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Leading Off:

VA-Gov: Quinnipiac offers the latest in a string of nearly two dozen polls that feature Democrat Terry McAuliffe leading Republican Ken Cuccinelli in next month's gubernatorial contest in Virginia, this time by a 46-37 margin. That's little changed from McAuliffe's 47-39 edge two weeks ago, though Libertarian Robert Sarvis continues to take an outsize share of the vote (10 percent), something PPP's Tuesday poll of early voters suggested was quite unlikely. So you might want to take glance at Quinnipiac's two-way numbers, which show McAuliffe up by a punishing 50-42 spread.

We now have a mountain of evidence, both empirical and anecdotal, that demonstrates how commanding McAuliffe's position is as we head into the final two weeks of the campaign. Not only does he have a sizable and unbroken lead in the polling, but he has a similarly large advantage in fundraising and spending (both his own and his allies). Republicans—many on the record—have begun to write Cuccinelli off, instead retreating to the firewall of the state attorney general's race. A number of others have actually endorsed McAuliffe, who has successfully portrayed his opponent as an extremist of a feather with the D.C. Republicans who just caused the recent federal government shutdown, something Virginia felt acutely.

Put another way, a Cuccinelli victory at this point would represent a stunning upset. In particular, it would mean that a massive body of polls would all have to be completely wrong, on a scale we haven't really seen in this country. You have to go to Canada to find polling screw-ups on that level, such as in May's provincial elections in British Columbia, or those the year before in Alberta; even the numbers in Harry Reid's 2010 Senate race weren't quite so far off as Cuccinelli would need his to be in order to somehow win.

So for all these reasons, we're moving this race from Lean Democrat to Likely Democrat. Sure, there's always the possibility of a black swan event that can radically alter an expected outcome even in a contest's final days. But that's not the kind of thing we can ever hope to predict as political prognosticators, though of course, should something dramatic happen, we can always revisit our rating. For now, though, we have a very high level of confidence that McAuliffe will win on Nov. 5.

Race Ratings:

SC-Sen-A: While none of Sen. Lindsey Graham's Republican primary opponents raised very much money in the third quarter, we're moving this contest to Race to Watch status (from Safe Republican) simply because Graham does, in fact, have multiple opponents, and South Carolina requires a runoff if no candidate gets 50 percent. That makes the odds of a second round somewhat likely, and if one of Graham's challengers catches fire, he could potentially be vulnerable. (You can view all of our Senate race ratings here.)

Senate:

MS-Sen: Oh yeah, real nice.

MT-Sen: Looks like at least one Montana Republican is getting sick of waiting for Rep. Steve Daines to make up his mind about the state's Senate race. State Rep. Champ Edmunds was the first Republican to declare his candidacy—even before Max Baucus announced his retirement—but like everyone else, he said he'd defer to Daines once the seat became open. Now, though, Edmunds is suggesting he might stay in the Senate race after all, and he's citing Daines' recent vote to end the government shutdown and lift the debt ceiling as his motivation for doing so.

Edmunds is a serious extremist and he probably doesn't represent a huge threat to Daines. But given Daines' apparent reluctance to actually run for Senate (he recently said he wanted to hold off "until the year of the election" to decide), the prospect of a contested GOP primary against a true-believer conservative might serve as a further deterrent.

NJ-Sen: The final tally is last week's New Jersey Senate special election was 55-44, which got spun in a few corners as being an underperformance for Democrat Cory Booker, even though it's exactly in line with how the last 25 years' worth of NJ-Sen elections have gone. That figure comes with a caveat, though: Those previous races were all regularly scheduled November elections, while this one was held in an odd-numbered year... in October... on a Wednesday.

The original speculation was that Chris Christie scheduled the election so that he wouldn't face competition from Booker on the same November ballot (even though they're in different races), but this suggests that Christie may have had a different desired effect: low turnout, which in special elections usually plays to the benefit of the Republicans.

An analysis of turnout by municipality shows that's exactly what happened. Overall turnout was a historically low 24 percent, with turnout in heavily Democratic places even lower (like 17 percent in Hudson County and Paterson). However, in rural/exurban counties like Hunterdon and Warren, which Republican Steve Lonegan won, turnout was higher than the state average. (David Jarman)

WY-Sen: The American Principles Fund, a super PAC run by Mike Huckabee's daughter, is out with a second ad backing Mike Enzi (the incumbent, facing Liz Cheney in the GOP primary) on the same-sex marriage issue. This time, though, Mike Huckabee himself appears in the ad to endorse Enzi, saying that Enzi "believes a mom and dad just do a better job raising kids than a government ever can do." Enzi's view, of course, contrasts sharply with Cheney's belief that all children should be impounded and raised in FEMA camps. (Or, more accurately, Cheney's slightly less vociferous opposition to same-sex marriage.) (David Jarman)

Gubernatorial:

AK-Gov: Alaska Democrats are rallying around former Alaska Permanent Fund executive director Byron Mallott's candidacy for governor, as the state party just formally endorsed him. That move will probably give second thoughts to two other Democrats who are still considering the race, state Sen. Bill Wielechowski and former state House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz.

IN-Gov: Former state House Speaker John Gregg, who lost an unexpectedly close race for governor last year to Republican Mike Pence, had already been preparing to run again, even though the seat isn't up until 2016. But he's now had a change of heart and decided against the idea.

VA-Gov: By now, most political observers are familiar with the dust-up a few weeks back over the Associated Press having to, in what was no doubt a huge embarrassment, retract an erroneous claim about Terry McAuliffe being under federal investigation in an investment scandal. Tuesday, buried in a Washington Post dive into the scandal at the AP, comes a very interesting nugget of information that isn't getting nearly enough attention:

Several journalists, including some at AP, said the McAuliffe story was pushed to news organizations by the campaign of McAuliffe's rival, Ken Cuccinelli II (R). The Washington Post was among those that received a tip about it from Cuccinelli's campaign, but The Post passed on the story after checking it.
Whoa. So the story that wound up getting reporter Bob Lewis fired, after nearly three decades at the AP, landed on his desk because the Cooch campaign was flogging it—and it was so tissue-paper thin that the WaPo and others spiked it with minimal vetting. Lewis deserved some heat for going for such a weak story (though the debate now centers on the severity of his punishment), but how is Team Cuccinelli avoiding any brickbats for trying to goad reporters into what they surely must've known was a false story? (Steve Singiser)

House:

FL-02: The Koch brothers-linked Americans for Prosperity is running TV ads in four districts, focused on problems with the federal ACA website (because now, of course, they want people with pre-existing conditions to be able to easily obtain health insurance).

Maybe most notable is Florida's 2nd, where they're running a "thank you" ad for Steve Southerland to counter a new House Majority PAC anti-Southerland ad there. They're also running a similar spot in Mike Coffman's CO-06, and running attack ads against Democrats Ron Barber in AZ-02 and Scott Peters in CA-52. No specific word on the size of the buy, other than that they're part of a much larger $2 million package. (David Jarman)

FL-13: Retired businessman Todd Young, who at 79 is the slightly younger brother of the late Rep. Bill Young, says he's seriously considering a bid for his sibling's seat. As Young himself notes, he could face a comically awkward GOP primary if his nephew Bill Young II and his sister-in-law Beverly Young—whose names have both circulated—also run.

LA-05: Well this is a load of bollocks. We mentioned on Monday that self-funding businessman Vance McAllister, who unexpectedly snuck into the special election runoff, hadn't filed a single FEC report detailing his fundraising and spending. McAllister's finally been forced to answer questions about this failure, and he claims that he wasn't able to submit his reports electronically due to the shutdown and instead sent in hardcopies. Electronic filing is mandatory under FEC rules, though, and none of his opponents seemed to have the same problems.

But more to the point, if he'd actually completed them, McAllister could have posted copies of his reports on his own website. The fact that he didn't do so—and still hasn't done so—speaks volumes. (For what it's worth, McAllister claims to have spent $400,000 so far, with $350,000 of that coming from his own pockets.) Somewhat surprisingly, McAllister's runoff opponent, state Sen. Neil Riser (a fellow Republican), is refusing to make an issue of all this, but perhaps he's saving up this attack for later. He doesn't have a ton of time, though, since the runoff is Nov. 19.

NV-04: Roll Call's Nevada farm team report mentions two possible Republican challengers to freshman Rep. Steven Horsford: Assemblyman Cresent Hardy and Niger Innis, the national spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality. At 54-44 Obama, Nevada's new 4th District is not hospitable territory for Republicans. But Horsford faced a very tainted opponent in Danny Tarkanian last year, so a better candidate could give him more of a race, especially in a midterm year.

OR-02: That "no" vote on ending the shutdown from Greg Walden (one of the few members of GOP House leadership to cast his ballot that way) did him a fat lot of good: He's still getting that primary challenge from the right, from Klamath County Commissioner Dennis Linthicum. Linthicum confirmed on Wednesday that he'll run against Walden, after having floated his name last month.

Linthicum isn't from one of the main population centers in this far-flung district (Klamath Co. has a population of 66,000), but he might get some out-of-district backing. Walden found himself on the Club for Growth's "Primary my Congressman" list after he made the unusual decision to attack Barack Obama from the left over a plan to reduce cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients. (David Jarman)

Other Races:

Ballot Measures: If you're a political junkie, you're probably familiar with some of the items up for grabs in November, beyond the now-predictable VA-Gov and NJ-Gov races—like, say, the Boston mayoral race or the Washington state Senate special. But did you know about the big education-funding amendment on the ballot in Colorado, the initiative to label genetically-modified foods in Washington, or the move by Texas to end its last-in-the-nation ban on reverse mortgages?

Governing magazine's Louis Jacobson previews these ballot measures and more, and throws in some smaller-city mayoral races, too. (Turns out that Tulsa and St. Petersburg are two of the year's most hotly contested.) He even gives a shout out to the county council races in Whatcom County, Washington, a major hotspot for environmental groups, because the main issue is the construction of a large coal-export terminal. (David Jarman)

IA State Senate: The matchup for the Nov. 19 special election to replace Republican Kent Sorenson, who recently resigned from the state Senate amidst serious allegations of ethical wrongdoing, is now set. Local Democratic leaders just tapped ex-state Rep. Mark Davitt, who, interestingly, lost his seat to Sorenson in 2008. Republicans previously selected state Rep. Julian Garrett as their nominee. Sorenson's old 13th District seat went for Romney 51-47, so Democrats could conceivably pick it up and pad their narrow 26-24 edge in the chamber.

NJ State Senate: A new poll out from Stockton College shows that one of the GOP's top targets to reclaim a majority in the state senate is proving awfully elusive. In the state's 2nd legislative district, Democratic Sen. Jim Whelan has a sizable 55-34 lead over Republican Frank Balles, who serves as sheriff of Atlantic County. That's actually a fairly dramatic increase in Whelan's lead, as a September poll there had him leading by just 12 points.

What's more: Balles, who made ugly headlines last week for echoing a supporter's call to "get your gun" if Whelan came to the door canvassing, might be an albatross on the two GOP Assembly incumbents in the district. John Amadeo and Chris Brown still hold leads, but their margins over the Democratic challengers (Vince Mazzeo and Nick Russo) are down to just a few points. Amodeo (23 percent) and Brown (21 percent) barely lead Mazzeo (21 percent) and Russo (19 percent). Since this was a district that the GOP had been heavily targeting, this poll seems to be bad news for the red team. (Steve Singiser)

Special Elections: It was a blowout for Democrat Brian Meyer, a Des Moines city councilman, who defeated Republican Michael Young by a 79-21 margin in Iowa's HD-33. (Johnny Longtorso)

Grab Bag:

Fundraising: Roll Call has performed the work of angels and compiled a comprehensive chart of third quarter Senate fundraising numbers. As you know, Senate FEC reporting is stuck in the 19th century, since all filings are made on paper (!), giving RC a hell of a task—and one that was made even more difficult thanks to the shutdown. Lots of stuff to pore over. (And as a reminder, you can find our companion House fundraising chart here.)

Psychographics: I don't usually cite the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, but this study may have some interesting implications in the never-ending question to explain differences in voter behavior. If you don't want to read the whole study, here's a much shorter link with a summary and, most importantly, maps. Basically, researchers have found a way to take personality data from multiple surveys conducted in multiple states and distill that into three distinct personality types to show how prevalent each type is in each state.

The results tend to break down clearly along regional lines that suggest that there may be some quantitative support for old clichés and stereotypes. The "friendly and traditional" type is most heavily found in the Midwest (with Minnesota, home of "Minnesota nice," at its epicenter); "relaxed and creative" is predominant on the West Coast; and the Northeast, with its high levels of neuroticism (!) is "temperamental and uninhibited."

Political and religion data are considered as "secondary data" in the study, so it's possible that there's some chicken-and-egg going on here, with voting behavior helping to shape where the categories are strongest, rather than these categories being useful to predict voting behavior. But at the most superficial level, it's easy to see the relationships, with the neurotic or relaxed states leaning Dem and the traditional states leaning Republican.

However, that's too reductive if you dig a little deeper: Minnesota, case in point, is no GOP stronghold, while Arizona, the most "relaxed" state, is hardly a Dem utopia. Moreover, it's interesting that some of the most conservative states (say, Oklahoma and South Carolina), and particularly those in the South, aren't strong on any of the three clusters, so maybe there's a fourth unidentified cluster out there that corresponds better with the Southern worldview. (David Jarman)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Virginia Kos and Daily Kos.

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