Likelihood of Republicans taking the Senate

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 14, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you reluctant to give an answer on whether or not you voted for President Obama?

ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES, D - KY SENATE CANDIDATE: Bill, there's no reluctance. This is a matter of principle. Our Constitution grants here in Kentucky the constitutional right for privacy at the ballot box.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So your reluctance is a matter of principle, standing on principle rather than answering the question?

GRIMES: I'm not going to compromise a constitutional right provided here in Kentucky.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY, SENATE MINORITY LEADER: There is no sacred right to not announce how we vote. I voted for Mitt Romney, proudly. I voted for John McCain. And by the way, in 2012, 116 out of 120 Kentucky counties agreed with my judgment.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: A debate last night in Kentucky. A short time after that debate ended, the reporter down there, Sam Youngman who we know well with the Lexington Herald Leader tweeted, "Grimes," Alison Lundergan Grimes, "did tell University of Kentucky's Austin Ryan, I assume a radio show, she voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton in the '08 primary. This as we find out on this particular race that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is doing something interesting. "The DSCC has now spent more than $2 million in Kentucky according to an official, on background and continues to make targeted investments in the ground game while monitoring the race for future investments, but is currently not on the air in the state and with no plans to get on the air in the state." There you see the spread in the Real Clear Politics average of polls. That's where it will begin, a look at the midterms.

Let's bring in our panel, and syndicated columnist George Will, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. George?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The impressive thing to me about Democrats across the country is how well they're doing as measured by running ahead of the president's job approval. Pryor in Arkansas, is losing narrowly to Tom Cotton, but running 16, 17 points ahead of Obama, which is really astonishing.

And what we just read there about the Democrats strategy, they mentioned the get out the vote. That's the crucial thing this year. In North Carolina, the Democrats say they have identified half a million women voters and 375,000 African-American voters who voted for Obama in 2012 but skipped the 2010 off year elections. They think, and they're probably right, if they can get a large portion of those people to vote in this year's off year election they will probably win that state.

BAIER: What about the DSCC?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think we're at the point in this midterm election where campaign committees have to make decisions. And it's kind of like triage. They seem to be deciding that an investment in Kentucky is just not worth it. They have got a lot of other vulnerable Democrats.  There are a lot of other races where their money might be better spent.  North Carolina might be one of them. Kay Hagan there has managed to hang on to an extremely tiny lead there. And I agree, they're focusing a lot of their effort on the ground game. I think Kentucky is just not at the top of their list of things they hope to pick up.

BAIER: We should point out there's a new poll out tonight in New Hampshire that has Scott Brown up. It may be an outlier, but the Real Clear Politics average in New Hampshire now is down to 3.5 for Jeanne Shaheen. That's a big deal because it's not a race that Democrats thought they would have to really defend or spend to defend, Charles.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, if Brown wins in New Hampshire we know it's a wave election. It will be a landslide across the board. That's one of the big reaches. But in Kentucky, you remember, it was once said -- Lincoln is said to have said about the Civil War, I would like to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.

If Republicans can't win Kentucky in this year with all the factors going in there their on popularity, the president, things abroad, things at home not looking good, and with a fairly weak candidate. Grimes' response is preposterous. The idea that because people can't be forced to disclose the vote in the ballot box there's a constitutional requirement that you not disclose it is simply ridiculous. And that she would double down I really do think is a sign of how much of a rookie she is. So I'm not surprised at the DNCC's pulling out. That is a race they are not going to win. But the fact that it's close indicates that Republicans are doing a lot worse this year, even though I think they're going to get a majority, than they should be doing.

BAIER: I want to put up the Senate predictions, all these models. This is how it looks for the major modeling of whether the Republicans are going to pick up the Senate. The Washington Post is the most aggressive, 95 percent, New York Times, 72, FiveThirtyEight, this is Nate Silver's blog, 59.2.

Now, take a look at Weekly Standard, Jay Cost, "Will the GOP fumble at the goal line? The state of play. Midterms elections often break in October, often late in the month, as low-information voters begin to engage. While Republicans have the edge for the Senate there's not a definitive break, and it's safest to consider control of the Senate a tossup. And even if they won, Republicans would be foolish to take victory as a vindication. At most it would mean the public wants to check Barack Obama." You buy that?

WILL: I do. And I think Cost is right. And I think we're looking at the wrong number. If we're looking at the amount of money spent on broadcasting, to go back to the get out the vote effort, this isn't volunteers anymore. These are paid people, and they're sopping up a much larger portion of campaign spending than they used to. At this point in the campaign, they've saturated people with broadcast ads. So the utility of the last political dollar is pretty small. The return on get out the vote may be much larger and we may get a surprise this year.

BAIER: I want to talk about a race that we haven't talked about really, and that's Virginia, because it was believed that Mark Warner was a safe Democratic hold in Virginia. They had a debate. Let's take a look at the RCP average of this race. It has Mark Warner up pretty significantly, 49.6 to 38.6 in the average of recent polls. But Gillespie has been closing up as of late. Last night, was a debate on -- one particular issue came up again.


ED GILLESPIE, R - VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE: This is very serious in terms of the federal bench has a big impact on our lives. And we need to make sure that qualified people are put on the bench. And I would never play politics with recommending judicial appointments.

SEN. MARK WARNER, VIRGINIA: When I heard that Phillip was considering resigning from the Senate, I reached out to his son, Joseph, and -- to find out what was going on. During that conversation, we brainstormed about possible opportunities for his sister. I did not offer her a job nor would I offer her any kind of position.


BAIER: A lot of people say, what is this all about? It's about a state senator --

LIASSON: It's about a state senator who flipped parties and resigned, which made the composition of the legislature flip, stymying Governor Terry McAuliffe, the Democrats, plans to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare in that state.

BAIER: And there was a call to Senator Warner.

LIASSON: There was a call with Senator Warner that maybe he was trying to prevent this guy from doing that, what can I do for your children? That's what this is about.

I still think this is too big a gap for Ed Gillespie to close. I think he's done pretty well. He's setting himself up very nicely to be the governor in Virginia in the future. But this is a tough race. If there is a real wave, however, then all sorts of people get swept up with it, even people with a gap like that. But I don't know if we're there yet.

KRAUTHAMMER: When you watch that sound bite, you see that Gillespie had a real opportunity that he appears to have missed. When Warner says, "I called him about his resigning and then we brainstormed about the daughter's job opportunities," what are you doing brainstorming about employment for a daughter? This is about whether you're going to leave the Senate or not. And that was an opportunity for Gillespie to say this is an issue of possible corruption.

Instead he said, oh, we want to make sure we have the best judges. This isn't about the quality of the judiciary, it's about the use of nepotism and favors to do stuff that you shouldn't do. This is in a state where remember the governor has just been found guilty of corruption. It wasn't an issue in which he could have nailed Warner, who is way ahead because he was a popular governor and a popular senator. But I think Mara's right. Unless there's a way, this seat will remain with Warner.

BAIER: We'll continue with this discussion and some breaking news after a quick break.

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