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Race Ratings:

This week, we're making a dozen changes to our race ratings, two on our Senate chart and 10 on our House big board. The moves are split equally between those benefitting Democrats and Republicans:

HI-Sen (Lean D to Likely D): It looks like we're finally back to where we conceived of this race at the outset. Former Gov. Linda Lingle might have been the strongest possible recruit the GOP could ever hope for in Hawaii, but she can't change the state's Democratic demographics—nor the fact that favorite son Barack Obama is on the ballot once again. Recent polling has shown Dem Rep. Mazie Hirono with solid leads, and Lingle's only response has been to carp about the numbers, not provide any contradictory data of her own. The headwinds are simply too great for her.

NM-Sen (Lean D to Likely D): Aside from a single "I'm not dead yet!" internal from ex-Rep. Heather Wilson herself, a long series of polls has shown Dem Rep. Martin Heinrich with leads that are both sizable and growing. The NRSC gave up here a long time ago and hasn't shown any sign of coming back; same with the DSCC.

CT-04 (Likely D to Safe D): We wanted to hedge our bets on this Connecticut seat that's really a creature of the NYC suburbs. Home to lots of Wall Street types and reliably Republican on the congressional level for many years, we figured there was a chance that Steve Obsitnik could gain some traction. But Rep. Jim Himes has proved to be a good fit for this district, and, in an extreme rarity, he was one of only about half a dozen Democrats to improve on his 2008 performance in 2010. TV time here is wildly expensive, and it's just hard to imagine the national GOP wanting to get involved here when the bang-for-the-buck is so much greater elsewhere.

IL-08 (Likely D to Lean D): The fact that freshman GOP Rep. Joe Walsh isn't automatic driftwood is a sign of just how distant a hope a Democratic House majority is. Tammy Duckworth has raised exceptional sums, and she's still favored. But the polling hasn't shown a slam dunk for her, and a fortune has been spent against her by conservative third-party groups who just refuse to give up on Walsh. But Barack Obama's just not doing as well in his home state as he did four years ago, and Gov. Pat Quinn is in the running for the most unpopular governor in the nation. All this is creating a drag on Illinois Democrats, and even Duckworth's not immune.

MN-01 (Likely D to Safe D): The DCCC recently cut back its ad reservations that were originally intended to shore up Rep. Tim Walz. There's also been no indication that outside groups are interested in helping Republican Allen Quist, who emerged wounded after a long and ugly primary battle that included a nasty deadlocked convention.

NJ-03 (Lean R to Likely R): Democrats landed a good recruit in the form of Shelley Adler, whose late husband, John Adler, held this seat for one term before losing in 2010's wave. But despite a couple of strong fundraising quarters, this remains tough turf: John Adler, who raised a ton of money, only won by four percent in 2008 when this was an open seat. On top of that, the 3rd became a couple of points redder in redistricting, to the benefit of GOP Rep. Jon Runyan. In recent weeks, the DCCC has cancelled all (or almost all) of the airtime it had reserved in the costly Philadelphia market that was earmarked for this seat, and the NRCC was only all too happy to follow suit. Without that outside help, this seat feels like an incredibly tough nut to crack.

NY-17 (Likely D to Safe D): When Joe Carvin dropped down from the Senate race to take on veteran Rep. Nita Lowey instead, he seemed like a good recruit for Republicans: He's both an elected official (Rye Town supervisor) and personally wealthy (thanks to his day job as a hedge fund manager). Redistricting also made this seat about seven points redder, according to presidential results. But much like Jim Himes in the adjacent CT-04 (see above), Lowey's insulated by the pricey NYC media market, which always gives pause to national organizations. Carvin's donated a million bucks to his own cause, but it doesn't look like he'll get much assistance from anyone else.

NY-22, NY-23 (Lean R to Safe R): This pair of swingy, upstate New York districts looked like potential targets for Democrats when redistricting left Reps. Richard Hanna and Tom Reed with seats that were almost half new to them. But Dem recruits Dan Lamb and Nate Shinagawa raised very little money; Reed, meanwhile, has a ton, while Hanna may be the most moderate Republican in the House (in word and deed). It just won't be possible to dislodge them this time.

PA-08 (Lean R to Likely R): The story is very similar on the other side of the Delaware River from the adjacent NJ-03 (see above), where Democrat Kathy Boockvar simply hasn't gained the traction she's needed against GOP Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick. Both the D-Trip and NRCC have cut back on their Philly ad reservations here as well, and no one seems to be acting as though this is a positive sign for Team Blue.

UT-04 (Tossup to Lean R): Dem Rep. Jim Matheson has survived the unsurvivable for years, but it's hard not to feel like his luck may have just run out. Utah Republicans targeted him—and hard—in redistricting, giving Matheson no good options in terms of seeking re-election. He opted for Utah's bluest seat, which at 56-41 McCain actually makes it the reddest seat that any Democratic incumbent is running in this cycle. On top of that, most of that turf (almost 70%) is new to Matheson. Recent polling, including an independent survey and an internal for his opponent, Mia Love, has shown the Republican leading, and the DCCC hasn't spent any money on him. That doesn't mean Matheson's been triaged (other groups like House Majority PAC and, more recently, Patriot Majority USA have tried to fill the breach), but if he's been living on borrowed time, it sure feels like his time's up.

WA-06 (Likely D to Safe D): When veteran Democratic Rep. Norm Dicks announced his retirement, there were a ton of potential candidates ready to fill his shoes. But state Sen. Derek Kilmer announced quickly and completely cleared the field, a sign of his strength as a candidate. Republican Bill Driscoll has self-funded half-a-mil, but a recent SurveyUSA poll gave Kilmer a commanding 52-37 lead. This is blue turf, and Driscoll would somehow have to run far ahead of Mitt Romney to have a chance here. We can't see how that would happen.

3Q Fundraising:

IN-Sen: Joe Donnelly (D): $1.55 mil raised, $936K cash-on-hand

NM-Sen: Heather Wilson (R): $2.2 mil raised, $1 mil cash-on-hand

FL-22: Lois Frankel (D): $700K raised

MA-06: John Tierney (D-inc): $500K raised; Richard Tisei (R): $660K raised

MI-01: Gary McDowell (D): $400K raised, $600K cash-on-hand

MN-06: Michele Bachmann (R-inc): $4.5 mil raised

MN-08: Rick Nolan: $485K raised, $465K cash-on-hand

Senate:

AZ-Sen: That was fast: Only a day after the Jeff Flake campaign hit Dem nominee Rich Carmona with an ad alleging anger-management issues for Carmona, the Carmona team is out with a testimonial ad that pushes back on Flake's claims. The ad features Kathleen Brennan, Carmona's former SWAT team commander (helpful optics since the Flake ad also threw in some alleged Carmona issues with women as well), who states that Carmona "treats everyone with respect" and calls Flake's attack "despicable." (David Jarman)

CT-Sen: While the DSCC has to be pleased with the many red-state races they've put into play lately, they can't be psyched at all the money they've had to put into nailing down the expensive-media state of Connecticut. They're throwing another $650K onto the bonfire, having already spent $2.1 million fending off Linda McMahon and her bottomless pockets. (David Jarman)

FL-Sen: The Senate portion of Thursday's Mason-Dixon poll (the one that found Mitt Romney ahead of Barack Obama by a surprising 7 points) finds the damage limited mostly to the top of the ticket: Bill Nelson I leads Connie Mack IV, 47-42. That's still down a bit from September's poll, which was 48-40 for Nelson (unlike the prez portion, which saw an 8-point swing). It also contrasts quite a bit with Thursday's NBC/Marist poll, which put Nelson up 13 (and Obama up 1)—though in terms of Nelson's overperformance the Mason-Dixon poll also matches Marist precisely, in that it shows Nelson's spread running 12 points ahead of Obama. (David Jarman)

MA-Sen: So, about that revolutionary pact in the Massachusetts Senate race that kept outside groups from participating? That deal was limited to television and radio ads, so it turns out that the outside groups are just finding other ways to spend their millions of dollars here. Bloomberg totals up over $1 million in spending from the usual third-party groups, that's been directed toward ground operations, direct mail, and robocalls. League of Conservation Voters has spent $500K on GOTV and mailers, for instance, while Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform has spent $400K on mailers and Crossroads GPS has spent $50K on robocalls. So the flow of outside money hasn't really been stopped... just made slightly less repetitive and annoying. (David Jarman)

PA-Sen (GSG/Nat'l Research): Bob Casey (D-inc): 48 (53), Tom Smith (R): 38 (34)

WI-Sen (Rasmussen): Tammy Baldwin (D): 51 (49), Tommy Thompson (R): 47 (46)

Gubernatorial:

MT-Gov, MT-AG, MT-AL: PPP's newest Montana poll shows a bit of a bump for Republican Rick Hill, who is now edging Steve Bullock 43-42 after trailing 44-39 last month. That's not too surprising, though, given how much worse Obama performed in the same poll. (Yeah, Jon Tester held steady but hey, he's Jon Tester.) There are also a bunch of numbers on various downballot races: school superintendent, secretary of state, auditor, and attorney general. That last race (an open seat contest) has gotten a ton of attention (and money) from conservative third-party groups who are desperate to elect Republican Tim Fox. He's leading Democrat Pam Bucy 45-35.

MSU Billings also tested the gubernatorial contest, finding a pretty similar story, with Hill up 40-38. And they found a lot of undecideds in the race for state's open at-large House seat, where Republican Steve Daines is beating Democrat Kim Gillan 36-23. (PPP had Daines up 9, but far fewer unsure voters.) On the presidential front, Romney's leading 49-35.

NH-Gov, -01, -02: As he does at the end of every election cycle, UNH's Andy Smith steps up his outfit's polling schedule: They go from conducting surveys only occasionally to fielding them just about weekly. That doesn't make me like UNH (which I think has a lot of quality control problems) much more, but I mention this in case you were concerned we were peddling old data. Anyhow, the new numbers show a weird jump in undecideds in the governor's race (like I said, QC), with Republican Ovide Lamontagne at 39, Democrat Maggie Hassan at 35, and "not sure" at 23. (Note that's with leaners.) A week ago, it was 42 Hassan, 40 Ovide and just 16 undecided—and obviously it doesn't really make sense for that last number to go up as we get closer to election day.

Also in the "doesn't make sense" category are the House numbers. In the 1st CD, in a single week's time, UNH somehow has GOP Rep. Frank Guinta going on an impossible surge, moving from a 38-47 deficit to Carol Shea-Porter into a 45-35 lead! Please explain to me a nineteen point shift in a House race in just eight days, without something like an arrest. Not possible. The 2nd District numbers are a bit more stable—Democrat Annie Kuster leads GOP Rep. Charlie Bass 38-35—but as in the governor's race, the undecideds have shot up (Kuster was on top 42-41 last time). So I'm just gonna have to suggest that you not pay a lot of attention to UNH's whacky results.

P.S. Oh, seriously, eff me. Did I just write up a pair of House "polls" that had only 200 respondents each? Yes, yes I did. It didn't occur to me that UNH would sink that low, though shame on me for getting fooled even once by them.

House:

CA-30: The most heated debate Thursday night wasn't the vice-presidential debate, but the -erman debate in Los Angeles. The most-clicked-on thirty-second excerpt of the debate has Brad Sherman and Howard Berman shoulder to shoulder and raising their voices at each other, with Sherman at one point putting his arm around Berman and asking "Do you want to get into this?" but then backing off, at which point a uniformed officer got on stage with them and gently guided them apart.

Various writeups seem to vary widely on just how big a deal it was, with the LA Times mostly shrugging it off while the Jewish Journal's writeup makes it sound worse for Sherman. Either way, the debate seems like the crowning achievement in a race between two guys with similar records in a safe Dem district that's been a colossal waste of Democratic money and energy when there's an actual House majority at stake. (David Jarman)

GA-12: Blue Dog Democrat John Barrow has been high on just about every "most vulnerable incumbents" lists, thanks to the dramatic remodeling his rural Georgia district received during redistricting—but he may not quite be dead yet, according to a new poll from Benenson, on behalf of the House Majority PAC. The poll finds Barrow leading GOP state Rep. Lee Anderson 48-45 (but we don't have presidential toplines or any other of the poll's guts, so hard to know how credible that is). With Anderson having released a dusty internal poll the other week giving him only a 1-point lead, it's likely still a competitive race, though. (David Jarman)

Illinois: We Ask America (the polling arm of the conservative Illinois Manufacturers' Association) is out with polls of all six competitive House races in Illinois, and although they find Republicans leading in five of them (which would be a wash, if that held through November), they're all races with low-single-digit margins. Interestingly, the race that's seen the worst poll numbers for Democrats in the past (IL-17) is the lone race where they're now winning, while the one that has the biggest Republican margin is the one that has seemed the likeliest Dem pickup (IL-08)... so, between that and their strangely unprofessional writeup (they refer to outgoing Rep. Tim Johnson as "human Q-tip"), I'm not sure how much weight you would want to give these results.

IL-08: Joe Walsh (R-inc) 48, Tammy Duckworth (D) 45

IL-10: Bob Dold! (R-inc) 47, Brad Schneider (D) 45

IL-11: Judy Biggert (R-inc) 46, Bill Foster (D) 44

IL-12: Jason Plummer (R) 44, Bill Enyart (D) 42

IL-13: Rodney Davis (R) 44, David Gill (D) 42

IL-17: Cheri Bustos (D) 46, Bobby Schilling (R-inc) 46

(David Jarman)

MI-03: In terms of opponent quality (and I'm talking incumbents only), there may not be anyone luckier than Steve Pestka. GOP Rep. Justin Amash is a freak among freaks, a weirdo dystopian whose own party regulars despise him and who often finds himself on the wrong end of a lot of 434-1 votes in the House. That explains why Pestka, who hasn't gotten much national attention, relied almost entirely on self-funding, and is running in a tough district, might nevertheless have a chance.

And now his new internal paints a potential path to victory for him: GQR's latest survey has him trailing 48-44, improved from 50-42 at the end of August. It's still going to be very hard for Pestka, and importantly, he's had the airwaves to himself so far. Once Amash goes up, things could very well snap back—but the fact that it's mid-October and the incumbent hasn't advertised on TV yet is itself a sign of Amash's weakness.

NV-03: Following Democrat John Oceguera's poll showing him down just five points, GOP Rep. Joe Heck is saying "nuh-uh" with his new internal from WPA Research that has him leading 48-37. There's a big problem with the poll, though: Romney is beating Obama 51-44, in a district the president won 54-45 in 2008. Now, we know that Obama's doing a lot worse in Nevada this time around. But a 16-point swing? That scarcely seems possible, given that the POTUS still holds small statewide leads. The generic congressional ballot at +6 Republican also seems like a fridge too far, making me feel like this survey is just too optimistic for the incumbent.

NY-19: Trying to buttress the poll put out a day earlier by the NRCC (where he was up 47-39), GOP Rep. Chris Gibson is out with a new internal from Public Opinion Strategies that has him leading Democrat Julian Schreibman 50-39. I'm guessing Gibson didn't like numbers showing him under 50% out there, but note that this survey is even more Republican than the NRCC's, as it has Romney leading 46-45. (The NRCC had Romney ahead by 3.)

Meanwhile, AFSCME is going up with a "six-figure" ad buy attacking Gibson for voting to end Medicare and linking him with images of Romney, Ryan, and Michele Bachmann.

SD-AL: If these numbers are right, I'm surprised the national committees aren't getting involved in this race: Here's yet another Nielson Brothers poll of South Dakota's at-large House race showing Dem Matt Varilek within striking distance. He trails GOP frosh Kristi Noem 49-44. Noem led 51-42 in their previous poll, but they've also had the race in the low single digits before that. (Top of the ticket, Mitt Romney leads in South Dakota 54-39.) (David Jarman)

TN-04: This is some odd pushback from Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais on that whole I-tried-to-get-my-pregnant-mistress/patient-to-have-an-abortion-even-though-I'm-an-anti-abortion-zealot-in-public scandal that emerged last week. He's saying it's all OK, because she turned out to not be pregnant in the first place. Of course, he's not disputing the published transcript of their conversation, in which he was pushing for an abortion while still thinking that she was pregnant, so I'm not sure how that diminishes his hypocrisy. (David Jarman)

WI-07: As Shepard Fairey would screen-print: OBEY! Ex-Rep. Dave Obey, whose retirement two years ago at the age of 71 helped open the way for Republican Sean Duffy's ascent to Congress, stills seems to enjoy playing the game. He's mocking Duffy's refusal to debate Pat Kreitlow—after demanding 20 (!) last cycle—by offering to debate Duffy himself. Obey slyly taunts, "Would he instead agree to debate me, a second-string, stand-in retiree?" Oh yeah, Dave Obey, just a backup role-player coming off the bench. I'd love it, though!

Reshuffling Roundup:

IN-08: Let's hope they're expanding the playing field and not head-faking like in WI-08: In the same independent expenditure report that mentions Wisconsin's 8th (see below), the DCCC made public that it's going up in IN-08 for the first time, where Democrat Dave Crooks is trying to defeat first-term GOP Rep. Larry Buchson. The buy is for $100K.

PA-18: According to PoliticsPA, the D-Trip is giving up on Larry Maggi, who's waging a long-shot campaign against GOP Rep. Tim Murphy. Dems have cut back on $225K worth of TV ad reservations in the Pittsburgh media market, though Keegan Gibson is quite certain that these cancellations will only affect Maggi and not Dem Rep. Mark Critz in the neighboring 12th District.

TX-14: Here's a first: an independent expenditure in Texas's open 14th District—and it's for the good guys. The House Majority PAC is making a smallish $48K buy on behalf of Democrat Nick Lampson, who is seeking his third tour of duty in the House but would first have to defeat Republican Randy Weber in this very conservative district.

WI-08: This is really odd. WisPolitics reports that the DCCC is pulling out of WI-08, where Democrat Jamie Wall is hoping to unseat GOP freshman Reid Ribble—something the D-Trip didn't deny. But oddly, the organization just went up with their first (and I guess only) ad buy on Thursday in the district. Admittedly, it was for a small $76K, but if you're giving up, why spend at all?

Crossroads, HMP: Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, which has mostly focused on Senate races so far, is getting into the House game with a serious $8.1 million TV and radio blitz targeting 11 races. All but two of the races have already seen plenty of action. The first exception is IN-02, where earlier reports indicated that the DCCC was giving up on Brendan Mullen's efforts to hold this seat for Team Blue against Jackie Walorski. But that may not in fact be the case, seeing as the House Majority PAC is also stepping in (with a $175K buy) for the Dems.

The other is CA-21, where we noted not long ago that the conservative YG Action Fund unexpectedly felt the need to step in and help Republican David Valadao against I-guess-he's-not-such-as-much-of-a-longshot-as-we-thought John Hernandez. Evidently, Crossroads is worried, too. Outside Democratic groups haven't gotten involved here yet, but both HMP and Crossroads are making a bunch of other new buys (though again, for familiar contests). You can find the full list for each group at their respective links.

Other Races:

PA-AG: That Philadelphia Inquirer poll mentioned above also had an Attorney General portion, and it continues to show that this is one of the most surprising races out there this year, with Dem Kathleen Kane outperforming not just Barack Obama but even Bob Casey, in what's not just an open seat but also an office that a Democrat has never won before. She leads David Freed 41-29. (David Jarman)

Grab Bag:

Nevada: It'd get a little tiresome to report of Nevada registration data every month (they seem a lot more aggressive about reporting that information than other swing states), but this is likely to be the last update we get before the election, and it seems like good news. The Democrats' statewide lead is now 86K (520K to 434K for the GOP), with a 125K lead in Clark County, which is slightly bigger than the edge in 2008. (David Jarman)

Radio: Early Friday morning, I appeared on "First Shift with Tony Trupiano," a political talk show on Detroit's WDTW. We discussed a variety of races, including competitive contests in the state of Michigan. You can listen to my segment at the link (I start at about two minutes in). And those of you with good memories may recall that Trupiano ran against none other than ex-Rep. Thad McCotter in 2006, something he mentioned on the show because of course we spent some time talking about this year's highly unusual showdown in MI-11.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Mon Oct 15, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Hirono for Senate and Daily Kos.

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