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AR-Gov/AR-Sen: After being one of the more crushingly boring states on election night the past few cycles, it looks like Arkansas is going to be a state with lots of eyes on it next November. Two statewide tossup races will do that for you, and as this poll from the University of Arkansas confirms, the Natural State has a pair of real coin flips.

As a litany of other polls have suggested, the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor and Republican Rep. Tom Cotton is deadlocked. The UA poll had Cotton at 37 percent, with Pryor at 36 percent. The open seat gubernatorial race to replace Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe is also tight. This poll gives Republican Asa Hutchinson a four-point edge (35-31) over former Democratic Rep. Mike Ross.

Cotton's campaign added another data point to the pile, releasing a poll from OnMessage showing the Republican leading Pryor by a four-point margin (45-41).

Meanwhile, Pryor is trying to change the electoral calculus by hitting on a major national Democratic talking point. Pryor is taking to the airwaves, hammering his GOP opponent on the shutdown.

9:27 AM PT: FL-Gov: Looks like it's just a matter of time before Charlie Crist jumps into the governor's race....

10:35 AM PT (Steve Singiser): PA-05: It has been obvious in recent weeks that Democratic recruiting efforts have been brisk, but this story on that front is quite the head turner: a recent meeting of Democrats in Centre County, Pennsylvania, yielded an effort to draft into a Congressional bid a very familiar name in Central PA: Paterno. Jay Paterno, to be exact, the former assistant football coach at Penn State under his late father, Joe Paterno. And it wasn't Some Dude that urged Paterno to make the bid for Congress--it was state treasurer (and gubernatorial candidate) Rob McCord.

This one is a shocker on two levels. For one thing, the Paterno name is almost always associated with the GOP: his dad was a well-known devotee of the Republican Party, and his older brother Scott made an unsuccessful bid for the House against Democrat Tim Holden about a decade ago. Another surprise: Paterno would be running against veteran GOP Rep. Glenn Thompson, who has never been seriously challenged in his three bids for his seat. The district is not entirely amenable to Democrats (Romney carried it 57-42), and the scandals that befell the football program there could be ripe for oppo research. That said, there are still a lot of folks in the region that have affection for the Paterno name, and he'd certainly be Thompson's strongest challenger to date.

11:15 AM PT (Darth Jeff): St. Petersburg Mayor: Both parties are spending heavily to win this officially non-partisan race in one of Florida’s premier swing areas, and a new poll gives Democrats some good news. Braun Research, on behalf of a number of local news outlets, gives former Democratic state Rep. Rick Kriseman a 40 to 34 percent lead over incumbent Republican Bill Foster in the November 5 general election.

Before we pop the victory Champaign, there are a couple of caveats regarding this poll. Braun weighed its results by party registration, a move that has caused trouble for more than one pollster. The trendlines are also pretty strange here: Braun’s last poll from mid-September had Kriseman up 40 to 39: It’s pretty strange that more voters have apparently become undecided as we get closer to Election Day. Still, there’s little doubt that Foster will need to work hard to keep this office that Republicans have held for decades.

11:28 AM PT: FL-13: There is no Justice. Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice, who ran against Rep. Bill Young in 2010, says he won't run in the as-yet unscheduled special election to fill the late congressman's seat. Justice, a state senator at the time, came highly touted when he challenged Young, but he raised a pitiful $320,000 and got crushed 66-34. (The GOP wave that year didn't help much.) So it seems like Democrats have stronger options, whether it's 2012 nominee Jessica Ehrlich, ex-state CFO Alex Sink, or someone else.

11:35 AM PT (Darth Jeff): KS-Gov: Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has long had dire approval ratings, and now we have some new evidence that even heavily Republican Kansas may have had enough of him. A new SurveyUSA poll shows Brownback trailing Democratic state Rep. Paul Davis 43 to 39. Brownback is hemorrhaging Republican support, with him leading Davis only 59 to 24 among his own party. Daily Kos Elections has long believed that this contest is more competitive than it initially looked on paper, and has this race rated Likely Republican: This poll only confirms our intuition.  

There is one optimistic note for Brownback. Twelve percent of respondents favor an unnamed “Third Party Ticket,” and more Republicans than Democrats (12 percent to 4) are planning to vote third party. While it’s possible angry Republicans will take door number three next year, independent bids (especially the hypothetical ones) usually lose much of their support as we get closer to Election Day: If these wayward Republicans return home to Brownback it can give him a needed boost. Still, it looks like we may just have the needed ingredients to score an upset in this dark red state.

11:45 AM PT: LA-Sen: A second Republican legislator in Louisiana is saying he might run for Senate, state Rep. Paul Hollis. He joins fellow state Rep. Alan Seabaugh in the "unhappy with Congressman Bill Cassidy brigade," but so far, Air Force vet Rob Maness is the only conservative true believer to actually step up and oppose the establishment's choice.

11:53 AM PT (Darth Jeff): Maps: The Sunlight Foundation has put together some intriguing maps analyzing political contributions by county in every Presidential election cycle since 1992. There’s far too much to summarize here and the entire thing is worth a look but one interesting find is the South’s transformation into a Republican ATM. In 1992 there was far more parity between the two parties among political donors, with Arkansas almost exclusively donating to its Governor Bill Clinton. While there are a few blue spots in 2012, it’s a sea of red now especially in Arkansas.

11:56 AM PT (David Jarman): WA State Senate: A quick follow-up from Thursday's story that environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer had put another $3 million into his NextGen PAC, which has been playing heavily in Washington's SD-26 special election: the Washington GOP's complaint about this maneuver was dismissed by the state's Public Disclosure Commission, after NextGen amended its filing to clarify that the $3 million was not intended for use in the Washington race.

12:04 PM PT (Darth Jeff): Boston Mayor: Depending on which poll you believe, the race to succeed Thomas Menino is either a close fight between City Councilor John Connolly and state Rep. Marty Walsh or clearly going Connolly’s way. However, Walsh has a clear lead in one area: outside money. CommonWealth Magazine estimates that pro-Walsh expenditures, many from labor committees, have outspending Connolly’s allies $1.65 million to $190,000. Connolly does have a $663,000 to $230,000 lead in campaign cash, but pro-Walsh independent expenditures could make a big difference in this unpredictable race.

12:25 PM PT (David Jarman): Montana: The Montana legislature is studying whether or not to eliminate term limits for itself; currently, legislators are limited to 8 years in the Senate and 8 years in the House, but members of both parties are tired with the limits that tends to put on developing institutional memory. The article features a helpful map of the 15 remaining states with term limits, and how long they are; the current move away from term limits is a broader trend, as, following the exploding term limits fad in the early 1990s, six other states pulled the plug on term limits in the late 90s and early 0s.

12:26 PM PT (Darth Jeff): LA-05: At first glance, the general election contest between state Sen. Neil Riser and businessman and fellow Republican Vance McAllister seems to be the familiar party insider versus conservative insurgent contest we’ve seen so many times over the last few years. However, Riser just scored two endorsements that play against type, with him gaining the support of FreedomWorks and the Tea Party of Louisiana. Not sure if Eric Cantor and FreedomWorks have ever been on the same side in a GOP vs. GOP fight.    

12:32 PM PT (David Jarman): NH-Gov: The Univ. of New Hampshire sample that's been dribbling out results all week finally got to the gubernatorial portion, and unfortunately it only has approvals (though that's sensible, since the GOP hasn't pinned down a top-tier competitor for Maggie Hassan yet). Hassan's popularity may explain the hesitation: she's at 57/14 approvals.

5:18 PM PT: MD-Gov: State Attorney General Doug Gansler keeps botching his response to revelations that he attended a house party filled with carousing high school seniors (including his son) last June and failed to put a stop to the underage drinking going on around him. Among other things, Gansler has claimed that: (1) he was only at the party briefly; (2) he couldn't be sure the kids were drinking beer because "there could be Kool-Aid in the red cups" (Jesus Christ, dude); and (3) a photo that portrayed him holding his cell phone at arm's length snapping pics of his own actually showed him reading text messages—he had to hold the phone at a distance because he's far-sighted, he says.

But local news station ABC7 interviewed two of the attendees who say that Gansler is full of s**t. The two anonymous teens say that Gansler was at the party a good long while and that massive inebriety was obvious. Says one: "People were literally pouring beer from the top level onto the floor and it was just so blatantly obvious." And one also says that Gansler was most definitely taking photos or videos of his own.

I really wonder what's wrong with Doug Gansler's brain here. His judgment is obviously terrible, but if you're going to admit you've made mistake, at least own up to it fully. Don't concoct easily contradicted tales, especially when there are countless witnesses. I have to imagine Gansler's consultants are both seething and despairing right now, since the guy they're working for is totally destroying any attempt at damage control that might make this story fade away. How was this guy ever elected AG in the first place?


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