Why the Secret Service Story Could Actually Matter in the Midterms

In a different year, the series of security breaches—and misinformation about them—that led to Secret Service Director Julia Pierson's resignation Wednesday would get plenty of news coverage, but it probably wouldn't move the needle all that much politically. But this year, it's just the latest and most dramatic example of the government failing at its most basic responsibilities.

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson testifies at a House hearing on the White House security breach, Sept. 30, 2014.
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Secret Service Director Julia Pierson testifies at a House hearing on the White House security breach, Sept. 30, 2014.

Think about it: A year ago, HealthCare.gov was crashing spectacularly and the federal government was shut down. Since then, the Veterans Affairs Department, the NSA and the IRS all have been caught up in abuse and mismanagement scandals. Now, the tough and supposedly elite forces that the president himself entrusts with his own life failed (in epic fashion, at least three times!) to carry out the basic mission. AND the White House was largely in the dark about it.

It sure looks to the public like every part of government -- even the ones supposedly free from the partisanship that usually gets the blame for dysfunction -- is falling down on the job. And this comes at a time that the CDC is trying to reassure Americans about Ebola. With this accumulation of stories backing the narrative of utterly incompetent government, it makes sense that voters want a change -- any change -- to fix it.

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Obviously, for the party NOT in the White House, this accumulation of government missteps only feeds the narrative they want to ride to the Senate majority. But for Republicans, they have to prove competency, a trust they had lost themselves. And by the way, the bigger impact could be on 2016 when management and competency could be among the bigger demands from the public in regards to what they want in their presidential candidates.

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No place like home

There have been a LOT of developments in the Kansas Senate race in the last few days, and they're pointing to trouble for Pat Roberts. First: a USA Today/Suffolk poll finds independent Greg Orman leading Roberts 46%-41% among likely voters. That comes on the same day that a Kansas court ruled that Democrats DON'T need to put a replacement candidate's name on the ballot after Chad Taylor's withdrawal. And then there's the ad wars: Republicans have some tough tracker video of Orman dodging an Obamacare question, and Roberts is hitting him on"amnesty." But Orman's counterargument – that BOTH parties are responsible for the dysfunction in Washington – could be pretty solid armor against those attacks, or at least buy him some time. The real question is whether national Democrats figure out how to play in this race without feeding into Roberts' campaign attack against Orman that he's a closet Democrat. Can a Dem SuperPAC come in and attack Roberts without Orman getting hit too?

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Walker up in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

In one of our top governor's race to watch this cycle, Scott Walker is looking notably stronger than he was a few months ago. A new Marquette Law School poll puts Walker up over Mary Burke 50 percent to 45 percent – the first time since March that either candidate has held a significant lead. Three weeks ago, Walker looked like one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country, but his campaign has seized hard on the issue of Burke's plagiarized jobs plan text and finally given Walker some traction to run against her. And Burke is making moves that show she's aware of the shift; check out how she distanced herself from Obama in an interview with Kasie Hunt. Asked if she sees Obama as a good model as an executive, Burke replied: "You know, I'd probably look to other models. There's a lot of people that I admire, whether it's Abraham Lincoln or whether it's George Washington." This in a state that picked Obama by seven points in 2012? Eeesh.

Speaking of Walker..

NBC's Perry Bacon Jr. writes about the Wisconsin gov's strategy as perhaps the most polarizing politician in America NOT named Obama. "In a state that Obama won in both 2008 and 2012, Walker is running an unabashedly conservative reelection campaign, taking no steps to move to the left on policy and instead bragging of his role as a boogeyman to Democrats both here and nationally."

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Mending fences with Latinos

Obama heads to Northwestern University this afternoon to make a midterm-closing-argument-speech on the economy. Aides say the speech won't lay out any new policies, but it will outline what the president's done to lift the nation out of recession. He'll have to walk the line between boosting his party's accomplishments on the economy while acknowledging that too many Americans aren't feeling the effects. And he'll have another fine line to walk tonight, when he addresses the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The Washington Post reports today that Obama's decision to delay executive action on deportations is having some real effects on Latino voter registration out in the field. Here, he'll be trying to re-make his promise to act on immigration without reminding the community of the times they've been disappointed before.

First Read's Race of the Day: NH-1: Shea Porter vs. Guinta

Democrat Carol Shea-Porter and Republican Frank Guinta have been battling each other for this seat for going on for years. Shea-Porter won it in 2006 (against incumbent Republican Jeb Bradley), lost it in 2010 (to Guinta) and won it back in 2012 (against Guinta). But without the president on the ballot, Guinta may have the advantage this cycle.

Countdown to Election Day: 33 days