Archive for the 'WY-AL' Category

Guilty of dismal fundraising, NRCC spent whatever money it had well

Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole briefly flirted with another stint as NRCC Chairman but decided not to oppose the candidacy of Texas Rep. Pete Sessions. The GOP’s campaign committee will thus start the 2010 battle with new leadership, eager to recover after two disastrous cycles that saw Democrats pick up more than 50 seats.

To mark the end of Cole’s rule, it seems appropriate to take a look back at the past two years - recruitment, fundraising, expenditures - and pinpoint a few areas Sessions will have to improve.

What is particularly depressing for the GOP is that its recruitment was not that terrible. For one, the NRCC had managed to recruit a number of top challengers to freshmen incumbents: Jim Sullivan in CT-02, Dean Adler in CA-11 or Tom Bee in AZ-08 were all highly touted early in the cycle. Lou Barletta in PA-11, Melissa Hart in PA-04, Mike Sodrel in IN-09, Anne Northup in KY-03 and Jeb Bradley in NH-01 were also huge threats. The NRCC similarly fielded unexpectedly strong contenders in many GOP-held open seats (Darren White in NM-01, for instance).

Needless to say, all the candidates on this list lost on November 4th; some of them had even completely disappeared from our radar screen - quite a stunning development given their early high-profile. Given the pro-Democratic political environment, however, non-incumbent Republicans had practically no hope of victory - and we all treated them as such.

The NRCC’s huge problem, of course, was its dismal fundraising performance that left the committee in an extremely precarious financial position. This forced the NRCC to pull the plug on some of its top challengers and then make even more painful decisions as to which incumbents it should abandon. It will not be easy for Sessions to do a better job: It is extremely unlikely that Republicans will regain control of the House in 2010, which means that lobbyists and donors are likely to keep filling Democratic coffers. This should guarantee that the DCCC enjoys yet another cycle of financial dominance.

Within this context of budgetary restrictions, it is worth taking a look at the NRCC’s fall expenditures to test whether Cole’s team made the right set of choices with whatever little money they had in hand.

The snubbed districts: First of all, here is the list of high-profile districts in which the NRCC invested nothing: AZ-03, CT-04, CA-04, IL-10, IN-09, KY-03, MD-01, MI-09, NC-08, NM-01, NM-02, OH-16, OR-05, PA-04. It is worth adding CO-04 to the list, as the NRCC pulled the plug on Rep. Musgrave two weeks before the election.

Some of these reflect very good calls on the NRCC’s part, particularly in AZ-03. Democrats made a lot of noise about that race, and the DCCC poured in about $2 million; yet, the NRCC did not take the bait and Rep. Shadegg prevailed by double-digits. Similarly, the NRCC was right to estimate that Reps. Knollenberg, Hayes and Musgrave as well as open seat candidates in NM-01, NM-02 and OH-16 were in particularly bad shape. Democrats picked-up all of these seats, and none of them were close. Finally, good for the NRCC to not delude itself into thinking that it could defeat Democratic incumbents in KY-03, IN-09 and PA-04.

However, the GOP’s refusal to fund McClintock in CA-04 and Harris in MD-01 was most definitely a mistake. Harris lost by 1% and McClintock’s race is still undecided. Both districts are heavily conservative, so there was no possible blow back for national Republicans getting involved (unlike, say, in CT-04).

Defensible investments: As for the races they did fund, the NRCC’s decisions are a mix between golden investments and wasted money. While the GOP lost AL-02, AL-05, FL-08, FL-25, ID-01, MI-07, NH-01, NJ-03, NY-29, OH-01, PA-03, PA-11, VA-02 and WI-08, for instance, it seems hard to argue with the NRCC’s determination to defend these seats, all of which ended up being relatively close. The NRCC should however be faulted for not having invested more in some of them (ID-01 and VA-02, in particular). In some of these districts, the GOP invested significant sums (more than $1 million each in MI-07 and OH-01, for instance) but the DCCC simply had enough money to always outspend its counterpart.

Similarly, the NRCC’s decision to heavily defend KY-02, MN-03, MO-09, NE-02, NJ-07 and WY-AL were an important factor in huge Election Day saves - and the committee’s investments in KS-02, LA-06 and TX-22 (more than $1 million in the latter) helped Republican challengers scored pick-ups. (The NRCC should have been a bit more aggressive in Kansas, even though Lynn Jenkins did end up winning.)

Mistakes: All in all, there were few obvious mistakes in the GOP’s investments - except the largely unnecessary $600,000 spent in MO-06, the decision to go after Rep. Murtha with half-a-million dollars at the last minute and the committee’s determination to help Rep. Porter in NV-03. Another small mistake was CO-04: Even though they did end up abandoning Rep. Musgrave, they first spent nearly $900,000 on a seat that leaned towards a Democratic pick-up early in the fall - but perhaps not enough to justify an NRCC snub in a what is still a conservative district.

The NRCC is guilty of a number of other miscalls, but it is hard to blame them given that the DCCC also miscalculated in the same same districts. Perhaps the biggest such mistake occurred in NY-24, where Democratic incumbent Arcuri won an extremely tight race in a district absolutely no one was paying attention to.

The second biggest mistake was FL-21, a GOP-held district everyone thought was highly competitive and in which the NRCC spent more than $1.5 million. Rep. Diaz-Balart ended up winning by 16% - but the DCCC had invested considerable sums as well, as both parties believed that Diaz-Balart was endangered. Similarly, the GOP spent more than $300,000 defending IN-03 and more than $600,000 in NY-26. Neither race was tight on Election Night; yet, the DCCC wasted much more money on those two districts so the mistake here belongs to Democrats.

Finally, the NRCC rushed into VA-05 much too late, spending more $140,000 at the last minute to save Rep. Goode (the race has not been called yet, but it appears that Goode will go down by a few hundred votes); few people saw Perriello has a big threat to Goode - and the DCCC’s expenditures suggest they had not either. Provided he remains in the lead, that makes Perriello’s into this cycle’s Shea-Porter and Loebsack.

Poll watch: Obama maintains wide lead nationally, PA tightens a bit, Merkley might already have won

Update: A new national CBS News poll brings Democrats great news, as Barack Obama now leads 54% to 41% in a poll conducted Tuesday through Friday - up from the 11% lead Obama had in the previous CBS News poll (that one had been conducted from the 25th to the 28th). Once again, Obama is above 50%, McCain is in the low 40s. (I apologize for being repetitive, but the race has been remarkably stable for weeks).

In what is perhaps the GOP’s worst internal number of the poll, 48% say that McCain will raise their taxes versus only 47% who think Obama will do so - a sign that McCain’s tax offensive has failed to destabilize Obama. Furthermore, Obama leads by 19% among those who have already cast their ballot (about 20% of the sample), a margin that corresponds to other polls we have been seeing.

Original post: Three days from the election, Barack Obama retains a commanding lead that has barely budged over the past few weeks. There is no evidence of a last minute McCain push: the margin widens in four of the day’s seven tracking polls and it remains stable in two others. While there is some day-to-day variation, both candidates have been oscillating within the same range for weeks: Obama is at or above 51% in five of the seven tracking polls, while McCain is still in the low 40s (42% to 44%, with a high at 46% in Rasmussen).

Worse still for McCain, Obama is ahead in tracking polls that have a wide partisan gap (Washington Post/ABC, for instance) as well as those that hypothesize a far tighter breakdown (Zogby and IBD/TIPP, for instance). While the size of his lead varies according to the turnout model pollsters use, there is no disagreement on whether he is ahead.

In fact, the best news for Obama today might be that we are starting to get an answer on which turnout model best predicts this year’s election. Today marks the very first time that there is no difference between Gallup’s two likely voter models (the traditional and the expanded); Obama is usually further ahead in the expanded model. Gallup attributes this partly to the fact that 27% of respondents say they have already cast a ballot, locking them in the likely voter model no matter what their prior voting history. This suggests that sporadic voters are making a greater share of the electorate than the “traditional” LV format hypothesizes.

Then there is Zogby, of course, whose three-day average has a 5% lead for Obama but who warns that the tide might be turning. Last night, the Drudge Report treated its readers with a shock headline, proclaiming that McCain had seized a 1% lead in the Friday sample of Zogby’s tracking poll. Beyond the fact that one night samples are not meant to be treated as a full survey - which is the whole point of a tracking poll - this once again raises questions about Zogby’s theatrics and about his professionalism; it is silly to treat any movement as an earth-shattering change of momentum, and so is leaking your results to Drudge hours before posting them on your website. Furthermore, none of the six other tracking polls have found a similar Friday tightening - quite the contrary.

All of this said, Republicans can take some comfort in the latest Pennsylvania polls - and remember that there is no early voting so no one’s vote has been cast in stone just yet. The five most recent surveys - Rasmussen, Strategic Vision, Mason Dixon, Morning Call and Rasmussen again - have all found McCain gaining ground, and ARG’s first poll since mid-September has a 6% margin. Rasmussen and Strategic Vision have the exact same trend line (Obama up double-digit three weeks ago, up high single-digits last week and now up by 4% and 5%), while today marks the first time that Obama’s margin is down to single digits in Morning Call’s tracking poll.

That said, 4% to 8% gap might have made Democrats anxious three weeks ago, but we are now three days from the election and Obama remains ahead outside of the margin of error in all polls from the state. There is very little time for McCain to finish closing that gap, and it is important to note that Obama remains above 50% in both Rasmussen and Morning Call. Finally, Republicans are concentrating their efforts in the Keystone State (First Read reports that  push-polling is underway in the state) while Obama has no plan to visit the state until Tuesday, making some tightening inevitable.

The bottom-line remains: Pennsylvania has become a must-win for McCain, and even an upset in the Keystone State would need to be accompanied by a sweep of nearly all competitive red states (Obama is ahead in two new Florida polls and tied in a third, underscoring the magnitude of the challenge).

  • Trackings: Obama gains 1% in Rasmussen (51% to 46%), in Research 2000 (51% to 44%), in Gallup (52% to 42%, the same margin as in the LVT model in which Obama gains 2%; he leads by 11% among RVs) and 1% in IBD/TIPP (48% to 43%). The margin remains stable in Hotline but Obama crosses 50% (51% to 44%) and in Washington Post/ABC (53% to 44%, though independents split equally). Obama loses 2% in Zogby (49% to 44%). Obama’s leads are thus: 5%, 5%, 5%, 7%, 7%, 9%, 10%.
  • Gallup finds that 27% of likely voters have already cast a ballot and that they skew more towards Obama than other voters, a development that might explain why the two LV models now coincide.
  • Pennsylvania: Obama leads 51% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll conducted on Thursday, down from an 7% lead last week and a 13% lead three weeks ago; this is primarily due to Obama’s decline among registered Democrats, among which he receives 75% of the vote. Obama leads 52% to 44% in the Morning Call tracking poll, the first time since October 2nd the margin has been down to single-digits. Obama leads 51% to 45% in an ARG poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday. (For what it’s worth, PPP is saying that they are currently in the field in Pennsylvania and see very little for Obama to worry about.)
  • Florida: Two pollsters release their second poll in as many week - and find contrasting trends. Obama leads 49% to 47% in a Mason Dixon poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday; McCain trailed by 2% last week. The candidates are tied in a Datamar poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday (Obama led by 5% 4 days before). Finally, Obama leads 50% to 46% in an ARG poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Iowa: Obama leads 53% to 39% in a Research 2000 poll conducted Monday through Wednesday; he led by 16% at the end of September.
  • Indiana: The candidates are tied in an ARG poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Minnesota: Obama leads 53% to 38% in a Research 2000 poll conducted Monday through Wednesday.
  • South Dakota: McCain leads 53% to 44% in a Rasmussen poll, a margin that has tightened over the past month.
  • Safe(r) states: Obama leads 57% to 38% in a SUSA poll and 55% to 39% in a Research 2000 poll of Oregon. Obama leads 60% to 36% in a SUSA poll of California (he leads by 19% among the 42% of respondents who have already voted). McCain leads 51% to 44% in an ARG poll of Arkansas.

Meanwhile, in down the ballot polls:

  • Proposition 8 remains very close, though SUSA has the “no” gaining. Down 6% a month ago and 3% two weeks ago, the “no” is now narrowly ahead 50% to 47%. That is primarily due to movement among Democrats and African-Americans. Early voters (42% of the sample) split 50% “no” to 48% “yes.” It could still go either way, but it looks like the “no” has at least stopped the bleeding.
  • The “no” is also gaining in Proposition 4 (abortion), which now trails 46% to 40% and leads by 8% among early voters.
  • Oregon, Senate race: Jeff Merkley leads 49% to 42% in a SUSA poll conducted over the past two days. More than 70% of respondents say they have already voted, and Merkley leads by 10% among those voters. Merkley leads 48% to 42% in a Research 2000 poll conducted Monday through Wednesday; Merkley leads by 40% among those who say they have already cast a ballot.
  • Kentucky, Senate race: Mitch McConnell leads 47% to 44% in a Research 2000 poll conducted Monday through Wednesday.
  • Minnesota, Senate race: Norm Coleman leads 43% to 40% with 15% going to Barkley in a Research 2000 poll conducted Monday through Wednesday.
  • In WY-AL, GOP candidate Cynthia Lummis takes a 49% to 45% lead in a Research 2000 poll. Gary Trauner led by 1% two weeks ago.
  • In NV-03, the candidates are tied at 44% in a Mason Dixon poll; GOP Rep. Porter led by 3% three weeks ago.
  • In NV-02, GOP Rep. Heller leads 50% to 37% in a Mason Dixon poll; he led by the same margin 3% ago.

With the vast majority of Oregon ballots already cast (ballots have to have arrived by Tuesday, meaning that many voters have already mailed them in), it looks like Jeff Merkley will be the next Senator from Oregon as SUSA’s poll (as well as PPP’s yesterday) are now measuring the way the electorate has arleady voted rather than how it is going to vote). The Kentucky and Minnesota Senate races, however, are still toss-ups, particularly the latter in which the Barkley factor is too unpredictable to venture any guess as to who will come out on top. Democrats will likely have to win at least one of these two seats if they want to rise to 60 seats.

At the House level, Research 2000’s poll of WY-AL finds that the race is still within the margin of error but the trendline is worrisome for Democrat Gary Trauner: We knew that most of the undecided were Republican and that Lummis had to get those voters to come home, and this poll suggests that this might be happening. Note that this is a very important race for Democrats: Getting people like Trauner elected would give them a bench from which to potentially contest Senate races in a few cycles.

NRCC’s new expenditures boost defense, play some offense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DCCC goes on one of its last spending sprees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spending, spending, spending (and some cutbacks)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday polls find tight Senate races, large number of competitive red states

So much for that tightening. Not only does Barack Obama extend his lead in four out of the seven major tracking polls (the three others show no movement), he also hits a double-digit lead in two major national polls, Pew and NBC/Wall Street Journal.

What is most problematic for McCain is that he is stuck in the low 40s in most national survey that are being released. Of the nine national polls released today, only three have him above 42%, with McCain hitting a low of 38% and a high of 46%. This is certainly not a good range for a presidential candidate to be stuck in, especially as Obama comes in at 50% or above in seven of these polls. With 13 more days of campaigning left, John McCain is not closing the gap nationally.

The electoral college situation remains highly precarious for McCain, though taken individually a number of polls show signs of life for the Arizona Senator. In today’s polls from red states, Obama only has a lead outside of the margin of error in Insider Advantage’s survey from Colorado - and his advantage there has decreased in each of the past three polls from the institute. Polls in Florida, Indiana, Nevada and (three different surveys) in North Carolina all show the race within the margin of error - underscoring that they are still very much in play.

However, it is remarkable that McCain doesn’t have any sort of lead in any of these states, not even within the margin of error, not even in one of the three North Carolina surveys. Florida, Indiana, Nevada and North Carolina are not states Obama needs to prove himself in, they are states McCain needs to sweep before he can even think of playing catch-up in Colorado - and today’s surveys once again show that for McCain to win them all will require him to recover enough nationally for such a sweep to be plausible. On to the full roundup of the day’s polls:

  • Obama opens a wide 52% to 38% lead in Pew’s national poll of registered voters; he leads 53% to 39% among likely voters. The poll was taken Thursday through Sunday, and it is a 4% gain for Obama over the previous week. Obama has opened a 21% lead over who would best handle the economy.
  • Obama leads 52% to 42% in an NBC/Wall Street Journal national poll. Sarah Palin’s favorability rating hits negative territory (-9%) for the first time. The poll was taken Saturday through Monday.
  • Obama gains in four out of seven trackings, the three others stable. Obama gains 0.7% in IBD/TIPP (47% to 41%), he gains 2% to lead 50% to 42% in Zogby, and he gains 1% to lead 47% to 41% in Diego Hotline. He also gains in Gallup’s likely voter models, so he is now up 52% to 41% among registered voters, 52% to 42% among likely voters expanded and 51% to 44% among likely voters traditional. Rasmussen (50% and 46%), Research 2000 (50% to 42%) and WaPo/ABC (53% to 44%) have the race stable. To recap, Obama’s leads in the tracking are: 4%, 6%, 6%, 8%, 8%, 9%, 10%.
  • Obama leads 48% to 46% in a PPP poll of Florida. Obama led by 3% three weeks ago.
  • Obama leads 46% to 41% in an Insider Advantage poll of Colorado. Obama led by 6% two weeks ago and 9% a month ago, however.
  • Obama leads 48% to 46% in a PPP poll of Indiana.
  • The candidates are tied at 47% in a SUSA poll of North Carolina. Obama trailed by 3% two weeks ago. This is the first SUSA poll of NC in which McCain has not led.
  • Obama leads 48% to 45% in a Civitas poll of North Carolina. Without leaners, his lead is 47% to 42%. Among voters who have already voted, Obama leads 64% to 32%.
  • Obama leads 51% to 43% in a SUSA poll of Wisconsin.
  • McCain leads 52% to 43% in a Rasmussen poll of West Virginia. He led by 8% in late September.
  • Safe states: McCain leads 59% to 35% in a SUSA poll of Oklahoma. McCain leads 58% to 37% in a SUSA poll of Wyoming (Bush won the state by twice as much). Obama leads 56% to 32% in a Chicago Tribune poll of Illinois. McCain leads 54% to 43% in a Rasmussen poll of South Carolina. McCain leads 54% to 41% in a SUSA poll of Kentucky.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

  • Jeanne Shaheen leads 50% to 43% in a Research 2000 poll of New Hampshire’s Senate race. She led by 9% last month.
  • McConnell and Lunsford are tied at 48% in a SUSA poll of Kentucky’s Senate race.
  • Kay Hagan leads 44% to 41% in a Civitas poll of the North Carolina Senate race.
  • Hagan leads 46% to 45% in a SUSA poll of North Carolina’s Senate race. She trailed by 1% two weeks ago.
  • Al Franken leads 39% to 36% with 18% to Barkley in a Star Tribune poll of the Minnesota Senate race. He led by 9% three weeks ago. There are no indications as to which candidate Barkley is drawing the most votes from, and that could be important given how week Barkley’s support is (only 18% of his supporters say they strongly back him); on the other hand, Barkley could surge if voters come to think he is electable.
  • Inhofe leads 51% to 39% in a SUSA poll of Oklahoma’s Senate race. He led by 16% two weeks ago, but 22% six weeks ago.
  • Three polls of North Carolina’s gubernatorial race: Bev Perdue leads 48% to 44% in a PPP poll, and 41% to 40% in a new Civitas poll. But McCrory leads 46% to 43% in SUSA poll.
  • Gov. Daniels leads 57% to 36% in a PPP poll of Indiana’s gubernatorial race.
  • In WY-AL, GOP candidate Cynthia Lummis leads 50% to 44% in a new SUSA poll.
  • In ID-01, Democrat Walt Minnick leads 51% to 45% against Rep. Sali in a new SUSA poll.
  • In NH-01, Rep. Shea-Porter leads 48% to 43% in a Research 2000 poll. She led by 1% last month.
  • In NH-02, Rep. Hordes leads 49% to 43% Research 2000 poll. He led by 13% last month, so quite an improvement for his Republican challenger.

These polls underscore just how wide the range of possible Senate scenarios is. While Hagan has inched ahead and while an incumbent stuck in the low 40s is not a good sign, Hagan has not put the race ahead yet; and a number of seats (including Minnesota and Kentucky, as revealed by these polls) are complete dead heats at the moment. As for New Hampshire, Shaheen has not widened her lead over the past month, but Sununu is no longer gaining either, something he seemed to finally be doing in mid-September. With two weeks to go, it looks increasingly unlikely that the incumbent Senator can pull off an upset in the Granite State.

Poll watch: Trackings converge towards 7% margin, Obama up big in MN and WI, McCain stops bleeding in WV and OH

The tracking polls continue to converge around a 7% differential - certainly a large margin for McCain to overcome, and further evidence that Obama remains firmly in command. Meanwhile, there continues to be a dearth of state polls (which is surprising 16 days from Election Day), and the day’s few results bring some good news for both candidates.

On the one hand, McCain can take comfort in two polls of West Virginia showing him ahead outside of the margin of error. [Update: I am not suggesting, as some commentators gently criticize me for, that McCain leading in WV is an impressive feat, and yes, the state wasn't supposed to be competitive to begin with. That said, McCain's problem is the huge number of red states that are highly vulnerable, any one of which would tip the balance to Obama. With that in mind, for McCain to hold on to WV in two polls when ARG had Obama leading by 8% and Insider Advantage had the race within the MoE is certainly comforting for McCain.]

McCain can also be relieved by Mason-Dixon’s poll of Ohio. His lead in that survey might only be 1%, but Obama has run ahead in most OH polls taken in October. However, OH has been more resistant to Obama’s surge than other battlegrounds so it is less noteworthy to find McCain leading here than in VA or CO. Obama, meanwhile, continues to get great news from blue states. Three new polls show WI and MN are both in double-digit territory, and Obama has pretty much put all the blue states away. Also, a new poll of MT in the heels of three ND poll finding a tight race confirms that the Mountain West is back in play.

Before moving on to the full roundup of the day’s polls, I want to take a separate look at Zogby’s tracking poll. Longtime readers of this blog know that I very rarely question a poll because if we wanted to play that game we could find a fishy internal in every survey, and that’s not an interesting game to play. But Zogby’s decision to weigh partisan affiliation with only a 2% margin between Republicans and Democrats is incomprehensible.

Zogby’s internals show Obama leading by 8% among independents and getting 88% among Democrats. If Election Day numbers are anywhere close to that, there is no way Obama will lose the election. And this is not just the Democrats’ wishful thinking: All the raw data on registration trends and all public opinion surveys (for instance Pew’s) leave no doubt that there has been a significant shift in partisan affiliation over the past four years. In fact, applying (Republican pollster) Rasmussen’s party weights to Zogby’s internals gives us a 9% race.

If a pollster went out in the field to measure the electorate’s party affiliation and found only a 2% gap, Democrats ought to be worried. But Zogby did not go out in the field and discover that other pollsters were wrong based on his own interviews; rather, he decided to apply a 36%-34% weighting system a priori, regardless of what data his polling brought back. Now, it is certainly possible that the partisan differential will be closer to Zogby’s numbers than to those of all other pollsters, but if that were to happen it would mean that all the assumptions and voter registration trends we have been working with have been wrong - at which point Democrats will have a lot more to worry about than the electorate’s party breakdown.

Until other polls confirm that the electorate’s partisan ID has tightened (and for now, the contrary is true), take Zogby’s results with a grain of salt. On to the full roundup of the day’s polls:

  • Tracking polls continue to show rare convergence around a 7% margin. Research 2000 and Diego Hotline are both stable at that level, and Obama gains 3% in Gallup’s expanded likely voter model to lead by seven (he leads by 3% in the traditional model and by 10% among registered voters). Obama gains one point in Rasmussen to capture a 51% to 45% lead. IBD/TIPP (a five-day tracking, so there still are two pre-debate days) has a 5% race, a 2% gain for McCain and back to where we were two days ago. Finally, Zogby has Obama leading by 3% today, down from 4% yesterday (no matter what we think of Zogby’s partisan weighing, the trend line is still valuable so I will continue posting the results of the poll.
  • McCain leads 46% to 45% in a Mason Dixon poll of Ohio. The poll was taken Thursday and Friday, and it is a clear improvement for McCain over past Ohio polls.
  • Obama leads 52% to 41% in a Star Tribune poll of Minnesota. He led by 18% two weeks ago. The poll was taken Thursday and Friday.
  • Obama leads 51% to 39% in a Mason Dixon poll of Wisconsin. The poll was taken Thursday and Friday.
  • McCain leads 47% to 41% in a Mason Dixon poll of West Virginia. The poll was taken Thursday and Friday.
  • McCain leads 50% to 42% in a PPP poll of West Virginia.
  • McCain leads 49% to 45% in a Research 2000 poll of Montana. He led by 13% in mid-September.

Meanwhile, in down-ballot polls:

  • Al Franken leads 41% to 39% with Barkley at 18% in a Research 2000 poll of Minnesota’s Senate race. Barkley gets 15% of Democrats and only 8% of Republicans… Among independents, the breakdown is 33-32-32!
  • McConnell leads 46% to 42% in a Research 2000 poll of Kentucky’s Senate race. McConnell led by 13% a month ago. (24% of African-Americans say they are undecided, so Lunsford might have a bigger reservoir of votes.)
  • Bev Perdue leads 48% to 43% in a Research 2000 poll of North Carolina’s gubernatorial race. She over-performs Obama and Hagan, something we had not seen in the past few surveys.
  • In WY-AL, a Mason Dixon poll finds Democrat Gary Trauner leading 44% to 43%.
  • Safe seats: In Montana, Research 2000 finds no reason the GOP House representative and the Democratic governor should worry.

Research 2000’s poll from Minnesota is one of the first suggestions we have had that Barkley is hurting Franken more than he is hurting Coleman. His candidacy makes Minnesota’s Senate race very difficult to handicap, as it is hard to know the direction third party candidates will take in the final stretch: If voters come to think that Barkley has a shot at winning, his total could shoot upwards - and there is no telling how that would affect the Coleman-Franken match-up.

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s race is certainly competitive, but polls have found the race within the MoE since late September. Will Lunsford be able to pull ahead by Election Day? The best sign for Lunsford is that McConnell is well under 50% in most polls, and the undecided-break-for-the-challenger rule applies even more strongly in the case of such an entrenched incumbent.

Poll watch: McCain can latch on a few trends but Obama leads in NV, CO and MO; Merkley, Rooney, Guthrie and Kosmas ahead

Just as yesterday, this roundup of poll shows that Barack Obama remains in a dominant position but that John McCain is by no means out of the race. Republicans can latch onto small trendlines in their favor in the Research 2000 and Battleground tracking polls, or to the fact that the first night of post-debate polling has not moved the numbers in Rasmussen and Gallup despite Wednesday night snap polls that had Obama winning the debate decisively. Furthermore, SUSA released the first post-debate poll of Florida today, and it is the first survey since September to have McCain in the lead – albeit within the margin of error.

That said, Obama continues to get the lion share of good news, starting with post-debate leads outside of the MoE in Nevada, Colorado and Missouri – any of which would get Obama to the White House (yes, even Nevada by itself, since Obama needs 5EVs to get to a tie, which favors him). Furthermore, a new poll from North Dakota finds a tied race – the third poll in a row to have the two candidates within the margin of error (the two previous ones had Obama narrowly leading) which confirms that North Dakota is back in play.

Over the next 17 days (!), pay particularly close attention first to the blue states where Obama has seized a double-digit lead in order to see whether there are any signs of McCain inching back to a more competitive position (for now, there are none); second, to Colorado and Virginia, where most polls show Obama with a decisive lead (in fact, many voters have already started sending in their ballots in Colorado). McCain can defend North Carolina, Missouri, Nevada, Florida and Ohio all he wants, it won’t do him much good unless he can close the gap in the Centennial State and in the Old Dominion. On to the full roundup of the day’s polls:

  • The tracking polls find Obama leading, though there is no consistent trend. Research 2000 continues to have Obama leading by double-digit (52% to 42%) though his edge in Thursday’s sample alone had dropped to 6%, and Hotline now has Obama up by the same margin (50% to 40%, a two point gain for the Democrat). Research 2000 holds at 50% to 46%, Zogby holds at 49% to 44%. In Gallup, Obama leads 50% to 43% among registered voters, 51% to 45% among likely voters and 49% to 47% among a traditional model of likely voters. Two other tracking polls I rarely mention: Obama leads by 4% in Battleground tracking (-2%) and by 5% in IBD/TIPPP (+2%).
  • Obama leads 52% to 45% in a Rasmussen poll of Colorado. He led by 6% ten days ago. Obama gets 93% of the Democratic vote and even leads among men by 2%.
  • Obama leads 50% to 45% in a Rasmussen poll of Nevada. He led by 4% ten days ago.
  • McCain leads 49% to 47% in a SUSA poll of Florida. He led by 1% two weeks ago. Republicans outnumber Democrats by 4% in the poll, a greater margin than in 2004. The good news for McCain is that he has an 8% lead in Central Florida. This poll was taken after the debate.
  • Obama leads 58% to 35% in a Research 2000 poll of Florida. He led by 5% last week. This poll was taken right before the debate.
  • Obama leads 52% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll of Missouri. He led by 3% in a poll taken Sunday; this survey was taken Tuesday night, before the debate.
  • The candidates are tied in a Research 2000 poll of North Dakota. A mid-September poll had McCain leading by 13%.
  • McCain leads 50% to 46% in a Research 2000 poll of Mississippi. Obama gets 15% of the white vote.
  • Obama leads 59% to 35% in a SUSA poll of California. If the final margin is anything close to this, can Obama possibly not win the popular vote?

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

  • Prop 8 still leads in SUSA’s poll, 48% to 45%. More worrisome - Prop 8 leads among the 19% of voters who have already cast a ballot, 47% to 45%.
  • Merkley leads 47% to 41% in a Research 2000 poll of Oregon’s Senate race. He led by 5% three weeks ago.
  • Mark Udall leads 51% to 44% in a Rasmussen poll of Colorado’s Senate race. He led by 2% three weeks ago.
  • Sen. Chambliss leads 47% to 45% in a Research 2000 poll of Georgia’s Senate race. Chambliss led by 1% two weeks ago.
  • Sen. Wicker has a 47% to 46% lead in a Research 2000 poll of Mississippi’s Senate race. Musgrove gets 26% of the white vote. Wicker led by 5% last month.
  • Sen Landrieu leads 47% to 42% in an internal poll for the Kennedy campaign in Louisiana’s Senate race.
  • Jay Nixon leads 57% to 38% in a Rasmussen poll of the Missouri gubernatorial race.
  • In CA-11, Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney leads 52% to 41% in a new SUSA poll.
  • In KY-02, Republican candidate Brett Guthrie leads 51% to 42% in a new SUSA poll. Guthrie trailed by 3% in June, led by 6% in September. The trendlines are good for the GOP.
  • In FL-24, a DCCC poll has Suzanne Kosmas leading GOP Rep. Feeney 58% to 35%!

Senate: The numbers from Georgia, Mississippi and Texas all point to the danger the GOP faces on Election Night. The first two races are currently rated lean Republican in my ratings, while the third is likely Republican. There is no question that Georgia and Mississippi are highly competitive - but these are precisely the races that will push Democrats to (or above) 60 seats.

The situation is particularly precarious for Gordon Smith: Oregon’s vote is entirely conducted via mail, and voters are going to start receiving their ballots this week, making Merkley’s current lead very valuable. As for Louisiana, these numbers explain why the NRSC decided to re-invest in the state after all - but did the committee have any other number than Kennedy’s own internals? Did they even have Kennedy’s numbers? Reports that Sen. Vitter and perhaps Karl Rove pressured the NRSC to go back in Louisiana suggest that the committee’s change of heart was due to outside pressure as much as to new information from the ground.

House: The two Florida races that involve ethically challenged incumbents have broken wide open in internal surveys conducted for the opposite party. But while FL-24 is already rated lean pick-up in my ratings (and FL-16 will be upgraded to the GOP column in my rating update out tomorrow), the DCCC’s numbers do seem inflated and we will wait for independent polling of the race.

The news is also very good for Democrats in WY-AL. Trauner still faces an uphill climb since most undecided voters are Republican, but he came within a few points from toppling an incumbent in 2006, so this race is certainly a possibility for Democrats. CA, meanwhile, was one of the GOP’s top prospects but Adler’s campaign hasn’t gone so well in the past few months. But SUSA’s results from KY-02 are very good news for the GOP, as this is one of the conservative open seats the Democrats are hoping to snatch away.

Down-ballot: Bailout backlash, heated ad wars, GOP lead in NY-26 and tie in WY-AL

Last night, I explained that the bailout package has the potential of rocking congressional races over the next few weeks, as challengers from both parties are likely to campaign against any deal that is struck. While most of the opposition is coming from House Republicans right now, it is a Democrat - Jeff Merkley - who aired the first ad bringing up the bailout.

But it is another Democrat, Rep. Kanjorski (PA-11) who could be the most endangered if there is any voter backlash against the bailout. Kanjorski is a chairman of the subcommittee on capital markets, and is heavily involved in the Capitol Hill negotiations. A Politico piece about the race specifies that Republican Lou Barletta is “cautiously supporting” a bailout, but he will not have to cast a vote on it and he is looking to attack Kanjorski on related topics - for instance campaign contributions he received from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In Florida, it is a Democratic challenger who is using the exact same argument - questioning how much oversight Rep. Feeney (FL-24) could have exercised when he was taking contributions from the mortgage industry.

Meanwhile, the ad wars are heating up in the final stretch before the election - so much so that some are now starting to hurt those that are airing them. In KY-02, the DCCC’s decision to invest in the race in this conservative district was viewed as a major development a few days ago. But a local TV station has decided to pull the ad off the air after advice from its counsel. The ads charged that the company GOP candidate Guthrie works for shipped jobs to Mexico, something the Guthrie campaign denied, threatening legal action. Anytime a TV station is moved to pull an ad, it is obviously a major victory for the candidate who was under attack as it allows him to complain about their opponent’s negativity and put him on the defensive.

Meanwhile, Wayne Parker, the Republican candidate in AL-05 is airing an ad against Democrat Parker Griffith, a former radiation oncologist. The ad uses an internal peer review that Parker obtained that charges that Griffith under-radiated patients at his cancer treatment center in order to generate more future revenues. The ad suggests that such allegations led Griffith to leave the hospital:

[youtube="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhYOcP2JKFo"]

Meanwhile, let’s take a look at some polls from down-the-ballot races - starting with statewide votes:

  • SUSA finds that California’s Proposition 8 could still pass, as the yes vote is trailing only 49% to 44%.
  • Merkley leads 45% to 40% in a Research 2000 poll of Oregon’s Senate race. This is the second poll in a row to find the Democrat taking a lead, the first to have him ahead outside of the MoE.
  • Shaheen only leads 41% to 40% in a Suffolk poll of New Hampshire’s Senate race.

The conventional wisdom appears to be that Prop 8 banning gay marriage is heading to defeat, but polling data has suggested that the contest could go either way, with the no (the pro-gay marriage position) only holding a narrow advantage. One reassuring thought for “no” proponents is that the “no” tends to gain as Election Day approaches as undecideds usually break towards that vote - but that might be more applicable in the case of confusing proposals.

The four Senate polls find results that are very interesting - though not surprising. In the MS Senate race, Wicker does appear to hold a narrow advantage - something we could not have said a few months ago. In Oregon, however, I believe this is the largest lead Merkley has ever held, and it comes in the heels of a SUSA survey in which Merkley picked up 14% and took a narrow 2% lead. The economic crisis appears to be boosting Democrats in Oregon, and Gordon Smith’s hard hitting crime ads don’t appear to have done him much good.

The most puzzling poll numbers these days are coming from New Hampshire. Sununu seized a 7% lead ever in a Rasmussen poll earlier this week, but that does seem to be an outlier as no other survey is finding Sununu with any sort of lead - let alone one outside of the margin of error. That said, Shaheen does look to be losing ground. Not only is her lead down to single-digits now, but a number of surveys have her leading only within the MoE. The recent ad campaign by the NRSC and by Sununu could be having an effect, as is McCain’s apparently improving the GOP brand in the Granite State.

  • In NY-26, Alice Kryzan trails Republican Chris Lee 48% to 37% in a new SUSA poll. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Kryzan’s primary opponent Jon Powers takes 5% on the Working Families party line, while the candidate on the Independent Party line gets 3% despite the fact that he will not be on the ballot and Lee’s name will be on the IP ballot line. Certainly a tough poll for Democrats in a district they have been looking at for months.
  • In WY-AL, Research 2000 finds a tie at 42% between Democrat Trauner and Republican Lummis. Trauner led by 3% in a poll taken in May. One potential problem for Trauer: Most undecided are Republican voters, which underscores how difficult it will be for him to raise from the low 40s to the high 40s.
  • In NH-01, Rep. Shea-Porter is up 44% to 43% to former Rep. Bradley in the Research 2000 poll. (In NH-02, Rep. Hodes leads 47% to 34%.) The margin of error is a very large 6%, however.
  • In NV-03, Dina Titus released an internal poll showing her leading 46% to 37% against GOP Rep. Porter. A July survey had her up by 4%.
  • In NM-01, an internal poll for the Heinrich campaign finds the Democrat leading Darren White 48% to 42%, up from a 3% lead in June.
  • In KY-02, Brett Guthrie leads 49% to 43% in a new SUSA poll. Democrat David Boswell led by 3% in a June poll, so this is a bounce for the Republican in what is a conservative district.

All six of these districts are highly competitive, and the DCCC has started pouring money in all of them but WY-AL. These polls suggest that all four justify those investments - except perhaps in NY-26, a district many expected to be a strong pick-up opportunity but where Chris Lee starts with a clear lead. Note that a DCCC poll had Kryzan leading by 10%, but it also had a lot of undecided. Meanwhile, Shea-Porter and Bradley are engaged in a heated battle that will likely go down the wire - and the presidential race could have a big impact on who wins this House race.

In NM-01, Heinrich is slightly favored but Democrats were looking to be more secure in this open seat by this point. When looking at these NM-01 and NV-03 surveys, keep in mind that internal polls might need to be taken with a grain of salt, but that trendlines are nevertheless useful - and here they both favor the Democrats. As for KY-02, this is the district in which the DCCC ad was pulled; Republican Guthrie had been trailing in the previous polls, as well as in Boswell internals, so the GOP should be relieved that he appears to be gaining in this conservative district. Guthrie should be further helped by McCain’s coattails. Furthermore, Guthrie has been airing ads for far longer, helping him improve his position.

Down-ballot: Stevens stuck in DC; Landrieu, Shaheen open leads; Hagan ties Dole

Whatever chances Ted Stevens has of winning re-election involve him being acquitted this fall - but considering that he already faced a tough re-election battle before his indictment, even that would hardly be enough to allow him to come back in the 111th Congress. Assuming Stevens wins the primary on August 26th (and the latest polling suggests that he will), he will face a tough two months joggling his court dates and his campaigning duties.

The road ahead just got much tougher for Stevens, as a D.C. judge refused today to move his trial from Washington to Alaska, as Stevens had requested. This means that Stevens is now stuck in D.C. from mid-September onward, and while the trial is scheduled to be completed by Election Day, this leaves little time for Stevens to engage in any campaigning activities. His plan was to move the trial to Alaska to be able to hold events in evenings and on week-ends. Now, Mark Begich will essentially have the state for himself in the weeks leading up to the election, and the only headlines Stevens is likely to earn in the local press will be those devoted to his trial.

The GOP has already sank so low in Alaska that it might as well take this as good news: Anything that might convince Stevens that he is waging a losing battle and that would be better off dropping off the ballot (thus allowing state Republicans to replace him) is welcome news to a desperate Republican Party. Of course, it is unclear which GOPer could serve as a savior and replace Stevens on the ballot, but any mid-level Republican could be a better option than an indicted Stevens stuck in DC because of a corruption trial.

Meanwhile, it was primary day yesterday in Wyoming and Washington, and voters in both states set the general election field. The only contested primary was held in WY-AL, where Republican voters chose former state treasurer Cynthia Lummis over a self-funding rancher, Mike Gordon. Lummis will now face off against Democrat Gary Trauner, a Democrat who came close to defeating Rep. Cubin two years ago. In late May, an independent poll had Trauner narrowly ahead of Lummis, 44% to 41%. It would of course be a huge upset if Trauner were to prevail in one of the most Republican seats in the country, but the 2006 results combined with this May poll show that it is very much a possibility. It is unclear how Lummis will fare compared to Gordon; that she is more conservative should not necessarily hurt her chances in Wyoming, and this is not an expensive enough state for Gordon’s self-funding to be that much of a boost.

Meanwhile, Senate polling finds great news for a trio of Democratic women:

  • In the North Carolina Senate race (polling history), Insider Advantage finds a tie between Elizabeth Dole and Kay Hagan, both at 40%! The poll pits the black vote as 21% of the sample - slightly higher than 2004 - but Hagan only gets 61% of those voters.
  • In the Louisiana Senate race, Rasmussen has Mary Landrieu jumping to her biggest lead yet: 53% to 37% - compared to a 5% margin last month.
  • In the New Hampshire Senate race, Rasmussen finds Jeanne Shaheen expanding her lead against Republican Senator John Sununu, back to where it was in June. She is now up 51% to 40% (52% to 43% with leaners) compared to her 5% lead in July.
  • In SUSA’s poll from the Indiana gubernatorial race, Mitch Daniels has opened a large lead against Jill Long Thompson, 52% to 38%.
  • In New Jersey’s Senate race, a new Zogby poll has Frank Lautenberg leading 50% to 32%.
  • In the South Dakota Senate race, a Democratic poll has Tim Johnson crushing his Republican challenger, 61% to 34%.
  • In the Missouri gubernatorial race, it’s 48% for Nixon and 42% for Hulshof in PPP’s poll, compared to a 10% race last month, before the GOP primary.
  • In NE-02, a race that is on few people’s radar, an internal poll conducted for the Democratic challenger has him trailing Republican incumbent Lee Terry 47% to 38%.
  • And still a tight race in the AK-AL primary, as a Club for Growth poll shows Steve Parnell at 44% to 42% for Rep. Don Young.

Remember that if Obama picks Evan Bayh, the winner of the Indiana gubernatorial race will appoint Bayh’s successor - at this point that would mean the GOP would be looking at gaining a seat. In other words, the Daniels-Long Thompson match-up could soon become a de facto Senate race, and one that does not look too good for Democrats at the moment. A race that looks better, certainly, is Louisiana’s, where Kennedy has not yet been able to justify the hopes Republicans have put in him. LA is rated a toss-up in my latest Senate rankings, but Landrieu’s harsh attack ads appear to be working.

The numbers from the New Hampshire race, meanwhile, are very important as the last two polls (from UNH and Rasmussen) had found an unexpectedly tightening race. Sununu has a large war-chest that he is reserving for a post-Labor Day ad blitz, though that could be blunted by Shaheen’s own financial success and the DSCC’s commitment to putting this race away as soon as possible. The bigger Shaheen’s cushion heading into the fall, the less she will have to fear from Sununu’s ads.

As for the North Carolina Senate race, this is the second poll that finds Dole losing ground, and an incumbent at 40% is sure to be in trouble - whatever the circumstances, whatever the state. The last time Hagan got this close to Dole was in May, before the incumbent unleashed a wave of advertisments that gave her a solid lead once again. Since then, Kay Hagan has gone up on air, the DSCC has aired two advertisments, reserved $6 million of ad time for the fall and even MoveOn has gotten involved with a substantial ad buy that starts airing this week. North Carolina is looking increasingly certain to feature one of the year’s hottest Senate races.

Poll update: When Wyoming becomes a (congressional) battleground

The Rules and Bylaws committee is about to convene, and it is remarkable that the Democratic primaries have made a meeting about party rules must-see political spectacle. It will take a few hours to figure out what decision — if any — comes out of the committee, so for now let’s start with the day with a look at the latest polls. I never thought the day would come when I would lead a poll update post with a survey from Wyoming, but a Research 2000 poll released yesterday is certainly noteworthy:

  • In the open and at-large House seat currently held by Republican Rep. Cubin, Democrat Gary Trauner narrowly leads Republican Cynthia Lummis, 44% to 41%. Among independents, Trauner leads 58% to 32%.
  • In the presidential match-up, John McCain is leading Obama 53% to 40% in a state Bush triumphed in 2004 69% to 29%. Obama has the narrowest of leads among independents.

There are many signs that the GOP is in trouble in the Mountain West and that the Republican brand is suffering in many states in which the party is used to dominate. Wyoming is too red a state for Democrats to have a chance at the presidential level, but a Trauner victory would be a shocking development that seems very much in reach. Keep in mind that at-large congressmen positions are often stepping-stones for statewide office, either the governorship or the Senate, so a House victory by Trauner could cost the GOP a Senate seat down the line (see North Dakota, for instance, where the entire congressional delegation is made up of Democrats).

Meanwhile, three general election polls were released yesterday by three different polling institutes:

  • In Wisconsin, SUSA found Obama ahead of McCain 48% to 42% in its latest installment of VP match-ups. Obama leads McCain by 17% among independents. When vice-presidents are included, the range varies though there is little surprising that cannot be explained by name recognition.
  • In California, the all-important Field Poll finds both Democrats leading McCain by 17%: 52% to 35% for Obama and 53% to 36% for Clinton.
  • In Washington, the Elway poll finds Democrats leading as well, 44% to 38% for Obama and 41% to 36% for Clinton. 74% of Clinton supporters would vote for Obama, which is certainly a decent number.

No surprises in those match-ups, except perhaps the fact that Obama does not run stronger than Clinton in Washington. After all, the Pacific Northwest is a region in which Obama typically runs better than Clinton. Also, the latter poll suggests that Washington State is not quite as secure for Obama as some have been suggesting. It is true that Obama’s appeal will be strong here, but the McCain campaign believes that it, too, can find a way to woo Washington independents. As for California, there have been some polls in recent weeks that have found a single-digit race but most surveys found McCain lagging far behind. This is key, for Democrats cannot afford to waste any time and money defending the Golden State without which they have no electoral path to the White House.

House diary: Has Tom Davis finally reached a decision?

Tom Davis has been taking a lot of time to decide whether he wants another term in the House. Davis, who had prepared himself for years to run for Senate, had to withdraw from the Senate race earlier in the fall when the state GOP chose to hold a convention rather than a primary to settle on its nominee. That gave too much of an edge to former Governor Gilmore and Davis announced he would not run for higher office.

But that did not answer the question of whether he would run for re-election in VA-11, and the speculation only intensified after his wife was crushed in her re-election campaign to the Virginia House of Delegates — underscoring just how blue that area of Northern Virginia is trending.

Now, reports are coming in (via NLS, especially) that Tom Davis has decided to retire; he will reportedly make this announcement at the end of the week. This open seat could be one of the biggest headaches for House Republicans yet, as VA-11 looks to be trending too Democratic at this point for the NRCC to attempt a credible defense of the seat. Not to mention that the Democratic candidate, former Rep. Leslie Byrne, is a strong and credible contender who the party is excited about.

If it is confirmed in the coming days, Davis’s retirement would be one of the biggest blows yet to the GOP’s prospects in the House. More soon.

Democrats got more good news this week-end as the first public independent poll of the Wyoming At-Large seat — one of the most Republican districts in the country — gives a small edge to the Democrat. The poll is a Mason-Dixon survey and is thus very reliable. It has Democrat Gary Trauer edging out Republican Cynthia Lummis 41% to 40%. Trauer lost a nail-biter to Rep. Cubin in 2006. But because Cubin has always been an unpopular figure, her retirement earlier in the fall was seen as good news for the GOP.

Yet, it looks like Republicans will have trouble defending this open-seat. Trauer and Lummis have equivalent name recognition, so that is not helping either of them right now. The big problem for Trauer, of course, is how he can go from 41% to 50%. In a very red state in a presidential year, it will not be easy to get those extra points to a majority.



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