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10:03 AM PT: UT-Sen: Sen. Mike Lee's role as Shutdown King Ted Cruz's sidekick seems to have taken a toll back home, despite Utah's status as one of the most solidly Republican states in the nation. A new poll from BYU shows Lee's favorability rating falling from 50-41 in June all the way to 40-51 now, a 20-point drop in just four months. By contrast, Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson sports an impressive 58-36 score statewide, while even ex-Sen. Bob Bennett—the man Lee unseated in 2010—managed favorables of 46-47 just before he lost renomination.

Indeed, by a 57-43 margin, Utahns feel that Lee "should be more willing to compromise, even if that means passing a budget with funding for the Affordable Care Act," rather than "stand[ing] by his principles, even when the result is a government shutdown." Even 38 percent of Republicans agree with this formulation. Could Lee be making himself vulnerable, whether in a primary or, as unlikely as such a challenge may be, to Matheson in a general election? His next election is not until 2016, which is a very long way off, so there's no sense predicting. But it is worth keeping an eye on Lee's fortunes to see if somehow he manages to Cruz himself to death.

10:33 AM PT: VA-Gov: Ho-lee smokes! If you were online and tuned into the news late Wednesday night, you may have seen an incredible train wreck of a story unfold in real time—one so remarkable, you've probably heard about it by now. It began when the AP released an odd and confusingly written teaser that led off with a startling claim that turned out to be completely false:

Documents in a federal fraud case allege that Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe lied to a federal official investigating a Rhode Island estate planner now imprisoned for receiving death benefits on annuities secured on terminally ill people without their knowledge.
McAuliffe's camp quickly and forcefully denied the allegations. Stunningly, it turned out that the AP's Bob Lewis had concluded that a person identified in the indictment only by the initials "T.M." was Terry McAuliffe, which was not in fact the case. (McAuliffe was simply one of hundreds of passive investors in the estate planner's fund and was otherwise uninvolved in the fraud case.)

Ninety-eight minutes after first publishing it, the AP retracted the article, which inspired an outpouring of mockery on Twitter. (Sample: "Terry McAuliffe has been upheld as a tax.") McAuliffe also made a $74,000 donation to the American Cancer Society, which his campaign described as his approximate return on his investment with Joseph Caramadre, the now-convicted estate planner, as well as the amount of a donation Caramadre made in support of McAuliffe's previous gubernatorial bid in 2009.

So all in all, this was a giant nothingburger, politically speaking, but it's a huge black eye for the AP, which admitted that the retraction took "an hour and 38 minutes too long"—that is, the piece should never have been published. It was a terrible mistake to make, and not like we needed one, but it's yet another example of how the race to be first with the news has so badly undermined the paramount importance of accuracy.

11:33 AM PT: FL-Gov: Good news for Rick Scott: A pollster found him with a positive job approval rating! Bad news for Rick Scott: He still trails Charlie Crist in a general election matchup. The University of North Florida (an infrequent name on the polling scene) sees the Republican governor with a surprisingly gaudy 49-42 approval score, but Crist nevertheless manages a 44-40 edge in the head-to-heads. Scott fares similarly against little-known state Sen. Nan Rich, the only declared Democrat in the race, winning 43 percent to her 28. I tend to doubt Scott actually has such high approvals, but apparently, it doesn't even matter.

12:01 PM PT: CA-31: With Republicans under constant scrutiny over their reckless shutdown of the federal government, a few party members are starting to crack. Sometimes that takes the form of denialism or blaming President Obama, but in California Rep. Gary Miller's case, he just got physical:

In case you can't view the video, the Huffington Post sums up the turbulent encounter:
In a video clip provided to The Huffington Post by a Democratic operative, Miller is walking in front of the Capitol Hill Club on Wednesday when someone asks if he would be willing to vote for a clean continuing resolution—that is, a bill to fund the government without any strings attached.

Miller initially ignores the question. But as he gets closer, he reaches out and pushes back the camera lens along with the man behind it, saying only, "Thank you." As Miller puts his hand over the lens causing the scene to go dark, a voice, presumably from the cameraman, is still heard, saying, "Congressman?"

It's not quite Bob Etheridge grabbing a Breitbart ambusher by the wrist, but Miller is probably the single most-endangered Republican in the entire House. His 31st District was carried by Obama 57-41—the bluest seat held by a Republican—and he only won last year in a fluke. Miller can't afford a single mistake, but it looks like he sure just made one.

12:15 PM PT: NH-Sen: Former Sen. Bob Smith, who was unseated as senator in the 2002 Republican primary after temporarily leaving his party, has decided against a comeback bid. In the intervening years Smith, 72, had flirted with running for office in Florida as well, so he never seemed serious about much of anything.

12:25 PM PT: WATN?: Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a Democrat, was sentenced on Thursday to 28 years in prison. Earlier this year, Kilpatrick was convicted of 24 felonies for stealing public money "to fund lifestyles that included custom-made suits, private jet travel and luxury resort stays."

12:28 PM PT (David Jarman): NJ-Sen: Throw two more polls on the pile showing Cory Booker with a lead in the low double digits, but at or past the 50% mark ahead of next week's special election. There's one from Stockton College, and clocking in at Booker 50, Steve Lonegan 39 (trendlines from a month ago were 58-32). The other is from Rasmussen Reports, a similar-looking Booker 53, Lonegan 41 (trendlines are 50-33, from all the way back in June).

We've been noticing a lot of low-level consternation about this race -- not so much a worry that Booker won't win (seeing as how he's already always polling over 50), but more of a sense of puzzlement at how golden boy Booker isn't putting away Lonegan, who comes across more like Archie Bunker than a standard-issue New Jersey country-club Republican, by 20 points or more. A quick look back at New Jersey's recent history of Senate races should dispel any notion that something unusual is bubbling under here; starting with HuffPo Pollster's averages (which peg the race at 52-41 on Thursday) and allocating undecideds equally, Lonegan looks on track to score about 44%. But 44% has basically been the Republican default position in Senate races in New Jersey over the last 25 years... and that's even before accounting for the turnout disparities one might expect in a special election on a Wednesday in October in an odd-numbered year:

1990: Christie Todd Whitman: 47%
1994: Chuck Haytaian: 47%
1996: Dick Zimmer: 43%
2000: Bob Franks: 47%
2002: Doug Forrester: 42%
2006: Tom Kean Jr.: 44%
2008: Dick Zimmer: 42%
2012: Joe Kyrillos: 39%
Now, granted, there's something of a downward trend in recent years, so maybe 44% would be at the upper end of the range... but bear in mind, '08 and '12 were presidential years with large coattails. And the idea that New Jersey has temptingly-close Senate races isn't a new one: New Jersey as "Republican fools' gold" is a meme that's been with us many years.

12:30 PM PT: WY-Sen: The American Principles Fund, the conservative super PAC running ads that try to paint Republican Liz Cheney as an MSNBC liberal who supports gay marriage, has now doubled its ad buy. The group had initially spent $75,000 but is upping their total outlay to $140,000—a considerable sum in dirt-cheap Wyoming, the least populous state in the nation.

1:13 PM PT: NJ-Gov: Two new polls:

Quinnipiac: Gov. Chris Christie (R): 62, Barbara Buono (D): 33 (Sept.: 64-30 Christie).

Stockton: Christie 61, Buono 28 (Sept.: 58-30 Christie).

1:21 PM PT: NY-01: I have a feeling this is going to be a strange primary. Former Gov. George Pataki, the last Republican to win statewide office in New York, just endorsed former SEC attorney George Demos over state Sen. Lee Zeldin, who otherwise appears to be the establishment choice. Demos once worked on a Pataki re-election campaign, so there's a personal connection. But Pataki represents more of an old-school, moderate-ish brand of Republican, and I kind of expect Demos to try to out-do Zeldin from the right. Then again, Zeldin received the backing of the chair of the Suffolk County Conservative Party the same day, so maybe the ideological lines here won't be so clear.

1:25 PM PT: (Even former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, who unsuccessfully tried to follow in Lee's footsteps and primary Sen. Orrin Hatch last year, thinks Lee "has committed an act of self-immolation that will cripple his influence" and "may be permanent.")

1:46 PM PT (Darth Jeff): Boston Mayor: If it seems like city Councilor John Connolly is currently leading state Rep. Marty Walsh, another poll indicates that it’s more than a feeling. UMass Lowell has Connolly up 45-37; this comes the same week that Suffolk showed Connolly up 41 to 34.

2:07 PM PT: OR-Sen: Businessman Sam Carpenter just entered the GOP primary for the right to take on freshman Sen. Jeff Merkley, and it looks like he may have a limited ability to self-fund, since he seeded his campaign with $100,000. But that's not very much in terms of a Senate race: Merkley, as a challenger in 2008, raised and spent $6.5 million. Carpenter joins former Linn County GOP chair Jo Rae Perkins in the hunt for the Republican nomination, while state Rep. Jason Conger of Bend surgeon Monica Wehby are both still considering the race.

2:26 PM PT (Darth Jeff): WBUR has a great article with background on the Boston Mayoral race. One key takeaway is how class has emerged as a major fault-line in the election: Walsh's base is more working class while Connolly's is more affluent.  

2:58 PM PT: IN Ballot: Hmm. A conservative group called the Indiana Family Institute released just the teensiest bit of information about a new poll they commissioned from WPA Research, which supposedly shows that 62 percent of Hoosiers favor amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. (Gay marriage is already outlawed by statute.) That directly contradicts a recent survey on behalf of pro-equality group Freedom Indiana from another Republican pollster, Bellwether Research, that found voters opposed by a 48-45 margin.

I can't find out any further details about the WPA poll, though, including the all-important question wording. (Freedom Indiana published their exact questions.) Polling on ballot measures is always hard, though it's easy to put your thumb on the scale just by tweaking what you ask, if you're interested in propaganda rather than research. Without more, we have no idea what WPA and IFI are up to, of course, but I will note that other surveys have been much closer to Bellwether's, and no one else has found anything close to 62 percent support for the amendment.

3:02 PM PT: WI-07: Democrats so far haven't found anyone willing to run against sophomore GOP Rep. Sean Duffy, but now Ashland Alderperson Kelly Westlund says he's seriously considering the race. Ashland's a very tiny town, though, with a population of just 8,200. Last cycle, Democrats recruited a very legitimate candidate in state Sen. Pat Kreitlow, but he lost by a disappointing 56-44 margin, thanks in part to a GOP gerrymander that made this seat a few points redder.

3:54 PM PT: VA-Gov: We keep taking note of every single darn Terry McAuliffe ad, and boy he sure has a lot, including two more on Thursday: one boring one on jobs and another much better spot that uses a quote from GOP Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling to slam Ken Cuccinelli on his tax plans. But the more important advertising story is that Cuccinelli has been forced to draw down his television buys, from $1.2 million in the final week of September to barely half this this week. And tell me this doesn't sound like pure loserspeak:

"Terry McAuliffe became famous for one thing and one thing only: raising dough," said communications director Richard Cullen. "We never planned a campaign where we would be competing with him dollar for dollar, but there's no question we will have the resources necessary to win on Nov. 5."
No question—except according to the same Politico report, Democrats have spent $20 million on the airwaves versus just $13 million for Republicans. (And while the reason for the discrepancy is unclear, that's a much bigger gap than the Republican media firm Smart Media Group calculated last week.) The RNC is trying to help make up the shortfall with a $500,00 cash infusion to the VA GOP, but ex-Rep. Gabby Giffords' gun safety group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, said they, too, would act to match a half-million dollar campaign by the NRA.

There's also a much bigger gap between the two sides in Quinnipiac's latest poll, which features McAuliffe leading 47-39, up from 44-41 a month ago. Libertarian Robert Sarvis takes 8 percent, but when the results are recalculated using the second choice of Sarvis voters, T-Mac still owns a 49-42 edge. In other words, the GOP can't blame the Libertarian here.

Finally, while we don't usually mention when members of the same party endorse one another outside of primaries, in this case, we will. That's because ex-Gov. Doug Wilder, who served as a Democrat, often likes to cause trouble and support Republicans. But this time, he's going against type and backing McAuliffe.

4:10 PM PT: GA-Gov: Progressive activist group Better Georgia has released the results of a new poll they commissioned from PPP to test how state Sen. Jason Carter (a grandson of Jimmy) would fare against GOP Gov. Nathan Deal. It turns out that Deal only has a shabby 44-40 lead, which is quite remarkable, because PPP surveyed Georgia on its own in August and found Deal ahead by a rather comfortable 48-33.

That August poll followed an earlier one from February, though, where Deal sported a 46-38 edge, halfway between those more recent results. At the time, we wondered if Deal had in fact rebounded from a winter swoon, or if that first poll had simply been too pessimistic about him. So it may well be that the summertime survey was off-base—and overly rosy.

Or, as PPP's memo suggests, Deal might be suffering thanks to a growing ethics scandal, involving allegations that "the state ethics commission conspired with his top aides to minimize an ethics investigation and ordered documents removed from his file." Deal's denied the charges, of course, but there's been plenty of negative media coverage since the story broke last month. What's more, he resigned from Congress in 2010 while running for governor in order to foreclose an earlier ethics investigation by the House, so it's easy for a narrative to form.

Carter has so far declined to discuss his interest in running, but he (or perhaps the DGA, it's not clear) reportedly commissioned a poll to test the waters recently. We don't know the results of that survey, but if it's anything like what PPP found, then there's a potential for an enormous upset here.

4:40 PM PT: FL-13: Immediately following the news of GOP Rep. Bill Young's retirement, St. Pete polls conducted flash surveys of hypothetical primaries for both the Democratic and Republican sides. For Dems, ex-Gov. Charlie Crist is the big favorite with 54 percent, versus 10 for attorney Jessica Ehrlich, 8 each for Pinellas County Commissioners Charlie Justice and Ken Welch, 7 for County Commissioner Janet Long at 7, and just 2 for businessman Scott Wagman. Without Crist, it goes Justice 20, Ehrlich 17, Long 13, Welch 10, and Wagman 3.

For Republicans, former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker leads with 24 percent, while state Sen. Jeff "My voice is my passport" Brandes is at 12, state Sen. Jack Latvala at 9, former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard at 8, and County Commissioner Karen Seel at 7. But Brandes and Latvala have both said they won't run, as has another Republican, County Commissioner John Morroni. And Democratic state Rep. Darryl Rouson has declined as well.

But there's also a new name in the mix: Young's salty-tongued wife, Beverly, says she may run. (At 57, she's much younger than her husband, who is 82.) In addition to being known for her big mouth, Beverly Young was also once kicked out of a George Bush State of the Union address for sporting a t-shirt that read "Support Our Troops." Forget about the slogan, though: Who wears a tee to a presidential speech in front of Congress?

4:52 PM PT: 3Q Fundraising:

GA-Sen: David Perdue: $1.3 million raised (including $500,000 in self-funding but not including another $500,000 personal loan), $1.3 million cash-on-hand

IA-Sen: Joni Ernst (R): $252,000 raised

MN-Sen: Mike McFadden (R): $700,000 raised, $1.2 million cash-on-hand

SC-Gov: Gov. Nikki Haley (R): $950,000 raised, $3.2 million cash-on-hand; Vincent Sheheen (D): $566,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

NV-03: Erin Bilbray (D): $253,000 raised, $185,000 cash-on-hand

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