Adjust the preferences of these voter groups to reshape the Electoral College map
So far, Sanders has stumped for just one Senate Democratic hopeful: Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, a former colleague in the chamber and a kindred liberal spirit. And it’s unclear at this point how much energy Sanders — a longtime independent who has never exactly been a Democratic Party stalwart — is willing to expend on behalf of the party.
And while the two camps are regularly in touch, Sanders and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are nowhere near far enough in their discussions to map out where Sanders could stump for candidates or what kind of fundraising appeals he’ll send out.
Still, top Democrats are already eager for Sanders to mix it up in several key down-ballot races.
“I believe that Bernie will help us in any way that he will be most effective to help us,” DSCC chairman Jon Tester of Montana said during a recent interview in Washington, D.C. “I’m sure he would [prioritize liberals] and those candidates are probably going to be more inclined to have him come.”
POLITICO surveyed more than a dozen Democratic candidates running in this year’s most competitive Senate races. Five said they would eagerly campaign with Sanders.
The senator is also working on the Sanders Institute, a likely 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit focused on policy. There could be a third Sanders-driven political group aimed at harnessing grass-roots support.
Republicans in Congress are worried the Supreme Court will hand them a major headache this month if it rules against the federal health insurance exchanges in more than 30 states, ending subsidies for millions of people.
While the Affordable Care Act remains broadly unpopular, two new polls show a majority of Americans don’t want to do away with its subsidies, a core component of the law.
This poses a conundrum for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). They are under pressure from colleagues up for reelection in swing states and districts to extend the subsidies, at least temporarily, if the court strikes them down. But doing so would risk a backlash from the conservative base.
The Supreme Court is expected to hand down its decision in King v. Burwell, which could strip 6.4 million people of health insurance subsidies, in late June.
States that would be hardest hit by a ruling against the law include the Senate battlegrounds of Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin.
“The politics of the King vs. Burwell case are extremely treacherous and tricky for Republicans because if the subsidies are thrown out by the court, Republicans are in the position of having to create a fix that would be seen as a problem by their most conservative supporters,” said John Ullyot, a GOP strategist and former senior Senate aide.
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll found that a majority of the public, 55 percent, does not want the court to block federal subsidies for people in states that have not set up their own exchanges. Only 38 percent said they wanted the subsidies ended.
“It does create a political problem for the GOP because there could be millions of people who got health insurance as a result of ObamaCare who lose it,” said Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
On Election Night 2012, referring to the long lines in states like Florida and Ohio, Barack Obama declared, “We have to fix that.”
The waits in Florida and Ohio were no accident, but rather the direct consequence of GOP efforts to curtail the number of days and hours that people had to vote. On January 22, 2014, the president’s bipartisan election commission released a comprehensive report detailing how voting could be smoother, faster and more convenient. It urged states to reduce long lines by adopting “measures to improve access to the polls through expansion of the period for voting before the traditional Election Day.”
That would seem like an uncontroversial and common sense suggestion, but too many GOP-controlled states continue to move in the opposite direction, reducing access to the ballot instead of expanding it. The most prominent recent examples are the swing states of Wisconsin and Ohio.
Yesterday Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed legislation eliminating early voting hours on weekends and nights, when it’s most convenient for many voters to go to the polls. When they took over state government in 2011, Wisconsin Republicans reduced the early voting period from three weeks to two weeks and only one weekend. Now they’ve eliminated weekend voting altogether.
Over 250,000 Wisconsinites voted early in 2012, one in twelve overall voters. Cutting early voting has a clear partisan purpose: those who voted early voted for Obama 58 to 41 percent in Wisconsin in 2012, compared to his 51 to 48 percent margin on Election Day. Extended early voting hours were particularly critical with respect to high voter turnout in big cities like Milwaukee and Madison. “It’s just sad when a political party has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics,” said Wisconsin GOP State Senator Dale Schultz, a critic of the legislation.