FBI’s latest decision on emails gives late boost to Senate Dems

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The FBI’s latest decision not to bring charges against Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server has given Democrats a late momentum boost in the battle for the Senate.

It’s the latest shift in momentum in a thriller that has had several twists and turns.

{mosads}A few weeks ago, Democrats felt relatively assured they would win the Senate majority as Republican nominee Donald Trump struggled through three presidential debates and the controversy surrounding a 2005 video in which he made lewd remarks about groping women.

GOP candidates such as Sen. Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire cut ties with Trump, hoping to minimize the damage.

The story changed again on Oct. 28, with FBI Director James Comey’s bombshell announcement that agents were looking at newly found emails from a computer owned by former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Polls in the presidential race were already tightening, and it appeared the Comey news could have an effect down the ballot by helping GOP candidates who have ripped into Clinton, the Democratic nominee, arguing they would be a check on her presidency.

It’s unclear if the latest turn by the FBI came too late to really help Senate Democratic candidates, though the party was feeling optimistic on Monday that it could net the four seats needed to win Senate control if Clinton wins the White House.

“In close elections, little things can make a big difference, any combination of little things,” said Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin and Marshall College Poll.

In New Hampshire, the final state poll before Election Day showed Clinton leading Trump by 10 points, 48 percent to 38 percent. Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan led Ayotte in the same poll by 4 points, 49 percent to 45 percent.

In North Carolina, a Quinnipiac survey showed former Democratic state Rep. Deborah Ross tied with GOP incumbent Sen. Richard Burr.

If Clinton wins a big victory, it could carry candidates including Ross, Hassan and Pennsylvania’s Katie McGinty to victories.

Democrats close to Clinton are predicting a comfortable win in the range of 310 to 320 electoral votes. That’s in line with nonpartisan handicappers such as University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato, who predicts Clinton will come away with 322 votes.

“Democrats have the edge, starting at the top of the ticket. Clinton has a healthy lead going into Election Day,” said Dante Scala, a University of New Hampshire professor.

He predicted that Ayotte will have to fight a Trump headwind and can’t expect much help from the Republican gubernatorial candidate either. 

A troubling wrinkle for Ross in North Carolina is lower turnout among African-Americans — a reliable Democratic constituency — in early voting. NBC News reported Monday that early voting among blacks is down nearly 9 percent, or 66,000 votes, compared with 2012.

McGinty is emerging as the late favorite in Pennsylvania.

An average of recent polls compiled by RealClearPolitics shows McGinty with a 2-point lead over incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

A Senate Republican strategist said that Toomey probably won’t be able to pull out a win.

“It’s really a shame, because he’s run a really good race,” the source said.

In Nevada, veteran political commentator Jon Ralston said Clinton has banked enough votes in early voting to be assured of victory where Democrats have focused on registering and turning out Hispanics, who make up 28 percent of the state’s population.

That’s good news for former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who, if elected, would be the first Hispanic woman in the Senate.

Ralston, however, said Clinton’s all-but-certain victory won’t necessarily put Cortez Masto ahead of Rep. Joe Heck, the Republican challenger.

He noted that Republican Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.) “bucked the tide” in 2012 when he won, despite President Obama carrying the state.

“I think Cortez Masto has an advantage,” he added.

A Heck victory would be huge for Republicans, as it would force Democrats to win another state to get the majority.

Democrats are generally favored in Illinois and Wisconsin, though Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has seen his race tighten in recent weeks.

Two bright spots for the GOP are Missouri and Indiana, red states where Republicans are coalescing behind Trump.

Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.) is trending up against former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, who has been hit with a barrage of opposition research and negative press.

Missouri was the rare battleground state where Trump’s numbers actually improved, at least according to one poll, after the recording of his lewd comments surfaced.

The Senate Republican incumbent, Roy Blunt, has stabilized against Democratic challenger Jason Kander, Missouri’s secretary of state.

“We’ve seen over the past few days, Young improve, Blunt improve,” said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “In these red or reddish states, Republicans are clearly coming home and that’s helping them.”

Steven Smith, a political science professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said the race appears to be settling along traditional partisan lines, which favors Blunt.

“Blunt has a natural built-in advantage,” he said of the GOP registration advantage in the state. “As the campaign settles down, as it appears to in the last several days, that probably helps him.”

Tags Dean Heller Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Kelly Ayotte Richard Burr Ron Johnson Roy Blunt Todd Young
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