The 'Inside Politics' forecast: An early vote warning in Iowa

The 'Inside Politics' forecast
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Story highlights

  • Lawyering up for potential runoff contests in Louisiana and Georgia
  • November 4 tea leaves -- GOP ahead in the Iowa early vote tally
  • Obama goes to Wisconsin to help Dems try to unseat Walker
CNN's John King and other top political reporters empty out their notebooks each Sunday on "Inside Politics" to reveal five things that will be in the headlines in the days, weeks and months ahead.
Some late chess moves in House races, a rush to lawyer up, and some early vote tallies that suggest Democratic struggles -- those were part of our trip around the "Inside Politics" table to close our Sunday conversation.
1. The candidates give way to the voters -- and then the lawyers
Eight or nine Senate races are dead heats entering the final week, so can you predict with any certainty who will win?
Yes: the lawyers will.
Lawyering up for runoff season
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Politico's Manu Raju shared reporting that both parties, even as they make late spending and schedule decisions in the big races, are also looking past Election Day to the likelihood that so many close races will mean recounts and runoffs -- and therefore a need for legal teams.
"Here in Washington, both the party committees are already talking to lawyers on the ground. They are already planning to send people into those close states -- like potentially Alaska or Colorado or Iowa -- if they go down to the wire, to have people ready to fight, because this is an Election Day that could last for potentially months."
2. Early voting is Democrats' ace in the hole -- until it isn't
Election Day isn't what it used to be.
With more and more states adopting more liberal early and absentee voting rules, some of the closest races this year will actually be settled before poll closings a week from Tuesday.
GOP winning Iowa early vote
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And throughout Campaign 2014, Democrats have told us that it is their not-so-secret weapon. As they see it, they won that battle in 2008 and 2012 and have the nuts-and-bolts infrastructure in place in the states where it could make a big difference in 2014. Colorado and Iowa, for example. Maybe New Hampshire and North Carolina, too.
But The Atlantic's Molly Ball says the numbers, so far anyway, don't appear to be adding up the way the Democrats had hoped.
"This past week, for the first time in history, Republicans returned more early votes than Democrats in Iowa," said Ball. "This is a big danger sign. Now Democrats are saying: 'Oh, those are just those people who would have voted on Election Day anyway.'"
But she notes that in the past two elections, the GOP has won Election Day voting in Iowa by more than 9 percentage points, so for Republicans to also be leading in the early vote should be a warning to Democrats about what might happen on November 4.
3. The 2014 race with the most personal 2016 implications
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is a conservative favorite and could be a formidable GOP presidential contender. Former Gov. Scott Walker -- well, not so much.
So winning his tough 2014 re-election campaign is priority No. 1 for Walker, and Robert Costa of The Washington Post took a few moments to share his reporting about what could be the cycle's marquee gubernatorial race.
"This week you're going to see President Obama go to Milwaukee," said Costa. "Democrats really think they have an opportunity there, if they can get the turnout in the state's biggest city, to put a Democrat, Mary Burke, over the top and take out one of the top candidates for the GOP in the next cycle."
4. The war for women: Democrats looking to widen the gender gap
Democrats readily concede a giant gender gap is imperative if they are to win the big Senate races this year. Just look at Hillary Clinton's weekend appeal for Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina.
So NPR's Juana Summers says gender politics -- and the war for women's votes -- are her big focus in the final full week of the midterm campaign.
"I saw this interesting poll last month that shows most women prefer a Republican-controlled House to a Democratic-controlled House," said Summers.
"I'll watch that trend in close states like in Colorado, where certainly reproductive choice issues and women have been a battleground, and in Iowa of course, while also looking to see whether or not Republicans are able to close the diversity gap in the House. And I think that will be a very important story as we are moving ahead to look forward to in 2016 as well."
5. The margin matters: plenty of late House chess
Even most Democrats concede Republicans are likely to add to their House majority this year, but there's a big debate about how many seats are in play, and some fascinating final week chess being played.
Democrats are mostly playing defense -- feeling better, for example, about two Democratic seats in New Hampshire that remain competitive to the end. On the flip side, any seats Democrats can take away from Republicans would offset losses elsewhere; it's considered a bit of a long shot, but some Democrats believe they have a shot at one in the Denver suburbs, if Democrats can meet their early voting targets.
Republicans currently control 233 seats. Democrats want to keep them below 240; GOP hopes are to get to 245 or more.
Two Democratic-held seats where pro-GOP forces are making a late spending push: the 6th Congressional District in Massachusetts and the 26th in Florida.