2012 - %3, November

Todd Akin Loses

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 11:08 PM EST

I predicted Todd Akin would win despite his "legitimate rape" comment. He just lost. I've rarely been so happy to be wrong. Congratulations to Missouri for displaying some Midwestern common sense.

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Richard "God's Will" Mourdock Won't Be a Senator

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 10:53 PM EST

Update: Sen. Claire McCaskill has won her reelection bid against Todd Akin in Missouri.

In the hotly contested Senate race in Indiana, Democrat Joe Donnelly pulled out a win over Republican Richard Mourdock.

Mourdock, who had the backing of tea partiers in the state, demolished longtime Sen. Richard Lugar in the Republican primary and was widely favored to win the general election. That is, until he stated in a debate in late October that if a woman becomes pregnant from rape it is "something that God intended to happen." It was only one of many ill-advised rape comments this election year, but it came close to the election—and had an immediate, significant impact on Mourdock's poll numbers.

Donnelly is a moderate Democrat who has served two terms in the House. His campaign aimed to win over moderates from both parties who had supported Lugar, a 35-year veteran of the Senate, by painting Mourdock as an "extreme" right-wing candidate. Mourdock certainly furthered that impression with his rape comment last month.

But the thing is, Donnelly also holds relatively extreme anti-abortion views. Last year he cosponsored and voted for the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" that would have restricted federal funding for abortions even more than the Hyde Amendment already does. He also supported early versions of the bill that would have redefined rape as only "forcible rape"—which would exclude statutory rapes, cases where a woman is drugged or drunk, date rapes, or when the victim has limited mental capacity.

Given his own views on abortion, that Donnelly won the race largely because of Mourdock's comment on the subject is pretty remarkable.

Elizabeth Warren Takes Down Scott Brown

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 10:44 PM EST
Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren (right) with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)

Two years ago, Elizabeth Warren told David Corn that she'd rather stab herself in the eye than go back to Washington. On Tuesday, the Harvard Law professor and creator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ate her words, knocking off Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass) in one of the most closely watched—and at times nastiest—races of the 2012 cycle. Warren's win isn't just a case of a Democrat winning in Massachusetts; perhaps no candidate, President Obama included, inspired as much enthusiasm from progressives across the country. (She raised more money than any other Senate challenger in the country, much of it from out of state.) NBC News called the race shortly after polls closed in Boston.

Warren did it largely by sticking with what made her a political star in the first place—a fierce defense of the social contract, which led Republican to dub her "Matriarch of Mayhem" for her support of Occupy Wall Street:

For Republicans, a what-might-have-been remains the campaign finance truce Warren and Brown agreed to, which barred outside groups from buying TV ad time in the Bay State (per the agreement, any independent expenditure would have to be offset with a chartiable donation from the campaign). Given the extent to which Republican outside groups outspent Democratic groups in 2012, that bargain almost certainly ended up working in Warren's favor. It also meant that the fiercest attacks on Warren's character—hitting her, for example, for identifying as Cherokee at Harvard—came from Brown himself, eroding his largely positive image in Massachusetts.

For the 53-year-old Brown, this is likely not the end of his political career. With Sen. John Kerry rumored to be a top choice to replace retiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, there's a possibility a new seat could open up as early as December. In that case, Brown would be a heavy favorite for the Republican nomination, and with a comparably weak Democratic bench in the state, stand a decent shot at getting his old job back. Alternatively, with Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick term-limited after 2014, he might just opt to try his luck closer to home.

This post was originally published based on inaccurate reports that the race had been called for Warren. The race has since been called by CBS and NBC.

Video of Ludicrously Long Voting Lines in Florida

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 10:38 PM EST

As I've previously reported here, Florida has been beset by massive delays at the polls due to shortages of key voting equipment such as ballots and ballot scanners, and understaffing at polling places. Now comes this shocking video from Video The Vote, showing a voting line snaking around the block in Miami. It should be noted that, as of 6:40 EST, the Florida presidential race was insanely close. NPR was reporting a 500-vote difference.

Sen. Sherrod Brown Fights Off the Dark-Money Machine to Win in Ohio

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 10:36 PM EST
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)

Republican super-PACs and dark-money groups hurled everything they had at Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)—upwards of $40 million in outside money, according to the Brown campaign. Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, the US Chamber of Commerce, you name it: The heavyweights in the GOP big-money universe blitzed Ohio with TV ads, mailers, and billboards bashing Brown and supporting his opponent, Republican Josh Mandel.

But Brown didn't buckle. Instead, he defeated Mandel on Tuesday. The Associated Press called the race at 9:23 p.m. EST.

Brown's defeat deals a blow to the GOP's hopes of reclaiming control of the US Senate. (Democrats controlled 53 seats heading into Tuesday's election.) A year ago, the Republican Party and powerful outside groups ranked Brown alongside Democrats Jon Tester of Montana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri as vulnerable incumbents ripe for ousting. The road to a Republican Senate majority ran through Ohio, Montana, and Missouri, as well as contested states like Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, and North Dakota. That's why GOP groups invested tens of millions of dollars in beating Brown and electing Mandel. In Ohio, Brown has left with them nothing to show for it.

Mandel, Ohio's youthful treasurer and an Iraq war veteran, proved no match for the gravelly-voiced Brown. He was dogged by missteps and mini-controversies throughout his campaign: stubbornly refusing to take a position on the US auto bailout, racking up a miserable attendance record for boards on which he served, even confronting a Democratic tracker in the presence of a reporter and then misleading the public about it. At one point Mandel had amassed more "Pants on Fire" ratings from PolitiFact Ohio than any other candidate in Ohio.

Despite all the money poured into defeating Brown, Mandel never took the lead in the race. The closest Mandel got was a 3-point deficit in early September. Heading into Election Day, Brown led Mandel by 5 percentage points, 50 percent to 45 percent, in RealClearPolitics' polling average. Mandel's lackluster support could have something to do with his refusal to stake out a position on the auto bailout. The bailout saved tens of thousands of jobs in Ohio, a state that's home to car plants and auto suppliers, and the bailout itself was a salient issue in both the Brown-Mandel Senate race and the presidential race. Brown voted for the bailout and openly touted his choice throughout the campaign.

Brown's victory puts the Senate Democrats one seat closer to keeping their slim majority. It also serves as a lesson: Even a staggering amount of political money can't always propel a subpar candidate to victory.

Charlie Crist's Wife Receives Sleazy Robocall

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 9:57 PM EST
Florida governor Charlie Crist and his wife, Carole.

I just ran into former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, the former Republican who has endorsed President Barack Obama, and his wife Carole, while they were strolling through the Obama campaign event in Chicago. "What's going to happen in your state?" I asked him.

It's close, he said. It's possible Obama can win. Yes, I replied, but if it's close, shenanigans can come into play.

"Yes, yes," Crist said. "Listen to what happened to my wife." He then nudged me in her direction. "Tell him," he said to her.

It was a phone call, she said. A robocall. it came at 8:15 this morning. Usually, she hangs up on such calls. But this one she listened to. It went something like this: "I'm calling from the supervisor of elections for Pinellas County to remind you that Election Day is tomorrow and you can vote until 7:00 pm." Tomorrow.

"If you woke up and heard about long lines and heard a call like this," she told me, "You might think you can wait until tomorrow. How many thousands of calls like this went out? And who made them? I don't know." (She was indeed one of thousands in the county who received the same misleading call.)

Well, I said, let's hope Florida is not another mess. "Yes," she said. "Let's."

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Linda McMahon Spent $100 Million to Lose Twice

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 9:47 PM EST
Chris Murphy, the next senator from Connecticut

On the last day of her campaign, Linda McMahon got desperate. The former wrestling exec and GOP senate candidate in Connecticut, who has sunk at least $42.6 million into her latest campaign, engaged in a series of misleading tricks that seemed intended to dupe voters into believing she was a Democrat.

Ultimately, it wasn't enough. The blue lean of Connecticut was too great for even McMahon's vast fortune to overcome, and Rep. Chris Murphy, a 39-year-old liberal Democrat, will replace retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) in the Senate come January. Between this campaign and her last losing bid, in 2010, McMahon has now spent a cumulative total of nearly $100 million of her own money in pursuit of federal office. That is more than any other American in history.

Republicans who want to take something good out of the McMahon situation might point to the fact that her spending forced the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to spend money supporting Murphy. That money could have otherwise been spent in closer races in less-blue states. But that's not much comfort compared to the rejoicing progressives will feel after replacing Lieberman with a young, charismatic, liberal.

There's no Senate election in Connecticut in 2014. So if McMahon wants to spend even more of her money in pursuit of a Senate seat, she'll have to wait—or move.

Exit Polls Suggest Obama Winning Ohio

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 9:41 PM EST

More tea leaves. Here are the exit poll results from Ohio. Women make up 52 percent of the sample, which implies that Obama has won 51.7 percent of the total two-party vote. Stay tuned!

We Should Phase Out the Bush Tax Cuts

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 9:29 PM EST

Matt Yglesias alerts me to an "excellent idea" from Maine's newly-elected independent senator, Angus King:

I was in favor of ending the Bush-era tax cuts immediately, but after continued poor employment numbers, we need a more nuanced approach. We should consider pegging the sunset of these tax cuts to something non-arbitrary, like a certain amount of GDP growth, or a lower level of unemployment. This would avoid the unproductive brinkmanship that Congress engages in over this issue — and could prevent our fragile recovery from being further slowed down.

I appreciate the sentiment behind this, but it's too technocratic to succeed. It also sets up some really bad incentives: if you really hate higher taxes, does this give you a motivation to oppose policies that would be good for the economy?

But something similar would be nearly as good: let all the Bush tax cuts expire, but phase them out. Maybe a third in 2014, a third in 2015, and a third in 2016. That would be good for the economy now, and good for deficit reduction in the future.

I know, I know: this isn't going to happen. I'm just looking for something to write about during the hours in which we continue to know nothing about how the election is going. You may now return to your previous TV-watching activities.

Lines of 150 People and 90 Minute Waits in Akron, Ohio

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 8:55 PM EST

Long lines for early voting in Akron, Ohio yesterday.

At 6:40 this morning, when the Joy Park Community Center in Akron, Ohio, opened up to voters, as many as 150 people were already in line. Two observers told Mother Jones that the polling place opened 10 minutes late due to troubles with one of its optical scanners, which tallies votes.

The community center also had trouble with an audio device meant to assist hearing-impaired voters, according to Daniel Greenfield, an election observer volunteering for the Obama campaign. The machines were back up and running two to three hours later, he said. It's unclear whether the troubles were caused by malfunctions or by poll workers not knowing how to operate the machines.