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Leading Off:

VA-Sen: Is Tim Kaine breaking out? On Wednesday morning, the Democratic Senate hopeful saw two new independent polls come out giving him by far the biggest leads he's ever seen. For starters, Quinnipiac has him up 51-44 over George Allen (versus a much slimmer 48-46 in August). The Washington Post (via Abt-SRBI) also shows a similar spread, with Kaine on top 51-43 (improved from a 46-46 tie all the way back in April). Other very recent polls (from PPP and Marist) have still shown the game of inches we've been accustomed to for well over a year now, so any enthusiasm should be tempered, but keep an eye out for a possible Kaine surge. (Also worth noting: Quinnipiac has Obama up 50-46 while the WaPo saw the POTUS up an outsize 52-44.)

P.S. Late Wednesday, FOX News also released its first VA-Sen poll of the cycle, finding Kaine ahead 47-43.

Race Ratings:

House Race Ratings: Here's something new we're trying. In addition to our traditional race ratings for the House, we've also come up with assessments of a handful of interesting races in California and Louisiana that will pit members of the same party against each other this November. This includes Democratic contests like the Howard Berman-Brad Sherman battle in CA-30, and on the GOP side, the Jeff Landry-Charles Boustany fight in LA-03. Click through for all our ratings, seven races in total.

Senate:

CT-Sen: Here's a very strange poll from the University of Connecticut and the Hartford Courant: They have Dem Chris Murphy leading Republican Linda McMahon... but by a 37-33 margin. How do you produce a poll this late in the cycle with 29% undecideds? Go figure.

More interesting are these new revelations about McMahon's 1976 bankruptcy, thanks to some amazing dumpster diving by The Day, a New London-based newspaper. Almost all documents pertaining to the bankruptcy have been shredded due to their age, but somehow The Day's JC Reindl "obtained a copy of the only remaining public documents related to the filing" in what the article's original version described as "deep storage" in a National Archives facility. (The evocative phrase "deep storage" has sadly since been edited out.)

So what do the documents show? In her bankruptcy, McMahon faced "a total $955,805 in claims in 1976 from 26 distinct creditors," which would be worth about $3.9 million in today's dollars. But what we don't know—because McMahon herself refuses to say—is whether and how much those creditors were ever paid, which is really the crux of the matter.

MA-Sen: Is it time to start queuing up the "Scott Brown is swooning" narrative? After a summer of polling that seemed to show Democrat Elizabeth Warren losing traction in her bid to unseat Brown, we now have the fourth straight poll in a week that places her in the lead. MassINC (on behalf of WBUR) now has Warren on top 47-42, up from 40-38 back in July. (And note that July's survey relied on registered voters, while the latest poll is of likely voters, which tend to tilt more Republican.) And not only have these four new polls all had Warren beating Brown, but all of them also showed improving trendlines for her as well.

ME-Sen: Looks like the game has indeed changed in Maine. While independent ex-Gov. Angus King appeared set to cruise to victory for months, two new independent polls now show a much tighter race. The Maine People's Resource Center, which identifies as a non-partisan group, finds King leading Republican Charlie Summers 44-28, with Democrat Cynthia Dill at 15. Back in June, it was 55-27-7. Meanwhile, in PPP's first poll of the contest, they have the race even closer: 43 King, 35 Summers, 14 Dill.

So what's happened here? Aside from the fact that GOP interests have spent almost $1 million on attack ads, I'm not surprised to see that nostalgia for a guy like Angus, who last ran for election in 1998, has faded. The body politic is even more polarized now than it was back then, and federal campaigns bring out much sharper partisan divides than a state-level office-holder from long ago is probably accustomed to. Independents with broad crossover appeal were never common and are now all but extinct, and even King is running on fumes—as Tom Jensen points out, he's getting just 13% of Republican votes.

King should give up his post-partisan fantasy of refusing to caucus with either party and explicitly side with the Democrats, since Dill seems to have every intention of staying in the race. And he should do so now, instead of waiting for Summers to get even closer. It would be quite the disaster if King fumbled and allowed this seat to remain in GOP hands. But because of the increased chance that it might, we're moving this race from Likely Independent back up to Lean I.

WI-Sen: Quinnipiac actually released a trio of swing state polls on Wednesday, including one in Wisconsin. (The third is in Colorado, which lacks any downballot races, but saw a six-point improvement for Obama.) The news out of the Cheddar State is also positive for Democrats: Tammy Baldwin has moved into a 47-all tie with Republican Tommy Thompson, after trailing 50-44 last month. That seems to confirm movement seen in two Democratic polls from earlier in the week which showed Baldwin shooting into the lead.

And... whoa. Here's one more Wisconsin Senate poll, and it's quite something: Marquette Law has Baldwin up a giant-sized 50-41 over Thompson! They also have Obama beating Romney 54-40. These numbers paint a picture that's so rosy for Democrats they're simply hard to believe. Marquette did a good job on the Wisconsin recall earlier this year, but surely I'm not alone in thinking this poll's an outlier, right?

Meanwhile, following an investigative news report in the Wisconsin State Journal showed that Thompson had virtually gone dark on the campaign trail after winning the GOP primary, he's now had to admit he's scaled back public appearances in favor of fundraising events because he's "broke." Not really a positive sign that Thompson can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

Ads:

CT-Sen: Republican Linda McMahon says she's spending her vast personal wealth on her campaign because "as a grandmother, I'm concerned about the future for your children and grandchildren."

HI-Sen: AFSCME attacks Republican Linda Lingle because she "slashed classroom spending" as governor.

IN-Sen: Here's that NRSC ad attacking Dem Rep. Joe Donnelly, trying to link him to Obama and Pelosi by citing his votes for the stimulus, healthcare reform, and the bailout.

MT-Sen: Dem Sen. Jon Tester offers a little history lesson, explaining that the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling overturned a century-old Montana law called the "Corrupt Practices Act" which protected state elections from corporate influence. And now, "the big corporations are back to elect Congressman Dennis Rehberg."

ND-Sen: The DSCC says Rep. Rick Berg is lying when he claims the Ryan plan won't affect any Medicare beneficiaries over the age of 55 because it "would raise prescription costs for North Dakota seniors immediately."

NM-Sen: A bunch of phony-sounding screen talent pretending to be "regular people" whine about Dem Rep. Martin Heinrich in Heather Wilson's new ad.

NV-Sen: Dem Rep. Shelley Berkley attacks Dean Heller over his relationship with Eddie Floyd, a radio host who went to jail for drug trafficking and money laundering. (Heller calls him "my good friend.") The ad prompted Heller to spaz, telling reporters: "The most unethical, corrupt person I've ever met in my life is Shelley Berkley."

VA-Sen: Majority PAC lacerates Republican George Allen using his own words, with a quote of him saying: "Whatever the government program is, no matter how essential it is, it's a waste." Democrat Tim Kaine tries to strike a middle ground between Obama and Allen by saying he wants to keep the Bush tax cuts on everyone making under half a million (instead of $250K). In a second spot, Kaine touts his work with both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

WI-Sen: The DSCC attacks Tommy Thompson for refusing to release his tax returns and for supporting increased taxes on the middle class to pay for tax cuts for the rich.

Gubernatorial:

Ads:

IN-Gov: Democrat John Gregg stands under an umbrella that's rather obviously getting hosed down, explaining it's "our cheap special effects way of showing how Mike Pence wants to drain the rainy-day fund."

NC-Gov: A DGA-backed group called NC Citizens for Progress attacks Republican Pat McCrory for not releasing his tax returns and for refusing to "explain why, even though he's not a lawyer, he's being paid by a powerful law firm" that lobbies for big corporations.

WA-Gov: Republican Rob McKenna talks to fast as he lays out his priorities for job creation and education funding.

House:

AZ-09: Half a dozen House polls came out on Wednesday, all of which were good news for Democrats. For starters, here's another poll out of Arizona's brand-new 9th District, and this one also shows Dems in the lead. Anzalone Liszt, on behalf of the DCCC, finds Kyrsten Sinema leading Republican Vernon Parker 48-43. That spread is similar to the 45-41 margin GBA Strategies saw a week ago. Anzalone also has Obama beating Romney 50-46, basically identical to his 51-47 margin against John McCain in 2008. Since Romney seems to be doing about as well statewide in Arizona as favorite son McCain did four years ago, I don't think you can call this sample overly optimistic for Team Blue.

IL-12: Next up on the poll front is this House Majority PAC-SEIU collaboration in Illinois' 12th Congressional District. The survey, courtesy Benenson Strategy Group, finds Democrat Bill Enyart leading Republican Jason Plummer 49-41, despite trailing in name recognition, 37% to 54%. (It's also worth noting that both sides have been up with attack ads in IL-12.) Barack Obama also beats Mitt Romney 50-41, a couple points off the president's 55-44 edge here in 2008.

P.S. Hah! Check out Plummer's response: "The only number I'm concerned about is the 10-and-half percent unemployment rate that this district is facing."

KY-06: Dem Rep. Ben Chandler's new internal from the Mellman Group has him leading Republican Andy Barr 51-37. That's 10 points tighter than the last Chandler poll from Mellman we saw, all the way back in March, that had the incumbent up 54-30. But Barr obviously wasn't going to finish with 30% of the vote, so you had to figure he'd improve—and the most salutary news is that Chandler's still over 50. (There are no presidential toplines provided.) And because I always like collecting responses, here's Barr's:

"Chandler's poll in mid-September 2010 had him leading by 20 points in race that was decided by a 647-vote margin. If their poll has a similar degree of accuracy this year, they just predicted Andy Barr as the winner," Host said, referring to an internal poll Roll Call wrote about in 2010.
OH-06: The race in Ohio's 6th has generated surprisingly little news (at least, that's made it on to our radar)—and it's surprising because the contest features a comeback attempt by a former member of Congress, Charlie Wilson, who is trying to reclaim his seat from the guy who beat him two years ago, Bill Johnson. (Maybe having a name as ultra-anonymous as "Bill Johnson" doesn't help.) But here's something of genuine interest: Wilson's got a new poll out from Anzalone Liszt, showing the race tied at 46 apiece. There are no presidential toplines, though the memo says that undecided voters favor Obama 32-19. The difficulty there, though, is that the sample size is just 40 among that group, meaning an absurd margin of error (16%), so it's impossible to call that meaningful. Still, you'd rather have those numbers breaking your way than against you.

RI-01: It's a little odd that the DCCC would sorta diss its own in-house polling operation by releasing a second survey of the RI-01 contest from an outside firm so soon after putting out a robopoll of the very same race, but in any event, that's what they've done. The new poll, from Benenson Strategy Group, has Rep. David Cicilline beating Republican Brendan Doherty 46-35, with independent David Vogel pulling in a surprisingly high 8 percent. (Obama leads Romney 61-31.) That contrasts with just a 49-43 edge for Cicilline in the D-Trip's IVR survey, but that matchup didn't include Vogel.

Ted Nesi makes a good point, though: In a district as blue as this one, a decent chunk of voters turned off by the incumbent but unwilling to pull the lever for a Republican may instead go with Vogel. That's good news for Cicilline, of course, and bad news for Doherty. And Doherty seems to know it. Nesi also has his campaign's response:

Doherty's campaign, which warned Tuesday about what it called "misleading" questions being asked by pollsters in the 1st District, hasn't released its own internal polling but dismissed the Democrats' findings. "We've done our own poll, we're up, and we're not concerned with numbers coming from misleading push polls coming from Cicilline or DCCC trying to boost his fundraising efforts," a Doherty aide told WPRI.com.
TX-23: But wait! There's still one more Democratic internal poll! Once again it's from Anzalone Liszt (them boys have been busy), on behalf of the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club. The numbers are very optimistic for state Rep. Pete Gallego, who leads GOP Rep. Quico Canseco 43-38. If accurate, those are pitifully low numbers for an incumbent, but if you're skeptical, get a load of this: Obama has a 46-45 edge over Romney, the exact same margin by which he carried this district in 2008 over John McCain, 50-49. I will be extremely curious to see if Canseco's camp offers any kind of response.

Ads:

AZ-09: The conservative American Future Fund dredges up a bunch of bits from Democrat Kyrsten Sinema's past that observers figured would haunt her in a general election in a swing district: Her support for Ralph Nader in 2000, the fact that she once called herself a "Prada socialist," and her statement that stay-at-home moms were "leeching off their husbands."

CA-10: Democrat Jose Hernandez attacks GOP Rep. Jeff Denham for "trying to take women's healthcare choices away," liking voting to "allow insurance companies to charge women higher premiums" and "take away maternity and breast cancer coverage."

CA-36: Hahah! In text that crawls across the screen in Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack's new ad, she touts her work on passing legislation... to rename a post office!

CO-03: Democrat Sal Pace says he's "lucky" his "dad's around" because he recently had a heart attack—and depends on Medicare, which he wants to protect. GOP Rep. Scott Tipton says he, too, wants to protect Medicare in his first ad, then attacks Pace for the usual "Obamacare cuts Medicare" lies.

CO-06: Democrat Joe Miklosi delivers a mini-speech while seated at a diner counter in his first ad, attacking GOP Rep. Mike Coffman for trying to "end Medicare" and "outlaw all abortions, even for victims of rape."

CO-07: Republican Joe Coors tries to flip the "extreme" charge back on Dem Rep. Ed Perlmutter, attacking him for voting against a Colorado law "that protects victims of child abuse from having to face their abusers in court" and another "allowing the use of DNA evidence to convict sexual predators years later." (Fuller explanations of these issues at the link.) Meanwhile, SEIU & AFSCME attack Coors for supporting tax cuts for the rich and hikes for the middle class. Size of the buy: $500K.

FL-10: GOP Rep. Dan Webster has a cheesy new spot in which he claims to be leading by example because he voted to cut is own pay in Congress. Meanwhile, Democrat Val Demings is out with her first ads (here and here), which are very similar. They both attack Webster as a self-interested insider while praising her record as Orlando police chief. The second throws in an additional jab regarding this disturbing story you may recall from last year, about Webster distributing a Soviet-style "watch list" of activists he didn't like to fellow members of Congress.

FL-18: Democrat Patrick Murphy hammers Rep. Allen West for promoting a bill that would "make all abortions illegal, even in the cases of rape and incest" and voting "against access to birth control and life-saving mammograms." But the real meat is in this quote from West himself:

And all of these women that have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness.  Let them know that we are not going to have our men become subservient.
West also goes after Murphy in a new spot, again attacking Murphy for supporting the stimulus (relying on some now-typical lies), then claiming Murphy's family benefited from the legislation.

IL-11: In her first ad, GOP Rep. Judy Biggert uses that kinda-over-the-top male voiceover artist who I'm sure you'll recognize. (He reminds me of the guy who did this classic Miller High Life spot.) The announcer's over-done emphases contrast starkly with Biggert's lack of energy as she talks about "jobs."

IL-17: GOP Rep. Bobby Schilling tries to tie Democrat Cheri Bustos to Gov. Pat Quinn (who probably isn't too popular in this district) and attacks her as a tax hiker.

LA-03: GOP Rep. Charles Boustany, speaking as physician, says he opposes Obamacare because "unelected bureaucrats are about to have the power to ration care." What color is the sky in his world?

MI-01: Republican Rep. Dan Benishek attacks Democrat Gary McDowell for supporting Obamacare based on the standard "cuts Medicare" lie, contrasting McDowell (a "career politician") with his own background as a doctor.

MI-03: In Democrat Steve Pestka's first ad, some very stiff-sounding folks recite little snippets about why they like him.

MN-06: Democrat Jim Graves is out with his first two ads, surprisingly beating the well-endowed Michele Bachmann on to the air. The first is a positive introductory spot, pretty good as far as these kinds of ads go. The second is strong, featuring half a dozen workers at a mill that burned down, costing them their jobs. They say Bachmann never reached out to help them with their plight, even though "everyone else" did, because she's "too worried about her own career."

MN-08: Democrat Rick Nolan's first ad is an intro/bio spot in which he touts his Minnesota roots, saying his family has "been here six generations."

NC-07: The DCCC attacks Republican David Rouzer for saying (in his own words, apparently) that he "wholeheartedly" supports giving tax breaks to companies that send jobs overseas.

NH-02: Weird: GOP Rep. Charlie Bass tries to claim that Democrat Annie Kuster is "on the run" from her record, which includes support for the Affordable Care Act. Okay, she favored this stuff perhaps, but what's his evidence that she's "on the run"?

NV-03: A fellow firefighter praises Democrat John Oceguera, who in addition to being state Assembly Speaker is also an Assistant Fire Chief in North Las Vegas.

NY-19: Democrat Julian Schreibman's first ad touts his credentials as a prosecutor, then attacks GOP Rep. Chris Gibson for supporting the Ryan plan.

NY-21: The NRCC attacks Dem Rep. Bill Owens over the usual "Obamacare guts Medicare" lies.

NY-24: Cute: GOP Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle claims she "voted to preserve Medicare and keep Medicare exactly as it is for those currently on it, and those about to retire"—in other words, she voted for the Ryan plan! She also tells the standard "Obamacare guts Medicare" lies about Dan Maffei. In a second spot, some wooden actors (all women) attack "D.C. Dan" for sins that include "increas[ing] taxes by $2 trillion!"

NY-25: In her first ad, Republican Maggie Brooks touts her supposed bipartisan credentials while trying to diss Rep. Louise Slaughter: "If you're happy with Washington, then Congresswoman Slaughter should get your vote." Meanwhile, Slaughter describes her efforts to replace 16,000 pieces of faulty body armor for Marines serving in Iraq. And look out: The conservative National Federation of Independent Business is spending a hefty $318K on ads attacking Slaughter.

PA-12: The NRCC tries to paint Dem Rep. Mark Critz as two-faced on the issues of Obamacare and gas taxes.

WI-01: If you care about Paul Ryan's sad-ass House re-election campaign/escape hatch, here's another ad he's running.

WI-07: The NRCC attacks Democrat Pat Kreitlow for supporting a plan called Healthy Wisconsin that would have expanded healthcare in the state. Of course, Republicans call it a "government takeover of healthcare, paid for by higher taxes." That's not true either—Healthy Wisconsin would maintain the current system of private insurance—but that's also the case with Obamacare, and that hasn't stopped the GOP from lying about that, either.

Grab Bag:

Loserspeak: One of the things we're big on around here at Daily Kos Elections is identifying "loserspeak"—the kind of garbagey spin that losing campaigns invariably resort to in an attempt to convince reporters (and maybe even supporters) that they aren't actually losing. With only a little bit of training, your bullshit detector will instantly become sensitive to tripe like "The only poll that matters is the one on election day"—an almost certain sign that whoever's saying that is about to get their clock cleaned. If you enjoy this sort of thing, I strongly encourage you to click through to Jason Stanford's piece, which is all about loserspeak, particularly as applied to the Romney campaign (but of general use everywhere). Stanford knows from whence he speaks: He's a Democratic consultant in Texas, which means he's very used to being on the losing end of many campaigns. A hilarious read, especially Stanford's description of Paul Ryan's plan for Medicare as "Groupon for Grandmas."

Polltopia: Daily Kos Elections featured writer dreaminonempty returns to his series of posts called "Beyond the Margin of Error," in which he takes a very close look at the raw data Daily Kos and SEIU provide with our weekly national polling in order to explore issues that go well beyond the standard toplines. This week, he's examining issues of noisiness in the data—namely, the fact that some people seem to answer questions incorrectly. Dreamin starts off with an intriguing question: Why don't some respondents know where they live? The conclusions are very interesting for poll junkies. Click through for his full analysis, and keep coming back every day this week for further installments.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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