US Senate(WASHINGTON) — North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan is sitting on the most expensive hot seat in Senate history.

Spending in her Senate race against Republican State House Speaker Thom Tillis topped $100 million, according to the Sunlight Foundation — $10 million more than the second most expensive Senate contest this year in Colorado, and roughly $30 million more than the priciest race in history before 2014.

Hagan and Tillis have been running neck-and-neck for months. But the closeness of the race doesn’t fully explain the costs. Across the map, endangered Democrats and Republican hopefuls are locked in competitive contests within the margin of error.

According to media experts, North Carolina political observers and officials with state and national organizations involved in the race, a combination of large and expensive media markets, early spending, and the state’s history as a political toss-up has propelled the record-setting spending in North Carolina.

Here are three reasons why this year’s Senate contest in the Tar Heel state is a record-setter:

1. The Ad Wars

According to the Center for Public Integrity, candidates, parties and groups have run more than 100,000 ads in North Carolina this election cycle — more than any other Senate race in the country. On top of that spending, the state also has a number of large, costly media markets.

“The media markets are more expensive than other states,” said Elizabeth Wilner, the senior vice president of Kantar Media/CMAG, which tracks political advertising across the country. “That’s the number one reason for the spending.”

Four of North Carolina’s television markets are among the 50 largest in the country, according to Nielsen’s yearly ranking of television markets.

North Carolina’s population is also well distributed across the media markets. To reach voters, campaigns, parties and outside groups need to spend in all of them, unlike in states like Colorado, where most of the population can be reached by advertising in a single media market.

“Other races are just as critical, but it’s a matter of proportion,” Wilner said.

With demand so high, buying ads in expensive markets have become even more costly as the race has progressed, said Thomas Mills, a North Carolina Democratic analyst familiar with media buying in the state.

“They’re paying out the ass per-spot with inventory so low,” Mills said.

2. Early Start

Tillis announced his campaign for Senate in May 2013, months before other Republican Senate hopefuls like Joni Ernst of Iowa (July 2013) and Tom Cotton of Arkansas (August 2013) declared.

In August 2013, Americans for Prosperity, the conservative political group with ties to the billionaire Koch brothers, began running television anti-Obamacare ads, according to Democrats tracking ad buying in the state and invoices from North Carolina television stations made available by the Federal Communications Commission. From November to February, the group, which has spent more than $9 million in the race, ran ads attacking Hagan. Representatives from Americans for Prosperity declined to comment.

“We’ve never seen ads come up so early here,” Mills said. “They wanted a wounded incumbent and they felt like they had an issue to do it.”

Senate Majority PAC, the Super PAC led by former aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid with the goal of helping Senate Democrats, responded in November and December of 2013 with ads supporting Hagan. By Jan. 1, 2014, the group had spent $1.4 million on ads defending Hagan. Since March, it has spent $9 million attacking Tillis.

“Hagan and groups like ours have really framed this race as a choice, highlighting Tillis’ disastrous record in the state legislature,” Ty Matsdorf of the Senate Majority PAC said.

Outside groups have spent more money in the North Carolina Senate race than any other in history, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Organizations like the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the National Rifle Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce followed with ads of their own, according to independent expenditure filings.

The League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group supporting Kay Hagan, has spent $5 million on commercials and mailings in the state.

“It’s our biggest cycle ever,” said Jeff Gohringer, spokesman for the League. “We’re spending as much right now in North Carolina as we did on all political work in 2010.”

The candidates have spent large sums as well. Hagan has spent $22 million on her reelection campaign, the second-highest spending candidate after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Tillis has spent roughly $9 million on his bid.

3. Swing State Status

While both parties have spent gamely in races across the map, North Carolina’s recent voting history gives both Republicans and Democrats reason to believe the Tar Heel State is in play until the polls close.

In 2008, the year Hagan took office, African-Americans helped deliver the state to President Obama by just under 14,000 votes. Four years later, the state supported Mitt Romney’s presidential bid by 98,000 votes, making North Carolina one of only two states to flip from 2008 to 2012.

“In a state that supported Obama in 2008 and Romney in 2012, it’s not surprising to see both sides try to have as big an impact as they can,” said Paul Lindsay, spokesman for Crossroads GPS, the national Republican organization that has spent $6.5 million on ads in North Carolina.

Republicans are hoping the president’s disapproval can help deliver the state to Tillis — and the Senate majority to the GOP. In January, 43 percent of North Carolinians approved of Obama’s performance, according to a Gallup poll.

“People who disapproved of Obama in 2012 voted Republican down the line. The same thing could happen this year,” said Carter Wrenn, a Republican consultant in North Carolina.

Despite the Republican turn in 2012, Democrats believe they can defend Hagan by turning out their base while reaching out to undecided voters.

“Some swing states have large numbers of persuadable voters,” said a North Carolina Democrat close to the Hagan campaign. “North Carolina in this cycle has been very narrowly divided. It’s become an arms race on television to see who can turn their folks out and depress the others.”

With Election Day nearly upon us, North Carolina is likely to retain its spot as the costliest Senate race of the cycle — unless runoffs in Georgia and Louisiana force campaign spending into overtime.

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Mitch McConnell told ABC News Monday that Republicans would not make investigating the Obama administration a priority if the GOP wins control of the Senate.

“Obviously, we intend to be a responsible governing Republican majority, if the American people give us the chance to do that,” McConnell, R-Ky., said in a brief interview as he flew around Kentucky on the eve of the midterm elections.

McConnell was dismissive of calls from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other Republicans to open Congressional hearings next year into the executive actions of the Obama administration.

“We’re gonna do a combination of pointing out the things that we disagree on and the things we can possibly agree on,” McConnell said. “And be a responsible governing Republican majority.”

McConnell oozed with confidence when ABC News caught up with him in Lexington during a statewide fly-around tour with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. McConnell’s contest against Alison Lundergan Grimes is the toughest political challenge of his career, but even Democrats in Kentucky acknowledge he’s taken command of the race.

“We’re hopeful it’s going to be a good night,” McConnell said. “The polling down here is indicating that’s likely to happen, and we’re trying to make sure everybody votes.”

If Republicans win six seats and claim a Senate majority, McConnell said it will be all due to the strong class of recruits — and not repeating mistakes of the last two election cycles.

“You know, we’ve learned a couple lessons over the last two cycles that if you don’t nominate really credible candidates you have a chance of not even taking advantage of a good year, and this could be a good year,” McConnell said. “The American people I think want to go in a different direction. They know the only thing they can do in 2014 is change the Senate.”

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Feng Li/Getty Images(NASHUA, N.H.) — After nearly two-months traveling the nation to boost Democratic candidates, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s midterm blitz has officially come to a close.

The rally she attended in Nashua, New Hampshire, Sunday afternoon on behalf of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Gov. Maggie Hassan was her final stop on the trail ahead of Election Night on Tuesday.

The event also marked her first visit back to the Granite State in over six years. Her last trip was on June 27, 2008, when she and then-Sen. Barack Obama met in Unity, New Hampshire for their first joint rally together after she lost the presidential primary.

Clinton, who took the stage with Shaheen and Gov. Hassan to a roaring crowd, was the final speaker.

“In 2008, during the darkest days of my campaign you lifted me up, you gave me my voice back. You taught me so much about grit and determination,” Clinton said. “I will never forget that and I want to thank the people of New Hampshire.”

Following the rally, Clinton, Shaheen and Hassan all swung by the Puritan Backroom Diner in Manchester to greet locals. Lots of selfies were taken, which actually may have won over some future voters.

“I’m going to vote for Hillary in 2016 because she took a selfie with me!” one ecstatic 17-year-old girl, who was at the diner eating ice cream with a friend, told ABC News.

Clinton, too, seemed to enjoy it. “I think selfies are very efficient,” she exclaimed while snapping one with a group of college-aged girls.

Sunday’s rally in New Hampshire was, by ABC News’ count, Clinton’s 29th event since September on behalf of Democratic candidates. Overall she has boosted roughly 24 candidates across more than 15 states.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Controversial and emotional issues are on ballots in some states and the outcome of those votes — ranging from “personhood” for the unborn, pot laws and gun control — could have significant ramifications.

Here’s a look at some of the top ballot measures this Election Day:

MARIJUANA

Initiatives in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia would legalize the use and possession of set amounts of marijuana. Pot is already decriminalized in all three states/districts. The measures have drawn some big names in support of a “yes” vote: Snoop Dogg has promised to play a “wellness retreat concert” in Alaska if they pass the measure, and travel guru Rick Steves has been touring Oregon in support of that state’s initiative. Florida is also considering a medical marijuana bill that would legalize its use for debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician. But that bill is a constitutional amendment and would require 60 percent plus one of the votes to pass.

MINIMUM WAGE

Voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota will be able to vote on whether their state should raise its minimum wage. The minimum wage in those four states currently hover between $6.25 and $7.75, while the federal minimum wage is $7.25. While increasing the minimum wage tends to be a popular move with voters, some experts say putting these questions on ballots in traditionally red states is less about the wages and more about getting Democrats to the polls who might otherwise stay home during a midterm.

PERSONHOOD

Colorado is the latest in a string of states to decide whether to grant unborn fetuses the same legal rights as born human beings, adding to the definition of “person” in the Colorado criminal code an “unborn human being.” Republican Senate candidate Cory Gardner has supported a federal version of this law, but he has said he opposes the state effort.

GUN CONTROL

Two measures on gun control which are diametrically opposed to each other are on the Washington State ballot: one which would strengthen background check laws in the state and one that would prevent such strengthening unless a federal law was implemented. While the pro-background check measure, I-594, is polling better than the anti-background check one, I-591, if both pass neither side says it knows what will happen. Some state experts say it will have to be re-litigated in the state Supreme Court.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Controversial and emotional issues are on ballots in some states and the outcome of those votes — ranging from “personhood” for the unborn, pot laws and gun control — could have significant ramifications.

Here’s a look at some of the top ballot measures this Election Day:

MARIJUANA

Initiatives in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia would legalize the use and possession of set amounts of marijuana. Pot is already decriminalized in all three states/districts. The measures have drawn some big names in support of a “yes” vote: Snoop Dogg has promised to play a “wellness retreat concert” in Alaska if they pass the measure, and travel guru Rick Steves has been touring Oregon in support of that state’s initiative. Florida is also considering a medical marijuana bill that would legalize its use for debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician. But that bill is a constitutional amendment and would require 60 percent plus one of the votes to pass.

MINIMUM WAGE

Voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota will be able to vote on whether their state should raise its minimum wage. The minimum wage in those four states currently hover between $6.25 and $7.75, while the federal minimum wage is $7.25. While increasing the minimum wage tends to be a popular move with voters, some experts say putting these questions on ballots in traditionally red states is less about the wages and more about getting Democrats to the polls who might otherwise stay home during a midterm.

PERSONHOOD

Colorado is the latest in a string of states to decide whether to grant unborn fetuses the same legal rights as born human beings, adding to the definition of “person” in the Colorado criminal code an “unborn human being.” Republican Senate candidate Cory Gardner has supported a federal version of this law, but he has said he opposes the state effort.

GUN CONTROL

Two measures on gun control which are diametrically opposed to each other are on the Washington State ballot: one which would strengthen background check laws in the state and one that would prevent such strengthening unless a federal law was implemented. While the pro-background check measure, I-594, is polling better than the anti-background check one, I-591, if both pass neither side says it knows what will happen. Some state experts say it will have to be re-litigated in the state Supreme Court.

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama warned Pennsylvania voters to not be complacent, telling them that getting to the polls is more important than getting ready for next week’s fantasy football matchups.

Obama’s last campaign appearance for Tuesday’s mid-term elections was at an event for Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf on Sunday night. The president recounted how low turnout in the 2010 elections that delivered the House to Republicans.

“That was Jim drinking beer and setting up his fantasy football for next week,” Obama said, referencing an imaginary friend of a Democratic supporter who didn’t vote in the 2010 midterms.

The president also appeared to misquote turnout figures from Ukraine’s recent parliamentary elections. “They’ve got a war going on,” Obama said, citing near “60 percent turnout.” Voice of America reported estimated turnout at 51 percent.

Carrying record-low polling numbers just a few days before his party faces a tough set of Senate races in the 2014 midterms, Obama has largely stayed away from the campaign trail this year, campaigning for only one Democratic Senate candidate and not visiting any of the nation’s closest, most hotly contested races. Some analysts have predicted that Republicans will win control of the Senate on Nov. 2, giving them control of both houses of Congress heading into Obama’s final two years in the White House.

Here’s a list of Obama’s public campaign events with Democratic candidates this year:

  • Oct. 19 rally for Maryland gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown in Prince George’s County, Md.
  • Oct. 19 rally for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in Chicago
  • Oct. 28 rally for Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke in Milwaukee
  • Oct. 30 rally for Maine gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud in Portlane, Maine
  • Noc. 1 rally for Michigan Senate candidate Gary Peters and gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer in Detroit
  • Nov. 2 rally for Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy in Bridgeport, Conn.
  • Nov. 2 rally for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf in Philadelphia

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — With the makeup of the Senate hanging in the balance, a handful of third-party or non-mainstream candidates could act as spoilers in Senate match-ups on Tuesday — potentially sending races into overtime or snatching away much-needed votes from Democratic and Republican candidates.

From a pizza delivery man in North Carolina to an alligator wrestling Republican in Louisiana, here’s a look at five candidates who could make the difference in Senate races on Election Day.

1. SEAN HAUGH, Libertarian candidate in North Carolina Senate race

Libertarian Senate candidate Sean Haugh shouldn’t quit his day job delivering pizza in the Raleigh area.

But his mid-single digit polling suggests he could have a serious effect on the outcome of the North Carolina Senate race between Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis.

Haugh, 53, is against foreign intervention and supports legalizing marijuana, which has Republicans hoping he’ll steal votes from Hagan and help Tillis eke out a victory. Last month, a conservative group with ties to the Koch brothers started a quarter-million dollar digital video ad campaign urging young voters to support Haugh for “more weed, less war.”

Yet Haugh — who has laid out his entire platform in YouTube videos shot in his campaign manager’s basement — wants to reduce the national debt and size of the federal government, positions more in line with the traditional Libertarian candidates who usually peel votes away from Republicans.

In the latest NBC/Marist poll released last month, Hagan and Tillis were locked in a virtual dead heat, with Haugh grabbing 7 percent of likely voters. Historically, Libertarians have rarely received more than 3 percentage points in North Carolina — but there has never been a Senate race as close, expensive and negative as this matchup. With all the mudslinging in the background, more Tar Heel voters could pull for Haugh than expected.

– Benjamin Siegel

2. AMANDA SWAFFORD, Independent candidate in Georgia Senate race

If Georgia’s Senate race enters a January runoff — and if control of the U.S. Senate is concurrently up for grabs until then — we’ll likely have Amanda Swafford to thank.

The Libertarian candidate is polling at 5 percent in the last reliable survey by a major pollster in this state — enough to keep both Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn below the 50 percent a candidate needs to win on Election Day.

For Swafford, that would be a victory.

“If the race goes into a runoff, it sends a very clear message to the remaining candidates that the voters in this election are looking for candidates that will support less government and more freedom,” Swafford told ABC News by phone earlier this month, reached as she prepped for the second of three debates, all of which will have featured her onstage Nunn and Perdue.

Unlike some third-partiers, Swafford is a former public officeholder, a fact she’s stressed in two debates thus far, as a former member of the Flowery Branch, Ga., City Council. Swafford has blasted the two political parties as exerting “control” over American voters — not the other way around.

“Have you really heard anything different tonight from these two parties?” she asked a rowdy and receptive crowd during the debate at Georgia’s state fair on Oct. 7.

Apparently, a significant number of Georgians haven’t.

– Chris Good

3. ROB MANESS, Republican candidate in Louisiana Senate race

Rob Maness isn’t expected to take Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu’s place in the Senate, but the retired Air Force colonel could force the Louisiana Senate race into overtime.

Louisiana has a non-partisan “jungle primary” electoral system, so all candidates run on one ballot on November 4. If no one candidate receives over 50 percent of the vote on November 4, the two candidates with the most votes advance to a runoff election on December 6. A recent CNN/ORC poll of likely voters had Landrieu and Republican candidate Rep. Bill Cassidy in a tight race at 43 and 40 percent, respectively. Maness lagged behind at 9 percent, but he has enough support that it could take away votes from Landrieu and Cassidy and push the race into a runoff.

Maness, 52, is a newcomer to politics, but he touts an endorsement from Sarah Palin and several Tea Party groups. He has advocated for a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act and opposes a pathway to citizenship for those who have immigrated to the United States illegally.

In May, Maness released a colorful ad featuring himself wrestling with an alligator, saying that as a senator, he would “stand up to the career politicians — and the alligators.”

– Jordyn Phelps


4. LARRY PRESSLER, Independent candidate in South Dakota Senate race

The South Dakota senate race has been all over the map this year. Republicans considered it an easy seat for them to secure, but in early October, the inevitability of a GOP win came into question when a Survey USA poll showed the match-up much tighter than expected.

Some of that is due to Larry Pressler, a 72-year-old former three-term Republican senator who is now running as an independent against Republican candidate Gov. Mike Rounds and Democratic candidate Rick Weiland.

Pressler’s run a bare bones campaign — funding half of his race with a bank loan, paying only one full time staffer, and having his wife drive him to campaign events across the state.

Though the race has started to tilt back towards the GOP’s favor, Pressler managed to pick up some steam in South Dakota, causing outside Republican and Democratic groups to pour money into the race.

Pressler has parked himself right in the middle and has been criticized by both sides with Republicans saying he’s too liberal and Democrats saying he’s too conservative.

“I’m like the biblical David, and I have at least two Goliaths coming after me,” Pressler said in one debate. “I am armed with a slingshot of idealism.”

– Katherine Faulders

5. DAVID PATTERSON, Libertarian candidate in Kentucky Senate race

David Patterson, a corporal in the Harrodsburg City Police Department, is also a Libertarian candidate for Senate in Kentucky.

The irony isn’t lost on him.

“It’s always brought up, ‘How can you be a libertarian and a police officer,’” Patterson, 43, told ABC News. “When I found the Libertarian philosophy and the non-aggression principle, I was well into my police career.”

Patterson, who is running against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, had voted for the longtime Republican senator in several elections, until he discovered the Libertarian Party in 2012.

“I’d like to see our foreign wars end,” Patterson said of his platform, which includes lowering the federal deficit and stopping the National Security Agency’s data collection.

Though he’s raised just $4,300 and has never polled higher than mid-single digits, Patterson could be a disruptive force in Kentucky, where the libertarian-influenced Sen. Rand Paul and Tea Partiers have publicly and privately clashed with the state’s GOP establishment.

Libertarian candidates are traditionally expected to take votes away from Republican candidates, but Patterson, who has received the endorsement of Tea Party group Take Back Kentucky, said both sides have accused him of being a plant to steal votes from their candidates.

“The paranoia runs deep,” Patterson said. “It won’t matter which one of them wins, Kentucky won’t be better off either way.”

- Benjamin Siegel

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — With the makeup of the Senate hanging in the balance, a handful of third-party or non-mainstream candidates could act as spoilers in Senate match-ups on Tuesday — potentially sending races into overtime or snatching away much-needed votes from Democratic and Republican candidates.

From a pizza delivery man in North Carolina to an alligator wrestling Republican in Louisiana, here’s a look at five candidates who could make the difference in Senate races on Election Day.

1. SEAN HAUGH, Libertarian candidate in North Carolina Senate race

Libertarian Senate candidate Sean Haugh shouldn’t quit his day job delivering pizza in the Raleigh area.

But his mid-single digit polling suggests he could have a serious effect on the outcome of the North Carolina Senate race between Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis.

Haugh, 53, is against foreign intervention and supports legalizing marijuana, which has Republicans hoping he’ll steal votes from Hagan and help Tillis eke out a victory. Last month, a conservative group with ties to the Koch brothers started a quarter-million dollar digital video ad campaign urging young voters to support Haugh for “more weed, less war.”

Yet Haugh — who has laid out his entire platform in YouTube videos shot in his campaign manager’s basement — wants to reduce the national debt and size of the federal government, positions more in line with the traditional Libertarian candidates who usually peel votes away from Republicans.

In the latest NBC/Marist poll released last month, Hagan and Tillis were locked in a virtual dead heat, with Haugh grabbing 7 percent of likely voters. Historically, Libertarians have rarely received more than 3 percentage points in North Carolina — but there has never been a Senate race as close, expensive and negative as this matchup. With all the mudslinging in the background, more Tar Heel voters could pull for Haugh than expected.

– Benjamin Siegel

2. AMANDA SWAFFORD, Independent candidate in Georgia Senate race

If Georgia’s Senate race enters a January runoff — and if control of the U.S. Senate is concurrently up for grabs until then — we’ll likely have Amanda Swafford to thank.

The Libertarian candidate is polling at 5 percent in the last reliable survey by a major pollster in this state — enough to keep both Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn below the 50 percent a candidate needs to win on Election Day.

For Swafford, that would be a victory.

“If the race goes into a runoff, it sends a very clear message to the remaining candidates that the voters in this election are looking for candidates that will support less government and more freedom,” Swafford told ABC News by phone earlier this month, reached as she prepped for the second of three debates, all of which will have featured her onstage Nunn and Perdue.

Unlike some third-partiers, Swafford is a former public officeholder, a fact she’s stressed in two debates thus far, as a former member of the Flowery Branch, Ga., City Council. Swafford has blasted the two political parties as exerting “control” over American voters — not the other way around.

“Have you really heard anything different tonight from these two parties?” she asked a rowdy and receptive crowd during the debate at Georgia’s state fair on Oct. 7.

Apparently, a significant number of Georgians haven’t.

– Chris Good

3. ROB MANESS, Republican candidate in Louisiana Senate race

Rob Maness isn’t expected to take Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu’s place in the Senate, but the retired Air Force colonel could force the Louisiana Senate race into overtime.

Louisiana has a non-partisan “jungle primary” electoral system, so all candidates run on one ballot on November 4. If no one candidate receives over 50 percent of the vote on November 4, the two candidates with the most votes advance to a runoff election on December 6. A recent CNN/ORC poll of likely voters had Landrieu and Republican candidate Rep. Bill Cassidy in a tight race at 43 and 40 percent, respectively. Maness lagged behind at 9 percent, but he has enough support that it could take away votes from Landrieu and Cassidy and push the race into a runoff.

Maness, 52, is a newcomer to politics, but he touts an endorsement from Sarah Palin and several Tea Party groups. He has advocated for a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act and opposes a pathway to citizenship for those who have immigrated to the United States illegally.

In May, Maness released a colorful ad featuring himself wrestling with an alligator, saying that as a senator, he would “stand up to the career politicians — and the alligators.”

– Jordyn Phelps


4. LARRY PRESSLER, Independent candidate in South Dakota Senate race

The South Dakota senate race has been all over the map this year. Republicans considered it an easy seat for them to secure, but in early October, the inevitability of a GOP win came into question when a Survey USA poll showed the match-up much tighter than expected.

Some of that is due to Larry Pressler, a 72-year-old former three-term Republican senator who is now running as an independent against Republican candidate Gov. Mike Rounds and Democratic candidate Rick Weiland.

Pressler’s run a bare bones campaign — funding half of his race with a bank loan, paying only one full time staffer, and having his wife drive him to campaign events across the state.

Though the race has started to tilt back towards the GOP’s favor, Pressler managed to pick up some steam in South Dakota, causing outside Republican and Democratic groups to pour money into the race.

Pressler has parked himself right in the middle and has been criticized by both sides with Republicans saying he’s too liberal and Democrats saying he’s too conservative.

“I’m like the biblical David, and I have at least two Goliaths coming after me,” Pressler said in one debate. “I am armed with a slingshot of idealism.”

– Katherine Faulders

5. DAVID PATTERSON, Libertarian candidate in Kentucky Senate race

David Patterson, a corporal in the Harrodsburg City Police Department, is also a Libertarian candidate for Senate in Kentucky.

The irony isn’t lost on him.

“It’s always brought up, ‘How can you be a libertarian and a police officer,’” Patterson, 43, told ABC News. “When I found the Libertarian philosophy and the non-aggression principle, I was well into my police career.”

Patterson, who is running against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, had voted for the longtime Republican senator in several elections, until he discovered the Libertarian Party in 2012.

“I’d like to see our foreign wars end,” Patterson said of his platform, which includes lowering the federal deficit and stopping the National Security Agency’s data collection.

Though he’s raised just $4,300 and has never polled higher than mid-single digits, Patterson could be a disruptive force in Kentucky, where the libertarian-influenced Sen. Rand Paul and Tea Partiers have publicly and privately clashed with the state’s GOP establishment.

Libertarian candidates are traditionally expected to take votes away from Republican candidates, but Patterson, who has received the endorsement of Tea Party group Take Back Kentucky, said both sides have accused him of being a plant to steal votes from their candidates.

“The paranoia runs deep,” Patterson said. “It won’t matter which one of them wins, Kentucky won’t be better off either way.”

- Benjamin Siegel

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — Favorable views of Barack Obama and the sense that he understands the problems of average Americans both have dropped to career lows in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, two more unwelcome results for the president’s party near the eve of the midterm elections.

Just 44 percent now see the president favorably, a basic measure of personal popularity – compared with 49 percent in late January and 60 percent at the start of his second term. Half of all adults see him unfavorably, as do 53 percent of likely voters.

See PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

Additionally, a career-low 46 percent say Obama understands the problems of people like them, with similar numbers on the strength of his leadership (rated positively by 46 percent), managerial skills (45 percent) and the extent to which he can be trusted in a crisis (49 percent).

Obama’s lack of popularity has cast a shadow over his party as it tries to hang on to its majority in the Senate. His job approval rating hit a career-low 40 percent in an ABC/Post poll in mid-October, and was 43 percent last week. Historically, presidential approval correlates highly with midterm losses for an incumbent president’s party.

It could be worse for the president in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. While his favorability rating has slipped by five points this year, the number who see him unfavorably has held steady, at 50 percent. More instead are undecided or have no opinion.

Obama’s ratings on individual attributes are similar among likely voters – off his scores among the general public by 2 to 6 points. Just four in 10 think he’s a strong leader or good manager; 45 percent trust him in a crisis and 44 percent say he understands their problems.

Current crises from ISIS to the Ebola virus may further test views of the president’s leadership and management. And his weakness on understanding Americans’ problems may be a particular challenge not just for his party but for the remainder of his presidency; empathy is the cartilage that can give a president some cushioning in tough times. It also was an essential element of his re-election in 2012.

GROUPS – The largest decline in Obama’s overall favorability rating this year has occurred among Hispanics, down 19 points, perhaps reflecting his decision to delay executive action on immigration reform until after the midterms. Seven in 10 Hispanics viewed Obama favorably in January, compared with half now. Four in 10 saw him “strongly” favorably, vs. 15 percent now.

For comparison, Obama’s favorability rating is 85 percent among blacks – down 9 points this year – and just 34 percent among whites, essentially unchanged.

Among partisan and ideological groups, his favorability ranges from eight in 10 Democrats to half of moderates and four in 10 independents, and bottoms out at 13 percent of Republicans and strong conservatives.

The president’s rating is tied to views of the economy, the top issue for Americans in the midterms. Among those who say the economy is excellent or good, eight in 10 view Obama favorably, vs. 44 percent of those who say it’s “not so good” and just 12 percent who say it’s in poor shape.

There are similar partisan and ideological divisions on the other characteristics tested in this survey. Among others, nine in 10 or more blacks say each of the positive attributes applies to Obama, vs. about half of Hispanics and four in 10 or fewer whites. And younger adults tend to have more positive views of Obama; it declines among middle-aged adults and falls even lower among seniors.

Women – who are more apt to be Democrats – are more likely than men to say Obama understands people like them and he can be trusted in a crisis. And people with incomes less than $50,000 per year are more likely than their counterparts to see Obama as a strong leader, a good manager and trustworthy in a crisis.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus expressed confidence Sunday that the U.S. Senate will be in the hands of his party after Tuesday’s midterm elections.

Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Priebus talked about how a number of close races in battleground states now controlled by Democrats will turn red.

When asked what’s happening two days before most voters go to the polls, Priebus declared, “We’re winning Hispanic voters in Colorado. We’re whipping them in Arkansas, we’re at a dead even early vote right now in Iowa.”

In spite of the rosy outlook for Republicans, at least one prominent party member, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, said as recently as last week that the GOP has done a poor job courting minorities, especially African-Americans.

Putting a different spin on what Paul has been trying to convey, the RNC chair proclaimed, “What [Paul] says we’re actually on the right track and actually we’re doing a lot of the things that we should be doing which is engaging Hispanic voters, black voters, Asian voters, talking to women.”

Priebus also disputed the assertion by Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz that her party will hold onto the Senate, arguing “that their message isn’t working.”

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