TOPICS > Politics > THE MORNING LINE

Ten weeks out from Election Day, is a Republican wave coming?

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  August 26, 2014 at 9:13 AM EST
Photo by TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Photo by TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Why the landscape has shifted away from Democrats
  • U.S. steps up game in Syria
  • Teeing up the most expensive race in the country
  • Who are libertarians?

Summer of change: In politics, summer is usually a slow time. But with now 10 weeks to go until Election Day, what’s happened while most were at the beach is Democrats increasingly seeing a creeping red tide. It’s not quite at wave level, as the Crystal Ball team at the University of Virginia point out today, but before school let out, Democrats had about an even-money chance of holding onto the Senate. That’s changed. The New York Times’ Upshot model, Leo, now increases Republicans’ odds of winning control to 64 percent, their highest percentage in favor of the GOP yet this cycle. What’s changed? Democrats have shown more weakness in Arkansas; Iowa jumped onto the map as a real target for Republicans; and Democrats’ hopes in Kentucky and Georgia have dimmed slightly. We wrote in May that Democrats Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Mark Begich in Alaska could stand in the way of a GOP majority. Well, while Begich has remained in a strong position, polling in Arkansas has shown Pryor falling off, and no longer do Democrats look to be in as strong a position in Iowa. Of course, these races are still close, and Democrats could still pull off tight wins and hold the Upper Chamber. They just don’t look to be in as strong a position as they were two-and-a-half months ago with the end of primary season.

Obama approves surveillance in Syria: The Obama administration appears to be setting the stage for airstrikes in Syria to deal with the threat of Islamic State militants based there, as evidenced by reports late Monday that the president had approved surveillance activities over the country. The New York Times, citing defense officials, reports “the Pentagon was sending in manned and unmanned reconnaissance flights over Syria, using a combination of aircraft, including drones and possibly U2 spy planes.” Julie Pace of the Associated Press reports that “Pentagon officials have been drafting potential options for the president, including airstrikes” — but further intelligence “would likely be necessary” before the president could move forward. Some lawmakers have called on the administration to lay out an aggressive strategy to target Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. The president signed off on strikes in Iraq earlier this month, but up to this point has been unwilling to involve the U.S. militarily in Syria, which is locked in a brutal civil war. Complicating matters further, the Syrian government on Monday cautioned the U.S. against launching unilateral strikes against militants. However, the Times reports that if the president does order strikes, “he had no plans to collaborate” with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “or even inform him in advance of any operation.” The president could shed more light on his thinking Tuesday during remarks at 12 p.m. ET to the American Legion national convention in Charlotte. Mr. Obama will also hold a closed door meeting at the White House at 4:50 p.m. ET with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.

There’s only one flo, and one rida: There are primary elections in four states Tuesday in Florida, Arizona, Vermont and Oklahoma, but the key race to highlight is the Florida governor’s race. It is likely to be the most expensive race of any election in the country this cycle with more than $100 million expected to be spent between incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist, the former Republican-governor-turned-Democrat. Crist is expected Tuesday to hold off Nan Rich, the former state Senate minority leader. But watch the margins. Crist has ignored Rich, refusing to debate her. If he doesn’t win by A LOT, some will question how deep his support is among Democrats. To quash some of that chatter, Democrats will hold unity rallies Thursday in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. On the House side, by the way, Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux points out there are primaries Tuesday in three of the nine districts in the country that, in 2012, voted Republican in the presidential election, but Democratic for the House — Arizona’s 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts and Florida’s 18th.

More Ferguson polling – Americans don’t trust that police are held accountable: As the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., moves to the courts, nearly two-thirds of Americans (65 percent) don’t think police forces do a good job holding officers accountable when misconduct occurs, according to a USA Today/Pew Research poll. While majorities across the races believe this, it is more pronounced between whites and blacks — 58 percent of whites don’t think a good job is done holding police accountable, but a whopping 91 percent of blacks believe the same.

Police Forces Across the U.S. Get Low Job Ratings in Many Areas

Who is Rand Paul’s base? Speaking of Pew polls, the research group also sliced out in separate data who exactly libertarians are. With libertarian Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., likely to run for president in 2016, and his assertion that liberals are nervous about his bid because it could upend a “war hawk” like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should she run for president, it’s worth looking at what his base of support would be. And it is starts out relatively small. Who are libertarians and how many of them are there? Pew finds that just 11 percent of the country identifies as libertarian. They are more likely to be college-educated, young white men with good-paying jobs. They are more likely to think government help does more harm than good for the poor, but nearly two-in-three think marijuana should be legal and homosexuality should be accepted. On foreign policy, though, somewhere Paul is more of a non-interventionist, libertarians don’t stand out for their dovishness surprisingly in the poll. They are slightly more likely to think the U.S. involvement in world affairs makes things worse, but they are also more likely to think it’s important for the U.S. to be active in the world. Pew unfortunately said it has no trend data on this because it’s the first time they have asked the libertarian question. Expect more data to surface as Paul moves closer to a bid.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 2009, Senator Ted Kennedy died at age 77. Which president beat out Kennedy in the Democratic primary the only time he ran for president? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Margaret Carmel ‏(@JournoRam) for guessing Monday’s trivia: Although Wilson created the National Park Service, which president was dubbed the conservation president? The answer was: Teddy Roosevelt.

LINE ITEMS

  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s legal team asked a trial judge to dismiss the indictment against the governor “immediately if not sooner.” Perry has now hired both Al Gore’s and George W. Bush’s recount lawyers.

  • Attorneys for the Department of Justice told the conservative watchdog group, Judicial Watch, that they have copies of all of former IRS official Lois Lerner’s emails.

  • White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said there would be “some news” on immigration executive action by the end of summer. (The end of summer, by the way, is technically Sept. 22.)

  • Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was cross-examined by prosecutors for almost five hours Monday. “[D]uring the prosecutor’s more-than-4 ½-hour barrage, McDonnell appeared unwilling to commit to simple yes-or-no answers, holding fast to the parsing that had served him well as a politician,” the Washington Post writes.

  • Democrats in key Senate races are using their support for the Export-Import Bank to “drive a wedge between business interests and Republican candidates,” the New York Times reports.

  • Traveling to local Democratic field offices, whose locations are almost secret, The Atlantic’s Molly Ball finds in Arkansas “an Obama-style community-organizing effort of unprecedented scale” for a midterm campaign.

  • The VA is preparing to respond to an inspector general’s report this week, per USA Today. It will note that none of the deaths at the Phoenix facility could be “conclusively” linked to scheduling mishaps and the like. But it is vowing to bring in ethics experts, spend more on staffing and doctors, better train schedulers, expand mental health resources and more specifically identify managers at the Phoenix facility responsible for the problems there.

  • The establishment GOP has made a late push on behalf of Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin, betting that he’s the only Republican who could give Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick a serious run for her money.

  • Tennessee’s Rep. Scott DesJarlais won by 38 votes the 4th Congressional District’s GOP nomination, two weeks after the primary.

  • Split votes on the Federal Election Commission have ushered in a new era of unofficial campaign law, where the commission’s inaction enforcing rules signals loosened restrictions on candidates and outside groups.

  • Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is hoping that Mr. Obama’s 2012 ground game in the Sunshine State will help Crist get his old job back.

  • Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn tried to distance herself from her party during a recent debate by saying she would not necessarily vote for Majority Leader Harry Reid; the only problem is she probably won’t get to.

  • By one estimate, the amount spent on digital advertising this cycle will represent a 1,825 percent increase from the 2010 cycle.

  • Colorado Sen. Mark Udall has released a Spanish-language television ad, coordinated with the DSCC, that goes after GOP Rep. Cory Gardner for voting to cut housing vouchers for veterans.

  • Tom Steyer’s NextGen Action is accusing Scott Brown of flip-flopping his position on climate change after he said at a GOP debate over the weekend that the man-made connection has not been proven.

  • Vice President Biden has done more than two dozen unofficial, closed-door fundraisers for Democratic House candidates that you won’t find anywhere on his public schedule.

  • New Mexico’s long-shot GOP Senate nominee Allen Weh released an ad that shows the Islamic State fighter who executed journalist James Foley.

  • Pro-life advocates in Colorado are pushing for a personhood amendment to the state constitution. This is the third attempt to do so in Colorado, but this time the focus is on criminal code, not abortion.

  • Five states currently allow their residents to use the yellow “Don’t Tread On Me” license plates, popular among the tea party crowd; Alabama is working on becoming the sixth.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

TOP TWEETS

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: