Blog Posts For The Week Of September 24, 2014 Through September 30, 2014

How Kansas Could Refocus Senate Control On Michigan
By Zachary Gorchow
Editor

Posted: September, 30 2014 1:25 PM

There’s not a whole lot of history connecting Kansas and Michigan, save for Michigan Governor Epaphroditus Ransom (1848-50) receiving an appointment from President James Buchanan in 1857 as receiver of the Osage land office in Kansas (and thanks to George Weeks’ “Stewards of the State” for that factoid).

But the current politics in Kansas could have a significant spillover effect on those in Michigan in the next month.

Based on polling averages as well as leading election models, Republicans are on their way to picking up the six currently Democratic seats they need to win control of the U.S. Senate, now with a functional 55-45 Democratic majority that includes some independents. Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota have long been virtually locked up for the GOP, and increasingly Louisiana, Arkansas and Alaska look like victories as well.

So Republicans can virtually taste a 51-49 majority and the prospect of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) replacing U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) as majority leader, right?

Well, maybe not. And that brings us to Kansas.

The longtime Republican incumbent, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, is unexpectedly in dire straits. He narrowly survived a primary fight and now has an independent candidate (unofficially expected to side with the Democrats although he has not indicated his plans) surging against what most have said is Mr. Roberts’ moribund campaign organization. Additionally, Democrats in this usually Republican state are on the upswing and could take the governor’s office as well.

If Mr. Roberts loses alongside the six Republican pick-ups noted earlier, that drops the Senate to a 50-50 tie with Vice President Joe Biden breaking the tie allowing Democrats to retain at least some sense of control. There would likely be a power-sharing arrangement along the lines of what occurred during a brief tie in 2002, but it would be a huge save for the Democrats compared to falling into an outright minority.

That’s where Michigan comes in. Republicans still have other opportunities for a 51st seat, and Michigan remains one of them despite the well-documented troubles of the Republican candidate, former Secretary of State Terri Land.

Targets 1a and 1b for the Republicans would be Iowa and Colorado, respectively. The Republican candidates are running well in both states, especially Iowa, and the Democratic candidate in Iowa has struggled. North Carolina had seemed a promising prospect for some time, but U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-North Carolina), while not safe, has proven resilient.

Ms. Land continues to get horrific coverage for her low-profile campaign with National Public Radio’s Don Gonyea the latest to examine the situation. Her favorable/unfavorable numbers are terribly underwater and she has shown no sign in virtually any minimally credible poll of upward movement in her support against the Democrat, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters.

But one thing that has helped Ms. Land this month is that the outside groups airing ads supporting her have the better message than the outside groups favoring Mr. Peters. The messages hitting Mr. Peters on hypocrisy and tying him to an unpopular President Barack Obama have a much better chance of moving numbers than those from Democratic-aligned groups continuing to assail Ms. Land on the environment and the Koch brothers. The fuel of those arguments was long ago exhausted.

Indeed, Mr. Peters’ support has fallen a bit though Ms. Land remains stuck at about 40 percent. That latter point eventually could have prompted outside groups to pull out of the race sooner than later. But with Kansas up in the air, Republicans will need fallback plans to ensure 51 seats, and Iowa, Colorado and North Carolina remain too close to call.

As much as Mr. Peters is the favorite, his room to grow is limited as a result of the Land and GOP ads damaging his favorability numbers as well as the unpopularity of Mr. Obama.

Ms. Land’s upward movement is limited as well, but if Republicans conclude they need to go all-in on Michigan, it could mean even more ads in the next month in hopes of knocking Mr. Peters down to 40 percent in the polls to put this race in play.

Remember Bleeding Kansas? This could be Bleeding Michigan. As in, our eyes bleeding from the ads.

A Fundraising Email Without The Silliness
By Zachary Gorchow
Editor

Posted: September, 26 2014 1:13 PM

Emails from candidates seeking donations continue to fill inboxes around the country to the point where even the most loyal partisans get fed up with not only the inundation, but the ridiculous pitches from their own side.

The worst offender has to be the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee with its absurd email subject lines taunting the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Such as:

“MCCONNELL OUT”

“MCCONNELL CRUSHED”

“MCCONNELL KICKS DOGS”

Okay, the third one I made up, but it’s actually not that improbable that the DSCC would roll that out.

Another hilarious tactic from various candidates is to urge donations because of a “deadline” that one would assume is the last day to donate prior to the close of books on a reporting period so that the candidate can show a good haul when disclosing fundraising a couple weeks later. Often, there is no such actual deadline, just an artificial or fabricated one.

The other tactic that cracks me up is the use of doomsday subject lines such as:

“DISASTER”

“TERRIBLE NEWS”

“DETROIT LIONS”

Okay, again, I made the third one up, but I bet a candidate might be able to raise some non-traditional cash in Michigan if he or she somehow convinced voters a donation might make the Lions a winner.

So when an email rolled in the other day from the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Michigan, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, with the subject line, “I’m asking for money,” it was much more attention-grabbing than the usual screaming subject line because it was so mellow.

I guess we’ll know whether it worked or not based on whether the next Peters fundraising email continues that theme or busts out the “Caps Lock” button with the traditional more frantic candidate themes.

Atheists: Trott ‘Best’ Bet Among Republicans
By Christopher Klaver
Staff Writer

Posted: September, 25 2014 1:25 PM

If you are an atheist, agnostic or humanist, but are looking to vote Republican for Congress, the 11th U.S. House District seems the place to be.

In voter guides released this week by the Secular Coalition for America, Republican David Trott was the only of the Republicans analyzed among three who did not score an F. This is not to say the coalition liked him, he just didn’t get an F.

In fact, it appeared Mr. Trott largely stayed away from issues of religion at all. The only score he received out of the six questions asked was an F, and that was on the question: “Does the candidate support scientifically based regulations including science surrounding reproduction, stem cell research, climate change and other issues?”

Mr. Trott’s Democratic opponent, Bobby McKenzie, scored a B on that item. But he, like Mr. Trott, scored N/A on the other five questions. That meant Mr. Trott got an N/A overall. So did Mr. McKenzie.

The Democrats in the other two races reviewed, Dean Vanderstelt in the 2nd U.S. House District and Pam Byrnes in the 7th U.S. House District, also received scores of N/A. Ms. Byrnes had one grade, an A, for support of science-based curriculum and opposition to public funding for religious schools. Mr. Vanderstelt had not yet stated his positions on any of the six topics.

The Republican incumbents in both of those races, U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland and U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg of Tipton (a former minister), both scored Fs across the board.

But the guides showed the coalition put questionable science into developing its guides. The three races were among the “50 Secular Races to Watch”. But there will only be something to watch in two of those, and the group missed some that will have something to watch.

Ms. Byrnes is putting up a tough campaign against Mr. Walberg and could have the best shot a Democrat has had against Mr. Walberg since 2008. Mr. McKenzie could also have a shot at defeating Mr. Trott, though it is a long one given the partisan leaning of the district and differences in funding levels between the campaigns.

There is nothing to watch, though, in the 2nd. Mr. Vanderstelt would have to be an amazing candidate with amazing levels of funding, which he is not and does not have, and Mr. Huizenga would have to be ascandal-ridden, which he is not, for Democrats to pull off a win in that seat.

And the group totally ignored the 6th U.S. House District, where Democrat Paul Clements, a Western Michigan University professor (though in political science, not one of the natural sciences) is putting up the strongest campaign the Democrats have seen in that district in many years, even launching several television commercials. U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) will still be a tough nut to crack, but there is at least a race there.

The 1st U.S. House District and the 8th U.S. House District could also have more to watch, the former particularly because Democrat Jerry Cannon is picking up some national support to unseat U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Crystal Falls).

In the 8th, Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing has a shot against Republican former Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, but he will have to have money and come out swinging soon to have any hope of an upset (the next finance reports will show whether he is keeping his powder dry to the end or has no powder to use).

If the goal of a voter guide --even one from the religiously skeptical -- is to change some minds and affect the outcome of an election, history will likely show that the Secular Coalition did not do its research before weighing in.

Olumba Enters The House Chamber Late, Dems Cheer
By Alethia Kasben
Staff Writer

Posted: September, 24 2014 3:52 PM

Certain House Democrats appeared ecstatic as Rep. John Olumba walked into the House chamber at 2:44 p.m. today; one hour and fourteen minutes after session began.

Democrats seated around Mr. Olumba’s (I-Detroit) desk cheered and pounded on their desks as he entered the chamber. Shortly after 2 p.m. Rep. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing), who sits next to Mr. Olumba, tweeted a photo of his empty chair saying: “It might be time to reinstate Olumba watch.”

Since the House has been back for eight sessions starting on August 27th, Mr. Olumba has been absent or walked in during late for all but one of them. On the September 10th and 11th his absences were excused.

Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) quipped to Mr. Singh via Twitter that Mr. Olumba was prepping for his next committee meeting, as earlier this year he was made chair of the House Appropriations Fiscal Oversight Subcommittee (the committee has never met and is not scheduled to meet in the near future).

Shortly after Mr. Olumba sat at his desk, Mr. Singh tweeted a picture of him and said “The Olumba watch is over.”

 

GOP Stalwart Praises Latest DGA Ad
By John Lindstrom
Publisher

Posted: September, 24 2014 1:27 PM

How can you tell when Republicans are worried about the re-election of Governor Rick Snyder?

One way might be to note comments left by a stalwart Republican leader on his Facebook page. The ad referred to was started on Tuesday by the Democratic Governors Association, and there is a clear tone of dismay in his compliments.

“Just watched the new DGA ad with the woman writing the letter to Governor Snyder about raising taxes on pensions. Effective, hard hitting ad. The themes are strong. I must say the Schauer campaign is running one of the most message disciplined campaigns I’ve seen since the Engler campaign on property taxes. It’s apparent their focus groups and polls show those messages move voters; they definitely emotional and personal. Hope our counterattack begins soon, because these ads will cut.”

The person writing the comments knows something about message driven campaigns, because he helped lead one. Specifically, he led the 1990 campaign for then Sen. John Engler which resulted in the defeat of then Governor Jim Blanchard. If you haven’t guessed by now, the chap reluctantly tossing bouquets to the campaign of Democrat Mark Schauer is Dan Pero, one of the best known Republican strategists around.

After this, it will be interesting to see how both sides react to his comments.

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Gongwer Staff

John Lindstrom
Publisher
jwlindstrom@gongwer.com
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Zachary Gorchow
Editor
zgorchow@gongwer.com
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Danielle Emerson
Staff Writer
demerson@gongwer.com
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Alethia Kasben
Staff Writer
kasbena@gongwer.com
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Christopher Klaver
Staff Writer
cklaver@gongwer.com
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