In an already unusual Senate election year filled with bizarre talk about witches and “aqua Buddhas,” and chickens as currency, the waning days of the 2010 campaign season continue to crank out weirdness.
A liberal activist getting kicked in the head at a Republican rally in Kentucky, accusations that the co-author of federal campaign finance laws broke his own rules, and the sudden hospitalization of a California candidate in a tight race have made Senate campaigns anything but dull leading up to Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Throw in record campaign spending and an unusually large number of close races so late in the election season, and this year’s Senate contests are a political junkie’s dream and a pollster’s nightmare.
“Broadly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a campaign quite like this in the sense that, in a tradition of fair and nasty campaigns, this is perhaps the nastiest of them all,” said pollster John Zogby. “And then you have [strange] events … at the very end of several campaigns. It just seems fitting that all of this together makes a seasoned pollster wish that the election was over.”
Most pollsters and political analysts say Republicans, who currently number 41 in the 100-member Senate, will win several seats but fall just short of a majority. But with at least a half-dozen races still up for grabs, few prognosticators are willing to make ironclad predictions.
“There are so many [races] on the margin; it’s a little disconcerting” for a pollster, said Jennifer Duffy, who covers Senate races for the Cook Political Report. “It’s been an utterly crazy cycle. Anything can happen in the next [few] days.”
The past week’s campaign peculiarities are a trend in a long line of oddities this Senate election season. Past highlights include Delaware Republican nominee Christine O’Donnell telling voters “I’m not a witch” and Sue Lowden, who lost in the Nevada Republican primary, suggesting a return to bartering chickens for health care like “in the olden days of our grandparents.”
Among the latest controversies is Sen. Russ Feingold’s choice of words in a campaign television advertisement. The conservative American Future Fund on Thursday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission arguing that the Wisconsin Democrat violated campaign finance laws he sponsored by saying in the ad that he “supports” the message rather than “approves” it.
“While everyone else complies with the hypertechnical and onerous disclosure requirements of the McCain-Feingold law … Senator Feingold simply ignores requirements,” American Future Fund spokesman Nick Ryan said.
“As the author of these laws and a Harvard lawyer, perhaps he has realized how foolish his disclaimer laws are and decided they shouldn’t apply to him.”
Feingold campaign spokesman John Kraus called the complaint “frivolous” and “without merit.”
A former FEC chairman said the committee likely will dismiss the complaint, using its discretionary authority to pursue higher-priority cases.
In Kentucky on Monday, a scuffle at an event for Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul led to a female liberal activist being knocked to the ground and stomped on the head by a campaign worker. The incident - like so many others in the modern political era - was caught on camera and immediately posted on the Internet via YouTube.
The melee has resulted in a volley of accusations and counteraccusations between the woman, MoveOn.org activist Lauren Valle, and the campaign worker, Tim Profitt, who was fired over the incident.
Kentucky Democrats are playing up the scuffle in an ad called “The Rand Paul Stomp” that will begin airing Friday, a party spokesman said.