New York Times: “For almost two decades, midterm elections have been a succession of partisan waves: for Democrats in 2006, Republicans in 2010 and 2014, and Democrats again in 2018. Yet as the first mail-in ballots go out to voters, the outcome of the 2022 midterms on Nov. 8 appears unusually unpredictable — a reason for optimism for Democrats, given how severely the party that holds the White House has been punished in recent years.”
“Three states in particular — Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania — that are seen as the likeliest to change party hands have emerged as the epicenter of the Senate fight with an increasing volume of acrimony and advertising. In many ways, the two parties have been talking almost entirely past each other both on the campaign trail and on the airwaves — disagreeing less over particular policies than debating entirely different lists of challenges and threats facing the nation.”
New York Magazine: Senate control could come down to these long-shot races.
Associated Press: “That’s a theme GOP candidates across the U.S. are sounding in the final month of the critical midterm elections. The issue of crime is dominating advertising in some of the most competitive Senate races, including those in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Nevada, along with scores of House and governors campaigns such as the one in New York.”
“The rhetoric is sometimes alarmist or of questionable veracity, closely echoing the language of former President Donald Trump, who honed a late-stage argument during the 2020 campaign that Democratic-led cities were out of control. That didn’t help Trump avoid defeat, but experts say Democrats would be wrong to ignore the potency of the attacks.”
Meanwhile, Fox News reports the White House is slamming congressional Republicans, accusing them of working to “defund the police,” “defund the FBI” and choosing the “gun lobby over the fight against gun crime.”
GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR. “A woman who has said Herschel Walker, the Republican Senate nominee in Georgia, paid for her abortion in 2009 told The New York Times that he urged her to terminate a second pregnancy two years later,” the New York Times reports. “They ended their relationship after she refused.”
“In a series of interviews, the woman said Mr. Walker had barely been involved in their now 10-year-old son’s life, offering little more than court-ordered child support and occasional gifts.”
Not only has the story now been confirmed by another publication, it just gets worse for Walker.
“Herschel Walker has maintained that he still doesn’t know the identity of the woman claiming she had an abortion after she and Walker got pregnant in 2009. But on Friday afternoon, the woman finally heard from a top Walker campaign surrogate: Julie Blanchard, the candidate’s wife,” the Daily Beast reports.
The cover up is often worse than crime — especially when there are texts.
Washington Post: “A candidate running in a critical Southern battleground state got caught in a personal scandal that threatened to upend his campaign just a few weeks before Election Day.”
“His supporters dug in, saying voters viewed the campaign as a parliamentary type of race to determine the Senate majority and predicted that the personal foibles would have no impact.”
“Herschel Walker this month in Georgia? No, Cal Cunningham, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in North Carolina two years ago.”
Politico: “A super PAC backed by former President Donald Trump is pouring money into a last minute ad buy to boost Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker following a bruising week of headlines.”
“The ad by MAGA Inc. focuses on culture wars and incumbent Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock’s voting record — but makes no mention of Walker or his recent controversies.”
Jonathan Bernstein: “One cause is a structural bias that winds up favoring bad candidates. In normal political parties, including the Republicans up through the 1990s or so, most key actors have overwhelming incentives to win elections. Politicians have their careers on the line, not only in their own election campaigns but in those who share the party brand with them. Party-aligned interest groups typically care deeply about policy goals they can only achieve by winning elections; governing professionals want to be in government, not on the sidelines. Campaign professionals build reputations by winning, not losing.”
“But as Republicans have become dominated by party-aligned media — from Fox News to right-wing websites to conservative talk radio — the electoral incentive has eroded. The media outlets themselves have perverse incentives, because they thrive by having Democrats in office. Ratings go up. More books are sold. While conservative media outlets in all likelihood don’t want Republicans to lose, they might be less motivated than traditional political participants to see Republicans win.”
- A new Marist College poll finds President Biden’s job approval rating is at 44% to 49%. Among registered voters nationally, the Democrats running for Congress have a narrow two-point edge over the Republicans, 46% to 44%.
- A new Sooner poll in Oklahoma shows Joy Hofmeister (D) holds a slight lead on incumbent Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), 47% to 43%.
- Young women are trending liberal, but young men are not.
- A recent NBC News/Telemundo poll of Latino voters finds that conservative Latinos have gone from Democratic-leaning voters in 2012 to Republican base voters now — a net 65-point swing in a decade.
- “U.S. voters prefer Republicans over Democrats for solving immigration and crime problems, suggesting the Republican emphasis on border security and fighting crime could help it in the Nov. 8 midterm elections,” a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed.
National Journal: “The entire concept of polling depends on having a set population from which one can take a random sample and get a generally representative snapshot. Pre-election polls have no existing population—the election hasn’t happened yet, and voting isn’t compulsory in the U.S., so we simply don’t have a population of who voted until all the polls have closed on Election Day.”
“We can’t remedy that. The population of voters will never exist prior to the election. Expecting polls to be able to consistently, accurately predict an election is asking more than is statistically and theoretically possible. Yes, we (pollsters) have a lot of information from past elections to help figure it out. But it’s gotten harder to poll a representative sample of the entire American adult population over the last few decades. Just in the past couple of election cycles, we have seen candidates activate people who typically don’t vote, so is it really surprising that the error rates of horse-race polls have increased?”
NEW YORK 11TH and 19TH CD. Siena College is out with a pair of surveys for Spectrum News giving each party the lead in a New York House contest.
Over in the 11th District, which includes all of Staten Island and a portion of Brooklyn, freshman Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis enjoys a 49-43 edge in her rematch against Democrat Max Rose. The sample also finds Republican Lee Zeldin with a small 46-42 advantage against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul in a constituency Trump would have taken 53-46.
In the Hudson Valley-based 19th, meanwhile, Siena has Democrat Josh Riley beating Republican Marc Molinaro 46-41. The school also finds Zeldin ahead 46-45 in this swingy turf, which would have backed Biden 51-47.
MINNESOTA 2ND CD. The Minnesota Reformer’s Deena Winter reported Wednesday that, while Republican Tyler Kistner spent his unsuccessful 2020 campaign suggesting that he’d been in combat, Marine records show that was never the case. Winter notes that Kistner, who is again the GOP nominee, would have received a combat action ribbon had he seen battle, which he’s acknowledged he doesn’t have.
Two years ago, Kistner was facing off against several fellow Republicans, including Air Force veteran Erika Cashin, ahead of the GOP party convention, where Minnesota nominations are often decided. Kistner said at the time he couldn’t turn over documents about his service, but he declared in the lead up to the gathering that he’d put the enemy “six feet under” and had “been on the wrong end of a loaded weapon.” The candidate also referenced the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and said, “I’ve been in such conflicts.”
Cashin said in response at the time, “Tyler Kistner has said he is ‘the most decorated military member in this race,’ and has made multiple statements needing clarification.” She also challenged him to release his records, arguing, “Tyler can put these questions to rest by simply releasing his DD 214 and proving what he has said is true.” Kistner, though, won the party endorsement without publicizing those documents, and Cashin and his other foes dropped out afterwards rather than go on to the primary. Kistner ultimately lost the general election to Democratic Rep. Angie Craig 48-46.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, which is backing Kistner’s second bid to unseat Craig, had been airing an ad saying he’d been in “four combat deployments.” The progressive group VoteVets, though, asked stations to take down these spots because Kistner had actually served in Japan and Korea, which are not combat zones. CLF, for its part, claims it distributed an “incorrect version of the ad and fixed it ourselves on the same day.”
A Kistner consultant named Billy Grant insisted his client had never lied during the 2020 race. Grant told Winter that the “six feet under” line referred to an operation where a “partner force effectively killed more than eight violent extremist organizations in the North African region,” where Kistner helped coordinate the evacuation of seven injured soldiers. Grant also argues that Kistner had been telling the truth about being on the “wrong end of a loaded weapon” because he’d gotten into an argument with an allied commander who had pulled a gun on him before the matter was resolved.
MICHIGAN 7TH CD. The Congressional Leadership Fund is running a new ad attacking Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin over recent reports that she’s been leasing a condo from a donor named Jerry Hollister, who serves as director of government relations for a medical manufacturing company called Niowave. CLF cites a Detroit News story noting that Slotkin had signed a 2020 letter supporting a Department of Energy program that awarded a total of $28 million to Niowave in 2019 and 2021, which the narrator suggests is “shady.”
Slotkin’s campaign responded to the initial stories by noting that she never mentioned Niowave in that missive, and that the Republican she defeated in 2018, Rep. Mike Bishop, had previously signed a similar letter. Her team declared the congresswoman had “never done anything in Congress that inappropriately benefits his company” and that she was “paying market rate rent to a landlord, just like thousands of mid-Michiganders.”
OREGON 6TH CD. Here’s something you don’t see often—or ever: Republican Mike Erickson released an internal poll showing him leading his Democratic opponent, Andrea Salinas, the very same day that he filed a lawsuit demanding Salinas take down an attack ad by citing a law that he recently threatened to use to overturn the election should he lose.
To pick apart this strange turn of events, we’ll start with Erickson’s survey from Cygnal, which shows him beating Salinas 44-39 in Oregon’s brand new 6th District, a seat Joe Biden would have taken 55-42. The last polls we saw out of this district, which is based in the Salem area and Portland’s southwestern suburbs, were both from mid-August: The GOP firm Clout Research gave Erickson an even larger 43-34 advantage, while a GBAO internal for Salinas had her up 48-45.
Despite these optimistic numbers for Republicans, however, both the Congressional Leadership Fund and the NRCC have so far avoided spending here, even though their opponents at the DCCC and House Majority PAC have together dropped over $1.4 million. Given the district’s lean, it’s exceedingly unlikely that the GOP’s two biggest House groups have steered clear of this race because they feel supremely confident, especially since a conservative organization called Take Back Oregon PAC just launched a $300,000 TV buy this week.
Salinas’ side has run several commercials focusing both on allegations that Erickson paid for a girlfriend to have an abortion in 2000—years before Herschel Walker did the same—as well as stories around his 2016 arrest. The latter is the focus of his new lawsuit and a cease and desist notice he recently sent to Salinas. In that letter, Erickson threatened to invoke a state law that the Oregon Capitol Chronicle writes “prohibits knowingly making false statements about a candidate, political committee or ballot measure.”
Reporter Julia Shumway explains, “If a judge determines that a candidate made a false statement that cost their opponent an election, the law states that the candidate will be removed as a nominee or elected official.” But she adds, “Over several decades, Oregon courts have interpreted that law to exclude opinions or statements that could reasonably be interpreted as true.” It’s also not clear whether this law has ever been successfully employed to reverse the results of an election, and Erickson’s attorney, Jill Gibson, cited no such examples in her letter.
In his newly filed lawsuit, Erickson didn’t actually present any demands regarding overturning the upcoming election but instead asked a state court to order Salinas to stop airing the ads in question and “to retract the false statements by airing correction advertisements with the same frequency and broadcast location as the false advertisements.” He is also seeking $800,000 in monetary damages, which he claims would cover the cost of “commercials to correct the false statements.”
The complaint insists that Salinas’ ads are “false” because Erickson “has never been charged with illegal possession of drug.” To that end, Gibson’s letter cited a recent story from The Oregonian in which Hood River County District Attorney Carrie Rasmussen said that the court documents that those allegations came from were incorrect.
Instead, Erickson’s attorney from that case, Tara Lawrence, insisted that she’d made a “mistake” by filing a plea agreement stating that the Rasmussen’s office had “agreed to dismiss felony possession of controlled substance upon tender of guilty plea.” An attorney for Salinas, however, cited that very statement in support of the ad’s truthfulness in a letter and argued that “a charge is a charge, whether or not the DA files it.”
Before Erickson filed his lawsuit, Salinas’ campaign shrugged off his threats, saying in a statement, “Mike Erickson’s threats to overturn the election if he doesn’t win should raise major concerns for Oregonians who cherish democracy.”
FLORIDA 13TH CD. Progress Pinellas has dropped another $2.2 million to support Democrat Eric Lynn, which takes its total investment here to $6.7 million. The Tampa Bay Times reported in April that the group is funded by hedge fund manager Justin Ishbia, a Lynn cousin who usually contributes to Republicans.
ARIZONA and NEVADA SECRETARIES OF STATE. SSRS, polling for CNN, finds election deniers with small leads in a pair of secretary of state races taking place in crucial swing states. Mark Finchem posts a 49-45 edge over Democrat Adrian Fontes in Arizona, while fellow Republican Jim Marchant enjoys a similar 46-43 edge against Cisco Aguilar in Nevada. Last week, the progressive group End Citizens United released internals from GSG showing Fontes ahead 46-44. Fontes is also getting some new outside support, as CNN reports that the Democratic organization iVote will spend $5 million to aid him.
IOWA ATTORNEY GENERAL, The Republican firm Cygnal’s new survey for the conservative Iowans for Tax Relief shows Republican Brenna Bird outpacing longtime Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller 46-43. Back in July, Cygnal found Miller, who is seeking a historic 11th term, ahead by a narrow 45-44 margin.
INDIANA SECRETARY OF STATE. IndyPolitics.com recently published a story in which two women charged that Diego Morales, who is the Republican nominee for secretary of state, sexually harassed and groped them. One said the incident took place in 2007, while the other said her encounter with Morales took place a few years later. Morales soon put out a statement saying, “The claims being made against me are false and I unequivocally deny all of them.” He faces Democrat Destiny Wells in November.
NORTH CAROLINA SUPREME COURT. Two recent polls have found Republicans with modest advantages in two pivotal elections that will determine which party holds a majority on North Carolina’s Supreme Court.
Polling for WRAL, an early October release by SurveyUSA finds Democratic Justice Sam Ervin IV trailing Republican attorney Trey Allen 39-37 and Republican Richard Deitz with 37-32 over Democratic Court of Appeals Judge Lucy Inman, who is a fellow Court of Appeals judge, in the contest for an open Democratic-held seat. The other poll was conducted by GOP firm Cygnal for the conservative John Locke Foundation in late September, and it found Allen beating Ervin 46-39 while Deitz led Inman 44-41, though both polls saw a sizable share of voters remain undecided.
A victory for Republicans in either race would be enough to overturn the 4-3 majority that Democrats currently hold on the bench, and these contests are thus likely to have major consequences for the future of fair elections, abortion access, and many other important civil rights matters. Redistricting and voting rights have played a particularly large role in the battle over the high court after it ruled 4-3 along party lines earlier this year to block the GOP’s congressional gerrymander and allow a much fairer map drawn by a lower court to take its place.
That court-drawn map is only in effect for the 2022 cycle, though, and a potential GOP court majority could allow Republican lawmakers to once again gerrymander without restraint ahead of the 2024 election cycle. Likewise, Republicans at the congressional or state legislative levels could try to pass a ban on abortion in North Carolina should they win enough seats in the 2022 or 2024 elections, but a progressive-minded court could protect abortion rights under the state constitution.
MICHIGAN ABORTION AND VOTING RIGHTS REFERENDUM. The Glengariff Group’s recent statewide election poll for the Detroit News and WDIV-TV also looked at multiple measures on the ballot this November and found that the one that would enshrine reproductive healthcare rights including abortion access in the state constitution is passing 62-24, while another that would expand voting rights is winning 70-14.
Walter Shapiro: “There are a few lessons from political science for campaign donors and ordinary voters. No matter how much a campaign hypes a particular ad in a fundraising email, the spot, at best, is only going to have a minuscule effect at the margins. And if you care about the effectiveness of your donation, ignore the high-profile Senate races that are dominating the news. You will get far more bang for your buck by investing in House races and down-ballot statewide contests for attorney general and secretary of state.”
“And most of all, don’t assume that campaign ad decisions are based on impeccable research. In truth, campaigns are flying blind just like the rest of us.”
Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “We watched nearly 350 campaign ads that came out in the second half of September. Abortion dominates Democratic messaging, while Republicans are much less likely to mention it. Crime has become a huge focus for Republicans, with Democrats trying to inoculate themselves by featuring law enforcement officers in their ads.”