The Note: Weakness Attracts Those Who Are Waiting

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30

After a week of major and minor developments, and we are almost exactly where we were two-thirds of a fortnight ago: Democrats remain positioned to win control of the House of Representatives but fall just short of taking a majority in the Senate.

That continues to be the most conservative wager, but there are other options and many unknowns. Republicans could, perhaps, do better than the national polling currently indicates. (See, for instance, this must-read passage from this must-read Michael Barone story: "My hunch is that people who identify themselves as independents are substantially less likely to vote this year than people who identify as Republicans or Democrats -- which would be good news for Republicans, since independents give Bush low job ratings. Another hunch is that the Republican turnout apparatus, with which the Democrats haven't yet caught up, will boost Republican turnout as it did in 2004, and that the resulting electorate will be more evenly divided in party identification than the electorates shown in most of the public polls." ) LINK

The party of Bush-Cheney-Cheney-Rove has generated some controversies in the media that have served to rally the conservative base that largely carried them to victories in 2002 and 2004. (See, for instance, Lynne Cheney's virtuoso perf with Wolf Blitzer on the youtube thing all the kids are using. LINK)

Republicans have seen at least some of their endangered incumbents stabilize and even recover in the polls, while at the same time they have damaged a number of Democratic candidates with negative messages. (See Tom Reynolds, on the one hand, and Patricia Madrid, Harold Ford, and Jim Webb, on the other.)

And President Bush's chief political strategist Karl Rove still has such a psychic grip on many Democratic politicians and strategists that, until Election Day comes, they will be holding their collective breath and looking over their shoulders in anticipation of October (or November) Surprises. (Although what could actually help beyond the capture of bin Laden is not clear.)

Democrats, on the other hand, may end up riding a wave that would give them both a substantial majority in the House -- perhaps a win of more than thirty seats, far greater than the fifteen seats they need to net for majority control -- and a narrow control of the Senate, taking precisely the six seats they need for control, and perhaps even one more.

The Senate math remains pretty easy -- if there has been a change in the last few days, it is that the upper chamber landscape is tipping slightly towards the Republicans.

Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez is looking like a safer bet these days to hold his New Jersey seat for his party, giving them zero losses of slots they now hold. Democrats are counting on flips in Montana, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

To get the final three they need, Democrats have to win three of four of Rhode Island, Missouri, Virginia, and Tennessee. (Readers can switch Virginia and Tennessee if they are so inclined.) At this point, that is the likely order that the minority party could flip them, and/but don't count on any of them changing for sure. Rhode Island's Chafee might get blown out, but he can still win. Missouri is a toss-up and will be until the end, no matter what polling is out there.

Virginia and Tennessee aren't locked up by the incumbents, but Republicans were feeling better about them as the weekend ended, in large part because of the twin textbook media storms they generated via the New-Media-to-Old-Media conveyor belt last week. (To see how Matt Drudge did it, click here LINK )

The House is much more of a jumble. Some smart Democrats say they have 8 net seats in the bank, but might not win any more than 12 total. And there are smart Republicans saying they will lose at least 22 and as many as 42. There are still a lot of "entrenched" Republican incumbents who are not far ahead (or are even behind), and are thus not comfortable, including in some very Red places, and in some classic Purple Zones. (Yes, we mean you, Charlie Bass.)

(See Fred Barnes analysis of the "blowout belt. . . from Connecticut, through New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and ending with Indiana" to understand why even the Chief Reporter Who Does Not Rebel Against Rove is not so optimistic, but hasn't given up hope. LINK )

As in the Senate, Democrats are defending very few seats -- probably just two at this point, and might end up making history by losing zero incumbents.

The DCCC is spending real money in more than 45 races.

As we said, it is clear that some Democrats have made mistakes that are costing them leads and some incumbent Republicans have fought back. It is almost time for the parties, 527s, and candidates to stop polling (oh, my) and make final decisions about closing messages via ads and other delivery systems. Watch closely to see how many Democrats close with Iraq/Bush/change and how many Republicans close with the POTUS message of national security and taxes.

Why aren't more Republicans already squarely on the Bush mantra? According to one intellectually muscular Democratic strategist:

"1. Because, despite the hype, no one listens to Karl Rove anymore. 2. Because their district polls tell them that no one trusts Republicans on terror like they used to. 3. Because they need to put some backbone in the rhetoric of all politics being local. 4. Because Tom Reynolds has been too busy with his own race to enforce discipline on his conference. 5. Because they've had to spend too much time responding to charges that they've: voted for their own pay raise, against the minimum wage, against troop bonuses, and walked in lockstep with George Bush on Iraq and Social Security."

The Note believes that at least three of those five explanations are pretty solid.

On this final week of the 2006 campaign, President Bush -- who believes only one of those five explanations are solid -- has most likely completed his closed press appearances and heads out on the trail hoping to help save GOP majorities in the House and Senate. Mr. Bush attends a Georgia Victory 2006 Rally at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA at 11:05 am ET. Statesboro is home to one of the handful of competitive House contests being fought on Democratic held turf. Former Rep. Max Burns (R-GA) is battling to get back to the US House in his effort to defeat incumbent Rep. John Barrow (D-GA).

Holli Deal Bragg of the Statesboro Herald Notes the traffic tie ups, ticket sales, and protester eagerness in Statesboro, GA as the city prepares for its first presidential visit. LINK

The President then travels to his home state of Texas where at 6:00 pm ET he is attends a Texas Victory 2006 Rally at the Sugar Land Regional Airport in Sugar Land, TX -- a/k/a Tom DeLay's world. The President plans to campaign for write-in candidate Shelley Sekula Gibbs (R-TX) who is seeking to replace former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay who resigned from Congress in June. Democrat Nick Lampson (who has been running for the entire cycle) has spent $2,277,693 through October 18 compared to Sekula Gibbs' $677,454.

At some point, the President will be interviewed by Sean Hannity today.

President Bush heads back to the White House to sleep tonight before heading back down to Georgia tomorrow to rally the troops for the other vulnerable Peach State Democratic incumbent. At this writing, the President has no public events scheduled for Wednesday and heads out West on Thursday to Billings, MT and Elko, NV.

White House press secretary Tony Snow is not scheduled to hold a press briefing or gaggle today, but he is expected to headline a campaign event for Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO) at the Frontenac Hilton in St. Louis, MO at 7:45 pm ET.

First Lady Laura Bush delivers remarks at a Pennsylvania Victory 2006 Rally at the Great Hall in Pittsburgh, PA. Mrs. Bush then travels to New Hampshire to deliver remarks at a New Hampshire Victory 2006 rally at the Executive Court Banquet Facility in Manchester, NH at 2:10 pm ET.

Vice President Dick Cheney tapes an interview today for Fox News Channel's "Your World with Neil Cavuto." The interview is scheduled to air at 4:00 pm ET.

Majority Leader John Boehner does three live interviews later today after appearing on Bill Bennett radio this morning. He was scheduled to appear at 9:00 am ET on MSNBC with Norah O'Donnell, 10:00 am ET on Fox News with E.D. Hill, and later tonight at 6:35 pm ET with Lars Larson. v Sequoia Voting Systems Inc., a U.S. company that makes touch-screen voting machines, has confirmed that it has requested a federal investigation to dispel rumors of alleged ties to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. "Sequoia and Smartmatic are not connected, owned or controlled by the Venezuelan government whatsoever," Jeff Bialos, a Washington attorney representing the two companies, said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. Sequoia has asked the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to investigate it and its parent company after questions about its ownership were raised last spring. The company plans to hold a news conference at 2:00 pm ET at a TBA location. LINK

Actor Michael J. Fox joins Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) for a stem cell research rally in Columbus, OH at 11:00 am ET. Fox then heads to Des Moines, IA to headline a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver at 3:45 pm ET. If you missed George Stephanopoulos' interview with Michael J. Fox on "This Week" yesterday, be sure to check it out here: LINK

Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press reported yesterday that Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, plans to announce that he's considering a presidential run in 2008 later today. Hunter is scheduled to hold a 2:00 pm ET press conference on the waterfront in San Diego, CA to announce plans for an exploratory committee. LINK

(You can check out the front page of the San Diego Union Tribune here: LINK )

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) attends an event for GOP congressional candidate Peter Roskam (R-IL) at Medinah Banquets in Addison, IL at 10:30 am ET.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) receives the Kenneth W. Woodward award today at 11:45 am ET in Rochester, NY. She then attends two campaign rallies for a neighborhood revitalization program and a sculpture dedication (1:45 pm ET and 4:05 pm ET). Sen. Clinton concludes her day campaigning in Rochester, NY with congressional candidate Eric Massa at 6:00 pm ET at Max of Eastman Place.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) helps commemorate the 40th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's gubernatorial election and delivers the "Reagan Retrospective" at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA at 2:00 pm ET.

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D-CA), join Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides (D-CA) in Pasadena, CA for an education event at 3:00 pm ET.

Sen. George Allen (R-VA) and his wife, Susan Allen, were scheduled to campaign with NFL Hall of Famer and family friend Deacon Jones in Nassawaddox, VA at 8:00 am ET. Later today, the Allens join Sen. Warner (R-VA) for a "Veterans for Allen" event with the VFW in Virginia Beach at noon ET. Afterwards, the Allens campaign with Rep. Thelma Drake (R-VA) to tour local businesses in Virginia Beach, VA at 2:45 pm ET.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) signs books at Borders in Minneapolis, MN at 1:00 pm ET. Later today, Obama is the headliner at a rally for Amy Klobuchar's Senate campaign in Rochester, MN at 6:00 pm ET. (Democratic congressional candidate Tim Walz who is running to unseat Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-MN) is also expected to attend the Obama/Klobuchar rally.)

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) joins local Republicans for a "Leadership Rally" in Las Vegas, NV at 2:20 pm ET. The former mayor also attempts to help Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) when he attends an event with Arizona law enforcement, first responders, and sheriffs at the Arizona Bilmore at 7:30 pm ET.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) campaigns in two West Virginia House districts today. He was scheduled to appear with Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-MA) to discuss health care at 8:45 am ET in Charleston, WV. At 11:45 am ET in Morgantown, WV, Gov. Romney plans to hold a media availability with Republican congressional candidate Chris Wakim who is running to unseat Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV).

Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) holds a national conversation on the role of technology in shaping our political future for GenerationEngage's Technology and Social Change at the Boys Club of New York at the Jefferson Park Clubhouse in New York, NY at 5:45 pm ET.

Be sure to check out our look at the week ahead in politics below. Bush Administration agenda/personality:

In a front-page, must-read story looking at the way in which the midterms may define Karl Rove's legacy, the Washington Post's Michael Abramowitz has Rove saying "1938 was a huge wipeout for the Democrats -- do you think that was the end of the New Deal?" LINK

David Jackson of USA Today writes up the White House's "digital war room." With the election nearing, President Bush's team revs up their buddy lists, the Nation's Newspaper takes a look at the rapid response e-mails emanating from 1600. LINK

The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg welcomes the campaigner-in-chief to the trail. "The appearances buck the conventional wisdom that Mr. Bush is such a pariah to Republicans that he cannot be of much use on the campaign trail. White House strategists say they have carefully selected several make-or-break races in which the president's presence can still make a difference," writes Rutenberg of the President's efforts "to stop a Democratic takeover of the House and possibly the Senate in the last two years of Mr. Bush's presidency, or, at least, to keep the opposition's gains to a minimum." LINK

The Washington Post's Al Kamen reports that State Department career diplomats "are in an uproar over the recent appointment of a mid-level civil servant who worked for Undersecretary Karen Hughes to a top job running the new Public Diplomacy Rapid Response office in Brussels." LINK

Tumulty and Allen get Bush officials to talk about life under Pelosi:

In a must-read, Time magazine's Karen Tumulty and Mike Allen get Bush Administration sources to talk about the possibility of having to work with a Democratic Congress. LINK

Expanding "No Child Left Behind," moving toward energy independence, lowering health-care costs, fighting terrorism, pushing for entitlement reform, and making common cause on immigration are all cited as areas of possible bipartisan cooperation.

As for the Democrats' plan to use control of Congress to conduct oversight, one strategist says the President's team has been planning for a "'cataclysmic fight to the death' over the balance between Congress and the White House if confronted with congressional subpoenas it deems inappropriate. The strategist says the Bush team is 'going to assert that power, and they're going to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court on every issue, every time, no compromise, no discussion, no negotiation."

Politics of Iraq:

Thomas Ricks and Peter Baker wrote in Sunday's Washington Post that "October 2006 may be remembered as the month that the U.S. experience in Iraq hit a tipping point, when the violence flared and shook both the military command in Iraq and the political establishment back in Washington." LINK

In a front-page story predicting the White House will likely face increased resistance from Congress over the war in Iraq even if Republicans keep control, the Washington Times' David Sands reports that Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann argue in a lengthy study to be published in Foreign Affairs that "'Congress' oversight of the executive branch on foreign and national security policy has virtually collapsed' over the past six years." LINK

The Associated Press reports this morning that President Bush's National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley, is in Iraq meeting with his counterparts.

Pelosi politics:

The New York Times' Jennifer Steinhauer goes beyond the grandmother thing and captures Rep. Nancy Pelosi's operational side -- demonstrating that she didn't get where she is by accident. Steinhauer also Notes that "she has raised more money for Democrats in this election cycle than any other candidate except Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton -- just over $50 million." LINK

Our favorite Nancy Pelosi line: "How was Paris?"

Our favorite Jennifer Steinhauer line: "She favors alternative sentencing over prison construction, schools without prayer and death with taxes."

John Heilemann of New York Magazine writes that the Republicans continue to hope they can successfully vilify Rep. Pelosi. A GOP pollster Notes that "the smartest thing Rahm Emanuel could do is have her spend the rest of the campaign in Alaska and Hawaii -- taking a boat from one to the other." LINK

The Los Angles Times offers a profile about the potential Speaker-to-be and how she has "balanced the interests of 200-plus colleagues of varied philosophies with the demands of a district about as far left politically as it is geographically." Mark Z. Barabak also Notes how some in Pelosi's district don't see her as being as liberal as some much of the rest of the country does. LINK

GOP agenda:

In Sunday's Washington Post's, Charles Babington reported that "many senators say that either Reid or McConnell, because of their backgrounds, can lead the Senate with more skill than Frist, 54, who struggled to build winning coalitions on issues such as immigration, Social Security and the nominations of several judges and John R. Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations." LINK

Democratic agenda:

Through a combination of campaign pledges by congressional leaders and the conservative stances of some Democratic House challengers, the Wall Street Journal's John D. McKinnon does not see a Democratic Congress doing much tax hiking in the next session of Congress if they were to win power.

The New York Times' Shaila Dewan and Anne Kornblut look at the wealth of conservative and moderate Democratic candidates and the impact these members would likely have should the Democrats take one or both houses of Congress. LINK

Quoting Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), "My guess is that if Democrats are in the majority, it's going to be because of these New Democrat, Blue Dog candidates out there winning in these competitive swing districts."

"Corporate America is already thinking beyond Election Day, increasing its share of last-minute donations to Democratic candidates and quietly devising strategies for how to work with Democrats if they win control of Congress," wrote the New York Times' Zeleny and Pilhofer on Saturday. LINK

GOTV:

On Sunday, Adam Nagourney of the New York Times wrote up what probably drives more fear into Democratic hearts and minds than anything else at this stage of the campaign -- the thus-far superior GOP GOTV operation. LINK

Dan Gilgoff of US News and World Report discusses the power of "get out the vote" efforts in an election with a "dispirited" GOP base and the Democrats "revamped ground game" where it could come down to "which party can get its voters to the polls." LINK

2006: landscape:

Time magazine's Joe Klein explains that when Republicans weren't able to use terrorism, immigration, or taxes against Democrats, they unleashed a series of ads "painting the Democrats as sex-crazed, homosexual-loving, porn-perusing --and in the case of the novelist and Virginia Senate candidate Jim Webb, porn-writing -- perverts." LINK

"It was vivid proof that the prospect of a hanging doesn't always concentrate the mind. Sometimes it leads to feral, piss-pants desperation."

Note that Sen. Schumer and DSCC executive director J.B. Poersch tell Klein that the most important ad of the cycle may have been Rep. Sherrod Brown's (D-OH) counterpunch to Sen. DeWine's ad featuring a slightly distorted image of the World Trade Center.

"'Our other candidates saw Brown's success,' says Poersch, 'and they began to feel confident that they could survive Republican national-security attacks.'"

ABC News' Jake Tapper, Avery Miller, and Vija Udenans write that while Democrats are united in their opposition to the Iraq war, they do not agree on a comprehensive plan for Iraq because "it's much easier to call for change than to present a detailed plan of your own that can be criticized itself." Here is the abcnews.com version of the story that aired on "World News" Sunday evening. LINK

Tapper chatted with some Buckeyes at a Columbus, OH diner this morning on "Good Morning America" to take the pulse of the country. LINK

In what is certainly not the first story of its kind and will likely not be the last, the Los Angeles Times takes a closer look at the nearly $300 million of unregulated funds that are wielding an enormous amount of influence in this election. Stephanie Simon reports that 527s and other independent groups are bankrolling issues pushed by both Democrats and Republicans including Proposition 90 in California and an anti-abortion ad running on radio stations in Ohio claiming that Democrats want to abort black babies. LINK

Low unemployment, cheaper gasoline, and a strong stock market may not be enough protection for GOP incumbents against a middle class that feels "squeezed." Brendan Murray of Bloomberg News writes up Republican struggles in Minnesota and Colorado. LINK

The Hartford Courant's Lightman reports that the mood across the country remains that many people are fed up with Republicans, but not sure they want to vote for Democrats. LINK

Kevin McDermott of the Quad-City Times reports that a new poll conducted for the Quad-City times, Post-Dispatch, and Lee Enterprise Newspapers shows that in Illinois, a solid Blue state, less than a third of Republicans support President Bush. Mr. Bush did slightly better in Missouri, with half of respondents giving the President an unfavorable rating. LINK

Jon Craig of the Cincinnati Enquirer describes the eight-day ruckus in the Buckeye State that is certain to go down until polls close next Tuesday. LINK

Larry Eichel of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that voters in the critical Philadelphia suburbs appear revved up and ready to cast their ballots this year. LINK

The New York Times' Jodi Kantor zooms in on the climate in Bellevue, WA, a comfortable suburb of Seattle and former liberal Republican stronghold where the mood has shifted toward the Democrats. "The Schiavo case. Tapping people without a warrant. Whether or not people are gay," said one resident, "Let people be free! It's not government's job to interfere with those things." LINK

2006: House: NM-01:

Mark Z. Barabak of the Los Angeles Times writes that the House race in Albuquerque, NM between Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) and her challenger state Attorney General Patricia Madrid (D-NM) is a microcosm for the national battle between Democrats and Republicans this year. LINK

"The issues and advertisements that have played across this high-desert district offer a panorama of the year in politics. There has been scandal, with cameo mentions of former Reps. Tom DeLay, Randy "Duke" Cunningham and Mark Foley. Stem-cell research, soaring gas prices and rising healthcare costs have been discussed, along with the sway of special interests in Washington and Santa Fe, the state capital."

"But the war in Iraq has dominated the campaign above all and presented the starkest contrast between the two candidates, just as it has in many races across the country."

2006: House: CT-05:

The latest Hartford Courant/University of Connecticut poll shows Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT) trailing her Democratic challenger Chris Murphy by four points, ensuring Johnson's race remains one to watch on election night, Notes the Hartford Courant's Buck. LINK

2006: House: TX-22:

On this day when the President hits the ground in the Lone Star State, the New York Times' Ralph Blumenthal provides an update on the election to replace Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), and gives frontrunner status to Democratic candidate Nick Lampson. LINK

A Houston Chronicle-11 News poll found that 35 percent of respondents said they would vote for a write-in candidate (most of those votes would be for Shelley Sekula Gibbs) , a statistical tie with 36 percent supporting Democrat Nick Lampson, Notes the Houston Chronicle's Mack. LINK

2006: House: PA-10:

Tracie Mauriello of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at the troubles of embattled Rep. Don Sherwood and the seeming loss of control, as voters in this largely Republican district are straying to his Democratic opponent, Chris Carney. LINK

2006: House: GA-08 and GA-12:

In his column previewing the week's events, the Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb calls Democratic Reps. John Barrow and Jim Marshall the GOP's "best chance of pickups."

2006: House: IN-08:

For the Political Radar, ABC News' Teddy Davis looks at the television ad by Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) which touts the Indiana Republican's 2002 vote against the Iraq war. LINK

2006 House: Florida:

Brian Skoloff of the AP reports that Rep. Claw Shaw (R-FL) and Democratic opponent Ron Klein faced off in their final debate before the election, where the candidates clashed over the Medicare Part D plan and Iraq. LINK

The Palm Beach Post's Michael Bender describes the physical similarities between the men vying for former Rep. Mark Foley's seat, Tim Mahoney (D-FL) and Joe Negron (R-FL), but points out their differences in personality and upbringing. LINK

The Palm Beach Post also Notes that Mahoney and Ron Klein are quick to bash President Bush on the stump but "neither Dem has much to say about the national implications of putting Pelosi two heartbeats from the presidency." LINK

2006: House: New York:

Josh Gerstein of the New York Sun discusses the last-minute attempts of Democrats hoping to get Hollywood money and Republicans hoping to tap state party "stalwarts" and local businesses in two upstate races. LINK

2006: House: MN-01:

The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers Notes that "three possible 2008 presidential contenders -- Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sens. John Kerry and Barack Obama -- are all due" in Minnesota "this week. Mr. McCain's appearance, which his camp says is to help re-elect Gov. Tim Pawlenty, not Mr. Gutknecht per se, touches a nerve since Mr. Walz -- a retired National Guard master sergeant -- is a fellow veteran and has been attacked by Mr. Gutknecht for supporting immigration policies akin to the Arizona senator's."

2006: Senate: Tennessee:

Under pressure from black leaders including Rev. Jesse Jackson and union groups, Wal-Mart has ended its relationship with GOP operative/McCain adviser Terry Nelson in the wake of the television ad attacking Harold Ford Jr. in Tennessee, reported the New York Times on Saturday. LINK

2006: Senate: Virginia:
Mike Gruss of the Virginia Pilot highlights Sen. George Allen's Sunday campaigning, "likening his race against Democratic challenger Jim Webb to sports and discussing his values in the terms of four Fs: faith, family, freedom and football." LINK

The AP has its own look at the Virginia Senate candidates weekends in what could be very telling of these candidates: while Jim Webb attended a Festival of India in Richmond, Sen. George Allen watched professional football on "four cinema-style screens." LINK

The Richmond Times-Dispatch profiles the wives of the candidates calling Sen. George Allen's wife Susan "Team Allen's head cheerleader" and Jim Webb's wife Hong as the supportive, if a bit reluctant, spouse. LINK

and LINK

The Washington Times' Christina Bellantoni writes that Sen. Allen's "nothing's impossible" credo is being put to the test in his effort to refocus his campaign on his record. LINK

2006: Senate: Montana:

Along with the prestige and power of being a US Senator, the winner of the Senate race in Montana will also get to host a dinner and bison hunt on Ted Turner's ranch, the AP reports. LINK

Charles Johnson of the Billings Gazette reports that voters are requesting absentee ballots in record numbers as the Senate race there heats up. LINK

Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) is hitting the hustings for Montana Democrats, Mike Dennison of the Billings Gazette reports. LINK

2006: Senate: New Jersey:

Cynthia Burton of the Philadelphia Inquirer Notes that Sen. Bob Menendez has more ground to gain than he thought to retain his post as junior Senator from New Jersey, as his Hispanic last name might prove more of a built-in burden than a blessing. LINK

While referring to him as "less-than-charismatic" and a Senator with a "history of ethical lapses," the New York Times endorses Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) over challenger Thomas Kean, Jr. for his "better grasp of the issues." (Note Note: The "D" after his name may have helped too.) LINK

The Washington Times' Amy Fagan reaches an uncertain conclusion as to what effect the recent New Jersey gay rights ruling will have on the state's Senate race. LINK

2006: Senate: Maryland:

Under a "Debate Puts Steele on Defense" header, the Washington Post's Matthew Mosk and Ann Marimow write that the most "dramatic" exchange of yesterday's "Meet the Press" debate came when host Tim Russert pressed Steele "about his opposition to abortion and embryonic stem cell research, and about his long-standing support for President Bush." LINK

Ben Cardin and Michael Steele put Iraq front and center in their debate on "Meet the Press" yesterday. USA Today has the roundup. LINK

The Washington Times' Jon Ward has Steele saying after his MTP debate that he would have liked to have spent "a little more time on . . . an attitude in this campaign, where race has come into play." LINK

2006: Senate: Pennsylvania:

Jake Tapper writes in his "Political Punch" blog that, in a twist on party stereotypes, it is the Republican candidate -- Sen. Santorum -- who is viewed as perhaps too intellectual in this key Keystone State contest. LINK

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Thomas Fitzgerald took a Sunday look at the Republicans' "microtargeting" voters to tighten the gap between Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA) and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA). LINK

James O'Toole of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that Sen. Santorum charged Casey with being "AWOL on the war on terrorism," enabling Santorum to combine two of his campaign themes: ". . . that combating terrorism should be a central issue in this race and his assertions that Mr. Casey was generally derelict in attending to his duties as treasurer." LINK

2006: Senate: Ohio:

The Columbus Dispatch's Torry, Siegel, and Riskind report that Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) has had a hard time compiling a solid image of himself and his record despite serving in the Senate for 12 years, which is likely to affect how many conservatives march to the polls on his behalf. LINK

2006: Senate: Connecticut:

Mayor Bloomberg plans to officially endorse Sen. Lieberman today. USA Today has a quick preview. LINK

2006: Governor: Nevada:

Chrissy Mazzeo has decided to press forward and request that authorities investigate her allegations against Nevada gubernatorial candidate Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-NV), Notes the Review-Journal's McCabe and Ball. LINK

2006: Governor: Ohio:

The Columbus Dispatch's Hallett and Niquette Note that "the winds of change are blowing," as a resigned GOP in Ohio haplessly watches Ted Strickland (D-OH) expand his lead over Kenneth Blackwell (R-OH). LINK

2006: Governor: New York:

"It is not even November yet, but with Attorney General Eliot Spitzer holding as much as a 50-point lead in polls in the governor's race, the planning for a transition team and an administration has begun," ledes Danny Hakim of the New York Times on Mr. Spitzer's early move to construct a cabinet.LINK

2006: Governor: Iowa:

Ken Fuson and Jonathan Roos of the Des Moines Register report that the historically conservative Western part of Iowa could determine who wins the gubernatorial race. LINK

Dan Gearino writes in the Quad-City Times that in order for Rep. Jim Nussle (R-IA) to win, Republicans must turn out voters in Iowa's Sioux County, the county that handed the state to President Bush in 2004. LINK

The Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont writes that both Rep. Jim Nussle (R-IA) and Chet Culver (D-IA) spend a lot of time talking about their leadership skills and their opponent's lack thereof. LINK

Over the weekend, the Des Moines Register endorsed Democrat Chet Culver for Governor because "he seems to have a better temperament for the job" and, unlike Rep. Jim Nussle (R-IA), is not connected to a "Republican inner circle infamous for all-out partisan warfare and fiscal irresponsibility." LINK

2006: Ballot measures:

The Washington Post's Metro section looks at efforts on the part of Virginia's Catholic leaders to sway the solid majority of the state's Catholic voters -- 60 percent -- who said that gays "should 'be allowed to form legally recognized civil unions,' compared with 38 percent who said they shouldn't," according to a Washington Post poll conducted this month. LINK

The Washington Times' Valerie Richardson Notes that voters in Colorado will vote both on a ban on same-sex marriage and on a ballot measure that would create civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. LINK

Politics of lobbying:

USA Today's Thomas Frank examines the influence of beer on Capitol Hill, and it's not just the goggles. LINK

USA Today lists the top lobbyist PACs that contributed to candidates. Leading the way -- the National Association of Realtors. LINK

2008:

In a Sunday column that made a plea for a "new direction in Iraq" and "more consensus on stubborn problems at home," the Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein had Bush/Schwarzenegger adviser Matthew Dowd saying that the success Schwarzenegger has had with a hybrid left-right agenda "should send a signal to anybody running in '08." LINK

2008: Republicans:

Al Hunt of Bloomberg News delivers an excellent read on Gov. Romney as the potential GOP '08er most attractive to "movement conservatives." LINK

The AP's Mike Glover had Gov. Romney's saying in Iowa over the weekend that "a lot of people are concerned about the ongoing conflict in Iraq, but they don't feel we should cut and run and they don't feel that a chance in leadership in their state is merited by what's happening nationally." LINK

"Romney and other GOP strategists have targeted western Iowa as a key region in the Nov. 7 elections. . . Those conservative voters weren't energized in 2000, and Democrat Al Gore carried the state. In 2004, GOP strategists prioritized western Iowa voters as President Bush carried the state and won a close race."

Kimberly Atkins of the Boston Herald reports on speculation of a Romey-Bush ticket in 2008. "Strategists said Jeb Bush, who has ruled out running for president or Senate himself, would bring name recognition and fund-raising power to Romney's ticket." LINK

New York Sun's Josh Gerstein considers Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) comments in New Hampshire on Friday when he Noted that "you need another 20,000 troops in Iraq. That means expanding the Army and Marine Corps by as much as 10,000 people." While Republicans have not openly "embraced his position," Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) called it a "fantasy." LINK

2008: Democrats:

The New York Post's endorsement of Hillary Clinton for 2006 (but not 2008) is a work of art. LINK

In his New York Post column, Dick Morris writes of Sen. Clinton's "flip-flop on gay marriage" and provides his "in the room" claim that her claim to have supported DOMA in the mid-90s as a strategic setup to defeating a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is a bit of rewritten history. LINK

In a story looking at Sen. Clinton's Friday comments about same-sex marriage, ABC News' Teddy Davis reports that when Clinton campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Hanley was asked whether the U.S. Senator from New York would vote for a same-sex marriage law if she were in the New York State Legislature, Hanley said: "She's not going to answer a hypothetical like that." LINK

"Clinton's spokeswoman would also not say whether the former first lady would consider New York's enactment of a same-sex marriage law a step in the right or wrong direction."

In a Lexington column that praises him as a "tough-as-nails professional," The Economist writes that Sen. Obama "is not a man who is above raising doubts, albeit subtly, about Mr. McCain's age or Mr. Romney's pandering to the religious right."

In his column on Sunday, Robert Novak of the Chicago Sun Times wrote that former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) stands to suffer most if Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) declares his plans to run for president in 2008. Novak also Notes that non-presidential candidates usually don't bring top campaign advisers to Sunday TV interviews as Obama did for his recent "Meet the Press" appearance. LINK

Carla Hall in Saturday's Los Angeles Times reported how "the son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas…electrified the 2004 Democratic National Convention as a speaker, won his Senate race and in two short years catapulted from junior senator to fantasy presidential candidate and Time magazine cover guy." LINK

The Boston Globe's Rick Klein writes up Sen. Kerry's offensive/defensive tone on the campaign trail defending a House candidate's service in Iraq as part of his stumping for Democratic candidates around the country. A seemingly invigorated Kerry told the crowd in Philadelphia, "'I'm in a fighting mood, we -- together -- lost to two lies: the lie about the war in Iraq, and the lie about me personally. And if you don't think that puts me in a fighting mood, you don't know John Kerry.'" LINK

Gordon Brown, Tony Blair's likely successor as head of the Labor Party in the United Kingdom, has signed on Al Gore as his international adviser for climate change issues. LINK

In an editorial that mocks his popularity across the pond, the Wall Street Journal's ed board Notes that Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt invoked former Vice President Gore recently in "proposing a new 'environmentally friendly' tax on packages that would penalize users of aluminum or plastic and provide incentives to switch to paper or cardboard, whose production releases less CO2 into the atmosphere."

Casting and counting:

Hattie Bernstein of the Nashua Telegraph reports that on Election Day, Granite State polling places will be accessible to those with disabilities because of newly leased state equipment. LINK

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

Sunday's New York Daily News captured the Clinton fest weekend. LINK

The political week ahead:

On Tuesday, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) holds a rally with Gov. Jim Doyle (D-WI), Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) at the Pere Marquette Park in Milwaukee, WI at 10:00 am ET. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks to the Council on Foreign Relations regarding Asia and the Middle East in New York, NY at 1:00 pm ET. Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) discusses the future of U.S.-China relations at the Asia Society in New York City. The Brookings Institution hosts a 2:00 pm ET discussion on "Polarizing the House of Representatives: How Much Does Gerrymandering Matter?"

On Wednesday, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and his challenger Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) debate at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, FL at 7:00 pm ET. Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tommy Moore are scheduled to debate in Conway, SC. Sen. John McCain is scheduled to campaign with Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN). The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management hosts a "2006 Election Forecasting Panel" discussion at 11:00 am ET at the United States Capitol in Washington, DC. The Brookings Institution has a 2:00 pm ET planned discussion scheduled entitled, "Will the November Elections Help Mend the Broken Branch?"

On Thursday, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) attend a fundraiser for Florida congressional candidate Tim Mahoney in New York City. Mahoney is trying to win what was originally believed to be a safe Republican seat before Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) resigned from Congress and dropped out of the race. Minnesota Senate candidates Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-MN) and Democratic opponent Amy Klobuchar debate in Rochester, MN. Earlier in the day, Vice President Al Gore rallies with Amy Klobuchar in Minneapolis, MN at 1:15 pm ET. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) rallies with Jim Webb (D-VA) in Richmond, VA and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) in Jersey City, NJ. The George Washington University hosts an 11:00 am ET news conference on Harvard Institute of Politics' 2006 Youth Political Attitudes poll at the Jack Morton Auditorium in Washington, DC. The American Enterprise Institute hosts a book discussion with John Fortier, the author of "Absentee and Early Voting: Trends, Promises and Perils" at 2:25 pm ET at the AEI building in Washington, DC. The Fairfax County Republican Committee hosts a meeting to discuss statewide campaigns and distribute materials for election weekend literature drops at the Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, VA at 8:00 pm ET.

On Friday, the Labor Department releases its final pre-election jobs report. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NYC) headlines a Victory New Hampshire's inaugural "First in the Nation" forum in Manchester, NH. Note that Giuliani is bookending the final campaign weekend with this stop in New Hampshire on Friday and wrapping up his 2006 campaign schedule in Iowa on Monday November 6. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is scheduled to rally with Senate candidate Rep. Ben Cardin (D-MD) in Maryland and gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick (D-MA) in Boston, MA.

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