Archive for the 'PA-10' Category

Five crucial House races taking shape

AR-02: Democratic candidate jumps in

Democrats have deep benches in the newly open Arkansas districts, which means their primaries are likely to be heated showdowns between some of the state party’s biggest name. The possibility that Lieutenant Governor Brian Halter and Wesley Clark might run in AR-2 did not dissuade House Speaker Robbie Wills to announce his candidacy yesterday. He joins state Sen. Joyce Elliott, who is likely to be the primary’s more liberal option; Wills, meanwhile, seems to be a mainstream Arkansas Democrat, which also means he is not as conservative as Senate Majority Leader Bob Johnson, who is also mentioned as a potential candidate.

At this point, there is no buzz that Republicans might try to find an alternative to former U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin. While I know some of you don’t think his prominent role in the U.S. Attorney’s scandal could hurt him, the GOP could try to find a candidate with less baggage; last year Griffin looked as formidable a challenger as the GOP could dream of, but it’s a whole new ball game by now.

PA-10: Carney lands additional challenger

Speaking of former U.S. Attorneys, yet another decided to put his name on the ballot this fall: Thomas Marino announced he would challenge Rep. Chris Carney. Just like Griffin, Marino was forced to resign in 2007, though his exit was not caused by the scandal that erupted around the Bush administration but rather by his ties to Louis DeNaples, whose aggressive efforts to secure a casino license made him the target of a government probe. That is sure to haunt him on the campaign trail; in fact, Democrats have already gone all-out on the issue. (Marino also faces a competitive primary, most notably against Snyder County Commissioner Malcolm Der.)

Carney is apparently very happy letting Democratic Party officials do the dirty work while he portrays himself above the fray. In the statement he released following Marino’s entry in the race, Carney chose instead to highlight the fact that Republicans tried to convince him to switch parties back in December as proof of his independent streak. “Congressman Carney is proud of his bipartisan record in Congress and was flattered to have recently been approached by Sen. John McCain and other Republican leaders about switching parties,” the statement said. “He believes, however, that his job is not about a political party.” This was something everyone saw coming as soon as we read reports about the GOP’s outreach; Republicans really shoot themselves in the foot on this one.

AR-08: Giffords lands her first one

It looked like Rep. Gabrielle Giffords would be one junior Democrat who would not face too difficult a re-election race, but the GOP has put competitive AZ-08 on the map by recruiting state Sen. Jonathan Paton. The 38-year Paton has only been serving in the state Senate for a year (he was in the state House before), but his decision to run suggests he is really confident he can pull victory: Arizona law requires state politicians to resign if they want to seek another office, so Paton will now have to leave his job in order to challenge Giffords.

Yet, Giffords has won her first two races with surprising ease - both were double-digit victories, which means she considerably overperformed relatively to Barack Obama’s performance - and she’s one of House Democrats’ most successful fundraisers. Furthermore, Arizona could be more or less susceptible to a red wave depending on who wins the GOP’s gubernatorial primary.

SC-05: PPP confirms a veteran congressman is vulnerable

One of the most powerful House Democrats, Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt has served for 28 years, which makes him as entrenched a congressman as it gets and which means he has survived tough national environments before. Yet, a new PPP survey finds that he is vulnerable to losing his red-leaning South Carolina district: Not only is his approval rating in negative territory (41-42) but he is under 50% against both of his Republican opponents; he tops state Senator Mick Mulvaney 46% to 39% and leads Albert Spencer 46% to 37%.

Given the number of Democratic incumbents who have been trailing by decisive margins - think Reid, Lincoln, Snyder, Driehaus, Hill - for Spratt to post a 7% lead against a state Senator does suggest his standing is better than that of other congressmen; but the fact that such numbers might in any way be spun as good news for Democrats speaks to how rough a landscape they are facing. On the other hand, the poll also finds that Obama has a stronger approval rating than you might expect in districts that voted for John McCain by 7% (46-49).

KS-04: The best defense is offense

Given the environment, a staunchly red Kansan district that voted for Bush by 32% and for McCain by 18% is the last place you would expect Democrats to try and mount an offense. Yet, the DCCC has been so excited by state Rep. Raj Goyle’s candidacy in the open KS-04 that they’ve included the district in the list of their 16 top offensive targets! Goyle has been raising large sums of money for a House challenger; he just reported more than $250,000 in the fourth quarter, and he outraised the most prolific Republican 4:1 in the 3rd quarter. But is this a case in which national parties’ obsessive focus on fundraising strength makes them overstate their chances?

Whatever Goyle’s merits, he has been in the state legislature for only 2 years (so it’s not like he is an entrenched political figure) and if he picked up the seat KS-04 would become one of the most conservative districts represented by a Democrat; is that likely to happen in 2010, especially in a state in which the GOP will enjoy huge victories in statewide elections? It’s good of the DCCC to seek to counter  the narrative that it is stuck playing defense, but it would certainly be a huge surprise if Goyle can make the race close.

Switching parties isn’t a joyful ride after all

As French Immigration Minister Eric Besson and now-Republican Rep. Parker Griffith can attest to, it’s never fun playing the role of the traitor. Your former friends detest you, your new allies disdain what they see as crass opportunism and resent your jumping over them without putting in the time to display any commitment to their movement, and no one can trust someone who has displayed a complete lack of loyalty. That Griffith reportedly downloaded voter information from the state Democratic Party’s files on the eve of his secret switch only heightens the perfidious nature of his move.

Back in the spring, Arlen Specter discovered it would not be easy to pull off his own transition but he was protected by the White House, which reigned in much of the Democratic attacks that would otherwise have reigned in on the senator; Specter could not avoid a credible primary challenge from Joe Sestak, but in recent months he has been working overtime to portray himself as a zealous liberal, so we shall see what comes out of this race in the first four months of 2010.

Griffith, on the other hand, can hardly expect effective protection: The GOP has no national leader who can convince local Republicans to accept him in their midst. As such, Griffith has faced a deluge of attacks from all quarters ever since he announced he would join the Republican caucus - not just by Democrats and conservative activists, but also by mainstream GOP officials! - so much so that it’s doubtful he improved his re-election chances.

It all started with an all-out Democratic declaration of war, which Griffith must have been expecting. Yet, his finances will find themselves deflated once Griffith returns the DCCC and fellow Democratic lawmakers’ contributions, as he has already agreed to do; he will also have to find himself an entirely new campaign and legislative team, since his consultants and staff are quitting en masse; and his former allies will spare him nothing, whether unearthing old quotes in which he professes his allegiance to Democrats to pointing out that Griffith donated substantial amounts to Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in 2004.

Conservative attacks were also to be expected. “We will not fix the GOP’s problems if we keep allowing people who are not one of us to suddenly switch the letter next to their name and magically become one of us,” wrote Red State. Yet, Griffith is certainly not in Specter’s position - i.e. someone whose lifetime voting record is often diametrically antithetical to his new party. In fact, the speed with which the right signaled it was not willing to accept the Alabaman was surprising given how uniformly conservative his 2009 voting record has been. The Club for Growth, for instance, was reduced to pointing to the amendments to the budget bill as Griffith’s main offense; the only high-profile vote they highlighted was Griffith’s support for the cash-for-clunker bill, which 59 Republicans supported.

Griffith was surely hoping to at least receive a more positive reception from the Republican establishment and from independent outlets, but even that hasn’t been the case: state Treasurer Kay Ivey, who is certainly not known as a movement conservative, wasted no time before blasting Griffith’s move and The Huntsville Times published a brutal editorial denouncing Griffith’s move as sure to harm the district. (Speaking of establishment support: I wonder if Griffith managed to extract a commitment that the NRCC will help him survive the primary. While it would be logical for him to have done so, officials are probably not looking to antagonize conservative activists who are already angry at the national committees’ often heavy-handed involvement in local matters.)

Given these near-unanimously critical reactions, should we be surprised that Griffith’s re-election prospects look just as endangered as they were last week? For one, there is now no doubt that he will face a very tough GOP primary: Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks, who had been preparing for months to run a top-tier campaign, has made it clear he will stick to the race. The party’s 2008 nominee Wayne Parker is also considering jumping in. (Note that Griffith cannot hope to clinch a plurality victory as his rivals divide the anti-incumbent vote because Alabama has a two-round primary system, which will force him to get 50% to move on to the general election.)

Second, Democrats might still have a shot at contesting the general election. District voters have never voted for a Republican congressman, so the Democratic nominee can certainly hope to appeal to the electorate’s loyalty to overcome the fact that McCain received 61% of the vote in 2008 (after all, Griffith managed to win an open seat that year, and he certainly was not helped by the top-of-the-ticket coattails considering Obama only got 38%). The most intriguing possibility is that Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who is currently running for Governor, downgrade his ambitions to the House race; he pointedly refused to rule out the possibility. Another possibility is Public Service Commissioner Susan Parker, who also held the statewide office of Auditor, but local blog Political Parlor deems her entry unlikely because she would have to give up her current office.

Note that from the perspective of the GOP leadership it could not matter less whether Griffith survives the primary: Whoever moves on to the general election, the Republican nominee will not have to face a Democratic incumbent. While Sparks or Parker could make the general election competitive, there is no doubt that the GOP is now clearly favored to hold AL-05 in the 112th Congress.

But from Griffith’s perspective, it obviously matters a great deal. As such, his fate over the past few days will not help Republicans convince other Democrats to cross over. Within a day of the Alabaman’s announcement, the two freshmen representatives who represent the most hostile districts announced they were sticking with Democrats: Rep. Bobby Bright (AL-02) reportedly said as much to DCCC officials, while Rep. Walt Minnick (ID-01) released a statement. Of course, they might very well change their minds in the months ahead, but I would not hold my breath - especially for Minnick: Releasing a statement (as opposed to than privately informing party officials, as Bright did) is the type of incriminating commitment he would not want out there if he was secretly mulling a switch.

Yet, an unexpected Democrat emerged as the most open to becoming a Republican: Rep. Chris Carney, a sophomore who represents a district (PA-10) Bush won by 20% and McCain by 9%. When Politico reported that prominent Republicans were reaching out to Carney and that he had received a phone call from no other than John McCain, the congressman’s office responded: “No further comment at this time.” The next day, however, Carney put a statement announcing that, “I appreciate the Republican Party’s outreach, but I have no plans to change parties.”

There has been a fair amount of skepticism that Carney might ever have seriously considering switching parties. While he is a Blue Dog, he has never tried to position himself as one of the more conservative House Democrats: He voted for the health-care bill, for the stimulus, for the financial regulation bill. In a district with a substantial conservative electorate, how could he possibly have survived a Republican primary with such a record?

Rather, Carney might have been signaling he was considering switching parties to draw attention to the fact that Republicans were courting him - something he is sure to bring up in his general election campaign next fall. In fact, Carney wasted no time touting his independence in light of these latest developments: “I am flattered by the overtures of Sen. McCain and other Republican Party officials and consider their outreach a sure sign that I have worked in a truly bipartisan manner,” he said in the same statement that announced he would stay a Democrat. “I always put my district above political party and have maintained an independent voice.” Given Carney’s voting record, how did the GOP leadership not see this was coming?

The who’s who of vulnerable House Democrats

Ten days ago, the DCCC launched radio ads in 28 congressional districts held by the GOP. The spot attacked vulnerable Republican incumbents for voting against the stimulus bill, in a legislative effort to scare the lawmakers into supporting the bill’s final version and an electoral effort to soften up their support.

Now, it is the NRCC’s turn to go after 30 vulnerable Democratic incumbents for supporting the stimulus. The radio ads accuse the representatives of being fiscally irresponsible and supporting pork spending - Republican talking points that can be effective against these Democratic congressmen since most of them represent red-leaning districts (see list below).

The NRCC’s first order of business in this new cycle has to be rallying the Republican base against Democrats who represent them, particularly in areas in which conservatives dominate. While there is little money behind these ads, they are necessary to lay the groundwork for 2010 challenges.

Part of the NRCC’s objective, of course, is to scare some of these Democrats into adopting conservative voting habits over the next few months. 11 House Democrats voted against the stimulus bill, but there are enough Blue Dogs that the GOP can hope for more Democrats to cross over to their side on key votes. And they are more likely to vote with Republicans  if they are made to think it is dangerous for them not to do so .

Here is the version that is running in KS-03 against Rep. Dennis Moore (audio here):

Last year, Dennis Moore promised us he would promote fiscally responsible legislation in congress. His website bragged about how he worked with either party to, quote, get our country back on track so we don’t pass on massive debt to our children and grand-children. But now, just a year later, he voted for a wasteful, pork-barreled program that will cost taxpayers nearly a trillion dollars. And he’s borrowing the money!

Dennis Moore’s spending plan is parked with pork. $75 million for smoking cessation, $50 million for the National Endowment of the Arts, $335 million to treat sexually transmitted diseases, and $600 million for government employees vehicles, including 32 entirely new government programs. Yup. You heard me. Call Dennis Moore at 202-225-3121. Tell him he made a mistake by supporting wasteful spending. Tell him to guard the taxpayers instead.

While the second part of that ad is used against all 30 Democrats, the first part is twitched a little on an individual basis. Here is the beginning of the spot that is running against Rep. Eric Massa in NY-29:

Last month, Eric Massa bragged about his fiscal discipline in Congress. ‘I’m a fiscal hawk; I don’t like deficit spending.’ Those were Eric Massa’s own words. He said them in a press conference. But now he’s voted for a wasteful pork barrel program that will cost taxpayers nearly a trillion dollars, putting us deeper in debt.

Here is a table listing the full list of targeted Democrats. I added the districts’ presidential vote in 2004 and 2008 so we get an idea of how vulnerable these representatives are. (The district-level results for 2008 are available on Swing State Project’s excellent database.)

District Status 2008 pres. 2004 pres.
McNerney (CA-11) sophomore 54% Obama 54% Bush
Salazar (CO-03) red-leaning district 50% McCain 55% Bush
Markey (CO-04) freshman 51% McCain 58% Bush
Grayson (FL-08) freshman 52% Obama 55% Bush
Kosmas (FL-24) freshman, red district 52% McCain 55% Bush
Barrow (GA-12) (very) narrow ‘06 victory 54% Obama 50% Bush
Braley (IA-01) sophomore 58% Obama 53% Kerry
Moore (KS-03) red-leaning district 51% Obama 55% Bush
Melancon (LA-03) red district 61% McCain 58% Bush
Schauer (MI-07) freshman, narrow ‘08 victory 52% Obama 54% Bush
Walz (MN-01) sophomore 51% Obama 51% Bush
Skelton (MO-04) red district 61% McCain 64% Bush
Childers (MS-01) red district 62% McCain 62% Bush
Kissell (NC-08) freshman, narrow ‘08 victory 53% Obama 54% Bush
Shea-Porter (NH-01) sophomore, narrow ‘08 victory 53% Obama 51% Bush
Teague (NM-02) freshman, competitive ‘08 race 50% McCain 58% Bush
Titus (NV-03) freshman, competitive ‘08 race 55% Obama 50% Bush
Hall (NY-19) sophomore 51% Obama 54% Bush
Maffei (NY-25) freshman 56% Obama 50% Kerry
Massa (NY-29) freshman, narrow ‘08 victory 51% McCain 56% Bush
Driehaus (OH-01) freshman, narrow ‘08 victory 55% Obama 51% Bush
Kilroy (OH-15) freshman, narrow ‘08 victory 54% Obama 50% Bush
Space (OH-18) sophomore, red district 52% McCain 57% Bush
Schrader (OR-05) freshman 54% Obama 50% Bush
Dahlkemper (PA-03) freshman, narrow ‘08 victory 49% Obama 53% Bush
Carney (PA-10) sophomore, red district 54% McCain 60% Bush
Gordon (TN-06) red district 62% McCain 60% Bush
Edwards (TX-17) red district 67% McCain 70% Bush
Nye (VA-02) freshman 51% Obama 58% Bush
Kagen (WI-08) sophomore, narrow ‘08 victory 54% Obama 55% Bush

It is striking that 28 of these districts were won by George W. Bush in 2004, but only 11 were carried by John McCain in November: CO-03, CO-04, FL-24, LA-03, MO-04, MS-01, NH-01, NM-02, NY-29, OH-18, PA-10, TN-06, TX-17.

Given that most of the country swung blue in 2008, districts that stayed in the red column can be considered the GOP’s most solid base - and the NRCC is understandably frustrated at the large number of Democrats representing such districts. These districts are at the very top of their list, and their congressmen are among the most vulnerable incumbents of 2010. Particularly endangered are those on this list that won in 2006 and in 2008 because of their opponent’s unpopularity or ethics problems; that includes Markey (CO-04), Kosmas (FL-24), Space (OH-18), Carney (PA-10).

On the other hand, many of these red districts are still held by Democrats because they have deeply entrenched Democratic incumbents who are popular enough to hold the district no matter how conservative their constituents. Those include CO-03, MO-04 and TN-06, three red districts targeted by this wave of advertisement - and surprisingly so given how little we have heard about them over the past few cycles!

Equally interesting are the two districts won by John Kerry that the DCCC is targeting, a list to which we can almost add OH-15, which Bush barely won in 2004. But while I can understand why the NRCC is targeting Ohio’s Mary Jo Kilroy, who showed that she was not the strongest of candidates in 2006 and then again in 2006, I am more skeptical as to the inclusion of NY-25 and IA-01. The former is a blue-trending district in which Obama won a decisive victory and in a state where Republicans have been sinking. The latter is even more confusing: Both Kerry and Obama won IA-01 decisively, and Bruce Braley is not even a freshman!

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.


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:”


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.

RNCC works on firewall, DCCC invests in new districts and passes $1 million mark in many

As the time comes for the party committees to buy time for the upcoming week, the DCCC’s ability to flex its financial muscle and will seats to become competitive once again makes itself felt. The DCCC spent more than $8 million on more than 40 districts, moved in four new races it had not yet spent any money on while seemingly withdrawing from two, and passed the $1 million mark in a number of these contests. The GOP, by contrast, appear to have largely given up on playing offense and are building a firewall around a few incumbents; the NRCC’s meager resources hardly allow it to dream of a better defense.

As always, the DCCC and NRCC decision to invest will not make a candidate, though a decision to pull out can certainly break an underfunded challenger or a swamped incumbent. But beyond illustrating the two parties’ financial disparities, a detailed look at where the two parties are spending money lays out the electoral map and tells us which seats people who are paid to track House races full-time (and who have inside information and polling we do not have access to) think will be competitive, or not.

With that said, let’s use our now familiar classification to break down the latest House expenditures:

  • Republican investments

The GOP is in such a difficult financial situation that its mere decision to spend money on a race says a lot about how they view (and how their private polling tells them to view) a race. If the GOP is spending money on a race that is supposed to be competitive, it means they think that this particular seat is more likely to be saved than others; if they spend money on a race that was not yet viewed as that competitive, it means we probably don’t have enough information and that district is indeed highly vulnerable.

In the latter category is FL-21, where the NRCC just spent more than $500,000. This district is in Miami’s media market, so advertising there is difficult. The DCCC has not spent any money on the district for now, however, so the GOP might be successful in building a firewall here. (More on the GOP’s FL-21 efforts below.) Also in the latter category is MO-06, where incumbent Sam Graves is not currently considered to be in as much trouble as other Republicans - but the NRCC is evidently worried about his prospects and intent on keeping him, as they spent more than $100,000 in one their only six-figure investments to date.

In the former category is NM-01, the open seat that I am currently rating lean take-over. The NRCC is not spending money here, but Freedom’s Watch and the Republican Campaign Committee of New Mexico are each spending more than $200,000. (Democrats are spending heavily in both NM-01 and MO-06.) The NRCC also threw in modest amounts in LA-06, PA-03 and WI-08. (Update: It looks like the RNCC is looking to spend a lot of money in NH-01 - as much as $400,000, confirming its strategy of putting a lot of money in a handful of races.)

  • New DCCC investments

Democrats are now spending for the first time in four districts, two of which are obvious choices (CO-04 and NY-29) and two of which are true shockers (IN-03 and NE-02). While it might be surprising that the DCCC has not opened its wallet to hit Musgrave yet, the congresswoman has been hit by more than half-a-million worth of advertisement by the Defenders of Wildlife PAC, and that might have convinced the DCCC that its involvement was not (yet) needed. But now that the DCCC is moving in, it is clearly determined to make a splash: its first buy is an impressive $345,000.

As for IN-03 and NE-02, they demonstrate the Democrats’ determination to expand the map: neither of these seats was supposed to be even close to competitive, and I confess IN-03 isn’t even on my House ratings for now. That will be corrected soon, as the DCCC’s decision to invest a serious amount of money (it has already bought more than $150,000 and has committed about half-a-million) means that the district is indeed competitive. Democrats aren’t bluffing in NE-02 either, as they have brought more than $130,000 worth of ads.

  • Districts where the DCCC has now spent more than $1 million

This is not a guarantee that the Democratic candidate will, but it certainly means that the DCCC has put a high priority in winning these races: AK-AL, AZ-01, AZ-03 (!), AZ-05, MN-03, NC-08, NH-01, NJ-07, OH-15, OH-16. In other districts, the total passes $1 million when the DCCC’s investment is added to that of NARPAC (National Association of Realtors). In PA-11, for instance, that total reaches $1.8 million; if Rep. Kanjorski loses reelection, it will just how incredibly vulnerable he had become.

  • Districts the DCCC is playing defense

The DCCC continued to invest in AL-05 (now almost half-a-million total), CA-11, AZ-05 (nearly $250,000 this week, bringing the total to $1.2 million), LA-06, MS-01, NH-01 (the total now reaches $1.2 million), PA-10, TX-23 and WI-08. More surprising is the DCCC’s decision to dump huge resources in IN-09 (almost $300,000 this week), a district that looks increasingly safe for Baron Hill. However, the DCCC looks to have stopped advertising in FL-16 (Mahoney’s district…) and AZ-08, where Rep. Giffords looks relatively secure. Both districts could be moved accordingly in my upcoming rating changes.

  • Districts that were not so long ago considered long shots

I already mentioned IN-03 and NE-02, but those are just the tip of the iceberg as the DCCC continues to pour in money in races that were not considered that competitive as of this summer! New spending in AL-02 raises the total to more than half-a-million, an impressive sum for this relatively cheap media market. The DCCC’s spending totals in AZ-03 are truly staggering, as this is a district no one thought of as that competitive until ten days ago - and the DCCC just dumped in about $369,000. In MD-01, a large new buy brings the Democratic total to almost $900,000. (The Club for Growth is helping the Republican here with more than $200,000). Other noteworthy buys in this category are KY-02, MO-09, NM-02, PA-03, VA-02. In all these districts, the DCCC is not bluffing and is putting serious money behind its hopes of riding a blue tsunami.

  • Districts Democrats were expecting to pick-up more easily

Most of the DCCC’s biggest overall expenditures belong in this category, in what is at the same time good news for Democrats (it allows them to solidify their prospects) but also disappointing ones (since they would have liked to spend some of money elsewhere). Perhaps the most surprising development is the DCCC’s decision to invest nearly $350,000 in AZ-01 (bringing the total to $1.3 million), a race Democrats are expected to win relatively easily. The DCCC also just spent more than $200,000 in NM-01, OH-15 and OH-16 (bringing the total in each to more than $1 million), three open seats that Democrats are one point were hoping to have an easier time with. Other districts in this category are IL-11, NJ-03, NJ-07 and VA-11.

  • Districts that are and were expected to be competitive

This category contains the least surprising ad buys since the races were expected to be competitive since the beginning. Particularly noteworthy buys include the DCCC’s buy of about $300,000 in NC-08 (total of more than $1.3 million), more than $200,000 in MI-07, NV-03, NY-26, OH-01 and WA-08. Combined with AFSCME’s spending, the Democratic buys in MI-07 have an impressive size. The DCCC also spent in CT-04, FL-26, IL-10, MI-09, MN-03 and MO-06.

While it would be too long to take a detailed look at the committees’ new ads, it is worth taking a quick look at the themes these new spots are emphasizing. On the Democratic side, the day’s biggest news undoubtedly comes from the DCCC’s decision to heavily invest in IN-03 and attack longtime Representative Souder for having been changed by Washington:


On the Republican size, the biggest news by far is the RNCC’s massive investment in FL-21. The GOP might have chosen this district because of the scandals that have long surrounded Democratic candidate Raul Martinez, a controversial figure who has enough baggage for the GOP to seize easily. The ad’s closer says it all - “We know Martinez is corrupt enough for Washington, but that doesn’t mean we should send him there:”


Poll watch: McCain stops bleeding in some polls and in IN but trails big in VA, NC, PA and MI

Today’s state poll roundup makes it clear why we can say that Obama is in such a strong position in the electoral college race. First, he looks to have locked away the blue states: Three weeks ago, Michigan, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania were all in dead heats. Today, most surveys from these states are finding Obama leading in double-digits, or at least high single-digits. Today’s Strategic Vision survey is, incredibly enough, the fifth consecutive poll to have Obama leading by at least 12%! And Rasmussen finds Obama leading by 16% in the Wolverine State, once an incredibly vulnerable state for the Illinois Senator.

Yes, an ARG poll finds Obama’s lead within the MoE in Minnesota, and as I have said before this is the one state in which Obama is not gaining (and the one state McCain is outspending him) - but he does appear to be keeping the lead, as Rasmussen and MPR’s polls suggested yesterday.

It is not surprising to see Obama surge by more in those states than in others: Michigan and Pennsylvania are both blue-leaning states, and the Illinois Senator was weak in them because he was significantly underperforming among registered Democrats. The financial crisis has first and foremost gotten Democrats to vote Democratic, and the effect of that is most felt in blue states.

With blue states quickly getting out of reach, it becomes that much more important for McCain to hold on to every single red state but IA and NM. And this is where his position today is interesting, as some polls show McCain has stopped the bleeding: And perhaps most importantly, he climbs back within the MoE (though still trails) in the new Rasmussen surveys of NC and FL and he jumps to a 7% lead in a Rasmussen poll of Indiana, the best polling news he has gotten in a while (perhaps the product of the RNC finally getting involved and convincing cross-over Republicans to stick with the GOP).

But threats are popping up everywhere for McCain. The Democrat surges to an 8% lead in Virginia today; the state looks to be increasingly leaning Obama at this point, as two polls released earlier this week had him up by double digits. He also grabs a 5% advantage in a Civitas poll of NC, while ARG shows Ohio OH his way. Obama even leads by 8% in West Virginia, and while that poll could very well be an outlier (it is, after all, released by ARG), the other surveys released by ARG today have trendlines that are very similar to those of other polls.

Let’s recap: Obama has some sort of lead today - within or outside of the MoE - in Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Florida and West Virginia. McCain needs to win every single one of these states, and Colorado, and Nevada, and Missouri… It is no surprise, then, that McCain is trying to change the national dynamics. To pull off a sweep of all these states, he cannot rely on his ground game or on luck. He will need to tighten the national numbers. On to the day’s full roundup:

  • Obama maintains his dominant position in the tracking polls, especially now that Hotline (which yesterday was mysteriously showing a 1% race) today has Obama leading 47% to 41%. This confirms that Hotline is the most bouncy of the five trackings. Obama leads 52% to 41% in Gallup, 51% to 41% in Research 2000, 50% to 45% in Rasmussen (-1%), 48% to 44% in Zogby (+2%).
  • Obama leads 51% to 43% in a PPP poll of Virginia. He led by 3% three weeks ago.
  • Obama leads 54% to 40% in a Strategic Vision poll of Pennsylvania. He led by only one in mid-September, but this trend corresponds to that found by most other pollsters.
  • Obama leads 56% to 40% in a Rasmussen poll of Michigan. Obama led by 7% three weeks ago.
  • Obama leads 50% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of Florida. He led by 7% in a Rasmussen poll released on Monday - but he trailed by 5% ten days ago.
  • Obama leads 48% to 43% in a Civitas poll of North Carolina. The race was tied three weeks ago.
  • Obama leads 49% to 48% in a Rasmussen poll of North Carolina. He led by 3% last week.
  • McCain leads 50% to 43% in a Rasmussen poll of Indiana. He led by 2% last month. This is one of the best polling results McCain has gotten for a while.
  • Obama leads 48% to 45% in an ARG poll of Ohio. He trailed by 6% in mid-September. This survey, like the other ARG polls, was taken both before and after the second presidential debate.
  • Obama leads 47% to 46% in an ARG poll of Minnesota. A mid-September survey found the same margin.
  • Obama leads 52% to 43% in an ARG poll of New Hampshire. McCain led by 3% in mid-September.
  • McCain leads 49% to 46% in an ARG poll of Missouri. He led by 5% in mid-September.
  • Obama leads 50% to 42% in an ARG poll of West Virginia. He trailed by 4% in mid-September.
  • McCain leads 50% to 45% in an ARG poll of Montana. He led by 2% in mid-September.
  • Obama leads 50% to 42% in a Rasmussen poll of New Jersey. He led by 13% last month.
  • McCain leads 57% to 38% in an ARG poll of Texas.

Meanwhile, in down the ballot:

  • Al Franken leads 43% to 37% in a Rasmussen poll of Minnesota’s Senate race. Barkley gets 17%.
  • Mark Begich leads 49% to 45% in an Ivan Moore poll of Alaska’s Senate race. He led by 2% three weeks ago.
  • Jeanne Shaheen leads 51% to 42% in an ARG poll of New Hampshire’s Senate race.
  • Mitch McConnell leads 47% to 38% in an internal poll released by his campaign in Kentucky’s Senate race. The previous McConnell poll had him leading by 17%, so even his pollster finds the race tightening.
  • Pat McCrory leads 43% to 41% in a Civitas poll of North Carolina’s gubernatorial race.
  • In NY-29, Eric Massa leads GOP Rep. Kuhl 49% to 42% in a Research 2000 poll. This is the third poll in a row (including an independent poll by SUSA) to find the Democrat with a significant lead in this rematch of the 2006 race.
  • In MN-03, Democrat Ashwin Madia leads 46% to 43% in a SUSA poll. Last month, Paulsen led by 3%.
  • In AK-AL, Ethan Berkowitz leads leads 51% to 42% in an Ivan Moore poll. He led by 5% three weeks ago.
  • In PA-11, Rep. Kanjorski leads 47% to 39% in a DCCC poll of PA-11. Public polls and Republicans polls have Kanjorski trailing by substantial margins.
  • In MI-09, Gary Peters leads GOP Rep. Knollenberg 43% to 40% in an internal poll for the Peters campaign.
  • In NY-25, Dan Maffei leads 49% to 31% against Republican Sweetland in an internal Democratic poll.

Senate: The best news of the day surely comes for Democrats, who keep their edge in New Hampshire, gain one in Minnesota while yet another survey confirms that Chambliss is vulnerable (the DSCC has still not invested in the state). But Republicans should take comfort in Ivan Moore’s poll from Alaska: Ted Stevens might be trailing, but Mark Begich has not been able to build any sort of comfortable lead over the past few months. That makes it likely that an acquittal would save this seat for Republicans, and given how openly the prosecution is disrespecting the defense’s rights in this trial, Stevens could very well survive the trial - and the election.

House: Democrats get a lot of good news in this wave of surveys. Some of it comes from internal numbers to be taken with a grain of salt (as long as DCCC numbers in PA-11 are at odds with any other poll we are seeing, it is hard to give Kanjorski the benefit of the doubt), others come from independent pollsters. AK-AL, in particular, appears to be anchoring itself in the blue column - and Young will be hard-pressed to benefit from any bounce from a Stevens acquittal. And NY-29 does seem to be drifitng towards Massa, as three polls in a row have found the Democratic challenger ahead outside of the margin of error. The DCCC hasn’t spent any money on this race yet, but this race might soon be added to the lean takeover category.

Poll watch: Obama surges ahead in NV, NH and WA, falls in MN; Shaheen, Coleman lead

Strikingly few presidential polls were released over the past 24 hours, but enough for the now familiar Obama surge to be obvious. He improves his position in the tracking polls, which now range from a 6% lead to an 11% lead. He jumps ahead to double-digit leads in three surveys from New Hampshire and Washington (two Kerry states in which he struggled throughout September) and surged to a lead in Nevada.

That said, there is one highly problematic poll for Obama in today’s roundup: SUSA finds McCain inching ahead - though within the margin of error - in Minnesota. This might seem like an outlier, as it does contradict the 11% lead Obama had in CNN/Time’s survey on Wednesday. Yet, CNN’s poll was further from what we have been seeing lately than SUSA’s survey is. Not only did SUSA’s previous poll have a 2% race, but a lot of other polling firms have shown a narrow race over the past six weeks. A quick glance at polls released since mid-September only shows a 1-2% race in Quinnipiac, ARG and the Big Ten, while the Star Tribune found a tie.

Furthermore, there is a possible explanation for why Minnesota might not be trending back towards Obama as other blue states are doing: McCain has been investing money in the state, but Obama has not (only in markets that touch neighboring battleground states) - and I believe this is the only state in the country in which this is the case. Not to mention that Minnesota has an independent streak. All of this is to say that  Democrats should not dismiss McCain’s strength in Minnesota - 10 electoral votes are on the line. On to a full roundup of the day’s polls:

  • Obama maintained a robust advantage in the day’s tracking polls. He leads 51% to 40% in Research 2000, 51% to 44% in Rasmussen, 48% to 42% in Diego Hotline (+1) and 49% to 42% (+2) in Gallup.
  • McCain leads 48% to 47% in a SUSA poll of Minnesota (polling history). This is his first lead in the state since from March, but he has been close in a number of polls - including trailing by only 2% in the most recent SUSA survey.
  • Obama leads 51% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of Nevada. He trailed by 3% in July and in August.
  • Obama leads 53% to 43% in a Rasmussen poll of Washington. Obama only led by 2% in early September. This is the second poll of the state to find Obama expanding his lead.

Meanwhile, in down-ballot polls:

  • Jeanne Shaheen recaptures a 50% to 45% lead in Rasmussen poll of New Hamphsire Senate race (polling history). Sununu led by 7% last month, in what was only his second lead ever.
  • Norm Coleman once again leads by double-digit in a SUSA poll of Minnesota’s Senate race (polling history). He is ahead 43% to 33% with 19% going to independent candidate Dan Barkley, who appears to be taking more votes from Franken.
  • The DSCC immediately released an internal poll showing Franken leading 38% to 36% with 12% going to Barkley. This poll has a much higher number of undecided voters.
  • In NM-02, Democratic candidate Harry Teague leads Ed Tinsley 47% to 43% in a Research 2000 poll. This is a very conservative district that Bush won 58% to 42%, but McCain only leads 49% to 42%.
  • In PA-10, an internal poll for the Carney campaign finds him leading 50% to 36%. He led by 27% in August, however.
  • In FL-13, Rep. Buchanan has a big lead in a SUSA poll, 49% to 33%.
  • No surprise in KY-04, a state that is not on anyone’s list of competitive races. Rep. Davis leads 58% to 36% in a SUSA poll.
  • Rep. Donnelly leads Republican Luke Puckett 53% to 35% in a South Bend Tribune poll of IN-02. This is not considered a competitive race, but the GOP had very high hopes for it at the beginning of the cycle.
  • Gregoire and Rossi are tied at 48% in a Rasmussen poll of Washington’s gubernatorial race. Rossi led by 6% last month - his biggest lead yet. Most polls have shown a complete dead heat.

Senate: Rasmussen’s New Hampshire poll is a huge relief for Democrats, though it certainly does not mean that Sununu’s late comeback should be dismissed. There is now little question that Rasmussen’s September poll was an outlier - no other pollster has found a result anywhere close to that for the past 10 months! But a number of polls have shown the race tightening, and Sununu, who routinely trailed by double-digits until the summer, is within striking distance.

Minnesota’s polling has been as confusing as the attacks the candidates are hurling at each other or Jesse Ventura’s decision process - and this latest dual release confirms that it is difficult to know what is going on. That said, the best news for Coleman isn’t that he is leading by 10% in SUSA but that independent candidate Barkley is hurting Franken more than he is hurting him. Coleman’s ads against Franken have been very personal, and that could mean that a lot of voters who do not want to vote for Coleman because of his party (the DSCC is heavily on the air as well, after all) now have a third-party option to voice their anger! If Barkley and Franken divide the anti-Coleman vote, the incumbent could survive.

House: Research 2000’s survey from NM-02 is without a doubt the most interesting of the day’s polls. This is a conservative district, but it embodies the GOP’s open seat headaches. Along with MD-01, MO-09 or AL-02, this is a district Republicans should have no trouble defending - and perhaps in no other year than in 2006 or 2008 would Democrats have a shot at a pick-up. But Teague looks ideally placed to ride the Democratic improvements in the district and his opponent’s weakness. An internal poll for the Teague campaign found him leading just a few days ago, and this independent survey confirms that finding.

Poll watch: FL is dead heat, Obama leads in second NC poll, widens gap in PA

There have been relatively few polls released over the past few days, as it makes little sense to conduct surveys that are in the field both before and after the presidential debate. But the few surveys that were released today confirm that Obama continues to gain - though perhaps at a less dramatic pace than some polls last week suggested.

Obama’s strongest showing today comes in Pennsylvania, a state that is still rated a toss-up in my ratings but where two polls today find Obama widening the gap to 7% and 8%. Both pollsters (Morning Call and Rasmussen) had Obama leading by 3% and 4% last week in the Keystone State, implying that Obama is solidifying his claim on blue-leaning states (he opened a wide lead in a number of Michigan surveys last week).

But the basic situation remains the same: Obama is unable to put red states other than IA and NM away. The good news for Obama, however: He only needs one of those states (VA, OH, CO, NC, FL, IN…) as long as he holds on to the blue states, as he seems increasingly likely to do as PA and MI seem to be rapidly shifting towards him. And that is an awful lot of toss-up states to choose from… In today’s polls only, he leads in Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado - all within the margin of error, sure, but he also trails within the MoE in Ohio and Florida. As long as Obama stays ahead nationally, is it really conceivable that McCain sweeps all these toss-up red states?

In particular, Obama’s gains are dramatic in North Carolina, where Obama leads for the second time ever and for the second time in a row. There is little question left that North Carolina has become a toss-up that will consume the GOP’s attention over the next few weeks. Obama also gains significant ground in Florida (5% in SUSA and 5% in Rasmussen compared to a poll taken last week-end).

On to the day’s full roundup, and note that I have fully updated my polling page (I had fallen behind), and added some color coding to make it easier to follow:

  • Obama keeps up his lead in all four tracking polls. He leads by 5% in Diego Hotline (47% to 42%) and Rasmussen (50% to 45%). He maintains an 8% lead in Gallup (50% to 42%) and a 9% lead in Research 2000 (51% to 42%), whose Saturday sample had Obama leading by 11%. Interestingly, McCain is at 42% in three out of the four tracking polls.
  • Obama leads 47% to 45% in a PPP poll of North Carolina (polling history), with 3% for Bob Barr. This is Obama’s second lead ever in the state, and it comes only a few days after the first (in a Rasmussen survey that found the same margin). PPP found a tie last week, which was already considered a strong result for Obama. 20% of the sample is back - about where it was in 2004, so PPP’s surveys don’t even posit an increase in the share of black voters. Sarah Palin’s popularity is falling.
  • McCain leads 48% to 47% in SUSA’s latest poll from Florida (polling history). McCain led by 6% in SUSA’s past two surveys. Obama’s biggest gain occurs among Democrats, where he finally surges above the 80% line… The poll was taken Saturday and Sunday, after Friday’s debate.
  • The candidates are tied at 47% in Rasmussen’s latest poll from Florida. This is a 5% improvement for Obama since last week.
  • Obama leads 50% to 42% in a Rasmussen poll of Pennsylvania (polling history). He led by only 3% last week.
  • Obama leads 49% to 42% in Morning Call’s 5-day tracking poll of Pennsylvania. He led by 6% yesterday, 4% on Friday.
  • Obama leads 50% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of Virginia, within the margin of error. Obama led by 5% in a Rasmussen poll taken mid-last week, but trailed by 2% a week ago.
  • Obama leads 49% to 48% in a Rasmussen poll of Colorado. Obama led by 3% last week.
  • McCain leads 48% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of Ohio. This is the same margin as a poll taken last Thursday, but a 3% improvement for Obama since a week ago.
  • Obama leads 52% to 42% in a SUSA poll of New Jersey.

Meanwhile, in down-ballot polls:

  • Kay Hagan takes her biggest lead yet in any poll, 46% to 38% in the latest PPP survey of North Carolina’s Senate race (polling history). Libertarian Chris Cole gets 6%, which allows Hagan to hold Dole under 50% of the white vote.
  • GOP Rep. Ros-Lehtinen has a large lead, 53% to 36%, against Annette Taddeo in a Research 2000 poll of FL-18.
  • GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart leads Joe Garcia 45% to 41% in a Research 2000 poll of FL-25. The poll does find Obama trailing by 15%, though Kerry lost the district by 12%.
  • In NJ-03, a Zogby poll finds GOP candidate Chris Myers narrowly ahead of John Adler, 39% to 37%. 22% are undecided.
  • In PA-10, Rep. Chris Carney leads Republican challenger Paul Hackett according to a Lycoming College poll.
  • A DSCC-sponsored poll finds Saxby Chambliss leading only 37% to 34% (down from a 6% lead in August) in Georgia’s Senate race (polling history), but the pollster’s decision to not push undecideds at all doesn’t strike that much confidence in Jim Martin’s chances.
  • California’s Proposition 8 would be defeated 55% to 41% according to the latest PPIC poll.

Instead of releasing poll numbers, the DSCC would be investing some money into running an ad campaign in Georgia’s Senate race if they were that confident that this is a 3% race. To choose to not push undecideds at all in this red a state can be a way to lower an incumbent Republican’s numbers. Until we get more proof that Chambliss is this vulnerable, Georgia cannot be considered part of the top tier Senate races.

That said, Democrats can certainly celebrate Elizabeth Dole’s continuing collapse. What is truly worrisome for the incumbent Senator is that many pollsters are showing a similar trendline. Before this PPP poll, it was Rasmussen that had found Dole sinking to a new low at the end of last week. And Dole will also have to struggle against Obama’s ground game.

As for the House races, Democrats have their eyes on many Florida seats - and not all look as promising as they would hope. Of the three Southern Florida districts, however, two seem ripe for pick-up (FL-21 and FL-25), but this is not the first poll to find that Ros-Lehtinen looks safe in FL-18. The situation in FL-13 seems more debatable, but it does look like Democrats missed an opportunity in 2006 (or did they? in no district was the result as controversial as here).

Thursday polls: Flurry of down-the-ballot polls find Prop 8 failing, tight race in FL-21

The day’s most noticeable polling news is no doubt Gallup’s tracking poll that shows a 5% bounce in Obama’s favor - 8% over two days. He is ahead 48% to 42% in what is the first Gallup tracking taken entirely this week (though the Monday night interviews were mostly conducted prior to the primetime speeches). This bounce might be due to Hillary’s speech, which received an overwhelmingly positive reception according to Gallup.

That said, the Gallup tracking is for now more important for the way it will influence the convention’s coverage than for what it says about the direction of the race. A one day evolution of a tracking poll is not worth getting excited about, especially because this bounce is due as much to Saturday/Sunday interviews getting out of the 3-day total (McCain had good nights over the week-end, after Hillary supporters realized she would not be the VP) as to anything that has happened in Denver. A bounce will have to be measured by its stability over a few days and Rasmussen’s tracking is not showing much movement. Meanwhile, in state polls:

  • In California, a PPIC poll taken in mid-August (the 12th to the 19th) finds Obama losing ground, up 47% to 38%. One interesting number is that Obama gets 71% of the Hispanic vote - enough to put to rest talk of any problem he might have with the Latino vote.
  • In Colorado (polling history), a poll conducted by a Republican firm (Hill Research Consultants) for the Senate campaign of Bob Schaffer finds Obama narrowly ahead of McCain, 43% to 40%.
  • In Idaho, a poll taken by Greg Smith and Associates finds McCain crushing Obama, 52% to 29%.
  • A SUSA poll tested the Obama-McCain race in a South Florida district (FL-21) as part of a House poll (see below for the congressional numbers). Bush won here by 14% in 2004, but the race is now tied at 48%- quite a swing towards Democrats. The Cuban vote, however, remains solidly anchored in the GOP column (72% for the Arizona Senator).

There was some discussion this year about Democrats making inroads in the Cuban vote and McCain progressing among Latinos. Neither development is taking place according to these California and FL-21 polls, which should bring relief to the GOP for its Florida prospects and to Democrats for their chances in the Southwest.

Needless to say that Obama cannot afford seeing his margin shrink further than a high single-digit lead in California. Given the state’s importance, Obama cannot afford to give McCain any opening - but having to advertise in the Golden State would be very expensive. For now, Obama doesn’t have much to worry about. This is the 7th summer poll from California, and the first to have him in single-digits.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

  • In FL-21, SUSA finds a tight race, with Democratic challenger Raul Martinez narrowly lead GOP incumbent Lincoln Diaz-Balart, 48% to 46%. Here is the interesting part: 20% of respondents opted to conduct the survey in Spanish, and among them the incumbent was leading 2:1. Indeed, a third of respondents were Cuban and the Republican got 70% of their vote. SUSA warns that surveys might be under-representing non-English speakers, thus understating GOP support.
  • In FL-13, an internal poll taken for Republican incumbent Vern Buchanan finds him crushing his 2006 competitor, Christine Jennings - 48% to 30%.
  • In PA-10, an internal poll released by the Carney campaign finds the incumbent Democrat leading Chris Hackett 54% to 27%. This comes two days after an independent SUSA poll found a tight race, with the Democrat ahead 49% to 45%.
  • In the Colorado Senate race (polling history) the internal Republican poll mentioned above finds Mark Udall narrowly ahead of Bob Schaffer, 41% to 38%. Both candidates’ unfavorability ratings has shot up since the April poll - 33% and 34% compared to 15% and 18% four months ago.
  • In the Idaho Senate race, a poll taken by Greg Smith and Associates finds Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch leading Larry LaRocco 41% to 30%.
  • PPIC’s poll of California finds that Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage is failing, with 54% of respondents planning to vote “no” and 40% “yes.” A parental notification proposition is much narrower, with 47% planning to vote yes versus 44%.

A lot of interesting numbers today, starting with the internal polls from PA-10 and FL-13. This is why internal polls have to be taken with a grain of salt - there is a 23% difference between Carney’s survey and SUSA’s numbers. But notice that there is only a 5% difference between Carney’s percentage in both of these polls, which is what we should take away here: Carney is slightly ahead, but he is also hovering around 50%. The same is true of FL-13, where the race leans towards Buchanan (despite the fact that Jennings might very well have won in 2006) but an independent poll might find different results.

As for FL-21, it features a furious party for the control of South Florida, along with FL-18 and FL-25. Demographic changes in the region are putting all these seats in play and Democrats have already reserved plenty of time in the South Miami media market. This is now the second poll to find Lincoln Diaz-Balart in a difficult position. A Bendixen poll released in early July had him leading 41% to 37%. It is interesting that Democrats have managed to put this in play despite the fact that the GOP retains strong support among the Cuban community.

Obama gets better polling day, leads in NM, NV and PA; mixed results in Florida

[Updated with lots and lots of late afternoon polls] It will take a few days to determine what impact if any the Democratic convention and Hillary’s speech has on her supporters - and it’s questionable whether we’ll ever have a clear answer given that this convention will immediately lead into the GOP veepstakes and the Republican convention, muddying any polling that will be done over the next ten days. But these surveys give us a clearer idea of the state of the race prior to this two week craziness, as all but the two trackings were taken before the start of the convention.

In particular, CNN just released a wave of polls from four key swing state. That means that today’s poll roundup includes a poll from each of the Big Three and a poll from each of the three Western battlegrounds! Quite a treat:

  • In Florida (polling history), Strategic Vision shows McCain up 49% to 42%; the institute’s prior poll had McCain leading by 8% in July, so the trend line isn’t as worrisome for Obama as the raw numbers.
  • Late update: In another poll from Florida, this one conducted by Mason Dixon, Obama gets 45% to McCain’s 44%. Obama gets 74% of Democrats, McCain 78% of Republicans. Important note: the poll was conducted on the 25th and the 26th - meaning voters were contacted after the first night of the convention.
  • In Ohio (polling history), Akron University has the race tied at 40%. The survey was taken entirely before Hillary’s speech, and it has Obama at a shocking 45% among Clinton voters. 29% support McCain - but he is still tied. As I have been saying for months, if Obama finally solidifies his base and captures registered Democrats, he would be nearly unbeatable.
  • In Pennsylvania (polling history), that CNN poll has Obama leading 48% to 43%. As with the three other CNN polls, this was taken after Obama announced he was picking Biden.
  • In New Mexico (polling history), CNN finds Obama crushing McCain with his biggest lead yet - 53% to 40%.
  • In Nevada, CNN has Obama leading 49% to 44%.
  • The race is much closer in Colorado (polling history), with CNN showing McCain at 47% and Obama at 46%. This is the only one of the four states that has a lead within the margin of error.
  • And in Rhode Island, a poll by Brown University has Obama leading 51% to 30%.
  • Two SUSA polls tested the Obama-McCain race in congressional districts as part of House polls (see below for the congressional numbers). In CO-04, a district Bush won by 17%, McCain only leads by 2%. In PA-10, a district Bush won by 20%, McCain only leads by 9%. If Obama keeps up these margins he could do great in both PA and CO on November 4th.
  • Now national polls: Today’s tracking numbers have trend lines in opposite directions but agree that it is as tight as can be: Rasmussen has McCain gaining a point and leading 47% to 46% while Gallup has Obama gaining 3% and erase the 2% lead McCain had yesterday.
  • And finally, a national poll released by Hotline has Obama leading 44% to 40%. It was conducted through the entirety of last week.

CNN’s Western polls are diametrically opposed to those Mason Dixon released over the week-end. The Mason Dixon surveys showed Obama leading in Colorado, while McCain was up in New Mexico and Nevada. But only in NV did we see a lead outside of the MoE. The CO numbers are perfectly compatible and the tightness is confirmed by nearly all recent polling data from the state (that is a disappointment for Obama who led in every single poll in that state until July 24th).

As for NM, it is worth pointing out that Mason Dixon’s numbers were somewhat surprising since most polls released from the state (and I admit they have been rare) have shown Obama leading. If CNN’s poll is anywhere close to right, that would have major consequences on the electoral map: Combined with Kerry states and with Iowa - which is clearly leaning in Obama’s direction - NM would put Obama at 264 electoral votes, 5 away from a tie.

As for the Big Three, these polls confirm what we already know: PA leans left, FL leans right and OH stays in the middle - though Obama would clearly receive a huge boost if he improves his share of Clinton voters. But a closer look at Florida is in order. Strategic Vision’s July poll came at a time most of the state’s surveys showed Obama gaining, but this month’s release is only slightly more Republican than the current average: the seven other FL polls that had been released in August until today all show McCain leading. It is hard to find a state with a clearer trendline over the past few weeks. That said, the Mason Dixon survey makes things more confusing (it is the first poll since the late July Quinnipiac to show Obama with any sort of lead).

Strategic Vision is in line with other surveys, but Mason Dixon is a more reliable polling outlet. If you average the two polls (which is not a very rigorous procedure), it gives McCain a narrow lead - which is pretty much what other polls are showing.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

  • In the North Carolina gubernatorial race, PPP finds Beverly Perdue up 42% to 37%. That’s down from the 9% lead she enjoyed in July, but it is in line with what most polls have been showing.
  • In PA-10, Rep. Chris Carney narrowly leads against Republican challenger Chris Hackett 49% to 45%. Carney has stronger support among Democrats and leads among independents - but the district’s Republican lean keeps the election tight.
  • IN CO-04, Rep. Musgrave trails Democratic challenger Betsy Markey 50% to 43% in a SUSA poll. Markey crushes Musgrove 59% to 29% among independents!

Both of these House races are rated toss-ups in my latest House ratings. Late 2006, PA-10 was among the seats the GOP was confident were lost in an anomaly and would be conquered back in 2008. Carney won largely based on the incumbent’s ethical problems with his mistress (who accused him of having choked her) and PA-10 remains a conservative district, meaning that Carney’s will have to swim against the presidential currents in his first re-election race. The poll shows that Republicans were right and Carney is very vulnerable - as is any incumbent with such a small lead and under 50%. Hackett is wealthy and will have enough money to contest this race.

But if Carney is in danger, what to say about Musgrave. The controversial and very conservative Colorado congresswoman has consistently under-performed in this Republican-leaning district. Now, McCain himself is underperforming, pointing to a fundamental shift in the district that might make it very difficult for Musgrave to win re-election. For any incumbent to poll at 43% is worrisome, and even more so for one that has a history of electoral vulnerability.

House: DCCC ups spending, and a crucial GOP primary in NH-01

Last month, the DCCC reserved millions of air time in a total of 51 districts, starting this fall. But that doesn’t mean that the Democrats’ very wealthy congressional committee has not already started spending on seats it believes could benefit from early investments. Over the past few days, the DCCC bought around $175,000 of radio ads in 10 districts: LA-06, NH-01, PA-10 are the three seats currently held by Democrats. ID-01, MI-07, MO-06, NM-01, NY-29, OH-15, and OH-16 are all seats the DCCC is looking to pick-up. The DCCC has also launched direct mail campaigns in IL-11 (bringing its total spending in this district to more than $80,000) and NJ-07.

It is difficult to look to much into the DCCC’s choices of which districts it is targeting with its radio ads, as this investment is a response to ads launched by the GOP-backing independent group Freedom’s Watch. However, it is interesting that some of the GOP-held districts on the list (starting with the two in which the DCCC is sending out direct mailers) are the most obvious targets of the 2008 cycle, those Democrats are the most confident they will pick-up. IL-11, NJ-07, NM-01, OH-15 and OH-16 are all open seats which Democrats have at least a 50:50 chance of winning. The quick spending pace in some of these districts might be an attempt to put them away early (IL-11, for instance).

What is particularly interesting about the DCCC’s expenditure in NH-01 is that Democrats listed Jeb Bradley as the candidate their ad will be criticizing. Jeb Bradley, the congressman who was defeated in 2006, is indeed running for his old seat back but he is facing a strong challenge by a more conservative candidate, John Stephen. That the DCCC is taking care of hitting Jeb Bradley is a reflection that (1) they are more worried about him and that (2) they expect him to win the Republican nomination.

While Democratic Rep. Shea-Porter is likely to face a tough race no matter who she faces, it looks like her chances would significantly improve if Stephen would to win the Republican nomination. A recent UNH poll showed Bradley leading Shea-Porter by 6% (a very dangerous place for an incumbent to be), while the Democrat outpaced Stephen by the same margin. While that can be explained by Bradley’s superior name recognition, the former congressman’s more moderate profile would help Republicans win in New Hampshire.

The September 9th primary could thus prove crucial to Shea-Porter’s survival. And while it would be an upset for Stephen to win his party’s nod, that has looked increasingly plausible in the past few days. First, state Treasurer Jenkins’s victory over former Rep. Ryun in KS-02 suggested that congressmen seeking their old posts back are not automatic shoo-ins for the November ballot. Second, the powerful and conservative New Hampshire Union Leader endorsed Stephen in a strongly-worded editorial that blasted Bradley for his spending habits and praises Stephen for his fiscal conservatism: “If you want to see John Stephen get excited, ask him about wasteful government spending. He hates it the way most Red Sox fans hate the Yankees — with a genuine passion.”

The Union Leader prides itself for having political influence and writes front page editorials; they endorsed McCain early this fall and spent weeks blasting Mitt Romney - paving the way for McCain’s come-from-behind triumph. That they are endorsing Stephen a month before the primary suggests they are looking to use their influence to help him win.

Finally, in AL-02, I mentioned on Friday that Democratic candidate Bright had released an internal poll showing him leading 50% to 40%. His opponent Jay Love released an internal poll of his own over the week-end:

  • Taken in mid-July by McLaughlin & Associates, Love’s poll has him narrowly ahead 41% to 39%. The poll also finds McCain leading Obama 55% to 30% in the district.

Two differences exist between these polls: The first is that Love’s pollster pushed undecideds far less than Bright’s pollster - so the campaigns think either that undecideds are more likely to break towards Bright or that he has a higher name-recognition that will be offset by Election Day. The second is that Bright’s poll was taken last week, whereas Love’s was taken a few days after his victory in the primary runoff and Love might have been benefiting from a primary bounce.

Congressional polls, and happy incumbents

  • KY-Sen: Is McConnell still vulnerable?

Few incumbents have done more over the past few months to improve a precarious situation than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. After poll after poll showed his approval rating collapsing and his barely leading potential Democratic opponents in head-to-head matchups, McConnell started began to run ads touting his record and his tenure as Minority Leader.

Boosted by the millions he has in the bank (and that he can raise easily given his high-profile position in DC), McConnell realized he needed to move fast to quash speculation that he was vulnerable. And he got his first success when the two challengers that were being the most talked-up, Treasurer Luallen and AG Stumbo, both announced that they would not run. Attorney Andrew Horne followed that up by jumping in the race, but he still has to show he has what it takes to defeat a Senate Minority Leader.

Now, McConnell has released an internal poll that shows him with a booming approval rating at 61%. Furthermore, McConnell would beat four Democrats by at least 15%, including Andrew Horne and other potential candidates. Those results are not entirely depressing for Democrats given the low name recognition of McConnell’s rivals, but it is obviously very difficult for a little-known challenger to raise his profile against a powerful opponent who has a lot of money at his disposal.

Yet, there are questions as to how SUSA also just released its own approval rating poll . It shows the incumbent at only 49% — definitely dangerous territory for an incumbent, albeit a small improvement from the fall. So it will all depend on how much resources the DSCC is willing to devote to the race; with other second-tier contests like Nebraska falling through for now, Senate Democrats are looking to expand the map beyond the contests that are already competitive to force the GOP to defend seats it hoped would be safe and abandon more marginal states.

The situation does not look as good for Democrats than it did in October-November, but this is a state we will be watching closely.

  • PA-10: Carney surprisingly strong

PA-10 is one of the most Republican districts picked-up by a Democrat in 2006; Rep. Chris Carney surged ahead because of allegations against the incumbent Republican that he had choked his mistress. The GOP has vowed to reclaim the seat this year and to make Carney one of its prime targets. Yet, a poll taken in December suggests that Carney is in better shape than we would expect.

He not only gets high approval rating (58%) but he also beats his two rivals (Chris Hackett and Dan Meuser) by at least 30%. The poll was conducted by a Democratic firm but not for Carney himself, so it does not appear to be what is commonly called an “internal poll.”

The reason for Carney’s strength in a district Bush won with 60% in 2004 is the president’s unpopularity, as his approval rating is only at 45%. And this is a dynamic the GOP will have to deal with across the very red districts Democrats picked-up in 2006. Whether OH-18, TX-22 CA-11, or PA-10, the NRCC cannot just expect these seats to come back to them given that the national mood is still as toxic for the GOP than it was during the midterms, and that could allow incumbents most people expected to be one-timers to survive.

The problem for Democrats, however, is that by next November the Republican Party will be defined less by Bush than by the presidential nominee. And why the GOP will not escape from its current unpopularity that easily it could still provide a boost to Republican candidates in districts like this who need to find a way to not look like Bush’s ground soldiers. In a presidential year with a new leader of the party, Republicans are hoping they will succeed in doing just that. It’s up to Democrats to not let the GOP get away with that and to hang Bush’s tenure around their neck.

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