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Updated 2:56 PM |

Special Coverage: The 2014 Midterms

Filed under 2014 Midterms


We’re signing off. But before we do, we wanted just to give you our thoughts on a few outstanding races.

At this point, Republican Dan Sullivan is holding a 5.4-percentage-point lead over Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in Alaska with 65.6 percent of precincts reporting. In 2008, it took two weeks to determine a winner in the Alaska Senate race. And while it’s certainly possible that Begich can gain in the vote count this year as he did six years ago, the results tonight have barely shifted as the vote count has grown.

The bad news for Republicans in Alaska is that Gov. Sean Parnell is trailing independent Bill Walker by 1.6 percentage points. This lead, like the one in the Senate race, has held relatively steady as more votes have been reported.

Speaking of governors’ races, it looks good for Democrats in both Connecticut and Colorado. Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy is holding a 1.7 percentage point lead over Republican Tom Foley with 80.6 percent of precincts reporting in Connecticut. While the race remains uncalled, a lot of Democratic-favored Hartford County is still uncounted. Likewise, the remaining votes to be counted in Colorado look good for Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper: He may be trailing by 0.4 percentage points, but the heavily Democratic counties of Boulder and Denver have plenty of votes left.

Finally, Democrats can breathe a sigh of relief in Virginia. Sen. Mark Warner is holding a 0.6 percentage point lead over Republican Ed Gillespie there with 99.9 percent of precincts reporting. That lead will almost certainly hold up in any recount.

Now we’re all going to grab some sleep.

landonsimone 2:00 AM Few 2014 Voters Like The 2016 Presidential Contenders

cohen-table-presidential-hopefulsIf 2014 voters know what they’re talking about, 2016 voters may not have many good options for president. The national exit polls Tuesday asked whether a number of possible 2016 candidates would make good presidents, and no one comes out looking good. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looks least bad, with 42 percent of respondents saying she would make a good president, and 52 percent saying she wouldn’t. The four Republicans voters weighed in on had support in the 20s.

landonsimone 1:49 AM A Good Night For Marijuana

In addition to Republican governors, Republican senators and minimum wage increases, marijuana had a good night. Recreational marijuana easily won in Oregon and Washington, D.C., and it’s currently leading in Alaska.

The only state where marijuana didn’t win: Florida. A ballot measure to permit medical marijuana failed there, but only because it needed 60 percent of the vote to pass. “Yes” got 58 percent instead.

If “yes” continues to lead in Alaska, four states and Washington, D.C., will have legalized recreational marijuana.

landonsimone 1:45 AM Washington Will Expand Background Checks For Gun Sales

Voters in Washington state chose to expand background checks for gun sales by nearly 60 percent, according to The Seattle Times. The approval of Initiative 594 means any Washington resident looking to buy a firearm will have to undergo a background check, even if she makes that purchase online or at a gun show.

Washington voters also rejected an anti-background checks measure, Initiative 591, and avoided the possibly awkward outcome of approving two seemingly mutually exclusive ballot measures. As my colleague Harry Enten wrote last week, polling earlier this year showed both measures passing, but the ensuing campaign “helped to clarify each initiative,” and I-591 lost 54.5 percent to 45.5 percent.


landonsimone 1:19 AM A Bright Spot For Democrats In Colorado’s Governor’s Race?

One place where Democrats may salvage a victory is in Colorado. In the governor’s race there, Republican Bob Beauprez leads the Democratic incumbent, John Hickenlooper, by 0.8 percentage points with 82 percent of precincts reporting. The good news for Hickenlooper, as the The Upshot’s adjusted vote count shows, is that the remaining areas to report votes should shift the overall margin by 2.4 percentage points in his favor.

If that holds, Hickenlooper will squeak by.

landonsimone 1:15 AM

landonsimone 1:13 AM What We’re Still Watching

If you’re reading this from the East Coast, your eyelids may be starting to droop and your comfy bed may have entered your thoughts. The Senate is decided, after all. Bedtime! (Or maybe I’m just projecting.)

But there are still a few outstanding races we’ll be watching for a while. The final polls just closed in Alaska, where a Senate seat and governor’s mansion are at stake. And there are still unresolved gubernatorial races in Colorado and Connecticut.

Stay tuned.

landonsimone 1:02 AM

landonsimone 12:57 AM No On GMO Labeling

Colorado’s GMO labeling initiative, Proposition 105, looks like a loser tonight. With 81 percent reporting, the “no” votes are leading, with 67.7 percent. It’s still too early to call the GMO proposal in Oregon, but with 68 percent reporting, it’s also losing: 48.7 percent of the votes are in support.

landonsimone 12:40 AM A Victory And Two Defeats For Anti-Abortion Advocates

Tonight, voters in Colorado and North Dakota rejected two far-reaching anti-abortion ballot measures, while Tennessee voters approved a more moderate constitutional amendment that will pave the way for a slew of state-level restrictions on abortion access. Colorado voters rejected an amendment that would have changed the state’s criminal code to define a fetus as a “person” by a 25-point margin. It’s the third time in six years that a so-called personhood amendment been defeated in Colorado. The North Dakota ballot measure, which lost by a similarly wide margin, would have amended the state constitution to say that the right to life of “every human being at any stage of development” must be “recognized and protected.”

Supporters of the personhood amendments in both states worked hard to convince voters — who are generally leery of such extreme measures — that the goal was not to ban abortion. In Colorado, proponents said the measure would strengthen rights for pregnant women by ensuring that people who harmed unborn children could be prosecuted. In North Dakota, the wording was so vague that even organizations within the anti-abortion movement disagreed about its likely impact. Both measures’ decisive failure, however, indicate that voters still saw the amendments as too extreme.

Tennessee’s voters, on the other hand, were asked to approve an amendment that appears more moderate, but will still have broad consequences. The amendment — which is projected to win by a solid marginis the culmination of 14 years of work on the part of anti-abortion advocates. They began organizing in 2000 when the Tennessee Supreme Court struck down several abortion restrictions on the grounds that they violated women’s right to privacy. That decision has until now kept Tennessee from passing anti-abortion laws like the ones that have closed abortion clinics in neighboring states. It’s been an expensive fight — in the last three weeks of October alone, the amendment’s opponents spent more than $3.4 million. Now the protections that have shielded the state’s seven abortion clinics will disappear.

landonsimone 12:31 AM Bias In Gubernatorial Polls

As I wrote before, polls in the most competitive Senate races look to have had about a 6-percentage point Democratic bias based on the votes as counted so far.

What about in the most competitive gubernatorial races (excluding Alaska, which has not yet finished voting)?


The bias hasn’t been quite as bad, but the polls were still too Democratic-leaning by an average of about 2 percentage points. As a result, a number of Democrats who had narrow leads in the polls are going to lose their races.

landonsimone 12:24 AM A GOP Wave In Governors’ Mansions

While most people are paying attention to the Senate races tonight, Republicans also had an amazing night in gubernatorial elections.

The GOP won all the close races in which its candidates were favored, such as Michigan and Wisconsin. Republicans won the vast majority of close races in which they were slight underdogs, such as Florida, Illinois and Maine. They won in Kansas, where we gave the GOP incumbent, Sam Brownback, only a 20 percent chance.

And Republicans have even taken Maryland, where they had only a 6 percent chance of winning according to our last pre-election forecast. The Republican candidates are also leading in Colorado and Connecticut — three races where polls favored the Democratic candidates.

To put it mildly, this is a wave.

landonsimone 12:23 AM A Fracking Ban Looks Likely To Pass In Gas And Oil Country

It’s looking like the North Texas city of Denton may be the first place in Texas to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fox 4 in Dallas is reporting that with 34 of 39 precincts reporting, the fracking ban is ahead, with 59 percent of tallied votes for the measure and 41 percent against.

The ballot measure pitted residents wary of drilling near residential areas against those courting the economic benefits of energy extraction in a city of 212,000. In 2013, the city council moved to raise the setback between wells and residences from 250 to 1,200 feet, but today’s ballot measure would ban fracking within the city outright.

The measure has drawn widespread attention in this extraction-friendly state, and if it passes, the measure is sure to be challenged. During a July hearing, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Tom Phillips told the Denton City Council that he believed the ban was unconstitutional because it contradicted state law and allowed the taking of private property from mineral-rights owners.

If you want to follow along as the last votes come in, here’s the link.

landonsimone 12:17 AM D.C. Votes To Legalize Marijuana

As the polls predicted, voters in Washington, D.C., have approved the possession and use of small amounts of of marijuana. Initiative 71 was passed late Tuesday by a margin of two to one.

As I wrote earlier in the week, Adam Eidinger will probably be celebrating the result. He’s chairman of the DC Cannabis Campaign and was the force behind the ballot measure. Eidinger has claimed that the initiative was intended, in part, to address D.C.’s “racist drug war.” There’s incomplete information to test that claim, but arrest data does show that black residents are more likely than white residents to be arrested for marijuana possession in the city.

But legalized pot isn’t a done deal just yet. Because of a quirk in D.C. law, Congress still has a chance to doom it in the next 60 days. So it’ll be some time before we know whether the law will change arrest rates in the city — if it even gets a chance to do so.

landonsimone 12:15 AM How Our Senate Prediction Has Changed In Alaska


landonsimone 12:11 AM Senate Polls Had A Significant Democratic Skew

The pre-election polling averages (not the FiveThirtyEight forecasts, which also account for other factors) in the 10 most competitive Senate races had a 6-percentage point Democratic bias as compared to the votes counted in each state so far.


We aren’t counting Alaska, where polls haven’t closed yet. We also aren’t counting Virginia, which is much closer than expected. But Mark Warner’s close call makes more sense now given the margins we’re seeing in other states.

The bias might narrow slightly as more votes are counted; late-counted votes tend to be Democratic in most states. Still, this is a big “skew,” and it comes on the heels of what had been a fairly substantial bias in the opposite direction in 2012. The polls — excepting Ann Selzer’s — are having some problems.

landonsimone 11:56 PM Election Night Links, Volume 8

Throughout the night we’ll be aggregating some of the best election-night tidbits and links from around the Web.

landonsimone 11:50 PM Alex Mooney Wins An Unexpectedly Normal Victory In West Virginia

One theme I’ve been harping on tonight is how nationalized today’s politics are. And one especially good example of that is in the race to be the representative from West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District.

The seat was formerly held by Shelly Moore Capito, the Republican who is projected to be the state’s next senator. So the fact that Alex Mooney, another Republican, is projected to win that race by a relatively close margin isn’t that surprising. (With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Mooney holds 46.8 percent of the vote, to his opponent’s 44.2 percent.) Nor is his bio surprising for a successful House candidate — he was previously a state senator and GOP party chair. What is surprising, though, is where he won. Until 2013, Mooney was a politician in an entirely different state: Maryland.

So far, tonight’s election returns have a very clear national trend: As party labels matter more, local connections seem to matter less. One way to measure just how nationalized elections are is to fit a model which predicts presidential voting, and see just how well it does predicting midterm gubernatorial voting. The short answer is better and better. Between 1990 and 2010, the model’s ability to predict gubernatorial results based on the previous presidential tallies increased by 63 percent. And once all the data from today’s elections is in, my strong hunch is that we’ll see that we’ve ratcheted upwards in nationalization yet again.

landonsimone 11:44 PM

landonsimone 11:43 PM Paid Sick Leave Passes In Massachusetts

The minimum wage isn’t the only workers’ rights issue on the ballot tonight. Voters in Massachusetts voted overwhelmingly in favor of a measure guaranteeing paid sick time for many workers.

Massachusetts currently doesn’t require employers to offer sick time of any kind, paid or otherwise. But under the initiative approved Tuesday, businesses with at least 11 employees will have to offer workers up to 40 hours of paid sick time each year. (The exact amount is based on the number of hours an employee works.)

California and New York City enacted similar laws earlier this year. Nationally, only 65 percent of workers — and 61 percent of private-sector workers — get paid sick leave.

landonsimone 11:37 PM Republicans Win The Senate

The writing has been on the wall for a while, and now it’s official: Republicans have won control of the Senate, according to ABC News, which just projected Iowa for Republican Joni Ernst and North Carolina for Republican Thom Tillis.

The GOP could finish with as many as 55 seats. Alaska has yet to close its polls. Louisiana will go to a runoff on Dec. 6, and Republicans will be favored there — unless Democrat Mary Landrieu’s campaign benefits from the fact that control of the Senate is no longer at stake. Virginia Democrat Mark Warner still looks more likely than not to hold his seat, but the fact that his race was so close speaks to how awful a night it has been for Democrats. Jeanne Shaheen’s win in New Hampshire looks like a minor miracle now.

landonsimone 11:33 PM A Rare Bit Of Good News For Democrats

There’s one piece of good news for Democrats in the down-ballot races. The Kentucky House of Representatives will stay under Democratic control, allowing Kentucky — with its Democratic governor — to remain a blue island in the South’s sea of red. Earlier this evening, it looked like the Republicans might take the state legislature for the first time since 1921, but the Democrats managed to eke out a slim majority, dashing the GOP’s hopes to make Kentucky a right-to-work state. Strangely enough, this is probably most disappointing for Rand Paul, who was angling for a Republican-controlled statehouse to allow him to simultaneously run for president and for re-election to his Senate seat in 2016.

landonsimone 11:54 PM 26 States Have Now Elected Women To The Senate
Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst talks with supporters during a campaign stop Monday, Nov. 3, 2014, in Ankeny, Iowa.

Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst talks with supporters during a campaign stop Monday, Nov. 3, 2014, in Ankeny, Iowa.

Charlie Neibergall / AP

According to projections, West Virginia and Iowa elected their first female senators tonight. Shelley Moore Capito in West Virginia and Joni Ernst in Iowa are now the 35th and 36th female senators in the country’s history.

Before tonight, just 24 states had elected a total of 34 female senators. (A total of 44 women had served in the Senate, but 10 were appointed.) Of the 36 female senators, 22 have been Democrats and 14 have been Republicans, including Capito and Ernst.


landonsimone 11:17 PM

landonsimone 11:16 PM Election Night Links, Volume 7

Throughout the night we’ll be aggregating some of the best election-night tidbits and links from around the Web.

landonsimone 11:11 PM It’s Just … About … Over

Republicans’ chances of winning the Senate are now 99 percent, based on the ABC News projection that Republican David Perdue has won in Georgia without a runoff and Republican Pat Roberts has won in Kansas.

The GOP will need just one more seat to clinch a majority in the Senate. Any of the following would work:

  • Louisiana, in the Dec. 6 runoff;
  • North Carolina, where Republican Thom Tillis’s numbers look good;
  • Iowa, where Republican Joni Ernst’s numbers look good;
  • Alaska
  • Virginia

Democrats would need to sweep all five states.

landonsimone 11:08 PM Why Medical Marijuana Failed In Florida
A supporter of marijuana reform at a debate in Boca Raton, Florida.

A supporter of marijuana reform at a debate in Boca Raton, Florida.

J. Pat Carter / AP

Proponents of legal pot suffered a setback when Florida became the largest state to reject medical marijuana by popular vote tonight. A constitutional amendment that would have legalized the sale and distribution of medical marijuana is projected to fall 3 percentage points shy of the 60 percent it needed to pass. The amendment was one of the most expensive ballot measures in the country this year, which explains why a relatively uncontroversial policy — public support for medical marijuana is exceptionally high and 23 states and the District of Columbia already have legal medical marijuana laws on the books — still sputtered and died.

The amendment was driven in large part by John Morgan, a lawyer with close ties to Charlie Crist, the Democratic candidate in Florida’s governor’s race whom networks are projecting to lose tonight to the Republican incumbent, Rick Scott. Initially, the amendment seemed to be a shoo-in, but it quickly became ensnared in gubernatorial politics, with some Republicans contending that it was Crist’s attempt to lure more Democratic-leaning voters to the polls.

Then Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul, poured a stunning $5 million into the campaign against the amendment, most of which went to TV ads. It’s still unclear why Adelson decided to invest so heavily in the race, but his — and his money’s — opposition to the medical marijuana amendment seems to have decisively tanked it. As Harry Enten pointed out earlier, supporters of the amendment were already running up against a demographic barrier — namely, the state’s higher-than-average concentration of senior citizens, who tend to be more skeptical about marijuana.

landonsimone 11:04 PM More Bad News For Democrats

Democrat Bruce Braley of Iowa looks to be falling short of the county-by-county numbers he needs to win. In Polk County (home to Des Moines), Braley is winning by 4.6 percentage points. Based on returns from past elections, Braley would likely need to win the county by 8 percentage points to 9 percentage points instead in order to win the state.

landonsimone 10:55 PM Looks Like Kay Hagan Is In Trouble In North Carolina

Although the North Carolina Senate race is still too close to call, it’s becoming clear that Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan has an increasingly tall hill to climb. With 91 percent of precincts reporting, she is down 2 percentage points to Republican Thom Tillis, and all of Wake County (home to Raleigh) has already reported.


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