Saturday, October 28, 2006

How Much is Rove Telling

Mark Blumenthal picks up on an interview on NPR with Karl Rove, where Karl (basically) says that he has access to much more internal polling data than does the public, and he foresees continued Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Blumenthal suggest that parties are generally more forthcoming with internal polling data that shows them leading, and the paucity of such information disclosed by the GOP suggest that Rove is spinning.

Can't fault the logic, but only time will tell.

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Conrad Burns: Confirmed With Pulse

Doubt that there is a GOP surge - perhaps small, but definitely appearing? Conrad Burns is within 51-48 of Jon Tester in Montana. Plus, according to the Hotline, the NRSC is starting to air ads on behalf of Burns again.

Apart from having him within 3, the latest poll has him at 48% support (as opposed to other recent polls, which showed him at 42 or 43). If conservative voters are really coming home, Burns has a chance.

So New Jersey, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Virginia, and (I believe) Tennessee are all looking better for the GOP. It puts me in an optimistic mood, but I remind myself that trends can turn around at any time.

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Campaign Notes

Signs will be displayed at polling places in Mark Foley's old district, telling voters that a vote for Foley is actually a vote for Joe Negron. It's still an uphill climb.

And CQ Politics reports on expenditures by the Democratic and Republican campaign committees in a range of House races. Both the DCCC and NRCC poured millions into Pennsylvania in the first half of October. In the Gerlach vs. Murphy race, the DCCC spent $2.6 million, and the NRCC spent $2 milliom. In Weldon v. Sestak, the Democrats spent $1.8 million, to the GOP's $1.7. The Democrats spent $1.6 million on behalf of Patrick Murphy, running against Mike Fitzpatrick, and the GOP spent $1.8 million for Fitzpatrick. The Democrats spent a lot on Ed Perlmutter in Colorado, as well as Baron Hill in Indiana. The GOP countered with spending on Clay Shaw and Joy Padgett.

Read CQ to learn what famous baseball team owner - widely known as a Republican - donated to the DCCC.

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Trouble in (Socialist) Paradise

Che Guevara must be turning over in his grave (and probably Castro, too). Bolivia's 'nationalization' of natural gas is not going well. And Chavez's buddy Evo Morales seems to be suffering at home because of it.

A case of socialism overpromising? Never!

Morales feels heat in negotiations over gas
By Hal Weitzman in Lima
Published: October 26 2006 19:43 | Last updated: October 26 2006 19:43

At two minutes past midnight on Friday – 180 days since Bolivia’s government decreed the state was to take back control of its natural gas reserves – President Evo Morales hopes to announce the nationalisation has been completed.

It is far from clear that the deadline will be met. Things have not gone smoothly since May 1, when Mr Morales donned a hard hat and entered the San Alberto gas field in south-eastern Bolivia operated by Petrobras, the Brazilian state-owned energy company, to declare that he was honouring a campaign pledge to renationalise the sector.

The nationalisation – the reserves are the second biggest in Latin America – provoked the wrath of governments in Brazil and Spain, and led to a drying up of international investment. It briefly boosted Mr Morales’s popularity at home, but since then his approval ratings have fallen steadily.

With foreign relations still fragile and his domestic agenda gridlocked in political infighting, Mr Morales desperately needs to be able to announce some good news on Friday.

One difficulty those in the industry frequently complain about was that in spite of the fanfare that accompanied the announcement, the administration did not initiate negotiations with most foreign investors until September. This was some seven weeks before the six-month ultimatum the companies were given to renegotiate operating contracts or pack their bags.

“The talks began 4½ months after they should have done,” says Ronald Fessy, a lawyer for the Bolivian Hydrocarbons Chamber, which represents foreign investors such as Repsol of Spain, France’s Total, British Gas and Royal Dutch Shell...

Read the whole thing.

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Hoist on Their Own Petard

After spending the last 6 years conconcting tales of stolen elections and uncounted votes, the Democrats are now finding that voters don't see any reason to vote. Funny how that works out:

Democrats Fear Disillusionment in Black Voters
Correction Appended

Last weekend, Jim Webb, the Virginia Democrat who hopes to oust Senator George Allen, crammed in visits to 12 black churches, and for several weeks he has been pumping money into advertisements on black radio stations and in black newspapers.

In Missouri, Claire McCaskill, the Democrat trying to unseat Senator Jim Talent, has been running advertisements about sickle cell anemia, a genetic illness that mostly afflicts black people, and the importance of stem cell research in helping to find a cure.

For Democrats like these in tight races, black voter turnout will be crucial on Election Day. But despite a generally buoyant Democratic Party nationally, there are worries among Democratic strategists in some states that blacks may not turn up at the polls in big enough numbers because of disillusionment over past shenanigans.

“This notion that elections are stolen and that elections are rigged is so common in the public sphere that we’re having to go out of our way to counter them this year,” said Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist.

This will be the first midterm election in which the Democratic Party is mobilizing teams of lawyers and poll watchers, to check for irregularities including suppression of the black vote, in at least a dozen of the closest districts, Ms. Brazile said.

Democrats’ worries are backed up by a Pew Research Center report that found that blacks were twice as likely now than they were in 2004 to say they had little or no confidence in the voting system, rising to 29 percent from 15 percent.

And more than three times as many blacks as whites — 29 percent versus 8 percent — say they do not believe that their vote will be accurately tallied...

Recent polls have found record levels of outrage from Democrats about the current political leadership, which may offset the effect of black disillusion.

But Saleemah Affoul of Milwaukee, for one, is not so sure. Like many other black people in her neighborhood, Ms. Affoul said she was convinced that no matter how she voted, it would not be counted fairly.

“I do think the system is rigged,” she said. “I vote anyway because my forefathers worked too hard to win me that right. But not everyone feels that responsibility around here...”

Former President Bill Clinton addressed the issue there, criticizing some Republican campaign tactics. After mentioning rough-edged political ads and other strategies, he said, “And when that doesn’t work, they try to keep you from voting...”

I don't think it's the GOP that's trying to stop African Americans from voting.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

A Suggestion for the NRCC

It seems to me that this is the right time to produce a commercial that explains why Democrats can't be trusted to clean up Washington. It would be a minute or minute-and-a-half long, and would not have to be a large buy: the only goal would be to get it on CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and YouTube. It would mention Pelosi's plan to have Alcee Hastings chair the Intelligence Committee, Harry Reid's land deal, Bill Jefferson's cold cash, Bob Menendez's federal probe, and whatever other ethics problems are appropriate to bring in.

Since the Democrats' major goal is to present themselves as the safe and acceptable alternative, why not remind the voters in the last few days of why Democrats aren't safe and acceptable. An ad like this could get a lot of attention, and help convince wavering voters that the Democrats can't be trusted to change things in Washington - at least, not in a good way.

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Culling the Moderates - Not

A number of commentators have remarked that whether they lose the majority or not, the House GOP is likely to be more conservative next year by virtue of the fact that a number of moderates Republicans will have been defeated.

Consulting the RCP list of endangered GOP House seats, the average lifetime ACU rating of the 20 most endangered Members is 76.2% The endangered GOPers include John Hostettler (lifetime score: 90), Charles Taylor (lifetime score: 92), Chris Chocola (lifetime score: 95), Tom Reynolds (lifetime score: 88) and Mike Sodrel (lifetime score: 92).

I can't find the average score for all House Republicans, but ACU does say that in their book, 'conservatives' score 80 or better. So 'on the average,' the likely GOP losers on election day will be moderate-to-conservative.

Don't kid yourself that sitting out election day will make the Republican caucus more conservative, or that losing the House will make them so. They only way to do that is to support conservative candidates.

Another point: I hope that this difficult election day teaches House GOPers a lesson, and I hope they change their behavior in the next Congress. But I don't want them to be more conservative. I want them to be more reformist. I want to see an end to earmarks, and an outside ethics process, to start.

I think that tackling discretionary spending and entitlement spending is a thankless task, which the Democrats will try to frustrate at every turn. But I want to see some commitment to figuring out how to do it.

But the GOP doesn't need to be more conservative to do that. Going by the scoreboard, some of the most conservative members are the most hidebound institutionalists. That's what I want to see defeated - whether conservatives or moderates are the ones carrying the flag.

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NYT: Predictably Liberal As Always

A gay New Jersey couple challenges traditional marriage in court, and the state's liberal Supreme Court orders the Legislature to officially recognize same-sex unions within six months, or else.

And what's the New York Times headline? G.O.P. Moves Fast to Reignite Issue of Gay Marriage.

You can't make this stuff up...

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Poll Shows Reynolds With a Lead

This is the second poll in a week showing Tom Reynolds with a lead. You will recall that Reynolds looked to be in deep trouble immediately after the Foley revelations, and people chalked his seat up as a Democratic gain. In their most recent analyses, Bob Novak and CQ describe the seat as 'Leaning Democratic,' and both Rothenberg and Cook rate it a pure toss-up.

It's looking however, like it might be leaning Republican (as Rich Lowry's source characterizes it).

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Videos for the Weekend

Am I intruding on Ace's exclusive territory? I'll risk it.

Is it possible this video is nearly 10 years old?

And that this is more than 20?

In a penny, in a dollar. This one is almost 25 years old:

And just because I can, an underappreciated Gabriel video:

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Senate Democrats' Worst Week

This has been a good week for Senate Republicans. Ben Cardin gets caught not knowing where the Purple Line is. Jim Webb gets caught not realizing that pedophilia is unpopular in Virginia. Bob Menendez can't shake a federal investigation. And Harold Ford can't respond to an ad that paints him as a lying, immoral, anti-gun, tax-raising liberal.

As I've said elsewhere, I think Allen and Corker can ice the champagne. If either Steele or Kean can win his race, Senate Republicans will be a lot happier on election day than it seemed a week ago.

And did I mention that things are looking up for Mark Kennedy in Minnesota?

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Kean's Sopranos Ad

I had not heard anything about this ad until Chris Matthews complained about it it being racist. It's quite good - particularly if you're a fan of the Sopranos.

Once again a demonstration of the Democratic obsession with race. Chris Matthews says that the ad is racist, because it associates Menendez - a latino - with the Sopranos - italians.


What? Is there any level on which that makes sense?

Check out National Review's media blog for more.

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Webb's Book Means GOP Senate

As you may have seen, Jim Webb is preparing to answer questions about some of the sex scenes he's written in his novels. It includes some disgusting stuff. If you want to check it out for yourself, Wizbang has compiled them here, and they have more passages than Drudge does. Most people will find it tasteless, at best.

I am sure that Webb and his defenders will say that they're simply stories, and Webb will probably add that they are all things that he witnessed, or knew of during his military career. 'The horrors of war,' he will say. Be that as it may, this will toss the dirt on the Webb campaign, which was flagging anyway.

Politically, you wonder how Webb could be such a fool as to allow this to come up so late in the campaign, rather than getting it out there early. Did he not think that people would be surprised or react negatively, if they heard a week before the election that he had written stuff like this? Rule 1 in the political playbook is to get the negative stuff out early. Webb could have sat down with a sympathetic Washinton Post reporter, and gotten all this stuff out, along with his side of the story. He would have had months for people to forget about it.

Instead, he's now lost the race.

Check out Chris Dodd trying to change the subject, and saying how none of this matters:

BTW, as I now count it, the GOP is quite likely to lose Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Ohio and Montana (although perhaps there is hope in Montana). I feel very confident about Tennessee and Virginia. So even if the Democrats win Missouri - which sounds like a tossup to me, at this point - the GOP will still keep control of the Senate.

Update: Check out how the Washington Post has consistently done its best to trash Allen and Boost Webb. Wonder how they will treat this?

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Post Decries Negative Campaigns

The Washington Post this morning covers the disturbing proliferation of negative campaigning, particularly related to sex. You might think that this was an odd time to start the backlash against Democratic attacks related to Mark Foley, the lying smears about Jerry Weller, and the 'outing' of Republicans - you know, right when Jim Webb is on the defensive. You might also think it's odd for the Post to complain about negative campaigning, after flogging 'macaca' for so long.

But wait for it: the attacks that the Post is concerned about are by Republicans.

The Year Of Playing Dirtier
Negative Ads Get Positively Surreal
By Michael Grunwald
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 27, 2006; A01

Rep. Ron Kind pays for sex!

Well, that's what the Republican challenger for his Wisconsin congressional seat, Paul R. Nelson, claims in new ads, the ones with "XXX" stamped across Kind's face.

It turns out that Kind -- along with more than 200 of his fellow hedonists in the House -- opposed an unsuccessful effort to stop the National Institutes of Health from pursuing peer-reviewed sex studies. According to Nelson's ads, the Democrat also wants to "let illegal aliens burn the American flag" and "allow convicted child molesters to enter this country."

To Nelson, that doesn't even qualify as negative campaigning.

"Negative campaigning is vicious personal attacks," he said in an interview. "This isn't personal at all."

By 2006 standards, maybe it isn't.

On the brink of what could be a power-shifting election, it is kitchen-sink time: Desperate candidates are throwing everything. While negative campaigning is a tradition in American politics, this year's version in many races has an eccentric shade, filled with allegations of moral bankruptcy and sexual perversion.

At the same time, the growth of "independent expenditures" by national parties and other groups has allowed candidates to distance themselves from distasteful attacks on their opponents, while blogs and YouTube have provided free distribution networks for eye-catching hatchet jobs.

"When the news is bad, the ads tend to be negative," said Shanto Iyengar, a Stanford professor who studies political advertising. "And the more negative the ad, the more likely it is to get free media coverage. So there's a big incentive to go to the extremes."

The result has been a carnival of ugly, especially on the GOP side, where operatives are trying to counter what polls show is a hostile political environment by casting opponents as fatally flawed characters. The National Republican Campaign Committee is spending more than 90 percent of its advertising budget on negative ads, according to GOP operatives, and the rest of the party seems to be following suit...

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Novak Trashes Barron's; Predicts Dem House

Evans and Novak write this week that House Democrats look likely to gain about 21 seats, which would give them control of the House. They suggest a Democratic gain of 4 seats in the Senate.

I put the House a little closer; my current count is an 18-20 seat gain for the Democrats.

Notably, Evans and Novak also trash the much-discussed prediction of Barron's that the House would stay Republican. Their criticsms are very similar to mine.

Update: Larry Sabato has weighed in with his latest assessment. He estimates that Democrats will gain 21-26 seats in the House, 4 to 6 in the Senate, and 5 to 7 governorships. Read the whole thing to get commentary on what the GOP ground game is worth (2 points or so) and the potential effect of the NJ decision.

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NJ Skepticism

Buoyed by polls that show Tom Kean and Bob Menendez close in New Jersey, the GOP is getting ready to invest as much as $5 million in the state's Senate race.

This is an interesting gamble, given how much money the GOP has flushed down the New Jersey rathole in recent years.

In 2004, the last Quinnipiac poll showed Bush and Kerry tied at 46%, a week before election day. The New York Times was calling New Jersey a 'swing state,' and the perception that the race was close led Bush to speak on homeland security in New Jersey only a few weeks before election day. But as USA Today noted, even though polls consistenly showed the race to be a close one, Kerry ultimately won by 7 points.

In 2000, early polls in New Jersey showed a close race between Bush and Gore, with some even showing Bush ahead. A belief that the race had gotten close again late in the campaign led Bush to hold a rally in the state only a few days before the election, in the hopes of a blowout victory in the Presidential race. The result? Bush lost by 16 points.

Some of this is laid out in a post-mortem on the 2000 race here. The chief political director for the Newark Star Ledger describes New Jersey as a 'weird state,' where 'polls show things close and tend to break Democratic in the end.'

By spending a lot of money in an expensive media market, the the GOP is betting that things will be different in New Jersey this year.

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Ford, Corker, Racism and Lawbreakers

Harold Ford and the Democrats think a recent ad paid for by the RNC is racist. I've linked to the ad as explained by a Democrat who agrees.

First off, let's note that the ad accuses Ford of being a lying, immoral, anti-gun, terrorist-loving, tax raising liberal. And the best answer he can come up with is 'that's racist!' If that's his best defense, Bob Corker can start drafting his victory speech.

But besides that, it's pathetic that the Democratic party has reached the point where it would claim that it's racist to even suggest that a black person and a white person might have sex together. But as the ad I linked makes clear, Republicans are racist no matter what they do. It is racist to suggest that black women find Ford attractive; it is racist to suggest that white women do. There is no way to avoid the racism charge. It's another clear demonstration that today's Democratic party can't look past a person's skin color, and see everything through the prism of race.

Further, Ford wants Corker to break the law, and get the ad withdrawn. Worse, he assumes that Corker can and will do so:

Corker’s campaign called on the RNC to stop airing the commercial the day it aired, Oct. 20, saying it is “over the top, tacky and is not reflective of the kind of campaign we are running.” In addition, the Corker campaign released a memo it addressed to Tennessee television station managers Monday asking them to pull the ad.

Corker cannot directly address his complaint to the RNC, as candidates are not allowed to coordinate with the national parties on advertising paid for by independent expenditures — even to request that an ad be pulled from circulation.

But Democrats argue that Corker is simply playing the good cop and could have the commercial pulled if he chooses.

“Everyone knows that if Mr. Corker wanted these despicable and offensive ads taken off the air, all he has to do is ask the Washington Republican leadership to do so. But he has failed to do so,” Ford said in a statement.

By Ford's logic, the decision of the RNC to pull the ad would almost constitute prima facie evidence of illegal coordination between Corker and the RNC. Nevertheless, looks like the ad has been pulled.

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The Importance of the NJ Decision

Mickey writes on the NJ decision, and makes a good argument that its political effect will be relatively minor. But while we won't have myriad pictures of gay couples flying to Atlantic City to marry, and it won't lead the news on CNN and Fox every half hour, that doesn't mean it won't have a significant impact.

The picture that Mickey paints would be dramatic indeed. It would probably push gay marriage forward as one of the top issues in the election - along with Iraq. Nancy Pelosi would have to address it, and declare how Congressional Democrats would deal with it. I believe that the whole discussion would probably lead to a small, but significant effect among independent voters. Now, none of that is likely.

But midterm elections are base elections, and the discussion all year has been whether the Republican base was as motivated as the Democratic base, and whether evangelicals would be disillusioned with the GOP for a range of reasons, including Mark Foley. I think that has become a much smaller concern now. I suspect that social conservatives will take serious note of this - particularly as it becomes clear that the Supreme Court may ultimately hear a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (challenges have already been brought and rejected, as recently as this month).

Opponents of the DOMA have argued since it was first considered that it is unconstitutional (look here, here, and here for example). The argument holds that giving states the explicit right not to recognize some marriages certified by other states is a violation of the Constitution's 'full faith and credit' clause. It also asserts that DOMA's establishment of heterosexual marriages as the only ones recognized by the federal government is a violation of the 14th amendment's 'equal protection' guarantee.

It is only a matter of time before a court rules that DOMA is unconstitutional, and requires states to provide equal treatment to gay marriages certified by New Jersey, or some other state. That challenge will ultimately go to the Supreme Court. As social conservatives are reminded that their votes this year will influence the makeup of the Supreme Court that hears that challenge, they will come out to vote, and they will 'come home' to the GOP. I think that means an important boost (two points or so?) for Republican candidates in conservative states and districts.

Read Glenn's collection of responses here.

Update: Larry Sabato is always worth a read. Check out his take on the NJ decision here:

A Republican gift of yet-to-be-determined value arrived yesterday in the form of a significant judicial state ruling the Crystal Ball had quietly been anticipating from a distance... The state high court's decision to mandate the legislature to pass full legal rights to New Jersey's same-sex couples could not have come at a worse time for Democrats all across the country...

So long as the GOP is able to both keep the story alive and dedicate some resources to capitalize on it--a big if, might we add--New Jersey's ruling holds the potential to revive dormant conservative hostility towards judicial liberals at a time when many conservatives, disheartened by the Foley scandal and other Washington improprieties, may have considered sitting this midterm out... But more importantly for our purposes, added evangelical turnout could prove a decisive boon to GOP turnout in key races for control of Congress all over the nation--perhaps in Tennessee and Virginia's absolutely crucial Senate races.

The Crystal Ball reads the implications of this political hot potato with caution. It's possible that the story could fade from media memory in a day and ultimately be forgotten by voters; it's also possible that the political impact of the Garden State's ruling could be conveyed by religious conservative organizations under the radar, only surfacing to haunt the Democrats on November 7th. Time will tell...

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Bachmann Leads in Minnesota

The latest poll from Survey USA puts Michelle Bachmann ahead of Patty Wetterling by 6 points.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Key Republicans Improving Position

The Hotline picks up polls of three bellwether races for determining House control. They show Clay Shaw, Rob Simmons and Peter Roskam all leading in their races. Although anything is possible, you'd think that if all three of those people win their races, the chances of Democrats taking the House are rather slim.

Democrats currently count about 10 Republican seats that are certain gains. Simmons and Shaw probably fall into the tier right after that - seats they'll need to get to a 15 or 20 seat gain.

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Liberals Who Don't Know What's Good for Them

Looks like the New Jersey Supreme Court has given social conservatives something besides Mark Foley to think about as they head to the polling booth. I suspect that court-ordered recognition of same-sex unions will count for much more than one former Congressman. Social conservatives in red states like Montana, Virginia, and Tennessee have been reminded that values issue like marriage are still salient.

I am sure that Harold Ford, Jon Tester and Jim Webb oppose gay marriage. I don't think that will help any of them, although Tester was far enough ahead that he still may win. But I suspect Bob Corker and George Allen can go to the 'prevent defense.'

By the way - you have to love the audacity of the imperial judiciary. The Supreme Court gives the Legislature 6 months to address the issue.

Glenn is on it, and I suspect that once Mickey writes on it, it will be worth reading.

Recall too, that Dick Morris believes the social conservatives were already 'coming home' to the GOP.

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Closing Time

You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.

The Hill looks at where the NRCC is focusing its resources in the final days, and how GOP incumbents are fighting for re-election.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dick Morris Loses All Credibility

It was only 8 days ago that Dick Morris wrote in The Hill:

Churchgoing whites are the core of the Republican base. The fact that they are now breaking even in the approaching midterm elections foretells total disaster for the GOP. For this group to leave is, quite literally, the political equivalent of the last dog dying! It is now likely that they will lose both houses of Congress.

With this kind of defection, Republican Sens. Mike DeWine (Ohio), Conrad Burns (Mont.), Rick Santorum (Pa.), Jim Talent (Mo.) and Lincoln Chaffee (R.I.) seem likely to be gone. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s (R-Tenn.) seat seems likely to go to Rep. Harold Ford (D-Tenn.). And Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) may also be on his way out. In New Jersey, after trailing Tom Kean Jr. for most of September, Sen. Robert Menendez (D) seems to have moved out to a small lead that will probably grow.

And all of this trend is before the final weeks when downscale Democrats, who have not yet focused on the elections, “come home” and vote their historic party loyalties.

The defection of the Republican base is likely to be felt even more keenly in the House races. The very gerrymandering that GOP leaders had hoped would leave their House margin invulnerable may now backfire as the Republican white churchgoers, whom the district lines had incorporated into swing Republican districts, now defect and vote Democrat or stay home in massive numbers. The gerrymandering designed to keep Democrats out may have the perverse effect of keeping disaffected Republicans in the swing districts, magnifying their effect on the election.

Can the Republican Party reunite with its base? It’s hard to see how they can win it back until the 2008 election. A Hillary Clinton candidacy would obviously help them to regain the fierce loyalty of their base, but she would also bring in millions of single women voters who would support her candidacy by huge margins. The recent census data showing that half of all households are unmarried indicates how extensive a political force single women can become.

So it will take 2 years to reunite with the base, huh? I suppose so, unless it takes only 8 days:

October 24, 2006 -- The latest polls show something very strange and quite encouraging is happening: The Republican base seems to be coming back home. This trend, only vaguely and dimly emerging from a variety of polls, suggests that a trend may be afoot that would deny the Democrats control of the House and the Senate.

With two weeks to go, anything can happen, but it is beginning to look poss- ible that the Democratic surge in the midterm elections may fall short of control in either House.

Here's the evidence:

* Pollsters Scott Rasmussen and John Zogby both show Republican Bob Corker gaining on Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr. in Tennessee, a must-win Senate seat for the Democrats. Zogby has Corker ahead by seven, while Rasmussen still shows a Ford edge of two points.

* Zogby reports a "turnaround" in New Jersey's Senate race with the GOP candidate Tom Kean taking the lead, a conclusion shared by some other public polls.

* Even though Sen. Jim Talent in Missouri is still under the magic 50 percent threshold for an incumbent, Rasmussen has him one point ahead and Zogby puts him three up. But unless he crests 50 percent, he'll probably still lose.

* Even though he is a lost cause, both Rasmussen and Zogby show Montana's Republican Sen. Conrad Burns cutting the gap and moving up.

* In Virginia, Republican embattled incumbent Sen. George Allen has now moved over the 50 percent threshold in his internal polls. (He'd been at 48 percent.)

Nationally, Zogby reports that the generic Democratic edge is down to four points, having been as high as nine two weeks ago.


Why are Republican fortunes brightening?

The GOP base, alienated by the Foley scandal and the generally dismal record of this Congress, may have fast forwarded to the prospect of a Democratic victory and recoiled. They may have pondered the impact of a repeal of the Patriot Act, a ban on NSA wiretapping and a requirement of having an attorney present in terrorist questioning - and decided not to punish the country for the sins of the Republican leaders.


Right now, we would have to say that control of Congress has gone from "lean Democrat" to a "toss-up." And that's progress for the Republicans.

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NJ Gay Marriage Decision Tomorrow

So says the New Jersey Supreme Court (Hat Top: Hotline).

Well, if the decision is indeed, to require gay marriage, this is likely to be a significant shock to the political debate. Read Mickey, who nailed it.

So here are the potential events to help the GOP in the next two weeks: NJ Supreme Court decision, signing of the Secure Fence Act, conviction and sentencing of Saddam Hussein. That sounds like a hopeful formula. Combined with a financial advantage and the turnout machine, and the GOP might pull through.

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Some Minor Notes

What would happen if a Republican did this?

A test might be how much play this story gets. (Trivia Note: Hayworth is the IP-endorsed candidate for Arizona's next open statewide office).

Refusing to debate is usually a sign that you're comfortably ahead. Hooray!

Check out the Washington Post's Midterm Madness, and pick every one of the 468 House and Senate races up this year.

The President will reportedly sign the Secure Fence Act on Thursday.

According to the gay news site, the New Jersey Supreme Court is unlikely to issue its gay marriage ruling this week, and may not issue it until after the election:

NJ Gay Marriage Ruling Unlikely This Week
by Newscenter Staff
October 24, 2006 - 11:00 am ET

(Newark, New Jersey) The New Jersey Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, widely expected to have been issued this week to coincide with the retirement of Chief Justice Deborah T. Poritz, now appears unlikely.

Portiz turns 70 on Thursday. Her last day on the bench will be Wednesday and both supporters and opponents of gay marriage have said they believe the ruling would be issued before then. (story)

But the court Tuesday on its Web site said that no rulings are expected on Wednesday. That also makes it unlikely any decision will be issued this week.

Some legal analysts now suggest the court will not deliver a ruling before next month's election out of concerns it could influence, one way or another, the outcome. They point to the ruling on same-sex marriage handed down in Massachusetts which came more than a week after the 2004 election.

And did you know that China has natural gas?

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Porkbusters Making a Difference

I've been wondering what to expect from the Congressional GOP, if they retain their majorities. Will they conclude that voters will never throw them out, and indulge every venal desire they may have, or will they embrace Winston Churchill? Churchill said lots of great things, including this:

Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result

Republicans who decide to live by this quote might realize that majorities can be fleeting, even if you do your best to act like Democrats. They might decide that the chance to promote conservative reforms cannot be wasted.

It looks like Arlen Specter of all people, may be getting the message:
Specter Mulls Labor-HHS Without Earmarks
October 24, 2006
By Emily Pierce and Erin P. Billings,
Roll Call Staff

Facing an FBI investigation of his top staff and scrutiny of his own financial records, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said he currently is weighing “the pros and cons” of whether to eliminate earmarks entirely from the annual Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies spending measure.

Specter, whose staffers are being investigated for allegedly improperly securing earmarks for businesses owned by their family members, currently chairs the Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the bill. He said in a recent interview that he plans to talk to his fellow Senators about the idea of ridding the measure of targeted spending provisions but has yet to reach a final determination.

“I’ve talked to a lot of my colleagues,” he said. “There’s a reluctance to give them up. But we’re seeing more problems pop up all the time. ... It’s an atmosphere that makes even good things look questionable...

While the spotlight on Specter’s staff may be creating some internal pressure to eliminate earmarks in future bills, he is likely to face a tough sell with both his Senate and House counterparts...

“Our decision last year not to do earmarks wasn’t very popular,” said John Scofield, spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee Republicans. Scofield noted that last November all Democrats and a fair number of Republicans joined forces against the earmark-free fiscal 2006 Labor-HHS bill and defeated an appropriations conference report for the first time in 10 years.

Scofield said House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) would be “open to talk” about the idea, even though Lewis and other House appropriators vigorously opposed a recent rule change that requires Members to identify the earmarks they have secured.

However, if predictions of a Democratic takeover of the chamber are realized on Nov. 7, Specter may find himself negotiating any earmark ban with House Democrats, who frequently have complained over the past 12 years of Republican rule that the Labor-HHS bill gets shortchanged.

Indeed, eliminating earmarks from Labor-HHS likely would adversely impact some of the Democrats’ highest priorities since the bulk of targeted spending provisions in the bill go to community centers, hospitals, schools and job-training programs...

Wow. This would suggest that conservatives who vote against Republicans because they want to teach them a lesson and give Democrats a shot, might actually be voting against their own interest.

Isn't that a crazy thought?

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Polls Can be Wrong

A useful reminder from Erick at RedState.

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India Checks Its Watch, Clears Its Throat

Will the Senate get around finally to agreeing that 1.1 billion people would be good to have as allies?


Shortening my Stay in Purgatory

When I was a kid, I was always told that any suffering and adversity I went through would shorten my stay in purgatory. Well, reading election predictions might be my guarantee to a straight shot right past purgatory and on to the pearly gates (or fiery damnation, as the case may be).

Stu Rothenberg today notes (subscription required) that the wave this year is bigger than 1994, and says that if Republicans were sufficiently exposed (that is, if the GOP held more nominally Democratic or marginal House seats), we could suffer as much as a 60 seat loss:

How High the Wave? Don’t Just Think 1994; Think 1974, 1958, 1982
October 24, 2006
By Stuart Rothenberg,
Roll Call Contributing Writer

With only a couple of weeks until Election Day, we know there will be a Democratic wave on Nov. 7. And we can be fairly certain that by historical standards it will be high — possibly very high. But we still don’t know how many Republicans once considered safe will be swept out of office.

The national political environment currently is worse than it was in 1994, when the Democrats lost 52 House seats, eight Senate seats and 10 governorships, and when Republicans won GOP control of the House for the first time in decades.

You heard me right: It’s worse this year than it was in 1994, when voters were dissatisfied with the first two years of the Bill Clinton presidency.

President Bush’s approval ratings are worse than Clinton’s were — Bush’s are in the upper 30s, while Clinton’s were in the mid-to-upper 40s — and the 16 percent approval rating for Congress in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll ranks far below where Congress stood prior to the 1994 midterms (24 percent).

Similarly, the generic ballot in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll was much closer back in ’94, when Republicans held a 5-point edge right before the elections. Now, there’s a 15-point Democratic advantage...

Given that, the past four true midterm wave elections saw the victorious party winning 52, 48, 48 and 26 seats, suggesting a reasonable range for success for Democrats this year.

Given that the political environment right now is worse for Republicans than at any time since 1974 — and that Republicans hold 232 House seats, which is far, far above their level in any of the four previous cycles — their vulnerability is great.

Of course, it matters where a party starts, since an overextended party (that is, one holding lots of seats that ought to belong to the opposition) inevitably has more seats at risk, while one that holds relatively few districts has fewer to lose.

The GOP’s 48-seat loss in 1974 was stunning because the party started the election holding fewer than 200 seats. In 1982, Republicans lost 26 seats starting at roughly the same point.

While the GOP isn’t overextended now, its 15-seat majority suggests it is now near the upper limit of its “normal” range. It holds a few Democratic seats, and Democrats hold a few Republican seats, but most districts are represented by the “correct” party. Still, with Republicans holding 232 seats in the House, the party has plenty of districts to lose.

So where does this leave us?

With the national environment being as it is — and given the last round of redistricting, which limits possible Democratic gains — Republicans probably are at risk to lose as few as 45 seats and as many as 60 seats, based on historical results. Given how the national mood compares to previous wave years and to the GOP’s 15-seat House majority, Democratic gains almost certainly would fall to the upper end of that range.

The paucity of competitive districts limits Republican risk, but how much? Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer. But if redistricting cuts that kind of wave by half, Democrats would gain between 22 and 30 seats next month. And if the new districts slice Democratic gains by a smaller but still significant one-third, Democrats would pick up from 30 to 45 seats.

Dangerously big waves can be very strong and very unpredictable. They can bring widespread destruction and chaos. Republicans now must hope that this year’s midterm wave isn’t as bad as national poll numbers suggest it could be, because those national numbers suggest a truly historic tidal wave.

I wonder if it's too early in the morning to start drinking?

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Happy News Roundup

Don't run the car with the garage door closed. There is some good news for the GOP today as well. Safe GOP House members are funding other races, John Doolittle looks good for re-election, and Republican incumbent Barbara Cubin reportedly told her libertarian opponent, who has MS and uses a wheel chair, that she would have slapped him across the face 'if he weren't sitting in that chair.'

Oh wait, that's bad news.

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Depressing Morning for Polls

I've been watching to see if GOP polls were improving in the last few weeks of the campaign, and this is one morning that I wish I weren't. Looking around the blogosphere I see Francine Busby closing in on Bilbray, Northup slipping in Kentucky, Democrats leading in 7 of 9 key Senate races, Shays tied with Farrell, and Hill leads Sodrel.

For the record, Republicans probably have to win all 4 of those House races to keep control.

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Meet the New Leaders

Check out Captain Ed's posts on the prospective incoming House committee chairs, if Democrats take the House of Representatives. Read about Jane Harman and Alcee Hastings and John Conyers.

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Dissatisfaction with GOP and Democrats

CNN has a poll out this morning, but I can't find any more than the brief story they are highlighting: Voters Doubt Either Party has a Plan. The highlight that CNN is teasing is this one:

Asked if the Democrats had a clear plan, just 38 percent said they did, while 58 percent said they did not. Republicans fared worse, with 31 percent saying they had a clear plan and 67 percent saying they did not.

However, 63 percent of poll respondents said they believed Democrats could provide strong leadership, compared to just 49 percent who expressed confidence that the GOP would keep a firm hand on the wheel. And while 50 percent said they doubted the Republicans' leadership capacity, only 35 percent expressed the same doubts about Democrats.

This does little more than confirm what we all already knew: that Democrats are winning not because voters support their ideas, but because they are so fed up with Republicans. I think it shows the weakness of the 'no plan' charge as an issue; voters already 'know' that the Democrats have no plan, and they don't care. Republicans therefore need to improve their standing in the public eye. And they have two weeks to do it. Their focus should be on immigration, the war on terror, and the economy, and the fact that Democrats plan to raise taxes and weaken national security (the Democrats do have a plan, after all).

On the subject of dissatisfaction with the two major parties, Political Wire says that there is evidence coming that third-party candidates are having an impact in a surprising number of races nationwide. I think that in the broadest terms, 3rd party candidates tend to favor incumbents by splitting the anti-incumbent vote. Thus if thise 3rd party candidates are in races where incumbents are in close races for re-election, those incumbents are helped. One example might be Connecticut's 4th Congressional District, where the Green Party candidate just dropped out, clearly hurting Chris Shays's chances of re-election.

In other 3rd party news, Political Wire also notes that the Green Party candidate has 14% of the vote in the latest Illinois gubernatorial poll. This is one case where the 3rd party candidate is probably hurting the incumbent Democrat, as there are probably very few Green Party voters who would otherwise be voting Republican. Of course, it doesn't matter in this race, as the Republican candidate is trailing badly.

Welcome RedState readers and thanks Erick, for the traffic. While you're here, feel free to look around, or check out the latest evidence that some Congressional Republicans are getting the message on pork-barrel spending.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Shooting Yourself in the Foot

Geoff Davis represents a swing district in Kentucky. He makes the same mistake that has burned other Republicans in recent years: not knowing how to answer when asked about casualties in Iraq.

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What Will the Democrats Do

A lot of conservative sites are taking a look at what the incoming Democratic leadership will/would do if they take control of Congress. Take time to look around the blogosphere, including this piece from Tim Chapman.

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Prominent Republicans Back Lieberman

The Hartford Courant covers the leading Republicans who donated to Lieberman after the Connecticut primary. It's worth noting how many leading Senate Republicans donated to Lieberman. The articles notes that Lieberman has always said that he will caucus with Senate Democrats.

But I find it truly hard to believe he would do something so manifestly against his own interest.

Among the post-primary contributors to the Connecticut senator, running as an independent for a fourth term, was Joseph Allbaugh, one of the four members of Bush's tight inner circle during his 2000 presidential campaign, and two Republican Senate committee chairmen.

Also giving was Melvin Sembler, former ambassador to Italy and longtime friend of the Bush family, former assistant Republican Senate Leader Don Nickles, and dozens of others from Texas, Missouri, Colorado and other states where Lieberman usually does not find contributors.

The effort to get Bush loyalists into Lieberman's camp was triggered by White House political guru Karl Rove's Aug. 8 phone call to the senator, just before Lieberman learned he would lose to Ned Lamont in the Connecticut Democratic Senate primary...

The White House has kept up the drumbeat, consistently sending other signals as Lieberman continues to push for funds in the campaign's closing days. Thursday, for instance, Bush praised Lieberman at Republican rallies in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and Vice President Dick Cheney has made it a part of his standard stump speech to decry how the Democratic Party has "turned its back" on the senator.

Lieberman campaign manager Sherry Brown said the campaign has had no contact with the White House or the Republican Party, though she said of the GOP money, "We reached out and people reached out to us." Usually that meant that traditional Lieberman fundraisers contacted Republicans for cash, something they were often unable to do in the past.

"We're happy when we get support from anybody," Brown said.

The latest campaign finance reports, for the period ending Sept. 30, show Lieberman having raised $14.8 million. Lamont raised about $9 million in the same period, and has given an additional $2.5 million of his own to the campaign since then. Despite his lead in fundraising, Lieberman has been complaining that he's the financial underdog in the race...

According to those familiar with the events and the pitches for money, no one is dangling the prospect of a re-elected Lieberman voting with Senate Republicans. The senator has consistently said that if he wins a fourth term, he will caucus with Senate Democrats...

From Texas came typically Republican donors like Allbaugh, Bush's 2000 national campaign manager and now an Austin-based business and homeland security consultant; Benjamin Warren, chief executive officer of ITC Trading Company; Leo Fields, a Dallas investment adviser; Alex Thomas, a San Antonio investor; and Robert Marbut, a San Antonio television executive.

From Florida, there was Sembler and his wife, Betty; Lake Worth builder Bruce Toll; St. Petersburg college executive Carl Kuttler; and Weston attorney Teddy Klinghoffer.

And from all over the country came other big GOP names: Maryland attorney Peter Winik; New York corporate executive Lewis Eisenberg; Greensboro, N.C., foundation executive E.S. Melvin, Washington consultant Debra M. Bryant and Chattanooga retiree Dudley Porter...

The senator also benefited from political committees set up by Republican politicians. Former Tennessee Republican Sen. Fred Thompson, who worked with Lieberman for years on the homeland security committee, made a donation.

So did the Big Tent Political Action Committee, which is controlled by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa.; Impact America, controlled by Sen. Gordon H. Smith, R-Oregon, and the Hawkeye PAC, run by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles R. Grassley, R-Iowa.

More common are the donations from those PACs or Washington-connected donors who routinely give to candidates from both parties.

For instance, Lieberman got contributions from George David, United Technologies chairman and chief executive officer, and David P. Hess, president of Hamilton Sundstrand, a UTC division. Both have also given to President Bush and to Democrats.

Lieberman's campaign hosted a crowded fundraiser in late September at the Phoenix Park Hotel on Capitol Hill, an event that attracted hundreds of well-wishers. The suggested donation was $1,000 per person, and the event featured not only lobbyists and politicians, but personal friends of the Liebermans.

Those friends, as well as a lot of Democrats, continue to give large sums. Lieberman's latest campaign finance report shows little if any drop-off in giving from his usual sources. He continues to raise significant sums from Jewish communities all over the country, as well as pull money from moderate Democrats including author Ben Wattenberg, Clinton administration Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey Jr.; former diplomat Max M. Kampelman; Clinton administration Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin; and former Indiana Sen. Birch E. Bayh.

"They're not there because they all love Joe's view on Iraq," said veteran Democratic fundraiser Peter G. Kelly. "They're there because they love Joe."

Apart from thinking that it makes the most sense for Lieberman to caucus with Republicans, I'll add that for all the money being sent his way, I certainly HOPE he does so.

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Measuring the Wave

Mark Blumenthal over at has posted the first two installments (here and here) of what looks like it will ultimately be an interesting piece at He is looking at the coming Democratic 'wave' and wondering how big it will be - and what effect it will have.

He starts out with a good quote from Mark Mellman:

There's a big anti-Republican wave out there. But that wave will crash up against a very stable political structure, so we won't be sure of the exact scope of Democratic gains until election night. We really don't yet know which is ultimately more important -- the size of the wave or the stability of the structure.

In many ways, this is the central question of the election. How big will the Democratic wave be, and given the powers of gerrymandering and incumbency, how big an effect will it have?

The second of the two Blumenthal pieces looks at the greater enthusiasm on the Democtatic side, and begins to address whether this will lead to a turnout advantage.

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NYTimes Admits Error on Swift Revelations


Well, no harm no foul, right?

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Secure Fence Act Sent to President

Speaker Hastert's office just sent out the following press release:

Speaker's Press Office
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515


October 23, 2006 Ron Bonjean or Lisa C. Miller

Speaker Hastert, Senate Majority Leader Frist Joint Statement on Sending the Secure Fence Act for President's Signature

Democrat Leaders Voted Against Measure and Support Open Borders

(Washington, D.C.) Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D. (R-Tenn.) made the following statement after sending the Secure Fence Act to the President for his signature:

"Today we are transmitting H.R. 6061, Secure Fence Act of 2006, to the President. This legislation is a key component to keeping America safe and stemming the tide of illegal immigration. The American people demand a secure border, and this Republican Congress has responded to the American people's demand for a secure border by increasing the physical barriers and infrastructure along the border, and by providing state of the art monitoring technology. We look forward to the President's signature of this legislation.

"Unfortunately, the House and Senate Democrat Leaders voted against the Secure Fence Act. The Democrat immigration plan would fail the American people, allow dangerous criminals into our country and would set our homeland security back to pre-9/11 levels."

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My Car is Smarter than I Am

If BMW has its way, that looks like it may be a real problem soon.

But is this a proper use of technology, or a recreation of the folly of Icarus? I'll have to find the transcript of the Pope's remarks, to see if these were luddite comments or not.

By the way, what's with the Pope's website? I mean, this looks more like a MySpace page than it does that of the Bishop of Rome.

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It Was Only a Matter of Time

Fantasy Congress? What are the rules for off-the-field violations?

I mean, if you draft a Kennedy, substance abuse is clearly a bigger problem than in other fantasy leagues. But how do you handle an indictment?

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Stories of GOP Revival May be Premature...

I've mentioned that I'm watching polls in the last few weeks of the race in the hope of seeing a general rebound for Republican candidates, and a solidifying of the ratings of challenged incumbents. This is exactly what I am not looking for: 'safe' incumbent Charles Bass trailing his challenger badly.

The latest independent poll has startling news for six-term Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Bass: He’s trailing Democratic rival Paul Hodes.

Hodes led Bass 48 percent to 39 percent with the other 13 percent undecided in the Becker Institute Inc. poll taken Oct. 6-8.

Statewide, the survey of 408 registered voters has a margin of error of 5 percent, but within a congressional district the number is much higher.

But Hodes will take it. That can only help his chances of getting some significant Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee money behind his candidacy.

Hodes is on the Red-to-Blue list of candidates as well as independent ratings of the Top 30 House races in the nation.

Bass was viewed unfavorably (40 percent) by nearly as many voters as viewed him favorably (43 percent), and that is never where an incumbent wants to be.

“This is by far the worst image recorded for Charlie Bass through 12 Becker Institute readings over the past seven years,’’ the poll summary said.

An American Research Group poll had better news for Bass, showing him still out front, 48-42 percent, with 3 percent for Libertarian Ken Blevens and 7 percent undecided.

Other Democrats fare very well in the survey but track what other recent polls have found:

• Lynch is ahead of Republican Jim Coburn, 70-19 percent, with 11 percent undecided;

• Republican U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley leads Democrat Carol Shea-Porter, 49-37 percent, with 14 percent on the fence.

Shea-Porter has a firm hold on the voters who don’t like President Bush and disagree with Bradley about the need to stay the course in Iraq, the poll said.

It’s worth noting her popularity in the poll was greater than her recognition, as 61 percent said they did not know enough to form any opinion of her.

“Jeb Bradley could have his hands full holding onto this seat,’’ the summary concluded.

Bass is ahead in one poll of registered voters, behind in another. Perhaps this is an aberration, and Republican candidates really are improving their standing nationwide, as we speak. But if so, I don't see consistent signs of it.

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Liberal Judge to Hand Victory to Kean?

The Hotline notes that the New Jersey Supreme Court may be about to hand gay rights advocates a 'victory' on gay marriage. And judicial 'victories' for gay marriage go almost hand-in-hand with electoral victories for Republicans. Even in liberal New Jersey, a court decision to require gay marriage might energize Republicans to come to the polls to register their displeasure by voting against Menendez.


On 10/26, the chief of justice of the New Jersey supreme court, Deborah T. Poritz, turns 70, and will retire.

Pending before her court at this writing is a potentially explosive same-sex marriage case. In '02, two gay couples sued New Jersey for denying them the right to marry. The Supreme Court finally heard oral arguments in Feb. It has yet to unveil its decision.

Consider the political repercussions if NJ becomes the second state in the country to legalize gay marriage.

Poritz's questions suggest she'll vote to expand the definition of marriage. If the court doesn't rule by next Thursday, they'll be forced to rehear the case with the new chief justice. Observers are fairly certain that the court, will, in fact, tender a decision by Oct. 26.

"The New Jersey Supreme Court is famously assertive and famously liberal," one court watcher e-mailed us. " On the other hand, they have also been accused of being attuned to political undercurrents -- think of the Torricelli decision."

Gay rights advocates are fairly optimistic about the case on its merits but worry about the backlash if the court rules before the election.

Be aware that there appears to be little difference between the Kean and Menendez positions on gay marriage. However, Kean reportedly support a state amendment to block gay marriage, while Menendez has no position on it, and has voted against the federal amendment.

Perhaps Menendez should use this time to figure out what his position on gay marriage is, so he doesn't accidentally tell different audiences different things.

With the Steele-Cardin race tied in the latest poll, Conrad Burns apparently closing the gap in Montana, and Harold Ford shooting himself in the foot, Democrats ought to be sweating a little bit about the improvmements that they've been counting on in the Senate this year.

Oh - but take this for what it's worth.

Update: A commenter clarifies that the Hotline has an important detail wrong: there is no requirement that the Supreme Court hand down its decision by October 26. Apparently, it is not unusual for decisions to be handed down after the session has closed. Thus it's unclear whether the decision will come before or after the election.

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