By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
SENATE MOMENTUM. Are we seeing the momentum shift in the battle for the Senate? As the playing field expands in the House, polls are showing Democrats looking better in Connecticut, Washington State, Nevada, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. According to a new Quinnipiac University poll, Democrat Richard Blumenthal's lead over Republican Linda McMahon has grown to 11 percentage points — 54 percent to 43 percent. “Blumenthal's surge is fueled by support from women, Democrats and independents,” poll director Douglas Schwartz told the AP. A CNN/Time poll from earlier this week had Democratic Sen. Patty Murray up by 8 points in Washington state. Fifty-one percent of likely voters in the state said they were behind Murray while 43 percent supported her GOP opponent, Dino Rossi. It’s tighter in Nevada, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, but privately Democrats are growing more bullish about their chances. The latest numbers shouldn’t be taken as a sign that all the races will eventually end up in the Democratic column but as one party strategist put it, it gives Democrats some optimism and hope.
THROWDOWN IN DELAWARE. It may not end up being the most consequential Senate race this election season, but in the closing weeks of the campaign it certainly seems to be drawing the most attention. Republican Christine O’Donnell and Democrat Chris Coons “sparred over the stimulus and the health care law, the war in Afghanistan and campaign finance reform” at the 90-minute CNN/University of Delaware debate, ABC News’ Steve Portnoy and Devin Dwyer report. Even though Coons is ahead in the polls, all eyes were on O’Donnell on Wednesday night. The bar for her was set relatively low and by most accounts she cleared it. Whether it will help her in any real way in the polls seems unlikely, but she won’t lose ground either. More from Portnoy and Dwyer’s debate wrap: “When asked, repeatedly and directly, O'Donnell refused to say whether she still believes evolution is a ‘myth’ and she made light of her comments on witchcraft, to which one of her own campaign ads alludes. She previously said she ‘dabbled in witchcraft’ years ago. When pressed about a college newspaper article entitled ‘Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist,’ Coons said it had been written in jest. ‘I am not now nor have I ever been anything but a clean-shaven capitalist,’ he said to laughs, invoking the tone of a witness before a congressional panel investigating communism in the 1950s.” At one point O'Donnell accused Coons of being “jealous that you weren't on 'Saturday Night Live.” http://bit.ly/aGtQ2l
NOTED: If viewers were looking for a “gotcha” moment from last night, it may have come when O'Donnell was asked to name a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that she disagreed with. O’Donnell froze for a moment, saying “I know that there are a lot.” She later added: “There are several when it comes to pornography. Federal court decisions to give terrorists Miranda rights.” Coons cited the Citizens United case in his response: “The free speech rights of corporations, I don’t think deserve the free speech rights of living breathing humans.”
NEXT UP, NEVADA. Tonight Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his GOP opponent, Sharron Angle, square off in their own debate in the Nevada Senate race. The debate comes on the heels of the announcement of Angle’s massive third-quarter fundraising haul — $14.3 million — a sum that far outpaces Reid. ABC’s Huma Khan previews the matchup: “For both Angle and Reid, it will be a test of whether they can go beyond attacks that both campaigns have focused on and reinforce their message on issues pertinent to voters. In a state that leads the country in unemployment and foreclosures, Reid will have to explain why voters should elect him to a fifth Senate term. ‘I think the senator's challenge is what his challenge has been since he came to public office,’ said Democratic consultant Billy Vassiliadis. ‘He doesn't speak in 60-second sound bites. He wants to share information and a lot of details. … I think the challenge for him is to hone in on himself and focus on himself.’ Angle faces a similar challenge. The Republican candidate frequently has found herself at the center of controversy about her past statements, but experts say the key will be to talk about the economy and build on the national discontent against President Obama and a Democratically controlled Congress.” http://bit.ly/aTehMR
RAESE UNLEASHED. First there were the stories about the marble-paved driveway at his home in Florida, then controversy over the so-called “hick” ad that the National Republican Senatorial Committee produced on his behalf, and finally his statement that he "absolutely" supports getting rid of the minimum wage. West Virginia Senate candidate John Raese stirred the pot again on Wednesday with a speech about laser beams. In remarks to a local group that touched on national security issues Raese proposed a $20 billion laser-guided missile defense system. MSNBC’s Shawna Thomas and Carrie Dann captured the Republican hopeful’s comments: “‘If there is a rogue missile aimed at our country, we have 33 minutes to figure out what we're going to do,’ Raese said at an event sponsored by the League of American Voters. ‘We are sitting with the only technology in the world that works and its laser technology. We need 1000 laser systems put in the sky and we need it right now.’” The popularity of Raese’s opponent, Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin, makes the caliber of the campaign Raese is waging all the more important. Some Democratic political observers and wondering — and waiting for — what he might say next. Then again, three recent polls all show Manchin under 50 percent, which could be an encouraging sign for the GOP. http://bit.ly/a67rOo
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter welcome lightening rod New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino. Paladino, the Republican candidate running against Democrat Andrew Cuomo, recently drew criticism for saying that he does not want his children to “to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality” is acceptable. Klein and Walter will also have a conversation with Ari Berman, author of the new book, “Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics.” Watch LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
MORNING CLICK: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared on “Good Morning America” today. She sat down with ABC’s Robin Roberts in Brussels where she weighed in on the rescue of the Chilean miners, the war in Afghanistan and violence in Mexico. http://bit.ly/bp8ztD
ONE DEM FIGHTS BACK. Ohio Rep. Steve Driehaus lashed out at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Wednesday for pulling television ads from his district where is facing an tough challenge from Republican Rep. Steve Chabot. Driehaus cut a Web video, accusing the party committee of abandoning him even though he voted for the administration-backed health care bill: “I’ve had the guts to stand up for you. When it comes to the tough votes on health care, changing our economy, turning things around, and standing up to Wall Street, I’ve taken those tough votes because it was the right thing to do for the American people. Now the DCCC is walking away. Let them know you support candidates who stand up for your principles. Send a message to the DCCC and to all Americans that when we voted for change in 2008, we meant it.” http://bit.ly/a67rOo
BLUMENTHAL GETS THE NOD. The same newspaper that published one of the most damning stories of Connecticut Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal’s campaign endorsed him today. The New York Times, which was the first to raise questions about Blumenthal’s past statements about his military service during the Vietnam era, gave Blumenthal its seal of approval in an editorial: “Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the Democrat, has led the way in attacking the tobacco plague, helped clean the region’s environment and supported hundreds of individuals treated unfairly by their health insurance companies, utilities or banks. … We have larger concerns with the Republican, Linda McMahon. She made her name and lots of money by running World Wrestling Entertainment, a noisy, demeaning business. … She is ready to spend as much as $50 million of her own money to win the race, but she does not seem ready to take on the issues of war, the economy, public welfare and justice in Washington.” http://nyti.ms/cMxC1y
SEIU ON THE AIR. The labor union is coming to the aid of embattled Virginia Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello with a new television ad hitting Republican challenger Robert Hurt for opposing an extension of unemployment benefits. “Record unemployment is devastating Virginia,” the ad’s narrator says. “Even Iraq and Afghanistan veterans face unemployment over 20 percent. But Robert Hurt consistently opposed extending unemployment benefits. He even said that if he were in Congress, he would have voted against extending federal unemployment benefits.” SEIU COPE is spending nearly $300,000 on the ad, which will be broadcast in the Roanoke, Richmond and Charlottesville markets from today through October 20. http://bit.ly/dDvpvO
THE NUMBER: $198 million
The amount of money spent on campaign ads in House and Senate contests by candidates, political parties and interest groups during the past five weeks, according to a study by the Wesleyan Media Project. Politico’s Scott Wong reports that the figure represents a 75 percent increase from the same period in 2008: “More than $114 million was spent on Senate ads between Sept. 1 and Oct. 7, an 84 percent surge from the same period in 2008. And nearly $84 million paid for House ads, a 65 percent rise. … Total spending since Jan. 1 was $367 million, up $148 million or 68 percent from 2008.” http://politi.co/9OkgLk
@karentravers: Must read WP story on the man shot by VP Cheney in 2006 hunting incident-he's still waiting for an apology http://wapo.st/bs2cct
@markknoller: Only public appearance today by Pres Obama: a "youth Town Hall' hosted by cable channels MTV, BET and CMT.
@HotlineAlberta: Both LA senators on CREW's "Most Corrupt" list — fodder for Melancon? – http://bit.ly/ckhVgT
@meredithshiner: HUGE NEWS Lisa Madigan may be mulling run for Chicago mayor, would wait until after Nov. 2 to announce: http://bit.ly/9xY2v9
@capitalweather: Forecast: Soaking wet with a bit of chill today http://wapo.st/ajDjHh
NEWT ON THE TRAIL. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been one of the more vocal Republican surrogates this election season and he will be ramping up his efforts starting next week. As part of his “Power of 10” campaign which is seeking to recruit 10 million new voters by Election Day, Gingrich is heading out on the road for a series of campaign rallies that will take him to at least 12 states, including Arziona, California, Nevada, Iowa, Illinois, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
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