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The Battle for America 2010: Six Days from the Reckoning


Key Races: Governor, U.S. Senate

Stephanie Maier reporting:

Florida politics went national this week as Rick Scott (R) and state CFO Alex Sink (D) battled it out for the governor’s mansion in a debate hosted by CNN on Monday. The outcome: A Sink staffer gets fired for breaking the rules, by trying to coach the Democratic candidate from the sidelines.

After a long campaign season of tight polling numbers between the two candidates, Scott is widening the gap coming out of last week’s debate, with 50% support to Sink’s 44%, according to the latest Rasmussen survey.

A Zogby/Naples Daily News poll last week, however, shows Sink with a sudden lead over Scott, 43.1% to 38.5%, in a survey of 802 likely voters.

So has Sink’s self-promoted eleven newspaper endorsements to Scott’s zero held sway with voters, or will Scott’s accusation that Sink is a follower of “Obama math” and a “Tallahassee insider” resonate?

The two will continue to bombard the airwaves with negative attacks during the final push this week in the wake of star-studded rallies throughout the Sunshine State by the likes of Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, as well as others.

Did Sunday’s debate on CNN bridge the gap between candidates in the hotly contested U.S. Senate race between Republican Marco Rubio, independent Charlie Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek? The latest poll numbers prior to that showdown showed Rubio holding a steady lead with 43% to Crist’s 32% and Meek trailing behind with 20%.

The atmosphere going into the final push remains one of “anti-establishment” and “anti-incumbent,” giving so-called outsiders a better chance than ever to take seats. No one knows the threat better than current Governor Charlie Crist, as he tries to separate himself from “establishment” by changing from Republican to independent, apparently with little success in terms of numbers thus far.

Florida’s early voting began on October 18 and unofficial results run the gamut amongst numerous news sources, some citing “surprising” results for Democrats and others touting early signs of much talked about Republican victories. No truly reliable numbers exist and the state Supervisor of Elections site doesn’t publish results in the middle of voting, so for real results, voters will just have to watch, vote, and wait. The final week is sure to be a battle to the finish.


Key Race: U.S. Senate

Bill Baar reporting:

Polls are showing a break starting towards Republican Mark Kirk over Democrat Alexi Giannoulias in Illinois’s U.S. Senate race. Real Clear Politics' rolling average found Kirk up 2.8.  The lead is still within the margin of error of 3 or 4 points, but all the polls are breaking towards the GOP.  “Mob Banker” frames and negative ads might finely have found target.

The Chicago Tribune’s poll of 700 registered likely voters released Monday showed Kirk up 3 points over Giannoulias at 44% to 40%. The Green Party’s LeAlan Jones claimed 5% support and Libertarian Mike Labno another 4%, so the potential spoilers have been counted.

One impact of negative campaigning has been solidifying GOP support around Kirk despite Kirk’s moderate stands on social issues (consider Tamara Holder’s "Republicans beware: Mark Kirk is a liberal" an example of Democrats getting too clever for their own good pushing the Libertarian candidate as an alternative -- and spoiler-- to conservative voters). The Trib found:

Though Giannoulias and Democrats have sought to mock those positions [Kirk’s moderation], they have only engendered more support for Kirk in his own party. Republicans who said they're going to vote for Kirk jumped from 76 percent to 86 percent since the last poll.

Worse, that mockery may help Kirk with the demographic deciding the race. From the Trib’s polling:

…the two men each have the support of 43 percent of a key voting demographic: white suburban women who tend to be social moderates.

The Chicago Sun-Time’s Carol Marin is one very liberal member in the left chunk of that demographic and she’s been looking at early voting patterns in Cook County. They’ve got her scared:

…look at early voting, for instance, and the fact that for the first time since its inception, the suburbs are surpassing the city in turnout. In some cases, the ratio is 3-1.

"I'm not seeing the early voting numbers pop yet," Allen [Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen]  said. "This will be a first if the trend continues."

With just one more week of early voting left, Cook County Clerk David Orr, a Democrat, doesn't mince words: "There is certainly a scare here for the Democrats."

Consider too that Chicago "has lost its No. 2 ranking in African-American population to Atlanta, which has become a magnet for blacks because of its lower cost of living and strong economy" and it looks as though a key Democratic constituency in Illinois is not waiting for the election but has already voted with their feet for jobs and prosperity out of state.

So Cook County early voters are turning out as they should, some of the Obama coalition have just left Illinois, and liberal pundits are getting gloomy. The Daily Herald’s Burt Constable’s "Stink bug enters political fray" and Rich Miller’s "Senate, gov hopefuls leave voters wanting" reflect the funk.

Yet for the first time ever, John Powers writes in the Chicago Daily Observer, "a group of volunteers has recruited over 500 new Republicans to be election judges in Chicago this year, giving the Republicans a full slate of election judges for the first time in memory."

So some folks are sticking to Illinois and even stepping up to the plate for the tough job of GOP election judge in Chicago. No despair for them. What’s happening now’s going to play out in the mayoral race too. Some folks are getting energized about some real changes.


Key Races: Governor, U.S. House

Michael Swartz reporting:

If you believe the Baltimore Sun and its pollsters, the race for governor between incumbent Martin O'Malley and Bob Ehrlich is becoming a runaway. The paper's latest poll has O'Malley up by a whopping 14 points, or 52-38. According to this poll, Democrats in Maryland are staying in the O'Malley camp and not crossing over to vote for the Republican Ehrlich.

But not so fast, say both the Ehrlich camp and the Maryland Republican Party. Moreover, the Red Maryland website rightfully points out that the pollster behind the Sun poll and the “straight down the middle” website Center Maryland have ties to O'Malley allies. It is difficult to believe that a race could go from 5 points to 14 points in a matter of days.

However, the dubious polling in the Sun and the Washington Post (which also shows a 14-point margin in a poll released this week), may have had its desired effect: Through the first two days of early voting (last Friday and Saturday; the 6-day period ends Thursday) Democrats in the state were actually voting in a better percentage than the GOP (see page 2 here.) However, the saving grace may be that turnout for early voting has been much better in Maryland's more rural counties where Democrats are more likely to be conservative and cross over to the GOP side. Unless trends change drastically, an O'Malley win may well come from the same five counties he won in 2006 (Baltimore City, Charles, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George's), with the other nineteen smaller, predominantly rural counties helping Ehrlich's total.

The news is better for the GOP in the First District, where the big spending between Andy Harris and Frank Kratovil has pushed the seat into the “leans Republican” column; perhaps the state can get back to the 6-2 split it had between 2002 and 2008, when the Democrat Kratovil won a formerly safe GOP district.

But consideration should be given to the Fifth District race as well. It's widely expected that Steny Hoyer will beat GOP upstart Charles Lollar, but the fact that Hoyer has to work and spend money on his own campaign means he can't assist Kratovil or other Democrats across the country. Much like Barney Frank's battle with Sean Bielat in Massachusetts, the fact a venerable Congressional old-timer is even facing a race shows the Maryland GOP isn't completely dead -- like any other state party apparatus, it just needs good candidates.

That needs to be the lesson going forward for Republicans in Maryland and other “blue” states. Retreads don't always work, but conservatives who make the election about pocketbook issues and the proper role of government can win.