Andy Kroll

Andy Kroll

Senior Reporter

Andy Kroll is Mother Jones' Dark Money reporter. He is based in the DC bureau. His work has also appeared at the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Men's Journal, the American Prospect, and TomDispatch.com, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndyKroll.

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Dems to Lose 7 Senate Seats?

| Thu Aug. 26, 2010 9:23 AM EDT

That's the latest prediction from wunderkind pollster Nate Silver, who just made the move over to his new perch at The New York Times' website. A loss of six or seven Senate seats would leave the Democrats with a slim majority of 52 or 53 seats, nowhere near the filibuster-breaking supermajority of 60. And you can all but rule out the passage of any new, comprehensive legislation—i.e., health insurance reform, financial regulatory reform—if Silver's projection becomes reality this fall. After all, Democrats, with a near-supermajority, could barely scrape together two or three GOP votes on major legislation this spring and summer; there's no chance they'll find seven or eight votes if Silver's right.

It could be even worse for Dems. There's a 20 percent chance, Silver found, that the Dems will lose 10 or more seats, possibly putting them back in the minority. 

When it comes to watching the ongoing Senate elections, Silver writes that it's not the headline-grabbing campaigns—Harry Reid vs. Sharron Angle in Nevada, Barbara Boxer vs. Carly Fiorina in California—worth watching. Instead, he suggests keeping a close eye on some of the less-covered races:

Of late, the source of the Democrats’ problems has not necessarily been in high-profile Senate races where the Republicans have nominated inexperienced but headline-grabbing candidates, like Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky (although the model regards both Ms. Angle and Mr. Paul as slight favorites). Instead, it has been in traditional swing states like Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The last time the Democratic nominee in Ohio, Lee Fisher, held the lead in any state poll, for example, was in June. Representative Joe Sestak, the Democratic nominee in Pennsylvania, has not led any poll there since May, and Robin Carnahan of Missouri has not held a lead since January. The Democratic nominee in New Hampshire, Representative Paul W. Hodes, has not led in any of 17 public polls in New Hampshire against his likely Republican opponent, Kelly Ayotte.

The Democratic candidate lags by single digits in each of these states, and victories there remain entirely possible (perhaps especially so in New Hampshire, where the Republicans have yet to hold their primary). But, at a time when they need to be drawing closer to their opponents as the clock ticks toward Nov. 2, these Democrats instead find themselves falling somewhat further behind. We are now close enough to Election Day that a deficit of as few as 5 percentage points may be difficult to overcome, especially in races where relatively few undecided voters remain.

The odds of the Democrats adding a Senate seat, even regaining their 60-vote majority, according to Silver? Three percent. As we head toward the Labor Day holiday, after which general-election campaigning hits high gear and voters really start to tune in, the Democrats need a pitch-perfect strategy, some good economic news, and a lot of luck if they're going to avoid the kind of result Silver's predicting.

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Rick Scott's Florida Gov Upset

| Tue Aug. 24, 2010 11:01 PM EDT

Rick Scott, the wealthy health care executive and GOP dark-horse candidate, pulled off a surprising upset on Tuesday in Florida's Republican gubernatorial primary race. The tall, bald-headed Scott edged out Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a GOP favorite and former long-time US congressman, by a slim margin of 46 percent to 43 percent, with 96 percent of precincts reporting.

The crux of Scott's campaign was his outsider status, his rejection of Washington and career politicians, his appeal to the far right of the GOP. When not bashing McCollum, Scott's campaign fliers and commercials touted his independence and promise to bring a fresh, pro-business, fervently anti-tax perspective to the Florida governor's office. Polls showed Scott with the backing of a majority of conservative Florida voters, including the state's tea party contingent.

Scott may not have the record of a long-time politician, but he does carry a lot of baggage into his general election fight against Democrat Alex Sink, the state's chief financial officer. Scott was at the heart of the country's largest fraud settlement ever, a $1.7 billion Medicare settlement by a hospital corporation he helped to found and led until his ouster. Another health care company Scott started, Solantic, has been accused of allegedly using medical licenses illegally and billing irregularities with Medicare.

That record, which McCollum highlighted time and again during the primary campaign, has tainted voters' view of Scott as he heads into the general election. According to Public Policy Polling, only 46 percent of GOP primary voters had a good impression of Scott. As PPP pollster Tom Jensen put it, "Five months ago we would have said Alex Sink looked like a dead duck. Now with the way this contest has unfolded she looks like the favorite."

Cred Trumps Cash In Florida Senate Primary

| Tue Aug. 24, 2010 10:02 PM EDT

In Florida's bruising Democratic senatorial primary, party credentials ultimately trumped big money. On Tuesday night, Rep. Kendrick Meek claimed the Democratic Party's nomination to the Senate, handily defeating his opponent, billionaire real estate developer and political dark horse Jeff Greene.

With nearly 40 percent of precincts reporting, Meek led Greene by 23 points. Despite being outspent by a five-to-one margin, Meek's support from party luminaries like President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton helped pave the way to victory. Meek was also helped by what state officials predict will be a dismal voter turnout, likely no more than 20 percent, the St. Petersburg Times reports. With rain and thunderstorms keeping all but the most avid voters at home, that means moderates who would've picked Greene didn't hit the polls, while committed and active Democrats, who mostly backed Meek, did.

Meek now faces Florida governor Charlie Crist, a Republican turned independent, and conservative darling Marco Rubio in November's general election. It's a race Meek begins at a disadvantage: A hypothetical poll by Public Policy Polling for the three-way race shows Rubio leading with 40 percent, Crist with 32 percent, and Meek in third with 17 percent.

Greene's defeat tosses cold water on the 2010 election season's anti-incumbent theme, as well as the rise and success of wealthy, self-funded candidates. (See: Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina in California and Ron Johnson in Wisconsin.) In Greene's case, his lavish spending on his campaign boosted his name recognition from practically zero to relatively well known. But that wasn't necessarily a good thing. For instance, when on Monday I asked Hugo Vasquez, a parking lot attendant in Fort Lauderdale, about the primaries, Greene's was the only name he knew, from the commercials and the Internet and the newspaper stories. But Vasquez added, "He's the guy with the yacht, who went to Cuba, yes? He said he went to visit the Jewish community, but c'mon—who believes that?"

In a way, the Meek-Greene race featured two campaigns with opposite trajectories. While Greene's campaign quickly gained steam, with ads for the candidate appearing both in Florida and outside the state and the national media latching onto his colorful past, recurring controversies ultimately sunk his run for office. In the past week or so, his chances at winning had all but disappeared. Meek, on the other hand, was criticized for his campaign's slow start. But he built momentum through the primary campaign, secured crucial endorsements, and cruised to an easy victory on Tuesday.

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