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Leading Off:

FL-, OH-, VA-Sen: By now, you've likely seen NBC/Marist's trio of new swing state polls (unhelpfully released after 6pm on Thursday evening—hello, guys, news cycle!). Marist hasn't polled since May, so the trendlines are quite musty, but the numbers are quite positive for Democrats. In Florida, Dem Sen. Bill Nelson leads Connie Mack by a huge 51-37 margin, the largest margin ever in a public poll and the first time he's been over the 50% mark. Meanwhile, in Ohio, Dem Sen. Sherrod Brown has a 49-42 edge over Josh Mandel, in line with all other legitimate pollsters.

In Virginia, though, Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen are tied at 46, which actually represents a six-point drop for Kaine compared to Marist's last survey. However, Obama has a healthy 49-44 lead over Romney in the same poll, and it's hard to imagine that there are a lot of Obama-Allen voters out there, so I'd definitely rather be the Democrat in this instance. The other presidential numbers are even more brutal for Romney: He's also down 49-44 in must-win Florida and is getting crushed 50-43 in Ohio, where his chances have really seemed to slip away, hopefully permanently.

Race Ratings:

We're only changing ratings on two races this week, one House and one Senate. Both favor Republicans.

NE-Sen (Likely R to Safe R): When a former senator tries to reclaim his old Senate seat, ordinarily that alone ought to be enough to secure a competitive rating for the race. But this situation isn't ordinary. Democrat Bob Kerrey's been out of office (and living in New York City for so long), and his nominal home state of Nebraska has just become implacably red. It's not like Republican Deb Fischer is any great shakes, and yeah, there hasn't been any polling here in a while, but that also says something—namely, that no one thinks this contest is interesting enough to poll. To the extent there's still any outside money coming in, it's probably just enough so that national Democrats can say, "See? We keep our promises to our top recruits." But we just don't see any kind of potential path to victory for Kerrey, so we're ready to face the inevitable and chalk this one up as a gain for the GOP.

WI-01 (Likely R to Safe R): Before Paul Ryan was tapped as VP, his high profile and unthinkably enormous campaign warchest made this race an exceptionally tough nut to crack. The only real hope here was that serious backlash over his infamous budget might somehow contrive to make him vulnerable. As the GOP's vice-presidential nominee, though, Ryan will now draw out many more voters who favor him (or simply just recognize him) as the local boy made good and is in an essentially impregnable position. He's spending an eye-popping $2 million on ads for his House re-election, and lest you think this means he's worried he's at risk, he also released internal polling showing him up 58-33 over Democrat Rob Zerban. Zerban's run an energetic campaign, but his own internal polling doesn't look good, particularly given that he's refused to release anything but an informed ballot matchup (and even that had him down 47-39). Ryan's decision to take his House campaign seriously is definitely a telling commentary on his feelings about his own national ticket, but it only makes his chances for re-election even more solid.

Senate:

IN-Sen: Looks like it's for real now: According to Politico's Maggie Haberman, the DSCC has bought $516K in television time for the Indiana Senate race, to help Joe Donnelly defeat Richard Mourdock. We'll of course be watching out for their ads like hawks.

ND-Sen: One problem with running for office in a small state is that everyone knows your business, and that's certainly the case with Rick Berg in North Dakota. Many North Dakotans were already familiar with his status as one of the area's biggest landlords (some might say "slum lord"), and now the condition of many of his rental units was the subject of a recent ad by his Dem opponent, Heidi Heitkamp. Berg fought back on Thursday with a statement that he was never involved in the property management company, Goldmark Property Management, cited in the ad.

However, North Dakota's major newspaper, the Forum, easily rebutted that the same day: Berg co-founded the group but claimed to have left the company in 1987, but the Forum pointed out numerous instances where he has acted as company spokesperson and his name has appeared on company documents as recently as 2003. (David Jarman)

SD-Sen: Yes, you read that right: It's already time to start thinking about 2014, apparently. The South Dakota Senate race has always seemed like one of the GOP's best pickup opportunities in that year, and their odds would only increase if Dem incumbent Tim Johnson decided not to run again. And he may well do so: He'll be 68 in 2014, and he suffered a serious brain hemorrhage in 2006 (though he was re-elected in 2008).

And now, the GOP may have their best possible candidate on tap: ex-Gov. Mike Rounds. He's formed an exploratory committee, though he has clarified that he won't make a formal decision until after the November election. (David Jarman)

Ads:

CT-Sen: Republican Linda McMahon tries to spin the non-story about Chris Murphy's late mortgage payments years ago into some kind of fairy tale about Murphy's character and ethics. Murphy, meanwhile, attacks McMahon for "gaming the system" by declaring bankruptcy after she allegedly "took risks no middle class family would, gambling and losing on shady deals and shaky tax shelters."

MA-Sen: Scott Brown tries to act like he's taking the high road, dinging Elizabeth Warren for going negative and using a clip of her designed to make her look angry. In a second ad, women praise Brown for allegedly being "pro-choice" and for fighting for "equal pay."

ME-Sen: The NRSC doesn't seem interested in the boost-the-Dem-to-hurt-the-indie-and-help-the-GOPer angle, attacking both independent Angus King and Democrat Cynthia Dill in this new spot. And I don't think this is a Missouri-style ratfuck where Republicans are only pretending to hate on Dill in such a way as to boost her with Dems, unless they are clueless enough to think that yes, liberals really do love tax hikes. Size of the buy: $600K.

MO-Sen: Look who's back—it's Todd Akin! In a new spot, he uses some clips from what must have been an absolutely berserk town hall that Dem Sen. Claire McCaskill hosted during the healthcare insanity to attack her for supporting Obamacare.

ND-Sen: Patriot Majority USA hammers GOP Rep. Rick Berg with a clip of Berg painfully muffing the simplest of questions: What is the minimum wage in North Dakota? (And of course he voted against increasing it.)

NV-Sen: I don't speak Spanish, but I do like watching Spanish-language ads for two reasons: to see if I can understand the spot anyway, and to see how bad the Anglo accents are. In GOP Sen. Dean Heller's latest, his wife talks about Heller's commitment to the Hispanic community (I think)... with just about the worst Spanish accent I've heard to date (I'm sure).

OH-Sen: Dem Sen. Sherrod Brown's new ad looks very similar to the last spot he released, starting with the same intro lambasting Josh Mandel as a liar and then ripping apart his attacks on Brown's voting record.

Gubernatorial:

WA-Gov: Add one more poll to last week's pile giving Dem Jay Inslee a lead in Washington's gubernatorial race. Local pollster Elway Research gives Inslee a 3-point lead over Rob McKenna, 44-41, to go with SurveyUSA's +5 and PPP's +6. (That's actually a decline from Elway's previous offering, in July, which gave Inslee a 7-point edge.) Down the ballot, they find the Dems on track to win all the statewide office for the first time in many decades, including a 40-27 lead for Bob Ferguson in the AG's race and a 43-27 lead for Brad Owen in the LG race. (David Jarman)

House:

AZ-09: One key race in the battle for control of the Speaker's gavel that has not seen much polling is in Arizona, where the newly configured suburban 9th district pits Democrat Kyrsten Sinema with Republican Vernon Parker. That changed on Friday, courtesy of a new poll from GBA Strategies for a trio of progressive groups (House Majority PAC, AFSCME, and EMILY's List). The survey gives Sinema a narrow 45-41 edge over Parker, and Obama also leads Romney 50-44. That's pretty similar to the president's 2008 margin of 51-47, when John McCain earned some slightly inflated numbers as the local favorite. (Steve Singiser)

MD-01: When the news broke several days ago that Democratic candidate Wendy Rosen had to withdraw from the nomination in the 1st, after allegations that she had previously voted in two different states, you may have wondered why we weren't giving it any press at Daily Kos Elections. That's simply because it was already a Safe R seat, with the Dems putting up a nobody candidate with no money, in a district that got even redder in redistricting (down to 38% Obama), so running no candidate at all wasn't particularly any different from running the candidate we already had.

But now, things actually are getting a little more interesting here. The Dems are looking for a replacement candidate (albeit one who would have to run as a write-in, since it's too late to get Rosen's name off the ballot), and one of the main names that has surfaced is Wayne Gilchrest. If that name sounds familiar, he used to be the moderate Republican Representative in this district from 1990 until 2008, when he lost the primary to the more-conservative Andy Harris (who then lost the 2008 general to Frank Kratovil, though Harris then beat Kratovil in 2010). Under normal circumstances, Gilchrest has enough residual popularity that he might be able to cobble together enough of a left and center coalition to eke out a win here, though the added challenge of winning a write-in campaign over the course of a few weeks may make it a fool's errand. Accordingly, Gilchrest admits, "I don't know if I'm going to do it." Another possibility is physician John LaFerla, who lost the primary to Rosen. (David Jarman)

NV-03: SurveyUSA becomes the first firm to poll this potential coin flip of a race pitting freshman Republican Rep. Joe Heck and Democratic state legislator John Oceguera. And, at the risk of sounding flippant, it is exactly what we have come to expect from SUSA as it relates to House polling: seriously jacked-up demographic breakdowns and a sizable Republican lead.

The poll gives the incumbent a 53-40 lead over Oceguera, but there are some real "WTF" data points under the hood. Nevada political guru Jon Ralston points to the large GOP self-identification edge in the poll (which was a gaudy 50-39 with leaners pushed), given the district has a Democratic voter registration advantage. Party ID can be pretty fluid, but that's a big difference. Bigger still, in my eyes, is that while SUSA gets close to the fairway on the proportion of Hispanics (undercounting them by only a point or two), they also apparently found every Hispanic in the state with an affinity for the GOP. They have Oceguera only up 11 with Latino voters, a group Barack Obama carried by a mere 54 points in Nevada in 2008.  (Steve Singiser)

Ads: We sort of ran out of time on Friday to do a comprehensive ad rundown (with the Jewish holidays fast approaching, there was a long list of other things which had to get squared away first). But here's a quick roundup of new House ads if you'd like to check them out yourself:

CA-24: Abel Maldonado (R)

FL-18: Treasure Coast Jobs, anti-Patrick Murphy (D)

IA-02, Ben Lange (R)

IN-08, Dave Crooks (D)

MI-01: Gary McDowell  (D)

MN-08: NRCC, anti-Rick Nolan (D)

NC-07: David Rouzer (R)

ND-AL: Pam Gulleson (D)

NY-11: Rep. Mike Grimm (R) (first ad)

NY-11: Mark Murphy (D)

NY-24: DCCC, anti-Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R)

OH-16: Rep. Jim Renacci (R)

Redistricting Roundup:

OH Redistricting: Well, I can't say I'm too surprised. As you may know, the Ohio Supreme Court recently ruled that a description of a ballot measure that would create a new independent redistricting commission and which goes before voters in November was misleading and had to be rewritten. Unfortunately, the same elections board which came up with that misleading summary in the first place got to take a second stab at it, and, in a partisan vote, the panel produced a new version that's now full of legalese and likely to confuse voters. Proponents of the commission are unhappy with the latest language, but it sounds like there isn't time for a second appeal.

Meanwhile, a Republican group called Protect Your Vote Ohio that's opposed to the measure is already out with a new TV ad attacking Issue 2 (as it's known). The narrator claims that it would "creat[e] a system of unelected commissioners who would influence who can represent us in the capital."

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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