Midterm Memories: Squealing Pigs, Fangate and Cowboy Poetry

By Carl Hulse NOVEMBER 3, 2014 NYT FD

Even with Bill Clinton’s backing, Representative Bruce Braley is struggling to undo the damage of a comment. Eric Thayer for The New York Times

Good Monday morning from Washington. With less than 24 hours before the first polls open on the East Coast, Republicans’ chances of winning the Senate are at 69 percent. Hillary Rodham Clinton returned to New Hampshire for the first time in six years in what seemed like an audition for 2016, Senator Mark Udall got a sliver of good news from the latest mail-in returns in Colorado, and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey remains a favorite caricature on “Saturday Night Live.”

Every election season creates stars, ends aspirations and leads to cringeworthy moments endlessly replayed in memory and, sometimes, on TV. Here are some of them.

Start with Representative Bruce Braley, the Senate candidate in Iowa who is this fall’s biggest disappointment for the Democrats. Mr. Braley was considered a sure bet in a state that President Obama carried twice. But then he decided to get snarky about farmers. That’s a sure way to harvest political trouble, especially as his Republican opponent, Joni Ernst, emerged as a star. She has ridden her résumé of mother, soldier and state senator – and an ad about castrating pigs – to a lead.

Shelley Moore Capito’s star power is about to make her the first Republican senator elected from West Virginia since the 1950s. She has family history (her father is former three-term governor who later went to prison on corruption charges), experience as a popular state representative and congresswoman, and the coal industry on her side in a race that has never been in doubt.

In North Carolina, the Republican candidate for Senate, Thom Tillis, got caught in a legislative brawl over education. And Kay Hagan, the Democratic incumbent, has been a surprise by displaying a toughness and a confidence she does not often show in the Senate.

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida got into a silly debate dispute with his Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, over the use of an electric fan. He has been forced to spend nearly $13 million of his own money for a last-ditch television buy.

And now for something completely different: Larry Pressler, the 72-year-old former Republican senator running a low-budget campaign as an independent in South Dakota. He marched in homecoming parades and read cowboy poetry. But with help from national Republicans, former Gov. Mike Rounds has pulled well ahead in polls. It looks like Mr. Pressler will be riding off into the sunset.