Archive for the 'KS-02' Category

For DCCC, a week-end of disappointing news

Realizing that I had not updated my House ratings since late May, I put together a new classification this week-end. I was interested in seeing whether an overall look at the landscape would show it really has deteriorated as much for Democrats as the past few months’ fragmented analyses have suggested. While I expected the trends I found (the number of even potentially GOP competitive has plunged and the number of highly competitive Democratic seats has skyrocketed), I have to admit that the discrepancy is clearer than I had anticipated. Details will be coming later this week. For now, suffice it to say that Democrats have been receiving such a continuous drip of bad news that even New Year’s week-end brought them 3 disappointments.

In KS-02, promising Democratic candidate state Senator Laura Kelly announced she was ending her campaign against freshman Rep. Lynn Jenkins. While Kelly always faced an uphill climb (unseating an GOP incumbent in a district that voted for John McCain by 12%), she had experience winning in hostile territory since her legislative district is Republican; also, Kelly could have gotten an opening from the fact that Jenkins faces a tough primary against state Senator Dennis Pyle, who charges the congresswoman has revealed herself as a non-conservative in her first year. (Reminder: Jenkins claim to fame in 2009 was her comment that the GOP needs a “great white hope” to oust Obama.)

Kelly’s exit is part of the broader story of the debacle that is the Kansas Democratic Party. Republicans are uncontested in the open Senate and Governor’s seats; at the moment, we can say the same about KS-03, the House seat left open by Rep. Dennis Moore: While Democrats are still hoping Kansas City Mayor Joe Reardon and former Mayor Carol Marinovich will enter the race, they are still looking for a candidate 6 weeks after Moore’s retirement. At this point, Democrats have their strongest Kansas candidate in KS-04 (left open by GOP Rep. Thiart), which is bizarre because this district is more conservative than KS-02 and KS-03 and more conservative than Kansas at large!

In AL-05, Public Service Commissioner Susan Parker announced she would not challenge recent party-switcher Parker Griffith. She becomes the second prominent Democrat to do so this week, since Ron Spark stuck to the Governor’s race on Tuesday. Parker was never as likely as Sparks to get in, because a House campaign would have meant giving up her safe seat on the Public Service Commission (whereas Sparks is an underdog in his statewide race); on the other hand, Parker was known to have congressional ambitions since she was looking to run for the open House seat back in 2008. The DCCC signaled it preferred (self-funder) Parker Griffith, and the rest is history.

As is to be expected in a Southern state, Democrats have a decent bench of local officials so the party could still field a known entity (for instance, state Rep. Randy Hinshaw). Yet, the district’s conservative drift combined with what is shaping up to be a good environment for Republicans would have made the general election challenging for even the most formidable of Democratic candidate, let alone for the party’s second choice candidates.

In TX-10, not only did surprisingly well-financed Democrat Jack McDonald unexpectedly end his campaign two weeks ago, but his party’s second choice has now ruled out a run after spending a few days considering the possibility: 2008 nominee Larry Doherty (a former TV Judge on the show “Texas Justice”) will not seek a rematch against Rep. McCaul. While Doherty gained attention in the final weeks of the campaign, the final result was underwhelming (he lost 54-43, the same margin as Obama) so it’s not like he would have stricken McCaul with fear. But he would at least have been a prominent contender, attracted coverage, met some fundraising success.

Thus, he might have faced a very uphill climb but he would at least have forced the GOP to pay some attention to the district. Even with the speculation that McCaul’s 2006 opponent Ted Ankrum might file for a rematch tomorrow (which happens to be the filing deadline), TX-10 will now most likely completely leave our radar screen.

That gets us to the reason these developments are so problematic for Democrats. Sure, it’s been a while since the DCCC last dreamed of big 2010 gains. Sure, KS-02, AL-05 and TX-10 would have been tough districts to win in any environment - just look at the 2008 results - let alone next year’s. But Kelly, Parker, McDonald and Doherty would have put these districts on the map; they would have forced the GOP to keep an eye on them. Since national committees’ first duty is to protect their incumbents, the NRCC would have had to spend money defending Reps. Jenkins, Parker and McCaul.

The GOP is now free to use that to expand the map, to put more Democratic districts in play, to target more congressmen who haven’t faced competitive races in decades but who might reveal themselves to be very vulnerable if only the NRCC finds the resources to go after them. If Democrats want to protect Reps. Berry, Snyder, Hall or Mollohan, they better make sure not to keep some GOP districts in play, even if it’s only marginally.

NV-03, VA-05 and KS-02: Parties land credible challengers with state Senate on their resume

Joe Heck’s switch puts NV-03 on the map

I mentioned former state Senator Joe Heck’s switch from the Governor’s race to NV-03 in my post about Nevada’s statewide elections, but that decision is just as crucial at the House level: It is one more unexpectedly strong recruitment coup by the NRCC, a stark contrast to the 2008 cycle during which House Republicans were certainly not accustomed to this sort of success.

If nothing else, Heck is a definite step-up from Rep. Titus’s first challenger - banker John Guedry - who was highly-touted by the NRCC before he announced he was dropping out two weeks ago.

In fact, to the extent that the NRCC is so insistent that Titus is one of their top 2010 targets, Heck is as good a candidate as they could have hoped for. He was already considered a highly credible candidate at the statewide level (first in the Senate race, as he considered challenging Harry Reid; then in the gubernatorial race) so he should be all the stronger now that he is downgrading his ambitions. Credibility brings the ability to fundraise and the attention of the national party - both crucial elements of successful congressional challenges.

Yet, let’s be clear on the fact that Heck’s entry does not suddenly make Titus one of the year’s most vulnerable incumbents. To insist that she is endangered, Republicans point to the fact that Titus won with only 49% of the vote last year; but she was running against an incumbent (Jon Porter) whose electability is respected enough that he was long considered Reid’s top potential challenger. Second, Heck brings his own problems to the table: He lost his re-election race last year, so he’ll have to show that he has what it takes to overcome Nevada’s blue drift.

That gets us to the fact that NV-03 is far from an obvious district for the GOP to target: It gave Obama a double-digit victory and barely went for Bush by 1% in 2004. Even if 2010 will not be as favorable for Democrats as 2008, the GOP will have to take into account political conditions specific to Nevada - namely Jim Gibbons’s and John Ensign’s weight on the Republican brand.

The GOP field against Perriello getting settled

Freshman Democrat Tom Perriello, who scored one of the rare upsets of the 2008 cycle, has been at the very top of the GOP’s list since his 727 vote victory was confirmed in December. Republicans argue that Perriello was only able to overcome the district’s red lean (VA-05 voted for Bush by double-digits, for McCain by 3%) because of Obama’s coattails and a boost in African-American turnout, two factors that are unlikely to save him in 2010.

I am unconvinced that Perriello’s victory is the fluke the GOP portrays it to be (not only did he overperform by 3% relatively to Obama but the fact that his victory was Election Night’s arguably only surprise Democratic pick-up suggests it can’t just be explained by the magnitude of the blue wave) but there is no denying that he is endangered. And he won’t be able to bank on the GOP failing to recruit a top-tier challenger: state Senator Robert Hurt just took the first step towards a 2010 run. Hurt will not have the Republican primary for himself, but he starts as the clear favorite to move on to the general election. A match-up with Perriello should be a strong takeover opportunity for the GOP.

Democrats get a recruit of their own in KS-02

We wouldn’t necessarily expect to see KS-02 on the DCCC’s priority list, since it gave John McCain a double-digit victory in 2008. Lynn Jenkins scored a convincing victory that same year, first in a competitive Republican primary and then against incumbent Democrat Nancy Boyda in the general election. That Jenkins’s win was one of the night’s few GOP pick-ups confirms that this district is difficult territory for Democrats.

Yet, Democrats recently landed a credible candidate to take on Jenkins: state Senator Laura Kelly. In office since 2004, Kelly is the chamber’s Democratic whip (note that her party only controls 9 of the Senate’s 40 seats).  The Kansas City Star notes that Kelly represents a Republican district; the 58% she received last year in her re-election race thus speak well of her electability in hostile territory.

This profile certainly suggests the Democrat’s bid should be taken seriously; a state Senator can’t be sure to make a race competitive, but she is at least guaranteed to attract the attention of donors and of the national party. It’s worth keeping an eye on KS-02 all the more because of the unwanted attraction Jenkins attracted recently over her depressing comment calling for the GOP to find “a great white hope.” The incumbent was forced to apologize.

All of this said, Jenkins remains clearly favored to win a second term. Sure, Democrats picked-up the seat in 2006, but that was stunning upset that occurred in a fundamentally different environment and against a far weaker Republican incumbent: Jim Ryun’s hold on the district was weak enough that he failed to win the GOP nomination when he sought a rematch in 2008. Unless 2010 becomes friendly to Democrats nationally, it’s hard to see a district that gave McCain 55% dump its Republican incumbent.

Let’s also not forget that Kansas’s down-ballot Republicans will be helped by the coattails of the top of the ticket: GOP candidates will be facing little competition in the Senate and Governor’s contests, despite both posts being open. Democrats did just get their first Senate candidate, as retired advertising executive Charles Schollenberger announced his candidacy; but it will take more for the winner of the GOP’s Moran-Tiahrt primary not to waltz to a general election victory.

In KS-02, Boyda-DCCC tension helps GOP score one of its few pick-ups

Among the best news Republicans received on Election Night was Lynn Jenkins’s 5% victory against Democratic incumbent Nancy Boyda (KS-02) - a race that was undoubtedly one of the most fascinating of the 2008 cycle.

An unexpected victor in the blue tsunami of 2006, Boyda knew she would be a top target this year as KS-02 is a heavily conservative district (Bush received 59% of the vote in 2004). The DCCC included her in its Front line defense program and reserved $1.2 million worth of air time. Yet, Boyda was worried that national Democrats being implicated in her re-election efforts would give Jenkins an opening to blast her as being beholden to liberal interests and she insisted the DCCC not take any part in her re-election efforts.

The DCCC agreed to pull out. I wrote at the time that “Boyda may come to regret that she did not rely on her party’s committee and chose to unilaterally disarm.” And fair enough, the Topeka Capital-Journal published a story today in which Boyda laments the failure of positive campaigning and blasts Jenkins for winning based on misleading attacks. Had the DCCC been more involved, their expenditures would surely have been negative ads attacking Jenkins, but Boyda deprived herself of that help.

What is most fascinating is that the DCCC nevertheless poured in $450,000 in KS-02 in the final two weeks of campaigning, going against Boyda’s wishes. However, the DCCC felt bound enough to only air a positive ad touting Boyda, which was perhaps the worst of both worlds: the DCCC did not do what it can do best (attack the Republican while giving its candidate some cover) but Republicans still got to complain that Boyda was not respecting her word and was getting outside help.

In short, the DCCC’s investment might very well have helped Jenkins. Due to the summer back-and-forth between Boyda and the DCCC, the committee’s last-minute involvement became a big story in the local press and Boyda’s decision to react defensively and turn against the DCCC only made these developments more compelling, giving Republicans a high-profile opportunity to highlight Boyda’s party affiliation.

As revealing is that even in this district in which it wasn’t supposed to invest did the DCCC outspend the NRCC. When it was first revealed in August that Boyda had gotten its national committee to pull out, it was assumed that she would be heavily outspent as Republicans would take advantage of that opening to swarm in the one district they had for themselves. Yet, the NRCC was not able to budget more than one week of advertisement, spending about $400,000 - $50,000 less than its counterpart.

Of course, Jenkins ended up narrowly winning so the NRCC’s budgetary problems was not enough to save Boyda. But other Republicans who were not running in such friendly districts were not so lucky: The NRCC’s was unable to fund many top-tier challengers it had recruited in 2007 (in CA-11 or CT-02, for instance), allowing potentially vulnerable Democrats to easily win their first re-election campaign - the one in which incumbents are always most vulnerable.

Now, the Democrats’ hope to reclaim the district largely depend on whether Boyda decides to seek a rematch, a prospect that is plausible enough according to The Hill. If she does, 2010 could be the fourth cycle in a row featuring Boyda as the Democratic nominee: She lost in 2004 before prevailing in 2006 and losing her seat two weeks ago.

Another possibility - albeit an unlikely one - is for Boyda to run for the seat of retiring Senator Sam Brownback. If she does, she better accept the DSCC’s help.

NRCC’s new expenditures boost defense, play some offense

As expected, the NRCC posted most of their expenditures after the first round of spending I documented yesterday morning, and their decisions on where to spend money over the final week offers us a wealth of information on which districts Republicans thinks are still winnable, which they are resigned to losing, and which they are feeling some confidence in. Meanwhile, new expenditures posted by the DCCC confirm Democratic determination to expand the map.

First, Democrats are not giving up and Republicans are not feeling overconfident in two of the most endangered Dem-held seats: TX-22 and PA-11. Both are rated lean take-over in my latest ratings, but both parties are heavily investing. The NRCC poured more than $700,000 against Rep. Nick Lampson in Texas (bringing its total to more than $1 million) and more than $270,000 against Rep. Paul Kanjorski in Pennsylvania. Both districts have appeared to be gone for months now, so it is somewhat puzzling that the DCCC has not abandoned these incumbents; it just spent $600,000 in Texas (for a total of $1 million) and more than $200,000 in Pennsylvania (for a total of $2.3 million).

The NRCC played offense in a few more districts, spending more than $300,000 in KS-02 and LA-06 and around $100,000 in AL-05 and WI-08. The rest was devoted to defense: $506,000 was just spent in WA-08 (bringing the total above $1 million), more than $400,000 in FL-25 and MI-07 (bringing the total in the latter to $1.5 million), more than $300,000 on in FL-08, NJ-07, OH-15, more than $200,000 in NY-29, MN-03 and OH-02, and more than $100,000 in AL-02, ID-01, NJ-03, PA-03 and VA-02. (Note that the NRCC had already reported six figure buys yesterday in WY-AL, NE-02, IN-03, MO-06 and MO-09).

A few notes about these districts: This is the NRCC’s first ad buy in FL-08, a seat that I recently moved to the lean take-over category - albeit the race remains highly competitive. The DCCC just released its first ad for the race yesterday, meaning that both committees are moving in Orlando for a last-minute push. Furthermore, it is fascinating to see which highly endangered open seats the NRCC is contesting and which it is not: OH-15, NJ-07 and NJ-03 at one point looked like they would be easily Democratic pick-ups, but the GOP candidates have proved resilient and the NRCC is providing some help; open seats candidates in OH-16 or NM-01 have been completely abandoned. As for Erik Paulsen, he can thank Michelle Bachmann for her anti-Americanism rant, as that led the NRCC to move resources out of MN-06 and into MN-03.

In fact, even more interesting than the seats in which the NRCC is spending are the seats in which they are not: Given the NRCC’s budgetary constraints, they cannot afford to spend on seats in which there isn’t a very clear and accessible path to victory. As had already been reported but not yet confirmed, the NRCC is spending no new money in CO-04, all but abandoning Rep. Musgrave; there also appear to be no new ads in NV-03 and NH-01, which is more of a surprise. The NRCC’s new buy in KY-02 is two thirds smaller than it was the previous week, which is probably more of a sign of confidence than of despair. And the NRCC has still spent no money whatsoever in a number of highly competitive seats: AZ-03, IL-10, IL-11, FL-24, MD-01, NC-08 or NM-01, for instance. (The DCCC has spent more than $1 million in each of these districts.)

Meanwhile, the DCCC’s latest spree lavishes resources on two top contenders - Darcy Burner gets more than half-a-million in WA-08 and Kathy Dahlkemper gets almost $400,000 (for a total of more than $2 million) in PA-03. But as noticeable are the DCCC’s expenditures in long-shot districts in which they only started investing last week: $350,000 goes to VA-02, almost $300,000 to VA-05, to WV-02 and to WY-AL. Smaller sums go to playing defense in OR-05 and PA-10.

Not all publicity is good publicity, however. A day after Elizabeth Dole provoked the type of firestorm that is very likely to backfire with her ad “accusing” Kay Hagan of atheism, Minnesota’s GOP is facing similar bad press over allegations that they darkened the skin of Democratic candidate and Indian-American Ashwin Madia (MN-03). Such charges are unlikely to cause much movement if they remain topics of discussion on blogs, but at least one TV station devoted a segment to this in their local news (watch video here), getting independent experts to confirm that images of Madia were in fact darkened. Paulsen’s campaign got in trouble earlier this fall for insisting that Madia did not “fit the demographics” of the district, in what serves as a reminder that the presidential race could have gotten far uglier. [Update: Politico's Reid Wilson is far more skeptical of Democratic complaints than that TV station.]

In MN-06, finally, the DCCC’s second ad hitting Michelle Bachmann once again makes no mention of the anti-Americanism controversy - nor does it need to, since the comments have already gotten wide play in the district. What Democrats now need to do is convince voters that Bachmann is extremist on substantive issues as well, and for the second ad in a row the DCCC is focusing on one issue: regulation.

[youtube="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q740nXMu0ZI"]

In the other district in which an incumbent’s recent words have gravely endangered his reelection prospects, the NRCC has released a very hard hitting ad against Rep. Jack Murtha (PA-12), playing footage of his declaring that Western Pennsylvania is “racist” and “redneck” to make the case that Murtha does not “respect us:”

[youtube="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSmUQdZG2D4"]

Murtha and Bachmann’s races both appear to have turned into highly competitive seats over the past two weeks. Will they balance themselves out on Election Day? Given his seniority and the fact that he is a very entrenched incumbent, Murtha is far more likely to survive than his opponent - though he certainly is not helping himself.

DCCC goes on one of its last spending sprees

With a week remaining before Election Day, all campaigns and national committees are budgeting their final advertising push and buying media time to last them through November 4th. The DCCC has poured in nearly $15 million in almost 40 districts already this week. More investments are likely to come today and tomorrow, first because the DCCC has left out a number of districts in which it regularly invests and because it appears that the NRCC has yet to make its last round of expenditures. But the DCCC’s $14 million latest spending spree gives us a good idea of which seats Democrats are the most committed to. (Most of the following numbers come from SSP’s always very handy House expenditure tracker.)

In three districts did the DCCC go for broke; all are currently held by the GOP: In IL-10, the DCCC just poured in an impressive $929,279, bringing its total investment in the district to more than $2 million. (This is partly explained by the fact that IL-10 is in the expensive Chicago market). In NV-03, the DCCC bought more than $750,000 of air time against Rep. Porter, bringing its total to more than $2.3 million. And in IL-11, $600,000 worth of advertisement (and a total that surpasses $2 million) should help Debbie Halvorson win this open seat.

Another group of seats - here again predominantly GOP-held - saw massive investments of more than $500,000. Those include the once-safe AZ-03, NC-08, NH-01, NM-01, OH-15 (the total surpasses $2 million in each of these five districts), MN-06 (the DCCC has now spent more than $1 million in two weeks on Bachmann’s seat) and the conservative NM-02 (for a total of $1.5 million). This makes New Hampshire’s Carol Shea-Porter the most protected Democratic incumbent, and confirms the remarkable development by which the DCCC has poured more effort in AZ-03 than in many seats that were more obviously competitive.

Also notable are the DCCC’s expenditures that top $400,000. Here again the list is made up of Republican seats: MD-01, MN-03 and OH-01 (total spending in each now tops $2 million), MI-07 and MI-09 (total spending in each tops $1 million), CA-04 and NY-26. Between $200,000 and $400,000, we have AZ-01 (an open seat that is considered an easy Democratic pick-up but where the DCCC has now spent more than $2 million), CO-04, KY-02, MO-09, FL-24 (all now more than $1 million total), FL-21, FL-25, NE-02, OH-02, NY-29, FL-08, IN-03 and IN-09. Rounding up six-figure expenditures are AK-AL, CA-11, CT-04, LA-06, NJ-03 and NJ-07 (all more than $1 million total), AL-05, ID-01, KS-02.

A few observations about this spending spree. First, the DCCC did not expand the map this week. The only new seat they invested in yesterday is FL-08, a district that has looked highly competitive for weeks and that I just moved to the lean take-over category this past week-end. Also noteworthy is NE-02, where the DCCC’s media buy this week is eight times higher than it was last week. However, there are a number of districts we have been talking about lately in which the DCCC is not playing despite the massive loan it took last week; those include California’s seats, IA-04, FL-13, FL-18 or even SC-01 where the DCCC has not followed up on a small investment it made last week. Furthermore, the national committee appears to have given up on MO-06, which was once considered a top opportunity but in which the DCCC has not bought air time for two weeks now.

Second, Democrats seem to be very comfortable about playing defense. They have largely pulled out of AZ-05, AZ-08 or MS-01, all districts that the GOP had high hopes of contesting; they have not had to spend a dime in places like KS-03 or NY-20, seats Republicans had vowed to contest. And they do not seem to feel particular energy in many of the blue seats in which they are investing. However, we do know that the DCCC is starting to air this ad in PA-12 on behalf of Murtha, though they have yet to report that expenditure.

The NRCC, meanwhile, posted a few expenditures over the past two days though a lot more should come tonight. Noteworthy investments include $375,000 spent in WY-AL, more than $250,000 in NE-02 and MO-09, more than $100,000 in MO-06, IN-03. What do all these districts have in common? They are extremely heavily Republican (Bush won IN-03 with 68% of the vote, for instance, and let us not even talk about WY-AL) and Republican candidates are in such a bad state that the NRCC is forced to spend its money in such districts.

(There is something to be said against the NRCC’s decision making, and we might talk about this more in the coming week: Swing seats like NM-01 or OH-16 will likely be lost for a decade or more if Democrats pick them up, yet the NRCC is not spending a dime there. Conservative seats like WY-AL or IN-03 would be likely to fall back into GOP hands in the coming cycle or two, but the NRCC is spending all of its resources in such places.)

Let’s take a closer look at Southern Florida, where the battles in FL-21 and in FL-25 have become truly vicious. Both seats are in the same Miami media market, and they are represented by the (Republican) Diaz-Balart brothers. So Democrats have decided to save money - and just air an ad targeting both Diaz-Balarts:

[youtube="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpMgxd3aiWo"]

The GOP’s response in FL-25 is also fascinating because it bears such a close resemblance to what is going on in the presidential race. Democratic candidate Joe Garcia is blasted for being in favor of “redistribution of the wealth,” underscoring how much Republicans are banking on Joe the Plumber at this point:

[youtube="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTm91xZQhl0"]

Spending, spending, spending (and some cutbacks)

It might be very little compared to a $700 billion bailout, but it’s a lot of money but most other standards: Every presidential, congressional and gubernatorial campaign saved its ammunition for these final two weeks, and money is now flying left and right.

In this game of piling expenditures, woe to whoever is left behind! Or should some cutbacks perhaps be taken as good news by candidates? The Denver Post reveals tonight that the DSCC will pull-out of the Colorado Senate race because it feels that Mark Udall is now in a “commanding position” - a remarkable decision by a party committee that has a lot of cash, and a clear sign that Chuck Schumer wants to spend as much of it as possible in Georgia and Kentucky.

(While true that Schaffer has not in a single poll all year and that Udall has been ahead by double-digits in some of the latest surveys, Udall hasn’t exactly been able to put the race away either and a number of independent groups are in the state pummeling Udall, so the DSCC better be sure of what it’s doing. On the other hand, the NRSC appears to have pulled out of Colorado as well, and Udall had far more cash on hand than Schaffer at the end of the third quarter, guaranteeing that Udall has a substantial advantage in the final stretch.)

Two Republican congressmen for whom a cutback could be disastrous news, however, are Reps. Musgrave and Bachmann of CO-04 and MN-06. In the former, the NRCC bought $375,000 of air time for this week yesterday, but it will not be spending anything in the final week of the campaign. (Could they not have decided that yesterday and saved themselves the $376,000?) In MN-06, the NRCC had not yet invested any money but had reserved ad time for the final two weeks; no longer.

(It is more difficult to know what to make of this Minnesota cutback: It is certainly not a sign of confidence on the part of the NRCC given that the race just became highly competitive 5 days ago, so could it be a concession? While Bachmann is viewed as more vulnerable today than she was before her rant on anti-Americanism, she doesn’t seem to be vulnerable enough at all for Republicans to despair of holding her seat. Perhaps the GOP saw how much money Democrats were preparing to pour in the district and realized there was no way it could even attempt to match that?)

While the NRCC is busy deciding which of its incumbents to abandon, the DCCC is deciding which safe-looking red districts it should spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in. The result of their deliberation resulted in a stunning new spending spree in 51 districts (SSP has the full list) - six of which are first time investments: KS-02, CA-04, MN-06, SC-01, WV-02 and WY-AL!

The most fascinating of these buys is no doubt KS-02, as Rep. Nancy Boyda had insisted that the DCCC pull out of the district because she wanted to run the campaign herself; the DCCC had canceled its reservations. But now that GOP challenger finished the third quarter in a strong position financially, national Democrats apparently decided they couldn’t afford to stay true to their word. But consider a minute the three latter districts I just listed: We knew that CA-04 and WY-AL were highly competitive, but it is still remarkable to see Democrats spend more than $200,000 in such conservative areas - and let’s not even talk of SC-01, which was on no one’s radar screen as of one week ago.

The rest of the DCCC’s investment covers districts they have already been spending in, but some of their expenditures remain nonetheless breathtaking in their attempt to expand the map onto red territory. And consider that this money comes on top of the $4 million the DCCC spent on Monday and Tuesday in other districts. (I reviewed those expenditures here.) That brings the DCCC’s total expenditures over the past three days to about $16 million; the NRCC, meanwhile, spent around $5 million.

In a number of districts, the DCCC is going all-out. They just spent more than $400,000 in 8 districts (to which we should add NC-08 and IL-10, in which they spent more than that amount yesterday). More than $643,000 is being spent on NV-03 for this week alone! The DCCC is spending nearly $600,000 in IL-11, more than $500,000 in NH-01, NJ-03 and OH-01, more than $400,000 in IN-09, MN-06 and VA-11.

The committee has now spent more than $1 million in all of these districts except MN-06, even though it is somewhat puzzling that they are choosing to pour so much money in IN-09 and VA-11, two districts in which the Democratic candidates are now heavily favored (particularly in VA-11). Might that money not have been better spent elsewhere? The same was true of the $300,000 the DCCC spent yesterday in AZ-01, bringing its total there to nearly $2 million.

That said, the rest of this money will go a long way towards boosting Democrats who are facing tough races (Shea-Porter, for instance) or who are on the brink of putting the race away (NV-03 and IL-11). An investment that could prove particularly important is NJ-03: GOP candidate Myers has been unexpectedly competitive in this open seat, but state Senator Adler has a huge financial advantage in what is an expensive district to advertise in. With this much money spent by the DCCC, Adler will swamp Myers, whose main hope now is that New Jersey voters are fed up with Democrats.

The DCCC also spent significant amounts (more than $300,000) against the Diaz-Balart brothers in FL-21 and FL-25, in the pair of contested Michigan districts (MI-07 and MI-09), in MO-09, NM-02, NY-26, NY-29, OH-16 and VA-02. More than $200,000 were poured into CA-04, CA-11, FL-24, MN-03, NM-01, OH-02, OH-15, TX-23, VA-05, WV-02, WY-AL and 8 more districts saw (including IN-03, KY-02 and NE-02) buys of more than $100,000. What is once again remarkable is the depth of the Democrats’ investment: they are leaving almost no stone unturned - extending their buys to places few Democrats were even dreaming of a week ago and pouring huge amounts of money in some of the second-tier races they are hoping to take-over.

It is hard to think of GOP-held districts that could potentially be vulnerable and that the DCCC has not invested in. Perhaps the California districts we have been hearing about over the past week? Meanwhile, the NRCC is struggling to keep up. Apart opening its wallets in 20 districts yesterday, it spent in a few more today, but only crossed the six figure mark in IN-03, KY-02 and NE-02, NV-03 - all GOP-held districts, two of which were not deemed vulnerable as of 14 days ago (IN-03 and NE-02). For the GOP, the bottom is falling out. How much can they now salvage?

Except for FL-16, House news isn’t pretty for Republicans

Everything the DCCC does is bigger: They have more money, they raise money, they spend more money - and now they might be taking a larger loan as well! Evidently not satisfied with the (already breath-taking) number of GOP-held districts in which they are pouring money, the DCCC is now considering taking a $20 million loan to inject more resources in dozens of House seats. (The NRCC recently secured a $5 million line of credit to supplement their tragically meager cash on hand.)

Democrats know that they will not get an opportunity like this one in the upcoming cycles - at least not if Barack Obama wins the presidency. Wave elections are relatively rare, and seats like AL-02, KY-02 and MD-01 are unlikely to be competitive again any time soon if the GOP manages to hold them. It would be a shame for Democrats to miss out on seats because they did not have enough money to contest them, which is why the DCCC wants to make sure to go all-out in the staggeringly high number of Republican districts that currently look like they could be competitive.

Meanwhile, Republicans continue to have major financial problems. For one, the NRCC continues to scale back its ad buys, and which districts the committee thinks are no longer worthy of its attention tells us a lot about which seats the NRCC think are the least salvageable. The latest victim is Rep. Joe Knollenberg in MI-09, as the NRCC has pulled the plug on the incumbent for the next two weeks, canceling more than $300,000 worth of media time. The NRCC is still budgeting an ad blitz in the very last week of the campaign.

This creates a very perilous situation for Knollenberg: The DCCC has already spent more than $800,000 in this district, and the McCain campaign’s pull out means that Knollenberg has been abruptly deprived of the organizational structure he was planning to rely on.

As I have said before, committee spending is certainly not everything, since the candidates have their own war chests they can use. But that means that the burden is on the Republican contenders in districts that the NRCC is not playing in to display strong fundraising to be able to sustain Democratic advertisement. House candidates had to file their third quarter reports last night, so we now have a better idea of where the financial situation stood as of the end of September.

One district from which the NRCC has largely retreated is MN-03, a highly competitive open seat. As of the end of September, Ashwin Madia and Erick Paulsen had roughly equivalent amounts of cash on hand, and the Democrat had slightly outraised his opponent in the third quarter. Without the NRCC’s help, Paulsen will be hard pressed to stay afloat against the Democratic juggernaut.

In AZ-03, the fundraising numbers are truly stunning. Rep. Shadegg is as much of a conservative icon as there is in the House, and as of a month ago no one was paying attention to his challenger. Yet, Democrat Lord manage to outraise Shadegg in the third quarter! The incumbent Republican retained an edge in end-of-September cash on hand, but he runs the risk of being swamped by DCCC spending (which has reached more than $1 million in three weeks). Shadegg clearly did not think he was endangered this cycle, repeating the mistake of so many of his former Republican colleagues who didn’t see the threat coming until the final weeks of the campaign.

One final fundraising note on KS-02, a seat held by Democratic Rep. Nancy Boyda. This is perhaps the only highly competitive seat in the country on which the DCCC will not spend a dime, as Boyda said earlier in the summer that she did not want the national party to help her. And the bad news for her is that her opponent Lynn Jenkins raised three times as much as her - a very weak performance for an incumbent that insisted to be on her own financially. Boyda and Jenkins had roughly the same cash on hand as of the end of September, which means that this was the one district in the country that the GOP could have massively outspent the Democrat had the NRCC rushed in to Jenkins’ rescue… but KS-02 is one of those seats the NRCC has had to drastically scale back its ad reservations.

A big relief for Boyda, whose insistence to keep the DCCC at bay doesn’t sound as suicidal as it did over the summer.

That leaves us with FL-16, the week’s one bright spot for House Republicans and now so likely to fall in the GOP’s hands that Rep. Mahoney is reportedly considering dropping out of the race. Democrats cannot replace his name on the ballot (just as Republicans had not been able to replace Foley’s), and they would have even less than time the GOP had had in 2006 to introduce a new candidate to voters. If Mahoney stays on the ballot, the fact that the FBI is now investigating the payments he allegedly made to his mistress should be enough to do him in - or will it be the rumors of another affair? Today, The Palm Beach Post rescinded its endorsement of Mahoney and called on the district’s voters to choose Rooney. That editorial might not influence voters, but it is probably capture the mood of the district.

And could Republicans also make some unexpected progress in PA-12, a marginally blue seat held by high-profile representative Jack Murtha? The incumbent drew unwanted attention last week when he declared that Western Pennsylvania (where his district is located) is a “racist area.” Now, his opponent has launched an ad that will go up on air next week hitting Murtha for his remarks (Murtha has already been forced to issue an apology statement):

[youtube="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tXrpYTGF-I"]

Monday polls: It’s tight in MI, VA and OH; Dems lead in CO; Zogby updates online polls

Four presidential polls today, all states (OH, VA, MI and CO) that are crucial to election, and their results reflect the overall state of the race: too close to call. In addition, Zogby conducted 10 new online/interactive polls to update its July numbers. As usual, I will list these online polls here but I will not include them in my polling page as their methodology remains suspicious. As you will see below, Barr receives high numbers in all these polls (at least 5% in 9 out of 10, at least 8% in 4), raising questions as to who is part of this “online panel.”

  • In Ohio (polling history), a poll released by the Columbus Dispatch finds McCain up 1% - 42% to 41%. Obama leads among independents, but only gets half of Clinton supporters. The poll was conducted via mail (as usual for the Columbus Dispatch), and as usual this is sure to spark controversy.
  • In Michigan (polling history), an EPIC-MRA poll finds the same results as mid-July: Obama leads 43% to 41%. The favorability ratings of both men was down, 49% for Obama and 52% for McCain.
  • In Virginia (polling history), a PPP poll shows Obama up 47% to 45%, here again within the margin of error. He led by the same margin last month.
  • In Colorado (polling history), Obama is out of the margin of error in a Suffolk poll. He leads 44% to 39%, 2% each for Nader and Barr. Without leaners, Obama leads by 8%.
  • As for Zogby, he provides good news for… Bob Barr in this release: Obama leads by 6% in Colorado (Barr gets 8%), 9% in Michigan, New Mexico and Pennsylvania (Barr gets 5% in al 3 states); 5% in Ohio (Barr gets 8%); 8% in North Carolina; 2% in Virginia and 1% in Nevada (Barr gets 10% in the latter). McCain is up 4% in New Hampshire (Barr gets 11%) and 3% in Florida.

Despite a number of polls showing McCain improving his positions in Colorado, that state remains the second best hope for a pick-up (after Iowa). But its 9 electoral votes would not get Obama anywhere if he were to lose Michigan, a Kerry state that has remains one of the tightest states in the country - and one Republicans are determined to contest. The latest poll had Obama leading by 7%, but that was certainly the higher end of Obama’s lead here. As for Virginia and Ohio, they are among the ultimate toss-up of this election, and picking up either while saving Michigan could virtually guarantee Obama a victory.

Before going on to the day’s congressional polling, let’s take a look at Joe Klein’s post on a focus group of 21 (truly) undecided voters, conducted by Frank Luntz. Of course, it’s not clear whether these independent voters will matter as much this year, since the key to the election is more likely to be Obama’s strength among registered Democrats. Yet, the focus group does contain a few interesting findings:

  1. No surprises as to why these voters were undecideds, as they were torn between their reluctance to vote for another Republican and Obama’s inexperience. More surprising (though not for former Clinton supporters and for McCain voters) is that these voters distrusted Obama’s rhetoric and his ability to energize a crowd. “At least one member of the focus group compared [the big chanting crowds] to a Nazi rally,” writes Klein - and others (who are not McCain supporters) demanded that Obama give them more specifics in his speeches. As I have said before, this is why the Obama campaign’s decision to move his acceptance speech to a football stadium could backfire, transforming the night into just another speech in the series he delivered in the spring.
  2. The focus group responded more to more hard-hitting, more character-centric negative ads. This would be an argument for Obma dialing up his attacks - and their reaction gives us an explanation as to why the race tightened over the past few weeks.

Meanwhile, in down the ballot polls:

  • In KS-02, SUSA has Nancy Boyda leading Lynn Jenkins but the race is tight - 50% to 43%. In a Republican district, Boyda survives with strong support from Democrats, 22% of Republicans and a 9% lead among independents. Bush defeated Kerry by 20% in this district, SUSA finds McCain leading by 13%.
  • In a Suffolk poll from Colorado’s Senate race (polling history), Mark Udall leads Bob Schaffer 39% to 31%, with 4% for the Constitution Party, 2% for the Green Party and a high 22% undecided.
  • In another poll from Colorado, Mason Dixon finds Udall up 47% to 37%, with 3% for the Green Party’s Bob Kinsey.
  • In the Virginia Senate race, Mark Warner dominates in PPP, leading Gilmore 55% to 32%.
  • In the Texas Senate race, the situation remains stable in Rasmussen: Sen. Cornyn is under 50% (thus vulnerable) but continues to dominate Rick Noriega, 48% to 37%. Cornyn does jump up to a stronger lead with leaners, 52% to 38%.
  • No surprise in Michigan’s Senate race, where EPIC-MRA finds Sen. Levin crushing his challenger 59% to 27%.

The House race in KS-02 is sure to be one of the most heated in the nation. Nancy Boyda refusing the DCCC’s help ensures that the GOP will keep attacking her, knowing that she will be on her own to defend herself. The key to Boyda’s election will be solid numbers among independents and a good cross-over from Republicans - something Jenkins’s victory complicated since she was the more moderate Republican. The determining factor here could be whether more conservative Republicans skip the House race.

The Colorado Senate race, meanwhile, seems to be back where it was earlier in the summer, before Udall’s advantage shrank in a series of polls. Democrats have long been convinced that Udall would open a comfortable lead and never look back and he finally did so in June and again now. For Republicans, the variation in Udall’s numbers suggests he is weaker than Democrats believe; GOP-leaning independent groups advertising in the state are looking to make the most of his vulnerabilities.

Down-ballot: Cohen survives nasty primary, Franken hit by Dem opponent

If you thought Norm Coleman’s bowling alley ad was tough, think again. That spot accused Al Franken of “foul-mouthed” attacks, “tasteless, sexist jokes,” and “writing all that juicy porn.” Just as Franken had found a way to hit back yesterday and put the spotlight back on Coleman in the toughest ad exchange we have seen in any Senate race for now, here is a new ad - this one released by a Democrat - that hits Franken even more harshly:

Priscilla Lord Faris, an attorney who announced she was challenging Franken for the Democratic nomination just three weeks ago, released an attack ad centered on electability. The ad features nothing but Faris speaking directly to the camera. She says she used to believe Franken could defeat Coleman, but “his record of pornography and degradation of women and minorities and questionable financial transactions will be the source of blistering ads for the Republican attack machine.” That’s why Faris took it upon herself to inform the electorate of Franken’s baggage, in much harsher terms than Coleman probably ever would have - there is a huge leap between “tasteless, sexist jokes” and a “record of degradation of women and minorities.”

The Star Tribune reports that the ad doesn’t have that much money behind it, even less than the biographical spot her campaign released earlier this week - an ad that also features nothing but Faris talking to the camera for 30 seconds, without even any pictures of the events of her past she is describes. The camera doesn’t seem to be very stable - underscoring that this is not the best-funded campaign. But the attack ad on Franken is designed to get attention, and Minnesota media is talking about this. Faris is not a credible threat to Franken’s primary chances, but she might force him to spend even more time defending his past actions, jokes and writings.

While Minnesota is still three months away from winning the title of most brutal Senate race of the 2008 cycle, the House award might already have been wrapped up thanks to the nasty campaign Nikki Tinker ran in TN-09. This is the only Southern majority-minority district represented by a white congressman, Steve Cohen, who won with a plurality of the vote in a crowded primary 2 years ago. Tinker released two widely condemned ads this week comparing Cohen to a hooded Klansman and blaming him for entering “our churches” (there has been some argument about whether that implied “our Christian churches” or “our black churches,” but either way that line was as nasty as you can get and there is no reason that it couldn’t have gone for both attacks at once.)

Barack Obama and Harold Ford Jr. intervened today to blast Tinker’s tactics, which Obama called “incendiary.” The vote was held today and Cohen won in a triumphal rout, 79% to 19% - a huge progression since the roughly 30% he received two years ago. Cohen declared, “It says Memphis has come a long, long way and that people who were counting on racial voting to prevail are thinking of a Memphis that doesn’t exist anymore.” Cohen is safe for the general election.

Finally, some news out of KS-02. A few days ago, state Treasurer Jenkins defeated former Rep. Ryun for the GOP primary. There is disagreement over whether Jenkins’s nomination is a good or bad thing for Democratic incumbent Nancy Boyda - some say she is more moderate and will have an easier time uniting the feuding Kansas GOP, others say Ryun was better known and would have made the race more competitive. Either way, Jenkins is sure to give Boyda a run for her money - and the incumbent is now all on her own.

Boyda convinced the DCCC to not help in the general election. Boyda thinks that national Democrats being implicated in her re-election efforts in such a conservative district would give an opening to Jenkins, but it would also have given her the means to hit Jenkins without producing the negative ads herself. If the race is close in late October, Boyda may come to regret that she did not rely on her party’s committee and chose to unilaterally disarm. It is true that being too closely associated with the national party might hurt Boyda in such a red district, but voters rarely cast their ballot based on which group is supporting whom - after all, the DCCC aired plenty of ads on behalf of Cazayoux in LA-06 and Childers in MS-01. At least, Boyda’s refusal will make another Democrat very happy, as she just freed up the $1,2 million the DCCC had already budgeted for her race.

Update: Jaxx Raxor points out that a Republican (first-term) incumbent lost his primary yesterday in TN-01. Indeed, Rep. Davis is the fourth incumbent to fall this year and the first in four decades from Tennessee. I did not have much to say about the race but you can check out The Hill for more information!

Primary results: Is there anything to see in Georgia’s Senate race?

A number of states held primaries yesterday, giving us a better sense of some general election line-ups.

The Democratic primary for the Georgia Senate race was held on July 15th but as no candidate crossed 50% the two top vote-getters went on a runoff: DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones and former state Rep. Jim Martin. Jones is a controversial candidate who faced allegations of harassment and rape in the past and who endorsed and voted for George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004 - out-Zelling Zell Miller. Martin, on the other hand, waged a campaign critical of the President and he appears to have gotten the votes that went to the other candidates in mid-July: Jones edged Martin by 6% last month; last night Martin crushed Jones yesterday 59% to 41%.

The DSCC’s Chuck Schumer immediately released a statement calling this a “winnable race.” If Democrats were to have any hope of making this contest competitive, they were indeed hoping for a Martin victory. The latest poll, released in July, showed Senator Saxby Chambliss leading Martin by 11% and leading Jones by 30%. But do Democrats have a realistic chance of pulling an upset in Georgia? Georgia is perhaps the one state that has resisted to the country’s Democratic trends - at least if we look at 2006 - and Chambliss is showing no obvious sign of vulnerability. And however “impressive” Martin is, he is clearly far from the strongest candidate Democrats could have recruited.

Yet, it would be foolish to rate Chambliss as safe. He is a freshman incumbent, often the most vulnerable kind, and has not had time to entrench himself. The DSCC has enough money to launch an attack on the Senator and test how weak his support is. It is unlikely that the race will enter the top-tier, but given the year’s Democratic lean Martin cannot be discounted. In fact, whatever chance he has might rest on the presidential race and whether the Obama campaign can boost black turnout as it claims it will.

Meanwhile, the night’s high-profile Republican primaries were defeats for the more conservative candidates. Kansas certainly featured the purest ideological contrasts of the night. The state GOP is famously divided between its moderate and conservative wing, and their feud has escalated in the past few years to threaten the state’s Republican loyalty. A number of high-profile GOPers have switched parties or become independent, and last night was just another episode. In the primary in KS-02, former Rep. Jim Ryun, defeated in 2006, represented the conservative wing whereas state Treasurer Lynn Jenkins represented its moderate wing. Despite lower name recognition, Jenkins prevailed by a narrow margin - 51% to 49%.

She will now take on Democratic Rep. Nancy Boyda, who is one of the most endangered Democrats of the cycle. It is difficult to assess the race until we know how deep the wounds from the GOP primary. If Ryun had won the nomination, Boyda could have counted on cross-over votes from moderate Republicans; but how will the district’s more conservative voters react to Jenkins’s general election candidacy? If there is one state in which they could desert the polls in protest, it’s in Kansas. (In another highly ideological GOP primary in the state, Phil Kline, who prosecuted abortion providers as state Attorney General a few years back, lost his party’s nomination for county district attorney even though he was the incumbent.)

In Missouri’s gubernatorial GOP primary, US Rep. Kenny Hulshof defeated more out-spoken conservative state Treasurer Sarah Steelman 49% to 45% after Steelman waged a vigorous campaign in which she ran as the outsider intent on reforming Washington, blasting Hulshof for having lost his conservative ways - particularly on the issue of spending. Steelman promised to reign in on D.C.’s spending habits - a winning issue in Republican primaries. But the campaign took very negative turns on other issues as well, as Steelman aired some very harsh ads on issues like ethanol and illegal immigration (these ads give some perspective on just refreshingly tame the Democratic presidential primary was in comparison.)

These spots - particularly the one on immigration - could seriously hurt Hulshof in the general election, where he will take on another state official, Attorney General Jay Nixon. Hulshof starts as the underdog (the race is rated “lean take-over” in my latest gubernatorial ratings; polling history) and he will be hurt not only by his party label but also once again by his inside-the-beltway status. In a year in which voters appear to have both an anti-GOP and an anti-Washington reflex, Hulshof has two big handicaps to overcome.

Both parties held competitive primaries in Hulshof’s old district, MO-09. Bush won the district with 59% of the vote in 2006, and the GOP starts with a clear edge; but Democrats have been touting their chances in seats like this one ever since they won their string of three special elections in red territory this spring. At least, the NRCC will not have to spend too much money fighting for this district as GOP voters nominated a self-funder, former state Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer who is now an insurance agency owner. The Democratic nominee is state Rep. Judy Baker, who defeated her more conservative (and former Speaker of the state House) opponent on the strength of the district’s urban center. The DCCC has reserved close to $1 million of TV time for the fall, and the race is rated lean GOP in my latest House ratings.

Thursday polls: McCain leads big in Florida, Udall opens a lead in CO

The pace of polls certainly looks to have picked up after a big wave of surveys yesterday brought good news to Obama’s campaign yesterday. Today’s polls serve as a reminder that the presidential race remains close:

  • Fox News’s national poll finds Barack Obama leading John McCain by a narrow 45% to 41%. In a four-way race, Obama’s lead is 42% to 39% with 4% for Ralph Nader and 2% for Bob Barr.
  • Fox News included questions about which candidate “loves America” the most. These questions are silly enough that I see no need to include the results.
  • In Florida, Rasmussen found John McCain leading 47% to 39%. This is a slight improvement from McCain’s 50% to 40% lead last month.
  • Obama’s favorability is negative (46% to 48%) and 33% have a very negative impression of him, versus 21% for McCain (the Republican’s overall rating is 50% to 46%).
  • Asked whether they think offshore drilling would lower oil prices, 61% of Floridians responded in the affirmative.
  • Finally, Colorado is a toss-up in the latest Rasmussen poll, as Obama leads 43% to 41% — down from a 48% to 42% lead last month.
  • Here again Obama has a high very unfavorable rating (31%, against 18% for Obama) and his favorability rating has dropped to 50%.

Colorado is one of Obama’s top targets and the fact that he has not trailed once in Rasmussen’s 5 polls from the state confirms that he ought to target Colorado’s 9 electoral votes. But after yesterday’s two Florida surveys showing Obama leading by 4% and 5%, Rasmussen’s poll is a reminder that, as long as the election remains tight, we will be seeing a lot of inconsistency in these big swing-states. While yesterday’s polls should reassure Democrats that McCain has not locked Florida in his column and that this contest will remain competitive, Obama retains a number of disadvantages in the Sunshine state, which has been trending Republican over the past eight years and which resisted to the Democratic tsunami better than other states back in 2006.

These presidential surveys were accompanied by a fair number of congressional polls:

  • In Colorado, Rasmussen finds Mark Udall extending his lead over Bob Schaffer. He is now leading 49% to 40%.
  • In Kentucky, the McConnell campaign released an internal poll showing the incumbent with a 50% to 39% lead against “Democrat” Bruce Lunsford.
  • In one of the most hotly disputed Dem-held House seats, incumbent Nancy Boyda released an internal poll conducted by Anzalone Lizst that finds Boyda crushing her two potential opponents, 54% to 37% against former Rep. Jim Ryun and 57% to 27% against state Treasurer Lynn Jenkins. It goes without saying that you should take this poll (and any internal poll) with a huge grain of salt.
  • The poll also finds McCain beating Obama by 7% in a district Bush carried by 20%.
  • Finally, SUSA released two congressional polls from Washington State. In competitive WA-08, Rep. Dave Reichert is holding off on his Democratic challenger Darcy Burner 51% to 45%. This is a rematch of a 2006 race which Reichert won 51% to 49%.
  • In WA-02, a district Kerry won by only 4%, Rep. Larsen leads 56% to 38%, confirming that the Democrat is safe in this district the GOP could hope to contest in better conditions.

In Colorado’s open gubernatorial race in 2006, Democrat Ritter unexpectedly opened an early lead against his highly-touted Republican opponent and never looked back, easily carrying the election in November after a campaign that was never truly competitive. This was certainly a reflection of how toxic the environment was for the GOP. The same exact pattern held in Minnesota’s open Senate race, and Democrats were expecting Mark Udall to enjoy similar success this year. But the race has remained very tight, giving Republicans hope that all is not lost. It is only in the past two months that Udall has opened up a somewhat consistent lead, boosted by the bad press Schaffer has gotten over corruption issues and even ads he ran. Keep an eye on polls over the summer: If Udall maintains a lead, we might be in for a repeat of the CO and MN races from 2006 and the NRSC would probably abandon Schaffer to his fate.

As for Kentucky, this is the second time that McConnell is releasing an internal poll immediately after an independent survey found a competitive race. The first was in late May after Rasmussen found Lunsford leading him by 5%. This one is a response to a SUSA survey released earlier this week with McConnell up 4%. Both of McConnell’s internal polls have found the same result — 50% to 39% — and it is telling that this is being spun as reassuring numbers by the incumbent. For the Senate Minority Leader to be hovering on the vulnerability threshold of 50% is certainly cause for worry and should encourage the DSCC to look closely in Kentucky’s direction.



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