8:31 AM PT: NH-Gov (PDF): Over the last week, we've had one Democratic internal poll putting Maggie Hassan up two points over Republican Ovide Lamontagne and another putting her up nine. Now, we have two more polls, so you'd think the picture might be clearer, but no: We have one (from Marist) that also has Hassan leading by two (47-45), and another (from PPP, taken for the PCCC) that places Hassan out front by seven (51-45). So does she have a tiny edge or a wider one? Impossible to say, it seems, except at this point, after four straight polls, I think you can safely conclude that she does have at least some edge of some sort.
8:49 AM PT: NC-Gov (PDF): New polling in the North Carolina gubernatorial contest, though, is pretty negative for Democrats (compared to that in New Hampshire). Marist has Republican Pat McCrory beating Walter Dalton 52-39, while a National Research poll conducted mid-month for conservative think tank Civitas has McCrory on top 49-39. As we saw the other day, the DGA is still advertising here, so perhaps their internal polling is showing a spark of life, but it's hard to feel very optimistic.
8:55 AM PT: NV-Sen: Marist came out with a trio of swing state polls late Thursday (see NC-Gov and NH-Gov bullets), but their Nevada survey was a bit odd. They're seeing a very surprising enthusiasm gap on the part of Democrats, with Obama leading just 49-47 among likely voters but 51-44 among registered voters. LVs usually favor Republicans a bit, but a net five-point difference—especially with the way things are going nationally—seems very wide. That's also translated down the ballot somewhat, too, where GOP Sen. Dean Heller leads Dem Rep. Shelley Berkley 49-43, the biggest edge he's had in public polling from anyone not named Rasmussen. But among RVs, his margin's a bit narrower, 48-44. Still, Berkley will need Obama to do very well to drag her over the top.
"I just think that this is not a winnable race. We have to make tough calculations based on limited resources and where to allocate it, where it will have the best likelihood of electing a Republican senator."Just days ago, though, the NRSC said it would reconsider helping Akin, after previously saying it would not do so in the wake of his "legitimate rape" comments, after previously (of course) having every intention of playing in Missouri. That's now three flips from their previous flops!
9:35 AM PT: IL-17: Finally, some decent polling from Cheri Bustos. After her Republican opponent, GOP Rep. Bobby Schilling, released a second survey showing him up by double digits earlier in August, Bustos responded with an internal from February that... showed her down by nine points! It wasn't the kind of move that made you feel very optimistic. Now, though, she has a new internal from GBA Strategies that has Schilling up just 47-45, quite a bit better than that 44-35 spread GBA saw early in the year. Schilling also faces a real headwind, with Obama up 54-41 over Romney. But as with most House-level polling in Illinois this year, that represents a substantial drop from the president's 2008 numbers, when he cruised in this district 60-38.
10:07 AM PT (David Jarman): WA-06: Move along, nothing to see here... in the open seat race to replace the retiring Norm Dicks, Democratic state Sen. Derek Kilmer has a 52-37 lead over Republican rich guy Bill Driscoll. That's according to SurveyUSA, on behalf of KING-TV. They also have Barack Obama winning the Tacoma-based district 54-38 and Jay Inslee winning the district 50-44, which sound about right since this 57% Obama district is right around the state's median (the state as a whole was also 57% Obama). Another helpful benchmark: the combined Dem/GOP aggregates for the district in the Top 2 primary were 53-44.
(By the way, remember that WA-01 poll by SurveyUSA a few weeks ago that had John Koster narrowly ahead of Suzan DelBene? That's a 56% Obama district, and yet that poll had a 47-47 tie between Obama and Romney, and had Rob McKenna leading Inslee by 6. And the 1st's Top 2 was almost identical to the 6th's, which had a Dem/GOP split of 53-45. So, which one of the two SUSA polls do you think is a misfire?)
10:12 AM PT (David Jarman): NH-01, NH-02: Here's more good news out of the Granite State; that PPP poll on behalf of the PCCC also included the state's House races, both of which are Tossups. The Democratic challengers are up in both of those races. In the 1st, Carol Shea-Porter leads Frank Guinta 48-47, while in the 2nd, Ann Kuster leads Charlie Bass 51-46. That's a change from the last few rounds of House polling we've seen, in that Kuster is now outperforming Shea-Porter (in fact, cresting 50), but it's welcome news in both races.
10:19 AM PT (David Jarman): MA-06: The GOP is out with their second internal this week showing a lead for their challenger, Richard Tisei, over Dem incumbent John Tierney. The poll, by North Star Opinion for Eric Cantor's Young Guns Action Fund, puts Tisei ahead 45-37. This poll, like the previous one, fails the reality cross-check -- it also has Barack Obama leading only 48-45 in a 57% Obama district, and has Scott Brown winning the district by 12 -- but it does help reinforce the message that, despite some encouraging signs here (a big Tierney lead in a MassInc public poll, House Majority PAC concluding its work is done here), this race is still very much in play.
10:33 AM PT (David Jarman): ND-Sen: I keep waiting for a Republican response to the steady stream of Democratic internals showing a small lead for Heidi Heitkamp in the open seat North Dakota Senate race. They never seem to come, do they? And now we've gotten another Dem internal, from DFM Research on behalf of the state Democratic Party; they find Heitkamp leading GOPer Rick Berg 48-44. That's actually down in the trendlines from their July poll, which was 50-44. Still, the apparent durability of Heitkamp's small edge should inspire some confidence. And these may be the most telling numbers of all: Heitkamp's favorables are 53/39, while Berg's are 45/46. (Mitt Romney leads by 12 at the top of the ticket.)
10:37 AM PT (David Jarman): MT-Sen: Montana may be the one Senate race in the country that's closest to pure Tossup, with the polls rarely giving either guy a lead of more than a point or two. That continues with the latest poll issued Friday, a poll from Democratic firm Global Strategy Group on behalf of the League of Conservation Voters. They find Dem Jon Tester leading GOPer Denny Rehberg 44-42, with Libertarian Dan Cox at 7. (Tester also wins the two-way heat 47-46, indicating that Cox is drawing from both sides of the ledger.) The toplines feel a little too close for comfort, but we've known all along this race was going to be a game of inches.
10:42 AM PT (David Jarman): NM-Sen: The Martin Heinrich campaign has released an internal poll, courtesy of GBA Strategies, showing the Democratic Rep. with a 52-44 lead over Heather Wilson. The memo shows an array of previously-unreleased trendlines, which show an extremely stable race (always in a 7-9 pt. range over six previous polls taken in September and August). I'm not sure why he felt the need to release this internal since this race seems well in hand (especially after the NRSC quite publicly cut Wilson loose) and this result isn't notably better than what the public polls have been showing, but I suppose it's good to see he isn't taking his foot off the gas.
10:53 AM PT (David Jarman): VA-Sen: Here's a result that was completely normal for the last couple of years, yet, after the surge of the last month or so, seems a little disappointing: a tie in the Virginia Senate race. Massachusetts-based Suffolk is out with what looks like their first-ever poll of Virginia, and they find a 44-44 tie between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen. They also find a 46-44 lead for Barack Obama (with a whopping 1 for Virgil Goode).
11:10 AM PT (David Jarman): PA-Sen, PA-AG: Quinnipiac raised a lot of eyebrows when it showed Bob Casey's lead shrinking to the single digits in the Pennsylvania Senate race -- probably due to a temporary advertising gap between him and self-funding GOPer Tom Smith. Well, we've got some more confirmation for that idea, from Muhlenberg, who frequently poll Pennsylvania on behalf of the Morning Call. This week's installment has Casey leading Smith 44-36 (that's closed from 45-33 10 days ago). They also find Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney 49-42 atop the ticket.
And who would've expected Casey to be underperforming the state's Democratic Attorney General nominee, which is a race the Dems have never won since it became an elective position? Well, that's exactly what's happening, as Muhlenberg also polls the AG race, and finds Dem Kathleen Kane leading GOPer David Freed by 9 (44-35).
11:28 AM PT: Race Ratings:
We're making thirteen race ratings changes this week, all to our House chart. Eight of these moves favor Republicans, five favor Democrats.
• FL-16 (Lean R to Likely R): We were bullish enough on former state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald's chances to unseat GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan that we slotted this race in at Lean R to start. But given Buchanan's obscene personal wealth (and demonstrated willingness to deploy it), it seemed like Fitzgerald would need one or two shoes to drop regarding the various ethics charges that have perpetually dogged the incumbent. That never happened—Buchanan skated on almost everything, and the one remaining investigation (by the House itself) won't bear any fruit until after the election, if ever. While figuring out triage strategy is more difficult now than ever before (thanks to the plethora of well-funded outside groups), the DCCC's recent ad cancellation here is not a positive sign, especially since no other allies said they'd be stepping up to fill the breach.
• IA-01 & IA-02 (Likely D to Lean D): It seems like every single congressional race in Iowa is potentially competitive this year, even the pair of Dem-leaning districts in the eastern part of the state represented by Reps. Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack. The NRCC has spent real coin on both contests, and they have serviceable candidates in the form of attorney Ben Lange (who nearly beat Braley last time) and executive John Archer. The DCCC hasn't gotten involved here yet, which is probably more suggestive of confidence than bigger problems to worry about elsewhere. And as Romney's fortunes at the top of the ticket fade, both of these seats will become a tougher climb for Republicans. But given how much new turf both incumbents are representing (about 50% of their respective constituents are new to each of them), we're taking these races seriously.
• IN-02 (Lean R to Likely R): If nothing else, there's one reason why Dem Rep. Joe Donnelly decided make a bid for the Senate rather than seek re-election: redistricting. Donnelly was lucky to survive the 2010 wave, but Indiana Republicans made sure to redden the 2nd District considerably, making it an unattractive place for any Democrat to run. Veteran Brendan Mullen has done a serviceable job filling in for Donnelly, and Jackie Walorski (the Republican Donnelly beat last cycle) is certainly no great shakes. But there are too many structural factors weighing against Team Blue here, and the DCCC has now started cancelling ads.
• MD-06 (Lean D to Likely D): Redistricting, age, embarrassing partisan in-fighting, and a history of weird comments have all ganged up to doom veteran Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett. And facing a wealthy opponent (financier John Delaney) who's ready to self-fund whatever it takes doesn't help matters. Take all this together and you'll understand why the NRCC is letting ol' Roscoe fend for himself.
• ME-02 (Likely D to Safe D): Just because he represents an unusual rural district that always seems to threaten to take a turn toward the conservative, Dem Rep. Mike Michaud often makes various watch lists. But he's a good fit for ME-02, and public polling has showed him with dominant leads over his GOP opponent, Kevin Raye.
• MI-11 (Lean R to Likely R): A quasi-swingish seat opens up late in the cycle thanks to an historic failure to qualify for the ballot by the Republican incumbent, leading the GOP to nominate a Paulist truther-curious reindeer farmer... and Democrats still can't take advantage. Kerry Bentivolio will almost surely be the weirdest member of the 113th Congress (and that's saying something!), but you can't be something with nothing, and sadly, Democrat Syed Taj's campaign doesn't appear to be much more than nothing. Therefore, we're expecting the 11th's natural GOP lean to assert itself and make Bentivolio a very improbable winner.
• MO-04 (Likely R to Safe R): Ex-Rep. Ike Skelton was one of those rare old Democrats who could hold down very red turf thanks to his singular profile—until he couldn't anymore, and got swept out in 2010 by Vicki Hartzler. Dems did land a pretty good recruit in the form of prosecutor Teresa Hensley, but even though this seat got bluer in redistricting, it still went for John McCain by 15 points in 2008. With little more than five weeks to go until election day, no third-party groups are showing any interest in this contest on either side.
• NM-01 (Lean D to Likely D): It seems like the GOP has given up any hope of holding this 60% Obama open seat, which was in their hands as recently as 2008. A recent independent poll gave Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham a 46-34 lead, and Republican Janice Arnold-Jones' response didn't really make sense. Just as importantly, she has almost no money and isn't getting any outside love.
• RI-01 (Tossup to Lean D): Three recent Democratic internal polls, all published in quick succession, have now showed freshman Dem Rep. David Cicilline with I'll-gladly-take-`em leads over his Republican challenger, Brendan Doherty. And while Doherty, a former state police chief, was as good a recruit as the GOP could hope for, RI-01's dark blue lean—and new-found Democratic enthusiasm in general—are asserting themselves. We wouldn't be in this position at all were it not for the painful series of revelations about Cicilline's financial stewardship of Providence when he served as mayor, but pure demographics seem to be beating back a now-fading scandal.
• TN-04 (Likely R to Safe R): Any hope of beating GOP freshman Scott DesJarlais was, at best, a longshot, though Democratic state Sen. Eric Stewart seemed like as good a fit for this district as we'd get. But unlike other ex-Blue Dog districts such as FL-02, Tennessee's 4th is punishingly red, at 63-36 McCain. That helps explain why DesJarlais beat then-Rep. Lincoln Davis by the second-largest margin involving a Democratic incumbent in 2010, and why this race hasn't become competitive this year.
• TX-23 (Lean R to Tossup): Democrats were fortunate that state Rep. Pete Gallego (and not ex-Rep. Ciro Rodriguez) wound up as their nominee in the 23rd, a seat held by Rodriguez for a couple of terms until he lost to wealthy Republican Quico Canseco last cycle. Based on district demographics, we felt that this should be a top pickup opportunity for Team Blue, but we wanted to wait for some sort of confirmation. Now, we finally have that, in the form of an unanswered internal poll showing Gallego up 43-38. What's more, environmental groups have already spent a fortune here and are determined to make an example of Canseco.
• VA-05 (Likely R to Safe R): Democrat Tom Perriello (a hero to many progressives) managed to defeat GOP Rep. Virgil Goode in Virginia's 5th in 2008, and even though he got washed back out last cycle, the seat still only went for John McCain by a 51-48 margin—and that's despite Republicans having a free hand to redrawn the state's congressional districts. But though retired Brig. Gen. John Douglass seemed like a potentially compelling candidate here, national Democrats never worked up an appetite for taking on Rep. Rob Hurt.
11:42 AM PT: VA-02: Here's a great example of why you have to be really careful in how you use the word "triage" this cycle. While the DCCC just announced it was cancelling some ad reservations in VA-02, the House Majority PAC has stepped into the breach with a new buy worth $126K targeting GOP freshman Scott Rigell. Given the plethora of outside groups who can now each shoulder part of the burden, it's crucial to pay attention to whether someone picks up the slack whenever you hear about an alleged case of triage.