With the House of Representatives expected to retain its Republican majority—currently 234 seats to Democrats’ 201—all eyes are on the Senate to see if Democrats can hold on to their 8-seat majority (10 seats if one counts Independant Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, who typically caucus with the Democrats). As of early September, however, the website FiveThirty
Eight.com (named after the number of electors in the Electoral College) gave Democrats just a 36.5 percent chance of retaining their majority, and Republicans a 63.5 percent chance of winning it.
In late August FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten wrote: “Control of the Senate will be decided in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina. Republicans must win at least half of these races.” Because pro-Israel PACs are supporting the Democratic candidates in those states—five incumbents and Iowa’s Bruce Braley, who is running for Tom Harkin’s open seat—one might conclude that the Israel lobby prefers a Democratic Senate, which might more closely reflect the liberal social values of the majority of Jewish Americans.
But the lobby is known for favoring incumbents, of either party, who have a proven track record of fealty to Israel over the best interests of their own country and constituents. And sure enough, it is putting its money where its mouth is by supporting Republican incumbents in eight states (including giving money to Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who is not even up for re-election this year!), along with open seat candidates in five states (see the August 2014 Washington Report,p. 34, for an overview of the South Dakota race).
The Israel lobby also enjoys—and promotes—a reputation for being formidable, if not invincible. However, FiveThirtyEight.com projects Republican victories in all six key Senate races, the closest being Colorado and Iowa. Stay tuned to see how much money pro-Israel PACs pour into these states between now and Nov. 4, and whether that money brings the desired result.
What does the Israel lobby and the ultraconservative Koch brothers have in common? Why, they’re supporting some of the same candidates for U.S. Senate! The most prominant one being Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who hopes to wake up one day next January as Senate majority leader (as well as the top career recipient of pro-Israel PAC money). McConnell spoke at Charles and David Koch’s annual summer seminar—described by The Nation as a “highly secretive mega-donor conference,” the goal of which was “to raise $500 million to take the Senate in the 2014 midterms and another $500 million ‘to make sure Hillary Clinton is never president.’”
Also in attendance at the mid-June confab at the opulent St. Regis Monarch Bay Resort in Dana Point, CA were Senate challengers Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) and open seat candidate Joni Ernst (R-IA). Cotton and Gardner received token contributions of $5,000 from pro-Israel PACs, which like to hedge their bets, and Ernst $3,000. But those amounts are being augmented by sums the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity PAC is spending on ads: roughly $5.3 million in Arkansas, $2.2 million in Colorado and $3.4 million in Iowa.