By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
CRYSTAL BALLS. If it’s Tuesday — exactly four weeks to Election Day 2010 — it must be time for another round of predictions. The latest come courtesy of National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, who at one point predicted that the GOP would regain control House outright, still sounds confident that Republicans' "hard work will pay off" but is saying something slightly different: “It’s clear that Democrats will, at the very least, lose functional control of the House,” he wrote, adding: “The next four weeks will determine the extent of their losses.” Sessions offered the forecast in a memo released today by the NRCC. Still the Texas congressman sounded optimistic pointing out that “Republican congressional candidates are also enjoying the prospects of a significant boost from strong upticket performances by Republican nominees” and that “competitive seats continue to appear in places where few expected.” On the Democratic side, the prediction game is happening too. Consider, for a moment, a scenario in which Democrats retain a majority in the House, but only a slim one. As The Hill’s Russell Berman points out “the party’s most conservative members could find themselves in the catbird seat.” What would happen? Berman writes: “the finicky Blue Dog Coalition would be thinned but not erased, leaving a smaller but more powerful group of dissident Democrats. The House of the 112th Congress would resemble the Senate of the last two years, where by virtue of the 60-seat requirement to overcome a filibuster, centrists like Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) held veto power over items large and small.” So, which way are we headed? The results of a new ABC News/Washington Post poll may hold clues.
GOP SLIPPING (SOMEWHAT)… ABC’s Gary Langer takes a look at the latest numbers from the new poll and finds that the “gargantuan” Congressional ballot edge Republicans had a few months ago has “subsided to merely a broad one.” More from Langer’s analysis of today’s ABC News/Washington Post survey: “A month before Election Day, 31 percent of Americans say the economy's improving — far from a majority, but 7 points more than a month ago and among the most since the financial crisis of fall 2008. Dissatisfaction with the federal government, closely related to economic discontent, also has eased by 7 points, albeit to a still-high 71 percent. It's hardly a sea change: anti-incumbency and disapproval of Congress remain enormous. Republicans still are more charged up; they're 16 points more apt than Democrats to say they're certain to vote next month. And the ABC News Frustration Index, a strong predictor of election outcomes, stands at 68 on its scale of 100, well in the danger zone for incumbent politicians. In congressional vote preference, likely voters now divide by 49-43 percent for the Republican vs. the Democratic candidate in their district. That's eased from a remarkable 53-40 percent last month, the largest GOP lead since ABC/Post polling began in 1982.”
…BUT STILL FIRED UP. Even thought Democrats have gained some ground according to the poll results, they’ve got a long way to go. ABC Political Director Amy Walter notes that Republicans still have enthusiasm going for them: “Despite multiple attempts by President Obama to rouse his base, the latest ABC/Washington Post poll shows Republicans are still more ‘fired up and ready to go’ than Democrats. When asked if they were ‘certain’ to vote this year, 77 percent of Republicans said yes compared to just 61 percent of Democrats. This 16-point advantage for Republicans is unchanged from last month. Independent voters, meanwhile, did show a jump in enthusiasm from September.Today, 74 percent say they are ‘certain’ to vote – up from 69 percent last month. That’s not good news for Democrats however, as independents are leaning decidedly toward the GOP this fall. Among independents who are most likely to vote, 53 percent say they’re voting for the Republican candidate compared to just 33 percent who say they’ll vote for the Democrat.”
SUNSHINE STATE SHOWDOWN. The three candidates competing for a Florida Senate seat — Republican Marco Rubio, Democrat Kendrick Meek and independent Charlie Crist — will face off in a debate on Wednesday night at 7p.m. moderated by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. It is one of five debates that ABC News, along with local affiliate partners, will host in four key battleground states between now and November. Send questions for the Florida candidates. And watch the debate live on ABCNews.com and Facebook. Thursday morning, “Good Morning America” will broadcast live from Florida to provide reaction and analysis.
PRESIDENTIAL PLANNER. President Obama and Dr. Jill Biden will host the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges today, ABC’s Sunlen Miller reports. During the summit, the administration will highlight two public-private commitments that it believes will help prepare the community college workforce better. Several foundations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Aspen Institute, the Joyce Foundation, the Lumina Foundation and the charitable foundations of JP organ Chase and Bank of America are making multi-million dollar contributions to the community college push. Also on the president’s agenda: the signing of a bill to grant the Congressional Gold Medal to the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. The president and first lady will host a Diplomatic Corps Reception in the afternoon, and in the evening, the president deliver remarks at the 2010 Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington.
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: Rick Klein and Karen Travers sit down with Republican Sean Bielat, a Massachusetts Congressional candidate challenging incumbent Democrat Barney Frank in the state’s fourth Congressional district. Klein and Travers also talk to Politico campaign reporter Shira Toeplitz. Watch LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.
POLITICAL PUNCH — NOW ON VIDEO. Staring today ABC News White House correspondent Jake Tapper will anchor a weekly webcast on ABCNews.com called “Political Punch.” The webcast like his blog of the same name, will feature interviews with key newmakers and segments such as DC Ticker — analyzing who is up and who is down in Washington and Truth-O-Meter, which will fact check the news. Political Punch will also feature animated sketches from Tapper, himself. In the first installment of “Political Punch,” Tapper interviews Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-ND, and Congressman Bob Inglis, R-S.C., who are both leaving Capitol Hill this year.
HEY, BIG SPENDERS. ABC’s Devin Dwyer looks at campaign finance numbers so far in 2010 and finds that “the small-scale individual donor is also proving to be a formidable force” in no small part due to the energy injected into this year’s races by the Tea Party. More from Dwyer’s report: “A snapshot of Federal Election Commission (FEC) campaign finance data compiled by the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute, and reviewed by ABC News, shows that of the more than $731 million raised so far by more than a thousand candidates for the U.S. House, nearly 10 percent came from donors giving no more than $200 total. Candidates in races involving high-profile Tea Party-endorsed candidates, some of whom have a virtual lock on reelection, top the list of grassroots fundraisers. The findings offer a striking illustration of the political engagement sparked by the Tea Party this election season and demonstrate that the recession has not diminished small-scale political fundraising in many congressional races.”
FEINGOLD TO DSCC: NO THANKS. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., who is struggling against his Republican opponent Ron Johnson in his fight for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate, has not asked for help from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In fact, he’s sending a message to the DSCC to stay out of the race, especially when it comes to on-air ads. "It's because these are almost always inherently attack ads based on cookie-cutter notions of how you should talk to the people of Wisconsin," Feingold told Politics Daily’s Walter Shapiro in an interview. "I don't want that kind of help," Feingold continued. "I consider it to be outside help of a kind that is uncontrolled and tends to believe in a philosophy of slash-and-burn politics. That's frankly not who I am. I don't want to win that way."
SMACKDOWN IN HARTFORD. Just hours after Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon deployed a hard-hitting television ad attacking her opponent, Richard Blumenthal, for misstatements he made about his service during the Vietnam War era, the two candidates sparred in person over the accusations at their first official debate of the general election. “There is nothing new in this ad, and there is nothing new about the McMahon attack on me," Blumenthal, the state’s Democratic attorney general said, adding that he was “sorry” that on a handful of occasions he exaggerated his military service. "I regret it. I take full responsibility for it.” But Blumenthal brought his own ammunition to the forum, raising questions — as he has with his own television ad – about his whether his GOP opponent supports cutting the minimum wage. “That's a lie. You know that's a lie,” McMahon said. “I never said it.” McMahon has spent tens of millions of her own fortune on the race — a point that Blumenthal underscored when he accused his opponent of trying to buy the Senate seat like an “auction.” The debate was not without its moments of humor, including a “lightening round” during which both candidates professed their love for the New York Yankees and thin-crust pizza.
WITCHES’ BREW. In case you missed it, Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell is not a witch. Repeat: “I'm not a witch," O’Donnell assures voters, who may be concerned that she once "dabbled" in the dark arts, in a new ad released by her campaign Monday evening. "I'm nothing you've heard," O'Donnell notes in the 30-second spot — the first of the general election — "I'm you." The ad features an almost ghostly background, quiet piano notes and O’Donnell, the GOP candidate who has sparked controversy for her past statements on witchcraft, abstinence and evolution, among other things, speaking directly into the camera. “None of us are perfect, but none of us can be happy with what we see all around us,” she says. “Politicians who think spending, trading favors and back-room deals are the ways to stay in office. I’ll go to Washington and do what you’d do.”
THE NUMBER: 9%
The margin of Republican John Kasich’s lead over Gov. Ted Strickland in the Ohio governor’s race, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll out today. “The governor’s race has tightened but Kasich still has a healthy lead with four weeks until Election Day,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute said of the results. “If Gov. Strickland is to mount a comeback, he needs to make a major dent in Kasich’s commanding lead among independent voters, who often make the difference in close elections in Ohio.”
@samsteinhp: Tarryl Clark's new web ad: Michele Bachmann is "not doing @#%! for the people of the 6th district": http://youtu.be/UwQLBizwosY
@daveweigel: Hey, Florida followers: What's the ratio of Scott to Sink ads on your TVs?
@brianstelter: Jay Leno last night: Obama says Dems are "waking up," which is "always good when you’re having a nightmare." http://nyti.ms/deneLK
@HotlineJosh: Any ad featuring Randy Moss' mooning Packers fans is must-see, but also smacks of desperation for Feingoldhttp://youtu.be/ZkMX6M-I1G4
WHO’S ANGRY? Democratic Governors Association Chairman Gov. Jack Markell, that’s who. The Delaware governor will deliver remarks at the National Press Club today about the state of governors’ races around the country. Here’s a preview of what he’ll say: “Yes, there’s a lot of anger in this country. I know, because I’m angry, too. But we have not—and will not—channel that anger into apathy and despair. We’ve channeled it into action, and as I tour the country these next few weeks, I will call on Democrats to channel their anger into action as well. … Republicans are counting on the electorate being blindingly hostile. They are hoping that a frustrated electorate provides only downside for Democrats, and they are banking on it. But voters aren’t looking to punish a party. They are looking for results, and I am confident that voters will gravitate toward the governors who have produced results, and the candidates who offer plans that will do the same.”
TODAY AT THE NRSC. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is hosting a fundraiser with several GOP Senate candidates today, including Marco Rubio of Florida, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Dan Coats of Indiana and Sharron Angle of Nevada. Recall that Angle was recently caught on tape saying that the GOP had “lost their standards” and “lost their principles."
* Get The Note delivered to your inbox every day.