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Samantha Lachman   |   November 14, 2014   11:20 AM ET

Only 9 percent of Americans approved of Congress in the weeks leading up to the midterm elections, which may explain why the election drew the lowest turnout since 1942.

That's just one revealing insight from the latest Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll, which surveyed a national sample of Americans between Oct. 22-26 about their attitudes towards President Barack Obama and the two major political parties in anticipation of the president being forced to work with a Republican-controlled Congress in his final two years in office.

In 2012, Democrats held onto the Senate perhaps in part because Americans at that time had relatively more positive feelings towards the institution: At the same point in the last election cycle, 21 percent of those surveyed by Allstate/National Journal approved of Congress.

But now that the GOP has a solid majority in the Senate -- it will have at least 53 seats come January -- and has increased its governing majority in the House, Congress is poised to disappoint Americans as much as they expect it to. Only 13 percent of Americans thought that the election would result in more cooperation than before. Twenty-one percent said there would now be less cooperation, while 60 percent thought the level of gridlock would be about the same.

That disconnect was illustrated on Thursday by continued animosity between Obama and Congress, with incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saying he was "very disturbed" by the president's vow to act independently to prevent deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants.

Even as Americans believe that cooperation between the two parties is improbable, they were still significantly more likely to say their lives would benefit from "Democrats and Republicans compromising" to solve problems than from either party controlling both the White House and Congress. That finding held in equivalent numbers for Republican and Democrats.

The mood towards the Obama administration is best characterized as ambivalent: Thirty-two percent of Americans surveyed thought the president's actions would have no impact on their "opportunity to get ahead," which was the highest rating captured since the poll began asking that question in July 2009. After Obama first assumed the presidency, 47 percent of Americans thought the country was heading in the right direction, but in this latest poll, that number had been halved.

The poll, which is the 21st in a series looking at how Americans are affected by the changing economy, surveyed 1,000 adults by landline and cell phones, and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Jon Tester Will Lead Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee For 2016

Amanda Terkel   |   November 13, 2014    1:07 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) was named the next chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Thursday, placing a red-state Democrat with a populist streak in charge of recruiting 2016 candidates for the party.

Tester's new role was announced after Democrats in the Capitol held their leadership elections.

"One of my concerns moving forward is being able to win in every state across this country -- red state, purple state and blue," Tester told reporters shortly after the new leadership team held a press conference.

The appointment of the Montana Democrat comes as the DSCC has reached a crossroads. After four straight relatively successful election cycles -- with some unexpected victories in the latter two -- the committee suffered terrible setbacks in 2014. Eight Senate seats were lost to Republicans, with a ninth expected to be go following the runoff election in the Louisiana race.

But the next DSCC chair is also looking at an enviable political map in two years. Only 10 Senate Democrats are up for re-election in 2016, the residual benefit of the shellacking they took in 2010 when tea party Republicans swept into office. Republicans, meanwhile, will have 24 seats to defend, including five in states that President Barack Obama won twice.

With races being run in states like Illinois, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Iowa, Democratic recruitment could be easy. But fundraising might be tougher: The incoming chairman will have to compete with the Democratic presidential candidate for donor dollars.

Tester declined Thursday to weigh in on where the best chances will be for Democrats to pick up Senate seats in 2016.

"We'll look at the map. Every seat that there's a race, I think we've got a chance at picking it up," he told reporters.

Though he comes from a state with a comparatively small population, Tester has proved to be a strong fundraiser. He pulled in $20 million from 2005 through 2014. With one more election cycle, he is likely to pass former Sen. Max Baucus (D) as the most prolific fundraiser in Montana's federal political history.

Lawyers and law firms have been Tester's biggest donors, giving $1.39 million from 2007 through 2012. After them have come retired professionals ($850,000) and the securities and investment industry ($646,000), according to campaign finance records.

Tester's political reputation is that of someone who has been able to sell a reliably Democratic record in a conservative state. He was first elected to the Senate in 2006, when he unseated the Republican incumbent in a tight race, and won in 2012 against then-Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.). During the latter race, Tester defended his vote for the Affordable Care Act.

He also supported expanded background checks for gun purchases, despite hailing from a state where such a position could be toxic. He co-sponsored a constitutional amendment on campaign finance reform and joined with other progressives last year in opposing the idea of naming Larry Summers to chair the Federal Reserve.

But Tester is a backer of building the Keystone XL pipeline, putting him at odds with more progressive members of his party. His support of coal has similarly irritated the environmental wing of the party.

A progressive activist involved in Montana politics, however, was optimistic about Tester's ability to recruit.

"Jon's got a progressive heart and a political mind," said the activist, who requested anonymity to speak openly. "His job will be to find principled Democrats who can win in red states. There's no one in that caucus better able to do it."

Perhaps one of the reasons Tester ended up with the DSCC job is that few others actually wanted it. According to several Democratic sources, Tester went to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and said he was interested in the gig after other lawmakers took their names out of consideration.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who was approached about the job and reported to be a finalist, was one of those who bowed out. He did so, his office said, due to family considerations.

"Senator Coons genuinely wants to do whatever he can to help Democrats take back the Senate in 2016, so he gave the DSCC job real consideration," said Coons spokesman Ian Koski. "He ultimately decided it wasn't the right time for him to do it. Senator Coons has three teenagers at home and the travel commitments of the DSCC chair are brutal. He's also inherently a pretty bipartisan guy and was concerned it would be harder to make real progress on some of his legislative priorities while running the DSCC."

"Senator Coons has offered to help Senator Tester however he can and looks forward to winning back the majority," Koski added.

Tester isn't the only change coming to the DSCC. Like the outgoing chair, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), the committee's executive director, Guy Cecil, won't be back. Cecil is rumored to be in consideration to run Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

But Tester does have strong ties within the larger Democratic infrastructure. Stephanie Schriock, his former chief of staff -- and another oft-mentioned possible Clinton campaign manager -- has turned the group EMILY's List into a Democratic juggernaut.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said it was encouraging to see a fellow Democrat from a Republican-heavy state land a spot in leadership.

"Jon is one of my best friends in the caucus, and he does come from a state like mine, in terms of politics," McCaskill said. "I think having him out there as one face of the leadership is important for states that aren't bright blue."

Ultimately, McCaskill said, Tester is a great pick because he understands what hard work is about. "This is a guy who goes home and repairs his own tractor," she said.

Below are the Senate seats up for election in 2016:

Map created by Aaron Bycoffe.

Paul Blumenthal and Jennifer Bendery contributed reporting.

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Samantha Lachman   |   November 12, 2014    5:10 PM ET

Nevada Republicans have full control of the state's government for the first time since 1929, and their first order of business is passing a bill requiring photo identification to vote.

MSNBC interviewed Nevada's Republican Secretary of State-Elect Barbara Cegavske, who said her party's state legislators are preparing voter ID bills for early next year.

“They’re writing them now,” Cegavske told MSNBC. “It just depends on how soon they get them in.”

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) has previously said that he supports voter ID laws, so the bill likely would be signed were it to reach his desk. The new direction of the legislature illustrates the way in which Nevada Democrats suffered without a competitive candidate at the top of the ticket challenging Sandoval.

Cegavske defeated Nevada's Democratic Treasurer Kate Marshall on Nov. 4. in a race that contrasted the two candidates' opposing stances on voter ID. Tea party favorite Sharron Angle, who challenged Sen. Harry Reid in 2010, also led an unsuccessful effort to put a measure on the ballot imposing a voter ID requirement, though she failed to gather enough signatures.

Though Cegavske told MSNBC “we want to make sure nobody’s disenfranchised," she justified voter ID laws as "a way to ensure the integrity of elections."

Nevada Democrats disagreed Wednesday, arguing that there is no foundation for the voter ID laws Republican legislators are writing.

"It's unfortunate that after spending her two decades in the legislature trying anything and everything to disenfranchise voters, Barbara Cegavske is planning to continue her war on voting when she becomes Secretary of State by pushing a discriminatory voter id bill," spokesman Zach Hudson said in a statement sent to The Huffington Post. "It says something about how upside down Barbara Cegavkse's priorities are that she voted to keep it as easy as possible for criminals to obtain guns but wants to make it as hard as possible for people to vote. This is a solution in search of a problem that Nevada doesn't need and can't afford. Does Barbara Cegavske plan to take money out of Nevada schools to pay for her plan to disenfranchise voters? Nevada Democrats will do everything we can to protect working families' right to vote."

The new Nevada state legislature's decision to prioritize voter ID resembles what happened in North Carolina when the state GOP consolidated control with Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's win in 2012. The next year, Republican state legislators sent a bill to his desk mandating that voters show photo identification at the polls in 2016, along with a host of other new restrictions on voting access. The package of restrictions is being challenged by civil rights groups, who argue that the new laws violate Section 2 of the the federal Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting procedures that discriminate on the basis of race.

On Oct. 9, the Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin’s voter ID law for the 2014 midterm election, but allowed a law in Texas to go forwarded. Reports demonstrated that the Texas law disenfranchised women, students, low-income, minority and disabled voters.

Democrats Argue Their 2014 Ground Game Worked

Michael McAuliff   |   November 7, 2014    2:55 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Don't laugh. Don't snarf your coffee. Democrats say their 2014 Senate race ground game worked.

Sure, they're on the losing side of an election that is likely to see a nine-seat swing in the U.S. Senate once the counting is all done, handing majority control to the Republicans.

But the results would have been even worse if the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hadn't invested some $60 million in an unprecedented midterm get-out-the-vote effort, according to a memo Democrats are circulating about the debacle. The effort was dubbed the Bannock Street Project, after the street where DSCC boss Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.) had his campaign headquarters when he won in the 2010 midterms.

It's actually a pretty simple argument that says in all the places the DSCC invested, it did boost turnout in 2014 compared with 2010. But the problem was Republicans also did better in some places and independents turned heavily against Democrats, swamping whatever ground game Democrats mustered.

DSCC Deputy Executive Director Matt Canter, citing the memo, pointed to several states as examples, including Colorado, New Hampshire, Virginia and North Carolina.

In New Hampshire, unlike in most of the country, overall voting surged compared to the last midterm election. In 2010, some 441,000 voters cast ballots. This year, that jumped by more than 10 percent to 486,000. According to Democrats' breakdown of the contest, more of those new voters were Democrats, with their share of the electorate rising from 27 percent in 2010 to 28 percent this year, while the GOP share fell from 30 percent to 27 percent. The result was that Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen held off the challenge from former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown. She prevailed by fewer than 16,000 votes.

"If the electorate was like 2010, Jeanne Shaheen would have lost," Canter said.

In two other states where Democrats invested heavily, but lost, they can also point to a spike in Democratic turnout -- Colorado and North Carolina.

In Colorado, Bennet won in 2010 with 852,000 votes, even though Republicans had a 7-point voter turnout edge. He dominated with independent voters. In 2014, according to the Democratic memo, their get-out-the-vote surge whittled the GOP advantage to just 5 points, and Sen. Mark Udall (D) got many more votes than Bennet -- 916,000. But the big difference was that independent voters soured on President Barack Obama, and flocked to Rep. Cory Gardner (R), who got his own Republican surge and tallied 966,000 votes. The increased Democratic showing did seem to save their governor, John Hickenlooper.

"Gov. Hickenlooper wouldn't have won without Mark Udall's ground game," Canter said.

It was a similar tale in North Carolina, where Sen. Kay Hagan narrowly lost to Republican Thom Tillis. Democrats got out their voters, but Republicans also boosted turnout, and again, independents favored the GOP.

"African-American turnout in North Carolina looked more like 2012 than 2010," Canter said, referring to the large outpouring of voters for Obama's re-election compared with meager turnout two years before.

To put an exclamation point on the impact of the ground game, Democrats pointed to Virginia, where the Senate committee did not invest, and where Sen. Mark Warner (D) eked out a narrow win over Republican lobbyist Ed Gillespie. Turnout fell overall, but especially among key groups for Democrats, compared with last year's governor's contest. (There was not a 2010 Senate contest in Virginia.) Voting in African-American precincts fell by more than 10 percent. With less focus on the base, the GOP nearly pulled a huge upset.

The bottom line, Democrats argue, is that even if they get their voters out in greater numbers than normal, that is not enough if a true wave is washing over the country.

"The ground game can work and we can still lose. The two aren't mutually exclusive," Canter said.

Canter and others at the DSCC are talking about the raw numbers because they feel the strategy did what it was intended to do, even if it didn't affect the broader electoral environment. And they believe the party shouldn't give up on a tool that made the difference for Hickenlooper and Shaheen, and that could be a bigger key in a more normal election year.

"I don't want the wrong lessons to be learned by Democrats," said Matt Dover, the director of campaigns at Civis Analytics, a firm created from the Obama campaign analytics operation and that did the targeting for the DSCC. "The goal all along was to make the electorate measurably better than it was in 2010. The evidence is there that that's in fact what happened."

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

Samantha Lachman   |   November 6, 2014    1:24 PM ET

When former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) lost his primary race earlier this year, it looked like congressional Republicans could be left with no members who identify with religions other than Christianity.

But Cantor, who is Jewish, was replaced Tuesday by New York state Sen. Lee Zeldin, a Republican who defeated Rep. Timothy Bishop (D) in the state's Long Island-based 1st District. Zeldin is also Jewish.

Zeldin beat Bishop by more than 9 percentage points in a district that the Democrat had represented since 2002.

Nearly all the religious diversity in the 113th Congress was on the Democratic side of the aisle, according to the Pew Research Center. The Democratic congressional caucus included 32 Jews, three Buddhists, two Muslims, one Unitarian Universalist and one Hindu member, as well as one congresswoman -- Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) -- who describes her religion as "none."

Zeldin could not be reached for comment on his victory.

Samantha Lachman   |   November 3, 2014    3:19 PM ET

Some of this election cycle's long-shot candidates obviously don't have the resources for a fancy website to entice voters. Below are some of the sites that are most in need of help.

Irrelevant Biographical Details

B.J. Guillot for Congress informs us that the Republican drives a Nissan Leaf and his wife drives a 2010 Toyota Prius. The couple also has two indoor cats. Guillot is attempting to unseat Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.).

guillot

American Flag Backgrounds

Denocrat Dr. Sue Savary for Congress, Republican Mark Zaccaria for Senate and Democrat Janet Garrett for Congress represent a common motif in low-budget campaign website design.

savary

zaccaria

garrett

Over-Enthusiastic State Pride

Nothing communicates love for one's state more than typing out the state name in the colors of its flag ... even when that means the "d" in Maryland is indistinguishable from the website background, as it is on the site of this GOP candidate, David Banach for Congress.

banach

Offensive Guest Stars

Kamau Bakari, an Independent America Party candidate challenging Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), has a conversation about race with rancher Cliven Bundy in a video featured prominently on his website.

bakari

Candidates Who Try To Maintain An Element Of Mystery

We're not sure what Democratic congressional candidate Nate Irvin looks like, but his website has some nice photos of American flags, horse derrieres and stacks of paper.

irvin

Kenneth Stepp for Congress doesn't include a picture of the Democratic candidate from Kentucky either. The site also falls into the Websites That Are Actually Just Blogs category.

stepp

Libertarian congressional candidate Richard Charles also rocks a Blogger format.

charles

Hunger Games References

Republican Doug Basler is conveniently running for Congress in Washington's 9th District, or "District 9."

basler

Aggressive Solutions

Libertarian congressional candidate Ken Ashby advocates for ending funding of the Transportation Security Administration, while Republican congressional candidate Paul Wright suggests that by entering his website, one helps to "Resist deChristianization."

ashby

wright

Florida Man Is All-Seeing

Democratic congressional candidate William Bronson is watching you.

bronson

Samantha Lachman   |   October 31, 2014    3:44 PM ET

The Arizona Republican Party is throwing Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) under the bus in order to attack the vulnerable Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.).

As Vox first reported Friday, voters in Arizona's 2nd District are receiving a mailer that says it's from the state GOP and hits Barber for voting for the bipartisan budget compromise that Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) shepherded through Congress last December.

Barber, who is engaged in a close race with the Republican nominee, retired Air Force combat pilot Martha McSally, was one of 332 representatives (169 of which were Republicans) who voted for the budget deal.

The Halloween-themed mailer calls the budget deal "the terrifying Ryan budget," obfuscating the difference between the Ryan-Murray deal and the House Republican budget, more commonly referred to as the "Ryan budget," which Barber voted against in 2013 and 2014.

"Ron Barber supported a bone-chilling Paul Ryan budget that cut vital assistance programs and failed to extend unemployment insurance to millions of Americans," the mailer's text reads. "Barber's vote was well received in Washington, DC but was hair-raising for Arizona."

The $85 billion deal, as the mailer highlights, failed to extend unemployment insurance benefits and cut pensions for younger veterans. (Barber later voted to reverse those cuts.) It also did not reverse previous cuts to the food stamps program.

Conservative groups and some GOP members of Congress opposed the Ryan-Murray deal because it reversed $63 billion in across-the-board sequester cuts. The four Republican House members from Arizona were among the votes against the measure.

Barber's campaign argued in a statement to The Huffington Post on Friday that the mailers were an attempt to mislead Democratic voters.

"Martha McSally and her GOP friends in Phoenix are trying to deceive Southern Arizonans with a dirty Halloween trick aimed at suppressing democratic voters," Barber spokeswoman Ashley Nash-Hahn said. "Ron Barber voted against the Paul Ryan budget both times he had the opportunity -- pure and simple."

McSally's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for the candidate's thoughts about the mailer and how she would have approached the Ryan-Murray deal.

The expensive, bitter race between Barber and McSally is a redo of 2012, when the congressman edged McSally by just 2,454 votes.

Read the entire mailer at Vox.

What's happening in your district? The Huffington Post wants to know about all the campaign ads, mailers, robocalls, candidate appearances and other interesting campaign news happening by you. Email any tips, videos, audio files or photos to openreporting@huffingtonpost.com.

Dems' Closing Argument In North Carolina: Thom Tillis Has Record Of Corruption

Sabrina Siddiqui   |   October 30, 2014    5:50 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's closing argument in the North Carolina Senate race is a harsh attack on Republican nominee Thom Tillis. The group released a final television ad Thursday highlighting a 2012 scandal in which two former Tillis staffers engaged in inappropriate relationships with lobbyists.

The ad, shared exclusively with The Huffington Post, opens with local TV coverage of the controversy. "State House Speaker Thom Tillis is under fire again regarding his staff," an anchor says.

The narrator then recounts the story, in which it was discovered that Tillis' chief of staff had an affair with a lobbyist. Days later, one of his policy analysts was revealed to be having a similar affair.

"Tillis said he fired them -- he didn't," the narrator says. "Instead, Tillis let them resign with a nearly $20,000 payout funded by taxpayers."

Watch the ad above.

Democrats have used the controversy throughout the election cycle to levy charges of corruption against Tillis, who is looking to unseat Sen. Kay Hagan, the Democratic incumbent. Democratic super PACS cut similar ads earlier this year, prompting a response ad from Tillis' campaign insisting that he fired both staffers. Fact checkers have ruled that the Democrats' version of events is more accurate.

In a statement, DSCC spokesman Justin Barasky accused Tillis of rewarding his aides with "taxpayer funded golden parachutes" and lying to North Carolina voters about how he dealt with the scandal.

"Instead of looking out for North Carolina families, Speaker Tillis has a record of rewarding corruption at the expense of North Carolina families, and it’s clear he’s completely wrong for North Carolina," Barasky said.

A spokesman for Tillis' campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.

The ad, which will air statewide on broadcast and cable, is part of a $9.1 million ad buy the DSCC launched in North Carolina in August. Spending in the North Carolina Senate race, which is one of the most closely watched contests of the year, topped $100 million on Wednesday.

HuffPost's Pollster average, which combines all publicly available polling, currently shows Hagan leading Tillis by just one percentage point.

Igor Bobic   |   October 30, 2014    2:09 PM ET

Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama and his administration of failing low-income and minority Americans at a rally in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Thursday, alongside South Dakota Senate candidate Mike Rounds, who appears to be coasting toward a victory in next week's midterm election.

"He hasn’t helped the poor, hasn’t helped the minorities,” Romney said of Obama, noting the record level of poverty and food stamp enrollments in the aftermath of the 2008 recession.

If Obama really failed to help the nation's poor and minorities, it's not for lack of trying. Romney even admitted so just a few days after the 2012 election, when he attributed his loss in part to what he called “gifts” that Obama had promised to young, minority and low-income voters.

“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift,” he said on a conference call with top donors. “Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents' plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”

At Thursday's rally, the former Massachusetts governor focused on criticizing Obama's policies, which he said were on the ballot.

He decried Obama's "less-than-competent management of the United States government" and accused him of "hesitancy and weakness abroad," another favorite refrain of his from the 2012 election.

Igor Bobic   |   October 30, 2014   10:59 AM ET

Prominent Republicans barnstorming the country ahead of next week's midterm elections are testing a new line of attack against Hillary Clinton, slamming the former secretary of state for her comment that businesses don’t create jobs.

Clinton quickly corrected herself on Monday, arguing that the "economy grows when businesses and entrepreneurs create good-paying jobs here in an America where workers and families are empowered to build from the bottom up and the middle out -- not when we hand out tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs or stash their profits overseas."

But one quote was enough for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who, like Clinton, has been making moves toward a future presidential run. "Hillary Clinton says, 'Well, businesses don't create jobs,'" the Kentucky Republican told a GOP audience on Tuesday. "Anybody believe that?"

Mitt Romney, who has notably refused to rule out another presidential run, also piled on. The former GOP presidential candidate jabbed a “certain leading Democrat" over the remark at a rally on behalf of Georgia Senate candidate David Perdue.

“I happen to know that businesses and corporations aren’t the only places that create jobs, I’m sure there a couple of other places somewhere, but in fact they do create jobs and David knows how to do that,” Romney said Wednesday.

If that sounds oddly familiar, it's because Romney attempted the same strategy against another leading Democrat. In 2012, the former governor of Massachusetts relentlessly hit President Barack Obama over his “You didn’t build that” quote, which Republicans took out of context. Like Clinton, Obama was making the case that businesses owe some of their success to the efforts of government and public investment.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who is also said to be weighing a run for president, became the latest Republican to join the fray on Wednesday.

“This last week I saw something that was breathtaking, a candidate -- a former secretary of state who was campaigning in Massachusetts -- where she said that, ‘Don’t let them tell you that businesses create jobs,’” Bush said in Colorado, according to the Associated Press. “Well, the problem in America today is that not enough jobs are being created [but] they are created by business.”

It's not clear yet whether the new line of attack against Clinton is simply an offering of red meat meant to excite the conservative base or a sign of things yet to come. Republicans have struggled to build a singular narrative against the Democrat, and this may be just one more attempt -- after the Benghazi terror attacks, her large speaking fees, among others -- to do so. It's easy to envision the quote in Republican attack ads should Clinton decide to run for president in 2016, as she is widely expected to do. But the strategy failed to register with the public in 2012, even after Republicans featured Obama's line prominently in their nominating convention.

A Top Republican Admits Obamacare Repeal Is Unlikely

Sabrina Siddiqui   |   October 29, 2014    5:31 PM ET

Even as the GOP looks poised to retake the Senate next week, a repeal of Obamacare remains unlikely, a top Republican senator conceded Wednesday.

During an interview with WPBI radio, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said while there may be another repeal vote in Congress, lawmakers should focus on fixes to the health care law that President Barack Obama might actually consider.

"I would imagine there will be a vote on repeal, but I -- let’s be realistic, Barack Obama is still going to be in the White House for another two years, and he is not going to sign that," said Barrasso, who serves as chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee and is one of the most vocal critics of Obamacare. "I want to put things on his desk that he would actually give true consideration to signing, because they’re good for our economy, they’ll get people working again, and they’ll help move the country forward."

Barrasso's comments follow a string of similar statements from other prominent Republicans in Congress, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Despite being prodded on the subject by Fox News' Neil Cavuto on Tuesday, McConnell said that "no one thinks" repealing the law is feasible with Obama still in office. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also focused on fixing the existing law in an interview last month, pointing out that it's too late to repeal Obamacare at this point.

Barrasso said he would like to "systematically strip away the very worst parts of Obamacare" and identified some changes he believed would draw support from both sides of the aisle.

"The 30-hour workweek regulations have been harmful to school districts, to teachers, to take-home pay, and there is bipartisan support to removing that," he said. "There is bipartisan support on the employer mandate on health care and to eliminating or delaying those components."

H/T BuzzFeed

Sabrina Siddiqui   |   October 29, 2014    4:08 PM ET

With the New Hampshire Senate race shaping up to be unexpectedly close, due in part to national issues like the Islamic State and the Ebola outbreak, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is looking to place the spotlight back on jobs and outsourcing.

The Shaheen campaign released a new paid web ad Wednesday, shared first with The Huffington Post, that ties Brown to two New Hampshire residents whose jobs were shipped overseas. The couple, Ed and Ginger Cunningham, discuss working for Lucent Technologies until the plant, in North Andover, Massachusetts, was closed down and jobs were outsourced.

"There were 8,000 people who worked at Lucent, and one out of four of them were New Hampshire residents," Ed Cunningham says in the video, referring to the many people in the Granite State who commute to Massachusetts for work.

The ad notes that Brown voted to give tax breaks to companies that outsourced American jobs. Ed Cunningham adds that Brown "took our tax dollars and used them to ship our jobs overseas."

"It was devastating to see it happening, watching the people leave little by little, just seeing the jobs go away, wondering what everybody was going to do," Ginger Cunningham adds.

Watch the ad above.

Brown has said he never voted to ship jobs overseas, but Shaheen has accused him of having multiple ties to outsourcing. In August, Shaheen's campaign called on Brown to resign from the board of directors of Kadant, Inc., a Massachusetts-based company that has outsourced jobs to China and Mexico.

The ad also makes a reference to Kadant but is mostly designed to portray Brown, a former senator from Massachusetts, as lacking commitment to the people of New Hampshire. Brown, who moved to New Hampshire late last year, has struggled to combat the perception that he is a carpetbagger, and remains unpopular in the Granite State.

He has nonetheless managed to narrow the gap with Shaheen to just 2 percentage points, according to HuffPost's average of all publicly available polling.

Brown has largely succeeded by tying Shaheen to President Barack Obama, whose job approval in New Hampshire is at record-low levels. Shaheen has tried to bring the focus back to New Hampshire and has used debates to mock Brown, who lost his Senate seat to Elizabeth Warren in 2012, for treating the state as a "consolation prize."

The strategy is summed up in the new web ad's final shot. "Scott Brown is NOT for New Hampshire," text across the screen reads. "Never was. Never will be."

Brown's campaign did not return a request for comment.

Anti-Gay Marriage Group Attacks Kay Hagan For Backing Judge Everyone Else Backed Too

Jennifer Bendery   |   October 28, 2014    6:53 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- The National Organization for Marriage launched a new ad Tuesday criticizing Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) for voting to confirm a federal judge who went on to strike down the state's ban on same-sex marriage this month.

But what the ad fails to mention -- aside from the fact that judges rule independently from Congress -- is that nearly everyone in the Senate voted to confirm U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn back in March 2011, including North Carolina's other senator, Republican Richard Burr, who helped lead the effort to usher Cogburn through the nomination process.

NOM's ad, called "Kay Hagan's Judge," reasons that because Hagan voted to confirm Cogburn in March 2011, it's her fault that he rejected the state's same-sex marriage ban this month. The ad urges voters to take out their anger over that ruling by replacing Hagan with GOP Senate challenger Thom Tillis.

"Same-sex marriage has been imposed by a federal judge handpicked and confirmed by Kay Hagan, without voters getting our day in court," states the ad, which is running statewide this week. "Kay Hagan and her judge betrayed us. Send them a message. Vote Thom Tillis for U.S. Senate."

But an activist judge Cogburn is not. He cleared the judiciary committee in a unanimous voice vote, and later passed the full Senate 96-0 -- hardly a sign of concerns about his judicial independence. Burr sang Cogburn's praises during his confirmation hearing.

"He is an excellent choice and I believe will be a great addition to the court," Burr said at the November 2010 hearing. He ticked off Cogburn's accomplishments: a Stanford law degree, experience as a Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney and a magistrate judge, and time "spent teaching others how to herd cattle and shoot straight" at a dude ranch.

"Out of all the qualifications that Max Cogburn brings to this nomination, let me say this: He's a good man. And we need good individuals to serve on our bench," he said. "I highly recommend to the committee that we move as expeditiously [on] this nominee as we can."

NOM announced this week that it plans to spend $200,000 in the North Carolina and Arkansas Senate races. Brian Brown, the group's president, touted its "powerful new television ad" targeting Hagan.

"Hagan was the person who hand-picked the federal judge who invalidated the North Carolina marriage amendment without so much as giving voters a day in court," Brown said in a statement.

NOM sent out a fundraising email later Tuesday urging opponents of same-sex marriage to give the group money to "take down liberals like North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan for trashing her own voters by supporting judicial tyranny and the redefinition of marriage."

A request for comment from NOM on the broad support Cogburn received during his confirmation process was not returned. A Hagan spokeswoman also did not respond to a request for comment.

The Hagan-Tillis race is one of the tightest in the nation. Hagan is currently holding a slight lead, at 44 percent to Tillis' 42 percent, according to an average by HuffPost Pollster.

Sabrina Siddiqui   |   October 28, 2014   12:42 PM ET

Republican Scott Brown's bid to return to the U.S. Senate received a boost on Tuesday when he received the endorsement of Bob Preston, a onetime Democratic leader of the New Hampshire State Senate.

Preston, who served in the state Senate in the 1970s and 1980s, announced his support for Brown in an open letter that criticizes incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen for "her blind allegiance to the Obama administration." The letter accuses Shaheen of working with President Barack Obama to drive up the national debt. Preston also says that Shaheen has been unable to address problems such as controversies at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the IRS, as well as the country's immigration crisis.

Brown, he adds, would bring "common sense and independence" to Washington. "I believe his public service, his many years in the military, and a family person himself qualify him to be our next U.S. Senator," Preston writes. "I believe his leadership and decision-making will change the course of this country for the better."

The endorsement from Preston, who spent 18 years in the state Senate, comes as Shaheen struggles to maintain her lead over Brown in the final days before the election. HuffPost's Pollster average, which combines all publicly available polling, shows Shaheen ahead by just two points, a margin that has shrunk considerably in recent weeks.

Even more problematic for Shaheen is the fact that Preston's letter supports Brown's strategy of linking her to Obama, whose favorability remains at an all-time low in New Hampshire. Brown, who previously served as a senator from Massachusetts, has sought to cast himself as an independent. Support for Brown from an influential name like Preston can only do further damage to Shaheen at a time when she can least afford to take a hit.

Brown isn't the first Republican candidate endorsed by Preston in recent years. In 2012, Preston endorsed GOP candidate Ovide Lamontagne for governor of New Hampshire.

Shaheen touted her own endorsement from a member of the opposing party on Tuesday. Amy LaBelle, a small business owner who is a registered Republican, said Shaheen is the "clear choice" at an event in Amherst.

"Scott Brown’s record shows that he’s only interested in himself and in the big money corporate donors who fund his campaign," LaBelle said at the event, which was part of a statewide get out the vote tour by Shaheen.

Read Preston's full letter endorsing Brown below:

This coming election on November 4th is critical and an opportunity to change the direction of this country. Lack of leadership and decision making in Washington makes us look like a rudderless ship on domestic and international waters. It is time to change.

Once looked up as the strongest and most respected democracy in the world, we are now scoffed at by some world leaders.

Domestically, scandals occur in the Veterans Administration. Corruption has been uncovered in the IRS. No action has been taken to address the immigration problem. U.S. citizens forced into a health program against their wished that cost them more money as the administration walks us toward socialized medicine.

With all due respect to Senator Shaheen, she has not been able to address these problem and has gone along to get along with President Obama increasing the budget deficit until each American family is not in debt nationally in excess of $150,000.

Mrs. Shaheen served the state of New Hampshire well as state senator and governor, and I commend her for that. However, her blind allegiance to the Obama administration has resulted in the problems our nation faces today.

As a veteran, a former state senator, a businessman, and family man proud of New Hampshire and our country, I am looking for a change in leadership in Washington.

For those reasons, I urge voters to support Scott Brown for U.S. Senator on November 4th.

I believe his public service, his many years in the military, and a family person himself qualify him to be our next U.S. Senator. I sincerely believe his common sense and independence in Washington will be better for New Hampshire and our nation. I believe his leadership and decision-making will change the course of this country for the better.

I encourage citizens to get out and vote on November 4th and cast your vote for Scott Brown.

Sincerely,

Bob Preston

Hampton, N.H.

This story has been updated to include Amy LaBelle's appearance at a Shaheen event on Tuesday.