar charges prior to his career in Congress (he had been Mahoning county sherrif), but overcame them, successfully defending himself even though he was not a lawyer. No matter what kind of man he was or which party he belonged to, it’s always a tragedy to hear of a life ending in an accident like this. I can only hope he was at peace with God and ready to go. Consolations and prayers for his family.

The 2014 Senate Elections: Will Republicans Win A Majority?

With a little over a month until the 2014 midterm elections, the battle to control the Senate is in full swing. Currently, the Democrats have the majority in the Senate, with 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans, and 2 independents who caucus with the Democrats, giving the Democrats an effective majority of 55-45. So the Republicans need to take 6 seats to win the majority. Luckily, there are some things that favor the GOP this time around.

There are 36 seats up for election this year; the Democrats hold 21 of them and the Republicans 15. This means the Democrats have more ground to defend. Furthermore, the opposition party often does well in midterm elections, especially during a President’s 6th year, as dissatisfaction with the President leads to a backlash against his party. And President Barack Obama’s approval ratings are particularly low: he’s been struggling to keep his approval rating above 40%.

The GOP is practically certain to win 3 seats from the Democrats: Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. All three seats are “open” seats, meaning that the incumbent is retiring. All three are also in conservative states where the Republican Party has the advantage, and the GOP has produced good candidates with strong leads in the polls.

With those 3 in hand, the GOP is at 48, and needs 3 more. There are 11 competitive races this year that will determine the outcome. First, the 3 that Democrats hope to take from the GOP:

Kentucky: This seat is held by Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He has always been unpopular even in his conservative state, but Democrats haven’t yet managed to take advantage, and while the race remains competitive, they probably won’t this year, either. No poll has shown the Democratic nominee – Secretary of State Alison Grimes – with a lead since early June. Polls have been consistently giving McConnell a lead of 4-8 points.

Georgia: The current Republican senator is retiring, making this an open seat. Democrats hope to take the seat by nominating Michelle Nunn, who is the daughter of a long-term former Democratic Senator and the CEO of a nonprofit organization. She is probably the best candidate the Democrats could have found, and the race has been close, but at this point she’s probably the underdog to Republican businessman David Perdue, who has consistently led in most polls for the past two months.

Kansas: Republican Senator Pat Roberts is a political dinosaur. 78 years old, he’s been in the Senate for three terms and wants a fourth. The problem is, he’s not very popular, and the Democratic candidate dropped out of the race a month ago and threw his support behind independent Greg Orman. Orman is a blank slate; he has never even said whether he would caucus with Democrats or Republicans, but presumably he would caucus with the side that helped him win, especially if they retain the majority. Roberts is in the fight of his political life. Orman has a lead in the polls, though it has been narrowing as Republican-leaning voters have probably been getting more suspicious of the help Orman is getting from the Democrats.

The GOP is trying to take 8 seats from the Democrats.

Michigan: This is an open seat. Democratic Rep. Gary Peters has consistently held a lead over former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, but the race remains fairly close and may be narrowing, as the four polls have shown Peters with a lead of 4, 5, 3, and 2 points respectively – down from 5-10 in some earlier polls. 15-20% of voters are still undecided and Peters seems to be stuck in the low forties, with a hard time getting above 45% – but Land has a hard time getting above 40%. Peters is the favorite, but Land has a shot if the undecided voters want to express dissatisfaction with Obama by voting against Peters.

New Hamphire: Moderate Republican Scott Brown, former senator from Massachusetts, moved north to New Hampshire to take on incumbent Senator Jeanne Shaheen. I consider this the least likely Republican pick-up; a CNN poll showed the race tied a couple weeks ago, but that appears to be an outlier as polls since have shown Shaheen leading by 5-7 points The race appears to have narrowed, as polls from March-July showed Brown trailing by 10-12 points, but it’s still Shaheen’s to lose.

North Carolina: Incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan has a small lead in the polls, but is deeply unpopular. The problem is, Republican candidate Thom Tillis, speaker of the state House, is also unpopular – due to both the legislature’s unpopularity and a flurry of Democratic attack ads – and is having trouble getting ahead of Hagan. But there are still scads of undecided voters, and undecided voters often break against the incumbent at the last minute. This race could go either way.

Iowa – The closest race in the nation. Democrats chose Rep. Bruce Braley to try to hold the seat vacated by retiring Tom Harkin. The Republicans had trouble finding a well-known candidate, but settled on state sen. Joni Ernst. Recent polls have shown numerous ties or narrow leads for one or the other. RealClearPolitics estimates that Ernst has an advantage of .02% right now. This race is a true tossup.

Colorado: Democratic incumbent Mark Udall is in trouble. Republican Rep. Cory Gardner has all the momentum; the last 5 polls have shown him with the lead. Combined with the GOP gubernatorial nominee leading the incumbent Democratic governor, Colorado could be set to go red in November.

Alaska: Republicans have the momentum here as well. Incumbent Senator Mark Begich has lost his lead in the polls. State attorney general Dan Sullivan looks to be leading by 4-5 points, on average. Alaska polling is notoriously unreliable, though.

Arkansas: Representative Tom Cotton is challenging incumbent Mark Pryor. For awhile, Pryor held a small lead. But most polls recently have given Cotton a pretty steady lead of 2-7 points. At this point, Cotton is favored to come out on top in this one.

Louisiana: This state has a weird system where the November election is actually an open primary; multiple Republican and Democratic candidates can run and if no one reaches a majority (as is common) a runoff is held in December. Unless there is some miracle, this year will feature a runoff as well; but Bill Cassidy, the main Republican candidate, has maintained a lead in most head-to-head polling over incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu. Democrats haven’t quite given up, but if more polls show him with a 13-point lead over Landrieu like a recent Fox News poll, they might.

If I had to make a prediction right now, I would say that the Republicans will win a majority. On the individual races, I would say Republicans keep KY and GA, and take AR, AK, and LA from the Democrats. But I would also say Orman is a slight favorite right now. I think the Democrats will keep NH. That leaves IA, CO, NC, and MI to decide control of the Senate. If the Democrats keep all four, then the Senate will be at 50-50 and Joe Biden will make the tiebreaking vote to keep Harry Reid the Majority Leader. If Republicans win one of the four, they take the lead. If they win more than one, they could withstand the loss of GA or KY if something changes in those races. And if they keep GA, KY, and KS, then they wouldn’t even need one of the four, assuming my prediction that they take AR, AK, and LA is correct. So on balance, I think a GOP majority is the most likely outcome.

Marco Rubio’s Foreign Policy Speech

About a week ago, Marco Rubio delivered a powerful speech on foreign policy. Foreign policy doves or noninterventionists will probably not appreciate it, but to me, his ideas are exactly what we need. If he runs for President in 2016, he may be the favorite candidate of the GOP’s hawks. In fact, as long as Jeb Bush doesn’t step in, he may already be the frontrunner, at least to some observers.