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Morning Line’s October Top 10

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Kansas, Iowa move up the board
  • Are Republicans on cusp of majority? It could be close.
  • Positive jobs report, as unemployment dips below 6 percent for first time in six years
  • Obama expresses frustration with lack of big picture focus on economy

The Senate landscape — it could be close: We’re one month out from Election Day, so where do those top 10 races stand? There’s been some shifting from the last couple of weeks. The top three remain the same, and likely to go Republican. But from 4 through 10 (and even one left off the board) are all very close calls. Kansas and Iowa are the two big moves up. As always, our analysis is based on public and private polling shared with The Morning Line, as well as conversations with campaign operatives on both sides of the aisle. Remember, Republicans need to net six seats to win control. They are expected to pick up at least three, and forecasters predict a gain of four to eight seats.

1. Montana (Open-D): Still No. 1 and likely stays here through Election Day. (Previous: 1)

2. West Virginia (Open-D): Not much movement at the top. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito has a double-digit lead and has matched the state well, not toeing an ideological hard line and recognizing the importance of federal funding for the state. (Previous: 2)

3. South Dakota (Open-D): There’s been some expected tightening in this race, but both sides agree Republicans are still favored. (Previous: 1)

4. Louisiana (Landrieu-D): Neither candidate is expected to clear the 50 percent threshold on Election Day, so this is likely to go to a Dec. 6 runoff. Incumbent Mary Landrieu leads in polls with everyone on the ballot, including a conservative taking votes from leading challenger Bill Cassidy, R. But Cassidy leads in head to heads with Landrieu. She’s so well known statewide, and no polls show her clearing 50 percent right now. (Previous: 5)

5. Kansas (Roberts-R): Republicans have deployed all the resources to try and save longtime incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts, but they haven’t turned the corner yet. One poll showed him down 5 points to independent venture capitalist Greg Orman, and privately Republicans agree that margin is close to about right currently. They think if they can improve Roberts’ standing with Republicans by 15 percent, they win. And it’s possible, because this is a very red state. Kansas went for Mitt Romney by 21 points, and it hasn’t elected a non-Republican to the Senate since 1932. Orman got a boost when the state Supreme Court sided with Democrats and said the Democratic candidate, Chad Taylor, was allowed to be dropped from the ballot. Orman won’t say who he’ll caucus with — he says whoever is in the majority. But what happens if he’s the tie-breaking vote? Voters will probably want more specifics. (Previous: 9)

6. Iowa (Open-D): It doesn’t get more important than Iowa. This is one of the Democratic firewall states (Colorado and North Carolina are the other two), which they need to win to hold the majority. The demographics here are better for them than other states, but their candidate, Rep. Bruce Braley, has struggled. His candidacy took a bad PR hit when the gold standard Iowa poll showed him down 6 points to Republican Joni Ernst. Still, neither side quite believes the crosstabs, showing Ernst up 25 points with men, so it’s likely a closer race, and the poll still showed 18 percent undecided. (Previous: 8)

7. Arkansas (Pryor-D): One poll out last week showed Pryor up 2. Democrats say the race is now “dead even” when Pryor had been down previously. There are certainly enough conservative voters to put Cotton over the top here. The state went for Romney by 24 points. But the big question is going to be how deep are the Pryor name ties? (Previous: 4)

8. Alaska (Begich-D): This is another one that could go either way. Republicans believe they are starting to fire up the conservative base here — and that the fundamentals will win out on Election Day — Romney won it by 14 points. It’s a very tough state to poll, but there hasn’t been a poll showing Democrat Mark Begich leading since July. (Previous: 6)

9. Colorado (Udall-D): Most polling has now shown this race to be a 1-2 point toss up. Democrats have been pouring in resources and still think they have the edge. But two things to watch on Election Night — women and Latinos. In the wave Republican year of 2010, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet eked out a victory, winning women — who were 50 percent of the electorate — by 17 points, and Latinos made up 12 percent. (Data is not available for the Latino margin). Udall can’t afford for women or Latinos to show up in smaller numbers. Latinos are upset that President Obama hasn’t taken executive action on immigration, and that could hurt Udall. (Previous: 10)

10. North Carolina (Hagan-D): Democrat Kay Hagan continues to hold up better than the other red-state Democrats. She’s led in every poll since August, and she actually hit 50 percent in one poll. Still, this is expected to be a very tight race, and is the state to watch on Election Night with its early poll-close time of 7:30 p.m. EDT. (Previous: 7)

Notes: Watch Georgia. Democrats are very confident that this is a toss-up race that’s tighter than some on our top 10. Its early 7 p.m. EDT poll-close time will tell us a lot about where Election Night is headed. … Kentucky remains off the list, as every poll since July has Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the lead. But it’s another 7 p.m. EDT poll-close state, and the margin here could tell us something. … There’s been evidence of tightening in the New Hampshire Senate race, but Democrats are confident incumbent Jeanne Shaheen will pull it off.

Unemployment rate falls below 6 percent, lowest in six years: The monthly jobs report showed the unemployment rate dipping to 5.9 percent. That’s the first time it’s been below 6 percent since July 2008. The economy also added 248,000 jobs. The numbers come a day after President Obama delivered a speech in which he defended his economic legacy. He’s expected to tout manufacturing jobs in a speech in Indiana at 2:50 p.m. EDT. The president has often expressed frustration that the media focuses on news of the day rather than stepping back and taking a look at the big picture. Last night at an event before the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, he alluded to that again. “Today, there is progress that we should be proud of. I gave a long speech this afternoon about it, because sometimes we don’t focus on what has happened over these last six years.” In polling, people still aren’t feeling as good about the economy as the economic numbers show. But the White House thinks the narrative should shift that the president’s policies have worked.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1863, President Lincoln declared that the last Thursday of November would be recognized as Thanksgiving Day. Which president declared Columbus Day a holiday? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Ed Byrnes (‏@Ed455B) for guessing Thursday’s trivia: Who helped Wilson carry out his presidential duties after he had a stroke until the end of his second term? The answer was: His wife, Edith.


  • Mr. Obama defended his economic accomplishments and pocketbook issues important to Democrats in a speech in his home state Thursday. “I am not on the ballot this fall,” he said, “But make no mistake, these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.”

  • Last time, President Obama promised action by the end of the summer, now he’s saying he will take executive action to curb deportations by year’s end. The president spoke at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual gala Thursday night.

  • Some black members of Congress have been hearing from African-American constituents who think that the Secret Service hasn’t protected Mr. Obama enough because of his race.

  • Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s chief of staff dangled the possibility of a top state job for the daughter of a General Assembly Democrat, who the administration did not want to quit before the governor had pushed through Medicaid expansion. That phone call was meant to counteract GOP job offers for the state senator and his daughter, instead it eventually convinced him to resign.

  • Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose state saw the first U.S. diagnosis of Ebola, has asked the FAA about flight bans to “countries that have experienced a significant outbreak.” And he’s not the only one. North Carolina GOP Senate candidate Thom Tillis has called for a ban.

  • 13 abortion facilities in Texas were forced to close immediately after a ruling from a federal appeals court sided with the state. The law that was ruled on this Thursday requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as a hospital-style surgical centers.

  • The Supreme Court announced they will hear more cases for the upcoming 2014-2015 term Thursday, including a housing discrimination case in Texas, a campaign contribution case in Florida and a congressional redistricting case out of Arizona. PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff spoke with National Law Journal’s Marcia Coyle about the newly taken cases, and whether gay marriage will come up this term.

  • The ACLU and the Advancement Project have asked the Supreme Court to block implementation of Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law, arguing that there is not enough time to execute the new requirements.

  • Thom Tillis released his second ad tying Sen. Kay Hagan to “the president’s weakness,” which an Air Force lieutenant colonel and military mom says in the ad, “has allowed the Islamic State to grow.”

  • American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS have raised $100 million to spend on Republican races this November.

  • The Federal Election Commission has notified former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who lost his primary back in June, that he needs to give his general election money back.

  • Alaska is known for its picturesque landscapes, but the state’s topography also makes voting very difficult.

  • Billionaire Larry Ellison will host a fundraiser for the National Republican Senatorial Committee next Wednesday, featuring Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry will fundraise for New Hampshire 2nd District GOP candidate Marilinda Garcia in Nashua next Tuesday — the same day Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will campaign for Scott Brown in the Granite State.

  • Michigan Rep. Kerry Bentivolio may have lost his August primary, but the reindeer farmer’s keeping busy this fall: he’s mounting a write-in campaign for the November ballot.

  • Police officers arrested half a dozen protesters in Ferguson, Mo. Thursday night.

  • Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is out with a new book, titled “Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace”, in which he criticizes the Obama administration for mishandling the situation in Iraq.

  • 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.


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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Rachel Wellford at rwellford-at-newshour-dot-org.

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