Democrats need to pick up four seats to regain the Senate majority (if Clinton wins, making Tim Kaine, as Senate presiding officer, the potential tie-breaking vote). Dems appear in good shape to take Republican seats in Illinois and Wisconsin, they’re leading by a slim margin in Indiana and Pennsylvania and they are very competitive in Missouri, New Hampshire and North Carolina, but they might lose the seat that retiring Democratic Leader Harry Reid is giving up in Nevada.

In Illinois, Sen. Mark Kirk (R) was fortunate to first run for this seat in 2010, when the GOP wave helped Republicans win in states they otherwise would have had little chance. Now that he’s seeking re-election in a blue state in a presidential year, the tables have turned. Democrats landed their top recruit, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, and the limited polling available has shown her solidly ahead. Perhaps more importantly, national Republicans have made only the most minimal effort to help Kirk, suggesting their private polls look bleak, too. Along with Wisconsin, this is one of the Democrats’ two best pickup opportunities this year.

In Indiana, former Sen. Evan Bayh (D) gave Dems a boost when he decided to wage a comeback for his old seat. But while early polls showed Bayh dominating GOP Rep. Todd Young, heavy outside spending on both sides suggests that this race has tightened, as attack ads have chewed away at Bayh’s reputation and Indiana’s conservative leanings have asserted themselves. Bayh’s family name might yet be enough for him to pull off one more win in this red state, but this contest now looks close.

In New Hampshire, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R), locked in a tough re-election fight with Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), has tried to put some distance between her and Donald Trump. While the Daily Kos Elections polling average gives Ayotte just a 46-45 lead over Hassan, Hillary Clinton has a 46-40 edge in New Hampshire. But Ayotte complicated things at a debate (10/3) when, after she was asked whether she would point to Donald Trump as a role model for children, she replied, “I think that certainly there are many role models that we have. I believe he can serve as president, so absolutely, I would do that.” Hassan is now out with a commercial that aims to make Ayotte eat her words.

Missouri, once a bellwether state, has taken a sharp Republican turn in recent years. However, Democrats still have enjoyed a fair bit of success in statewide races, and GOP Sen. Roy Blunt has found himself in quite a bit of hot water. His Democratic opponent, Secretary of State Jason Kander, has run an aggressive campaign, and polls have shown Blunt running only a few points ahead of Kander and several points behind Trump. National Democrats have started spending millions on Kander’s behalf, and Republicans have done the same for Blunt. A Democratic win would still be an upset, but trendlines have been positive for Kander.

In North Carolina, former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D) was not the first choice of national Democrats, but she was willing to take on Sen. Richard Burr (R). Ross has proven to be a good fundraiser, while Republicans have expressed frustration with Burr’s complacent campaign.

Republicans attacked Ross, who served as head of the North Carolina ACLU in the 1990s, but she’s fought back. Burr and his allies unleashed commercials accusing Ross of opposing the creation of the state sex offender registry. Ross quickly responded with her own ad featuring ex-state Sen. Fountain Odom, who identified himself as “the sponsor of the law creating the sex-offender registry” and praised Ross for working to make the bill stronger. Daily Kos Elections rates it a tossup.

Nevada appears to be the only legitimate Republican pickup opportunity as US Rep. Joe Heck (R) has held a narrow lead over former state Attorney Gen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D), a protégé of retiring Sen. Reid. Both sides are spending heavily in this swing state, and the race is rated a tossup that will likely will go down to the wire.

In Pennsylvania, former state environmental secretary Katie McGinty needed a lot of outside help to win the Democratic primary, but now she’s locked in a close race with GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, with several recent surveys showing her ahead. Pennsylvania’s light blue lean might just be too much for Toomey to overcome, but he’s a very strong fundraiser and this race is still very much a tossup.

In Wisconsin, every single poll dating back to early 2015 has shown GOP Sen. Ron Johnson losing his repeat engagement with former Sen. Russ Feingold (D), the man he beat six years ago. Johnson never seemed to figure out that he represents a swing state and has hewed a very conservative line, putting him out of step with many constituents. National Republicans are only making a limited investment here, suggesting they think Johnson’s chances are poor.

Florida, the ultimate swing state, has seen one of the most topsy-turvy Senate contests this cycle. GOP Sen. Marco Rubio repeatedly swore he would not seek re-election after his failed presidential bid but wound up changing his mind in June. Ever since, polls have shown him with the edge on US Rep. Patrick Murphy (D), even though those same surveys have regularly found Trump trailing Clinton. While a late Clinton surge could doom Rubio, he appears to be winning just enough crossover votes (especially from Latinos) to survive.

In Iowa, veteran Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) has never won re-election with less than 66% of the vote, but Democrats, sensing that Grassley might be vulnerable thanks to his leadership role in the GOP’s Supreme Court blockade, recruited the strongest challenger Grassley’s ever had, ex-Lt. Gov. Patty Judge (D). But while Grassley has put up the weakest poll numbers of his career, the Supreme Court vacancy has faded from view, and Judge has failed to draw any blood. An upset looks increasingly unlikely, especially since this is has been one of Trump’s better swing states.

In Ohio, the situation looks bleak for former Gov. Ted Strickland (D), as a new PPP poll finds Sen. Rob Portman (R) up 51-36, even though Hillary Clinton leads 44-43. And unfortunately, this is far from an outlier: The Daily Kos Elections polling average shows Strickland trailing Republican Sen. Rob Portman by a brutal 51-35. Both parties have also cancelled millions of dollars in outside spending, so Strickland has very little shot at making this competitive gain. Daily Kos Elections is moving this race from Likely Republican to Safe Republican.

Colorado was one of just two states this year where Republicans had a shot at a pickup (Nevada is the other), but they failed to land any of their top recruits, then nominated a radical conservative extremist, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, who has no money and no national support. Though Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet narrowly escaped with a miraculous 2-point win in 2010, he is now rated safe by DailyKos.

In Kentucky, GOP Sen. Rand Paul didn’t acquit himself well during his failed presidential bid, but any blowback back home has been offset by Kentucky’s stark Republican lean. Democrats landed an intriguing candidate in Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who is openly gay and personally wealthy. The DailyKos polling average shows Paul leading Gray 38% to 29.3% as of 10/9, with 32.7% undecided, but the state is still considered Safe Republican. (DailyKos.com)

RIGHT-WING REP. ISSA LOOKS VULNERABLE. Six months ago, retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate was just some dude challenging Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, the wealthiest member of Congress, DailyKos.com noted (10/10). But national Democrats took notice when Applegate held Issa to just a 51-45 lead in California’s June top-two primary. Both Applegate and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released polls showing the Democrat narrowly trailing Issa and on Thursday, the DCCC dropped a survey showing Applegate ahead 46-42. Issa released his own poll in early September showing himself leading 52-38, but Issa isn’t acting like an incumbent with nothing to worry about. The congressman has started running attack ads, and Issa loudly whined about an Applegate commercial that tied Issa to Trump, even threatening to sue his opponent.

The DCCC has begun to put money behind their support, and in early October, they reserved an additional $364,000 to help Applegate air ads, taking their total investment to $517,000. Politico also says that the DCCC is planning to spend “millions” more.

With his unlimited resources, Issa won’t be easy to beat in this suburban San Diego seat. But while Romney carried this district 52-46, this is yet another affluent area where Donald Trump is unlikely to play well, and those same Democratic polls have shown Hillary Clinton winning here. With Team Blue now preparing to devoted real resources to this race, Daily Kos Elections is changing its rating from Likely Republican to Lean Republican.

HILLARY CLINTON: BEST CHOICE FOR ‘PRO-LIFE’ VOTERS? Eric Sapp wrote at ChristianPost.com (10/3) that Hillary Clinton should be the candidate for those whose concern for the unborn determines their vote.

“Donald Trump and Republican leaders say they are ‘pro-life,’ proclaiming from every street corner their unwavering belief that life begins at conception … and then those politicians turn around and say it’s ok to murder those precious unborn children if they were conceived through rape or incest,” Sapp wrote.

“What does it say about politicians who proudly proclaim life begins at conception and then advocate murdering some children because that position polls better?” he asked.

In fact, Sapp noted, Democratic policies result in fewer abortions, which rose steadily during the tenure of the first “pro-life” Republican President, Ronald Reagan and reached their highest level (1.4 mln in 1990) under President G.H.W. Bush. Abortions then dropped dramatically to 857,475 in 2000 under President Clinton, a drop of 40% from the high under his pro-life Republican predecessor. That downward trend stalled during most of President G.W. Bush’s tenure, and remained basically flat until the final two years of his term when Democrats retook Congress. And then abortions plunged again under Obama, falling to their lowest point in 40 years, with 699,202 in 2012.

“It’s no coincidence that abortions go up when Republicans are in charge and down when Democrats are,” Sapp noted. “The two biggest indicators a woman will have an abortion are that she is poor (75% of women who have abortions make less than $23,000 and half make less than $11,000), and had an unintended pregnancy (half of US pregnancies are unintended, and 43% end in abortion).

“Want to guess which political party is more effective at reducing poverty and unwanted pregnancies? I’ll give you a hint. It’s not the ‘pro-life’ party that in this last congressional session alone fought to cut medical care for poor mothers and children, food programs for kids, and contraception coverage and access for women.”

He added, “Let’s assume the impossible happened and Roe [the 1973 Supreme Court decision that a woman has a right to choose abortion] is overturned — leaving each state to decide if they’ll allow abortions. Only about 10% of abortions take place in states with legislatures that have seriously tried to limit abortion. So if abortion was outlawed in all those states, and no woman crossed state lines to get one, the most overturning Roe would achieve is a 10% reduction in abortions. Compare that to nearly 40 years of data showing that we would save more than three times as many unborn children by cutting the number of poor women in half. Increase contraception access, family leave and improve pre- and post- natal healthcare, and we’d cut abortions by 50% or more.”

Dispatches also notes: Any party that would require pregnant women to give birth, but also cuts funding for family planning, food and housing assistance and resists expansion of Medicaid to cover the working poor, as the Republican Party has, is not “pro-life” — it is merely “pro-birth.”

MEDICAL JOURNAL INVITES CANDIDATES TO DESCRIBE HEALTH PLANS. GUESS WHICH ONE RESPONDED. When the New England Journal of Medicine invited the top two presidential candidates to describe their plans for US healthcare in their administrations, Hillary Clinton jumped at the chance. Donald Trump didn’t respond at all.

For the most part, Michael Hiltzig noted at the Los Angeles Times (9/30), Clinton’s response hews closely to the healthcare position on her campaign website, with an additional plea for congressional Republicans to cease making healthcare a “partisan or divisive issue.”

She would expand Medicaid to the 19 states — all with Republican governors and/or legislatures — that continue to reject the program’s coverage of the working poor. “We need to expand Medicaid in every state so that everyone has access to care, regardless of their income and where they reside,” she wrote.

She advocates expanding the Affordable Care Act’s tax credits to cover more of the deductibles and co-pays that consumers face after paying their health insurance premiums, and empowering federal authorities to set standards for drug pricing and address excessive price increases. She would make a “public option” possible and let people over 55 years old buy into Medicare. She also would allow undocumented immigrants to purchase insurance on the Obamacare exchanges, from which they’re currently barred even if they pay full price. She hasn’t offered to make them eligible for tax subsidies, however.

Trump’s website offers “essentially a rehash of such Republican healthcare shibboleths as allowing the sale of policies across state lines, eliminating the individual mandate and expanding of health savings accounts, the tax benefits of which flow disproportionately to the rich,” Hiltzig noted. His “full repeal on day one” of his administration would deprive 20 mln Americans of coverage they’ve gained via the law and drive up costs for millions of others, Hiltzig noted.

In sum, according to the Rand Corp., which analyzed both plans with funding from the Commonwealth Fund, Clinton’s proposals would add as many as 9.1 mln persons to the rolls of the insured; Trump’s would reduce the insured’ ranks by as many as 20.3 mln.

FEDERAL COURT REFUSES TO STOP DAKOTA PIPELINE. A federal appeals court denied the request by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to stop construction on a portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, arguing that the tribe had failed to demonstrate that an injunction on construction was warranted, Natasha Geiling reported at ThinkProgress.org (10/10).

That means that construction can resume on a section of the pipeline that runs within 20 miles of Lake Oahe in North Dakota, a sacred area which the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has argued holds deep cultural significance to their community. The pipeline, if completed, would run 1,170-miles and transport 470,000 barrels of oil a day across four states. But it would also run within a mile and a half of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation, and could potentially threaten the Missouri River, the tribe’s sole water supply.

The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (10/10) had ordered a temporary injunction against construction on any part of the pipeline within 20 miles of Lake Oahe, while the court considered whether or not to halt construction further (the project is currently 60% complete). Following the court’s decision (10/9), the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe expressed disappointment that the court did not decide to extend the halt on construction, but vowed to keep fighting the pipeline.

Following the court’s decision, three federal agencies ordered construction to remain stopped on any federal land. In September, the Obama administration ordered construction of the pipeline to stop on all federally owned land until government agencies — including the Army Corps, the Justice Department and the Interior Department — could fully assess the likely environmental impact of the pipeline. That decision, according to the agencies, could still be weeks away.

FORMER INQUISITOR ENDORSES HILLARY. Michael Chertoff, the New Jersey Republican who pursued the Clintons as former chief counsel for the Senate Whitewater Committee in the 1990s and later headed the Department of Homeland Security, said he would vote for Hillary, saying she “exhibited good understanding of what the issues and challenges were, [was] steady in terms of her approach and also interested in educating herself. And I generally found her to have good judgment. And in the area of national security, those kind of temperament issues and issues about being well-informed I think are critical tools for the next president at a period of time when I think our challenges to security are perhaps more acute than at any time since Sept. 11.”

From The Progressive Populist, November 1, 2016


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