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8:39 AM PT: Passings: Former Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who was the state's longest-serving senator in history, died on Sunday from complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Specter began his career decades ago as a Democrat, but in 1965, he switched parties to run for Philadelphia District Attorney, a race he won. He eventually ascended to the Senate in 1980, on his third try, and carved out a reputation (deserved or not) as a "moderate."

Specter remained a Republican until 2009, when—realizing he was all but certain to lose the GOP primary the following year—he switched back to the Democrats and briefly gave his new/old party a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the upper chamber. In perhaps a final irony, he wound up losing the Democratic primary to then-Rep. Joe Sestak, who questioned the sincerity of Specter's return to the fold. But Specter, gracious in defeat, turned around and backed Sestak, saying "I think it's vital to keep this seat in the Democratic Party." (Sestak narrowly lost.) Specter was 82.

8:51 AM PT: MT-Sen, -AL: I guess that answers that:

"I am not goofy enough to be in the House, and I'm not senile enough to be in the Senate."
That is, of course, Montana's outgoing Democratic governor, Brian Schweitzer.

8:55 AM PT: MA-Sen: Elizabeth Warren (D): $12.1 mil raised, $7.3 mil cash-on-hand; Scott Brown (R-inc): $7.45 mil raised, $10.2 mil cash-on-hand. Note: Warren's lower cash total is due to the fact that she pre-paid for over $3 million worth of TV ads for the final three weeks of the campaign, which gave her lower rates.

9:23 AM PT: NY-25 (PDF): Proof of the power of negative advertising? Siena College's latest poll of New York's 25th shows Republican Maggie Brooks cutting Dem Rep. Louise Slaughter's lead in half, from 52-42 at the end of September to just 49-44 now. Most alarming is that the presidential toplines haven't budged (Obama's up 52-39, versus 52-39 three weeks ago), which suggests Slaughter's weakening is real. Just as worrisome is the fact that Slaughter doesn't appear to be disputing the results: In a statement, her campaign said that "Despite millions being spent against us on negative ads... voters are still siding with Louise."

9:31 AM PT: NY-11: Mark Murphy's challenge to GOP Rep. Mike Grimm always seemed like one of those "hoping for another shoe to drop" type of campaigns: Without some serious action on the various ethical scandals confronting the incumbent, it was always hard to imagine Murphy pulling off an upset. Time's running out, though, and I doubt prosecutors would indict a sitting member of Congress right before election day. But even if they somehow did, after reading this new New York Times interview will make you feel that Murphy probably needs at least a pair of shoes to drop, if not a whole armoire full:

But he is still finding his way in a new role: asked what led him to seek national office, Mr. Murphy struggled for a minute or so to find the right phrasing.

"It was something that came to me when people started coming to me and said, 'Mark, something needs to be done about this guy, something needs to be done. Will you do it?' " he said, after some hesitation. "And I said, well, you know, I'm flattered, thank you — I'll, I'll think about it. And then one day, somebody said, you know —"

Here Mr. Murphy paused for a full six seconds. Two campaign aides, seated beside their candidate, stared at him, unblinking.

"I guess it was, uh, it was in January," he continued. "Somebody said to me, we really need your help because they're going to get to a point of, um, of, of it being election time again. And I said, 'You know, I'll take this challenge.' "

9:36 AM PT: DCCC: At least the D-Trip's reluctance to share their September fundraising numbers last week (after the NRCC leaked theirs super-early) was only a sign that they were still counting the dough: It turns out that the DCCC outraised their counterparts $15.3 million to $12.4 million during the month. And they're not terribly far behind in cash-on-hand, $26.4 mil to $29.5 mil, after facing a $10 million deficit at the end of August. For the cycle, despite Democrats being deep in the House minority, they've pulled in $142 mil, versus $128 for the GOP.

9:40 AM PT: DLCC: The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which focuses on state legislative contests throughout the nation, has released its list of 60 "essential races" it's targeting this fall. You can see the full list (with individual explanations for "why this race matters") at the link. Ten of these picks were selected via grassroots nominations (including some made by the members of this community), and those matchups are highlighted here.

9:44 AM PT: MN-06: The DCCC just made a late addition to its Red to Blue list, adding hotelier Jim Graves, who is taking on none other than Michele Bachmann. They also slotted MI-06's Mike O'Brien into their "Emerging Races" category.

9:50 AM PT: WI-Sen: Amazing:

Jason Thompson, the son of former Gov. Tommy Thompson, was caught on video Sunday suggesting at a Republican event that voters this fall could send President Barack Obama back "to Kenya."

"We have the opportunity to send President Obama back to Chicago - or Kenya," Jason Thompson, an attorney at Michael Best and Friedrich, said during a fall brunch hosted by the Kenosha County Republican Party.

Also awesome is the Thompson campaign's apology statement, which mentions that "[t]he Governor has addressed this with his son, just like any father would do." They make Jason Thompson sound like a wayward teenager having an afternoon TV special heart-to-heart with his dad. Only problem is that Jason's close to 40 years old. Also, in attendance for the not-so-young Thompson's remarks was none other than RNC chair Reince Priebus, who apparently didn't bother to object or dime out the son to the campaign. (Thompson's people only responded after Buzzfeed broke the story.) So is tolerance of birtherism the official policy of the Republican National Committee now?

9:59 AM PT: TN-04: To me, the worst part of the whole "anti-abortion GOP Rep. Scott DesJarlais pressured his mistress to get an abortion" story was not the rank hypocrisy. Rather, I was really disturbed that DesJarlais, who is a physician, engaged in an affair with a patient—an extremely serious violation of his professional ethics. Picking up that thread, Chris Carroll of the Chattanooga Times Free Press explores what kinds of punishments the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners has handed out in recent years to other doctors who have committed similar offenses. One, for instance, had his license temporarily suspended, while another had it revoked after failing to comply with the board's instructions. And even though DesJarlais's affair began over a decade ago, one state health official notes that there is "no statute of limitations" for filing complaints about such matters.

10:26 AM PT: IL-11: It doesn't sound like GOP Rep. Judy Biggert handled herself very well in her debate with Democrat Bill Foster over the weekend. You always have be very careful to avoid a selective reading of tradmed accounts of debates—reporters will seldom come out and admit that one side stunk, and they'll try hard to showcase at least one "good" moment for both candidates. So you often have to read between the lines, but I think this is as good an example as any:

During the 11th District debate, Biggert at times appeared to struggle with her answers. When told she had the opportunity to ask Foster a question, Biggert took 15 seconds in trying to pose it. After the debate, Biggert told reporters that she had a question in mind but "couldn't remember what it was."
This might also explain why, a few days earlier, Biggert pulled out of another debate that was to be hosted by the AARP. Biggert claimed that the organization was unable to "act as a neutral arbiter," but it's pretty easy to believe her campaign is trying to minimize how much she can hurt herself in public.

10:59 AM PT: IL-02: If I said I'd be willing to wager that Dem Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. won't finish out his expected term in the 113th Congress, you'd probably says "no bet." The Chicago Sun-Times reports that he's the target of a new federal inquiry:

Focusing on a completely new area of scrutiny for the son of the famed civil rights leader, the investigation is not related to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's attempted sale of a U.S. Senate seat, a scandal that has ensnared Jackson in the past, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Rather, the probe — based in the Washington, D.C., FBI field office —is focusing on "suspicious activity" involving the congressman's finances related to his House seat and the possibility of inappropriate expenditures, the sources said.

The paper also says that the investigation began before Jackson went AWOL earlier this year, when he disappeared from the political scene to receive treatment for an ever-shifting array of maladies. What remains of Jackson's office is refusing to comment.

11:03 AM PT: MO-Sen: Whoa! This is good even by Todd Akin standards. In remarks that apparently were not broadly publicized at the time, Akin offered a pretty remarkable reason for opposing the Senate's version of this year's National Defense Authorization Act:

"They also had the legalization of bestiality, which is a pretty weird thing. So, I'm on the House side of the negotiations on that. So, we got rid of the bestiality thing."
I would love to know where he got this idea!

11:07 AM PT (David Jarman): PA-Sen: Well, is it close, or isn't it? Depends on the pollster, as we've got two conflicting Pennsylvania polls. Muhlenberg, for the Morning Call, says yep, it's close: they find the presidential race down to a 4-point race (49-45 advantage for Barack Obama), and even stranger, only a 2-point Senate race (41-39 lead for Dem incumbent Bob Casey Jr.). Muhlenberg has seen these races in the high-single-digits in their previous few polls.

Or, it's not close, if you want to go with Public Policy Polling. They find the prez race at 51-44, and the Senate race with an even bigger margin, with Casey leading GOPer Tom Smith 50-39, actually a smidge better than the 46-36 lead in their previous poll in mid-September. (The 7-pt lead in the presidential race is down from 12 in the Sept. poll, though.) In general, it's the same old story with the Senate race: Casey's approvals are only 38/38, but that's because a lot of Dems disapprove but still vote for him, while he also gets the vote of 17% of Republicans.

11:10 AM PT: WV-Sen: Quite odd: Republican John Raese stormed out of a meeting of the Charleston Gazette's editorial board after learning that a third-party candidate, Bob Henry Baber, would also be participating. Baber is the nominee of the Mountain Party, a Green Party affiliate whose chief concern is mountaintop removal coal mining. But Dem Sen. Joe Manchin stuck around (probably all too happy to have an anti-coal candidate on his left) and, unsurprisingly, won the paper's endorsement.

11:18 AM PT (David Jarman): MA-06: There was word (in last Friday afternoon's news dump) that Dem incumbent John Tierney was cutting back on ads for the last two weeks of the campaign; in other words, he wasn't being triaged by the DCCC or a third-party group but triaging himself. It seemed like part of the story was missing -- maybe a third-party group was going to pick up some of the slack -- but now it's looking like he might be throwing in the towel. (One clue should have been that straight-to-the-camera apology ad that ran last week, which is usually your last attempt to arrest a campaign that's suddenly gone into free-fall; see Feeney, Tom, c. 2008, for the archetypal example.)

The main piece of evidence, though, is a new poll offered up by his GOP challenger, Richard Tisei, via McLaughlin. The poll has Tisei up by a whopping 50-33 (with 6 for Libertarian Dan Fishman), quite different from their previously unreleased internal from mid-September which saw Tisei up by only 2. We'll have to see if Tierney can offer a response poll, but it looks like the heavy barrage of anti-Tierney advertising (focusing on his ties to his sketchier extended family members) had its desired effect.

11:23 AM PT (David Jarman): UT-04: One frequent refrain you hear about this race in the Beltway press is something along the lines of "both sides in this race are convinced that their internal polling is correct." And now we're finally getting a glimpse at the Democratic side of that equation: it's a poll by Global Strategy Group (on behalf of House Majority PAC and Center Forward) giving Dem incumbent Jim Matheson a 48-41 lead over GOPer Mia Love. That's quite a disparity from the double-digit lead that a GOP internal poll gave Love a few weeks ago, and somebody's going to have to be wrong.

11:32 AM PT (David Jarman): AZ-Sen: I'll certainly welcome any poll that has Dem Richard Carmona leading GOPer Jeff Flake in the open seat race in Arizona, and that's what the latest Rocky Mountain Poll from the Behavior Research Center shows. (Despite the weird name, they're an established and reliable pollster of Arizona politics.) They find Carmona leading 44-40 among likely voters, thanks in large part to a 65-18 lead among Latinos. Top of the ticket results suggest this may be a little too good to be true, as they even have Barack Obama leading in Arizona, up 44-42 (with 3 for Gary Johnson).

11:38 AM PT (David Jarman): CA-36: Here's a race that burst out of nowhere to become highly competitive (it's one we had at Likely R a month ago, and it looks like it's about to be a Tossup). We've seen previous polls with GOP incumbent Mary Bono Mack holding only a mid-single-digits lead, but now Lake Research has a new poll on behalf of Democratic challenger Raul Ruiz giving the Dem the lead. Ruiz leads 46-43; the pollster's previous look at the race in September had Bono Mack leading 47-43. I'll admit to being surprised about this, but there has been a lot of advertising activity here, it's a district with a large and growing Latino population, and Bono Mack hasn't been strongly tested before.

11:43 AM PT (David Jarman): IN-Sen (Rasmussen): Richard Mourdock (R) 47 (42), Joe Donnelly (D) 42 (40) (trendline from late August)

11:43 AM PT: ME-Sen: Conservatives aren't giving up on the possibility of stopping independent ex-Gov. Angus King: The Chamber of Commerce is going up with a new attack ad (their third) accusing King of the usual tax hikes and spending increases, while harpsichord-ish music that's supposed to evoke "renaissance-era royal court" plays in the background. (You know, Angus King.) They're spending half a million, mostly on TV with some radio as well. The NRSC is also still playing here, with a new $231K TV buy.

11:46 AM PT (David Jarman): NH-Gov: Two polls of the New Hampshire governor's race -- one from a Democratic internal pollster, one from a Republican external pollster -- both show a narrow lead for Democratic candidate Maggie Hassan. A poll for the DGA by the Feldman Group gives Hassan a 49-43 lead over Republican candidate Ovide Lamontagne (or if you prefer, a 44-39-5 lead over Lamontagne and Libertarian candidate John Babiarz). Meanwhile, Rasmussen also gives Hassan a lead, at 48-46, over Lamontagne. Interestingly, that's the same one-day sample that saw a tied race in New Hampshire between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, meaning Hassan is now overperforming Obama by a smidge.

12:13 PM PT: The Live Digest continues here.

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