By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
SURGING VS. CLOSING. As President Obama heads West to try to shore up several key races in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state, fresh numbers from an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll indicate that the so-called “enthusiasm gap” still tilts toward Republicans. The poll found that 50 percent of likely voters favor a Republican-controlled Congress while 43 percent prefer to have Democrats in the driver’s seat. “It's hard to say that the Democrats are facing anything less than a Category 4 hurricane," pollster Peter Hart said in his analysis of the results. Even so, some vulnerable Democratic contenders are seeing their numbers improve. One of them, Pennsylvania Senate candidate Joe Sestak, appears to be inching up in the polls, but while some are calling his uptick a “surge,” what we’re really seeing is Sestak and other Democrats closing the gap. The question once Nov. 2 rolls around remains whether “closing” will be enough to overcome what seems to be a big GOP advantage on the enthusiasm front. http://bit.ly/azSFpF
WESTERN WHITE HOUSE. President Obama begins his West Coast campaign swing today, traveling to Portland, Oregon to stump for Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber — one of five former governors who are trying to get their old jobs back this year. Kitzhaber is facing a tough race with Republican Chris Dudley, the 16-year veteran of the NBA. OREGON SNAPSHOT: The Oregonian reports that as Kitzhaber rallies with Obama Dudley will be courting voters in eastern Oregon as part of his campaign bus tour. Here’s a peek at of one of the Republican’s recent campaign stops: “Dudley hasn't spent a lot of time on this road trip talking about his opponent. But he did mention Kitzhaber at a stop in Madras, a part of Oregon hammered by recession and with a high percentage of families receiving food stamps. ‘He created the future we're living in today,’ Dudley said. ‘If you think that's the best we can do, then go with him.’” http://bit.ly/9opmhM
Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden will hold a rally in Nevada today for Sen. Harry Reid, who is battling Republican Sharron Angle. The vice president is following in the footsteps of Sarah Palin who made appearances in Las Vegas and Reno on Monday and Tuesday. The Reno-Gazette Journal’s Ray Hagar reports: “The Reid campaign had no intention of trying to outshine Palin’s star power by bringing in Biden and Obama, a Reid spokesman said. ‘No, at this point our campaign is doing everything it can to turn out the vote in the final two weeks,’ Reid spokesman Kelly Steele said. ‘Vice President Biden and President Obama are two people to fire up the Democratic base, give a little extra juice to the volunteers who are making calls and knocking on doors every day.’” http://bit.ly/afPLho
PENNSYLVANIA PREVIEW. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos co-moderates the first televised debate of the Pennsylvania Senate race tonight between Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey. Democrats jumped on two public polls out this week that showed Sestak slightly ahead of Toomey. A new Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll released today gives Sestak a 3 point edge over his GOP rival, 44 percent to 41 percent with 15 percent of voters undecided. A Toomey campaign spokeswoman insisted that the “polls are all over the place," but Republican political operatives privately acknowledge that the race has tightened. ABC News recently changed the rating of the Pennsylvania Senate contest from “Lean Republican” to pure “Toss Up.” The momentum toward Sestak may have been enough to spook one of the outside groups that has already poured more than $1 million into the race on Toomey’s behalf — the Club for Growth. The Club, which Toomey used to run, sent out an e-mail solicitation to supporters on Tuesday asking for help in expanding their existing ad buys in the state. “Our new investment in the Pennsylvania Senate race is big, over $700,000, but we can and should make it bigger,” the e-mail message said.
NOTED: Sarah Palin endorsed Toomey in a Facebook post on Tuesday, writing that “'rust belt’ and energy producing states” need “good candidates” like the former GOP congressman. http://on.fb.me/aa0UFQ Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesman Mark Nicastre responded today, calling the endorsement a “desperate” move on the part of Toomey and Palin: “It just goes to show that Pat Toomey has far more in common with Sarah Palin, Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle than he does with the people of Pennsylvania. Toomey is an ideological extremist who is even more extreme than Rick Santorum so this endorsement from fellow extremist Sarah Palin was a long time coming. Now that Sarah Palin has endorsed Pat Toomey to bolster his sagging poll numbers, we just want to know when Sarah Palin is coming to Pennsylvania to endorse Pat Toomey in person so Toomey can get the real Sarah Palin boost."
NO HOLDS BARRED. Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk didn’t hold anything back in last night's Illinois Senate debate, which was presented by Chicago’s ABC 7 and the League of Women Voters in Illinois and moderated by George Stephanopoulos. Giannoulias was more aggressive, but Kirk was able to counter punch and get in a few dings of his own. Both were also able to bob and weave their way out of answering some of the more pointed questions posed to them. Neither, however, landed a knock-out punch. Giannoulias worked hard to make Kirk, a 10-year House incumbent, the establishment candidate. “If you are thrilled with Washington, DC,” said the Illinois State Treasurer, then Kirk’s “your man.” For his part, Kirk, who represents a swing suburban Chicago district, presented himself as a centrist and an independent voice. “I am a fiscal conservative, a social moderate,” he said. Kirk stayed away from a full-throated embrace of the GOP agenda, Giannoulias was reading right from the Democratic playbook. He invoked Karl Rove often, called Kirk “bought and paid for by Wall Street firms,” and lamented that the Congressman simply represented “typical DC politics.” http://bit.ly/aZjJ64
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Jonathan Karl and Karen Travers talk to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif, who could be the next chairman of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform if the Republicans take back the House in November. Karl and Travers also sit down with The Hill’s Shane D’Aprile who will talk about The Hill's latest installment of its 2010 election poll. This one focuses on 10 toss up House races with "sophomore,” or two-term, members of Congress. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
Check out ABC’s updated House, Senate and governor’s race maps: http://bit.ly/cRwPpH
WAKING UP EARLY. Democrats are aggressively trying to bridge the “enthusiasm gap” they’re facing with a robust early voting and get-out-the-vote effort in critical states. The Washington Post’s Shailagh Murray reports from Las Vegas that Democratic volunteers are hounding voters the old fashioned way –with phone calls and knocks at the door: “Overall, 30 percent or more of voters could make their choices before Election Day, experts predict. In some states that make early voting especially easy – such as Nevada, where voting booths can be found in health clubs, libraries, supermarkets and shopping malls – it could be much higher. In the last election, 60 percent of Nevadans voted early.” http://wapo.st/adTPVz
AXE’S TAKE. On the eve of tonight’s Pennsylvania Senate debate, White House senior adviser David Axelrod told CNN’s John King that the contest between Joe Sestak and Pat could be "an East Coast harbinger of the kind of night it's going to be” on Nov. 2. In an interview on “John King, USA,” Axelrod also said he’s closely watching the governor’s race in Ohio, a state where Obama recently campaigned. “The Ohio governor's race is a really interesting race.” Axelrod said. “I think that Governor Strickland has rallied and is running a great campaign there. We'll be eager to see that. It's an important state.” http://bit.ly/ba2zlp
NOTED: Speaking of Ohio, ABC’s Jonathan Karl points out that a Quinnipiac University poll out on Tuesday gave Republican John Kasich a 51 percent to 41 percent lead over Strickland while 7 percent of Ohio voters remained undecided. From Karl’s report: “When ABC News caught up with Strickland today in Cleveland, he was realistic about his chances. ‘I'm not sitting here telling you that I am going to win. That's yet to be determined,’ he said. ‘But I'm telling you that I think I'm going to win, and know we will win if we carry out our plan.’” http://bit.ly/9YyNi9
‘SECRET PLAN.’ The Democratic National Committee is out with a new television ad that will be running on cable this week. The ad, titled “Secret Plan” focuses on the outcry from Democrats over the millions of dollars flowing to outside groups from anonymous donors. “Millions being spent by right wing groups to buy an election. All from secret donors. What’s not a secret is why,” the ad’s narrator says. “Republicans and their corporate buddies want to be back in charge.” A Democratic National Committee official e-mails: “The debate over the secret money Republican-aligned groups are spending to win the election and the economy is inextricably linked because if Republicans win they are going to reward this special interest backing by returning to the economic policies of the Bush era that cost eight million Americans their jobs.” http://bit.ly/cXuxTE
THE NUMBER: 29%
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s approval rating, according to a new Gallup Poll. The number represents a new low for Pelosi who has been vilified on the campaign trail by Republicans and even some Democrats. From Gallup’s analysis of the poll: “Independents in particular have become more negative about Pelosi, with her favorability dwindling nine points among this group since May, to 21%. Nearly 6 in 10 independents (58%) now view her unfavorably, compared with 86% of Republicans and 22% of Democrats.” http://bit.ly/d93u1l
@LarrySabato: You are a fool if you believe any new publicly released polls paid for by the campaigns or parties. Pure spin & manipulation this late.
‘CAMBIANDO CALIFORNIA.’ The political arm of the Service Employees International Union is unveiling a new Spanish-language television ad for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown today. The ad is part of the union’s “Cambiando California” campaign, a $5 million effort that includes television, radio, online ads, direct mailers and field operations. SEIU officials call it “the most comprehensive Latino Independent Expenditure Campaign in history.” Here’s a clip of the script: “Republican Meg Whitman wants to cut the jobs of more than thirty thousand state workers. Whitman wants to get rid of nurses, firefighters, and teachers — hurting not just their families, but ours too. No wonder working families Support Democrat Jerry Brown for Governor — because Jerry Brown knows how to create jobs and expand opportunities for our families.” http://bit.ly/bA8OUW
THE NOTE IS HIRING AN INTERN. Calling on College Students! The ABC News Political Unit is now seeking full-time Winter 2011 interns in Washington, D.C. The paid internship begins in late December or early January and runs thru May of 2011. Political Unit interns attend political events and contribute to stories for the politics page of ABCNews.com. They also help ABC News by conducting research, maintaining our calendar of upcoming political events, and posting stories to ABCNews.com.
In order to apply, you MUST be either a graduate student or an undergraduate student who has completed his or her first year of college. The internship is NOT open to recent graduates. You also must be able to work eight hours per day, Monday through Friday. Interns will be paid $8.50/hour. If you write well, follow politics closely, and have some familiarity with web publishing, send a cover letter and resume to Zach Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org, by Monday, November 15, with the subject line: "INTERN" in all caps. Please indicate in both your cover letter and the body of your email your student status and the specific dates and hours of your availability.
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