- A number of top Republican strategists say a GOP win in Kansas is now hardly a sure thing
- Republicans cannot count on a big midterm wave this year
- Any action this year on immigration would put pressure on the 2016 class of GOP presidential contenders
Our Labor Day weekend trip around the "Inside Politics" table included GOP jitters over Kansas, the 2016 impact of President Obama's immigration deliberations, progressive worries about Elizabeth Warren's hawkish foreign policy views, and Republican angst about a research project that was designed to help but may have done more harm then good.
1. As Democrats look for 2014 "steals," there's no place like Kansas?
We talked for months about how GOP Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas was hardly a top performer in his primary race against a tea party challenger.
But Roberts survived, and so the first reflex was to say, OK -- it's Kansas. Lock that Senate seat in for the GOP.
Not so fast.
A number of top Republican strategists who have seen the latest research say it is now hardly a sure thing.
These strategists are furious with Roberts personally, and even more so with a campaign team they say has not risen to the challenge.
So there is mounting pressure on the other Kansas senator, Jerry Moran, who just happens to lead the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
I'm told leading GOP voices are pushing the NRSC to get more aggressive, including pushing for a shakeup in the Roberts campaign team. And in the GOP super PAC community, there are conversations that it might become necessary to spend money in a state that no one thought would be -- or should be -- on a 2014 list of potential Democratic pickups.
It's important because the GOP needs a gain of six seats to win the Senate majority; if it lost a Republican-held seat, it would have to win another Democratic seat to net six.
And while the GOP super PACs are seemingly flush with money, the 65-day clock to Election Day will force choices -- and if there need to be sudden investments in Kansas, a few GOP challengers in other states could see their outside help shrink.
2. Maybe not all knowledge is good
The GOP has a gender problem. So the GOP did some research on its gender problem. Makes perfect sense, right?
Well, Politico's Maggie Haberman took us inside a Republican debate on that very question. Maybe if this private research by Crossroads GPS and the American Action Network had stayed private, it would be viewed as helpful. But Haberman's Politico colleagues got hold of it and outlined how some women view the GOP as intolerant or stuck in the past.
Let the recriminations begin.
"This infuriated a number of Republicans, who privately said -- and some of them less privately -- they thought this was completely undermining, they couldn't understand the purpose of this, that this is at cross ends to what the GOP is trying to do in the final couple of months of a very difficult midterm," said Haberman.
3. A "waveless" GOP win?
Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report says her analysis suggests Republicans cannot count on a big midterm wave this year -- like the one they enjoyed in 2010 or the one Democrats rode to midterm gains in 2006.
But no wave doesn't necessarily mean no wins; Walter says it is still more than within reason -- and reach -- that we'll see the Republicans get the net gain of six Senate seats they need to capture the Senate majority.
"What we have come to find, every election, is that you don't see it coming until Election Day, but one side or the other, almost always, the races break disproportionately their way -- 55, 60, 65%," said Walter.
"So that's more of the question than waiting for a big fat wave to hit us the day after Labor Day."
4. Immigration pressures on Democrats and 2016 field
The White House promises some executive actions on immigration, though there are now indications more controversial decisions might be pushed back until after the November election.
As we await final word, Bloomberg's Lisa Lerer highlighted jitters among some Democrats in tight races this year but also said any Obama action this year would put pressure on the 2016 class of Republican presidential contenders.
"Last week, Rand Paul was in Guatemala," said Lerer. "He said it was part of his annual medical mission trip, but he brought his political staff, reporters and a film crew with an aerial drone."
Lerer also pointed out that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is taking his second trip out of the country as governor next week and the destination is -- Mexico.
5. Liberal worries about Warren
Liberals love when Elizabeth Warren goes after big banks and pushes her populist economic views.
But Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post reports that some progressives are now getting a bit wary -- coming to the conclusion that on some big foreign policy questions, the Massachusetts senator sounds, disturbingly to them, a lot like Hillary Clinton.
"She essentially said that Israelis have the right to defend themselves and in the question of sort of civilian casualties, she essentially says that, well, it's Hamas' fault because they have put rocket launchers next to schools and in hospitals," said Henderson.
So over these next weeks, Democrats will watch to see what Warren says about Syria and ISIS and what she does on her trip to Israel in November.