• MO-Sen: Following on the heels of news that Now or Never PAC would parachute in with $800K on GOP Rep. Todd Akin's behalf at the 11th hour, the Missouri GOP is following suit with $700K of their own. Of course, you have to wonder where the state party got such money—few such outfits are that well-funded, and even if the MO Republicans were, no one's really keeping that much cash around with so little time before the election. The only real possibility, therefore, is that the money came from the NRSC (they're refusing to comment)—and of course their chair, John Cornyn, rather famously said he was cutting Akin loose after his legitimate rape implosion, and really seemed to stick to his guns.
So what's happening here? Are Republicans actually seeing a chance for themselves? Or are they just conning themselves into imagining that the natural tightening you'd expect here is real movement back toward Akin? Is there no other candidate they could better spend the money on? Well, I've asked my four questions, but it may not matter. Akin's out with a new ad that—stunningly—features a woman who says she was a rape victim and has had an abortion but is support Akin because he "defends the unborn." (It's not clear if the two were linked. And of course, Akin doesn't even think such a linkage is possible.) It's absolutely amazing that Akin would want to call attention to the very topic which sunk his own candidacy.
Dem Sen. Claire McCaskill's also lowering the boom with one final new spot, featuring footage of Mitt Romney calling on Akin to drop out of the race and John McCain saying "he would not be welcome by Republicans in the United States Senate." You know she was just holding this anvil in reserve. Let's hope it's enough to keep the lid of Todd Akin's political coffin tightly shut.
• NE-Sen: Not a bad get for Democrat Bob Kerrey: Republican ex-Sen. Chuck Hagel just endorsed him in the campaign's waning days. Of course the GOP is poor-mouthing Hagel, an apostate who left office in 2008 and has committed the sin of saying kind things about Obama—but I'd also point out that if Hagel's support truly meant nothing, then why would Republicans make such a big deal out of trying to convince reporters it means nothing?
Meanwhile, the last-minute ad spending has really heated up in Nebraska. The pro-Dem VoteVets is racing on to the airwaves, putting as much as $700K behind this ad which, like Kerrey's, attacks Republican Deb Fischer over a failed lawsuit she initiated against "elderly neighbors to take their land." And it turns out that American Crossroads' anti-Kerrey buy is much bigger than previously reported: $725K, not the $420K we'd seen mentioned before.
• OH-Sen: I just want to point out that negative third-party ad spending against Dem Sen. Sherrod Brown has now topped an absolutely insane $31 million—the most any Senate candidate has faced—and Republican Josh Mandel is still on track to lose. I just seriously hope that conservatives feel burned by how much money they've wasted on this race. Also, former Sen. (and national hero) John Glenn has recorded a very nice positive spot for Brown. It's quite the change from all the attack ads we've seen, and I think you'll like it.
• VA-Sen: Republican George Allen just lent his campaign $500K in its final days, which is hard to read as a positive sign for his chances. The reality is, aside from weirdo conservative pollsters like Gravis or We Ask America, and the always-wrong Roanoke College (they started the race with Allen up 13 points!), you have to go back to mid-July to find Allen leading in any poll.
• WI-Sen: Oh, Tommy:
So I left. I left the government after four years, after George Bush got elected the second time. And my wife likes to shop. Okay? And she said, "You know, Tommy, you have been in politics for 38 years. Why don't you go out and see if you can make some decent money so I can go shopping without having to put everything on a credit card."• Polls:
• MI-Sen (EPIC-MRA): Debbie Stabenow (D-inc): 54 (55), Pete Hoekstra (R): 33 (35).
• WI-Sen (Marist): Tammy Baldwin (D): 48 (49), Tommy Thompson (R): 47 (45); Obama 49-46 (51-45).
• NH-Gov (Marist): Maggie Hassan (D): 49 (47), Ovide Lamontagne (R): 44 (45); Obama 49-47 (51-44). Odd that Hassan's lead would increase since last month while Obama's would decrease.
• WA-Gov: There's definitely been some tightening in the race for Washington's governor in the last month; there was a brief period (which seemed to coincide with Barack Obama's post-convention polling bulge) where Democrat Jay Inslee was putting up mid-single-digit leads, and now that's down to low-single-digit leads (or in the case of last week's Elway Research poll, a small edge for GOPer Rob McKenna). Two new polls confirm that idea: SurveyUSA, on behalf of KING-TV, find Inslee leading McKenna 47-46, down from a 3-pt. lead two weeks ago and a 5-pt. lead a month ago.
The University of Washington, on behalf of KCTS, finds the exact same numbers (PDF) if you stick with registered voters: Inslee leading McKenna 47-46. However, if you switch to LVs, Inslee actually does better: 49-46. Indeed, Washington was one of the few states in 2010 polling where we saw the enthusiasm gap working to the Dems' benefit, and that may apply again here. (The LV margin in the school's previous poll a month ago was 47-46 for Inslee.)
Even when Inslee was trailing McKenna by significant margins prior to this summer, we expected that this was going to be a down-to-the-wire race in November, given the tension between the state's Democratic lean and McKenna's ability to overperform a generic Republican. Factor in a lot of RGA spending in the closing weeks, and it makes sense that this race is reverting to the mean; with that, we're moving it back to Tossup—albeit with the faintest Inslee tilt—after a brief stay at Lean Dem.
Other results from SUSA's poll include a 54-40 lead for Barack Obama in the presidential race (unchanged from two weeks ago). There is also solid support for the state's two big ballot measures: same-sex-marriage is passing 52-43 (down from 54-41 last time), while marijuana legalization is passing 56-37. UW's miscellaneous numbers include a 56-36 lead for Barack Obama, a crushing 61-33 lead for Maria Cantwell in the Senate race, a 45-34 advantage for Dem Bob Ferguson in the open Attorney General's race, same-sex-marriage passing 58-37, and marijuana legalization passing 55-38. (David Jarman)
• CA-35: You really have to wonder why Mike Bloomberg waited until so incredibly late in the game for his PAC to start spending so freely—he certainly could have had a bigger impact had he not waited until the absolute last second. But in any event, here's the latest of his big buys: He's pouring an enormous $2.4 million on to the airwaves against Rep. Joe Baca, who faces fellow Democrat Gloria Negrete McLeod (a state senator) on November 6. That's on top of some $265K in mailers that Independence USA had already paid for. As is usually the case with Bloombo, he's unhappy with Baca's stance on guns, but again, it's not clear why Baca merits any more special attention than any number of pro-gun congressmen.
• CA-52 (SurveyUSA): Scott Peters (D): 46, Brian Bilbray (R-inc): 46; Romney 48-45. This is the first poll since Peters and Bilbray each put out internals claiming to be up 4 or 5 each around a week or so ago, though Bilbray notably refused to even provide the name of his pollster. A newspaper poll from the same time had the incumbent up 9, but seeing as Bilbray released internal polling showing a more modest lead, that makes the independent poll fairly hard to believe.
In any event, SUSA evidently believes the truth lies right smack in the middle, but I actually think these numbers are optimistic for Peters. Romney's up 3 in a district Obama won by 12. So either that 15-point turnaround represents a huge drop for the POTUS in the San Diego region (in which case Peters is still hanging on), or this sample is too red (meaning Peters is actually doing better than SUSA thinks).
• MI-11: I love Politico's headline for their new story about Republican nominee Kerry Bentivolio: "Bro: House candidate Bentivolio 'mentally unbalanced'". Totally, bro! Says Bentivolio's brother Philip:
"I've never met anyone in my life who is conniving and dishonest as this guy," Phillip Bentivolio said, according to the Michigan Information and Research Service (subscription required). "He's my brother so it's hard to talk about this, but I believe that if he gets elected, he'll eventually serve time in prison."But it sounds like there's a real beef here: Philip Bentivolio says his brother still owes him $20,000 from twenty years ago (!) and says he told Kerry that he would go to the media if he didn't get paid. I guess this is him making good on his threat, because Kerry responded by saying that Philip has "serious mental issues." Of course, Kerry's the one who once testified in court that he has a "problem figuring out which one I really am, Santa Claus or Kerry Bentivolio," so maybe he's not best-equipped to opine on others' mental health.
• MN-02: This is unexpected: House Majority PAC is going into Minnesota's 2nd with a small $65K buy on behalf of Democrat Mike Obermueller, who is waging a longshot campaign against veteran GOP Rep. John Kline. (The minute-long spot, on stem cell research, is one that HMP has used elsewhere.) It's not clear why HMP is making this move: It's so little, so late, and they didn't even send out a press release about it (which is their usual m.o.). A head-fake? Or a possible late collapse in Kline's numbers? It's hard to say, but the former seems more likely than the latter.
• NY-11 (Siena): Mark Murphy (D): 34 (38), Mike Grimm (R-inc): 52 (48); Romney 49-46 (Obama 49-45). Yet another Siena poll to find Democratic fortunes heading south. Unlike NY-21, though, this race hasn't really been in play for Team Blue for quite some time, if it ever was.
• NY-21: Remarkably, there are three new polls out of New York's 21st District in a single day—one Dem internal, one GOP internal, and one independent survey. And while Rep. Bill Owens leads in all three, the trendlines are not generally positive:
• GSG (for Owens): Bill Owens (D-inc): 47 (50), Matt Doheny (R): 40 (36); Obama 49-43 (51-39).
• POS (for Doheny): Bill Owens (D-inc): 42 (44), Matt Doheny (R): 40 (43).
A few notes here. First, Doheny's poll, bizarrely, is not of likely voters but of "most likely" voters, a strange metric to use. And if that trendline from POS looks unfamiliar, it's because in his prior survey, Doheny actually trailed 45-40 among plain old likely voters. He didn't provide LVs this time around, which means his spread among them is worse. And since no one uses "MLVs," you have to really wonder if that faux term of art even means anything.
But that aside, both Owens' internal and the independent poll are not pretty. After holding a healthy 13-point lead (and sitting just shy of 50 percent) in Siena's survey, Owens has slipped quite a bit and now is ahead by just one. Siena's presidential shift is pretty dramatic, but the drop they see for Obama (nine points) is not too far off what Global Strategy Group found (six points). Owens' poll has his lead getting halved, from 14 to seven, which is less dramatic than his dozen-point fall in Siena, but the motion is downward in both cases.
As I noted, though, Owens still leads, and Doheny's "most likely voter" shenanigans betray a certain lack of confidence. But this one seems set to remain a tossup until the very end.
• NY-25 (Siena): Louise Slaughter (D-inc): 52 (49), Maggie Brooks (R): 42 (44); Obama 53-40 (52-39). In their third poll released on Thursday, Siena finally had some good news for Democrats, as Louise Slaughter has moved back out to the same 52-42 lead she carried at the end of September. And since the presidential toplines have remained flat, you know it's not simply a matter of a more favorable sample. I would guess that it's just the district's natural demographics coming back home, which makes attack ads against the minority party (in this case, the GOP) more effective than those against the dominant party.
• TN-04: Whether GOP Rep. Scott DesJarlais does or doesn't survive on Tuesday, Roll Call's Joshua Miller says a whole host of local Republicans are already eager to run in Tennessee's 4th District next cycle. The list of possible names includes state Sen. Jim Tracy, state Reps. Kevin Brooks and Joe Carr, former Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble, businessman Shane Reeves, and state Speaker Pro Tem Judd Matheny. One name that surprisingly isn't mentioned in Miller's piece: state Sen. Bill Ketron, a powerful legislator who seemingly hand-crafted the redrawn 4th to suit his tastes, then stunningly chose not to run against the freshman DesJarlais in this year's primary. You have to wonder whether he's second-guessing that decision right about now.
• MT-St. Sen: One state legislative body that's potentially up for grabs but isn't getting a lot of play this year is Montana's state Senate, where the GOP picked up the chamber in 2010 and currently hold it with a 28-22 edge. The Billings Gazette has a helpful preview of the state's five biggest Senate race, 3 of which are GOP-held and 2 of which are Dem-held (one of which is MT-AL candidate Kim Gillan's seat in Billings).
More broadly, Louis Jacobsen at Governing, the lone pundit who's been out there handicapping the legislative chambers, is out with his final round of ratings of state legislatures. He sees a likely wash: There are six chambers that are leaning toward flipping toward the out party: the GOP-held Colorado House and Maine House (along with the tied Oregon House, which is leaning Dem), and the Dem-held Wisconsin Senate and both chambers in Arkansas. Chambers listed as Tossups include the Dem-held Iowa Senate, Nevada Senate, and Washington Senate, the GOP-held New York Senate and both Minnesota chambers, and the coalition-controlled Alaska Senate. I think he's leaving out some of the larger chambers that are subject to rapid churn, like the New Hampshire House and Pennsylvania House—and Washington's Senate is definitely not a Tossup—but mostly these feel about right. (David Jarman)
• NRCC: Politico says they've gotten a hold of an internal NRCC document detailing which GOP incumbents are most desperate for funds in the last days of the campaign. Here's the full list:
Dan Lungren (CA-07), Brian Bilbray (CA-52), Judy Biggert (IL-11), Dan Benishek (MI-01), Chip Cravaack (MN-08), Frank Guinta (NH-01), Charlie Bass (NH-02), Chris Gibson (NY-19), Jim Renacci (OH-16), and Quico Canseco (TX-23).The most interesting inclusion is Gibson. Every other race is in our Tossup pile, but NY-19 still remains at Lean R. The polling hasn't quite been there for us to shift the race one column to the left yet, but it's hovering somewhere in that gray area between "Lean" and "Tossup." It seems like a real surprise from Democrat Julian Schreibman may yet be possible.
• Polltopia: Paul Krugman is someone whom I read a lot but probably have never had occasion to link before in the Digest. However, I think his meta-take on political analysis is spot on, and describes our ethos quite well:
Brad [DeLong] has fun with Jonathan Martin of Politico, who thinks that liberals will be deeply disheartened to learn that Nate Silver "admits" that he's mainly relying on public polls for his forecast. Of course, Nate has been clear about that all along—and what should he be doing? And look: the message from the polls is very clear: national surveys show a tight race or a slight Romney lead, but state polls—which are telling us about the electoral vote—show a clear if narrow Obama advantage in enough states to win the electoral college. Those polls would have to be off, systematically, by about 2 percent for Romney to win. So the odds are in Obama's favor.More at the link. It's not a long post, and the whole thing is worth a read.
Oh, and don't quote some poll or other that seems to say different. Polls have a margin of error (duh). This means that if there are a lot of polls, say of Ohio, sheer luck of the draw will produce a couple of polls seeming to tell a different story. That's why all the serious analysts rely on poll averages, and stick to those averages rather than picking and choosing.
But Martin's tweet also reveals a broader issue in reporting, which I've commented on before, I think (no time to search): the unhealthy cult of the inside scoop.
A lot of political journalism, and even reporting on policy issues, is dominated by the search for the "secret sauce", as Martin puts it: the insider who knows What's Really Going On. Background interviews with top officials are regarded as gold, and the desire to get those interviews often induces reporters to spin on demand.
But such inside scoops are rarely—I won't say never, but rarely—worth a thing. My experience has been that careful analysis of publicly available information almost always trumps the insider approach.
• Predictions: If turnout and support is as high among minorities as polls indicate, and if President Obama gets at least as much support from white voters as Democratic House candidates did in the horrid 2010 midterm elections, Daily Kos Elections' dreaminonempty concludes that Romney cannot win the popular vote. But you may disagree with these premises—so peruse the data on voter registration, demographic trends, and recent polling, and then build your own electorate and predict what you think the presidential popular vote margin will be.