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7:59 AM PT: AZ-Sen: Could the open seat Arizona Senate race actually be moving into Tossup territory? Although the supply of nonpartisan public polls is scant, we keep seeing Democratic polls showing this a race within a few points one way or the other, with no GOP response (much like Indiana, another state the Republicans probably didn't anticipate having to contest).

Today's no exception: the Richard Carmona campaign is out with an internal from Anzalone Liszt, giving GOPer Jeff Flake a 44-43 lead (with 3 to the Libertarian candidate). While both candidates are viewed favorably (Flake at 38/32, Carmona at 34/15), note that the less-known Carmona has the upside. It's quite the lesson in how candidate recruitment matters, as the never-before-elected Carmona has turned into a formidable candidate (not just his in terms of his appeal to the state's Latino voters, but also his tough-guy schtick... check out the badassness of his most recent ad).

8:23 AM PT: FL-Sen, OH-Sen, PA-Sen: Quinnipiac is out with its newest wave of swing state polls on behalf of CBS/NYT; the news is uniformly good, both at the presidential level (Obama is ahead an astonishing 53-44 in Florida, as well as 53-43 in Ohio and 54-42 in Pennsylvania) and at the Senate level, although there's one surprise.

Florida: Bill Nelson 53 (50), Connie Mack IV 39 (41)

Ohio: Sherrod Brown 50 (48), Josh Mandel 40 (41)

Pennsylvania: Bob Casey 49 (55), Tom Smith 43 (37)

So who would have thought a year ago (or even a couple weeks ago) that Bill Nelson and Sherrod Brown would be flattening their opponents, despite millions of outside Super PAC money being spent on their behalfs, and that Bob Casey would be running a closer race than either of them (despite his seemingly untouchable status in the Keystone State and his Some Dude-ish opponent)? (The PA trendline is from late July, while the others are from August.)

There is a definite trend here, though, with several other polls (albeit R-friendly ones, like Susquehanna and Rasmussen) finding a high-single-digits race lately. In fact, there's one other poll of the race today also showing tightening, though to the low double-digits, from credible local pollsters Franklin & Marshall. F&M puts it at 48-38 among LVs (46-34 among RVs), which is narrowed from 43-28 in August. (F&M's newest also has a 52-43 presidential topline, as they finally seem to be pushing leaners.) Don't start fretting too much, though, as the overall aggregate trendlines don't see Casey fading as much as Smith gaining, probably thanks to a) ramping up his self-funded TV spending and b) increasing his name rec among Republicans.

8:41 AM PT: PA-12: Don't start doing any victory dances in the 12th yet, where Dem incumbent Mark Critz is running in GOP-leaning turf where most of the constituents are new to him. McLaughlin & Associates is out with an internal poll (on behalf of both the NRCC and the Keith Rothfus campaign) shows a 38-38 tie. A previously-unreleased NRCC internal from the summer had Rothfus down 15, so obviously they'd like us to focus on the improvement. The numbers still aren't dominant, but the GOP's main priority is to challenge the vague sense that Critz has the upper hand here (as seen with Larry Sabato recently moving the race to Lean D -- without any public polls here, so there are probably Dem internals floating around showing Critz with significant leads)

10:31 AM PT: NY-24: Democratic ex-Rep. Dan Maffei hasn't put this race away as easily as most observers had expected -- given that Republican freshman Ann Marie Buerkle barely won in 2010, stuck to her hard-right guns in the House, and got a worse hand in redistricting -- but a new poll from Grove Insight on behalf of the DCCC does give him a clear edge. Maffei leads Republican freshman Buerkle 46-38, with a surprisingly high 7 for the Green Party's Ursula Rozum. (Grove also polled this race in August and found Maffei up 48-42-4, though other polls have seen a closer race.)

10:42 AM PT: UT-04: There's one other potentially momentum-changing Republican internal poll out in a House race: it's in Utah's 4th, where the despite the dark-redness of the district, public polls we've seen have given leads to incumbent Blue Dog Dem Jim Matheson, sometimes by double digits. GOP challenger Mia Love is out with a poll from Republican firm POS that gives her a 51-36 lead, quite different from anything else we've seen here. Their previously unreleased July internal had Matheson leading 51-38; since then, Love had a speaking slot at the RNC, which probably helped raise her profile. Another possibility: the Mitt Romney coattails are finally giving her a boost as Romney leads Obama 73-25.

10:46 AM PT: The timing of the POS poll is a little unusual, though, since it's coming right when Love is fighting off some of the worst press of her campaign, in the wake of a Mother Jones story looking at her parents' immigration status.

10:52 AM PT: MO-Sen: Now that Todd Akin is irrevocably stuck in the Missouri Senate race, it's time to see who his real friends are. In case you couldn't guess, his friends are the guys seeking to become right-wing kingmakers: Jim DeMint and Rick Santorum. Both of them endorsed Akin's bid today, his biggest new supporters since his 'legitimate rape' implosion. More important, though, is what they bring: Santorum basically brings nothing except his own bad reputation, but DeMint does have the Senate Conservatives Fund PAC. While SCF "appears poised" to start spending on Akin, that isn't confirmed yet. Also, as far as on-the-ground help goes, Missouri's other Senator, Roy Blunt, now says he'll "work to help" Akin, not an endorsement but a far cry from his earlier attempts to push Akin out of the race.

10:57 AM PT: In the Florida Senate race, Connie Mack is trying to do a bit of pushback on the "he's doomed" meme... but the best he can do, in terms of coughing up an internal, is one showing that he's losing "only" 48-42. That wouldn't fill me with much confidence if I were one of his donors, but he's gotta do something, I suppose.

11:12 AM PT: MD-Sen: OK, so the Maryland Senate race isn't very interesting; everybody expects Dem incumbent Ben Cardin to win easily in this dark-blue state, and according to a new poll from Gonzales Research, that's what's happening. The poll is interesting only inasmuch as it's distinctly possible the race's Republican, Dan Bongino, might wind up finishing third. A random independent, Rob Sobhani, has spent six figures on advertising to boost his campaign (much more than Bongino has done), and that's paying off. While Cardin is at 50, Bongino is at 22 and Sobhani is at 21. Sobhani seems to strike some centrist notes, but he's run as a Republican several times in the past, including losing the 1992 Senate primary to one Alan Keyes. (Obama leads 55-36, in case you're curious.)

The same Gonzales poll also finds voters supporting the state's same-sex marriage law 51-43, which will be on the ballot in November; a proposed expansion of casino gambling is more contentious, failing 46-45.

11:39 AM PT: FL-18: Here's a surprising addition to the triage list: the 18th, where by all accounts Patrick Murphy has been running a strong race against GOP freshman Allen West (and coming up with internals showing a dead heat). However, the DCCC just canceled a week of airtime in the West Palm Beach starting Oct. 9. I don't want to uncritically spin away a cut in airtime like this, but this may not speaking poorly of Murphy's chances; it seems that the DCCC just didn't want to bump up against the House Majority PAC, who've already put $1 million into the race, including the week of the 9th. (In addition, Murphy isn't hurting for help; he has a large war chest thanks to the notoriety of his challenger.)

11:46 AM PT: MA-06: One other surprising race with an ad buy cancellation: Massachusetts's 6th, where incumbent Dem John Tierney faces a strong challenge from Richard Tisei. The Dem-friendly House Majority PAC just pulled $630K in planned ads, although they say it does not "reflect on our confidence that John Tierney will win this race." It's hard to gauge that: based on the large lead for Tierney in the only public poll of the race (from MassInc several weeks ago) it seems reasonable to be confident about Tierney, but then Tisei just came out with a (sketchy) poll giving Tisei a big lead, so it's odd to think the race is over.

11:51 AM PT: NH-Gov: The state Democratic party in New Hampshire is out with a poll taken by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, showing a very close race in the open gubernatorial race but with Dem Maggie Hassan coming out on top. She leads GOPer Ovide Lamontagne 48-46, with Hassan holding 37/24 favorables compared to 34/34 for Lamontagne. Top o' the ticket, Barack Obama leads 52-45, contrasting with the general CW of the last few weeks that New Hampshire is one of the shakiest swing states.

11:59 AM PT: NRCC: The Republicans are engaging in a little triage themselves; while they haven't officially cut any of these guys loose, The Hill is reporting, without NRCC pushback yet, that they haven't spent anything on some of their most vulnerable members. The headline of the article is "NRCC not spending for three vulnerable Republican lawmakers," but, oddly, the article lists five names: Joe Walsh, Roscoe Bartlett, David Rivera, Michael Grimm, and Frank Guinta. Walsh and Bartlett are no surprise since they've been pretty much DOA as soon as redistricting was over (although didn't John Boehner promise Walsh a ton of help if he'd run against Tammy Duckworth instead of primarying Randy Hulgtren? shows how much a promise from Boehner is worth, if so...). Rivera, likewise, is radioactive right now and may be past salvage, while Grimm is both radioactive and seemingly in little danger of losing. The real surprise here is Frank Guinta; maybe they're secretly confident he's winning, but that contrasts with every public poll of the race, which has given Carol Shea-Porter an edge in their rematch. (They could still help Guinta with their large Boston-market reservation, but so far all their spending there has been on behalf of Charlie Bass.)

12:05 PM PT: CT-Sen: PPP is out with their new poll of the suddenly-competitive Connecticut Senate race. A few months ago, it'd be hard to imagine being relieved to have a poll with Chris Murphy leading by 6, but that's where we are: he leads Linda McMahon 48-42. (Last month's poll had it at 48-44.) McMahon is leading 51-38 among indies, but is losing 20% of Republicans to Murphy (all the Chris Shays voters from the primary?).

What's happened here is that McMahon's heavy advertising has managed to take Murphy down a peg or three: his favorables are now 36/44, down from 38/31 in their previous poll. McMahon, however, hasn't done anything to push her own favorables up (she's also underwater at 42/49.) As PPP's Tom Jensen points out, when faced with a choice between an unpopular Democrat and an unpopular Republican in the Connecticut electorate, the Democrat is going to win.

12:18 PM PT: Looks like the NRSC can't quit Todd Akin, either. They just issued a statement that, while stopping short of saying they'd spend money on Akin's behalf, made clear they're still supporting him and may still get involved.

“There is no question that for Missourians who believe we need to stop the reckless Washington spending, rein-in the role of government in people’s lives, and finally focus on growing jobs in this country, that Todd Akin is a far more preferable candidate than liberal Sen. Claire McCaskill,” NRSC executive director Rob Jesmer said. “As with every Republican Senate candidate, we hope Todd Akin wins in November, and we will continue to monitor this race closely in the days ahead.”
And that, in a nutshell, is why Todd Akin didn't quit the race. He knew they had nowhere else to go, and that if the polls showed that the race still remained competitive (which they do) then they'd come crawling back. They can't afford to take any races off the table at this point, even if it means doing more long-term damage to their brand by associating with Akin.

12:27 PM PT: IL-11: Here's a big investment in Judy Biggert from American Unity PAC, a pro-gay rights Republican group. They just put $500K into the race to run a TV spot, most of which will be spent on cable. Biggert is one less anti-gay Republicans in the House (voting for ENDA, for instance... though, of course, so did her Democratic opponent, ex-Rep. Bill Foster). Nevertheless, the ad (which you can see at the link) doesn't say one peep about gay rights; instead, it just hits Foster with a lot of boilerplate attack-ad stuff about the stimulus and Nancy Pelosi.

12:31 PM PT: IN-02: The ATF is investigating after the mailbox of Democratic candidate Brendan Mullen exploded on Monday. Several other mailboxes have also exploded in the area recently, so this may well be the handiwork of bored teenagers with fireworks rather than a specific targeting of Mullen, though.

12:41 PM PT: FL-26: I don't think this comes as a surprise to anyone who's been following the whole David Rivera/Justin Lamar Sternad/Ana Alliegro saga. Today the Miami Herald reports that Sternad, once he was the subject of a grand-jury investigation, told the FBI that GOP Rep. Rivera was in fact behind his spoiler campaign in the Dem primary.

Sternad also confirmed that Alliegro (who's currently missing) was the conduit between Rivera and the Sternad campaign, delivering unreported cash to Sternad. He said that Alliegro promised him that "D.R." would get him a better job (Sternad was a hotel clerk at the time) if he lost. (If?) At any rate, this would only seem to compound Rivera's already-deep trouble.

2:18 PM PT: And now House Majority PAC is out with two more cancellations, in addition to the Boston/MA-06 cancellation. They've also yanked $510K in Miami and $439K in St. Louis, both buys for one week. The Miami one is easy to ready -- GOP Rep. David Rivera's goose looks increasingly cooked, and there's also more than a million in DCCC dollars already in the can for FL-26. St. Louis is a little tougher to read; they proclaim total confidence in both Bill Enyart in IL-12 and David Gill in IL-13, but the evidence is less conclusive there.

2:22 PM PT: Later in the day, we are getting some pushback from the NRCC on one of the five "triages" that The Hill highlighted. They deny triaging Frank Guinta (no pushback on the rest). They say a) they've spent $80K in coordinated funds there (as opposed to IEs), b) part of the $2.2 mil they've reserved in Boston will go to Guinta, and at any rate, c) Guinta is winning, regardless of what the public polls say.

2:29 PM PT: DCCC: More triage news out of the D-Trip. They've announced cancellations of one-week ad buys in four more districts that have only been on the cusp of interesting: VA-02 (against Scott Rigell), FL-16 (against Vern Buchanan), IN-02 (Dem-held open seat), and ND-AL (GOP-held open seat). Instead, they're upping their buys in four offensive races that seem like better bets: CA-07 (against Dan Lungren), NY-24 (against Ann Marie Buerkle), IL-13 (GOP-held open seat), and OH-06 (against Bill Johnson). They're also upping their buy for Mike McIntyre who's in decent shape as he defends NC-07.

2:36 PM PT: Early voting: If you're like me, you're aware that early voting has started in some places, but you don't know the exact dates. Wonder no longer, because Talking Points Memo has helpfully consolidated all the early voting start dates (plus absentee ballot dates) into one chart.

2:39 PM PT: FL-09: Wow, Alan Grayson is such a stand-up guy he's actually helping bring his opponent, Todd Long, and Long's ex-wife closer together. Well, closer to the extent that Long's ex-wife is now defending Long and calling Grayson "despicable" in a statement. (Grayson used evidence from their divorce case to literally ask when Long had stopped beating his wife.)

2:45 PM PT: NH-02: A bit of an unforced error from Dem Ann Kuster, who's in a tight race with Charlie Bass. Kuster took a video camera away from a Bass tracker over the weekend after the tracker interrupted a private conversation and "nearly hit" her in the face with the camera; she returned it to the tracker via a supporter "moments later." Kuster tried to get ahead of the matter with a statement this morning accusing the Bass camp of bullying, and it doesn't sound like she went the full Etheridge on the tracker -- but we'll have to see what it looks like once the edited video is inevitably released on Fox.

2:51 PM PT: Polltopia: A new study discussed over at the Monkey Cage seems to have piqued a lot of interest; it claims that robo-pollsters tend to perform more accurately when there's already been a live-caller poll in the race. The implication is that that serves as a baseline for the IVR pollster, who presumably then rejigger their numbers if it seems out of whack with what's come before. At first blush, I'm a little skeptical, though, just because that seems to contradict what we've seen from probably the two most prominent IVR pollsters, PPP and Rasmussen. PPP often is the first pollster to accurately pick up a surge (Scott Brown in '10, Tammy Baldwin this year), while Rasmussen seems to follow along behind live-caller pollsters for the purpose of undercutting them.

2:58 PM PT: ND-Sen: There seems to be a real goldmine of sleaze still waiting to be excavated on GOP Rep. Rick Berg, running for the open Senate seat in North Dakota. Salon has released a new batch of it, looking at his record in the North Dakota State House, and how it synergized with his position as one of the state's largest residential landlords (through the Goldmark Property Management group, of which he was a founder). He was the driving force behind proposed legislation making it easier for landlords to evict tenants, keep security deposits, and avoid certain taxes.

3:29 PM PT: Ads:

MA-Sen: Elizabeth Warren's new ad continues the new trend of going hard at Scott Brown, and does so at one of the alleged Republican strong points: taxes.

ME-Sen: Charlie Summers does the generic intro thing. (Seems a little late to be doing the intro thing, but I guess the money has to come first and the ad second.)

MT-Sen: This line of attack must test well; the DSCC keeps hitting Denny Rehberg on the lobbyist angle, focusing on how he called it a 'noble profession.'

NV-Sen: The DSCC throws the kitchen sink at Dean Heller, condensing outsourcing to China, millionaire tax cuts, and $6,400 in Medicare charges into 30 seconds.

VA-Sen: The DSCC's latest anti-George Allen ad hits him on Social Security privatization. Meanwhile, Allen himself is out with a new ad, in a style that we've started seeing more of recently (including from Sherrod Brown earlier this week): a downbeat, one-minute ad that's a testimonial from a family that he helped. (Maybe that's something that tests well too, or at least breaks through the clutter of voice-of-doom negative ads.)

WI-Sen: Crossroads stiches together some odd bits and pieces to make Tammy Baldwin look bug-eyed and angry. (SOTB: $1.2 million... so get forward to see a lot of this ad, Wisconsin!)

3:35 PM PT: Ads:

WA-Gov: Guess the planned method of taking the high-minded wonky approach all the way to Olympia wasn't working out for Rob McKenna; while the RGA has already done some negative ads, this is the first one from his campaign, going after Jay Inslee for proposing to create new state agencies.

3:42 PM PT: Ads:

NY-27: Outsourcing to China seems to be a more potent issue in the Buffalo area than much of the country, so the House Majority PAC's new ad tries to link Republican Chris Collins to that practice.

OH-06: Another blue-collar district, and another ad about outsourcing, this time from the DCCC, hitting GOP freshman Bill Johnson.

WI-01: In Paul Ryan's third ad, you can definitely tell he's a budget wonk and one of the GOP's idea guys, because he's addressing a fascinated-looking audience standing in front of a projector screen with some sort of chart on it, and holding a clipboard. (In rather Dickensian fashion, it's titled "A Choice of Two Futures.")

3:46 PM PT: And now it looks like the NRCC is pushing back on a second of those annnounced triage victims: they've just said they're spending $458K on ads for Joe Walsh in IL-08. It's all cable, no broadcast TV, though that's not unreasonable given the expense of the Chicago market.

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