By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
ONE NIGHT IN MADISON. Just minutes after President Obama wrapped up a rally at the University of Wisconsin Tuesday evening, Democrats were already — gleefully — passing around the lead of an Associated Press dispatch from the event: “If there’s an enthusiasm gap for Democrats this election, it hasn’t reached Madison.” They were also quick to highlight crowd estimates from university police that indicated roughly 17,000 people filled an outdoor plaza on campus while another 9,000 lined up to see the president but were sent to overflow areas. Here’s what the crowd heard the president say courtesy of ABC’s Jake Tapper, Karen Travers and Sunlen Miller: "We need you to commit to vote. We need you to pledge to vote. We need you to knock on doors," he said, his voice going cracking at times as he shouted from the podium. "We need you to talk to neighbors. We need you to make phone calls. We need you to bring energy and passion and commitment." Obama’s fire-them-up message, aimed last night at younger voters who turned out in droves in 2008, came at the same time that a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed that just 35 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds are excited about the midterm elections.
But the poll also found that some “key Democratic-leaning demographic groups” are beginning to express more enthusiasm about November. Republicans still have a three-point edge, 46 percent to 43 percent, on the Congressional generic ballot among likely voters, but they are losing ground from the nine-point lead they had in late August. Even if the Democrats can keep chipping away at that GOP lead, will it be enough come Election Day? Of the 53 Democratic-held seats that the Cook Political Report rates as “toss up” or “lean Republican,” 42 are in districts that have a Republican lean. So, just getting the Democratic base excited will not necessarily help embattled congressmen like Glenn Nye in Virginia, John Spratt in South Carolina or Baron Hill of Indiana. In those races and many others, Democrats need to close the enthusiasm gap while also winning over independent voters. If independents don't start going their way, all the base stoking won't matter that much.
PRESIDENTIAL PLANNER. President Obama begins his day in Des Moines, Iowa and meets with a local family at their home. ABC’s Sunlen Miller previews the rest of the president’s day: He will hold a backyard discussion on the challenges facing the middle class in the Hawykeye State. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver and Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie will be there too. Later the president makes the last stop on his “Moving America Forward Tour” in Richmond, Virginia where he will meet with a local Richmond family at the Southampton Recreation Association before hosting a discussion on the economy with families from the area. Obama returns to Washington this evening.
LONE STAR RACE GOES NATIONAL. ABC News is focusing all week on key governors’ races around the country. Today ABC’s Huma Khan and Maya Srikrishnan turn the spotlight on Texas where Democrats are hoping to reclaim the governor’s mansion for the first time in a decade-and-a-half. They report: “Former Houston mayor and lawyer Bill White is in a surprisingly close race with GOP incumbent Rick Perry, running for a third term. Among registered voters, Perry was leading White by 46 percent to 39 percent, with 8 percent undecided, in the most recent poll by the Dallas Morning News, conducted Sept. 15-22. White has consistently trailed Perry since the incumbent won the Republican primary against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. While most Texas politicos are still hedging their bets on Perry, albeit after a tough election fight, Democrats still have a shot if they can elevate grassroots momentum in the last few weeks of the campaign, especially among Hispanics.” The Democratic Governor’s Association is eyeing Texas as a key pickup opportunity in November, pouring more than $2 million into White’s campaign.
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter welcome Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat from Ohio’s 9th Congressional district who is seeking her 15th term in November. Unlike some Democratic candidates this year, Kaptur has been touting her “yes” vote on the new health care reform law as she travels her district. Klein and Walter will sit down with New York Times political reporter Jeff Zeleny. Watch LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.
HELP WANTED. Who’s going to fill Rahm Emanuel’s shoes if, as expected, he quits his job as White House Chief of Staff to run for mayor of Chicago? ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf provides a rundown of the likely suspects — from Pete Rouse to Tom Daschle and everyone in between. NOTED: About that Chicago mayoral race: Don’t expect Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin to endorse any time soon. While Durbin told Politico’s Manu Raju that it would be “a good thing” if Emanuel decides to jump into the race, he’s staying neutral for now. “I’m going to wait and see who gets in. There are a lot of people, and I know every one of them.”
FINDING HIS RELIGION. It’s not every day the president gets a question like this. "Why are you a Christian?" one woman asked the president at an event on Tuesday in New Mexico. "I'm a Christian by choice," Obama said, according to ABC’s Tapper, Travers and Miller. "So I came to my Christian faith later in life." The president said that the "precepts of Jesus Christ" spoke to him about the life he would want to lead. "I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith," he said. WATCH video of the question and answer.
A BOOST FOR PALADINO? Less than two weeks after calling New York GOP gubernatorial hopeful, Carl Paladino, “more of a caricature than a candidate,” the head of the state’s Conservative Party will urge his members to endorse the Republican contender at a meeting of party leaders today. New York Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long told ABC News that although “some of our people are a little uptight” about the primary season friction between conservatives and Paladino, “as chairman of the party, I don’t have the option of being uptight.” Long said he is hoping to turn the “mixed views” of many of his members toward Paladino into an endorsement — a move that would provide a boost to the eccentric and controversial Republican candidate who is battling Democrat Andrew Cuomo.
NOTED: The New York Times is out with a stinger of a story for Paladino today, reporting that some of the aides the GOP candidate has hired to run his campaign “are plagued by brushes with the law and allegations of misconduct." A few examples from The Times’ Michal Barbaro: “His campaign manager failed to pay nearly $53,000 in federal taxes over the last few years, prompting the Internal Revenue Service to take action against him. An aide who frequently drives Mr. Paladino on the campaign trail served jail time in Arizona on charges of drunken driving.” And there’s more where that came from.
MR. DUKAKIS GOES TO WASHINGTON. 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis recently “popped in” to the White House to offer his advice for Democrats heading into the midterm elections, the Boston Globe reports. "It seems to me there has to be a single message coming from Democrats, from the president on down," Dukakis said in an interview with the Globe’s Michael Kranish. "We've got to pound that message as hard as can from now until November." NOTED: Republican National Committee spokesman Doug Heye (@dougheye) was only too happy to tweet the news of Dukakis’ visit to Washington.
THE NUMBERS: 12, 3, 2, 0.25
These come courtesy of the Los Angeles Times’ Shane Goldmacher, who culled some fun facts from last night’s California gubernatorial debate: “12: News releases sent by both Meg Whitman's and Brown's campaigns during the debate; 3: Number of questions Whitman answered in a post-debate news conference; 2: The number of times Brown said ‘hell’; 0.25: Estimated mileage covered by reporters as they scurried to follow Brown during his post-debate ‘news conference’”
Here are a few more numbers from the Golden State: 45 percent and 47 percent. Those are Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown’s negative ratings, respectively, from a recent Field Poll. Whitman’s negatives are up 18 points since March and Brown’s have climbed 10 points. "If there is one thing that is making it hard for voters to make a choice, it's that they don't like either candidate," said the Field Poll's Mark DiCamillo, via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross. “And the candidates' attacks on each other Tuesday evening might have only fueled some of those negative perceptions. Whitman repeatedly slammed Brown for being in the pockets of the state's unions, and he accused her of offering tax cuts to the wealthy.”
@markknoller: And though Mr Obama uses the backyard chats to try to score political points for himself & the Dems, WH says they are not "campaign" events.
@ktumulty: updating my resume: i own an oxford english dictionary and several oxford cloth shirts.
@carriedann: Nugget in new NBC/WSJ poll: John Boehner's name ID is up 14 points since Oct 09. Was 64% "don't know" then, 50% now. http://bit.ly/9RVLrE
INDEPENDENT LENS. The Blue Dog Research Forum, a non-profit group with ties to the Democratic Blue Dog coalition, is releasing a new poll today along with Zogby International. The poll of independent voters — “Measuring the Middle-How Independents Think” — finds, among other things that “77 percent of independents believe that ‘the American government is broken’ and 62 percent believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction. Independents rate President Obama’s job performance higher (36 percent) than they rate Democrats in Congress (13 percent) or Republicans (5 percent).”
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