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Tea Leaves
December 22, 2017

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) told reporters in October that he had no plans to quit, despite evident signs of deteriorating health, but now "the 80-year-old's feeble performance has fueled expectations — among senators and aides who've witnessed his physical and mental decline firsthand — that Cochran will step down from the Appropriations chairmanship early next year, or resign from the Senate altogether," Politico reports. Republicans don't want Cochran to go before the new year because that would trigger a special election within 100 days; if he resigns after Jan. 1, Mississippi would vote for his replacement in November, along with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who is up for re-election.

Cochran spokesman Chris Gallegos said the long-serving senator "has not made any statements regarding leaving office. He continues to do his work for Mississippi and the nation." But an unidentified Republican senator on the Appropriations Committee, which Cochran chairs, told Politico, "The understanding is that he will leave after Jan. 1. ... That's what most of us believe will happen." Cochran hasn't presided over a hearing since early September or given a floor speech in all of 2017, and he's reportedly stopped meeting with senators and House members about substantive business. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the No. 2 Republican on the Appropriations Committee, has be running the committee, numerous aides and senators tell Politico, and he's expected to become chairman if Cochran steps down. You can read more at Politico. Peter Weber

December 7, 2017

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is announcing his retirement — or not — on the Senate floor Thursday. Franken's team pushed back against a Minnesota Public Radio report that Franken is resigning, saying "Franken is talking with his family at this time" and "any reports of a final decision are inaccurate." If Franken steps down, as the majority of his Democratic colleagues are urging amid a growing number of sexual harassment allegations, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) will name his replacement. And he would probably pick Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D), Politico reports, citing three people familiar with Dayton's thinking.

[Smith] "really gets Minnesota, she gets the players, she has great built-up relationships," a Democratic operative tells Politico. "She makes practical sense, and she would be a good bridge builder." But her main attribute is that she almost certainly won't want to run for the seat in a 2018 special election, Politico says, leaving a level playing field for Democrats who might be interested in running. Possible contenders include Rep. Keith Ellison, deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Rep. Tim Walz. It would also give Republicans an unexpected shot to pick up what was, until Franken's swift fall from grace, a safe seat. Peter Weber

November 3, 2016

Hillary Clinton is a longtime Chicago Cubs fan, and so she's bound to be over the moon at the Cubs' World Series victory on Wednesday night in a thrilling 10-inning Game 7 over the Cleveland Indians. Yes, the Cubs breaking their 108-year World Series drought may sour the mood of voters in Ohio, the swing state that successful presidential candidates almost always win, but there's another reason for Clinton to be happy — the Cubs, of course, being in the National League:

Several academics and political prognosticators and crackpots have different models to predict the winner based on non-political events, and they are mixed for Clinton and Donald Trump. But if you're tired of relying on the actual polls, here's one more data point to consider. Peter Weber

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