Archive for the 'SC-Sen' Category

Senate: A drop-out, a quasi-drop out and a confusing about-face

Louisiana: Honore supposedly backs down from Vitter challenge

Who even knew there were this many Louisiana Republicans who were high-profile enough to be credible primary challengers to a sitting Senator? At this point, we have more GOPers than Democrats who have thought about jumping in this race, which really tells you all you need to know about the state’s political situation. Over the past year, Tony Perkins, former Rep. John Cooksey and former Senate candidate Suzanne Haik Terrell all looked like they would enter the race - but all backed down within days of their names surfacing. (Secretary of State Jay Dardenne is still considering it.)

It has now happened again: Reports last week indicated that retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who led the Army’s efforts in the aftermath of Katrina, was leaning towards challenging Vitter in the Republican primary. Honore moved to quell speculation today, insisting that this buzz is “all about speculation and rumors,” that “no one’s talking to me about running for Senate” and that he doesn’t even have a partisan affiliation. “As of this time, I’m not running for any political office,” he said.

Yet, Honore could have issued an infinitely more emphatic denial had he wanted to. His use of the qualifier “as of this time” is typical political parlance used to evade offering a definite answer (see Cuomo, Mario) and it ensures that Honore’s statement is perfectly meaningless: Yes, of course he is not running for anything as of this time. The question is if he will do so in a few months, namely when he finalizes his return to Louisiana. And the terms rumor and speculation don’t tell us much either, since neither rumors nor speculation are necessarily wrong.

What happens in the Republican primary matters a great deal for Democrats as well: Much of Vitter’s vulnerability comes from the D.C. Madam scandal he was involved in, but poll numbers suggest he has managed to get voters to put that behind him. If Vitter faces a primary, the 2007 events are sure to be revisited at great length; by the time Vitter gets around to facing Melancon, voters would have the D.C. Madam fresh on their mind - making the Democrats’ task that much easier. Otherwise,it’s tough to see Vitter enter the compressed general election period vulnerable enough for Melancon to have a good shot.

South Carolina: Will anyone take on DeMint?

Whatever small chance Democrats had of unseating South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint looks to be evaporating. The ultraconservative Republican is helped not only by his state’s right-wing bent but also by the dismally thin Democratic bench. With the few Democrats who can hope to win statewide eying the open Governor’s race and Inez Tenenbaum’s move to Washington, all eyes had turned to state Senator Brad Hutto as the DSCC’s only viable hope.

As one of 46 state Senators, Hutto obviously lacked the profile to make a formidable challenger. But having served since 1996, he has had the time to build enough political connections that the prospect of his candidacy was taken seriously by national Democrats: Hutto had already met with DSCC officials, which is how his name surfaced as a potential contender in the first place. (In third tier races like this one, it’s difficult to foresee any movement unless national parties are willing to get minimally involved, give their blessing to a contender to make him credible in the eyes of donors and possibly even consider some ad buys to test the incumbent’s vulnerability.)

With Mark Sanford’s scandal weighing down state Republicans, 2010 might have provided an opening for state Democrats. But it does not look like DeMint has much to worry about.

Colorado: What just happened?

Last week, The Denver Post reported that Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck was going to announce his exit from the Colorado Senate race yesterday… only to change his mind in the morning and issue a statement reasserting his candidacy and warning national Republicans not to interfere with state politics. “While other candidates may still jump in the Senate race, one thing is clear — our party’s nominee will be chosen by Colorado’s grassroots Republicans, not by political operatives in Washington D.C,” said his statement.

Translation: Former Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton, whose name suddenly surfaced two weeks ago, should not count on having an easy ride through the Republican nomination. If reports of Buck’s exit suggested that Norton was indeed on the verge of entering the race and that the GOP establishment was simply trying to clear up the field for her (remember that Bob Beauprez unexpectedly said he would not run last week), Buck’s defiant statement is just as clear an indication that we should expect Norton to enter the race. And if she does, it looks like we might have to add Colorado to the growing list of states in which local conservatives are in an open feud with the NRSC.

(Of course, the Colorado landscape is further complicated by the prospect of Andrew Romanoff challenging Michael Bennet in the Democratic primary. But since that buzz is also based on a Denver Post report, let’s wait for Romanoff to make a more public move before analyzing that match-up.)

Poll watch: Obama up in pre-debate trackings, McConnell and Porter in danger

As we now wait to see whether the first debate will move any numbers (and perhaps fulfill the 1980 parallel I have talked about before), any presidential poll released this week-end should be seen as a baseline to see whether either candidate receives a bounce since most will have been in the field before the debate. That’s why we will exceptionally start with some down-the-ballot surveys in today’s poll watch:

  • In what is the most shocking of the day’s polls, Mason Dixon finds the Kentucky Senate race is a dead heat: McConnell leads 45% to 44%, and the race is tied when leaners are not included.
  • In more good news for Southern Democrats, Rasmussen shows Mary Landrieu cruising. She leads John Kennedy 54% to 41% in what is one of the least polled Senate races of the cycles. Landrieu led by 17% in August.
  • McCain’s best friend Lindsay Graham leads 51% to 42% against “Democrat” Bob Conley in a Research 2000 poll of South Carolina’s Senate race.
  • In what is the day’s most instructive new House poll, an incumbent Republican (NV-03’s Porter) released an internal poll in which he only leads 41% to 39%. This is a response to Dona Titus’s survey earlier this week that showed her leading by 9%.
  • In CA-04, a Research 2000 poll finds Democrat Charlie Brown with a narrow lead over Tom McClintock, 46% to 41%. This is a very conservative district, and an open seat.
  • In FL-13, an internal poll for the Jennings campaign finds the Democrat trailing Rep. Buchanan 44% to 40%.
  • In MI-07, Tim Walberg released an internal poll showing him leading 50% to 40% to contest the internal released by his opponent two days ago which showed him trailing by 6%. But Walberg’s poll only sampled 300 voters, with a very large margin of error of 5.7%.
  • For those interested in the crucial battle for New York’s state Senate, Siena polled six of the most competitive districts (how often do we see independent polls released for state legislature races) and finds that Democrats are in a good position to finally take the majority but that Republicans have a fighting chance.
  • Also, SUSA finds that California voters approve 52% to 36% of a proposition that would institute a 48-hour waiting period for minors to have an abortion after their parents are told.

Any time an incumbent thinks that it is a good thing to be getting 41% in an internal poll, you know that they are in real trouble. Porter’s internal is as damning for him than Titus’s internal poll was the other day because it shows that Porter’s campaign is now so worried that he is falling behind that they are looking to celebrate a poll with a 5% margin of error that shows their candiate stuck in the low 40s.

But the day’s most important congressional survey is undoubtedly Mason Dixon’s shocker from Kentucky’s Senate race. Early this week, SUSA released a poll that found a 3% race, which led me to wonder whether Democrats could make Kentucky into their 10th competitive seat. Mason Dixon’s survey answers in the affirmative, and the Senate Minority Leader is finding himself in a real fight. The DSCC has not yet invested in the race, probably since Lunsford can take care of himself and self-fund his campaign; but McConnell remains a formidable candidate with a large war chest and an entrenched incumbent with a well-oiled machine, so national Democrats would probably need to get involved at some point. Also, Lunsford will have to overcome the coattails of the presidential race, which were fatal to Mongiardo in 2004.

But however much Democrats still have work to do, Kentucky’s emergence as a tight battleground in the Senate battle is very worrisome news for the GOP.

Meanwhile, in presidential polling:

  • The day’s trackings were favorable to Obama, though even Friday night’s samples were almost entirely taken before the presidential debate. And for once, all trackings show very similar results! Obama leads by 5% in Gallup (49% to 44%) and Diego Hotline (48% to 43%), by 6% in Rasmussen (50% to 44%) and Research 2000 (49% to 43%).
  • Obama leads 51% to 43% in a Rasmussen poll of Iowa. He led by 5% last month.
  • Obama leads 54% to 38% in a SUSA poll of Connecticut.

These tracking polls might not tell us much about the reaction to the debate, but they underscore that (1) McCain doesn’t appear to have benefited from his Wednesday afternoon gamble, and (2) that it was important it was for McCain to score a game-changer last night. He needed to do what John Kerry succeeded in doing in 2004, when Kerry went in the debate trailing widely and managed to close the gap thanks to the first debate, entering October in a very competitive position. I don’t believe (and neither did the first snap polls) that he succeeded in doing so.

Poll watch: Obama seizes edge in CO; Sununu leads in second poll ever

A deluge of state and national polls has some good news for both candidates - but Barack Obama continues to accumulate better results and inch ahead in some of the most crucial battleground states. First, Obama is ahead in all of the day’s national polls, though the margin varies from 1% (Ipsos/McClatchy) to 9% (ABC/Washington Post). Two surveys have Obama leading by 2% (NBC/WSJ and Rasmussen) and two other have him ahead by 6% (Fox News and Diego Hotline).

To get some sense out of today’s sometimes contrasting state results, let’s take a look at which polls from swing states are finding leads outside of the margin of error - the most important of which is Colorado, from which we got three new polls today alone. The past three polls had found Obama leading outside of the margin of error; two of today’s surveys (CNN/Time and Insider Advantage) find the same result. And while Obama’s lead is within the MoE in Rasmussen’s Colorado poll, he still gains 5% in one week, a clear shift towards the Democrat.

That Obama is inching ahead in Colorado is especially significant as Obama leads comfortably in CNN/Time’s new surveys from Michigan and Pennsylvania. If Obama keeps those two large Kerry states, his picking up Colorado would make it very difficult for McCain to win the election - before we even get to Ohio, Virginia or Florida. And perhaps also West Virginia, a state Obama is not competing in for now but where yet another poll shows a smaller than expected margin. Obama also has a large lead in Iowa and Washington, and leads outside of the margin of error in a New Hampshire survey.

That said, McCain gets good news from New Hampshire as well, as he is narrowly ahead in a poll there for the second time this week - but both his leads are well within the margin of error. He also has a narrow lead in Florida and Virginia. He also has a small lead in a Michigan poll from an unknown firm. The best news for McCain today comes from the large lead he has in CNN/Time’s poll of Montana - numbers from that state have been all over the place, but it does seem that the Republican is in a better position in that state than he used to be.

  • Obama leads 48% to 46% in a NBC/Wall Street Journal national poll. This is a minimal improvement over Obama’s 1% lead two weeks ago.
  • Obama leads 45% to 39% in a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics national poll. McCain led by 3% two weeks ago, so this is a 9% swing towards Obama. A high 29% of independents are undecided. Two dynamics that we saw in the ABC poll as well: Obama gains among Democrats and independents shift quite significantly away from McCain. And just like the ABC poll, Palin’s favorability decreases, from 54-27 two weeks ago to 47-36 (42-30 among independents). 47% say McCain is unfairly attacking Obama; 36% say the same about Obama (among independents, 49% think McCain is being unfair, 30% say the same about Obama).
  • Obama leads 49% to 45% in a LAT/Bloomberg national poll, outside of the 3% margin of error. But among registered voters, Obama leads 46% to 44%. One key internal in favor of McCain: He keeps a solid lead among independents, 49% to 34%. Also, Obama is dismally low among Clinton backers - 62%.
  • Meanwhile, tracking polls once again all show Obama ahead: Rasmussen has Obama gaining 2% to seize a 2% lead, Gallup has Obama’s lead stable at 3%. Obama leads 48% to 44% in Research 2000 and jumps to a 6% lead in Diego Hotline - his largest ever in that tracking.
  • Obama leads 51% to 47% in a CNN/Time poll of Colorado. McCain led by 1% in late August, and Obama’s lead is outside of the 3.5% margin of error. Obama leads by 6% among registered voters.
  • Obama leads 50% to 41% in an Insider Advantage poll of Colorado. IA found Obama surging to a 10% lead last month, a result that seemed like an outlier at first but two other firms (PPP and Quinnipiac) have found Obama leading outside of the MoE since then.
  • Obama leads 50% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of Colorado. McCain led by 2% last week.
  • Obama leads 53% to 44% in a CNN/Time poll of Pennsylvania. Obama led by 5% in late August. In a four-way race with Nader and Barr, Obama leads by 8%, with 3% for Nader.
  • McCain leads 47% to 44% in a Mason Dixon poll of Virginia. Obama gets 55% in Northern Virginia, McCain leads Hamptons Road 48% to 44%.
  • McCain leads 48% to 45% in a Strategic Vision poll of Florida; that lead is just within the MoE. McCain led by 7% two weeks ago.
  • Obama leads 51% to 46% in a CNN/Time poll of Michigan. He led by 4% in late August. In a five-way race, Obama leads by 6%; he also leads by 6% among registered voters.
  • McCain leads 46% to 43% in a MRG Lassing poll of Michigan. I have not heard of this firm before, and the margin of error is 4%.
  • McCain leads 50% to 46% in a CNN/Time poll of West Virginia. In a four-way race with Nader and Barr, McCain leads by 5% and Nader gets 5%.
  • Obama leads 51% to 41% in a Marist poll of Iowa. He leads by 5% before leaners are included.
  • Obama leads 51% to 45% in a Marist poll of New Hampshire. He leads by only 3% among registered voters.
  • McCain leads 49% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of New Hampshire. Rasmussen found Obama leading by 1% last month, 8% in July and 11% in June.
  • Obama leads 47% to 45% in a Nevada poll by Democratic firms Myers Research/Grove Insight.
  • Obama jumps to a 54% to 43% lead in a SUSA poll of Washington. Obama’s edge had fallen to only 4% two weeks ago, so this is a return to form for the Democrat. Obama slightly expands his lead among both independents and Democrats.
  • McCain leads 58% to 39% in a SUSA poll of South Carolina.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

  • Sen. Sununu captures a surprising 52% to 45% lead in a Rasmussen poll of New Hampshire’s Senate race. Shaheen led by 11% in August. This is only the second time ever Sununu has led - the first was an ARG poll from December 2007 that was contradicted by other polls in the field and by ARG’s next poll that had Shaheen back up by 14%.
  • Mark Udall only leads 46% to 44% in a Rasmussen poll of Colorado’s Senate race. Udall led by 7% last month.
  • Jay Nixon leads Kenny Hulshof 50% to 43% in a Research 2000 poll of Missouri’s gubernatorial race. Nixon led by 17% in July.
  • Christine Gregoire leads Dino Rossi 50% to 48% in a SUSA poll of Washington’s gubernatorial race. SUSA points out that this is the 7th poll in a row to find Gregoire and Rossi within the margin of error.
  • Two polls from North Carolina’s gubernatorial race, both within the margin of error: Perdue leads 44% to 43% in PPP’s poll, with 6% for libertarian candidate Munger. McCrory leads 43% to 41% in the Civitas poll, with 3% for Munger (this is the first time McCrory has led in Civitas).
  • Sen. Graham leads 54% to 40% in a SUSA poll of South Carolina’s Senate race.
  • In NH-02, Rep. Hodes released an internal poll showing him leading 50% to 32% after a GOP internal poll released yesterday had him leading by only 4%. Hodes’ numbers are much closer to independent polling we have seen, and NH-02 is still as unlikely to be competitive.

Rasmussen brought some unexpectedly good news for Senate Republicans - particularly in New Hampshire. The GOP have been waiting for months to see whether Sununu could pull a come-back, and this poll certainly suggests that there is some movement towards the incumbent, especially as it comes in the heels of a UNH survey finding Shaheen’s lead down to 4%. That said, it is difficult to believe Sununu is now ahead (and that he benefits form an 18% swing in one month). This is only the second poll ever to find Sununu ahead, and the first since last December. And it’s not like Shaheen is only ahead by a few points - she typically leads well outside of the margin of error. That is enough to win her the benefit of the doubt here.

Poll watch: Dead heats in Michigan, Florida as NC poll finds second tie ever; Hagan leads

There are now enough polls released every day that it becomes difficult to find a consistent trend out of all the noise. Or perhaps there is no trend to be observed other than the race’s continuing tightness. Of the four Florida and Michigan polls that were released over the past 36 hours, all are well within the margin of error.

That said, both candidates have good news in today’s poll delivery. For McCain, staying so close in Michigan in polls taken during the financial crisis is a testament to how big an opportunity this state continues to be for him. And McCain has leads outside of the MoE in Ohio and Missouri today, though the latter is not such an unqualified blessing: the GOP was hoping to be close to closing the deal by late September, but a 4% margin is not going to dissuade Obama from competing in the Show Me State. And yet another poll finds that McCain can breath easier in North Dakota.

For Obama, staying so close in Florida is a relief given that numerous polls have found McCain gaining since early August. We saw last week that McCain is now spending more than a million dollars a week in the Sunshine State, something the GOP once thought it could avoid. And Obama’s double-digit lead in Iowa confirms that the state’s 7 electoral votes are increasingly solid in his column: This is the third poll in the past two weeks to find Obama leading by double-digit (after SUSA and Selzer & Co). Finally, North Carolina’s PPP poll is only the second ever (after Rasmussen’s April poll) to find a tie. At the very least, this forces the GOP to continue pouring money in the state - something they have been doing this month.

On to the day’s full roundup:

  • The tracking polls are showing a stabilizing race: Obama took a 48% to 47% advantage in Rasmussen yesterday (his first lead in 10 days) and maintained it today; Research 2000 found Obama up 8% yesterday, and up 7% (49-42) today. Diego Hotline has Obama leading 45% to 44% for the third straight day, and Gallup showed Obama increasing his lead to 6% yesterday (hitting 50 for only the second time ever) but back down to a 49% to 45% advantage today.
  • Obama leads 43% to 42% in an EPIC-MRA poll of Michigan. Obama led by 2% in July and August. When respondents are presented with a full-ticket match-up, Obama leads 45% to 42%. The poll was conducted Sunday through Wednesday.
  • Obama leads 48% to 46% in an ARG poll of Michigan. He leads among independents but is relatively weak among Democrats.
  • McCain leads 47% to 45% in a Miami Herald poll of Florida. It was conducted Sunday through Wednesday. Obama has a 9% edge on the economy. McCain gets 17% of former Clinton supporters.
  • McCain leads 48% to 42% in a Ohio News Organization of Ohio. The poll is somewhat dated - it was taken the 12th to the 16th. 19% of independents are undecided.
  • The candidates are tied at 46% in PPPs poll from North Carolina. Bob Barr gets 5%. Only once before had there been a tie in North Carolina (Rasmussen’s April survey). 58% of respondents rate the economy as their biggest concern. The poll was conducted from the 17th to the 19th.
  • Obama leads 53% to 39% in a Research 2000 poll of Iowa. Obama leads by 18% among independents.
  • McCain leads 49% to 45% in a Research 2000 poll of Missouri. In the July poll, Obama led by 5% - but that was somewhat of an outlier.
  • McCain leads 53% to 40% in a Research 2000 poll of North Dakota. He led by only 3% in July.
  • Obama leads only 50% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll of Maine. There is no breakdown by district, but if Obama cannot win statewide by a larger margin he would be in danger of losing the first district’s EV.
  • McCain leads 51% to 45% in a Rasmussen poll of South Carolina, a surprisingly close result.
  • Obama leads 54% to 43% in an ARG poll of Connecticut.
  • Obama leads 54% to 39% in an ARG poll of Maryland.
  • McCain leads 59% to 36% in an ARG poll of Tennessee. Obama gets 27% of the white vote.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

  • Kay Hagan leads Elizabeth Dole 46% to 41% in PPPs poll of North Carolina’s Senate race. She led by 1% last week.
  • Chris Shays and Jim Himes are tied at 45% in an internal poll for the Himes campaign in CT-04.
  • Sam Graves leads Kay Barnes 51% to 42% in a SUSA poll of MO-06.
  • Jim Risch leads Larry LaRocco 56% to 33% in a Research 2000 poll of Idaho’s Senate race, a clear improvement over his 10% lead in July.
  • Lindsay Graham leads 50% to 41% in a Rasmussen poll of South Carolina’s Senate race. This was accompanied by an improbably tight presidential survey, so take the tightness here with a grain of salt as well.

This is the second time Hagan is posting a 5% lead, testifying to how unpredictable that Senate race has become given that other surveys are still showing Dole ahead. This is a race in which the presidential coattails will play a crucial factor. It’s unlikely Hagan can win if McCain wins in a blowout, but she would look very strong if Obama is within 2-3% of McCain.

Today’s polls also find more worrisome news for down-the-ballot Democrats, starting with Graves’ expanding his lead in MO-06, in what is one of the Democrats’ most coveted seats. We have seen this trend for a few weeks now: Democrats are not improving their position in the second-and-third tier races, the ones that would transform a strong congressional night into an amazing one.

Polls: Obama up 9 in Quinnipiac, 8 in WaPo, 6 in NYT; Landrieu, Udall lead GOP opponents

After yesterday’s flurry of state polls, the main presidential survey of the day comes from Quinnipiac’s national numbers: Obama leads 50% to McCain’s 41% based on a 19% advantage among women and a 94% to 1% lead among African-Americans. This is a larger lead than we have seen in the past few national polls.While McCain isn’t expected to do well among black voters, getting an abysmal 1% would be a catastrophe for him in a number of states.

[Update: Two new national polls were released late afternoon:

  • Washington Post/ABC: Obama leads 50% to 42% among registered voters. Among all adults, Obama leads by 12%; among likely voters, he is up 49% to 46%. The poll identifies Obama's weakness as foreign affairs, as 63% of voters think McCain has a better knowledge of world affairs, versus 26% for Obama. They also trust McCain more to handle a major crisis.
  • New York Times/CBS: Obama leads 45% to 39%. This poll explored racial differences in public opinion, finding for instance that only 34% of whites think race relations are in bad shape, versus 60% of blacks. And the poll finds that only 30% and 24% of whites have a favorable opinion of Barack and of Michelle.]

A key finding in the Quinnipiac poll is that Obama and McCain have the same lead among registered Democrats and registered Republicans, respectively. Among independents, the two are tied at 44%. Yet, Obama has a large lead. What does that tell us? What I have been saying quite often by now: The shifts in partisan identification means that all Obama needs to do is secure his Democratic base and not fall too far behind among independents — a key difference with 2004 and the reason moving to the center seems to me like a strategic blunder.

Quinnipiac also finds that Obama leads 57% to 35% in blue states (those that voted for Kerry by more than 5% in 2004) though McCain is only up 47% to 44% in red states. In states in which the election was within 5% four years ago, Obama crushes his rival 50% to 39%. This confirms what we have been seeing over the past few weeks at the state level: the epicenter of the electoral college battle is moving in red territory, with marginally blue states looking solid for Obama and marginally red states looking like true battlegrounds.

Case-in-point in today’s PPP poll from South Carolina, one of the most solidly red states of the South:

  • McCain leads Obama 45% to 39%, with 5% for Bob Barr. Obama’s lead among black voters is 77% to 10% and he can expect to increase that share.

Yes, summer polls are probably overstating Barr’s support, making McCain look weaker than he ought to be. But there is no question that a single-digit lead in South Carolina is disturbing news for the Republican. After all, while Demcrats entertain hopes of flipping VA, NC and perhaps even GA and (some dream) MS, South Carolina just seems to be even more out-of-reach. Can Obama’s campaign force McCain to be this much on the defensive?

Also note a fun Rasmussen poll that was released today that pits Obama and McCain against others. While Obama leads McCain by only 2%, he would lead Bush 54% to 34%, which is not surprising but still shocking. He also leads Romney by 8% and Huckabee by 11%. As for McCain, he would fare more poorly against other Dems: Clinton leads by 8% and Gore by 7%.

The day’s other polls come from congressional and gubernatorial races:

  • In the Colorado Senate race, PPP found Mark Udall leading Bob Schaffer 47% to 38%.
  • In the Louisiana Senate race, Rasmussen shows Mary Landrieu with a narrow lead over John Kennedy, 51% to 45%. That’s an improvement for Landrieu over last month, when she was ahead 47% to 44%.
  • In Missouri’s gubernatorial race, Jay Nixon shows no sign of weakening as he leads his Republican competitors 52% to 35% (against Hulshof) and 53% to 34% (against Steelman).
  • And in Washington’s gubernatorial race, Rasmussen finds incumbent Christine Gregoire leading Dino Rossi 49% to 43%.
  • Update: As a commenter amicably points out, the Rossi campaign released an internal poll conducted by Moore Information that has the two candidates tied at 45%.
  • And in Michigan’s uncompetitive Senate race, Carl Levin still crushes his opponent. In South Carolina, Lindsay Graham is 22% ahead of his opponent, a “Democrat” who seems to be much more of a Republican (literally).

None of these results are surprising: In Colorado, Udall has pulled ahead and other institutes have found him leading by the same 9-10% margin. Louisiana’s race promises to remain tight to the end but Landrieu remains ahead — albeit by consistently narrow margins. The most recent poll, for instance, found her down to a 6% lead, the same result as Rasmussen. Democrats should at least be reassured that Kennedy is not an unknown and thus should has less room to grow than the average challenger.

As for the gubernatorial races, Nixon is now regularly ahead by very significant margins because of a combination of an intense GOP primary and of the Democratic fundamentals of the year that make open seats that ought to be toss-up lean blue from the get-go. And Washington’s race remains tight: not much has changed since 2004 but Gregoire’s party identification and the power of incumbency give Gregoire an advantage.

Finally, two House polls were released yesterday — but they were both internal polls, so take them with a grain of salt:

  • In PA-03, an internal poll for the Democratic candidate Kathy Dahlkemper shows her leading incumbent Phil English 41% to 40%.
  • In OH-16, an internal poll for the Republican candidate Kirk Schuring finds him leading Democrat John Boccieri 40% to 34%.

Both set of numbers go against the conventional wisdom. While Rep. English is believed to be vulnerable in a swing district, his district is rarely included in the top tier of House races. If Dahlkemper has already fored English in a toss-up, it could be the beginning of the end for House Republicans. As for OH-16, this open seat is generally believed to be leaning Democratic: It is a tight district and Boccieri is one of the Republican’s top recruits. The fact that undecideds have not been pushed that much helps Schuring here and is the mark of the poll having been taken for his campaign: The Democrats’ strength in 2006 was that a large number of independents were behaving as Democrats, an effect that is muted when a poll keeps such a large number of undecideds .

OR-heavy down-ballot thread: Sen. Smith touts Dem endorsements and GOP House candidate hit by abortion scandal

Running for re-election in liberal-leaning Oregon, Gordon Smith has long known that he will have to fight hard to win re-election. Though Democrats threw him a lifeline by failing to recruit one of their strongest candidates, their nominee Jeff Merkley is solid enough to keep the race competitive. Smith has been preparing for more than a year by moving towards the center on enough issues to coherently argue that he is no Bush lackey, particularly on the Iraq War: Smith was one of the first Republicans to break with the Administration and start critiquing the war effort — though his new ad is disingenuously forcing that trait by describing him as “one of the first to stand up to George Bush and other Republicans to end this war.”

This latest ad features a Democratic state representative and a Democratic state Senator endorsing the Republican Senator, praising him for his bipartisanship:

Keep in mind that while Bush is certainly very unpopular in Oregon, this is not the bluest state in the country we are talking about. The extent to which Smith is trying to shake off the GOP label and claim the bipartisan mantle is remarkable and revealing of how much trouble Republican incumbents are in this year solely because of their party’s dismal ratings. And the fact that elected Democratic officials are willing to participate in his advertisement efforts speaks to the fact that the Oregon Democratic Party has not really gotten its act together. Smith has led in all polls of the race, though his advantage is within single-digits and he comes in under 50% — a sure sign of vulnerability. Given Al Franken’s troubles in MN, the DSCC is sure to devote as much resources to this race as necessary.

Meanwhile, Oregon Republicans are letting the open seat of OR-05 slip out of their hands despite it being one of only two competitive Democratic-held open seats. You might remember that, back in May, Mike Erickson was viciously attacked by his primary opponent Kevin Manni for having paid his girlfriend’s abortion years ago. Right to Life blasted Erickson immediately, but all that drama unfolded too late to damage Erickson in a state in which most voters sent their ballot in early via mail. Erickson prevailed in the primary, leading Democrats to rejoice that the GOP had nominated a candidate too damaged to be competitive in the general and some Republicans are refusing to support Erickson.

Now, the woman whose abortion Erickson allegedly paid for has been contacted by the Oregonian and she confirms Mannix’s story. She reveals being particularly angered by Erickson’s denying the story and his attempts at campaigning as a pro-lifer: “Tawnya, a registered Republican, said she received a campaign flier with a photo of Erickson next to a baby, touting his endorsement by the anti-abortion group Oregon Right to Life. The mailer made him out to be “some sort of safe haven for babies, and honestly, it made me sick,” she said.” Erickson denies the story entirely — but this isn’t going to help his already rocky relationship with local conservative activists.

In other — tragic — House news, the candidate endorsed by the Staten Island GOP to run for Vito Fossella’s House seat in NY-13 passed away yesterday. The Republican Party turned to Powers on May 29th after a slate of potential GOP candidates declined to run for this Republican-held seat, in a reflection of the long odds the party faces in keeping its last New York City seat. The GOP will now presumably reconvene to endorse another candidate, and the names of some candidates who had previously declined to run (starting with state Sen. Lanza) are being mentioned again. Democratic candidate Michael McMahon was already favored to win this seat that has now gone through months of unexpected and at times tragic news.

Moving on to the Senate, South Carolina was never on anyone’s list of vulnerable Senate seats, but a party always likes to have some sort of credible challenger in case the incumbent has a meltdown, commits a huge blunder or has some senior moment (see Kentucky in 2004 and Virginia in 2006). Well, it turns out that SC Democrats might have nominated… a Republican to take on Senator Lindsay Graham. Bob Conley has had a long relationship with the GOP and, while he claims to have left the party back in 2000 or 2001, he won a spot on the Republican Party’s Horry County executive committee in February 2007. While he pledged to be a Democrat when filing his candidacy papers and thus resigned from the GOP, this shouldn’t push the DSCC to attempt anything in SC even if Graham suffers the worst scandals over the next few months.

Finally, the roll call of the House vote on the FISA bill is now up, and 128 Democrats voted nay versus 105 who voted yea, including many of their prized pick-ups of 2006 (Altmire, Gillibrand, Arcuri, Boyda, Sestak, Pennsylvania’s Murphy), many of whom represent more or less conservative districts. Of the two Udalls who are looking to upgrade to the Senate, New Mexico’s voted Nay and Colorado’s voted yea. The former is more of a shoo-in than the latter. As Glenn Greenwald reports, there is some massive fundraising going on to punish Democrats supporting the bill and the sight of activists is set on Rep. Barrow of GA-12 (one of the most conservative Dems in the House, even though he represents a district won by Kerry). Remember that a heated primary is being held in that district, but Obama chose to cut an ad for Barrow last week.

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