• VA-Gov: It's "Choose Your Own Adventure" day in the Old Dominion. If you think Ken Cuccinelli is a radical extremist who wants to ban birth control and had a shutdown-shaped anvil dropped on his head by his fellow Republicans in D.C., turn to page 15. There, you find a Roanoke College poll showing Cuccinelli trailing Terry McAuliffe 46-31, with Libertarian Robert Sarvis at 9. That's widened considerably from a 41-36 T-Mac lead earlier this month.
If you think McAuliffe is a sleazy businessman and Democratic hack who's only in contention thanks to the Gang of Five, turn to page 4. There you see Quinnipiac University featuring McAuliffe ahead just 45-41 (and Sarvis again at 9), down from his 46-39 edge just a week ago.
Turn to page 6: You hear staccato bursts of gunfire and smell the unmistakable odor of smoldering ruins all around you. Wondering where you are, a pasty man with crazed eyes scurries past, clutching gold bricks to his chest. "Welcome to Mogadishu!" he exclaims. And suddenly it hits you: You're in a Randian paradise, which is why the Libertarian candidate is at 12 percent according to Hampton University (with McAuliffe somehow still ahead 42-36). As you get struck down by a bullet yourself and draw your last breath, you finally figure out who John Galt is.
Turn to page 7: You reluctantly reach your hand into a dark recess, trying but failing to ignore the ectoplasm coating the cavity. You make contact with something disturbingly plastic that you sense could change at any moment. Grasping at this hideous horror, you tear it from its moorings to expose it to the harsh light of day. "McAuliffe lead shrinks 10 points!" it shrieks. "Up just 43-36! Was up 17 just a week ago!" Disgusted, you unclench your fist, allowing Rasmussa, the shapeshifter from the fevered depths of Wingnuttia, to fall to the ground, whereupon you stomp it to death—but knowing it will resurrect itself by next week.
Turn to page 18: Your vision is blotted out by a psychedelic wash of colors, and you hear trippy sitar music off in the distance. Nothing really seems to make sense here: Gravity's a mess, and even time doesn't seem to be flowing in a forward direction. That would help explain why, with less than a week to Election Day, a cackling John Zogby is telling nobody in particular that 18 percent of voters are still undecided. Laughter envelops you and you wake up giggling, realizing it was all just a hilariously bad dream.
No matter what, though, one thing is for certain: Ken Cuccinelli chose wrong.
• KY-Sen: The Democratic super PAC Patriot Majority, one of the biggest players out there, is running a new ad bashing Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell over the government shutdown (and also accusing him of wanting to cut Medicare and Social Security). The size of the buy is a serious $260,000, but for some reason, the group is also shelling out $140,000 to run a similar ad attacking House Speaker John Boehner in his blood-red, safely Republican district in Ohio. I understand the (limited) value of scoring some earned media, but you don't need to spend that much to get some attention.
• SC-Sen-A: A new Harper poll for Conservative Intelligence Briefing finds Sen. Lindsey Graham just narrowly avoiding a runoff in next year's GOP primary. Graham takes 51 percent, while his challengers are all far behind. State Sen. Lee Bright is at 15, while businessman Richard Cash, businesswoman Nancy Mace, and 2010 lieutenant governor hopeful Bill Connor are at 4 each. Among likely Republican primary voters (a group that includes independents), Graham's favorables are a very bleh 37-44.
• NJ-Gov: As Leonard Cohen crooned:
Everybody knows that the dice are loadedThat's how it goes—everybody knows.
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
• OH-Gov: I don't want to sound like a nervous nellie, but it always worries me when Republicans are actually smart enough to tack to the center. It's something they almost never do (especially nowadays, with tea party firebrands threatening to burn their homes down at the slightest provocation), but Gov. John Kasich is at least making the right noises to help himself get re-elected. In a new interview, he told the New York Times that he's "concerned about the fact there seems to be a war on the poor," and he actually just went around Republicans in the legislature to push through an expansion of Medicaid in Ohio.
Kasich can afford to do this because he's basically invulnerable to a primary challenge—very few sitting governors have lost that way. And in so doing, he's making it harder for his Democratic opponent, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, to remind voters of all the conservative policies that Kasich has, in fact, supported, like tax cuts for the wealthy. But that's exactly what FitzGerald will still have to do. Kasich just isn't going to make it easy.
• AL-01: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has, as you might expect, lined up behind establishment fave Bradley Byrne in next week's GOP runoff in the AL-01 special election. They just reported spending $185,000 on his behalf, mostly on mail. Byrne, a former state senator, faces tea partying businessman Dean Young.
• FL-13: Huge news: Former state Chief Financial Officer and 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink will run in the special election to replace the late Rep. Bill Young. Sink specifically cited the recent federal government shutdown forced by Republicans as an impetus for her decision, though undoubtedly the prospect of an open seat narrowly carried by Barack Obama was very enticing on its own.
Sink brings some big advantages to the race, in particular her name recognition and her fundraising network. She also carried the 13th District twice before, both in her bid for governor (when she edged Rick Scott here 49-47 despite losing statewide), and in her successful campaign for CFO in 2006 (when she beat her Republican opponent 54-46). And a snap poll showed her defeating potential GOP candidate Rick Baker, a former St. Petersburg Mayor, 51 to 34.
But Sink also brings some negatives. For one, she lives about 40 miles outside the district's core city of St. Petersburg and now says she's house hunting in the 13th. That would allow Republicans to drag out the carpetbagger label, though whether it sticks is another question. For another, even though she came within a hair of stopping Scott in 2010, she ran a tumultuous campaign and burned through a scary number of senior staffers, firing campaign managers and finance directors.
Still, there's no doubt that Sink's entry will have a major impact on the special, which has now been scheduled for March 11, with a primary on Jan. 14. With a short run-up to the election, Sink's high name ID is especially important, and she might even dissuade some Republicans from getting in; so far, only ex-state Rep. Larry Crow is running.
There's also the matter of the Democratic primary. Attorney Jessica Ehrlich, who gave Young his closest fight in ages last year and was the only Democrat to announce for a rematch, is still very much in the race and has even picked up at least one new endorsement from a labor group. But that same poll gave Sink a dominant 63-20 lead over Ehrlich for the Dem nomination, so as painful as the thought may be, she might want to consider parlaying a graceful exit into establishment support for a bid for lower office.
Indeed, several power players have already rallied around Sink and made it clear to Ehrlich that she should consider other options. EMILY's List, which had endorsed Ehrlich, immediately removed her name from their website, a move that has to sting. And both the Florida Democratic Party and the DCCC issued statements in support of Sink, with an anonymous D-Trip staffer telling Roll Call that "the committee is fully behind Sink in this primary."
Even Ehrlich seemed to acknowledge the possibility that she might not stay in the race, saying before Sink's announcement: "Right now I am running for Congress." But then, shortly after the Sink news broke, Ehrlich revealed a new endorsement of her own, from the American Postal Workers Union. While a desire to stick with her congressional bid, especially since she was the only Democrat willing to take on Young the last two cycles, would certainly be understandable, as a young candidate with a potentially promising career ahead of her, a bad loss to Sink wouldn't serve Ehrlich well in the future.
(Here's a thought: Florida's 67th state House District in Clearwater, which borders Ehrlich's hometown of St. Pete, is a GOP-held seat that will be open next year. Union official Stephen Sarnoff just declared, as have a number of Republican candidates, but perhaps he could be persuaded to step aside for Ehrlich. And at 52-47 Obama, according to our preliminary calculations, this could be a real pickup opportunity.)
Other Democrats are likely to clear the field for Sink, but there's also one more thing to consider here: Whoever wins the special election will have to run again next November as well. That gives folks on the losing side a second crack at the winner, so a new batch of names might emerge next year after the special is resolved. For the moment, though, Democrats have seized the advantage.
• OR-05: Ben Pollock, a 28-year-old former aide to ultra-conservative Iowa Rep. Steve King, just announced that he's running against third-term Dem Rep. Kurt Schrader next year. Clackamas County Commissioner Tootie Smith also recently said she's looking at a bid, so there could be a competitive GOP primary in Oregon's 5th.
• AL State Senate: This is a bit of a "Where Are They Now?" link, but former Democratic Rep. Bobby Bright, who captured an impossibly difficult seat in 2008 only to narrowly lose in 2010, says he's thinking about getting back into politics... as a Republican. Specifically, Bright is looking at a bid for state Senate, and given that he was always a very conservative guy, a party switch would be pretty unsurprising. But he'd have to face a GOP primary first, and he did vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House back in 2009....
• Boston Mayor: For the first time, we have a public poll showing state Rep. Marty Walsh leading City Councilor John Connolly, and it's not a small lead either. The University of Massachusetts-Amherst's new survey has Walsh ahead 47-40.
Is this poll an outlier or the shape of things to come? It's hard to say: A recent MassINC poll had Connolly up 2, the University of New Hampshire had a 9-point Connolly lead, and Connolly claims his own internals have the race tied. But Walsh's allies have been pounding the airwaves and he has been soaking up endorsements, so a Walsh surge is quite possible. We're almost certain to see more polls between now and Nov. 5; whether they start to converge or not is anyone's guess. (Darth Jeff)
• Detroit Mayor: EPIC-MRA's final poll of next week's mayoral election in Detroit shows former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan maintaining his wide lead over Wayne County Sheriff (and fellow Democrat) Benny Napoleon. Duggan is up 51-26, unchanged from his 49-25 edge last month.
• Novoyork Autonomous Okrug Administrator: Comrades! We send you our most revolutionary greetings one week away from the glorious November Revolution! Let us prepare to storm Gracie Palace and depose Czar Michael I of House Bloombergov and his lapdog Joe Lhota!
The Ministry of Internal Affairs at Quinnipiac Polyteknik has provided a census to identify the Novoyorkians who will fight with our beloved Marshal Bill de Blasiovich and which class traitors will side with Lhota or the Trotskyite splitter Adolfo Carrion. Despite the best efforts of the saboteurs to drive our numbers down, the proletariat shall prevail 65 to 26, with Carrion at 3.
Comrades! We stand at the verge of destiny! We shall celebrate our triumph by turning Novoyork into de Blasiovichgrad in honor of our glorious leader. History will always remember the Marshal in the same breath as Marx, Lenin, and Bernie Sanders. Our revolution will not be stopped at the Hudson! First Novoyork. Then Hoboken. Then the world!
Czar Bloombergov, Prince Christie, and Kulak Joe Lhota at right.
• Special Elections: South Carolina's 93rd state House District was an easy hold for the Democrats; Russell Ott defeated Charles Stoudemire by a 68-32 margin. (Johnny Longtorso)