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Blog Home Page --> October 2009

National GOP Reacts To Scozzafava Decision

Republican House leaders John Boehner (Ohio) and Eric Cantor (Va.), and NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas), released a statement earlier today reacting to the news that Dede Scozzafava had suspended her campaign in New York's 23rd District special election three days before the election:

"As the House stands on the cusp of the forthcoming vote on a trillion-dollar healthcare reform measure, it is vital that we unify behind a candidate that will support reining in massive government spending and work with Republicans in Congress to restore fiscal sanity and propose thoughtful measures to get our nation's economy on the right track. "With Assemblywoman Scozzafava suspending her campaign, we urge voters to support Doug Hoffman's candidacy in New York's 23rd Congressional District. "He is the only active candidate in the race who supports lower taxes, fiscal responsibility and opposes Nancy Pelosi's agenda of government-run healthcare, more government and less jobs. "We look forward to welcoming Doug Hoffman into the House Republican Conference as we work together for the good of our nation."

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele released a statement as well reinforcing the RNC's support of Hoffman:


"The Republican National Committee respects Dede's decision to suspend her campaign. This selfless act of releasing her supporters provides voters with the opportunity to unite around a candidate who shares Republican principles and will serve the interests of his constituents in Congress by standing in opposition to the liberal policies of President Obama and Speaker Pelosi.

"Effective immediately, the RNC will endorse and support the conservative candidate in the race, Doug Hoffman. Doug's campaign will receive the financial backing of the RNC, and get-out-the-vote efforts to defeat Bill Owens on Tuesday.

"I appreciate the hard work Dede put into her campaign, and for understanding the political reality of this race. By releasing her supporters she has gracefully placed the Party before her own self interest, and for this she deserves enormous credit and respect."

Scozzafava Quits NY-23 Race

A late bombshell in the NY-23 Congressional race: Republican Dede Scozzafava has dropped out, citing her standing in the polls and poor fundraising. From her statement:

"In recent days, polls have indicated that my chances of winning this election are not as strong as we would like them to be. The reality that I've come to accept is that in today's political arena, you must be able to back up your message with money--and as I've been outspent on both sides, I've been unable to effectively address many of the charges that have been made about my record.

...

"It is increasingly clear that pressure is mounting on many of my supporters to shift their support. Consequently, I hereby release those individuals who have endorsed and supported my campaign to transfer their support as they see fit to do so. I am and have always been a proud Republican. It is my hope that with my actions today, my party will emerge stronger and our district and our nation can take an important step towards restoring the enduring strength and economic prosperity that has defined us for generations."

A new poll from Siena Research this morning showed Democrat Bill Owens leading the race with 36 percent, followed by Conservative Bill Hoffman with 35 and Scozzafava with just 20.

Her full statement is after the jump.

Dear friends and supporters:

"Throughout the course of my campaign for Congress, I have made the people of the 23rd District and the issues that affect them the focal point of my campaign. As a life long resident of this district, I care deeply and passionately about its people and our way of life. Whether as a candidate for Congress, a state Assemblywoman or a small town mayor, I have always sought to act with the best interest of our district and its residents in mind--and today I again seek to act for the good of our community.

"The opportunity to run as the Republican and Independence Party candidate to represent the 23rd District has been and remains one of the greatest honors of my life. During the past several months, as I've traveled the district, meeting and talking with voters about the issues that matter most to them, I've been overwhelmed by the amount of support I've received as I sought to serve as their voice in Washington. However, as Winston Churchill once said, Democracy can be a fickle employer, and the road to public office is not always a smooth one.

"In recent days, polls have indicated that my chances of winning this election are not as strong as we would like them to be. The reality that I've come to accept is that in today's political arena, you must be able to back up your message with money--and as I've been outspent on both sides, I've been unable to effectively address many of the charges that have been made about my record. But as I've said from the start of this campaign, this election is not about me, it's about the people of this district. And, as always, today I will do what I believe serves their interests best.

"It is increasingly clear that pressure is mounting on many of my supporters to shift their support. Consequently, I hereby release those individuals who have endorsed and supported my campaign to transfer their support as they see fit to do so. I am and have always been a proud Republican. It is my hope that with my actions today, my party will emerge stronger and our district and our nation can take an important step towards restoring the enduring strength and economic prosperity that has defined us for generations.

"On Election Day my name will appear on the ballot, but victory is unlikely. To those who support me - and to those who choose not to - I offer my sincerest thanks. Dede.

NJ Gov Polls: No Game-Changer?

A new Rasmussen poll, the second this week, shows little change in the gubernatorial race.

General Election Matchup
Christie 46 (unch vs. last poll, 10/26)
Corzine 43 (unch)
Daggett 8 (+1)
Und 3 (-1)

Rasmussen notes that Corzine fares better among voters less likely to turn out on Election Day, which is one reason why President Obama is coming back this weekend. "Still, even among supporters of the president, there is some reluctance to embrace Corzine," he adds.

As for Daggett: "While more than 20% of the state's voters have considered voting for Daggett at some point along the way, his actual support has been declining over the past couple of weeks," Rasmussen finds.

Another new poll conducted by Zogby for Stockton College finds Corzine leading 40-39, with Daggett at 14. This is the first statewide survey from Zogby.

The race is now tied in the RCP Average for New Jersey.

Would Corzine Serve A Full Second Term?

This weekend, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) will benefit from yet another visit by President Obama, the third of the campaign and second in two weeks. Vice President Biden has also made multiple visits, during which he has hailed Corzine as a key adviser to the transition team on economic matters.

Given that praise, it raised an interesting question in New Jersey that hadn't really been a factor when the governor seemed a sure loser this fall. If Corzine is re-elected, would he serve out his full term, or would he leave early for a post in the Democratic White House?

"Not a chance," Corzine told RCP last week. Then, he hedged a bit. "I should never say never. But I intend to be here until I'm done with this office."

The governor's office has been a transient post in the two decades since Republican Tom Kean completed two consecutive terms. Democrat Jim Florio was defeated in his bid for a second term in 1993. Republican Christie Whitman resigned during her second term to join the Bush administration as EPA administrator. Her departure, and later the resignation of Democratic Gov. Jim McGreevey, were two in a series of events in which the governor's office changed hands seven times in a five-year span.

In an effort to end that, New Jersey voters approved a constitutional amendment to create the office of lieutenant governor. If Corzine were re-elected, and eventually depart before his term is through, state Senator Loretta Weinberg would take his place.

The most likely scenario for a Corzine departure would probably require Obama being re-elected in 2012. At that point, a Cabinet post in the administration's second full term would seem more appealing to a governor entering his final year in office.

NC Sen Poll: Burr +11

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) leads by 11 points in his bid for re-election, according to a new Civitas Institute poll (Oct. 20-21, 600 LV, MoE +/- 4%) -- the second survey on Burr's re-election hopes to be released today.

The Elon University Poll out earlier today found that just 19% of North Carolina adults think Burr deserves re-election. The Civitas poll, however, finds Burr well ahead of Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, though still under 50%.

Burr 44
Marshall 33
Und 23

Civitas asked supporters of both candidates whether they were definitely for, probably for, or just leaning toward voting for them -- 33% said they were definitely voting for Burr compared to just 18% who said the same about Marshall.

"Burr is in a very good position right now relative to his potential rival," said Civitas executive director Francis De Luca. "Not only does he lead by 10 points, but his base of support is nearly twice as strong as Marshall's. In fact, more voters are solidly in Burr's camp than show support for Marshall."

Gibbs: Election Defeats Would Not Hurt Obama

Press secretary Robert Gibbs took a cautious approach when asked at today's White House briefing what the political repercussions would be for President Obama if Democrats are swept on Tuesday.

"We'll have time to dissect whatever those results are on Tuesday, " he said. "Whatever the results are, I don't think they portend a lot in dealing with the future."

He noted that Democrats won both governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey in 2001, in former President Bush's first year in office. "I don't think anybody thought that when they looked at the election results in 2002, they thought President Bush was significantly hampered by that."

Polls point to a big Republican win in Virginia on Tuesday, while New Jersey's governorship is still a toss up. President Obama campaigns there on Sunday, with stops that will guarantee coverage in both the Philadelphia and New York media markets that reach New Jersey homes.

When asked what he thought the impact would be, Gov. Jon Corzine (D) told RCP last week that a victory "would enhance the credibility of the party."

"What I don't think is going to happen if the opposite would happen, I don't think it hurts them," he added. "People can look at what the polls were in July."

NC Sen: Burr, Or Time For Someone New?

Not since 1968 has the Senate seat currently held by Richard Burr (N.C.) been won in re-election, and the seat has switched parties in every election since 1980. Whether Burr can break both trends remains to be seen.

With the economy atop the list of important issues to North Carolinians, Burr's electoral outlook a year from now could look drastically different than it does today -- depending on how much the economy improves and how voters see Burr's role in it.

Today, less than one-in-five North Carolina adults think Burr deserves re-election, according to the new Elon University Poll (Oct. 26-29, 703 A, MoE +/- 3.8%), while 42 percent say it's time for someone new to have a chance.

Rather than showing a severe disapproval of Burr's service, however, the survey shows that voters aren't tuned in yet to the race. Just 22% disapprove of the job he's doing and 22% are dissatisfied with his representation, but his positive marks aren't much higher. A large chunk say they simply don't know.

President Obama's approval rating is at 53% -- up 3 points from his Nov. 2008 election take -- however just 43% approve of the way he's handling the economy. Voters are split on how much confidence they have in Congress, and just 30% say the country is going in the right direction.

"Citizens appear agitated with the perceived lack of progress that Congress, the president, and their senators have made in addressing their main concern -- the economy," said Elon polling director Hunter Bacot. "It will be interesting to see just how long their patience with this administration and Congress will last."

GOP Poll: Obama Visits Backfiring In New Jersey?

A new survey from Neighborhood Research (R) shows that Republican Chris Christie has pulled ahead as voters are breaking late from the undecided column toward the challenger.

General Election Matchup
Christie 42 (+6 vs. last poll, 10/6-8)
Corzine 35 (unch)
Daggett 8 (-3)
Undecided 15 (-3)

The survey of 341 voters determined to be "definite" or "very likely" to show up on Election Day was conducted October 27-29. Among just "definite" voters, Christie leads 44-35, which would show that Corzine needs still to motivate his base to turn out. Neighborhood Research's Rick Shaftan states in his polling memo that a visit by President Obama is not having the intended result.

"Christie's lead grew in each of the three days of the survey and could grow bigger if the Obama visit for Corzine, as we expect, backfires and galvanizes conservative support for Christie," he writes.

Shaftan, who ran the campaign of conservative Steve Lonegan in the GOP primary, adds that the Corzine campaign's attacks portraying Christie as an arch-conservative is also backfiring.

"All the movement has been in Christie's direction and the shift has been most pronounced with conservatives and voters in Northwestern New Jersey, the one section of the state Christie had underperformed," he adds.

VA Gov Poll: McDonnell +10

A new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll finds Bob McDonnell (R) leading Creigh Deeds (D) by 10 points, his smallest margin this week (Oct. 26-28, 600 LV, MoE +/- 4%).

McDonnell 54
Deeds 44
Und 2

McDonnell leads by 14.3 points in the RCP Average for Virginia

With four days left for a comeback in the Virginia gubernatorial race, the Deeds campaign says it's dispersing field volunteers to knock on 175,000 doors this weekend and 200,000 doors Tuesday, as it seeks out those voters who came out for Pres. Obama last year.

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (4 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Corzine +1.3)

*Loads of new polls confirm a tight, down-to-the-wire race.

*New York Times interviewed both candidates, who "made no apologies for the ugly tone of the campaign."

*Just how involved is the White House? Very.

*And Obama is on his way back this weekend.

*Bergen County is key, which is why Rudy Giuliani campaigns there with Christie today.

*The Daily Record endorses Christie. The New York Daily News backs Corzine.

*Christie embraced his girth, and urged Corzine to "man up."

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +14.3)

*Republicans are working as if they're behind, despite the polls showing such a large lead for McDonnell.

*Deeds said "polls don't matter" at a tailgate event last night before Virginia Tech lost a heartbreaker to UNC.

*This race is a chance for Republicans to show that Obama's "star is fading."

*Michael Steele says the race is a referendum on Democratic leadership in Virginia.

*It's a stretch to call Tuesday's elections bellwethers -- they're more like preseason games.

*The NJ and VA races are not national referenda.

*A look inside how the two candidates have spent their money.

Strategy Memo: Meet The Chiefs

President Obama's schedule today includes another meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan, this time with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. First, he has his daily briefings and meets with senior advisers. He'll also sign into law the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act. This weekend, Obama's schedule includes yet another trip to New Jersey to campaign with Gov. Jon Corzine (D).

The House is not in session today, and the Senate will have no roll call votes or committee hearings today.

The candidates for governor of Virginia and New Jersey and for the special election races in New York 23 and California 10 are preparing for the final weekend of campaigning. The first three are the most competitive races, and both parties are pushing hard to build momentum for the 2010 midterm elections. Get-out-the-vote efforts will now step up to high-gear.

**President Obama
*"The U.S. economy would have turned in a far worse performance in the third quarter without help from the federal government. Now the question is whether growth can continue without that support," Wall Street Journal reports.

*Treasury Sec. Geithner said as much when he testified in the House yesterday. But he also said, per ABC, "Unemployment remains unacceptably high. For every person out of work, for every family facing foreclosure, for every small business facing a credit crunch, the recession remains alive and acute."

*AP's analysis is that Obama has a mixed message on the recovery. "It's important for a president to voice optimism after good economic numbers. It can help restore consumer confidence -- crucial for any recovery, since consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the overall economy. Yet he couldn't be too upbeat, knowing that looming is another government report -- one due next week -- that could show unemployment topping 10 percent in October after reaching a 26-year high of 9.8 percent in September."

*USA Today continues a look at Obama one year after his election, writing that as president he has shown a pragmatic streak. "Obama's style, on issues from health care to Afghanistan, is raising questions across the partisan divide about whether the work of his presidency -- or just the fact that he's the nation's first African-American president -- will be historic."

*Obama's surgeon general, Regina Benjamin, was finally confirmed.

**Congress
*Washington Post got hold of an accidentally-leaked ethics investigation report documenting the panel's inquiry into more than 30 lawmakers and aides, including seven on the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee.

*Politico sat down with Speaker Pelosi yesterday afternoon, following her introduction of the House health care reform legislation.

*Politics Daily's new gossip columnist, Emily Miller, talks life after Jack Abramoff with ex-Rep. and ex-con Bob Ney (R-Ohio) on the air.

*Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and WH Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who led the Dems' charge back to power in 2006, "are now finding themselves on opposite sides of an internal Democratic argument on health care reform," Politico reports.

*"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is continuing to work the phones to try to build support from waffling moderates for his health care reform plan that includes a public insurance option," Roll Call reports.

*"A bipartisan group of senators announced a deal Thursday to extend the first-time homebuyer's tax credit set to expire within weeks," The Hill reports.

**Campaign Stuff
*Jeb Bush said that Obama is attacking capitalism, CNN reports.

*Politico: "The House Republican leadership is prepared to welcome Doug Hoffman into its ranks, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said Thursday, a sign that the GOP establishment is recalibrating its approach toward the contentious New York special election and the Conservative Party nominee whose candidacy has divided the party."

*A SurveyUSA poll in the CA-10 special election finds Democrat John Garamendi easily ahead.

*What does this say about his future? Former Gov. George Pataki (R) endorses Hoffman (C) in the NY-23 special election, Politico reports.

*The New Mexican: "The woman who political observers say could have been the Republican front-runner in next year's gubernatorial primary -- and the toughest opponent for likely Democratic nominee Diane Denish -- said Thursday she won't run." Former Rep. Heather Wilson wrote: "The governor of New Mexico has no significant national security role -- an issue area that continues to be an important part of my life."

*MA Sen: Jack E. Robinson, who is not the first African American to play Major League Baseball, is entering the race -- his fourth bid for major political office in the last nine years, Boston Globe reports.

And the two Harvard grads in the race are lagging in the polls, as The Crimson points out.

*IL SEN: David Hoffman (D) met with David Axelrod at the White House yesterday afternoon -- the second candidate in the race to have such a meeting.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

NJ Gov Poll: Toss Up, With A Wild Card

The latest FDU Public Mind poll (10/22-28, 694 LVs, +/- 4%) finds different results based on whether Chris Daggett, the independent candidate, is included in a three-person horse race or left unmentioned, leaving respondents to either volunteer his name or choose from the major party candidates.

General Election Matchup (Daggett Included)
Christie 41 (+4 from last poll, 9/28-10/5)
Corzine 39 (+1)
Daggett 14 (-3)
Don't Know 3 (-3)

General Election Matchup (Daggett Volunteered)
Corzine 44 (unch)
Christie 43 (unch)
Daggett 6 (+2)
Don't Know 4 (-1)

Corzine leads in the RCP Average by 1.3 percent.

In just a month Daggett's name recognition has gone from 50 percent to 82 percent, but as with other recent surveys, his numbers appear to be slipping. When the name of another independent candidate, Gary Steele, is included, Corzine leads 46-41, with Steele at 3 percent.

Corzine's job approval rating is 37 percent, with 52 percent disapproving. To get a sense of the makeup of Daggett supporters, 0 percent -- that's right, 0 -- say Corzine is doing an "excellent" or "good" job as governor, while 46 percent say he's doing only a fair job and 54 percent say poor.

President Obama's job approval rating is 52 percent in the Garden State, while 37 percent disapprove.

NJ Gov Poll: Daggett Numbers Plunge As Vote Nears

In just a week, SurveyUSA (10/26-28, 640 LVs*, +/- 4%) shows that independent Chris Daggett's support has taken a real hit as voters seem to be settling in on the two major party candidates.

General Election Mathchup
Christie (R) 43 (+2 vs. last poll, 10/19-21)
Corzine (D) 43 (+4)
Daggett (I) 11 (-8)
Undecided 3 (+2)

A very interesting number in the crosstabs which could signal Daggett's true support. Among the 11 percent of this sample which has already voted, 45 percent cast a ballot for Corzine, 37 percent for Christie and only 8 percent for Daggett. It stands to reason that those who may ultimately choose him will wait until the final day to make that decision, or perhaps not vote at all.

Again, Corzine holds a lead in the all-important Springsteen demographic, 50-34 percent. Christie's voters are slightly more enthusiastic about their choice, with 50 percent saying they have no reservations about picking the Republican, while only 43 percent say that about Corzine.

With this result, Corzine jumps back up to +2.0 in the RCP Average of New Jersey.

NJ Gov Polls: A Turnout Race

We're going to see a couple polls a day before Election Day next Tuesday. Two polls out today sponsored by liberal interests show two different results, one with Gov. Jon Corzine comfortably ahead, one with Chris Christie holding on to a small lead. What does that mean? At this point the cliche that turnout will be key to victory is as true as it gets. And, the Daggett factor could swing the race on way or another.

Research 2000/Daily Kos
(10/26-28, 600 LVs, +/- 4%)
Christie 42 (-4 from last poll, 9/28-30)
Corzine 41 (-1)
Daggett 14 (+7)
Undecided 3 (-2)

While this poll shows Daggett movement in the positive direction, another poll finds him slipping a point.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (D)/Democracy Corps
(10/27-28, 604 LVs, +/- 4%)
Corzine 43 (+1 from last poll, 10/20-21)
Christie 38 (-1)
Daggett 12 (-1)
Undecided 7 (+1)

The RCP Average for New Jersey is now Corzine +1.6.

NY-23 Poll: Owens, Hoffman In Dead Heat

Third-party candidate Doug Hoffman's place in the race gets reinforced today, as a new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll finds the Conservative Party nominee in a statistical tie for the lead in the special election for New York's 23rd District.

The only other polls that had shown him ahead of the GOP nominee were released by conservative groups who publicly support him.

Hoffman has won the backing of national Republicans, such as Sarah Palin and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and leads Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava by 11 points. He trails Owens by just 1 point, putting him well within the margin of error and in a strong position to replace former congressman John McHugh (R-N.Y.).

The new survey also shows a huge change since the Kos/R2000 survey out last week, in which Scozzafava led Hoffman by 7 points.

Owens 33 (-2 vs. last poll, Oct. 22)
Hoffman 32 (+9)
Scozzafava 21 (-9)
Und 14

The special election will be held Nov. 3. The survey was conducted Oct. 26-28 of 600 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 4%.

VA Gov Poll: McDonnell +17

Five days to go and another new poll finds Bob McDonnell (R) leading by double digits. The GOP nominee leads Democrat Creigh Deeds by 17 points in the Roanoke College Poll (Oct. 21-27, 569 LV, MoE +/- 4.1%).

"Deeds is facing a steep uphill battle in so far as he has a lot of ground to make up in one week, and the tide is not moving in his direction," said Roanoke pollster Harry Wilson.

McDonnell 53
Deeds 36
Und 11

McDonnell leads by 15.2 points in the RCP Average for Virginia

This is the second poll in two days in whch Deeds has garnered just 36% of the vote. The last time he received at least 45% was in mid-September.

Barbour, But Not RGA, Endorses Perry In Texas

One day after former Vice President Dick Cheney weighed in on behalf of Kay Bailey Hutchison, another endorsement in what is shaping up to be a fascinating Texas gubernatorial primary. Today, it's Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss.) endorsing the incumbent, Rick Perry.

The Austin American-Statesman reports the Perry and Barbour, chair of the Republican Governors Association, will be raising money today in Fredericksburg and Dallas. Those fundraisers will benefit the RGA, but Barbour's own endorsement of Perry will come later and be his alone, not the organization's.

RGA spokesperson Mike Schrimpf said the organization does not pick sides in gubernatorial primaries. Something of a distinction without a difference, perhaps.

As for Cheney's endorsement of Hutchison, Perry said on a local radio station this morning: "I think I'd stick with Sarah," referring to Sarah Palin, who has backed him. His spokesman was more blunt: "It's not surprising, considering they worked in Washington together for so many years."

House GOP On Your Hip

Just when you thought you weren't connected enough to the Capitol, the House Republican Whip team is launching a BlackBerry application to provide up-to-the-minute updates and news.

"Today's launch of the WhipCast BlackBerry app is the latest demonstration of our commitment to modernize the way we communicate with Americans from coast-to-coast," said Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.). "The WhipCast enables the Whip Team to communicate with the public in a faster, smarter, and more effective way."

Not only will the app demonstrate that the GOP is up with new technology, it will also allow the party to more directly connect with voters. Professional athletes and other celebrities have taken to new technologies like Twitter, and found it to be an effective way to circumvent the media.

The app will feature "talking points, policy discussions, polling information, floor schedule updates, and more," according to Cantor's website, as well as video and audio updates.

Biden During Veepstakes: "Last Thing I Should Do"

Time runs some fascinating excerpts from the forthcoming book by David Plouffe, President Obama's campaign manager in the 2008 race. There's much focus this morning on Plouffe's recollection of how seriously Hillary Clinton was considered by then-Senator Obama as a potential running mate. But worth noting are the views of the man he ultimately chose, Joe Biden.

The then-Delaware Senator conceded in a meeting with Plouffe and David Axelrod last August that he initially "wasn't sure" about Obama, but had become convinced. He talked of how he would never have run for president himself if he "knew the steamroller you guys would put together" in Iowa. He also offered pros and cons for himself as the VP, at first saying the job was "the last thing I should do," but also arguing that he could "be a good soldier and could provide real value."

The least surprising thing about this meeting: Plouffe writes, "Ax and I couldn't get a word in edgewise." But ultimately, Obama's top strategists concluded that "this dog could not be taught new tricks." Obama made the choice on August 17, just after his return from a week-long vacation in Hawaii.

The full excerpt on the Biden meeting is after the jump.

The [first] meeting started with Biden launching into a nearly 20-minute monologue that ranged from the strength of our campaign in Iowa ("I literally wouldn't have run if I knew the steamroller you guys would put together"); to his evolving views of Obama ("I wasn't sure about him in the beginning of the campaign, but I am now"); why he didn't want to be VP ("The last thing I should do is VP; after 36 years of being the top dog, it will be hard to be No. 2"); why he was a good choice ("But I would be a good soldier and could provide real value, domestically and internationally"); and everything else under the sun. Ax and I couldn't get a word in edgewise.

It confirmed what we suspected: this dog could not be taught new tricks. But the conversation also confirmed our positive assumptions: his firm grasp of issues, his blue collar sensibilities and the fact that while he would readily accept the VP slot if offered, he was not pining for it.

Dems Announce House Health Care Bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders today announced House Democrats' health care reform legislation, which will cost less than $900 billion over 10 years and expand coverage to 36 million currently uninsured Americans. As Pelosi has stated many times in recent weeks, the bill "will not add one dime to the deficit."

The principles of the legislation, titled, "Affordable Health Care for America Act," are "affordability for the middle class, security for our seniors, responsibility to our children," said Pelosi, who noted that the bill will include "a public option to boost competition" and "will end discrimination for a pre-existing medical condition."

Speaking at a grand ceremony on the west front of the Capitol, Pelosi promised that the bill will be online for all Americans to review, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said much of the bill has been available online for more than three months. Republicans have criticized Democrats for not allowing enough time for proper review, but Hoyer said it will be available for 72 hours before it goes up for a vote.

Congress, Hoyer said, is "one step further on a long, hard road -- a road to bring quality, affordable health care to every one of our fellow citizens."

"I told members of the press and the public over and over and over again, there is not one member of our caucus -- from every region of the country -- who did not say to us, 'We need to adopt health care reform,' " said Hoyer, indicating any argument within the House Democratic caucus has been on the details, not the overall goal.

The Congressional Budget Office will release its scoring of the bill later today, and the speaker's office says the bill will cost $894 billion over 10 years and is fully paid for.

Christie: Corzine "Wusses Out" On Fat Ads

Chris Christie (R) said this morning that some of Gov. Jon Corzine's ads are "silly" and "beneath the office he holds." He also issued a New Jersey-style challenge to his opponent in next week's election relating to the subtle allusions to his personal girth seen in at least one spot.

"If you're going to do it, at least man up and say I'm fat," Christie told Don Imus on Fox Business Network. "Afterwards he wusses out and says, 'Oh no, no, I didn't mean that, I don't know what you're talking about.' Man up -- if you say I'm fat let's go, let's talk about it."

Here's the clip:

Christie jokes with Imus about his weight, saying he'll be a "big, fat winner" on Election Day. Asked how fat he is, he says, "Pretty fat, Don." Asked specifically about his weight, he says: "550 pounds." We think he was joking.

Romer Hails GDP Growth

The White House has released this statement from Christina Romer, chair of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, reacting to news this morning that the GDP grew 3.5 percent in the third quarter.

"Data released today by the Commerce Department show that real GDP grew at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter of the year. This is in stark contrast to the decline of 6.4 percent annual rate just two quarters ago. Indeed, the two-quarter swing in the rate of growth of 9.9 percentage points was the largest since 1980. Analysis by both the Council of Economic Advisers and a wide range of private and public-sector forecasters indicates that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 contributed between 3 and 4 percentage points to real GDP growth in the third quarter. This suggests that in the absence of the Recovery Act, real GDP would have risen little, if at all, this past quarter."

"After four consecutive quarters of decline, positive GDP growth is an encouraging sign that the U.S. economy is moving in the right direction. However, this welcome milestone is just another step, and we still have a long road to travel until the economy is fully recovered. The turnaround in crucial labor market indicators, such as employment and the unemployment rate, typically occurs after the turnaround in GDP. And it will take sustained, robust GDP growth to bring the unemployment rate down substantially. Such a decline in unemployment is, of course, what we are all working to achieve."

Dear Virginia, Please Vote For Creigh Deeds

Having already appeared at two rallies in the state and currently being featured in TV ads, President Barack Obama has now penned a letter to 330,000 "surge voters" in Virginia in an effort to get out the vote for gubernatorial nominee Creigh Deeds.

"To move this country forward, I need the support and partnership of good governors who are ready to help lay the foundations of change," Obama writes. "And this November 3rd is your opportunity to help Virginia do just that. Creigh Deeds is the governor we need to continue the progress made by Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and he is the partner I need in Virginia to help put our country back on track."

You can see a copy of the letter here.

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (5 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Corzine +2.0)

*Christie predicted victory yesterday as he kicked off a bus tour of the state.

*Chris Daggett has a new ad, again featuring those Corzine and Christie doubles.

*The indie tried to convince voters wary of casting a third-party vote yesterday on the trail.

*Rothenberg gives his latest take on both NJ and VA races.

*Was Christie's urban strategy a risk worth taking?

*AP reports on the concerns from a recent focus group of indies.

*Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine is in New Jersey today campaigning with Corzine.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +13.4)

*Two more polls found McDonnell up by double digits.

*Karl Rove writes today that GOP victories in either New Jersey or Virginia "will tell Democrats in red states and districts that support for Obama's policies is risky to their political health."

*Mitt Romney hit the stump with McDonnell and the Lt. Gov. and Atty. Gen. nominees, saying they'll "make Virginia again a shining light for the entire nation."

*Rudy Giuliani dropped by the state as well, campaigning on McDonnell's behalf in Fredericksburg alongside 2005 loser Jerry Kilgore.

*Michael Steele thinks Election Day is going to be "sweet."

*Bad sign for Deeds: The University of Richmond paper says "student interest at [U of R] continues to be sparse."

*Deeds swung through college-town Charlottesville, located in his state Senate district.

*Both participated in a Northern Virginia Halloween parade.

*McDonnell critics think he may have put ideology above the law as attorney general.

Strategy Memo: The Unveiling

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last night in a press release to reporters that House Democrats will unveil their long-awaited health care reform legislation in a 10:30 a.m. event on the West front of the Capitol. About an hour later, Minority Leader John Boehner and GOP leaders are holding their own press conference on health care.

On the House floor docket today is the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act and Continuing Resolution, as well as the Small Business Financing and Investment Act of 2009. The Senate has no bills on the schedule, but will convene at 9:30 a.m. for two hours of morning business.

President Obama, who returned to the White House just hours ago after a late night visit to Dover Air Force Base, will start his day with remarks about the administration's plans to help businesses. Scheduled to be on hand: members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with whom the White House has clashed. Later, Obama meets with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, followed by a meeting with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and later the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus and Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Vice President Biden today is back on the political circuit, raising money for the DNC at two events in Florida.

**President Obama
*Obama made a late-night, unscheduled visit to Dover Air Force Base last night to witness the return of 18 servicemen killed in action. "The carefully choreographed visit to Dover, the nation's entry point for U.S. military personnel killed in action, brought Obama face-to-face with the grimmest realty of war as his administration mulls the best way forward in Afghanistan."

*Reported cooperation between the CIA and Hamid Karzai's brother is presenting new headaches fo the White House, the New York Times reports.

*More quid pro quo talk involving the White House. USA Today: "More than 40% of President Obama's top-level fundraisers have secured posts in his administration, from key executive branch jobs to diplomatic postings in countries such as France, Spain and the Bahamas."

*The White House is pushing back on this AP story about stimulus jobs, which says the plan "overstates by thousands the number of jobs created or saved through the stimulus program, a mistake that White House officials promise will be corrected in future reports."

*A truce in Fox News vs. The White House? Mike Allen reports that Robert Gibbs met with Fox News' senior vice president for news for about 20 minutes on Wednesday morning.

*Obama signed a bill expanding the reach of hate crimes laws yesterday, LA Times reports.

*New York Times Magazine takes a long look at the First Marriage. Politics Daily's Lynn Sweet has more on it here.

**Congress
*Speaker Pelosi "will unveil a health-care reform bill on Thursday that includes a government insurance option and a historic expansion of Medicaid, although sticking points in the legislation involving abortion and immigration remain unresolved. Senior Democratic House aides said the bill would likely include a version of the "public option" preferred by moderates and may raise Medicaid eligibility levels to 150 percent of the federal poverty level for all adults, a steeper increase than in earlier drafts," Washington Post reports.

*Pelosi "remains well shy of the 218 votes needed to pass a landmark health care bill, isn't wasting much time these days on colleagues who are firmly in the 'no' column -- or even those who appear to be," Politico reports.

*"The hoopla provoked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) decision to include a public option in healthcare reform has obscured the fact that major issues in the bill remain unsettled," The Hill reports.

*NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "faced heated criticism Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee, with lawmakers, former players and even a former team executive accusing the league of neglect in its handling of active and retired players with brain injuries," New York Times reports.

*While receiving the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony yesterday in the Capitol Rotunda, where Obama and leaders from both parties attended, 90-year-old former senator Edward Brooke (R) pleaded with members of Congress to halt the bickering and get to work, Boston Globe reports. "We've got to get together," Brooke said, turning to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. "It's time for politics to be put aside on the backburner."

*Rep. Alan Grayson did something different on the House floor again -- this time he broke down in tears while reading letters sent to him through his controversial website from people who said their loved ones had died because they were uninsured, Roll Call reports.

**Campaign Stuff
*CA Gov: L.A. Times reports that "in the very first series of radio ads in the 2010 gubernatorial race, comes blatant baloney from billionaire political novice Meg Whitman," who claims state spending has increased 80% in the last 10 years -- it's actually just 27%, and "adjusted for inflation and population growth, spending actually has decreased by 16.6%."

*TX Gov: "Kay Bailey Hutchison's campaign hopes the endorsement of former Vice President Dick Cheney will help woo conservatives in the GOP base that will be key to winning the Republican nomination for governor. Cheney will endorse Hutchison at a Houston fundraiser on Nov. 17," Dallas Morning News reports.

"I am so pleased," Hutchison said yesterday of Cheney's endorsement. "I respect the vice president so much. We've worked together. He knows my record as a conservative in the Senate."

*Mitt Romney acknowledged flaws in the health care plan he signed into law as Massachusetts governor. He told CNN: "We were unable to deal with - and didn't have any pretense we would somehow be able to change - health care costs in Massachusetts. We still have a fee for service, a re-imbursement system here like every other state in America."

*With all the focus on national involvement in NY-23, the local paper points out that Rick Lazio, gubernatorial hopeful, hasn't weighed in.

*MA Sen: Half of the Democratic primary field won't accept PAC or lobbyist money, Boston Globe reports.

And Rep. Michael Capuano is "is embracing a label most politicians shun: Washington insider," AP reports.

*FL Sen: Katherine Harris's former campaign manager sees Marco Rubio "heading down the same path as Harris."

**Sports Alert: Cliff Lee is good.

**Redskins Alert: Already looking ahead to the next NFL season (Kyle is at least), there are no offensive tackles on Mel Kiper's updated Big Board. That's not a good sign.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

A Transparency Test For The White House

Today's Washington Times story documenting how top donors to Barack Obama's campaign and the DNC received some serious presidential perks became the latest challenge on whether the administration living up to the fundamental campaign promise to change the culture of Washington.

Robert Gibbs was asked repeatedly about the story at today's White House briefing. He denied that any quid-pro-quo is at play, while defending the administration's credentials on transparency by reminding reporters of a soon-to-be-released log of all White House visitors.

"This President has [instituted] the very toughest ethics and transparency rules of any administration in history," he said. "I think the President has returned to a stance of transparency and ethics that hasn't been matched by any other White House."

He did acknowledge that there is some degree of reward, stating that "contributing doesn't guarantee a visit to the White House, nor does it preclude it." At the same time, he pushed back on the RNC which has criticized the administration in the wake of the Times story.

"There's two ... major political parties in this country. One party doesn't accept contributions from registered federal lobbyists. That same party doesn't accept contributions from political action committees," he said, referring to the DNC.

Asked specifically if there was any quid pro quo, Gibbs said: "No, of course not."

The White House had announced in early September that it would release a full list of White House visitors starting in mid December. But that first accounting will only include guests in the previous three to four months. You can be sure when that first list is disclosed, it will be cross-referenced with Obama and DNC donors.

The Deeds Looks Done

Two more polls in the Virginia gubernatorial race released today show Democratic nominee Creigh Deeds trailing by 13 and 18 points, making it four straight finding the state senator down double digits. The latest releases came from Rasmussen Reports and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Obama addressed Deeds's poor poll results during his speech at a Deeds rally in Norfolk, Va., yesterday, and attempted to boost the spirits of the supporters and get them to the level of enthusiasm they were at this time last year, just before he ended Republican presidential nominees' 44-year winning streak in the state.

"So now we're ... a week from Creigh Deeds' election, and a lot of people are saying, oh, you know, the polls don't look the way we want them to, and I'm not sure it's going to happen, and folks are just kind of staying home," said Obama. "Listen, let me tell you something. I don't believe in 'can't.' ... Go out and get your cousin, who you had to drag to the polls last November, Cousin Pookie. You go out and get him and you tell him, you got to vote again this time."

Pookie may not be enough for Deeds, who now trails by 13.4 points in the RCP Average.

Gallup: GOP Not Trusted On Health Care

When it comes to health care reform, Republicans in Congress are trusted less than their colleagues across the aisle and President Obama, according to a new Gallup survey (Oct. 16-19, 1521 A).

Just more than one-third (37%) of American adults have a great deal or fair amount of trust in congressional Republicans on reforming the nation's health care system, while nearly half (48%) trust congressional Dems and more than half (55%) trust the president.

Only counting those who said they have a "great deal of trust," 4% said Republicans, 10% said Democrats and 23% said Obama.

Republicans not only lag in trustworthiness among the nation as a whole, but also among members of their own party. Just 61% of Republicans nationwide trust the Republicans in Congress on health care, while 81% of Democrats trust congressional Dems and 86% of Democrats trust Obama.

As for independents, 36% trust Republicans in Congress, 39% trust Democrats and 51% trust Obama.

PA Sen Poll: Specter's Numbers Continue Downward Trend

It has not been a good year for Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), whose numbers take a real hit in the latest Franklin & Marshall College poll (529 RVs, 10/20-25, +/- 4.3 percent).

His favorable rating is just 28 percent, down from 48 percent in March, while his unfavorable rating is now up to 46 percent, nearly double the March rating. Only 23 percent say he should be re-elected, while 66 percent say it's time for a change. Specter's job approval rating is just 29 percent, while 64 percent disapprove. Meanwhile, he continues to slip in both primary and general election matchups.

Primary Election Matchup
Specter 37 (-7 vs. last poll, 8/25-31)
Sestak 18 (+7)
Und 47 (+1)

General Election Matchups
Specter 33 (-4)
Toomey 31 (+2)
Und 30 (+5)

Toomey 28 (+2)
Sestak 20 (-2)
Und 48 (+2)

President Obama's job approval rating has also slipped, from 47 percent in August to 40 percent now; 59 percent disapprove.

Democrats have a 4-point advantage in the generic Congressional ballot, 37-34 percent. After the jump, check out matchups for the gubernatorial race.

Democratic Gubernatorial Primary
Onorato 10
Wagner 9
Hoeffel 6
Knox 3
Doherty 3
Don't Know 66

Republican Gubernatorial Primary
Corbett 30
Gerlach 8
Don't Know 57

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (6 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Corzine +0.6)

*A new Q poll puts Corzine up 5. He trailed by 1 in the last Q poll two weeks ago.

*The AP looks at how the Phillies-Yankees World Series could impact the race. Chris Christie has raised $11.7 million and spent $8.8 million. Independent Chris Daggett has raised $1.3 million and spent $1.2 million.

*Corzine has spent $23 million of his own money on the race.

*Bill Clinton was again campaigning for Corzine yesterday.

*Christie says Rudy Giuliani and former Govs. Christie Whitman and Tom Kean will be stumping for him in the final days.

*The Gov backtracks somewhat from an alleged attack on Christie's weight.

*Corzine also sells himself to Atlantic City.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +10.8)

*Deeds got a big assist from President Obama.

*But unlike New Jersey, the president won't be back before Election Day.

*Times-Dispatch follows the money.

*Is Deeds hurting the whole Democratic ticket?

*Michael Steele joins Bob McDonnell on the trail later this week.

Strategy Memo: World Serious

Today, President Obama heads to Capitol Hill after his morning briefings to speak at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony in honor of former Senator Edward William Brooke. He and Vice President Biden will then have lunch back at the White House, followed by a meeting with the co-chairmen of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB) and the senior leadership of the intelligence community.

This afternoon, Obama will sign the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 in the Rose Garden. Tonight: he'll plant a tree, and then host a reception commemorating the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Biden today will also meet with Sens. Bob Casey and Dianne Feinstein.

On Capitol Hill today, the Senate will resume debate on Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009. The House is in session at 10 am to consider a number of bills.

**Health Care
*Politico reports that Democrats aren't so worried about Sen. Joe Lieberman's (ID) statement on the public option. "In fact, some Senate liberals even cast Lieberman's announcement as a pleasant surprise, having assumed that the maverick 2000 vice presidential nominee wouldn't back the leadership on even the preliminary procedural vote on the public option."

*The Hill, meanwhile, reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn't have the votes, as "several centrist Democrats ... have declined to say whether they would vote to allow the healthcare debate to begin on the Senate floor. They are waiting for a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and a chance to review the bill before making a decision."

*AP: "Despite the obstacles, senior Democrats cast Reid's draft legislation as a turning point. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said there is now a 'sense of inevitability ... that, yes, we're going to pass health care reform.'"

*Nancy Pelosi is referring to the public option as "the consumer option," CBS notes. "It's not really a public option, it's a consumer option," Pelosi said. "As we're mandating that people buy insurance we are saying to them, you have leverage, you have another choice. This is your consumer option."

*Count Ohio, a key battleground, among the states that will likely opt in if the governor has his way. The Plain Dealer hears this from his spokesman: "The governor believes a public option will ensure that working Ohioans have a truly affordable health insurance option and does not see a reason to opt out."

Don't miss Kyle's breakdown of how the states could break on whether to opt-out.

**President Obama
*New York Times reports that in the White House, "the debate is no longer over whether to send more troops, but how many more will be needed." Advisers "are focusing on a strategy for Afghanistan aimed at protecting about 10 top population centers, administration officials said Tuesday, describing an approach that would stop short of an all-out assault on the Taliban while still seeking to nurture long-term stability."

*The Washington Times reports that some of Obama's top donors have been rewarded with some serious perks, like "VIP access to the White House, private briefings with administration advisers and invitations to important speeches and town-hall meetings." Also, "high-dollar fundraisers have been promised access to senior White House officials in exchange for pledges to donate $30,400 personally or to bundle $300,000 in contributions ahead of the 2010 midterm elections, according to internal Democratic National Committee documents."

*Nearly one year after the election, USA Today reports on changing views of the now-president. "The tidal wave of hope that swept Obama into office has ebbed and some perceptions of the president have changed, the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. He's seen more as a down-the-line liberal, less as someone who can bridge partisan divides. Still, he retains a fair share of voter regard and his approval rating, while no longer in the stratosphere of those early days."

Gallup finds that fewer Americans think Obama should focus on the economy, though it still is the top priority. Iraq/Afghanistan, health care, and the budget have all ticked up as concerns.

*The Wall Street Journal take on the new poll with NBC: "Americans are growing increasingly pessimistic about the economy after a mild upswing of attitudes in September. But Republicans haven't been able to profit politically from the economic gloom. ... The survey found a country in a decidedly negative mood, nearly a year after the election of President Barack Obama. For the first time during the Obama presidency, a majority of Americans sees the country as being on the wrong track."

*Is Obama already in legacy-defense mode? Politico thinks so. "For the past two weeks, as he's jetted across the country to fill Democrats' 2010 coffers, Obama has been test driving a new speech that sounds a lot like one he'd be giving if he were on the ballot next year: A line-item defense of his record so far, and a sober reminder to supporters of the against-the-odds campaign slog that eventually swept him into office."

*USA Today reviews state-by-state reports, and finds: "States have reported using stimulus money to create or save more than 388,000 jobs so far this year, buttressing the Obama administration's claim that the $787 billion plan has had a significant impact on the economy."

**2012
*Sarah Palin posts on Facebook urging supporters to donate to the RGA to help next week's efforts in New Jersey and Virginia.

The Iowa Family Policy Center has invited the former governor to the Hawkeye State, Des Moines Register reports.

A CNN poll finds that 7 in 10 think Palin is not qualified to be president.

But Palin still has Levi Johnston to worry about.

*Also going to Iowa (again): Mike Huckabee.

*Ron Paul is heading to South Carolina, CNN's Hamby reports. He'll deliver a speech "on the future of individual liberty and the importance of the U.S. Constitution" at the University of South Carolina.

*Human Events interviews Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn).

**Campaign Stuff
*Roll Call reports, "The floodgates have officially opened" for rank-and-file Republicans to break with the party on the New York 23 special election. "On Tuesday, former National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.), Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) spurned the leadership by endorsing Doug Hoffman's third-party campaign in the New York special election, following the lead of Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.)."

*This is quite a departure. Gov. Charlie Crist (R-Fla.), who joined President Obama at a Florida town hall to sell the stimulus last year, now says he didn't know he was even in the state. AP: "It surprised Tallahassee reporters" when Crist said he didn't know Obama was at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, "less than 200 miles from the Capitol."

*Gov. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio) says he's actually heartened by a poll showing him in a dead heat with likely GOP opponent John Kasich. "The economy is tough and when I look at the experience of many of my fellow governors across the country, I wasn't surprised by the poll and I really wasn't disappointed by the poll," Strickland said.

*Matt McGovern, grandson of former Sen. George McGovern, is considering running against Sen. John Thune in South Dakota next year, CongressDaily's Erin McPike reports.

**Sports Alert
*First lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden will attend tonight's World Series opener at Yankee Stadium. MLB.com says they will escort "Yankees legend and World War II veteran Yogi Berra and Tony Odierno, who will be throwing out the first pitch." It's part of an effort to support the group Welcome Back Veterans.

It is the Fall Classic, and here are some predictions. Mike is hopeful in saying the Yankees will win in 7, while Kyle picks the National League squad to repeat as World Champs, in 7.

NJ Gov Poll: Corzine Takes 5-Point Lead

"You could see it coming," Quinnipiac's Maurice Carroll says of the polling outfit's new survey on the New Jersey gubernatorial race today. Gov. Jon Corzine has taken a 5-point lead with one week to go, after trailing Christie in previous surveys all year.

General Election Matchup
Corzine 43 (+3 from last poll, 10/7-12)
Christie 38 (-3)
Daggett 13 (-1)
Undecided 5 (unch)

Corzine now leads the RCP Average of New Jersey by 0.6 percent.

Though the governor has been narrowing the gap for some time, the pollster warns it's still a fluid race. Independent candidate Chris Daggett has "changed it from 'ABC' - Anybody But Corzine - to a real three-way scrap," and "a lot of Daggett's voters say they might change their minds by Election Day," Carroll says.

Among those Daggett supporters, 38 percent say they could change their mind, compared to 19 percent of Corzine backers and 12 percent of Christie's. Daggett's supporters lean Christie on the second-choice question, 43-27 percent, while 18 percent say they wouldn't vote at all.

Christie now actually has a 15-point lead among independent voters, up from a 9-point lead earlier this month. But he has slipped somewhat among Republicans while Corzine has secured his standing among Democrats, perhaps attributable to visits last week by Vice President Biden, former President Clinton and President Obama.

Favorable Ratings
Christie 37 / 42
Corzine 41 / 52
Daggett 21 / 16

Corzine's job approval rating is 39 percent, while 54 percent disapprove. Meanwhile, more voters say Corzine is honest and trustworthy than Christie, with Christie's numbers on that question dropping 5 points in two weeks.

The survey of 1,267 likely voters was conducted October 20-26, with a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent.

MA Sen: Tsongas To Endorse Coakley Tomorrow

Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) will endorse Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley tomorrow in the race to replace the late Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate. Tsongas is the widow of the late congressman and senator, Paul Tsongas.

Tsongas, in her first full term, was elected to the House in a 2007 special election. She is endorsing Coakley over fellow House member Michael Capuano, a Boston-area congressman in his sixth term in office. Capuano has won the endorsement of four other members of the state's House delegation.

The Coakley campaign announced that the endorsement event will take place tomorrow afternoon in Lowell, located in Tsongas's 5th Congressional District.

Two-Thirds of Country Could Opt Out of Public Option

Two-thirds of the country could opt out of the public option, based on a Real Clear Politics analysis.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is promoting a federal government-run insurance option that states would be able choose whether or not to participate in. But if the decision falls to the state legislatures and governors, as indications are it would, the vast majority of states could choose to opt out.

Ten states are completely controlled by Republicans (including the state House, Senate and governor's mansion). Meanwhile, Republicans have control of at least one chamber of the state legislature or the governor's mansion in 23 states.

Potentially, any state with at least partial Republican control could choose to opt out of the public option. That would leave 33 states, totaling 200 million people, that would not be included in the most decisive, and divisive, portion of health care reform.

If only states totally controlled by Republicans were to opt out, 70 million people would be without a public option.

In Virginia, Democrats currently control the state Senate and governor's mansion, but Republican Bob McDonnell leads by more than 10 points with one week to go in the gubernatorial election. Should he become governor and the option be available, McDonnell would opt out.

"Bob McDonnell does not support nationalized heath care," said McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin. "As a result, he does not support Virginia's participation in a federal public health insurance system. As governor he would opt Virginia out of such a system."

Whether or not Reid's proposal ever goes up for a vote on the Senate floor remains in flux, however. Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) said today he was against the public option, even with an opt-out clause, and would join Republicans in withholding it from a floor vote.

Should Reid's plan make it through both chambers of Congress, the public option would likely remain in at least 17 states where Democrats have complete control and 97 million people reside.

Washington D.C. was not included in RCP's analysis. Population data was taken from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2008 population estimates.

NRCC Identifies Its Most Potent Recruits

The National Republican Congressional Committee announced today that 41 candidates currently in its Young Guns recruitment program have reached the level of "Contender" or "On the Radar." The program sets certain benchmarks for Republican challengers in open and Democrat-held districts to reach -- including volunteer recruitment, fundraising, and a set number of door knocks -- which the NRCC believes will help the candidate have success.

"These candidates have become formidable contenders by meeting the rigorous goals laid out by the Young Guns program and putting in place the pieces for a winning campaign," said NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas). "The early progress of these candidates is not only a testament to the Young Guns program, it is a sign of the changing political environment that Democrats will have to face next year."

There are 32 candidates currently at the On the Radar level, the first of the three-step Young Guns program. Nine are currently identified as a "Contender." Click through to see the full list.

Contender:

Martha Roby (AL-02)
Cory Gardner (CO-04)
Dennis Ross (FL-12)
Vaughn Ward (ID-01)
Andy Harris (MD-01)
Frank Guinta (NH-01)
Steve Pearce (NM-02)
Steve Chabot (OH-01)
Steve Stivers (OH-15)

On the Radar:

Jesse Kelly (AZ-08)
Tim Griffin (AR-02)
Justin Bernier (CT-05)
Ryan Frazier (CO-07)
Allen West (FL-22)
Beth Coulson (IL-10)
Dick Green (IL-10)
Bob Dold (IL-10)
Ethan Hastert (IL-14)
Todd Young (IN-09)
Alan Nunnelee (MS-01)
Tim Walberg (MI-07)
Vickie Hartzler (MO-04)
Bill Stouffer (MO-04)
Ed Martin (MO-03)
Lou Huddleston (NC-08)
Randy Altschuler (NY-01)
Michael Allegretti (NY-13)
Nan Hayworth (NY-19)
Tom Reed (NY-29)
Jim Renacci (OH-16)
Bob Gibbs (OH-18)
Rob Cornilles (OR-01)
Steven Welch (PA-06)
Pat Meehan (PA-07)
Dan Kapanke (WI-03)
Scott DesJarlais (TN-04)
Stephen Fincher (TN-08)
Scott Rigell (VA-02)
Keith Fimian (VA-11)
Sean Duffy (WI-07)
Reid Ribble (WI-08)

Hoyer: House Will Adjourn Later Than Scheduled

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced today that the House will stay in session beyond its scheduled adjournment date in order to pass health care reform legislation.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) blasted Democrats this week for wasting time on the House floor with unimportant bills instead of working to improve the economy. It's unclear how the minority leader will respond to news of overtime hours being scheduled to pass comprehensive health care reform, which most Republicans do not support.

Here is Hoyer's statement:

"After months of work addressing critical issues like economic recovery and protecting American consumers, the House will meet beyond the targeted adjournment date as we continue to advance health insurance reform legislation and other matters. As is often the case when we come to the end of a session, the voting schedule is subject to change as the House and Senate work together to complete action on legislation, as well as to accommodate committee work and provide time for Members to review major legislation before voting.

"To that end, we are scheduled to be in session for the entire week of November 2, and are prepared to be in session the first weekend of November if necessary. We are also scheduled to be in session the entire week of November 16. In addition, we have marked several days on the calendar for Members to reserve in case they need to be here to pass health insurance reform. Those days are: Monday, November 9th; Tuesday, November 10th; Monday, November 23rd; and Tuesday, November 24th."

VA Gov Poll: McDonnell +17

A week after it found Bob McDonnell (R) leading by 19 points, SurveyUSA's latest poll hardly offers Creigh Deeds (D) any better news, as McDonnell's lead has dropped just 2 points (Oct. 25-26, 502 LV, MoE +/- 4.4%).

Also crushing to Democrats' hopes is that just 1% remain undecided. Their only hope is to bring more Dems out to the polls a week from today, though there is evidence that the party's base is not excited about the candidate. According to the poll, just 85% of Democrats plan to vote for Deeds, compared with 92% of Republicans planning to vote for McDonnell.

McDonnell 58 (-1 vs. last poll, Oct. 20)
Deeds 41 (+1)
Und 1

McDonnell leads by 10.8 points in the RCP Average for Virginia

MA Sen Poll: Coakley's Race To Lose

"With six weeks to go until the primary, the Democratic nomination is Martha Coakley's to lose," says Tim Vercellotti, professor and polling co-director at Western New England College.

That's where things stand in the race to replace the late Ted Kennedy, at least according to all the polls, including one out today from WNEC. Coakley holds a 23-point lead on her next-closest Democratic opponent in the December primary (Oct. 18-22, 393 RV, MoE +/- 5%), and leads the likely GOP nominee in the January special election by 26 points (342 LV, MoE +/- 5%).

Dem Primary
Martha Coakley 37%
Steve Pagliuca 14%
Mike Capuano 13%
Alan Khazei 4%
Someone else 3%
Undecided 26%

General Election
Marth Coakley 58%
Scott Brown 32%
Undecided 9%

Michael Capuano 49%
Scott Brown 33%
Undecided 14%

"Voters may not be paying much attention to the race at this point," said Vercellotti. "With municipal elections on the ballot for November 3, voters may be distracted, which will make for an even more compressed election cycle for the Senate candidates once local elections are over."

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (7 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Corzine +0.2)
*The three candidates are mounting a final push with one week to go.

*Corzine is pushing for Latino voters, including with Spanish-language ad featuring President Obama.

*Christie leads by 3 in a new Rasmussen poll. He's up 4 in a new PPP poll.

*Bill Clinton is back in the state for two events alongside Corzine -- the second Tuesday in a row he's done two events with the governor.

*Corzine thinks using the word "weight" in an ad was not the best choice.

*Most of Corzine's fundraising has come out of his own pocket.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +11.2)
*A new Washington Post poll found McDonnell leading by 11 points with one week to go.

*Obama is headlining a Deeds rally at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, where Deeds needs to boost turnout.

*The Culpeper Star Exponent breaks down Deeds's legislative record.

*Voting for Deeds doesn't send a message to Richmond and Washington that Virginians want a divided government.

*John McCain says the Va. and N.J. governor's races are "usually exaggerated in their importance" since they're "the only game in town."

*McDonnell has raised more money and spent more money than Deeds.

NJ Gov Poll: Christie +3

Continuing a trend of close polling in the New Jersey gubernatorial race, a new Rasmussen survey finds GOP nominee Chris Christie leading incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine (D) by 3 points with one week left to go (Oct. 26, 1000 LV, MoE +/- 3%). The poll found independent candidate Chris Daggett losing support as the race crawls to a close.

Christie 46 (+5 vs. last poll, Oct. 20)
Corzine 43 (+4)
Daggett 7 (-4)
Und 4

Corzine now leads by 0.2 of a point in the RCP Average for New Jersey.

Corzine's approval rating as governor still remains low, however, as just 39% approve of the job he's doing. He also trails Christie in favorable rating, as 41% hold a favorable impression of Corzine while 49% feel the same about Christie. More voters trust Christie on taxes, to cut government spending and to crack down on government corruption.

VA Gov: New WaPo Poll May Be Knock Out Punch

On the eve of President Obama's last-ditch trip to the Commonwealth to rally Hampton Roads-area Democrats to get to the polls, Washington Post released a new poll (Oct. 22-25, 1206 LV) finding Republican nominee Bob McDonnell up 11 points with just a week left to go. McDonnell again won more than 50% and scored his largest lead in the Post's polling of the race, and the poll leaves supporters of Creigh Deeds wondering how he can pull off a victory.

McDonnell 55 (+2 vs. last poll, Oct. 8)
Deeds 44 (nc)

With seven days to go, McDonnell leads by 11.2 points in the RCP Average for Virginia.

As a sign of the push the national parties are making for this race, McDonnell spent $6.7 million and Deeds spent nearly $5 million in the first three weeks of October. Deeds took in $3.1 million over that same span and has just under $1 million on hand as of Oct. 21, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. McDonnell raised $4 million and has $1.8 million cash on hand.

NY-23 Poll: Hoffman +5

For the second time in two days, a poll released by a conservative group finds Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman leading the Nov. 3 special election race for New York's 23rd District. Neighborhood Research polled the district for Minuteman PAC, the political arm of the Minuteman Movement, which has endorsed Hoffman and is airing ads on his behalf.

Hoffman leads Democrat Bill Owens by 5 points and GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava by 20 points.

Hoffman 34
Owens 29
Scozzafava 14
Und 23

The poll was taken Oct. 25-26 of 366 likely voters. The three candidates are vying to replace former congressman John McHugh (R-N.Y.), who was appointed by President Obama to be Secretary of the Army.

Club for Growth, a fiscally conservative group, released a poll yesterday showing Hoffman up 4 points. CfG has also endorsed Hoffman in the race.

Strategy Memo: Checking the Score

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced yesterday that the health care reform bill that hits the Senate floor this year will indeed include a public option, though it will have an opt-out clause for states. Reid is now awaiting a CBO scoring on the varying proposals that he and a select group of negotiators formed from the HELP and Finance committee bills. House Democrats are still deciding what form the public option will take in its final bill, while House Republicans are split on whether to offer an alternative.

On the Senate floor today will be a debate and vote on the nomination of Irene Cornelia Berger to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of West Virginia, and a cloture vote on the motion to proceed to the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009. The House will vote to instruct conferees on the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

President Obama wakes up in Miami today and crosses the state to Sarasota to tour the Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia. He will announce Recovery Act funding for Smart Grid technologies aimed at modernizing the nation's electricity grid. He'll then head to Norfolk, Virginia to stump for Creigh Deeds at Old Dominion University. Vice President Biden is helping out a fellow Democrat as well, appearing at a New York City event for Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.).

**President Obama
*"On a day when 14 U.S. servicemen and drug agents were killed in helicopter crashes in Afghanistan, the largest such toll in more than four years, momentum continued to build to send more troops to the war zone," L.A. Times reports.

*"The Obama administration is expected Tuesday to name 100 utility projects that will share $3.4 billion in federal stimulus funding to speed deployment of advanced technology designed to cut energy use and make the electric-power grid more robust," Wall Street Journal reports.

*Politico: Conservatives are looking at some of the things Obama is doing "with a mix of indignation and amazement" and wondering: "Imagine the fuss if George W. Bush had done these things?"

*"Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been spending a lot of time with her one-time colleagues lately, mounting a charm offensive on Capitol Hill nearly unprecedented for an administration's top diplomat," Roll Call reports.

*Gallup: "After peaking at 59% last November, Vice President Joe Biden's favorable rating continues to decline and now stands at 42%. That barely exceeds his 40% unfavorable rating, and is easily his worst evaluation since last year's Democratic National Convention."

**Congress
**Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "announced Monday that he will include a government-backed insurance plan in the chamber's health-care reform legislation, a key concession to liberals who have threatened to oppose a bill without such a public option. Reid's decision was a reversal from two weeks ago, when the Nevada Democrat appeared inclined to set aside the idea -- among the most divisive in the reform debate -- in an attempt to avoid alienating party moderates," Washington Post reports.

*Reid's "proposal came with an escape hatch: A state could refuse to participate in the public insurance plan by adopting a law to opt out. Even so, the announcement was a turning point in the debate over how much of a role government should play in an overhauled health care system, and it set the stage for a test of Democratic party unity," New York Times reports.

*Reid "dismissed White House worries -- and bucked his own reputation as a cautious lawmaker -- by announcing Monday he'll push ahead with a public health insurance option, even though he's short of the 60 votes needed to pass it. The move amounted to a major gamble by the Nevada Democrat, who is betting that he can sway the last few moderates onto his plan for a public option that would allow states to opt out by 2014. But at the same time, Democratic Senate aides expressed worries that Reid was going too far, too fast with a strategy that allows no room for error," Politico reports.

*"Some House Republicans are growing frustrated that their leaders have not yet introduced a healthcare reform alternative. For months, the message from House GOP leaders on a healthcare bill has been similar to ads for yet-to-be-released movies: Coming soon. According to several GOP lawmakers, the leadership is split over how to proceed in terms of unveiling an alternative to the final Democratic bill that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) intends to unveil as soon as this week," The Hill reports.

**NY-23 Special Election
*Politics Daily sat down with Doug Hoffman (C) over the weekend.

*New York Times: "From a command center inside the Days Inn here, conservatives from around the country are fighting to preserve what they see as the integrity of the Republican Party. Urged on by leaders like" Sarah Palin and Dick Armey, "they have come to defeat Dede Scozzafava, the Republican candidate for Congress in the 23rd District, whose views on abortion, same-sex marriage and taxes they deem insufficiently conservative for anyone running as a Republican."

*The Hill: "The GOP could lose its fifth of five big special elections in two years -- a development that has Republicans asking why the irregular races continue to bedevil their party, even as it rebounds in other ways."

Rep. Cao Stumping Tuesday For McDonnell

Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.) will stump for Virginia gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell (R) tomorrow at a Vietnamese shopping center in Northern Virginia. Cao, who knocked off ethically-challenge Bill Jefferson in 2008 in Louisiana's heavily Democratic 2nd District, is the first Vietnamese-American ever elected to Congress.

In the Nov. 3 election, McDonnell is hoping to unsettle the mostly Democratic dominance in Northern Virginia, where nearly one-third of the state's voters reside.

Cao will join McDonnell at the Eden Center in Falls Church, one of the most ethnically-diverse locales in the state. Gov. Tim Kaine (D) campaigned alongside Deeds Oct. 17 at the Eden Center, home to a number of Vietnamese-owned small businesses and restaurants.

NY-23: Pawlenty Endorses Hoffman

Tim Pawlenty is endorsing Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman in the Nov. 3 special election for New York's 23rd District, according to RedState.com. Pawlenty, who's angling for a 2012 presidential bid, becomes the first sitting Republican governor to endorse Hoffman over the Republican nominee, Dede Scozzafava.

"We cannot send more politicians to Washington who wear the Republican jersey on the campaign trail, but then vote like Democrats in Congress on issues like card check and taxes," Pawlenty said in a statement to RedState. "After reviewing the candidates' positions, I'm endorsing Doug Hoffman in New York's special election. Doug understands the federal government needs to quit spending so much, will vote against tax increases, and protect key values like the right to vote in private in union elections."

Hoffman has previously been endorsed by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, and he has the backing of Club for Growth, which is airing ads in the district and released a poll today showing Hoffman in the lead.

"What makes this stand out even more than the Palin endorsement is that Pawlenty has not been seen as diverging with the Republican establishment," wrote RedState's Erick Erickson. "He's not seen as the maverick that Palin is. But Pawlenty has a huge amount of stature inside the Republican establishment, more so than Palin. That he is now willing to come out in favor of Hoffman is going to resonate among the Republican establishment in ways Palin's endorsement will not."

Democrats are hoping the divide in the GOP base between Hoffman and Scozzafava -- whom conservatives consider a liberal -- will splinter the vote in favor of Democratic nominee Bill Owens.

Reid: Senate Bill Will Include Public Option

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced today that the health care reform bill that hits the Senate floor in the coming weeks will include a public option. The decision to include or exclude government-run health insurance had been in flux, as one of the two Senate bills being merged over the past week did not include it.

"I believe that a public option can achieve the goal of bringing meaningful reform to our broken system, will protect consumers, keep insurers honest, and ensure competition," Reid said at an afternoon press conference in the Capitol. "And that's why we intend to include it in the bill that will be sent to the Senate."

Reid and senior advisers from the White House have been involved in backroom negotiations with the leaders of the two Senate committees that passed health care bills -- Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who ushered a bill through the HELP Committee, and Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). In doing so, a compromise was brokered to allow states to opt out of the public option by 2014.

"As we've gone through this process I've concluded, with the support of the White House and Senators Dodd and Baucus, that the best way to move forward is with the public option with the opt-out provision for states," said Reid, who cited recent national polling as evidence that the American public is in favor of the public option. "Under this concept states will be able to determine whether the public option works well for them and will have the ability to opt out if they so choose."

Republicans have argued that a government-run insurance plan would lead to the demise of private insurance companies, while Democrats say its purpose is to keep the insurance companies honest and protect consumers by promoting competition.

"It will be a thousand-page, trillion-dollar bill that raises premiums, raises taxes and slashes Medicare for our seniors to create new government spending programs. That's not reform," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has previously said he is against comprehensive health care reform, with or without a public option. "So, wholly aside from the debate over whether the government gets into the insurance business, the core of the proposal is a bill that the American public clearly does not like, and doesn't support."

Reid said he was disappointed that so few Republicans appear willing to negotiate on health care reform, or many other issues that have come before the Senate this year, including extending unemployment benefits, which is currently being debated on the Senate floor.

"I'm always looking for Republicans" to support legislation, Reid said. "It's just a little hard to find them. ... When I came here to the Senate, we had a lot of moderate Republicans who worked with us on everything, and we worked with them. But of course now the moderates are extremely limited. I can count them on two fingers."

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) was the only Republican on the Finance Committee to vote in favor of the Baucus bill, but she does not support a public option of any kind -- including one with an opt-out provision for states. However, Reid hopes she will eventually support the bill.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs released a statement saying President Obama is "pleased that the Senate has decided to include a public option for health coverage, in this case with an allowance for states to opt out. As he said to Congress and the nation in September, he supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition."

Later this afternoon, Reid will send the Congressional Budget Office a series of proposals that includes alternative versions of a melded bill, and he'll wait to hear back on how much each version would cost. Democrats need 60 votes to pass the bill, so Reid is looking for the most cost-effective, yet comprehensive, plan to do so. While there are 60 Democratic senators, not all of them have indicated support for the bill.

"As soon as we get the bill back from CBO and people have a chance to look at it," said Reid, "I believe that we will clearly have the support of my caucus to move to this bill and begin legislating."

Sen. Reid Schedules 3:15 PM Presser

Close followers of the health care reform debate in Congress may want to keep their eyes glued to the TV at 3:15 p.m. today, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is scheduled to make an announcement regarding Senate legislation.

The Reid press conference comes as he, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), and senior White House advisers are completing negotiations on merging the two health care bills that have passed out of separate committees. A scoring from the Congressional Budget Office is expected this week, though Reid's press conference will provide further details on exactly where in the legislative process health care reform is, and perhaps what the merged bill will look like.

NY-23: Hoffman Leads New Poll

Club for Growth, which has endorsed Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman in the special election race for New York's 23rd District, has released a new poll finding Hoffman leading the two major party nominees, Dede Scozzafava (R) and Bill Owens (D).

The race has split the Republican Party, as major GOP names such as Sarah Palin have backed Hoffman, while such luminaries as Newt Gingrich are standing behind Scozzafava.

The CfG survey of 300 likely voters was conducted October 24-25 with a margin of error of +/- 5.66%. Hoffman leads with 31%, followed by Owens with 27% and Scozzafava with 20%, while 22% remain undecided with just eight days remaining.

"Dede Scozzafava's support continues to collapse, making this essentially a two-candidate race between Hoffman and Owens in the final week," said Basswood pollster Jon Lerner, who conducted the polling for CfG.

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (8 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Corzine +0.1)
*Endorsing Christie on Sunday: Atlantic City Press, Cherry Hill Courier-Post, New York Post, and Asbury Park Press.

*Endorsing Corzine on Sunday: Bergen Record and Trenton Times.

*The GOP is worried about independent candidate Chris Daggett's impact on the race.

*NJ Biz takes a pass on endorsing.

*Daggett refused this morning to pledge not to take a position in the Corzine administration.

*As Middlesex County goes, so goes the election.

*All three candidates agree on the importance of Atlantic City.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +10.9)
*Endorsing McDonnell on Sunday: Richmond Times-Dispatch, Waynesboro News Virginian, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, Bristol Herald Courier, and Culpeper Star Exponent.

*Endorsing Deeds on Sunday: Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot and Roanoke Times.

*Deeds supporters see Obama surge voters as key to victory.

*McDonnell is counting on the help of Mitt Romney on Wednesday to counter Obama's visit on Tuesday.

*Ex-Wilder adviser/ex-Va. Dem Party Chair Paul Goldman doesn't like the White House's treatment of Deeds.

*Deeds toured 11 black churches in the Hampton Roads area.

*Gov. Tim Kaine spent Sunday trying to ramp up excitement among volunteers.

Strategy Memo: War Games

President Obama heads to Florida today, where he'll speak with servicemen and women this afternoon at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, and later gets back to politics with a speech at a fundraising dinner in Miami for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The president begins his day with daily briefings at the White House, followed by a national security meeting with Vice President Biden (via videoconference); Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; National Security Adviser James Jones; Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon; John Brennan, assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security; and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

On the docket for the Senate this week is the Unemployment Insurance Extension Act, the Commerce-Justice-Science and Military Construction appropriations bills, as well as completion of the merging of the Finance and HELP health care bills. No roll call votes are scheduled for today, though. The House will take up nine suspension bills, with votes not expected to occur until 6:30 p.m.

**President Obama
*Utilizing two military options "drawn from a detailed analysis prepared by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "oversaw a secret war game this month to evaluate the two primary military options that have been put forward by the Pentagon and are being weighed by the Obama administration as part of a broad-based review of the faltering Afghanistan war, senior military officials said," Washington Post reports.

*"President Barack Obama's two-day visit to Florida beginning Monday marks his first personal outreach to Democrats there heading into 2010 and indicates how determined his White House is to compete for the state in 2012. This trip, more than any the president has taken since January, looks like a campaign swing," Politico reports.

*Obama was joined for a round of golf with his chief Domestic Policy Adviser Melody Barnes -- the first woman to play the sport with him since becoming president.

*"The same president who aggressively harnesses the power of the press to promote his agenda has taken to lacing his comments with criticisms of the media, with no bigger target than the gabby culture of cable television," AP reports. "In essence, Obama's strategy is not to tame the media to his liking or blame it for his troubles. It is both."

*"U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue says a campaign by the White House and its allies to undermine his $200-million-a-year association has largely failed -- and actually has helped raise even more money for its pro-business efforts," Politico reports.

**Congress
*WSJ: "Top Senate Democrats are close to finalizing their health bill and could unveil a measure as soon as early this week that would include stiffer penalties on employers who fail to provide health coverage. Senate leaders plan to submit the bill to the Congressional Budget Office for a cost estimate as soon as Monday, and make the legislation public as soon as Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the negotiations."

*"Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), one of a handful of Senate wild cards in this fall's healthcare reform debate, says his concern about the Senate bill is based on the national deficit -- not the insurers that dominate his state." He "told The Hill he may support a bill that taxes insurers or cuts into their profits, but only if the federal deficit won't balloon as a result."

*L.A. Times looks at Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) and his "big mouth" as the 78-year-old lawmaker is next in line in seniority for the House Ways and Means chairmanship, should it come open.

*Two-time WA-8 nominee Darcy Burner "plans to raise $1 million next year to give liberals an edge in public policy battles with the conservative Blue Dog Coalition," The Hill reports. Burner "has played a behind-the-scenes role in the healthcare debate, applying constant pressure on Democratic leaders to keep the public option on the negotiating table."


**Campaign Stuff
*Gallup: "Conservatives continue to outnumber moderates and liberals in the American populace in 2009, confirming a finding that Gallup first noted in June. Forty percent of Americans describe their political views as conservative, 36% as moderate, and 20% as liberal. This marks a shift from 2005 through 2008, when moderates were tied with conservatives as the most prevalent group."

*Newt Gingrich talked 2012 on C-SPAN yesterday, saying, "Callista and I are going to think about this in February 2011. And we are going to reach out to all of our friends around the country. And we'll decide, if there's a requirement as citizens that we run, I suspect we probably will. And if there's not a requirement, if other people have filled the vaccum, I suspect we won't."

*NH Sen: Kelly Ayotte (R) made her Senate bid official Saturday, announcing her bid at her former elementary school, Union Leader reports.

*MA Sen: Atty Gen Martha Coakley, who's "running a classic front-runner's campaign," faces off tonight in a debate against her three Dem primary opponents -- "a potentially game-changing event that will give all the candidates broad statewide media exposure for the first time. Each of Coakley's competitors has his first major chance to make a dent," Boston Globe reports.

*FL Sen: Marco Rubio "is gaining momentum as he reminds Republican voters of Crist's" literal embrace of Obama in February and his support of the president's economic stimulus package. "And the same political insiders who downplayed Rubio are starting to think the unthinkable: Crist's campaign might be threatened by another Republican," AP reports.

*Sarah Palin's decision to support the Conservative Party nominee in the NY-23 special election instead of the GOP nominee "is the latest example that the former Alaska governor's allegiance is to her conservative principles rather than the party's edicts," Washington Post reports.

*Columbus Dispatch's Riskind: "Sure, there are other places viewed as barometers of whether Democrats will see their congressional majorities dramatically eroded in 2010, or even whether Republicans will claw their way back into power. But Ohio is as big as any and bigger than most."

Obama Making Third N.J. Visit To Campaign For Corzine

President Obama will make a third and final visit to the Garden State next Sunday to boost Gov. Jon Corzine, as Democrats hope to ratchet up enthusiasm in the base in the campaign's final weekend.

Obama will make two stops, one at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden and then at the Prudential Center in Newark. That ensures maximum media coverage from both the Philadelphia and New York television markets and big crowds in two of the state's largest cities. Footage of Wednesday's event with Obama in Hackensack has already been turned into a TV ad for the campaign.

Former President Bill Clinton will also return on Corzine's behalf this Tuesday, with stops in West Orange and Little Falls.

In an interview with RCP this week, Corzine talked about the impact these types of events have.

"You get those people who are your supporters truly energized. You get a higher probability of a big turnout with a lot of this activity that we've had from people coming in," he said.

You can read more from that interview here.

Biden: Cheney "Absolutely Wrong" On "Dithering" Charge

In an interview with pool reporters accompanying him on a trip to Eastern Europe, Vice President Biden strongly disputes the view of his predecessor that the Obama administration is "dithering" as it considers a shift in military strategy on Afghanistan, calling Dick Cheney "absolutely wrong."

"I think what the administration is doing is exactly what we said it would do, and what I think it warrants doing. And that is making an informed judgment based upon circumstances that have changed ... to come up with a sustainable policy that has more than one dimension," he said.

At one point, a pool report notes, Biden seemed ready to dismiss Cheney's views altogether, starting to say, "Who cares what" he thinks. But he "stopped himself to find another way to put it," the report said. "I can see the headline now," he said. "I'm getting better, guys. I'm getting a little better, you know what I mean?" Biden also called an assessment left by the Bush administration "irrelevant."

Biden's trip in part is meant to reassure Eastern European allies about the U.S. decision to scrap a missile defense arrangement there, something Cheney also criticized. The current VP admitted the decision could have been communicated better, but said that on this trip allies "have no doubt" about the American commitment to their security.

The full pool report of Biden's comments is after the jump.

In an interview with your poolers, Vpotus pushed back against former VP Cheney's criticisms this week, saying it was "absolutely wrong" to say the Obama administration is dithering on Afghanistan and that the review left behind by the Bush-Cheney White House was "irrelevant."

At one point, he grew dismissive. Asked about Cheney's criticism, he said: "Who cares what - " and then stopped himself to find another way to put it. ("Yeah, yeah, I can see the headline now," he said. "I'm getting better, guys. I'm getting a little better, you know what I mean?")

But he went on to dismiss the Bush-Cheney review as inadequate. "That's why the president asked me to get in the plane in January and go to Afghanistan," Vpotus said. "I came back with a different review." And he said the Bush-Cheney review is now dated. "A whole lot has changed in the last year. ... Let's assume they left us a review that was absolutely correct. Is that review relevant and totally applicable to today in light of the changes that have taken place in the region, in Afghanistan itself? So I think that is sort of irrelevant. Not sort of - I think it's irrelevant."

He flatly rejected the dithering charge: "I think that is absolutely wrong. I think what the administration is doing is exactly what we said it would do. And what I think it warrants doing. And that is making an informed judgment based upon circumstances that have changed ... to come up with a sustainable policy that has more than one dimension."

And on the Cheney charge that the Obama administration committed a "strategic blunder" and abandoned its allies by scrapping the Bush missile defense system in favor of a reformulated more mobile version, he said the leaders he met on his tour of Eastern Europe were satisfied that the new system will be more effective: "They believe that the new architecture is better."

You'll see a transcript, but in the meantime, other quotes from the half-hour interview conducted at the American ambassador's residence in Prague:

On the rollout of the missile defense decision last month: "Could it have been done better? Yeah. Obviously it could have been done better."

And: "Look, there's always a better way to be able to communicate change than whatever the way you used. But that's the reason for the trip. I think I set out on behalf of the president to convey to three central European allies that we're committed. We've ended the trip, we've ended the meetings, and I'm absolutely convinced that the leaders of the opposition as well as the governments of all three countries have no doubt about the commitment."

On Eastern European reaction: "There is an understandable reason for the anxiety here," he said. "You've got a new administration." But he added, "missile architecture was more sort of a metaphor for 'are we committed?'"

On Russia's reaction to missile defense: "Quite frankly, there's no way ever to know whether what I'm about to say is true, but if I'm sitting in Moscow, I'm reassured. Because this missile defense system can get short range an intermediate range missiles that are accidentally or intentionally sent in basically any direction."

On the Bush-Cheney review on Afghanistan left behind for the new administration: "That's why the president asked me to get in the place in January and go to Afghanistan. I came back with a different review. I came back with an assessment as to what I thought was, what we were inheriting, okay? But unrelated to whether they left us a review or not - let's assume they left us a review. A whole lot has changed in the last year. A whole lot's changed. So the idea - even if they did - let's assume they left us a review that was absolutely correct, is that review relevant and totally applicable to today in light of the changes that have taken place in the region, in Afghanistan itself? So I think that is sort of irrelevant. Not sort of, I think it's irrelevant."

On his role advising the president in the Afghanistan debate: "I'd be surprised if he publicly dismissed anything I had to say, number one. Number two, look, I knew when I signed on as vice president that he is the president. The only thing, the only guarantee I got, and that he's kept, is that I get the opportunity on every important decision to be in on the deal, to give him the benefit or lack thereof of my opinion."

And: "The truth of the matter is that he has kept that deal. He has sought my opinion not generically but in detail. And if he reaches a different conclusion than I do, that's okay. He's the president. But, I am... Anyway, I guess that's the best way to answer the question."

Nat'l Journal Poll: Dems Could Do Better On Ethics

Three in 10 Congressional Democrats say their party leadership is not doing enough to police ethics enforcement in the Democratic Party, according to National Journal's latest Congressional Insiders Poll.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has caught the most heat for refusing to make any moves regarding Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the powerful Appropriations Defense subcommittee, despite numerous investigative media reports depicting potential misdeeds. Despite calls for Rangel to step down from his post, Pelosi has maintained that she will wait for the ethics committee to complete its investigation.

"Leaders should not attempt to influence the timing or outcome of an ethics investigation," one Democrat, who thinks leadership isn't doing enough, told National Journal. "However, they should ask any subject of an investigation to step down from positions of leadership during the review of serious charges."

Just 62 percent of House and Senate Democrats surveyed said party leadership was doing enough, nearly 20 points less than the number of Republicans who say the same about their own leadership. But, reminds one Democrat, "Let's not forget: It wasn't until the Democrats took over the majority that Congress adopted strengthened rules of ethical oversight."

While 19 percent of Republicans say their party leaders are not doing enough, most say the tables have turned since 2006, when Democrats rode a "drain-the-swamp" wave back to power.

"All of the Republican ethical issues resulted in them losing power--lesson learned," said one Republican.

NY-23 Poll: Owens (D) Leads; Hoffman Wins Indies

In a contentious three-way contest, Democrats currently have a slight edge as the Republican vote splits between the party's chosen candidate and a conservative alternative in a new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll.

Special Election Matchup
Owens (D) 35
Scozzafava (R) 30
Hoffman (C) 23
Undecided 12

Looking at the party breakdown, Bill Owens has a solid lead among Democratic voters with 60 percent of the vote. Dede Scozzafava, however, only wins 46 percent of Republican votes, with Conservative Party candidate David Hoffman getting 27 percent. Among independent voters Hoffman actually leads, garnering 35 percent to Owens' 32 percent and Scozzafava's 22 percent. That may suggest Hoffman's appeal as an alternative to the major party candidates is stronger than his appeal based on issues.

Asked for their second choice, only 9 percent of Hoffman's voters said they'd back Scozzafava, with 26 percent saying they would not vote and 62 percent undecided. National Republican figures have split on endorsements in the race as well, with Sarah Palin weighing in on Hoffman's behalf last night.

Favorable Ratings
Scozzafava 38 / 35
Hoffman 27 / 19
Owens 33 / 24
Gov. Paterson 26 / 57
Obama 53 / 39

The survey of 600 likely voters was conducted October 19-21, and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (11 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Corzine +0.1)

*Bloomberg leads with the property tax back-and-forth in last night's radio debate.

*Christie sought to capitalize on the conviction of the former Bergen County Democratic chairman. But Corzine's running mate was one of his biggest foes.

*Former Gov. Tom Kean cut an ad for Christie, criticizing Corzine's negative ads.

*The Inquirer profiles Daggett.

*Both sides are sniping about the other's transparency issues.

*More polls, more deadlock.

*WSJ sees New Jersey as a case study of problems with the major parties.

*Tim Pawlenty, RGA vice chair, said victory is likely in Virginia but called New Jersey a dead heat.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +10.9)

*A brutal, tossed under the bus story in the Post as the White House distances itself from Deeds.

*Obama and Clinton aren't the only big names coming to the Commonwealth -- so are Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Haley Barbour, and football hall-of-famers Bruce Smith and Lou Holtz.

*Deeds surrogates are pushing the education argument for why he's their man.

*Loudoun Times-Mirror does a race overview.

*The RGA has taken yet another awkward post-debate gaggle and turned it into a negative ad.

*McDonnell is up with a negative TV ad on Deeds's "job-killing policies."

*McDonnell's only option in the race was "all-out obfuscation," according to The Nation.

*Deeds is airing a second ad on The Washington Post's endorsement of him -- though this one includes all the negative lines about McDonnell.

Strategy Memo: Incumbent Protection

Today President Obama makes his third political trip to the Northeast this week and his second in support of embattled Democratic incumbents. On the official schedule: a stop at a research lab at MIT, and a speech on the recovery act. Then, the politics: fundraising events for Gov. Deval Patrick (D), who will face a tough three-way race in '10. In Connecticut, Obama will then tour a small business before speaking at a fundraising event for Sen. Chris Dodd (D)

House Democratic leaders are holding a press conference this morning to discuss new details regarding seniors and health care reform legislation. On the floor, the House is expected to vote by 1 p.m. on the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010. Senators Carl Levin and Patrick Leahy are holding a press conference alongside civil rights leaders to discuss hate crimes legislation. The Senate is not in session.

**Congress
*Mike Allen reports this morning: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi counted votes Thursday night and determined she could not pass a 'robust public option' -- the most aggressive of the three forms of a public option House Democrats have been considering as part of a national overhaul of health care. Pelosi's decision -- coupled with a significant turn of events yesterday during a private White House meeting -- points to an increasingly likely compromise for a trigger option for a government plan."

*"The health care reform debate will be pushed deep into December and possibly beyond by a lengthy floor debate, several senators predicted Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is under pressure from a group of centrist Republicans and Democrats who are demanding a go-slow approach," The Hill reports.

*Reid "is leaning toward putting a public insurance option in the Senate health reform bill," Politico reports. "But President Barack Obama stopped short of endorsing the approach during a hastily called meeting Thursday with the Senate Democratic leadership at the White House."

*"The likelihood of climate change legislation making it to the Senate floor this year may be in doubt, but Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) vowed Thursday he would press on with negotiations in order to keep the issue ripe for next year," Roll Call reports.

*More ethics trouble for Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska)?

**President Obama
*While in Massachusetts today, the president won't be highlighting that state's health care plan, the Post reports. "The president's critics say his reluctance to spotlight the Massachusetts model is real-world evidence that his vision would not work on a national scale. High costs have forced the state to trim benefits for legal immigrants and prompted one safety-net hospital to sue over a $38 million shortfall."

*But the trip is mostly about politics, AP reports. "The president's politicking on Friday begins in Cambridge, Mass., with a quick 'official' event at MIT to challenge the nation to lead the global economy in clean energy. That appearance significantly brings down the cost of flying the president to fundraisers designed to raise money for two politically anemic Democrats, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut."

*From the podium, Robert Gibbs responded to Dick Cheney yesterday. "What Vice President Cheney calls 'dithering,' President Obama calls his solemn responsibility to the men and women in uniform and to the American public," Gibbs said, per CNN. "I think we've all seen what happens when someone doesn't take that responsibility seriously."

*Is the White House trying to insulate itself from a loss in Virginia? Washington Post: "Senior administration officials have expressed frustration with how Democrat R. Creigh Deeds has handled his campaign for governor, refusing early offers of strategic advice and failing to reach out to several key constituencies that helped Obama win Virginia in 2008, they say."

**Campaign Stuff
*Sarah Palin has made an endorsement in NY-23: conservative Doug Hoffman. From a Facebook note: "Political parties must stand for something. When Republicans were in the wilderness in the late 1970s, Ronald Reagan knew that the doctrine of 'blurring the lines' between parties was not an appropriate way to win elections. Unfortunately, the Republican Party today has decided to choose a candidate who more than blurs the lines, and there is no real difference between the Democrat and the Republican in this race. This is why Doug Hoffman is running on the Conservative Party's ticket."

*Mitt Romney has an op-ed in the Union Leader on Israel, which echoes some of his speech to AIPAC earlier this week.

*JMart was on the scene for Tim Pawlenty's first PAC fundraiser in DC last night.

*FL Sen: The Charlie Crist-Marco Rubio race could be helping Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) by taking the attention off him, Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports.

Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) endorsed Meek less than a week after dropping her own exploratory bid, Roll Call reports.

*Des Moines lawyer and 1982 gubernatorial nominee Roxanne Conlin said she wants to run against Sen. Chuck Grassley (D), the Des Moines Register reports. "Should Conlin be nominated next year, she would bring fundraising might to a challenge of the five-term Republican. She is the former president of the nation's trial lawyers association, a ready donor well."

*DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen warns his colleagues: "Historically, we're facing a headwind this cycle with a record number of Frontline Members, a smaller playing field of challenger races, and a difficult fundraising environment. We've known about that challenge from the start and have been aggressively preparing for it, applying the lessons from the last two successful cycles." CNN reports that in a memo to his membership, Van Hollen also urged them all to pitch in to help one another.

*Is the Obama Cabinet stopping in Las Vegas often to help Harry Reid? AP has the story.

*Utah Sen: Millionaire Tim Bridgewater broke down in tears, then entered the crowded GOP Senate primary race yesterday, Deseret News reports.

*Washington Post looks at Beau Biden's potential next battle -- replacing his father in the U.S. Senate.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

New Garden State Polls: Split Decision

Get used to it: barring any major late development, we can probably assume that polling in New Jersey will show the race as close as these new polls out today do.

GQR/Democracy Corps
(604 LVs, 10/21-22, +/- 4.0%)
Corzine 42 (+1 from last poll, 10/6-7)
Christie 39 (+1)
Daggett 13 (-1)
Undecided 6 (-1)

Survey USA
(674 LVs*, 10/19-21, +/- 3.9%)
Christie 41 (+1 from last poll, 10/12-14)
Corzine 39 (unch)
Daggett 19 (+1)
Undecided 1 (-2)

*Includes some who have already voted. Corzine leads 44-39-16 among those who say they have already cast their ballot.

McDonnell Airs Negative TV Ad

Up nearly 11 points in the polls, Bob McDonnell is launching a new TV ad that hits Deeds for supporting "job-killing policies."

"A billion dollars in new taxes. A new energy tax that would kill up to 56,000 jobs. Deeds pushed a billion dollars in new spending. Creigh Deeds, higher taxes, job-killing policies," the ad narrator states.

Conservatives Call On Scozzafava To Withdraw

A dozen conservative publications and blogs are calling on New York 23 special election nominee Dede Scozzafava (R) to withdraw from the race. The online editorials, including from National Review, Washington Times, Washington Examiner and RedState.com, were all published at around noon today.

The calls for Scozzafava's withdrawal come in response to her husband calling the police on Weekly Standard reporter John McCormack, who was attempting to question the GOP nominee on some of her policy stances following a campaign event. McCormack followed her into the parking lot for further questions, and a police officer later approached him, saying the candidate had been "startled."

Conservative groups, including Club for Growth, are standing behind Doug Hoffman, who is running on the Conservative Party line in the Nov. 3 contest. They're turned off by Scozzafava, who is backed by national GOP committees as well as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, because of her positions on numerous issues, including abortion, card check and taxes.

Pence Takes On The Media

Pushing back on a Politico article this morning, which reported Republicans are worried about a 2010 electoral backlash to conservative activists and media personalities, House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) took to the House floor today and called it "hogwash."

"Lately the national media has taken aim at conservative commentators in radio and television -- suggesting that they only speak for a small group of activists, and even suggesting in one report today that Republicans in Washington are 'worried about their electoral effect.' Well, that's hogwash," Pence said. "So to my friends in the so-called 'mainstream media' I say, conservative talk show hosts may not speak for everybody but they speak for more Americans than you do."

You can download and watch the clip here.

FL Sen: Rubio Cuts Into Crist's Primary Lead

Former state House Speaker Marco Rubio has chopped down Gov. Charlie Crist's lead in the Republican Senate primary, according to two new polls out yesterday. Quinnipiac and Rasmussen found the first-term, moderate governor leading the more-conservative Rubio by 15 and 14 points.

In the Quinnipiac poll (Oct. 12-18, 1078 RV, MoE +/- 3%), Crist's 29-point lead in August has been cut nearly in half as Rubio has been able to win over national and state conservatives. However, Crist holds a 20-point lead against Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) in the general election, while Rubio trails by 3. As a congressman from Miami, Meek remains an unknown entity to much of the state, even more so than Rubio.

Senate GOP Primary
Crist 50 (-5 vs. last poll, Aug. 19)
Rubio 35 (+9)
Und 12 (-6)

Senate General Election
Crist 51
Meek 31
Und 14

Meek 36
Rubio 33
Und 28

The Q-Poll also tested the governor's race. It found Atty. Gen. Bill McCollum on his way to an easy victory in the GOP primary, and a 4-point lead in the general election over state CFO Alex Sink, with 27% undecided.

The Rasmussen poll (Oct. 19, 466 LV, MoE +/- 4.5%) showed an almost identical margin between the two Republican Senate candidates.

Crist 49 (-4 vs. last poll, Aug. 18)
Rubio 35 (+4)
Und 12

A separate Rasmussen survey out today (Oct. 19, 1000 LV, MoE +/- 3%) in the governor's race found McCollum up 9 points with 15% undecided.

Eagleton Poll Gives Corzine 3-Point Lead; Daggett At 20

A new Rutgers Eagleton poll gives Gov. Jon Corzine (D) a 3-point lead with less than two weeks to go in the New Jersey gubernatorial race. With this survey, Corzine has taken a lead in the RCP Average of polling for the very first time.

General Election Matchup
Corzine 39
Christie 36
Daggett 20
Don't Know 5

Asked for their second choice, 34 percent of Daggett's voters say they would pick Christie, while 28 percent say Corzine and 24 percent say they would not vote at all. Daggett is tied among voters who say they've heard a lot about his property tax plan; but Corzine actually pulls ahead among those who say they've heard nothing about it -- which is a quarter of the electorate.

"Daggett continues to draw fairly evenly from both major party candidates," said Eagleton's Dave Redlawsk. "However, in a close race, it may make a difference that Daggett voters are people who would have been slightly more on Christie's side than on Corzine's in a two-way race. The underlying question is whether current Daggett supporters really will vote for him on Election Day, or whether they will opt for their second choice, one of the major party candidates."

Redlawsk also states: "While Daggett is clearly having an impact on this race, it seems that on the current trajectory, the vote would have to be very close for his candidacy to make the deciding difference. ... It's important to remember, however, that in two recent New Jersey Governor's races (in 1993 and 1997), the victor's margin was only about 1 percent of the vote."

Corzine and Christie are tied amongst men, 38-38, but Corzine has a 6-point advantage among women. His campaign's attacks on Christie over the mammogram issue has become a defining issue in the race

Favorable Ratings
Corzine 40 / 52
Christie 39 / 42
Daggett 31 / 15

Corzine's job approval rating is 29 percent, with 70 percent disapproving.

Voter engagement in the race appears to be lukewarm, with 36 percent saying they are following the election "very closely," and only 38 percent say they've watched or listened to one of the candidate debates. That factor is one reason why Democrats have brought in national surrogates to generate free media attention on New York and Philadelphia television stations that otherwise tend not to cover Garden State politics closely.

The survey of 583 likely voters was conducted October 15-20, with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent.

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (12 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Christie +0.4)

*Loads of coverage of the Obama/Corzine rally yesterday is exactly what the campaign was hoping for. Mike was there, too.

*Christie called the Obama visit a sign of Corzine's weakness.

*Bloomberg looks at Corzine's Beltway surrogate strategy, which also now includes Caroline Kennedy.

*A closer look at the Daggett factor, dominating operatives' attention. Wall Street Journal also profiles him.

*A WSJ columnist says Daggett has risen because Christie has flopped.

*The Inquirer profiles Corzine, and the "learning curve" he faced taking office four years ago. The New York Times Magazine also looks at Corzine's bid.

*Answering GOP calls for transparency, Corzine released info on his charitable donations.

*Tonight there is one final debate, on radio, featuring the three candidates.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +10.9)

*Deeds is taking part in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's forum tonight in Hampton; McDonnell will do so tomorrow.

*Another poll found Deeds down by double digits, but Obama is coming Tuesday to Norfolk and is featured in a new TV ad.

*AP calls the president Deeds's "biggest gun."

*McDonnell touted his socially-conservative principles to a crowd of conservatives yesterday.

*New York Times weighs in on Virginia's gun show loophole.

*National Review editor Rich Lowry calls McDonnell a "conservative pragmatist."

*McDonnell is on a "New Jobs, New Virginia" tour.

*Washington Examiner endorses McDonnell.

*Falls Church News-Press endorses Deeds.

Strategy Memo: You Must Whip It

Today is the rare day on President Obama's schedule this week without any politicking. He starts his day with morning briefings, and will then speak with the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan via videoconference. He'll have lunch with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and then sign the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act. In the afternoon he'll have separate meetings with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Senate will resume consideration of the conference report for the Department of Defense Authorization bill. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is holding a hearing this morning on "The Past, Present, and Future of Policy Czars" in the White House. The House will vote today on the Solar Technology Roadmap Act and begin consideration of the Coast Guard Authorization Act.

House Democratic leaders have begun to pronounce how close they are to having the votes to pass a health care form bill that includes a robust public option. Speaker Pelosi said yesterday that a bill will certainly be passed by Thanksgiving, and possibly even have Obama's signature by then depending on how quickly the two chambers can work together.

**President Obama
*CNN/Opinion Research Poll: "For the first time since Obama took office, fewer than half of Americans agree with the president on issues important to them. ... A majority, 51 percent, disagree -- a jump of 10 percentage points since April."

*In an interview with NBC, Obama hinted that an Afghanistan decision will wait until after a runoff election there.

*The New York Times is the latest now to speculate on the fate of White House counsel Greg Craig. "Craig said he had no plans to leave, and White House officials said the president still had faith in him. But colleagues and Democrats close to the White House said they expected him to move on around the end of the year, and they have been talking about possible replacements."

*CEO Pay: "The Treasury Department is expected in the next few days to order companies that received huge government bailouts last year to slash the base salaries of their top executives by an average of 90 percent and cut their total compensation in half," AP reports, citing "a person familiar with the matter."

*Politico's top dogs wrote about the White House's strategy to marginalize it's top opponents. Communication Director Anita "said that in August, as the president's aides planned for the fall, they made 'a fundamental decision that we needed to be more aggressive in both protecting our position and in delineating our differences with those who were attacking us.'"

AP reports, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said the Obama administration appears to be launching a Richard Nixon-like political strategy of making an "enemies list" of people who disagree with the president.

*Meanwhile, the White House is "swamped" with letters.

**Health Care
*Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has become the center of attention on health care, Washington Post reports. "Already the courtship has entailed dinner with administration budget chief Peter Orszag, an invitation to confer with Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and an hour-long session with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, during which the president "dropped by" for 25 minutes. On Tuesday, Collins met with a group of centrist senators who are trying to forge a middle ground."

"House Democratic leaders sounded bullish Wednesday after launching an all-hands-on-deck effort to win support for a 'robust' public insurance option in their health care bill. 'We think we have the votes now,' Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) told reporters. 'We have the votes to pass a robust public option,' " Roll Call reports.

*Dana Milbank noticed that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has given the same health care speech on the Senate floor 50 times since June.

*The failure of the Medicare Physicians Fairness Act to be brought up for debate on the Senate floor "immediately raised questions among fellow Democrats over Reid's handling of healthcare reform strategy and gave Republicans an opening," The Hill reports.

**Congress
*"When economists met privately with Democratic leaders of the House on Wednesday, the topic was how to pump billions more into the economy to stimulate job creation. They left with a homework assignment: How to cut trillions from future federal budget deficits," New York Times reports.

*"Today, after serving nearly 47 years in the Senate, Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) becomes the third-longest-serving Senator in U.S. history, passing Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who died in August," Roll Call reports. "In addition to this milestone, Inouye, 85, a former House Member, will also be the fifth-longest-serving Member of Congress in history, passing Rep. Carl Vinson (D-Ga.), who served from 1914 to 1965 and chaired the Armed Services Committee."

*The oldest living former senator, Cliff Hansen, died yesterday at the age of 97, NBC reports.

**Campaign Stuff
*"Many top Republicans are growing worried that the party's chances for reversing its electoral routs of 2006 and 2008 are being wounded by the flamboyant rhetoric and angry tone of conservative activists and media personalities, according to interviews with GOP officials and operatives," Politico reports.

*Cillizza reports that Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D) "is contemplating a primary challenge to Sen. Blanche Lincoln in 2010." If he were to run he "would try to capitalize on the left's discontent toward Lincoln on health care," though he "is a somewhat odd liberal champion."

*FL Sen: "All signs point to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist having a real Senate primary on his hands. Marco Rubio has dramatically cut Crist's lead in the Republican primary to 15 percentage points, as the race appears to be taking on a whole new life," The Hill reports.

In turn, Crist has begun a move to the right. "The governor is running ads on WDBO and other news-talk stations that tout him as a fiscal conservative who wants to cut the size of the federal government."

*NY-23: "When the candidates in upstate New York's 23rd district special election file their first comprehensive fundraising reports tonight, it will become clear just how big of a financial toll the ideological rift among Republicans is taking on the party's nominee, state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava," Roll Call reports.

As Democrats now aim for the conservative candidate in NY-23, could it backfire on their chances? ABC's Chalian: "They need Scozzafava, the Republican, to remain strong and viable enough to split all the non-Democratic leaning vote with Hoffman. Today, the DCCC tried to help her along a bit."

*Chuck Todd, in an online chat yesterday: "I think Pawlenty has the potential to be a serious player in 2012... He comes from a neighboring state to Iowa (minnesota) so the launching pad is in good shape...That said, I have noticed that Pawlenty is coming across a tad hamhanded in his courtship of conservatives. It's surprised some in the White House who I think quietly worried about him more so than any other potential candidate out there right now."

*NYC Mayor: An ad for Democrat Bill Thompson's campaign urges voters to tell Mike Bloomberg that "eight is enough." He tells the Daily News that, if elected, he'll seek a referendum on term limits again.

*OR Gov: "Republican state Sen. Jason Atkinson announced Wednesday that he is suspending his campaign for governor, leaving the Republican race to two candidates of uncertain strength and a lot of speculation," Oregonian reports.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Boosting Corzine, Obama Paints Christie As Typical Republican

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Seeking to build momentum for a Blue State ally, President Obama portrayed Chris Christie a creature of the national GOP as he campaigned for Gov. Jon Corzine's re-election for the second time this year.

obamacorz.jpg

Obama acknowledged economic woes that are a key reason why the Democratic incumbent faces a tough battle. But at a boisterous rally in the key battleground of Bergen County tonight he urged voters to keep Corzine at the helm, calling him an "honorable man" who has helped stave off an even larger crisis.

"Listening to Jon's opponent, you'd think that New Jersey was the only state in America that's been swept up in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, which by the way did not start under Jon Corzine's party's watch," Obama said. "This crisis came about because of the same sorts of lax regulation and trickle-down economic theory that the other guy's party has been peddling for years."

Echoing some of his partisan rhetoric of late, Obama continued: "I'm telling you, these folks, they got a lot of nerve. They leave this big mess and suddenly they're complaining about how fast we're cleaning it up."

An estimated 4,000 attended the late afternoon rally on the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University, which also included an appearance by Caroline Kennedy. The enthusiasm was high among the partisan crowd, and even the president joined into a chant of "Four more years" at one point.

As at rallies with former President Clinton and Vice President Biden earlier this week, Corzine himself spoke briefly, leaving it to the party super-surrogates to list his accomplishments. Obama spoke of Corzine in very personal terms, calling him "one of the best colleagues I had in the Senate and he's one of the best partners I have in the White House." He also teased the governor's unkempt persona.

"[Jon] is not somebody who, you know, always look well-groomed. I mean, Jon's hair kind of goes frizzy sometimes and, you know, his beard gets a little, you know, straggly sometimes." But perhaps he was unaware of Christie's image, and the Corzine camp's subtle efforts to mock it. Obama spoke of a "slick" rival, a term most would not attribute to Christie.

In his closing pitch, Obama said voters should re-elect Corzine because he's practicing the same kind of politics in the state as Obama is nationally. "New Jersey now has a governor who's bucking that trend, who's refusing to go along with business as usual. He's telling the truth about the challenges you face and he's making every effort to meet them," he said. I'm here today to urge you to cast aside the cynics and the skeptics, and prove to all Americans that leaders who do what's right and who do what's hard will be rewarded and not rejected."

About four times that number came to the first Obama-Corzine rally in July, when tickets were more widely distributed. Corzine said last week that he was hopeful for still one more visit by the president, which may come the weekend before election day. No details have been confirmed by the White House or the Corzine camp, however.

Christie: Obama Visit Shows Corzine's Vulnerability

PARAMUS, N.J. -- Though his once-formidable lead has slipped away, Chris Christie (R) called a visit today from President Obama on behalf of Gov. Jon Corzine (D) a sign that his campaign's message is getting through to voters.

christie.jpg

"I'm convinced that the Democrats in this state thought I'd be dead and buried now. Instead, they're bringing in the President of the United States," the former U.S. Attorney said in a press availability here this afternoon. "In a state President Obama won by 15 points last year, and where there's 700,000 more Democrats than Republicans, and where he's outspent me over 3-to-1 now, how else would you explain that I'm still in the lead?"

Christie said he welcomed Obama to the state, and said he agrees with him on "a lot of things." But when Air Force One takes off today, "it's not coming back. And if they vote for Jon Corzine, they're stuck with him," he said.

In a deliberate contrast from the glitzy Obama/Corzine rally just a short drive away, Christie came to a voter's living room and chatted with a family about the state's high tax burden, saying he was the only candidate who would make the tough decisions to bring the state's spending under control.

Christie also acknowledged the challenge still ahead as a Republican in what has become a very blue state.

"This is going to be one of those times when your vote's going to really count," he said. "The last four times a Republican has won statewide in New Jersey in the last 28 years, three out of those four times the Republican won by 1 percent or less. ... It's going to be very close, I know it will be."

In the closing days, Christie is expected to get a visit by one of the few big-name Republicans who is popular in the Garden State: former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

CNN Poll: 61% Favor Public Option

Democrats are promoting a national survey released this afternoon by CNN/Opinion Research (Oct. 16-18, 1038 A, MoE +/- 3%), which finds 61% of Americans in favor of a government-run health insurance plan to compete with private insurance companies. The poll comes as the House and Senate are each merging separate health care reform bills for an eventual vote on the chamber floors.

At a morning press conference, CNN's Dana Bash asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid whether the fact that six-in-10 Americans approve of a public option has any effect on whether it would be included in the Senate plan. Reid refused to answer, as he remains deep in negotiations with Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), whose bill does not include the option, and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who as the acting chairman of the HELP Committee included the option in his committee's bill.

The press conference was held to announce that Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2009 will be introduced as an amendment to the eventual bill that reaches the Senate floor. The amendment would strip insurance companies of their antitrust exemption status, which Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) described as "an accident of American history."

Schumer said that in 40 states, two insurance companies dominate the market, allowing them to raise health care costs on consumers . "This exemption is antiquated, out of date, and doesn't belong," he said. "We can't pass effective health care reform if we don't hold health insurance companies to the same standards as other American industries."

The CNN poll found 49% favor President Obama's health care plan overall, while 49% oppose it. However, when asked which would be better for the country, passing a bill similar to Obama's plan or leaving the current system in place with no changes, 53% say Obama's plan would be better compared with 44% who say nothing should change.

The 61% of Americans in favor of the public option is up 5 points since late August.

Deeds Down 12, Obama To The Rescue

Yet another new poll finds Virginia gubernatorial nominee Creigh Deeds (D) trailing his Republican opponent by double digits. This one is from Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling firm, which finds Deeds down 12 points with less than two weeks to go until the election.

The survey falls in line with other polls released this week in Virginia, including one from SurveyUSA that found Bob McDonnell (R) leading by 19 points. No one expects the margin to be that high, but even Bill Clinton couldn't help but mention Deeds's poor poll positioning while speaking with the Democratic nominee yesterday at a Northern Virginia rally.

On the way to help as well is President Obama, who appears in a new TV ad launched today by the Deeds campaign and will stump for Deeds next week. The campaign announced this morning that Obama's previously-announced Oct. 27 event will take place at Old Dominion University in Norfolk -- home to large numbers of black voters who turned out en masse for Obama last year.

The event is part of an effort by the Deeds campaign and the Democratic National Committee to energize these so-called "surge voters," or "sleeping giants" as the campaign calls them, who so far have proved apathetic -- at least according to polls released this month.

"Last year, Virginia, you helped lead a movement of Americans who believed that their voices could make a difference," Obama says in the ad, which uses a clip of him from an August rally in Northern Virginia. "That's what we need to do in this race. That's what Creigh Deeds is committed to. I need every one of you to get fired up once again so that we can go towards the future, with Creigh Deeds leading the great Commonwealth of Virginia."

Here is the ad:

McDonnell leads by 10.9 points in the RCP Average for Virginia. The PPP poll was not included in the average, as partisan-affiliated polling firms will not be added to the Averages in the last two weeks of the 2009 elections.

Obama For Christie?

Today, President Obama comes to New Jersey to campaign for Gov. Jon Corzine's (D) re-election campaign. But this morning it is Corzine's Republican opponent, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie (R), who seeks to use the president's message of change to support his campaign.

In a Web video released this morning, the Christie camp uses sections of Obama campaign speeches to make the case for change in the Garden State. Interspersed with campaign footage are shots reflecting the economic distress in parts of the state. Particularly striking is a segment of Obama's speech that rails against "the greed and irresponsibility that has dominated Washington and Wall Street," a clear reference to Corzine's background as a senator and Goldman Sachs executive.

"New Jerseyans are still fighting for change," reads text at the end of the video.

While Obama campaigns today with Corzine at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Hackensack, Christie will be across town visiting a diner. Earlier, Christie will also hold a "kitchen table conversation" in nearby Paramus.

Rasmussen: New Jersey A True Toss-Up

In its latest survey of the New Jersey governor race, Rasmussen finds that the race has closed to just two points, and that independent Chris Daggett's supporters are increasingly committed to the candidate.

General Election Matchup
Christie 41 (-4 from last poll, 10/14)
Corzine 39 (-2)
Daggett 11 (+2)
Not Sure 8 (+3)

Christie leads by just 0.4 percent in the RCP polling average of New Jersey.

The biggest climber since last week's survey are those undecided voters. Rasmussen says that in that group, 13 percent lean toward Daggett, 7 percent toward Christie, and 3 percent toward Corzine, with the rest likely not to vote at all. The bottom line:

At this point, anybody who says with confidence how this race will turn out is either deluding themselves or attempting to delude someone else. The Democrats clearly have an edge in New Jersey when it comes to turnout, but the wavering Daggett supporters and undecided voters are more likely to head in the Republican direction than to the Democratic incumbent.

With two weeks out, only six points separates the three candidates in terms of favorable ratings.

Favorable Ratings
Christie 47 / 47
Corzine 41 / 57
Daggett 44 / 32

President Obama, who campaigns with Corzine today, has a 53 percent approval rating in the Garden State, a drop of 4 points since last week. That's still 12 points higher than Corzine's, however, at 41 percent; 58 percent disapprove.

The automated telephone survey of 750 likely voters was conducted October 19 and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (13 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Christie +0.4)

*Appearing with Corzine, Bill Clinton urged New Jerseyans not to vote out of frustration.

*Obama comes to the rescue today.

*Sen. Frank Lautenberg called for a probe of Christie's alleged politicking with the U.S. Attorney's office.

*Christie wants Corzine to open up his checkbook and live up to promises to be transparent.

*The Star-Ledger editorializes on Corzine's hidden spending.

*The Record says both campaigns are exaggerating claims about the mammogram issue.

*Daggett left a loaded gun in a loaner car.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +10.9)

*No game-changing moments last night in the final debate of the campaign.

*Despite the debate's conducive format, neither candidate struck a major blow.

*Earlier in the day, Bill Clinton said to "never underestimate" Deeds, who beat his guy, Terry McAuliffe, in the June primary.

*A SurveyUSA poll released late yesterday found McDonnell leading by his largest margin ever.

*Deeds is going to need "sleeping giants" and game changing moments to win this thing.

*The Washington Times endorsed McDonnell.

*Does Doug Wilder's non-endorsement really matter for Deeds?

Strategy Memo: Health Care Hiatus

President Obama starts his Wednesday with his daily briefings and a meeting with senior advisers. He'll then sit down in the Oval Office with Sen. John Kerry, who played a role in bringing the Afghan election to a runoff. Later, he'll visit a small business in Maryland to "announce a package of initiatives that will increase credit to small businesses." He'll also attend a Cabinet-level exercise simulating the aftermath of a "fictitious catastrophic earthquake" in the country. Finally, the president heads to New Jersey to campaign with Gov. Jon Corzine.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders are holding an economic forum this morning with Elizabeth Warren, chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel with jurisdiction over TARP. Democratic Senators Harry Reid, Patrick Leahy and Charles Schumer are holding a press conference at 11:30 a.m. on health insurance reform.

The Senate will debate the nomination of Roberto A. Lange to be the U.S. District Judge for the District of South Dakota, with a vote expected at 2 p.m. Later the Senate will move to consider the Medicare Physician Fairness Act. It's another light day on the House floor, with several votes on suspension bills expected to end by 3 p.m.

**Health Care
*Gone quiet? The New York Times reports that Obama is entering a "quiet period" on health care. "The idea, aides said, is for the president to take a breather while Democrats resolve their internal conflicts, so he can come back strong with a fresh sales pitch when the legislation moves closer to floor votes." But, the Times asks, "Did the president stop talking because the public had stopped listening?"

*"House leaders have cut the cost of their health-care overhaul to around $871 billion over the next decade, Democratic sources said Tuesday night, and were working to line up votes for the package with the aim of bringing it before the full House early next month," Washington Post reports.

*"Senate health care talks entered a crucial stage Tuesday as Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) was drawn deeper into the negotiations, Democratic moderates jockeyed to position themselves, and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) prepared to make some tough decisions," Roll Call reports.

*Gallup reports that 39% of Americans say their support for the final health care bill to come out of Congress will depend on the details, while "25% say they have already decided to support the final bill while a slightly larger number, 33%, say they will oppose it."

*President Obama
*In New York yesterday, Obama pushed for financial regulatory reform, Politico reports. Obama: "This is important for our country and in the long run it will be good for the financial industry to have a level playing field in which everybody knows the rules and everybody knows the rules will be enforced," he said. On health care, Obama urged Democrats "to quit quibbling with each other and settle on a health care reform proposal."

He also continued the "mop" line of attack on Republicans, saying he didn't have sympathy for those "sitting on the sidelines and rooting for failure," The Hill adds. Obama: "I don't mind cleaning up the mess that some other folks made, that's what I signed up to do. But while I'm there mopping the floor I don't want someone saying 'You're not mopping fast enough or you're not holding the mop the right way.' Grab a mop! Why don't you help clean up?"

*A Washington Post/ABC poll finds the American people "deeply" split on Afghanistan. On McChrystal's recommendations, "47 percent of those polled favor the buildup, while 49 percent oppose it. Most on both sides hold their views 'strongly.' The survey also found that a large majority of Americans say the administration lacks a clear plan for dealing with the problems in Afghanistan."

*John Kerry is getting some measure of credit for his role in brokering the settlement in Afghanistan leading to a runoff election.

*AP: "A government watchdog said the $700 billion bailout for the financial industry played a major role in rescuing the economy over the last year but also engendered anger and distrust among Americans because of secrecy and confusion about the way the program was handled."

*USA Today obtains a report that "cites failures on biosecurity policy by the White House, which the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction says has left the country vulnerable."

**Campaign Stuff
*FL Sen: Marco Rubio has cut Gov. Charlie Crist's Senate GOP primary lead in half, according to a new Quinnipiac poll.

*Perhaps that's why Crist's gubernatorial chief of staff is stepping down to become his campaign manager.

*Sarah Palin will appear on Oprah's show on November 16.

*In a CNN interview, RNC chair Michael Steele "brushed off a new poll that indicates just 20 percent of the American public are willing to call themselves Republicans." Steele: "What I'm concerned about is how they vote. ... At end of the day you can call yourself whatever you want."

*Gov. David Paterson, during an interview yesterday on Sirius radio, "claimed that lots of state and national Democratic party leaders still want him to run" for re-election. Asked if he would meet with Obama while the president was in New York, "Paterson gave a polite deferral." "I don't know if I'm going to be able to because right now I'm really almost unilaterally focused on this budget issue," he said, per Newsweek.

*Josh Kraushaar is on top of this strange story in NY-23, where the GOP candidate's campaign is in a war of words with a reporter after someone called the cops on him.

*OH Sen: Jennifer Brunner (D) raised only $147,204 in the third quarter but spent $200,759, the Columbus Dispatch reports. She has $112,000 on hand as of Sept. 30, while Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D) had $1.6 million on hand. Rob Portman (R) raised $1.3 million and has $5.14 million.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Clinton: "Why In The World Is This A Close Governor's Race?"

wjccorzine.jpgNEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- Former President Clinton made a passionate case for Jon Corzine's re-election, urging state voters to consider the governor's record and not cast their vote out of "frustration."

"Why in the world is this a close governor's race?" he asked, somewhat in disbelief.

He then outlined some of Corzine's achievements, saying among other things that New Jersey was the first state to implement an economic recovery plan.

"Why is this a close race?" he then asked again. "There's no governor in the country that you could stand up and read these statistics on. Not another one!"

The 42nd president, speaking before a packed gymnasium on the campus of Rutgers University, then answered his own question. He said the only reason the race is tight is because "people are in trouble," struggling in tough economic times.

"This should not be a close race, because the majority of people in New Jersey agree with Jon Corzine's policies, and because the results he has achieved in incredibly adverse circumstances would be envy of any state in America," he said. "But no one can think about relative well-being when everybody feels threatened. You have 13 days to go out and share some of the things I told you tonight with your friends and neighbors."

The event here was the second Clinton did with Corzine today, two weeks before voters go to the polls. And it's the latest stop on what has been a thank you tour of some early supporters of his wife's presidential campaign.

Clinton was greeted enthusiastically by the more than 2,000 on hand, many who were in diapers when he was elected 17 years ago. He tailored his message somewhat to that demographic.

"You cannot afford to allow one vote to be cast in frustration, in spite of what the facts are. And it is very, very important that the young people of New Jersey go out and vote," he said. "It's your future that's on the line."

Some of that enthusiasm for Clinton spilled over to Corzine, who in his introduction seemed somewhat taken aback by the chants of "Four more years."

"I'm not going to talk very long because I don't think you came to hear me," he said.

But urging students to vote, he invoked the close presidential election of 2000, outlining how this decade might have been different had Al Gore won instead of George Bush.

"Elections matter," he said.

The week of Democratic super-surrogates campaigning for Corzine continues Wednesday with a visit by President Obama to Hackensack.

VA Gov Poll: McDonnell +19

A new poll from SurveyUSA finds Bob McDonnell (R) leading the Virginia gubernatorial race by 19 points with 59% of the vote -- his highest tally in any general election poll (Oct. 17-19, 595 LV, MoE +/- 4%). The standout stat from the survey results is that 71% of independents support McDonnell.

McDonnell 59 (+5 vs. last poll, Oct. 5)
Deeds 40 (-3)
Und 1

McDonnell now leads by 10.9 points in the RCP Average for Virginia

Two other polls released in the last 24 hours found McDonnell's lead to be lower. A Clarus poll released this morning found McDonnell up 8 points, and a Christopher Newport University poll out last night had the Republican up 14 points.

Deeds Needs Sleeping Giants, Game Changers To Win

Here is my story today on Bill Clinton's visit to Northern Virginia on behalf of Deeds, and what the Democratic nominee needs to make a comeback in the polls:

The Commonwealth of Virginia is in the midst of a Democratic victory streak that polls show could come to a halt in two weeks. Bob McDonnell, the Republican nominee for governor, has led his Democratic opponent in every poll over the last four months, and currently stands ahead by more than 9 points in the RealClearPolitics Average.

For Creigh Deeds, a longtime Democratic state legislator, to win, his campaign knows it must reach the voters that turned Virginia blue in the 2008 presidential election for the first time in 44 years. Deeds will get some help from the man that won that election, President Barack Obama, on Oct. 27, and today he received an assist from the previous Democratic president, Bill Clinton.

Introducing Clinton at a Northern Virginia rally Tuesday was Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton fundraiser who was trounced by Deeds in the June primary. In his brief and energized remarks, McAuliffe acknowledged Deeds' poor poll positioning.

"It's going to be the greatest comeback in the history of American politics," said McAuliffe, overstating the point.

Read the rest here.

Daggett Radio Ad Calls Corzine A "Miserable Failure"

Independent New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Chris Daggett, targeted by Republicans as potentially being worse than Gov. Jon Corzine (D), is airing a new radio ad that calls the incumbent a "miserable failure."

"To change our state we have to change our governor," Daggett says in the one-minute ad. "Four years of Jon Corzine have been a miserable failure. Four more would be a disaster."

The ad focuses on tone of the race in recent weeks, saying "my opponents have denigrated our politics with personal attacks." He's no kinder to Republican Chris Christie than he is to Corzine, saying he "has absolutely no plan on to govern New Jersey or how to fix our problems. His campaign continues to go in one direction: backwards."

The campaign is also filming a new television ad this week, following up on a quirky debut that saw limited airtime last month. Spokesperson Tom Johnson said that the campaign is also counting on continuing free media that Daggett has benefited from since his first debate performance. Daggett is actually canceling appearances before voters to accept more media requests to keep that free media going, Johnson said.

All three candidates are set to participate in one more debate, on WBGO radio this Thursday.

Siena Poll: Paterson Numbers At Record Lows

The likelihood of Gov. David Paterson's (D) name appearing on a ballot next year appears to be increasingly unlikely as a new Siena poll (624 RVs, 10/14-18, MoE +/- 3.9%) finds his numbers show no signs of improvement. While Andrew Cuomo remains a surer bet for Democrats to hold the office in 2010, Rudy Giuliani has narrowed the gap against the attorney general in a hypothetical matchup.

Gubernatorial Primary Election Matchup
Cuomo 70 (+4 from last poll, 9/13-17)
Paterson 20 (unch)

Gubernatorial General Election Matchups
Giuliani 56 (+4)
Paterson 33 (-2)

Cuomo 50 (-2)
Giuliani 43 (+4)

Paterson 39 (unch)
Lazio 37 (+2)

Cuomo 66 (+2)
Lazio 21 (+3)

Paterson's job approval rating is just 19 percent, with 79 percent disapproving. An all-time high of 72 percent of voters say they'd prefer someone else in 2010. Meanwhile 49 percent of voters say they want Cuomo to run for governor, while 36 percent want him to seek re-election. "A potential Democratic primary is now less than a year away, and while a year is a political lifetime, the hill that the Governor must climb is incredibly steep," Siena's Steven Greenberg said.

Favorable Ratings
Paterson 27 / 61
Lazio 23 / 27
Cuomo 67 / 20
Giuliani 60 / 35

Now about one-third of voters say they want Giuliani to run for governor, while 21 percent want him to run for Senate, and 43 percent don't want him to run for either. After the jump, Siena's polling on the Senate race.

Senate General Election Matchups
Giuliani 53 (+7)
Gillibrand 36 (-2)

Pataki 46 (+4)
Gillibrand 41 (+2)

Favorable Ratings
Pataki 53 / 34
Gillibrand 28 / 26

Obama: Afghan Runoff Will Ensure Credible Process

President Obama this morning praised the announcement by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that he will accept the certification of the nation's election commission requiring a runoff vote, calling it "an important step forward in ensuring a credible process for the Afghan people which results in a government that reflects their will."

"While this election could have remained unresolved to the detriment of the country, President Karzai's constructive actions established an important precedent for Afghanistan's new democracy," Obama said. "The Afghan Constitution and laws are strengthened by President Karzai's decision, which is in the best interests of the Afghan people."

The announcement comes as the White House was preparing to announce a new military strategy, following weeks of meetings the president held with his so-called war council. Any announcement now will likely be delayed until the runoff takes place.

The rest of Obama's statement is after the jump.

I congratulate the Afghan people on the patience and resilience they have shown throughout this long election process. Given Afghanistan's recent history, it is extraordinary that they were able to overcome threats and violence to express their democratic right to choose their leader. Insecurity in the country prevented some Afghans from voting, but it is a testimony to the bravery of the Afghan people that so many of them did come out to vote in the first round under tremendously difficult circumstances.

I commend both the Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission for carrying out their mandates. Throughout this process, the United States has been interested above all in the strength and independence of those institutions, and the need for them to fulfill their mandate on behalf of all Afghans.

I congratulate President Karzai and Dr. Abdullah, who both earned the support of voters from across the country. I also commend all of the other Presidential candidates who made this such a vibrant campaign.

It is now vital that all elements of Afghan society continue to come together to advance democracy, peace and justice. We look forward to a second round of voting, and the completion of the process to choose the President of Afghanistan. In that effort, the United States and the international community are committed to partnering with the Afghan people.

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (14 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Christie +0.6)

*A new Monmouth poll has the race tied.

*The NY Times questions whether the U.S. Attorney's office was improperly working to help Christie's campaign.

*A pastor who recently endorsed Corzine got big bucks from the governor last year.

*Biden guaranteed a Corzine win if his voters turn out.

*As Corzine campaigns with Democratic stars, Christie says people are focused on taxes.

*The governor called for budget cuts as revenues came in lower than projected.

*Bobby Jindal raised money for Christie last night.

*A Star-Ledger columnist thinks Christie's urban strategy was a loser from the start.

*Stu Rothenberg still thinks there's a path to victory for Christie.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +9.5)

*McDonnell and Deeds will take part tonight in the final debate before the election, held at Roanoke College. Deeds will appear this morning with Bill Clinton and Terry McAuliffe in Northern Virginia.

*Two new polls find McDonnell leading by 8 and 14 points.

*Deeds is making a final push to awaken the Obama voters who so far are unexcited about him.

*Deeds handlers say it's "game over" if they're able to do that.

*Deeds says he'll be the "chief job recruiter" if elected governor.

*Virginia's First Lady is hitting the road for Deeds today to highlight his "strong record of investing in public education."

*The race is a 'snapshot' of the country as a whole.

*Both candidates are courting absentee voters.

Strategy Memo: Bill Clinton Day

President Obama today starts with morning briefings and then meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. He'll then hold a ceremony to honor a unit of 86 Vietnam veterans "in recognition of their exemplary service and personal sacrifice nearly four decades ago." He'll then travel to New York for fundraisers for the DNC and the New York 23rd District candidate, Bill Owens. But first, he'll stop at the Joint Terrorism Task Force Headquarters.

Meanwhile, it's Bill Clinton day on the campaign trail. He'll start his day rallying voters for Creigh Deeds in Virginia. Then he has several events in New Jersey on behalf of Jon Corzine's campaign.

Negotiators in the House and Senate will continue their push this week to merge the multiple bills in each chamber. House Democrats are awaiting scoring from the Congressional Budget Office, which will help decide what form the public option will take. In the Senate, they're still deciding whether to include the government-run health insurance option -- Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), and a group of White House aides, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, are merging two bills, only one of which includes a public option.

On the chamber floors, the House will consider a half-dozen suspension bills, and the Senate will begin consideration of the conference report for the Homeland Security Department Appropriations bill.

**Health Care
*A new ABC/Washington Post poll "shows that support for a government-run health-care plan to compete with private insurers has rebounded from its summertime lows and wins clear majority support from the public." Americans "remain sharply divided" about the overall package though.

*WSJ: "The idea of creating a government-run health-insurance plan, once on life support in the Senate, is making a recovery among Democrats writing health-care legislation. So far, no one is talking about a nationwide Medicare-like plan of the sort sought by many liberals, but several variations short of a national plan are being considered."

*"Two Senate bills that Democrats will try to merge this week symbolize the divide in the party over how to proceed on healthcare reform," The Hill reports. "They risk losing support with every move; a shift to the right costs votes on the left, and vice versa."

*"As the Democratic players huddle behind closed doors to hammer out a deal, tempers are a little shorter, tongues are a little looser, nerves are a little more frayed and egos are a little more bruised than during the usual course of Senate business," Politico reports.

*There is "a delicate balance that leaders are seeking to strike as they make final decisions about the shape of the House package and prepare to pivot to a whipping effort to secure support for it. Pelosi privately is talking up her desire to gather 230 votes for the measure to strengthen House Democrats' negotiating position in talks with the Senate, top Democratic aides said. But moderates worry that even a bare majority will come at the expense of Democratic majority-makers, lawmakers elected from Republican-leaning districts," Roll Call reports.

**President Obama
*"More stimulus is coming, but it just won't be called stimulus," Time reports. "Economic advisers, in concert with senior Democrats in the House and Senate, are planning additional piecemeal benefit extensions, tax breaks and other spending that could eventually add up to as much as $100 billion."

*WaPo: A senior White House official "teased" that while watching Obama's New York fundraiser today, they "should keep their antennae up to see whether the president weighs in a little further than Gibbs did on the New York mayor's race." Gibbs had delivered a tepid endorsement from the podium weeks ago.

*Few execs from firms that received funds from the TARP program, including some who raised money for Obama in '08, will be at his fundraiser today, the Times reports. "Part of the reason, several Democratic fund-raisers and executives said, is a fear of getting caught in the public rage over the perception that Wall Street titans profiting from their government bailout may use their winnings to give back to Washington in return. And the timing of the event, as the industry lobbies against proposals for tighter regulations to address the underlying causes of last year's meltdown on Wall Street, has only added to the worry over public appearances."

*Another entry on the White House enemies list. Washington Post: "The White House is moving aggressively to remove the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from its traditional Washington role as the chief representative for big business, the latest sign of a public feud ignited by disagreement over the administration's effort to overhaul the health-care system."

*Joe Biden's trip: The VP "is traveling to Central Europe to reassure leaders who are nervous that the Obama administration's courting of Russia means a reduced commitment to their security," AP reports.

*Michelle Obama will appear on "Jay Leno" this Friday.

**Congress
*"Blue Dog Democrats have been largely silent on financial regulatory reform as House leaders advance one of President Barack Obama's highest priorities," The Hill reports.

*Appointed Florida Sen. George LeMieux "is trying hard to seem anything but a placeholder. A month after being appointed to replace retired Sen. Mel Martinez, LeMieux has worked to inject himself into oil drilling, healthcare and Cuba policy issues. He has been an aggressive user of new media formats such as Twitter and YouTube, trying to cultivate an image as a tireless, knowing legislator," Miami Herald reports.

**Campaign Stuff
*FL-19: Less than a week after Rep. Robert Wexler (D) announced his retirement, "it appears that state Sen. Ted Deutch is heading to a coronation. At least one potential candidate -- legislator Jeremy Ring -- has stepped aside, Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter remains undecided and West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel sounds lukewarm. And Monday, Deutch announced that more than a dozen Palm Beach County politicians endorsed him," Miami Herald reports.

*An impeachment resolution will be filed this week against Gov. Mark Sanford (R). "Republican state Rep. Greg Delleney told CNN his resolution lists three charges against Sanford: dereliction of duty for leaving the state to visit his mistress in Argentina in June; attempting to cover-up the scandal; and bringing 'disgrace and shame and ridicule' on the state."

*Erskine Bowles, who lost to Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) in '04, again sang his praises yesterday, the News & Observer reports.

*Charlie Crist is now defending his appearance with Obama to sell the stimulus, the Miami Herald reports. "The man's the president of the United States of America. He's all our president. And when the president comes to your state for the first time after he gets elected, I'm a civil guy, and I'm going to try to do what I believe is right all the time. I don't agree with him on everything. I think that's pretty clear."

*PA Sen: Rep. Joe Sestak is playing up the outsider status in his bid to take down Sen. Arlen Specter (D), Delaware County Daily Times reports.

*Las Vegas Sun takes a second look at Harry Reid's re-election prospects.

*SC Sen: Attorney Chad McGowan jumped in the race yesterday to challenge Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), The State reports.

*MA Sen: Rep. Michael Capuano (D) won the backing of two of his congressional colleagues, Stephen Lynch and John Tierney, who are endorsing him over Attorney General Martha Coakley, Boston Globe reports.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

McDonnell Up 8, 14 In Latest Polls

With two weeks to go in the election for governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell leads by 8 points in the latest Clarus Research poll (Oct. 18-19, 605 LV, MoE +/- 4%). Despite the Deeds campaign's targeting of women as it focused on McDonnell's 1989 thesis, McDonnell leads among women 45%-44%, and Deeds holds just a 7-point lead in Northern Virginia, where Democrats must win by substantial margins to be victorious statewide.

McDonnell 49 (+7 vs. last poll, Sept. 15)
Deeds 41 (+4)
Und 10 (-10)

Another new survey by Christopher Newport University (Oct. 8-13, 506 LV, MoE +/- 4.4%) finds McDonnell with an even larger lead -- 14 points. However, twice as many voters in this poll remain undecided. Some one-in-five voters remain undecided in Northern Virginia, as are one-in-four women and African Americans.

McDonnell 45
Deeds 31
Und 22

Overall, McDonnell leads by 9.5 points in the RCP Average for Virginia Governor

Monmouth Poll Has N.J. Race Tied

A new Monmouth University poll for Gannett New Jersey has the state's gubernatorial race in a dead heat two weeks before voters head to the polls. Once again, it's independent candidate Chris Daggett whose numbers are growing, pulling both major party candidates below the 40 percent line.

General Election Matchup
Christie 39 (-4 from last poll, 9/24-29)
Corzine 39 (-1)
Daggett 14 (+6)
Don't Know 7 (-1)

Christie's lead in the RCP Average was just 0.8 percent through Monday.

Though the independent has gained the most, Monmouth polling director Patrick Murray says he may have hit his ceiling. Meanwhile, there are "warning signs" for the GOP.

"Democrats who flirted with Chris Christie earlier in the year have come back into the fold. It also looks like some GOP voters may have become disenchanted with their white knight. That's not a good sign for the Republican at this late stage of the game," Murray says in the poll release.

One criticism Christie has faced from both opponents is that he hasn't been specific enough about his budget proposals. It bears out somewhat in the numbers, as only 18 percent of voters say Christie has given a "clear" idea of his plans. That's nearly half as many as those who say Corzine has been clear on his plans for a second term. For the first time, voters lean toward Corzine, though by just a point, on who they'd trust most to handle the state budget. Corzine has also pulled to within one point of Christie on who would best handle jobs and the economy.

Most voters -- 72 percent, in fact -- characterize the race as being negative, and it shows as you look at the candidates' favorable ratings. Christie's rating is a net-negative for the first time in Monmouth's polling.

Favorable Rating
Corzine 37 / 51
Christie 40 / 41
Daggett 28 / 15

The telephone survey of 1,004 likely voters was conducted by telephone from October 15 to 18, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.

Biden: Specter's Stimulus Role Saved U.S. From Depression

Arlen Specter's vote for the stimulus bill proved to be one of his final acts as a member of the Republican Party. But at a fundraiser for the Pennsylvania senator tonight, Vice President Joe Biden said it was more significant than that.

"Without Arlen having convinced two of his Republican colleagues to change their vote and vote for the stimulus package, we would probably be in a depression," he said in Pittsburgh tonight. "The fact of the matter is we would not be about to even begin the kind of recovery that we are about (to begin), that we want, were it not for the fact that Arlen Specter put his career on the line. I owe him. The country owes him."

Specter returned praise, calling his former colleague "the most influential and powerful vice president in our history." He also dwelled on the stimulus vote, calling it the most important of the 10,000 he's cast in his decades in the Senate.

"When I cast that vote, I in effect joined the President Obama team," he said.

Biden joined Specter at the Allegheny County Democratic Committee's annual Kennedy Lawrence Dinner. He also spoke at a separate fundraiser specifically for Specter, who faces both a potentially tough primary and general election challenge in 2010.

In Turnout Push, Biden Guarantees Corzine Win

bidencorz.jpgEDISON, N.J. -- In the first of a series of visits from national Democratic surrogates, Vice President Joe Biden urged supporters of Gov. Jon Corzine not to grow complacent as the polls have tightened in New Jersey.

"A lot of people are now thinking this race is over, that Jon's won now," Biden said before a crowd of about a thousand supporters at Middlesex County College. "You and I know that when people start thinking like that, that's a disaster. ... This is just old-fashioned get out the vote now. You get out the vote, I guarantee you Jon's going to win."

The vice president, a colleague of Corzine's in the Senate for five years, focused his remarks here on the impact that the stimulus program has made in, according to him, preventing a recession from growing into a depression. He portrayed the governor as a key adviser and ally in developing the Obama administration's response plan, and contrasted that role to the stated view of Republican candidate Chris Christie that he would have rejected some stimulus dollars. Not doing so would have forced local governments to further raise property taxes, Biden said, touching on an important issue in the coming election.

"Where do these guys live?" Biden asked. "They're talking about cutting property taxes, and then talking about not taking stimulus money. Ladies and gentlemen, I know what all these guys are against. I always have trouble figuring out what they're for."

Acknowledging the difficult climate that governors like Corzine has encountered amid the economic crisis, Biden warned that some who might be inclined to support Corzine are hurting, and may back his rival. Instead, Biden argued, voters should "give the guy a chance to govern in good times" after serving in that difficult climate.

Corzine, signaling how the campaign here is trying to bring the national dynamic into the local race, also discussed the impact of the Recovery Act in his remarks while charging that Christie "would have sided with Sarah Palin and Mark Sanford."

"I'm proud to stand with President Obama and Vice President Biden. I'm proud to be their partner in building a better New Jersey and a better America, because their values are our values," Corzine said. "In less than two weeks, New Jerseyans will go to the polls again. And all the voters will face another choice: do we affirm the politics of yes we can, or do we turn the back on the direction we're taking and go back to the failed policies and bankrupt values of the past."

Both Corzine and Biden discussed health care, a major issue nationally but one that has become especially important in this race, as the Democrats have criticized a plan from Christie they say would drop mandates that require insurers to cover mammograms. Biden said Corzine was at the forefront of instituting these kinds of requirements on insurers in the state.

"The entire trend is trending in the direction that Jon has been fighting for and New Jersey has insisted on. And you have a guy running who says that now is the time to give the insurance companies more leeway in the name of making things cheaper," Biden said. "Ladies and gentlemen, I don't get it. He must be drinking from a different water fountain than you all are drinking from. I really don't get it."

Biden's visit is the first in a week's worth of events for Corzine with the party's top surrogates. Former President Clinton will rally voters Tuesday night, followed by a visit from President Obama Wednesday and Caroline Kennedy on Thursday. Christie's campaign has countered by planning intentionally low-profile events focused on taxes, jobs and the economy.

IL Sen Poll: Kirk, Giannoulias Tied

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) are neck-and-neck in the race to permanently replace President Obama in the Senate, according to a new automated poll from Rasmussen (Oct. 14, 500 LV, MoE +/- 4.5%).

Giannoulias holds a small lead in the money race with more than $2.4 million in the bank as of the end of September, while Kirk announced raking in $1.6 million in the 3rd quarter to bring his cash on hand to $2.3 million.

Also tested against Kirk were Democrats Cheryle Jackson, a former top aide to Rod Blagojevich, and Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman.

Kirk 41 - Giannoulias 41 - Und 13

Kirk 43 - Jackson 39 - Und 13

Kirk 43 - Hoffman 33 - Und 16

NY-23: Club for Growth Launches TV Ad

The Club for Growth is launching a $300,000 TV ad campaign tomorrow in New York's 23rd Congressional District in support of Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. The Club endorsed Hoffman in September for the Nov. 3 special election to replace departed congressman John McHugh (R), who was appointed Secretary of the Army.

Hoffman is running against Republican Dede Scozzafava and Democrat Bill Owens. Despite the endorsement of Scozzafava last week by former Speaker Newt Gingrich, conservatives have not jumped on board the GOP nominee's bandwagon, and instead support the more-conservative Hoffman.

"There's a stark contrast in the three candidates running in this race," Club for Growth president Chris Chocola, a former Indiana congressman, said in announcing the ad buy. "The two liberals, Dede Scozzafava and Bill Owens, support the Pelosi tax and spend agenda, while Doug Hoffman offers a fiscally conservative alternative based on lower taxes and limited government. Hoffman is the only candidate in the race who will fight for less wasteful spending, no more bailouts, and no tax hikes on hard working Americans."

A poll released last week by the Siena Research Institute found the three candidates all with legitimate chances to win. Owens led with 33 percent, followed by Scozzafava with 29 percent and Hoffman with 23 percent.

New Deeds Ad Touts Post Endorsement

Creigh Deeds has moved quickly to promote his endorsement from The Washington Post over the weekend. The Deeds campaign just released a 30-second TV ad that will air in Northern Virginia, most likely until the election, which is just two weeks away.

Still down 8.8 points in the RCP Average, Deeds has had a great few days -- along with the Post endorsement, the campaign announced that both President Obama and Bill Clinton will campaign with Deeds. Clinton is appearing with Deeds tomorrow in Northern Virginia, and Obama will stump for him Oct. 27 at a location that has yet to be released.

The Post's endorsement of Deeds in the primary played an integral role in his winning the June 9 contest over the better-funded and more well-known Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran. The Deeds campaign blanketed Northern Virginia with signs touting the endorsement, and also ran TV and radio ads.

CA Poll: Pelosi Not So Popular

As the head of the House of the Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a divisive figure in the national political scene, but a new poll finds unhappiness with her even in her home state and among members of her own party.

A Field Poll released over the weekend found just 51% of Democrats in California approve of the job Pelosi's doing as speaker, while 23% disapprove and 26% have no opinion. Overall, she has a 34% approval -- her lowest since May 2008 -- and 44% disapproval rating. Just 7% of California Republicans approve of the speaker, while independents are split.

The two months Pelosi was most popular were March 2007, just after becoming speaker, and March 2009, following President Obama's inauguration.

The state's two Democratic senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, have positive approval ratings, though both are under 50%. Boxer, who's up for re-election next year, has a 44% approval and 37% disapproval rating, while 46% approve of and 35% disapprove of Feinstein.

The survey was conducted of 509 registered voters from Sept. 18 to Oct. 5 with a margin of error of +/- 3.2%.

Bill Clinton To Stump For Deeds Tomorrow

Former President Bill Clinton will campaign for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds tomorrow in Northern Virginia, the Deeds campaign announced this morning. Deeds will be joined by both Clinton and Democratic primary rival, Terry McAuliffe, at a 12:30 p.m. event in McLean.

Clinton's appearance means Deeds will have the assistance of two Democratic presidents within a week -- the campaign announced over the weekend that President Obama will return to the state Oct. 27. Obama previously stumped and raised money for Deeds in early August, but some reports said the White House was wary of returning the president to Virginia where Deeds's standing in the polls has deteriorated.

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (15 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Christie +0.8)

*Endorsements: Home News Tribune for Chris Christie; Philly Inquirer and New York Times for Jon Corzine.

*Friday's debate: Christie was on the attack; Corzine defended his record; was Daggett the loser?

*Will national Democratic star-power help Corzine this week?

*Walter Shapiro thinks Christie blew a chance to win the race for the GOP.

*Daggett added another hurdle for the Republicans.

*Does Corzine's reticence to boast about himself make for bad politics?

*Republicans are looking for more transparency from Corzine's foundation.

*Restaurateurs back Christie.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +8.8)

*Obama is coming back to campaign with Deeds Oct. 27, and his clout will be tested Nov. 3.

*The Washington Post endorsed R. Creigh Deeds for governor.

*The Newport News Daily Press endorsed Bob McDonnell for governor.

*Dems see a path to victory for Deeds, but it's narrow.

*Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), who faced similar questions in 2006, says McDonnell's 1989 thesis is fair game.

*Deeds is struggling to hold together the Obama voters: blacks, young voters, women and independents.

*It's debatable how telling the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races will be for 2010.

*Terry McAuliffe says Deeds will win by 2 points -- and Jon Corzine will win by 7 in New Jersey.

Strategy Memo: A Week On The Trail

Good morning, Washington and beyond. President Obama has a light public schedule at the White House today. He meets with winners of the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge this morning. The afternoon includes meetings with senior advisors and then Sen. Kent Conrad, a centrist Democrat and key player in health care and other issues. Vice President Biden, meanwhile, starts with a breakfast meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Later, he presides over a Middle Class Task Force meeting before heading on the road for some politics: in New Jersey, he'll campaign for Gov. Jon Corzine, and then head to Pennsylvania for events with Sen. Arlen Specter and Allegheny County Democrats.

Later this week, Obama himself has a busy schedule of political events. Tuesday, he's in New York raising money for the DNC and Bill Owens, the Democratic candidate in New York's 23rd District special election. Wednesday, he's in the Garden State for Corzine. And Friday, he'll travel to Boston for an event with another embattled first-term governor, Deval Patrick, and then to Connecticut for a fundraiser for Sen. Chris Dodd.

Today on Capitol Hill: The Senate will debate the Medicare Physicians Fairness Act of 2009, though there will be no roll call votes today. On the other side of the Capitol, the House is not in session.

**Congress
*Rangel: "Politically vulnerable junior Democrats have been agitating with more senior counterparts to intervene -- either with Rangel or with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) -- in an attempt to ease Rangel out as Ways and Means chairman until the House ethics committee completes its review of the allegations against him, members tell POLITICO."

*Census: "A measure gaining traction in Congress would require the 2010 Census to include a question about citizenship, a change that would cost millions of dollars and possibly derail a full count," WSJ reports.

*Afghanistan: "Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, an Orange County conservative, and Rep. Barbara Lee, a Bay Area liberal, are about as far apart ideologically as anybody in Congress. Yet both oppose a troop increase in Afghanistan."

**Health Care
*"The White House is waiting for Congress to settle on a final health care bill, even though President Barack Obama has a clear preference in favor of at least one specific -- the much-debated public option, advisers said," per the AP. "Obama, however, will not demand that legislation include a government-run insurance plan intended to drive down costs through competition with private insurers, they said. Instead, the White House will let Congress work out the details required to get something passed."

*Health Care: "Senate Republicans, acknowledging they lack the votes to block a health care reform bill outright, have implemented a comprehensive political strategy to delay, define and derail."

*Pelosi and Reid: "While they may have different styles and different sets of Democrats to assemble behind separate proposals, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid have an identical goal: passage this year of a major health care overhaul. Achieving that end and enacting a top priority of President Obama will present perhaps the stiffest test yet of the skills of the two Congressional leaders. How they perform could influence not only the political fate of their own colleagues, but the standing of the administration as well," NYT reports.

*Headline of the day, from the AP: "Health Care Bill Makes Sen. Roland Burris Relevant."

*USA Today reports on how the SCHIP expansion is adding more pressure to state and federal budgets.

**President Obama
*"Top Obama administration officials sharply criticized Wall Street firms planning to pay big bonuses, pointedly contrasting the soaring profits some financial companies have recorded in recent days with continuing high jobless rates across the country," Washington Post reports.

*A White House report out this morning claims that the Recovery Act has saved 250,000 jobs in the field of education.

*On CNN, Rahm Emanuel continued to explain the White House critique of Fox News. "I suppose the way to look at it and the way the president looks at it and we look at is: it's not a news organization so much as it has a perspective. And that's a different take," he said.

*Talking Afghanistan, Emanuel said the U.S. is looking for a "credible partner" to work with in Afghanistan. Reuters: "The White House review of its Afghan strategy and recommendations on troop levels will continue with meetings next week and the following week, Emanuel added, saying on CNN it would be 'reckless' to decide on whether to send more troops without a thorough analysis."

*Bloomberg: "As Obama reviews U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan, meeting with generals, Cabinet secretaries and diplomats, he has received informal advice from those most touched by the eight- year conflict: the parents who sacrificed children, the spouses who lost their mates, and the soldiers who left behind limbs."

*Bono defended Obama's Nobel win in the Saturday Times.

**Campaign Stuff
*Dan Balz's take on midterms: the landscape "looks decidedly more favorable for Republicans than in either of the past two elections. ... Whether their expectations for 2010 are met or exceeded, however, depends on the confluence of the political forces that have been building since President Obama's inauguration." Those forces: "populist anger on the right, disaffection in the middle and potential disillusionment on the left."

*The Hotline has all of the Senate fundraising totals, including breakdowns of top spenders in the last quarter.

*"From July to September, the most vulnerable Senate incumbents once again socked away huge sums of money in an attempt to inoculate themselves against tough 2010 election challenges," including Harry Reid ($2M), Blanche Lincoln ($1.2M), Arlen Specter ($1.8M), and Republicans David Vitter and Richard Burr, who both pulled in more than $1M, Roll Call reports.

*"Fresh off a recruiting surge the likes of which it hadn't seen in several cycles, the House GOP now faces financially competitive primaries in many of the districts they will pursue in 2010," The Hill reports.

*Chapel Hill attorney Ken Lewis entered the North Carolina Senate race this weekend, the Raleigh News Observer reports. "Lewis is making his first try for political office, although he has worked in a number of campaigns, including last year's presidential effort of Barack Obama and the two Senate campaigns of former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt in the 1990s."

*Rep. Robert Wexler's (D-Fla.) resignation just adds to the political upheaval occurring in the Sunshine State, the Palm Beach Post reports.

*The St. Pete Times' Smith highlights a number buried in a recent Chamber of Commerce poll. "Among likely Republican voters, 44 percent back Crist for the Senate and 30 percent would vote for Marco Rubio. What a few months ago was a 30- or 40-point lead for Crist among Republican primary voters could be getting closer to single digits."

*The Courier-Journal's Gerth wonders if Rand Paul could really win in the Kentucky Senate race. "Right now, Paul's financial support is generally coming from the national network of donors that his father gathered during his presidential campaign last year. Paul's primary opponent, Trey Grayson, is making a big deal about the fact that 92 percent of his donors are from Kentucky. ... Paul seems to understand that he needs to fight the impression that his national support detracts from his electability in Kentucky."

*The New York Times accuses Rudy Giuliani of "stirring" racial fears while campaigning for Mike Bloomberg in New York City.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Second Senate Committee To Examine 'Czars'

The issue of White House policy "czars" is heading back to the Hill next week. The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee announced today it is holding a hearing Thursday to examine the history of czars in the White House, as well as their policy implications and oversight considerations.

This will be the second Senate hearing this month on the topic.

The hearing, titled, "Presidential Advice and Senate Consent: The Past, Present, and Future of Policy Czars," will feature the following witnesses:
--Tom Ridge, former Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Secretary of Homeland Security
--James Pfiffner, public policy professor, George Mason University
--Lee Casey, partner of Baker Hostetler law firm and former Attorney-Advisory Legal Counsel office at DOJ
--Harold Relyea, former Congressional Research Service specialist in American National Government

Obama's czars have been a hot topic of discussion this year, with Republicans criticizing the lack of advise-and-consent usually attached to top presidential appointments. However, some Democrats have joined in the criticism. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, has been outspoken on the topic and held a hearing last week.

Democrats argue that Bush had at least as many czars as Obama, so GOP criticism amounts to the pot calling the kettle black.

McCain Again Presses Obama To Pardon Boxer

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is not giving up his fight on behalf of Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion. McCain and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) sent a letter to President Obama today asking for a posthumous pardon for the boxer, who was imprisoned in 1913 for his romantic relationships with white women.

In the letter, McCain and King "say it is regrettable that neither Obama nor anyone from his administration responded to their first letter, sent in August," AP reports. "They say they hope Obama would be eager to erase what they call an 'act of racism' that sent the first black heavyweight champ to prison."

McCain and King introduced legislation in April calling on Obama to pardon Johnson. At the time, McCain said Obama "will be more than eager" and "the last person I have to convince." The Senate passed the resolution June 24 and the House followed suit July 29, both without the need for a roll call vote.

The White House had no immediate comment, according to AP.

Branstad Announcing Plans, Leads New Poll

At a 1 p.m. central time press conference today, many in Iowa expect former governor Terry Branstad to step down from his current post as president of Des Moines University, placing him one step closer to announcing a bid for a fifth term as governor. It's excellent timing for the announcement, as a new poll released today finds Branstad leading Gov. Chet Culver (D) by 5 points.

Culver is pushing back on the Branstad publicity today by releasing his first TV ad of the 2010 campaign.

The survey released today by Daily Kos/Research 2000 was conducted Oct. 12-14 of 600 likely voters and a margin of error of +/- 4%.

Governor
Culver 43 - Branstad 48 - Und 9

Culver 58 - Rants 28 - Und 14

The survey also found Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), running for a sixth term, leading four potential Democratic challengers -- all by double digits.

Senate
Grassley 52 - Krause 35 - Und 13

Grassley 51 - Conlin 39 - Und 10

Grassley 51 - Vilsack 40 - Und 9

Grassley 54 - Fiegen 31 - Und 15

**UPDATE: Branstad said this at his press conference, per the Des Moines Register: "I intend to retire as the president to fully explore the possibility of becoming a candidate for governor in 2010."

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (18 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Christie +0.8)

*New Polls: SurveyUSA has Daggett at 18 with Christie ahead, a New York Times poll shows Corzine with the edge.

*Corzine earned the least of all three candidates last year.

*Ben Smith reports that both major party candidates are trying to get NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg's endorsement.

*Corzine said that the Jersey and Virginia races won't be a reflection on Obama, but that Democratic wins could "enhance" him.

*Christie hit Corzine over reports his administration wanted to "stretch" the truth on jobs figures.

*The Corzine camp is hitting Christie for political trips on taxpayer dime.

*But in days, Vice President Biden and President Obama will use some taxpayer funds to travel there for Corzine.

*Strapped for cash, Daggett pays his employees as contractors to avoid payroll taxes and insurance costs.

*Tonight is debate number two.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +8.8)

*Fundraising numbers came in yesterday: Bob McDonnell raised $3.8 million in September; Creigh Deeds raised $3.5 million.

*McDonnell had $4.5 million in the bank as of the end of the month, while Deeds had $2.8 million.

*John McCain will make another pitch for McDonnell Saturday in Virginia Beach.

*Deeds will tour Northern Virginia alongside Tim Kaine this weekend.

*WSJ's Strassel says a Deeds loss will be a judgment on Big Labor as much as anything else.

*Deeds is getting some help from his wife for the first time.

Strategy Memo: Out West

President Obama wakes up on the West Coast, and will travel from San Francisco to Houston where he'll take part in a Points Of Light forum at Texas A&M, hosted by former President George H.W. Bush. The president will return to Washington tonight.

Vice President Biden, meanwhile, is in Nevada where he'll do a familiar dance: sell the stimulus impact to make it an official trip, but also raise money for Democrats at night to give it a political twist. This time it's not just any Democrat, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

It will be quiet on the Hill today, as the House meets in pro forma session and the Senate is not in session.

**President Obama
*At a San Francisco fundraiser, Obama said last night "he's determined to outlast his critics to move ahead on his agenda, including" health care and financial reforms, Bloomberg reports. "Some of our opponents think they are going to wear us down," Obama said. "I'm not tired, I'm refreshed."

*There's been some criticism of Obama's short New Orleans visit. But the Times-Picayune writes a generally positive editorial thanking him for the trip.

*Washington Post reports, "President Obama has not made significant progress in his plan to infuse federal courts with a new cadre of judges, and liberal activists are beginning to blame his administration for moving too tentatively on what they consider a key priority."

*The Detroit Free Press reports on the progress, or lack thereof, being made economically through the stimulus program. "Not many jobs -- 400 or so -- have been created or saved in the state so far by federal contracts under the stimulus bill, according to new data released Thursday by the Obama administration."

There was a greater impact in the South and Southwest, AP reports. "On paper, Colorado posted the largest increase of any state, more than 4,700 jobs, largely thanks to a contract to set up a call center to field questions about a change to digital cable. But the jobs were spread across multiple states, underscoring one of the many hiccups in the data. Like most contracting jobs, these were temporary, and most are already over. California, Florida, Tennessee and Texas also showed strong gains."

*As Obama weighs the advice of his war council, the Washington Times shines a spotlight on the shifting views of the conflict by National Security Adviser Jim Jones. "Jones declared as recently as 2006 that the Taliban had been tactically neutralized by coalition forces in southern Afghanistan. In the ensuing years, though, he has warned that the Taliban is expanding its reach while offering varying opinions on whether more U.S. troops are needed to fight them, a review of his public statements shows."

**Congress
*Washington Post: CBO has "given House leaders cost estimates for two competing versions of their plan to overhaul the health-care system, concluding that one comes within striking distance of the $900 billion limit set by President Obama and the other falls below it. House leaders have been working to lower the cost of the $1.2 trillion health-care package they offered in July." One plan, according to CBO, will cost $859 billion and the other at $905 billion.

*"In a week when the Senate Finance Committee passed a bill without a public option -- raising questions about whether that would prove the public option's last gasp -- progressives in both houses showed they won't go down without a fight. And Thursday proved that if President Barack Obama hoped the public option question would fade of its own accord, he probably won't get that lucky -- but will be forced to referee a compromise between liberals and moderates," Politico reports.

*"Sen. Lindsey Graham, a longtime friend and ally of Sen. John McCain, is now going a step further, Democrats say, and actually becoming the new McCain. Senior members of the majority party say the South Carolina Republican has displaced his Arizona mentor as the dealmaker on two big agenda items of the Obama administration: climate change and immigration," The Hill reports.

**Fundraising
*MA Sen: AG Martha Coakley is dusting her special election opponents in fundraising, pulling in $2.2 million since August. City Year founder Alan Khazei raised $850,000, Rep. Mike Capuano transferred $1.2 million and raised $343,000, and venture capitalist Stephen Pagliuca took in $205,000.

*PA Sen: Incumbent Arlen Specter has raised twice as much as Joe Sestak, and now has $8.7 million on hand.

*MO Sen: Roy Blunt (R) outraised Robin Carnahan (D), $2.3 million to $1.8 million.

*KY Sen: Jack Conway (D) raised $675,000, while Trey Grayson (R) raised about $643,000.

*AR Sen: Republicans aren't raising much in the race to challenge Blanche Lincoln (D).

**Campaign Stuff
*National Journal Political Insiders Poll: 44% of Democratic political operatives say enacting health care reform legislation similar to the House committee bills would most benefit their party in the 2010 midterm elections; 37% of GOP operatives say enacting no health care legislation would most benefit their party, with a close 35% saying the enactment of the House committee bills would help most.

*CO Sen: Lt. Gov. Jane Norton just lost a GOP primary opponent -- Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier announced yesterday he was leaving the Senate race to challenge Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) in the 7th District.

*Charlie Crist said he's unfazed by a dip in his poll numbers, the Miami Herald reports. As for losses in straw poll votes, he said: "I don't think much about it."

*The gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey and Virginia were not interested in having Sarah Palin come to their states to campaign. "But it's a very different story in the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary, a conservative slugfest between Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison," CNN reports. Dates have not yet been finalized for a Perry-Palin event, however.

*The Daily News notes former McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt's mixed view of Palin: she'd be a disaster in 2012, but helped the Republican ticket in 2008.

*IL Gov: Andy McKenna (R) has signed up Fred Davis as a media consultant. Davis was behind the McCain camp's "Celebrity" ads last year. "We don't do normal political stuff," Davis told Lynn Sweet. "We build excitement and buzz."

*PA Sen: Ned Lamont plans to endorse Rep. Joe Sestak (D) in what is a somewhat similar contest to his own 2006 race.

*OH Sen: Trailing her primary rival in the money chase, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (D) is dumping her finance team, the Dispatch reports.

**Stat of the Day: Gallup reports that the last two losing vice presidential nominees have -- for very different reasons -- seen their favorable ratings drop significantly since their peaks just after the 2004 and 2008 nominating conventions. John Edwards was at 59% in August 2004 -- since his extramarital affair hit the front pages last year, Edwards's rating is down to 21%. Sarah Palin was at 53% in August 2008, but is now down to 40% -- her lowest rating since roaring onto the political scene at the GOP convention.

**Sports Alert: The Phillies may have beaten the L.A. Dodgers last night, but 40% of baseball fans in America think the New York Yankees will win the World Series, according to new poll from Marist. Mike's Yankees play the L.A. Angels of Anaheim tonight.

**What To Watch This Weekend: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be on Encore Saturday night to discuss his films, and the cable station will air nine of his movies all day: Conan the Destroyer (8:30 a.m.); Red Sonja (10:15 a.m.); Kindergarten Cop (11:50 a.m.); Last Action Hero (1:45 p.m.); Batman & Robin (4:00 p.m.); Twins (6:10 p.m.); Eraser (8:00 p.m.); The Running Man (10:00 p.m.); The Terminator (11:45 p.m.).

--Kyle Trystad and Mike Memoli

Corzine: Victories In NJ, VA Could "Enhance" Obama

The Democratic cavalry is descending on New Jersey next week in a major push for Gov. Jon Corzine. Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton and President Obama will all hold rallies with the embattled Democrat on successive days starting Monday, as the party looks to energize supporters for a final 15-day push.

Corzine, speaking to small donors on a conference call with representatives from the Democratic Governors Association, called this support from the party critical as he looks to be the first Democrat re-elected in the state in 32 years. Victories in New Jersey and Virginia would also have national ramifications, he added.

"They will not reflect I think on the success of the president, but they will certainly enhance the president if we are successful," Corzine said on the call. "All elections have local character to them, but it will be an important message back to what is a very, very competitive Republican run, certainly in New Jersey and it sounds like in Virginia."

He cited the statistic that no party that holds the White House has been able to win in New Jersey or Virginia since 1985, and called his situation "ominously parallel" to then-Gov. Jim Florio's in 1993, a year after Clinton's election with a health care debate heating up in Washington.

"We lost that race by 25,000 votes. We are going to do everything possible that we don't have that outcome in 2009," he said.

Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late president, will also hold a rally in the Garden State next week, as will several other national Democrats. Corzine also said he was hopeful for yet another visit from Obama before Election Day.

As for his campaign, Corzine sounded optimistic while acknowledging a "very challenging environment" because of the economy.

"This is not a creation of Democratic governors or any governor, for that matter," he said. "But it impacts how people perceive issues, and makes it a challenge."

Since Labor Day, he says the campaign has shifted somewhat to a "values contrast" between him and who he notably referred to as his "leading opponent," a nod to the strong third-party candidacy as well. Now, he said, most public polls have the race a dead heat, with internal polling showing a "slightly more positive" view. This despite what the "non-stop" advertising from not just Christie but also the Republican Governors Association.

"The story is getting out, and we feel like we're organizing quite effectively for Election Day," he said.

DGA political director Raymond Glendening also gave a brief overview of the race in Virginia, saying Democrats are now in a "similar situation" to where they were before the primary in June. He said the Deeds campaign has been effectively capitalizing on the Bob McDonnell thesis. Given that polls show many voters still have not heard about the views the Republican expresses in it, Glendening argued that there is still progress to be made. He also said there is "room for growth" in Deeds' numbers in Northern Virginia, and that they are optimistic it will again break heavily for the Democrats by Election Day.

"There are a lot of advantages for us in the last two and a half weeks," he said.

McDonnell Raised $3.8M In September, Deeds $3.5M

Bob McDonnell (R) raised $3.8 million in September and had $4.5 million remaining at the end of the month, according to campaign finance reports due today, per the Virginia Public Access Project. That cash-on-hand total puts McDonnell nearly $2 million ahead of Creigh Deeds (D), who raised $3.5 million last month and has more than $2.7 million in the bank.

McDonnell currently leads Deeds in the Virginia gubernatorial race by 8.8 points in the RCP Average. Both Deeds and McDonnell have been ratcheting up their spending in the final weeks of the campaign, as polling has moved in McDonnell's direction. Deeds spent nearly $4.79 million in September and McDonnell dropped $4.36 million.

Despite the polling and fundraising deficit, the Deeds campaign released a statement citing their competitive month of fundraising.

"We are encouraged by the enthusiasm from grassroots Virginians and the investments of the Democratic National Committee," said Deeds campaign manager Joe Abbey. "Their support will help us as we move to turn out an unprecedented Democratic vote in 19 days."

The McDonnell campaign issued a statement critical of the Deeds camp's union donors and its strategy of highlighting McDonnell's 1989 graduate school thesis.

"Bankrolled by big national labor unions and national Democrats, we know Creigh Deeds will continue to run one of the most negative and divisive campaigns in Virginia political history," McDonnell campaign manager Phil Cox said. "The conduct of his campaign to date gives us no reason to expect him to address the issues Virginians are concerned about."

Through the end of August, Deeds had received a total of $2.2 million from the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Governors Association, as well as at least $1.5 million from national labor unions.

McDonnell has also received substantial financial support from national Republicans, taking in $3.8 million from the Republican National Committee and Republican Governors Association through the end of August. McDonnell is also attending a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., last night hosted by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

As Biden Signals Interest, Poll Shows Delaware Dead Heat

A new poll from Daily Kos of the Delaware Senate landscape shows a tight race in the offing should Attorney General Beau Biden (D), as expected, face Rep. Mike Castle (R).

General Election Matchup
Castle 46
Biden 45
Undecided 9

This is the first poll taken since Castle announced his run. The nine-term Congressman and former Delaware governor leads among independents 48-40, and also has the support of one-in-five Democrats. Biden leads among voters 18-29 (48-42 percent) and 30-44 (47-44 percent), and has a 10-point edge among women.

Biden, son of the vice president, just returned from a year serving in Iraq, and has said he is focused on spending time with his family and resuming work as Attorney General. But this morning, he said he signaled that he was indeed looking to run.

"Am I considering it? Absolutely," he said on Good Morning America. "But I'll be making that decision in due course."

In the event Biden does not run, the poll tested matchups featuring Ted Kaufman, appointed to replace Joe Biden this January; former Lt. Gov. John Carney, who is now running for Castle's seat; and New Castle County Executive Chris Coons:

Castle 49 -- Carney 41 -- Und 10
Castle 51 -- Coons 39 -- Und 10
Castle 51 -- Kaufman 37 -- Und 12

Favorable Ratings
Castle 64 / 30
Biden 65 / 29
Kaufman 36 / 26
Carney 41 / 19
Coons 34 / 8

The survey of 600 likely voters was conducted by Research 2000 from October 12-14, and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

FL Gov Poll: McCollum (R) +7

Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) has the early lead in the race to replace Gov. Charlie Crist (R), who is running for Senate. McCollum leads state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (D) by 7 points with more than a fifth of voters undecided, according to a poll released by the Florida Chamber of Commerce (605 LV, MoE +/- 4%). The poll was conducted by Cherry Communications, a GOP-affiliated firm.

McCollum 42
Sink 35
Und 21

Crist still enjoys a 62% job approval rating, though it's down 5 points since August. On health care, 52% said they disapprove of the "Obama supported health care plan" being debated in Congress; it must be noted, though, that 91% of respondents said they have health care, and the health care legislation before Congress is partially meant to insure the uninsured.

In fundraising, Sink doubled McCollum's take in the 3rd quarter, bringing in $1.6 million to McCollum's $853,000.

In Brief NOLA Stop, Obama Sells His Agenda

President Obama was only scheduled to be on the ground for about four hours in New Orleans today. But in his only town hall meeting there, he used a sizable portion of his remarks to talk not just about recovery efforts, but his administration's agenda as well.

"I know that, for a lot of you, the questions and concerns you have aren't limited to the Recovery Act and the efforts that are taking place here on the Gulf. You're also wondering about the recovery effort that's taking place throughout America," Obama told a very friendly audience at the University of New Orleans. "An economic storm hit about nine months ago, 10 months ago, caused this recession that is as bad as anything we've seen since the Great Depression. And obviously, it hasn't left behind the death and destruction that Katrina and Rita left behind. But it's caused incredible pain and hardship for communities all across this country."

Alluding to the promising signs on Wall Street, Obama said he's working for an economy "where our stock market's not only rising again, but our businesses are hiring again and people's incomes are going up again."

"If we want a recovery that lasts, if we want an economy that really grows again, we've got to rebuild stronger than before, just like you're doing here in New Orleans," he said. "We need to come together and meet the challenges that were with us before this recession hit."

He mentioned efforts toward renewable energy, improving education and, of course, health care as key projects.

"Let me say we're going to get it done," he said to applause. "Too many Americans -- too many Americans have waited too long for this to happen. We are going to pass health care reform by the end of this year."

The president then, as he has often at these forums, challenged critics, particularly those who say he has not done enough since taking office.

"You know, I listen to sometimes these reporters on the news and, 'Well, why haven't you solved world hunger yet?'" he said somewhat in jest. "I never said it was going to be easy. What did I say during the campaign? I said change is hard. And big change is harder."

To those who he said are "are trying to stand in the way of progress," he answered: "I'm just getting started."

Obama did send a strong signal that his administration was committed to helping the region recover, listing what it has done thus far and promising to do more.

"Even with all the action we've taken, all the progress we've made, we know how much work is left to be done," he said. "So I promise you this. Whether it's me coming down here or my Cabinet or other members of my administration, we will not forget about New Orleans. We are going to keep on working."

As a sign of how friendly the audience was, while Obama was greeted enthusiastically, the Louisiana's Republican Governor, Bobby Jindal, was booed when the president acknowledged him in the audience. Obama went out of his way to praise him, however, while making light of the negative response.

"If it makes you feel any better, I get that all the time," he told Jindal. "You know, even though we have our differences politically, one thing I will say is, is that this person's working hard on behalf of the state. And you got to give people credit for working hard."

Consider as well this closing question he took from a young boy in the audience: "Why do people hate you? ... They supposed to love you."

Obama said some of it is politics, but also talked about legitimate frustration on the part of many who are struggling in difficult times.

"When you're president of the United States, you've got to deal with all of that," he said. "You get some of the credit when things go good. And when things are going tough, then, you know, you're going to get some of the blame, and that's part of the job."

Pelosi Leaves No Doubts On Public Option

In her weekly press conference, Speaker Nancy Pelosi once again argued for the need for a government health insurance option.

"The need for a public option is very clear, and, as I have said, our House bill will have a public option," she said. With a mandate included and news that private insurance rates will increase next year, "the idea that we would have health insurance reform without a public option becomes less likely."

The Senate is currently blending the two bills passed out of the Finance and HELP committees, and Pelosi said the House will finish merging its three bills in the next week. Should the blended bills pass the House and Senate, they would be sent to a joint conference, followed by each chamber voting on one combined bill.

Pelosi demurred when asked if Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the lone Republican on the Finance Committee to support the Baucus plan, has more influence than the Speaker in the health care debate. Snowe has said that the kind of robust public option Pelosi prefers is one she could not support, and Senate Democrats and the White House want her support in order to make it a bipartisan bill.

"It is not about who has what kind of influence. It is the question of what is the best approach for America's middle class when it comes to affordability, and a public option, in our view, is what takes down cost," Pelosi said. "The robust public option that is being considered in the House saves $110 billion. How can you ignore that: $110 billion?"

Pelosi cited two polls released this week by CBS and Marist -- each found more than 60 percent of Americans approve of the public option. That statistic may come in handy not only in debate with Republicans, but in negotations with centrist Democrats in both chambers.

"We are also saying if you are going to mandate that people must buy insurance, why would you throw them into the lion's den of the insurance industry without some leverage with a public option?" said Pelosi.

Reid Launches First Re-Election Campaign Ads

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who faces a potentially tough race even as Republicans are yet to settle on one challenger, launched the first two television ads of his re-election campaign today. Both are upbeat, one-minute spots that invoke his clout as the Senate's top Democrat in making the case for another term next year.

In "Hard Work," Reid speaks to camera about his humble upbringing, as a narrator notes that Reid is working as Senate leader to "get Nevada's economy back on track." This spot is running in the Reno market.

In "Nevada Jobs," which is running in the Las Vegas market, MGM Mirage CEO James Murren testifies to Reid's efforts to save the City Center project. "There's nobody else who could have done it," he says. The spot ends, as does the first, with the slogan, "Harry Reid: Determination that makes a difference."

Reid raised $2 million in the most recent fundraising period, and has more than $8 million in the bank. Vice President Joe Biden is set to raise money for his former Senate colleague tomorrow in Reno.

Rasmussen: Christie, Corzine Dip As Daggett Climbs

A new Rasmussen poll, the second in just over a week, shows that the major party candidates are losing ground to independent Chris Daggett as Election Day nears.

General Election Matchup
Christie 45 (-2 from last poll, 10/5)
Corzine 41 (-3)
Daggett 9 (+3)
Not Sure 5 (+2)

There are more to the numbers, however. When voters are asked their first choice, the race is tied -- Christie 38, Corzine 38, and Daggett 16. Rasmussen finds that 57 percent of Daggett's supporters say they could change their minds before election day, accounting for the final numbers.

Voters tend to favor Christie when asked who they trust more on taxes, government spending and corruption.

Interestingly, only a third of voters correctly identified Daggett as the recipient of the Newark Star-Ledger's endorsement this weekend. That reflects to some degree the lack of overall media coverage of the race beyond newspapers; New Jersey has no major television market of its own, and New York and Philadelphia stations tend to give scant coverage to Garden State politics.

Favorable Ratings
Christie 46 / 51
Corzine 43 / 55
Daggett 45 / 27

President Obama, who comes to New Jersey next Wednesday to rally voters for Corzine, has an approval rating of 57 percent. That's 17 points better than Corzine's; 59 percent disapprove of Corzine's job performance. There might be another reason for Obama's visit, Rasmussen surmises:

While Christie's voters are a bit more certain to actually show up and vote at this point, Democrats have traditionally displayed a stronger get-out-the-vote effort on Election Day. Among voters who are certain they will vote and certain of how they will vote, Christie has an eight-point edge, 49% to 41%. That's one reason President Obama and other leading Democrats will be visiting the state in hopes of driving up turnout among Democratic constituencies.

The automated telephone survey of 750 likely voters was conducted October 14, and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

Sheila Johnson Cuts Ad For McDonnell

Sheila Johnson, co-founder of BET and part owner of the D.C.'s WNBA team, has cut a TV ad for Bob McDonnell, the Republican nominee for governor of Virginia. Johnson had endorsed previous Democratic candidates in the state, but she's throwing her name behind McDonnell in this race.

The ad highlights the fact that Johnson is a Democrat, but also focuses on her business acumen. "I know what it takes to start and grow successful businesses, and create jobs," Johnson says in the ad. "That's why I support Bob McDonnell for governor."

The ad is running in Northern Virginia and aims to cut into Deeds' Democratic base of support. Johnson has also campaigned alongside McDonnell in Hampton Roads, where a substantial number of African American voters who supported Barack Obama for president reside.

NY-23 Poll: Owens (D) Takes Lead

With assistance from Conservative Party nomninee David Hoffman, Democrat Bill Owens has erased a 7-point deficit from two weeks ago and taken a 4-point lead with 19 days to go in the special election race for the vacant 23rd District of New York, according to a new survey from the Siena Research Institute (Oct. 11-13, 617 LV, MoE +/- 3.9%).

Just 40% of Republicans back the GOP nominee, Assembly Member Dede Scozzafava, as 27% back the more-conservative Hoffman. Hoffman also leads among independents with 31%, while Owens draws 28% of the independent vote and Scozzafava gets 24%.

Owens 33 (+5 vs. last poll, Oct. 1)
Scozzafava 29 (-6)
Hoffman 23 (+7)

"With just 10 points separating the three candidates, this is likely to be a very tight - and fiercely fought - campaign right through election day, now less than three weeks away," said Siena pollster Steven Greenberg. "With one in six voters still undecided, who these undecided voters choose to support - if they choose to vote at all - will likely determine the outcome of this race. And given how tight the race is, this election may very well be won by a candidate with less than 40 percent of all the votes cast."

The three candidates are running to replace former congressman John McHugh (R-N.Y.), who left for an appointment as Secretary of the Army. McHugh had regularly won the district easily, with his lowest winning percentage (61%) coming in his first election in 1992. However, Barack Obama won the district by 5 points with 52% of the vote in 2008, after George W. Bush won by 4 points with 51% in 2004.

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (19 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Christie +1.0)

*It's getting "increasingly nasty."

*President Obama to campaign in Hackensack with Gov. Jon Corzine (D).

*Just in time. Corzine needs to re-energize those Obama voters.

*Bad news for the incumbent: unemployment up to 9.8% in New Jersey.

*Chris Christie (R) is still talking about spending.

*Chris Daggett (I) fought back against the RGA attacks, saying it was paid for in part by Christie's brother.

*Is Daggett the New Jersey Ventura?

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +8.8)

*After two tough election cycles, nobody imagined the GOP would be leading with three weeks to go.

*House Minority Leader John Boehner is hosting a fundraiser tonight in D.C. for McDonnell.

*Bet you didn't know about the influence of South Dakota on the Virginia gubernatorial race.

*Virginia isn't reliably red or blue, it's "swing-state purple."

*The state Dem Party chair says getting out the vote is key for a Deeds victory.

*The White House announced yesterday a rally with Corzine, but still no word on Deeds.

Strategy Memo: Back To New Orleans

Today, President Obama makes his first trip to New Orleans as president, his first since February of 2008. He'll meet with students at the Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School, and then hold a town hall meeting at the University of New Orleans. All told, he'll be in the city for just under four hours before flying to San Francisco, where he speaks at a DNC fundraiser. He overnights there. Vice President Biden is also raising money, in St. Louis for Senate candidate Robin Carnahan and in Minnesota for the DNC.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader John Boehner will give their weekly press conferences this morning, though Boehner will be joined by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the topic du jour is health care.

The House will consider the conference report of the Homeland Security Appropriations Act, and may begin consideration of the Bay Area Regional Water Recycling Program Expansion Act, a bill that has caused some friction between California congressmen. The Senate will vote today on the conference report for the Energy and Water Appropriations Act, and may move to begin consideration of two other appropriations conference reports -- Defense and Homeland Security.

**Health Care
*"One day after the Senate Finance Committee approved a measure without a 'public option,' the question on Capitol Hill was how President Obama could reconcile the deep divisions within his party on the issue. All eyes were on Senator Olympia J. Snowe, the Maine Republican whose call for a 'trigger' that would establish a government plan as a fallback is one of the leading compromise ideas," New York Times reports.

The Times also reports on the meeting between senior White House officials and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the chairmen of the Finance and health committees. "Participants said the discussion focused broadly on issues like whether to create a government-run insurance plan and whether to provide more generous subsidies to help people buy insurance."

*Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) "signaled a willingness to work with Democrats on health-care legislation, adding momentum to President Barack Obama's push for a bill despite a move by Republican leaders to slow down the debate," WSJ reports. "Ms. Collins said she would "work with members on both sides of the aisle" to craft bipartisan legislation."

*"If Democratic leadership hoped Republican Olympia Snowe's decision to cross party lines Tuesday would inspire her fellow middle-of-the-roaders, they were mistaken. And the moderates' reluctance to commit showed just how far health reform still has to go, despite getting a boost from Tuesday's Senate Finance Committee vote," Politico reports.

*"With negotiations on a final Senate health care bill now under way, Democrats are jockeying to have their priorities included in the legislation and looking to the players in the room -- some of whom have their own concerns -- to protect their interests," Roll Call reports. Sens. Harry Reid, Max Baucus and Chris Dodd are merging the bills alongside some senior White House officials. "Reid is trying to maintain an exclusive guest list. But Senators said they are intent on being heard before a final bill is brought to the floor, possibly the week of Oct. 26."

**President Obama
*Obama in New Orleans today. The Times-Picayune: "From wheels-down to wheels-up, the stopover will clock in at three hours and 45 minutes, enough time to visit the only school to reopen in the Lower 9th Ward since Katrina, conduct a town hall at the University of New Orleans, and grab a to-go lunch order from Dooky Chase."

*"New cracks are opening in the relationship between President Barack Obama and his liberal allies in Congress over his desire to continue Bush-era tactics against terrorism and his opposition to protecting reporters from revealing their sources in national security cases," AP reports.

*Los Angeles Times reports that "officials at the Pentagon and National Security Council have begun developing 'middle path' strategies" on Afghanistan "that would require fewer troops than their ground commander is seeking. Measures under consideration include closer cooperation with local tribal chiefs and regional warlords, using CIA agents as intermediaries and cash payments as incentives."

*Now that she's out of the political realm, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enjoys a higher favorable rating than Obama, Gallup reports. "The president's current favorable rating of 56% is down 22 percentage points since January. Over the same time span, Clinton's favorable rating has changed little, and now, at 62%, it exceeds Obama's."

The best quote from Hillary Clinton's interview with ABC, talking about her first conversation with then-Pres.-elect Obama. "He said, I want you to, uh ... be my Secretary of State. And I said, oh, no you don't. (Laughs)."

*Washington Times reports on nagging vacancies at Treasury. "Almost nine months after the Obama administration took power, more than half of the 33 highest-level Treasury Department posts are still vacant. Among those nominated by the White House but still awaiting Senate confirmation are the undersecretaries for international and domestic finance and the assistant secretaries who oversee international development, financial markets and tax policy."

*Unions are ratcheting up the pressure on health care, Wall Street Journal reports. "In ads in major newspapers, unions said a government-run plan is needed to provide competition for big insurers and keep costs down. The unions oppose taxing health-care benefits because they fear the expense will be passed on to members who have forgone higher wages in return for richer health-care packages."

**Fundraising
*Chris Dodd raised $900,000 this quarter, which was less than the haul of one of his potential GOP challengers, Rob Simmons.

*Houston Mayor Bill White, running for U.S. Senate, raised $1.5 million in the quarter.

**Campaign Stuff
*In an interview with "Good Morning America," Beau Biden said he's "absolutely" considering running for his father's old Senate seat. But he said he's focused now on resuming work as Delaware attorney general and spending time with family.

*Marco Rubio has won yet another straw poll in the Florida Senate GOP primary. This time it was by a vote of 90-17 in Palm Beach County. Tampa Tribune: "Rubio has already won straw polls of county Republican parties in Bay, Gilchrist, Hernando, Highlands, Jefferson, Lee and Pasco counties, many by lopsided margins -- 75-1 in Highlands, for example. ... Palm Beach is the first big urban county in which the Republican Party organization has held such a vote. Large, urban counties should be Crist's strong points."

*Christie Vilsack, wife of the former governor, sounds like she's considering a Senate run against Chuck Grassley. Des Moines Register: "Vilsack told WHO TV's Dave Price yesterday that she has talked with people about running for Senate next year, but stopped short of saying when we might hear whether she is the mystery candidate Democrats have been buzzing about for the past few weeks." Vilsack said: "I think that I am well-qualified to run. I think I'm qualified to serve. So, time will tell."

*Elsewhere in Iowa, former Gov. Terry Branstad plans to address Des Moines University, with speculation he may announce another gubernatorial bid.

*Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias huddled at the White House to talk about his Senate candidacy, the Sun-Times reports. "After an ill-fated attempt to recruit Attorney General Lisa Madigan into the contest, the White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the Obama team would not take sides in the Illinois Democratic primary."

*George Will breaks down the possibility of a Republican wave in 2010: "The possibility of Republican gains, especially in the Senate, helps explain why Obama is in such a rush to remake the nation and save the planet. His window of opportunity could be closing."

*You either "adore or loathe" Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), New York Times reports. That's one reason two Democrats have already announced they're taking her on: Maureen Reed and State Sen. Tarryl L. Clark.

*Voting (or lack thereof) controversies are dogging CA Gov candidate Meg Whitman and Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, San Jose Mercury News reports. "The voting controversy was sparked by a Sacramento Bee story last month that suggested Whitman did not register to vote until age 46. That claim has since been debunked, but there's no doubt she has a checkered voting record. As infrequently as Fiorina has voted this decade, her voting record in the decade before she moved to California is even worse."

*"If there's any incumbent who might be sunk by the 'D' next to his name, it's Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.). Even Republicans admit the popular new congressman has stayed on track through his first year and a half in a tough GOP-leaning district, so the party is counting on nationalizing the race as its key to victory in 2010," The Hill reports.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Team Romney Says Lazio Fundraiser No Rudy Snub

PolitickerNY has the invitation for a fundraiser in New York next Wednesday for gubernatorial hopeful Rick Lazio, hosted by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Lazio, the 2000 GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, is currently the party's only candidate in the 2010 Empire State race. But Rudy Giuliani, a Romney rival for the 2008 presidential nomination, is also considering a run. The former New York Mayor is said to be weighing his options, with a major factor being whether Gov. David Paterson or Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is the Democratic nominee.

Eric Fehrnstrom, a Romney spokesperson, said not to read that much into the event.

"Rick Lazio was very helpful in raising money for Mitt Romney's campaign and he's now returning the favor," he tells RCP.

"Rick is seeking support from all quarters and is thankful to have Governor Romney's help with his campaign for sweeping, fundamental change in New York state," Lazio spokesman Barney Keller said.

Henry Kissinger and Dan Quayle are listed as honorary co-chairs of the event, with other guests heavy on Wall Street pedigree. President Obama will be in New York the day before raising money for Democrats.

RGA: Daggett Worse Than Corzine

We noted yesterday the radio ad that the Republican Governors Association launched in New Jersey targeting independent candidate Chris Daggett. Tomorrow, the RGA brings that attack to television with a 15-second spot arguing that the former Republican would be worse than Gov. Jon Corzine (D), who the organization says has been a failure.

For its part, the DGA is supporting a 527 group behind this ad on the issue of mammogram coverage. A $200,000 buy will keep this spot running in the New York market on TBS, BET, TNT and "women's channels," per a Democratic source.

Former Aide Challenging Rangel

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) is already dealing with an ethics committee investigation and now faces trouble in his quest for re-election next year. Vince Morgan, a former special assistant and campaign director to Rangel, told the New York Times that Rangel "is going to have to take responsibility" for his financial dealings, which have been under scrutiny for more than a year.

"He got caught with his hand in the cookie jar," said Morgan, who hesitated to challenge Rangel. "I loved him ... He is very affable and he is a warm person, which is why I am hesitant about bad-mouthing him."

Rangel has represented the 15th District of New York -- Harlem -- since his first election in 1970. Chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, part of the inquiry into Rangel is his failure to accurately list all of his assets on his tax returns.

Morgan worked for Rangel from 2001-2003.

Obama To Campaign For Corzine Next Week

The Corzine campaign has announced that President Obama will visit the Garden State again on his behalf next week.

Gov. Jon Corzine (D) will welcome Obama on Wednesday, October 21, in the key battleground of Bergen County. The rally will be held at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Hackensack. Doors open at 3 pm.

The day before, Obama is scheduled to be in New York at a fundraiser for the DNC and New York 23rd Congressional District candidate Bill Owens.

More than 17,000 people attended an Obama-Corzine rally in Holmdel on July 16.

Two Reids, One Stone

The Republican Governors Association captures the difficult political road ahead for both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his son, Rory, as both run for office in Nevada next year. As we noted in Strategy Memo, the younger Reid has now officially kicked off his gubernatorial campaign. Here's the RGA's welcome:

"Senator Reid has complete control of the Democratic Party in Nevada, so we'd like to thank him for clearing the field for his son to be the Democratic nominee," said RGA communications director Mike Schrimpf. "Harry Reid doesn't do many favors for Republicans, but we could not have asked for a better present than having two Reids on the ballot instead of just one."

"Harry Reid running the United States Senate and his son running the State of Nevada would send most Nevadans running for cover," Schrimpf said. "The only thing more shocking than the lack of political strategy involved in this decision, is the utter arrogance it took to make."

Democrats have said Nevada is one of their top pick-up opportunities in 2010. Incumbent Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) faces several primary challengers.

Rep. Wexler Stepping Down From Congress

Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) announced this morning he is stepping down from his Congressional seat to accept the position of president of the Center for Middle East Peace, a D.C.-based think tank aimed at ending the Arab-Israeli conflict. Wexler announced the decision this morning at his Boca Raton office, and his exit from Congress is effective as of January 2010.

"Taking over as president of the Center for Middle East Peace offers me an unparalleled opportunity to work on behalf of Middle East peace for an important and influential non-profit institute," Wexler said. "After much discussion with my family, I have decided that I cannot pass up on this opportunity."

Wexler, one of the more liberal members of Congress, was an outspoken surrogate of Barack Obama last year during the presidential primaries and general election campaign, and he served as the campaign's Middle East adviser. He currently serves as the chairman of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe and sits on the Middle East subcommittee.

The congressman is in his seventh term representing the 19th District of Florida -- a long and skinny stretch in Palm Beach and Broward counties, landlocked by the 22nd and 23rd districts. It has one of the highest percentages of Jewish residents, and is firmly Democratic. President Obama won 66% of the vote in 2008, the same as John Kerry in 2004 but down from Al Gore's 73% in 2000.

"I am proud that everyday I have sought to advocate for and provide a voice to my constituents: whether it was fighting for a legitimate vote during the 2000 election, working toward enacting a voter verified paper trail in Florida, or advocating for health care, education, Social Security and countless other issues," said Wexler.

Gov. Charlie Crist (R) must now set a special election date to fill the vacant seat. While the winning party is in little doubt, there will surely be a group of ambitious Democrats lining up to run. They include state senators Jeremy Ring and Ted Deutch, West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel, Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter and former Broward County Commissioner Ben Graber, according to the Miami Herald.

Poll: 'Staggering' Numbers For Specter

A new Susquehanna poll finds that only 31% of Pennsylvania voters think Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) deserves to be re-elected, a "staggering" and "near fatal" number according to pollster Jim Lee (Oct. 7-12, 700 Rv, MoE +/- 3.7%). That's down from 38 points in February, prior to Specter's switch from the Republican Party. Among Democrats, 45% say it's time for someone else to represent the state in the Senate instead of the five-term senator

Specter still leads his Democratic primary challenger, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), by 28 points, but is running even with his general election opponent, former Rep. Pat Toomey (R).

Specter 44
Sestak 16
Und 22

Specter leads by 20.2 points in the RCP Average in the Democratic Primary

Specter 42
Toomey 41
Und 12

Specter leads by 0.2 of a point in the RCP Average for the General Election

In the gubernatorial election, in which term-limited Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.) is barred from running, Attorney General Tom Corbett (R) leads Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) by 36% to 13% margin in the GOP primary, with 50% undecided. The Democratic primary was not tested.

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (20 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Christie +1.0)

*A new Q poll has it down to 1.

*Christie is facing heat for allegedly spending excessively on travel as the U.S. Attorney.

*Meanwhile, Corzine's office urged state agencies "to orchestrate events showcasing job creation -- even if it is 'a stretch.'"

*Daggett again invoked the '73 Mets in an interview with CBS.

*The RGA is going after Daggett.

*On "Morning Joe" today, Christie said Daggett can't win, and chalked up his shrinking lead to Democrats coming home to Corzine.

*Christie and Daggett debated with an empty chair between them; Corzine skipped a Gannett forum.

*Mario Cuomo campaigned with Corzine last night.

*NewsHour looked at both gubernatorial races.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +8.8)

*A Rasmussen poll out yesterday found McDonnell leading by 7 points.

*Both Deeds and McDonnell say they're the one who will bring the jobs.

*Deeds' "Hope and Opportunity Tour" stop in Southside was actually a tour of his campaign surrogates. A dozen confused supporters showed up in Ringgold to see the state Democratic Party chairman.

*Bob Holsworth reports that the Deeds campaign at least knows who they need to get to the polls Nov. 3 to win.

*UVA's paper reports on confusion and apathy in Charlottesville.

*The candidates are now finger-pointing over the state's move to a private IT system.

Strategy Memo: Merging Of The Bills

President Obama will hold a morning meeting with his war council as the White House closes in on a final Afghanistan strategy announcement. Vice President Biden will join that meeting after a sit-down with General David Petraeus. Later today, Obama heads to Virginia with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to tour a project using stimulus dollars. Back at the White House, Obama will then sign an executive order reinstating a commission on Asian American and Pacific Islanders, and observe the Diwali "Festival of Lights" in the East Room. Tonight, he'll attend a fundraiser benefiting the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Following the Senate Finance Committee's 14-9 approval yesterday of the Baucus health care bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will lead a group including Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and White House reps in merging the Finance and HELP committee bills. The group meets today for the first time.

Reid will also testify this morning at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on legislation he co-sponsored with Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would repeal a federal antitrust exemption for health insurance and medical malpractice insurance companies. Consideration of the Energy & Water Appropriations bill will begin today on the Senate floor.

The House Financial Services Committee is beginning its push today as part of Obama's efforts to regulate the financial institutions that caused last year's economic collapse. On the floor, the House will vote on as many as 19 suspension bills, including one "recognizing the 40th anniversary of the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas."

**President Obama
*AP reports that Gen. Stanley McChrystal "is asking for up to 80,000 more American troops even as he warns that rampant government corruption there may prevent victory against the Taliban and al-Qaida, according to U.S. officials briefed on his conclusions."

"From the moment they took office," VP Biden has been Obama's "in-house pessimist on Afghanistan," the New York Times reports. "It was a role that may have been lonely at first, but has attracted more company inside the White House as Mr. Obama rethinks the strategy he unveiled just seven months ago."

Politico reports that Sen. Dan Inouye seemed to "fully embrace" the McChrystal recommendations. Chair of the Appropriations Committee "who personally manages the annual defense appropriations bill, has been openly skeptical of what can be accomplished with military might in Afghanistan. To this degree, his new statement marks a change and a more determined tone to press ahead."

*Reuters: "Obama remains committed to ending 'unfair loopholes' and tax breaks for international corporations, but congressional tax writers and others doubt that will happen without broader reforms, such as cutting the top corporate tax rate."

*Washington Post profiles the chaplain Camp David's chapel, where Obama has frequently worshiped since becoming president.

*The White House has announced that Biden will hold a recovery act event in Reno, Nevada, on Friday, a trip that will also include a fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

**Congress
*The Baucus Bill passed through committe on a 14-9 vote yesterday. "The package would spend $829 billion over the next decade to finance the biggest expansion of Medicaid in 40 years and to provide federal subsidies to 18 million people who otherwise would be unable to afford coverage. It would tax high-cost health plans, impose new penalties on employers and slash future spending on Medicare, the federal insurance plan for people older than 65," Washington Post reports.

*Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the only Republican to support the Baucus bill, said this morning on CBS' 'The Early Show' that "she could foresee a government-run plan that would 'kick in' if private insurers fail to live up to expectations. Snowe emphasized that she still opposes the so-called public option, but said she also believes the private insurance market must yield a system in which health coverage becomes more widely accessible and affordable," AP reports.

*Now comes the merging of the HELP and Finance committees' bills. "Mr. Reid will gather the group in his office on the second floor of the Capitol for its first official meeting on Wednesday. The group includes Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and the Finance Committee chairman; Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, who was acting chairman of the HELP committee when it passed its health care bill; and representatives of the White House," New York Times reports.

*Wall Street Journal identifies six senators to watch in the next phase of health care negotiations: Snowe, Susan Collins, Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu, and Roland Burris, called a "wild card."

*"Up first," in the House Financial Services Committee's effort to go after those that caused last year's economic collapse, "is a measure that for the first time would regulate privately sold derivatives like credit default swaps, the complex contracts that brought down Wall Street banking house Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and nearly toppled insurance giant" AIG, AP reports.

*The strains of the ongoing House ethics committee probe into Rangel's finances -- coupled with escalating attacks by the GOP -- are wearing on the 79-year-old Korean War hero, people close to him say. And some of Rangel's friends and colleagues are starting to worry," Politico reports.

**Fundraising
*Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulls in $2 million, the Review-Journal notes. He has $8.7 million in cash on hand. Danny Tarkanian, one potential rival, raised $271,331.

*CT Sen: Linda McMahon (R) spent $2.05 million and has $1.45 million cash on hand. She loaned $3 million to the campaign and made $496,000 in in-kind contributions.

Rob Simmons (R), another Dodd challenger, raised $970,000.

*SC Gov: Nikki Haley, a former ally of Gov. Mark Sanford, "underperformed" in the most recent fundraising period, as did Democrat Jim Rex. Haley raised nearly $148,000 and has $273,000 on hand, "badly trailing" rivals Rep. Gresham Barrett and state Attorney General Henry McMaster, The State reports.

*Politico reports, that NY-23 GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava "is running dangerously low on campaign cash, according to several GOP sources familiar with her spending and fundraising. ... Scozzafava supporters blame her cash crunch on the Washington Republican establishment, which they contend has not embraced her campaign enthusiastically. They specifically point to Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, whose committee has been virtually absent from the race and hasn't yet donated any money, with just weeks to go before the Nov. 3 special election."

**Campaign Stuff
*Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.), who announced his own health care proposals Tuesday, compared the government to GM at an event last night, the Star Tribune reports. "The history of GM is an instructive story in how success can breed failure; how being the biggest and the best can lead to arrogance and an inability to adapt. ... Does any of that sound familiar as it relates to public policy in the United States of America in the year 2009? Are there any parallels to be drawn from the decision-making that you have seen in Washington, DC, not just now but over the last several decades regardless of which party has been in power?"

*Gov. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.) says that if John Ensign resigns, he would not appoint his top potential rival for re-election, Brian Sandoval, to the seat. Nor would he appoint himself, he tells the Las Vegas Review Journal. Meanwhile, Democrat Rory Reid kicked off his campaign with a focus on policy.

*More embarrassing revelations in Kentucky for Democrats, per the Herald-Leader. Senate candidate and Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo said on an audio recording that his relationship with Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is like "being married to a whore. What can you do?"

*Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison still is no closer to resigning to pursue her gubernatorial bid full time. Per Politico, she told a Texas radio station: "I want to stay and fight with every bone in my body against a government takeover of health care."

*In a New York mayoral debate last night, Democrat Bill Thompson accused Mayor Michael Bloomberg of buying support.

**Sports Alert: Happy 99th Birthday to John Wooden, the famed UCLA basketball coach who won 10 national championships in 12 years.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Q Poll: Christie +1

There seems to be a growing consensus among pollsters that the New Jersey governor race is a dead heat. A new Quinnipiac poll out this morning also puts Chris Christie's lead at just one.

General Election Matchup
Christie 41 (-2 from last poll, 9/23-28)
Corzine 40 (+1)
Daggett 14 (+2)
Undecided 5 (-1)

Christie's lead in the RCP Average is also now at just 1 percent.

With independent candidate Chris Daggett increasingly seen as a potential spoiler, it's noteworthy that only 39 percent of his supporters say they're mind is made up, compared to 80 percent of Christie voters and 75 percent of Corzine backers. Among all Daggett voters, 40 percent say their second choice is Christie, while 33 percent say Corzine and 13 percent say they would not vote at all.

"Historically, third party candidates fade on election day. Apparently, voters agree," Quinnipiac's Maurice Carrol says in the survey release. "Very few of his backers are committed ... and 77 percent of all voters say he has no chance of winning."

Corzine's favorable rating continues to show improvement, while Christie's unfavorable number again dips slightly. Though other polls have shown him with a better name ID, Quinnipiac finds that 73 percent of voters say they haven't heard enough about Daggett to form a strong opinion.

Favorable Ratings
Christie 38 / 40
Corzine 40 / 53
Daggett 19 / 7

Any Corzine growth in recent weeks has been attributed in part to his attack on Christie over the issue of mammogram coverage. But the Q poll found that only 34 percent of voters though this was a legitimate issue, while 60 percent called it an unfair attack.

Corzine's job approval rating is now at 39 percent, with 56 percent disapproving. Last month the split was 36 / 58.

The survey of 1,264 likely voters was conducted October 7-12, and has a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent.

Obama: Snowe Vote Shows "Political Courage"

President Obama tonight praised the Finance Committee for voting out health care legislation, but signaled that a new fight is just beginning.

"This bill is not perfect, and we have a lot of difficult work ahead of us," he said in a brief Rose Garden statement. "There's still significant details and disagreements to be worked out over the next several weeks as the five separate bills from the Senate and the House are merged into one proposal."

Still, the Finance Committee's vote represents a "critical milestone" in his reform effort. He portrayed the Finance bill as a bipartisan one that includes Republican ideas, even though just one Republican voted for it. That Republican, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, again drew special praise from the president.

"I want to particularly thank Senator Olympia Snowe for both the political courage and the seriousness of purpose that she's demonstrated throughout this process," he said.

For the celebrations in some corners today, Obama cautioned that now is "not the time to pat ourselves on the back," but instead "to dig in and work even harder to get this done."

"In this final phase, I hope that we will continue to engage each other with the spirit of civility and seriousness that has brought us this far and this subject deserves," he said.

RGA Targets Daggett In Radio Ad

In a sign that Republicans are concerned about the impact Chris Daggett is having on the GOP's chances to win the New Jersey governorship, the RGA is launching a radio ad in the Garden State that targets the independent candidate, saying his tax plan "sounds like the Corzine plan, but worse."

"So what about Chris Daggett? He's been in the news," an announcer says mischievously. A Daggett administration would lead to toll increases and "massive sales tax increases," the spot claims.

"Daggett actually wants to tax you for getting your hair cut, your dry cleaning -- you name it," he continues. "Newspapers say Daggett's property tax plan is pretty much the same plan that Corzine kicked up. And that was a disaster."

The ad also promotes Christie's plan to cut spending and taxes, and "make New Jersey a great place again." Listeners are directed to the RGA's Web site, JerseyPays.com.

Publicly the Christie camp has downplayed Daggett. Christie himself told the Newark Star-Ledger that "his candidacy is one that's an amusement," and said bluntly: "He's not going to be governor. ... I'm not really worried about Chris Daggett in the least." Engaging Daggett in this way would seem to show that privately, Republicans think otherwise.

VA Gov Poll: McDonnell +7

A new Rasmussen survey finds Bob McDonnell (R) leading by 7 points with three weeks to go in the Virginia gubernatorial race (Oct. 12, 750 LV, MoE +/- 4%).

McDonnell receives a 59% favorable rating, compared with Deeds' 47% favorable and 47% unfavorable ratings. Asked who they trust to handle transportation, perhaps the most volatile issue in recent gubernatorial elections in the state, 43% said McDonnell and 37% Deeds.

McDonnell 50 (-1 vs. last poll, Sept. 30)
Deeds 43 (+1)
Und 6

McDonnell leads by 8.8 points in the RCP Average.

So far, Pres. Obama has not committed to returning to the state to campaign with Deeds. The poll finds that 23% would be more likely to vote for Deeds if Obama does come, while 43% said they would be less likely and 32% said it would have no impact.

On McDonnell's graduate school thesis, which has taken a central role in the race thanks to Deeds continuing to push the issue, 55% said it was an important factor in determining how they will vote and 39% said it was not.

Finance Committee Passes Bill, Vote Spinning Begins

Following the Finance Committee's 14-9 vote to pass Chairman Max Baucus's health care bill, the Democratic and Republican Senate campaign committees quickly released statements calling out members from the opposite party for their votes. Meanwhile, the Democratic and Republican Senate leaders focused their statements on Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the lone Republican to vote in favor of the plan.

"Sen. Snowe is also to be commended for voting for this proposal in the face of immense pressure from opponents of reform," said Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.). "Her courage to stick with her principles in the face of an increasingly partisan environment in Washington, DC is heartening and should serve as a reminder that health care is an issue that should defy party labels."

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), firmly against the bill, focused on Snowe's continued reservations with the plan, which she voiced this morning to McConnell as well as in committee.

"Sen. Snowe called me this morning to let me know that while she continues to have serious, substantive policy reservations with this proposal, she wanted to keep the process moving," said McConnell. "I share her concerns about the direction of this bill once it leaves the committee, and her call for transparency before we vote to proceed to any bill on the floor."

Both leaders recognized that while this was an important vote that continued to move Democrats' health care reform initiatives forward, this bill is not the one that will end up on the Senate floor. Reid and a committee of senators will now merge the Finance bill with the one passed three months ago in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, formerly chaired by Ted Kennedy.

That will not be a simple process, as the HELP bill contains a public insurance option, unlike the Finance bill. Should a bill pass the full Senate, it would then need to be combined with the House bill and voted on again. Snowe maintained that by voting today, it did not guarantee her continued support.

"My vote today is my vote today, it doesn't forecast what my vote will be tomorrow," said Snowe.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is focusing on Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who is up for re-election next year and whose vulnerability could be decided by how she votes on health care and other issues.

"It very troubling that Senator Lincoln went back on her word and decided to vote in favor of a bill that will ultimately shift costs to voters in Arkansas who are still struggling to make ends meet," said NRSC spokeswoman Amber Wilkerson Marchand. "Despite her assertions to the contrary, Blanche Lincoln has effectively opened the door with this vote for a government-run program that will come between her constituents and their doctors and potentially cause over 88 million Americans to lose their coverage."

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee went after Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the Finance ranking member. Grassley is up for re-election next year as well, but not considered vulnerable at this point.

"With today's vote, Senator Grassley affirmed his loyalty to insurance companies," said DSCC spokesman Eric Schultz. "Instead of championing the people he pledged to serve, Grassley sided with the special interests and toed the Republican Party line by voting to obstruct progress at every turn. Senator Grassley owes the people of Iowa an explanation."

White House Hails 'Bipartisan' Finance Committee Bill

There may have been only one Republican vote, but the White House is welcoming the Senate Finance Committee's action today as a bipartisan endorsement of health care reform.

"[We] are pleased that the likely outcome appears that we'll be one step closer to reform; that all five committees that have and share jurisdiction over the important issue of health care will have reported a bill out which will be the first time that that's ever happened in -- in our history," Robert Gibbs said at his briefing today. "Obviously having the vote of Senator Snowe is important. [Obama] believes that she's worked constructively throughout this process to address a problem that Americans face and her constituents in Maine face."

Gibbs said Obama last spoke with the Maine senator last week. The president himself praised Snowe for being "extraordinarily diligent" in her work.

UPDATE: Obama will make a public statement on the Finance Committee vote from the Rose Garden after 5 pm.

Another GOPer Won't Take On Grayson

A second Republican in as many weeks announced today he will not challenge Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.). Former state senator Dan Webster had been seriously considering a bid, but said he was following his gut in not running.

"After much prayer and thoughtful consideration, I have decided not to run for the United States House of Representatives, District 8," Webster said, according to Florida news outlets. "This has been a very difficult decision for me personally, especially because of the tremendous outpouring of support that has flooded me from all sides."

Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty said last week that he will not be running, leaving Webster as the assumed frontrunner in the GOP primary. Now, Webster's decision leaves several others to compete in what will likely be a costly and competitive primary: restaurant supply company owner Jerry Pierce; real estate developer Armando Gutierrez Jr.; Patricia Sullivan, a stay-at-home mother; and Dan Fanelli, a former pilot.

In his short time in Congress, Grayson has earned exposure for speaking his mind, most recently for his performance arguing for health care reform on the House floor.

NJ Gov Poll: Corzine Closes Gap In Another Poll

A new survey from Public Policy Polling (D) has Gov. Jon Corzine (D) closing what was a 9-point gap with Chris Christie to just 1.

General Election Matchup
Christie 40 (-4 from last survey, 9/11-14)
Corzine 39 (+4)
Daggett 13 (unch)
Undecided 8 (+1)

Asked their second choice, 48 percent of the supporters of Chris Daggett, the independent candidate, said they'd back Christie, while 34 percent said Corzine. Eighteen percent weren't sure. That would seem to confirm conventional wisdom which says that his presence is hurting the Republicans chances of reclaiming the governor's office. Only 44 percent of Daggett voters say they're solidly committed to their choice, with 56 percent saying they could change their mind.

Christie's favorable ratings continue to drop, while Corzine's has ticked up. More than half of voters now have an opinion of Daggett as well, though his standing in the polls held steady.

Favorable Ratings
Christie 42 / 44
Corzine 37 / 55
Daggett 30 / 24

On an issue that has been covered quite a bit in the news, 35 percent of voters say Corzine has been making an issue of Christie's weight in the race, while 47 percent said he wasn't. Only 11 percent say his weight is a legitimate campaign issue. Interestingly, 4 percent of voters say it actually makes them more likely to support him, but 19 percent say it's less likely.

In a generic ballot test, New Jersey voters say they were more likely to vote for a Republican in the General Assembly -- 41 percent to 35 percent. Democrats now hold both chambers.

The survey of 571 likely voters was conducted from October 9-12, with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent.

Insurance Issues In New Jersey, Too

As health care legislation faces a key test in Washington today, Gov. Jon Corzine's (D) campaign is again bringing the issue to the airwaves in his re-election bid. A new ad out today charges that Republican Chris Christie is in the pocket of insurance companies, taking their money while proposing policies that would allow them to drop coverage.

The campaign says the spot will air on broadcast and cable across the state.

UPDATE: A second new ad from the Corzine camp ties Christie to the national party, complete with pictures of former Pres. Bush and talk of his abortion stance. See it after the jump.

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (21 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Christie +1.8)

*This morning, Corzine announced he'd consider raising the gas tax to fund transportation projects.

*New ads from a 527 group called New Jersey Progress hit Christie on the mammogram issue. It's airing in Philly this week; the DGA is among contributors to the fund.

*Daggett and Christie will meet with the Gannett editorial board this morning.

*More columnist love for the indie candidate.

*Asked if he thought Christie was fat, Corzine replies, "Am I bald?"

*Mitt Romney pitched in for Christie last night.

*Christie is focusing on property taxes.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +9.2)

*At last night's televised debate, Deeds hit McDonnell on women's issues, while McDonnell criticized Deeds's willingness to raise taxes.

*Deeds, though, did not mention McDonnell's grad school thesis, which has been a centerpiece of the Deeds campaign's criticism.

*Not surprisingly, they each prefer the policies of the most recent presidents from their own parties.

*Would Terry McAuliffe have been a better general election candidate than Deeds?

*Can Deeds come back to win with just three weeks left to go, The Fix wonders?

Strategy Memo: D-Day In The Finance Committee

The Senate Finance Committee will finally vote today on Chairman Max Baucus's (D-Mont.) $829 billion health care bill, which is expected to pass. Up next is meshing it with the HELP Committee bill passed nearly three months ago.

On the chamber floors, the Senate will resume consideration of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill, while the House takes up a number of suspension bills, including one that expresses support for students to learn about Christopher Columbus.

The White House will certainly be watching the Finance Committee vote. President Obama has a busy schedule of his own, though, starting with morning briefings and a meeting with senior advisers and Vice President Biden. Later, he welcomes Spain President Zapatero for a working lunch, after which the two will address the media. Then, he meets with Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), potentially a swing vote on health care. Obama and Biden then meet with Defense Secretary Gates. Tonight, the White House is hosting a "Fiesta Latina," calling it "a concert celebrating Hispanic musical heritage." Marc Anthony, Jimmy Smits, Gloria Estefan, José Feliciano, and George Lopez are among the acts on hand.

**Health Care Vote
*"President Obama's effort to revamp the nation's $2.6 trillion health care system faces a critical vote Tuesday by the Senate Finance Committee that sets the stage for the next series of arduous negotiations Congress must take to finish a health care bill this year. Sen. Max Baucus, the committee chairman, says he's got the votes to approve a 10-year, $829-billion plan that would increase the number of insured Americans, from 83% to 94%, without increasing the deficit," USA Today reports.

*"With few, if any, Republicans expected to support the bill ... Democrats have already begun their own internal negotiations aimed at reconciling the various measures passed by House and Senate committees. As part of that exercise, lawmakers are reviving ideas that had been discarded, including a new approach to a government insurance plan that appears to be gaining support with party moderates," Washington Post reports.

*"A proposed tax on high-cost, or 'Cadillac,' health insurance plans has touched off a fierce clash between the Senate and the House as they wrestle over how to pay for legislation that would provide health benefits to millions of uninsured Americans," New York Times reports.

*Chicago Tribune: "Democrats and their allies scrambled on Monday to knock down a new industry-funded study forecasting that Senate legislation, over time, will add thousands of dollars to the cost of a typical policy. "Distorted and flawed," said White House spokeswoman Linda Douglass. "Fundamentally dishonest," said AARP's senior policy strategist, John Rother. "A hatchet job," said a spokesman for Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont."

However, Politico reports, "not only did the report land many months into the debate -- with Democrats on the cusp of passing bills through five committees -- it infuriated some of the very people the industry group hoped to influence."

*"Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) is risking a shot at becoming the top Republican on an influential Senate committee by backing Democratic healthcare legislation, according to senators on the panel. A Senate Democrat on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee said Republicans on the panel are threatening to vote against Snowe, who is in line for the senior GOP post that is about to come open," The Hill reports.

**Congress
*Washington Times: "The surprise endorsement of climate-change legislation" by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) "has jump-started the languishing proposal but also has raised the prospect that it will include two major items that environmentalists dislike: more nuclear power and more offshore oil drilling."

**President Obama
*Washington Post reports that "in an unannounced move, the White House has also authorized -- and the Pentagon is deploying -- at least 13,000 troops" beyond the 21,000 he authorized shortly after he took office.

*The New York Times looks at the roles of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in the Afghanistan debate.

*AP's Ben Feller does a fun piece on Obama's most-used phrases.

*AP's Phil Elliott is the latest to examine the political nature of the president's travels. A review finds that "three of every four official trips Obama and his key lieutenants made in his first seven months in office were to the 28 states Obama won. Add trips to Missouri and Montana -- both of which Obama narrowly lost -- and almost 80 percent of the administration's official domestic travel has been concentrated in states likely to be key to Obama's re-election effort in 2012."

*We're not sure we believe it, but Anne Kornblut reports on Clinton seeming to shut the door on another presidential run. "It remains to be seen whether Clinton's flat denial is enough to permanently put to rest questions about her future. Other political figures have ruled out a campaign only to reverse themselves, as Obama did after declaring in 2006 that he would not run for president in 2008."

**Fundraising
*Mike Castle raised just $57,000 in the last quarter, but was holding back in fundraising before making the decision to run for Senate. The News Journal reports that he had a six-figure fundraising week after jumping in.

*The Hill posts a fundraising update for various races.

*Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), rising as a target for the GOP, raised $1.2 million in the last quarter, and has $4.1 million in the bank.

*Kendrick Meek raised $800,000 as some raise questions about his Florida Senate campaign's viability.

**Campaign Stuff
*New this morning: check out the new GOP.com, featuring a pop-up Michael Steele.

*Des Monies Register's Beaumont wonders if 2012 hopefuls are paying less attention to Iowa. "The relative quiet now could signal a fateful shift for Iowa: Republicans less identified with the right wing of the party might think they can win the nomination without betting it all on the Iowa caucuses."

*Tim Pawlenty is bringing in the big names for his campaign-in-waiting, The Hill reports.

*GOP's (not so) secret weapon in 2010? Attack Pelosi, L.A. Times reports.

*Rory Reid will officially kick off his Nevada gubernatorial run this week, the Reno Gazette-Journal reports.

*Black Republicans say this is their year, FOX News reports.

*The Hill's Blake also looks at the effect gubernatorial races will have on the down-ballot Senate and House races. And Roll Call's Toeplitz does as well.

*Is Charlie Crist worried about straw polls now?

**Pop Culture Alert: No one knows who Tom DeLay is and he may have hurt viewership for this season of "Dancing with the Stars," which is suffering its lowest ratings in four years, L.A. Times reports.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (22 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Christie +1.8)

*This weekend's big headline: the Star-Ledger endorses indie Chris Daggett.

*The state's biggest paper also profiles Daggett, Corzine and Christie.

*Did the Star-Ledger endorse too early?

*Daggett also gets the New York Times treatment today.

*Going back to the base? Christie vows to block gay marriage.

*Christie's weight continues to be a focus. Politico looks at how his campaign masks it; he tells AP he has no health issues because of it. Even folks across the pond can't resist the topic.

*Unions are back in Corzine's corner.

*The Star-Ledger traces donations from "special interests."

*Democrats have a registration advantage over Republicans, though the biggest block is "unaffiliated."

*Corruption has faded as a campaign issue.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +9.2)

*It's the biggest debate day of the campaign, as both candidates will meet for an hour-long event that will be televised in most Virginia markets.

*A new Mason-Dixon poll finds McDonnell (R) up 8 points.

*Deeds (D) dropped a new TV ad -- this one positive and including a tuition assistance plan.

*Washington Post profiled McDonnell for the Sunday paper.

*McDonnell spent Saturday tailgating at a JMU football game in Harrisonburg.

*The candidates get personal on social issues, laying out their thoughts to the Virginian-Pilot.

*Adam Nagourney looks at the Obama factor in New Jersey and Virginia.

VA Gov Poll: McDonnell +8

Here is one more in a series of recent polls showing Bob McDonnell (R) with an expanding lead against Creigh Deeds (D) in the Battle for the Commonwealth, otherwise known as the Virginia gubernatorial campaign. The Richmond Times-Dispatch poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon, finds McDonnell leading by 8 points with just more than three weeks to go in the race (Oct. 6-8, 625 LV, MoE +/- 4%).

McDonnell 48
Deeds 40
Und 12

"The poll suggests that McDonnell is heading into the final three weeks of the race largely unscathed from Deeds' continuing focus on McDonnell's controversial 1989 law-school thesis," T-D's Jeff Schapiro writes.

McDonnell now leads by 9.2 points in the RCP Average

NV Gov, Sen Poll: Both Reids Trail

Both Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his son, Rory Reid, trail in a new Las Vegas Review-Journal/Mason-Dixon poll (Oct. 6-8, 500 RV, MoE +/- 4.5%) The elder Reid once again finds himself behind two Republican Senate challengers, while Rory trails a Republican and potential independent candidate in the race for governor.

Republicans tested for the primary include former state GOP chair Sue Lowden, developer/famous son Danny Tarkanian, and former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, along with six others who received 1%.

Senate - GOP Primary
Lowden 23
Tarkanian 21
Angle 9
Six Others 1 (each)
Und 44

Senate - General Election
Lowden 49 - Reid 39

Tarkanian 48 - Reid 43

Lowden leads Reid by 7.7 points in the RCP Average, while Tarkanian leads by 5.7 points.

Tested against Rory Reid in the gubernatorial race are former U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, a Democrat considering an independent bid.

Governor
Sandoval (R) 33
Goodman (I) 33
Reid (D) 25

Biggest N.J. Newspaper Endorses Independent Daggett

In yet another free media boost for the cash-strapped independent candidate, the Newark Star-Ledger endorses Chris Daggett in its Sunday edition. From the editorial:

The newspaper's decision is less a rejection of Gov. Jon Corzine and Republican Chris Christie than a repudiation of the parties they represent, both of which have forfeited any claim to the trust and confidence of the people of New Jersey. They share responsibility for the state's current plight.

Only by breaking the hold of the Democratic and Republican mandarins on the governor's office and putting a rein on their power will the state have any hope for the kind of change needed to halt its downward economic, political and ethical spiral.

New Jersey needs radical change in Trenton. Neither of the major parties is likely to provide it. Daggett's election would send shock waves through New Jersey's ossified political system and, we believe, provide a start in a new direction.

Daggett hasn't been able to compete with Gov. Jon Corzine (D) or former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie (R) on the airwaves, but did make some headway with a well-reviewed debate performance.

Though some suspect his support may not hold on Election Day, he clocks in at more than 11 percent in RCP's polling average. Newspaper endorsements ain't what they used to be, but the support of the top-circulation paper in the Garden State can only help keep him in the game with three weeks to go.

RNC Fundraiser Featuring Ensign Canceled

RCP got its hands on an invitation to a Republican National Committee fundraiser scheduled for next week in Las Vegas, with embattled Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) listed as one of the "special guests."

The "Sun & Fun In The Desert" event was scheduled for October 16-18 at the Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino. Also listed as special guests were RNC co-chairman Jan Larimer, and Rep. Dean Heller (R). The invitation, which was received just last week, sought contributions from PACs of $5,000 to $15,000.

When asked about the event, a spokesperson for the RNC first said that Larimer may not attend, then later said the event itself may have been canceled. Sure enough, a Palazzo employee said the event was taken off their schedule just today. An Ensign spokesperson referred calls to the RNC. Further requests for comment from the RNC, as well as requests to the Nevada GOP and Heller's office have not been returned.

The cancellation of this event comes as leading Republicans have sought to distance themselves from Ensign, once rumored as a potential White House candidate but now facing calls to resign over alleged impropriety stemming from an affair with a former staffer.

Partisan Polls Show Christie Leading

Two partisan polls -- one from a Republican firm and one on the Democratic side -- show Chris Christie still leading in the tightening New Jersey gubernatorial race.

Penn, Schoen & Berland (D)
(671 LVs, 9/30-10/5, +/- 3.78%)
Christie 43
Corzine 38
Daggett 16
Other 3

Neighborhood Research (R)
(300 "Definite" and "Very Likely" Voters, 10/6-8, +/- 5.7%)
Christie 36 (-1 from last poll, 9/14-17)
Corzine 35 (+2)
Daggett 11 (+3)
Undecided 18 (-4)

The latter poll finds the race tied among respondents defined as "definite voters," 36-36. Corzine's favorable rating, while still low, has jumped 7 points to 28 percent. Christie's unfavorable rating has jumped five points in the past month, to 31 percent. A generic Republican actually leads a generic Democrat by a wider margin than Christie does Corzine, 42-36.

"Corzine has gotten off the canvas. The remaining question is whether he can close the sale," the polling memo concludes.

Obama's Mayoral 'Endorsement'

The White House finally came out in support of Bill Thompson in the New York City mayoral election in November, though it would not be an exaggeration to say the endorsement was not overly enthusiastic.

"The president is the leader of the Democratic Party and, as that, would support the Democratic nominee," Robert Gibbs said today.

Notice that he did not even mention the candidate's name. What's worse, Gibbs then went out of his way to praise incumbent Michael Bloomberg, an independent who is on the Republican ballot line. "The president, obviously, has had a chance to -- throughout campaigning and in his time both as a candidate and as a president to meet, know and work with Mayor Bloomberg and obviously has a tremendous amount of respect for what he's done, as well," Gibbs said.

Gibbs previously had said he wasn't aware if there was an endorsement coming.

Obama Surprised, But Did Not Consider Refusing Nobel

Robert Gibbs would not share much about President Obama's reaction this morning to the news he won the Nobel Peace Prize, other than to say he was surprised. He also said he was unaware of whether there was any consideration given to refusing the award, adding that the president does plan to travel to Oslo to accept it.

Asked whether, in recognition of some of the reaction to the award, the White House was intentionally downplaying any internal celebration, Gibbs said the staff is obviously "enormously proud of the work we're trying to do every day."

"He hopes that what comes of this is galvanized action on behalf of the entire world to make good on the ideas and the ideals that we've talked about," Gibbs said. "I think that's important going forward, and I think we'll continue to use avenues as a chance to do that."

He would not react to the partisan response of some, and urged pundits who think this honor will worsen the partisan divide to spend some time outside of the Washington Beltway.

"It's a good thing. It's an important thing. I don't think it's a partisan thing," he said.

DNC Likens RNC To Hamas, Taliban

Gov. Tim Kaine, chair of the DNC, called President Obama's winning a Nobel Prize "an affirmation of the fact that the United States has returned to its longstanding role as a world leader."

"The President has made a conscious decision from the beginning of his presidency to reinvigorate diplomacy, by talking to our friends and our rivals," Kaine writes. "With this prize comes a sense of enormous pride, but also an enormous sense of humility about the work that remains if we are to resolve the global problems facing humanity. Democrats will continue to work with President Obama to keep moving America forward, as we continue in earnest to sow peace, progress and understanding around the world."

Meanwhile, the DNC communication team has paired the RNC's statement on Obama's win with these from Hamas and Taliban, lumping the opposition party with these extremist elements.

Hamas: "We believe he has been rewarded or judged based on good intentions towards peace but not on his achievement. It was too early to award him. He has not don't that much yet." - Ahmed Yousef, Deputy Foreign Minister of Hamas   Taliban: "We have seen no change in his strategy for peace. He has done nothing for peace in Afghanistan. He has not taken a single step for peace in Afghanistan or to make this country stable... We condemn the award of the Noble Peace Prize for Obama. We condemn the institute's awarding him the peace prize. We condemn this year's peace prize as unjust." - Taliban Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid

Obama: Don't Think I Deserve Nobel

obamanobel.jpgPresident Obama's statement accepting the Nobel Peace Prize reflected the shock, even in the White House, that he won the award with so few tangible accomplishments on the world stage.

"This is not how I expected to wake up this morning," Obama said in the Rose Garden, adding that his daughter told him not only about the Nobel win, but their dog's birthday.

Obama said he was "surprised and humbled" by the decision of the committee, and views it not as a personal award but an "affirmation of American leadership." In a rare moment of modesty, he continued: "To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize, men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace."

The president will travel to Norway to accept the honor, "as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century." In his six-minute address, he also reflected difficult decisions ahead on Afghanistan, and also in confronting a global economic downturn. The RNC had earlier dissed the honor, saying Obama "won't be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation."

Deeds: McDonnell's Running the Negative Campaign

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds (D) said this morning that his opponent, Bob McDonnell (R), is running a more negative campaign than him, despite recent polling that appeared to show a backlash to Deeds's negative TV ads.

"He's running more negative points than we're running positive and negative points," Deeds said to Mark Plotkin on WTOP, a D.C. radio station. "He's the one running the negative campaign."

The McDonnell campaign and Republican Governors Association have been running ads highlighting a press gaggle with Deeds following a debate last month, in which Deeds appeared unsteady on the issue of raising taxes. Deeds thinks the ads may be having an effect on his polling -- a Washington Post poll found Deeds's lead in Northern Virginia, a key portion of the state, dwindling. "Obviously I've had an erosion because of those ads," Deeds said.

The Post poll has caused many to believe the race may be all but over, but Deeds offers a recent cautionary tale: "25 days from the Democratic primary nobody thought I was going to win." He would go on to win the same number of votes as Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran put together.

Deeds also said President Obama will return to the Commonwealth to campaign or fundraise with Deeds, as he did in August. "I'll take the President as often as I can get him," he said.

A Wall Street Journal story earlier this week reported that the White House would be backing off from the race. However, as Deeds noted, the Democratic National Committee this week cut him a $1 million check and sent more workers to help his campaign, and Vice President Biden appeared at a Deeds fundraiser last night.

"I don't know where those stories come from," said Deeds, but "I run better as the underdog."

Deeds continued to say that McDonnell's 1989 graduate school thesis puts the former state delegate's legislative record in context, noting that he focused on social issues and never introduced a job-creating bill. He also criticized McDonnell's transportation and promised to fix the funding shortfall by next year.

"I've got the only honest approach and the only approach that will work. Bob McDonnell's plan won't work," said Deeds, who says everything is on the table, including the potential to raise taxes. "If Virginia voters want to continue to sit in traffic they'll vote for the other guy."

CA Sen Poll: Boxer Up By Double-Digits

California Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) leads her two potential Republican challengers by double digits, a new Field Poll finds (Sept. 18-Oct. 6, 1005 RV, MoE +/- 3.2%).

In the Republican primary, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina leads Assemblyman Chuck DeVore by just 1 point, with nearly six-in-ten primary voters undecided. Neither is well known around the state, as 72% have no opinion of Fiorina and 82% no opinion of DeVore.

GOP Primary
Fiorina 21
DeVore 20
Und 59

General Election Matchups
Boxer 49
Fiorina 35
Und 16

Boxer 50
DeVore 33
Und 17

RNC on Nobel: What Has Obama Done?

RNC chair Michael Steele's statement on President Obama's Nobel win reflects the sense even among supporters of this White House that this was quite surprise.

"The real question Americans are asking is, 'What has President Obama actually accomplished?' It is unfortunate that the president's star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain - President Obama won't be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action."

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (25 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Christie +1.8)

*The lieutenant governor candidates sparred, traded barbs, and all the other usual debate cliches in what is called a "feisty" debate.

*Gov. Corzine was "uncharacteristically blunt" as he explained how he'd close the state's budget deficit.

*A Star-Ledger columnist continues to slam Christie for lacking specifics.

*Two new polls, different results.

*The RGA has helped Christie close the gap in TV advertising.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +8.5)

*A Washington Post poll out yesterday found McDonnell leading by 9 points -- a blow to the Deeds camp.

*Gov. Tim Kaine says Deeds needs to "energize" the 2008 Obama voters.

*McDonnell is spending the day near the North Carolina border with ex-Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.); Deeds is doing a radio interview on D.C.'s WTOP, which most of Northern Virginia can hear.

*A day after the WaPo poll found Deeds's negative advertising may now be detrimental to his chances, the campaign has released two new positive ads, one TV and one radio.

Strategy Memo: A Nobel President

President Obama, now a Nobel Peace Prize winner, will start his work day with morning briefings and a meeting with senior advisors, then give brief remarks in the Rose Garden at 10:30 a.m. He'll sit down with Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) in the Oval Office, followed by lunch with Vice President Biden. This afternoon, he'll speak in the East Room to rally support for a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency and urge passage of a regulatory reform package. Then, another meeting with his war council on Afghanistan. Tonight, Obama hosts a barbecue for members of the Secret Service and their families.

The Senate Finance Committee has set the vote for Tuesday on the chairman's health care bill, and the House ethics committee has expanded its investigation into Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), whom Republicans have been calling on to step down from his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee.

Both the House and Senate meet in pro forma session today, meaning most Members have left for the Columbus Day recess. Both chambers return to session Tuesday.

**President Obama
*AP: "The White House says President Barack Obama woke up to the news that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize a little before 6 a.m. Press secretary Robert Gibbs learned from reporters that Obama had won the 2009 prize, and telephoned the White House early Friday to pass along the news to his boss."

*Washington Post: "The Obama administration has concluded that the Taliban cannot be eliminated as a political or military movement, regardless of how many combat forces are sent into battle." The new U.S. goal then is "to weaken the Taliban to the degree that it cannot challenge the Afghan government or reestablish the haven it provided for al-Qaeda before the 2001 U.S. invasion. Those objectives appear largely consistent with McChrystal's strategy."

*Among the options in the McChrystal evaluation is a request for as many as 60,000 troops, though 40,000 is the preferred number, the Wall Street Journal reports.

*Time's Michael Scherer has an interesting look at the White House press strategy. "Rather than just giving reporters ammunition to 'fact-check' Obama's many critics, the White House decided it would become a player, issuing biting attacks on those pundits, politicians and outlets that make what the White House believes to be misleading or simply false claims."

*It was "perhaps the most exclusive after-work, backyard basketball game ever" as President Obama played 10 games on the White House court with Cabinet secretaries and members of Congress. They played for two hours, "with everyone switching teams throughout," Bloomberg reports.

**Congress
*"Olympia J. Snowe may be, for the moment, the most powerful woman in Washington. As the lone congressional Republican working to support President Obama's healthcare overhaul, no one will be more closely watched when the Senate Finance Committee votes next week," L.A. Times reports.

*HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said "the healthcare reform bill that hits the Senate floor will include a government-run public option insurance program," The Hill reports.

*National Journal's Congressional Insiders Poll finds Democrat and Republican Members of Congress evenly split on whether a health care bill that clears Congress will include a public option, with 79% of Democrats saying yes and 80% of Republicans saying no. On the economy, 44% of Democratic Members think Congress should pass a second stimulus package if unemployment continues to rise, while 51% say it should not. Meanwhile, 89% of Republicans are against the idea of another stimulus, with just 7% supporting it.

*Ethics: "House Republicans got fresh ammo for their assault on embattled Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) with the Thursday revelation that the House ethics committee is once again expanding its probe of the Harlem Democrat. But top House Democratic sources said the news was unlikely to weaken Rangel's grip on his gavel. Instead, party leaders will hold to their mantra that the veteran lawmaker is innocent until proven guilty, that the ethics process is working and that it must be allowed to conclude," Roll Call reports.

**Campaign Stuff
*The Hotline's Tim Sahd released his latest House rankings yesterday, with three Republican seats -- LA-02 (Cao), DE-AL (Open) and NY-23 (special) -- most likely to change party control.

*And former NJer, Politico's Charles Mahtesian, looks at the 2010 Senate races, with Republicans defending 18 seats and Democrats 19 seats (including the January special election in Massachusetts). The story comes with this handy 2010 Senate race guide, for all you visual learners.

*An interesting story to watch in Connecticut. Were state funds used on political polling for Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell (R)?

*Vice President Biden will raise money for Harry Reid on October 16, the Reno Gazette-Journal reports.

*St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (D) has decided not to run for governor in Minnesota after months spent prepping for a bid. The Star Tribune: "Coleman had already assembled a campaign team with statewide and even national experience, and would have been a serious contender in the DFL fight to replace Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is not running for a third term. But in the end, Coleman decided to stay put."

*DE Sen: Although Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) raised little during the 3rd quarter ($57k), he began October with more than $850,000 in the bank, CQ reports.

*CA Sen: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) will report having $6.3 million in the bank, SF Chronicle reports.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

With Christie Spending Limited, RGA To The Rescue

The Nielsen Company has put out a breakdown of the total number of ads purchased by the major party candidates in New Jersey and Virginia. As expected, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) has been able to vastly outspend his Republican opponent, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, translating to an on-air advantage of 3.5-to-1 since July.

NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR (6/3 TO 9/20/09)
Corzine (D) - 4806
Christie (R) - 1393

Though New Jersey has one of the more generous matching funds programs in the country, Christie has not been able to compete with Corzine's personal wealth. In accepting matching funds, Christie faces a spending cap.

That's where the Republican Governors Association comes in. RCP asked Nielsen to pull the RGA's ad buys during the same period. The data shows that when combined with Christie's spending, the Republicans have actually been on the air with more ads than Corzine.

July: Corzine 1,908 -- Christie/RGA 1,739
August: Corzine 1,306 -- Christie/RGA 2,078
September: Corzine 1,592 -- Christie/RGA 1,402
TOTALS: Corzine 4,806 -- Christie/RGA 5,219

An important distinction: all of the ads that the RGA has launched were 15-second spots, while Corzine's have been 30-seconds and 60-seconds long. So while they may match up in numbers, Corzine has still purchased more time on the airwaves. Still, the Corzine campaign points to the data to counter the Christie camp's assertion that the governor has bought his way back into the race.

"The Christie campaign's contention that this race is tight because of advertising overlooks the fact that the RGA has been funneling millions of dollars into New Jersey since before the primary to distort the Governor's record," said Corzine campaign spokesperson Lis Smith. "The more New Jersey voters learn about Chris Christie, the more they see that he is extremely wrong when it comes to what matters for the state."

RGA spokesman Mike Schrimpf said that the organization has made no secret of its attempt to support Christie this summer, given the restraints he faces through the public financing system. "We continue to be engaged because we think he can win," Schrimpf said.

He also disputed the notion of a Corzine surge, noting that any movement has been for independent candidate Chris Daggett. But on Election Day, ultimately he thinks voters will make a choice between the major party candidates.

The Democratic Governors Association is unable to advertise in the state because of coordination laws that restrict advertising on behalf of one of its members.

RCP also asked Nielsen for data on spending by Daggett. Though he made a bit of a splash with this clever ad, it has aired only 81 times.

Ethics Committee Expands Rangel Investigation

The House Ethics committee announced today it will expand its investigation of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to determine if he "violated the Code of Official Conduct or any law, rule, regulation or other standard of conduct applicable to his conduct in the performance of his duties or the discharge of his responsibilities with respect to all Financial Disclosure Statements and all amendments filed in calendar year 2009 by or on behalf of" Rangel.

The committee said that in its year-long investigation into Rangel, it has so far issued 150 subpoenas, interviewed 34 witnesses for more than 2,100 pages of transcripts, reviewed more than 12,000 pages of documents, and held more than 30 investigative subcommittee meetings.

A Republican resolution introduced in the House yesterday to remove Rangel from his role as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee was shot down by Democrats in a legislative maneuver. It was the second resolution filed this year by Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), with both ending similarly.

Republicans have already jumped on the Ethics committee's announcemnt, calling on Speaker Pelosi to remove Rangel until the committee has completed its investigation.

"Given the expanded investigation announced today, it is past time for Speaker Pelosi to insist that Chairman Rangel step aside until the Ethics Committee completes its work," Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a released statement within minutes of the Ethics committee's announcement. "The American people won't stand for having a chairman of the House's tax-writing committee who is under investigation for not paying his taxes. What more has to happen before Speaker Pelosi does the right thing?"

VA Gov Poll: McDonnell +9

Bob McDonnell (R) gets great news today, as the Washington Post's latest poll finds the former state attorney general leading his Democratic opponent, Creigh Deeds, by 9 points (Oct. 5-7, 1001 LV, MoE +/- 3%). This is a 5-point margin increase for the GOP nominee since the Post's last survey in mid-September.

McDonnell 53 (+2 vs. last poll, Sept. 17)
Deeds 44 (-3)

McDonnell now leads by 8.5 points in the RCP Average -- his largest lead since mid-September.

The poll is a blow to Deeds and national Democrats who have been pumping McDonnell's 1989 graduate school thesis through the airwaves for more than a month. They have been especially targeting women, though the Post poll finds Deeds with only a 50%-48% lead among females.

Also catastrophic to Deeds's numbers are his standing among independents and in Democrat-rich Northern Virginia. McDonnell leads independents by a 59%-38% margin, and his 17-point lead in NoVa has dwindled to just 5 points.

"Despite a concerted advertising campaign by Deeds about controversial views McDonnell expressed about working women in his thesis -- the one area where the Republican had appeared vulnerable -- the erosion of support among women and Northern Virginians suggests that the line of attack might have run its course," the Post's Helderman and Cohen write.

To carry on the recent trend of Democratic victories in the state, Deeds needs to win the kind of support President Obama received last year en route to a 6-point victory in the state. However, just 84% of those polled who said they voted for Obama now say they will vote for Deeds, while 13% say they support McDonnell. The GOP nominee also gets 91% of McCain voters.

SurveyUSA: Christie Still Ahead

SurveyUSA's first look at the New Jersey gubernatorial race has Chris Christie holding on to a narrow lead, with independent candidate Chris Daggett drawing double-digit support.

General Election Matchup
Christie 43
Corzine 40
Daggett 14
Undecided 2

Christie leads 44-32 among independent voters, with Daggett at 19. Among voters who say they chose Barack Obama in 2008, 17 percent are now backing the Christie. Also, 17 percent of Corzine's 2005 voters say they're leaning toward the Republican.

Interestingly, though Christie has professed himself a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, self-described fans of the Boss choose Corzine -- 49 percent to 37 percent.

Christie's lead in the RCP Average is down to 1.8%.

The automated telephone survey of 639 likely voters was conducted October 5-7, with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

NRCC: Fire Nancy Pelosi

10-08-09_NRCC_Fire-Nancy-Pelosi.jpg

The National Republican Congressional Committee is pushing supporters to sign a petition to "Fire Nancy Pelosi." A petition, of course, cannot actually remove the Speaker of the House from her position, but the NRCC hopes the accompanying request for campaign donations may help the GOP win back control of the House.

"As one of the most polarizing figures in American politics, Pelosi is once again putting party politics ahead of our national security," the e-mail states. "Her actions as Speaker of the House are putting our country's security on the line and it's up to us to stand up in opposition to her disastrous far-left agenda."

The e-mail, distributed today, refers to the Speaker as "General Pelosi," which is what the NRCC called her earlier this week when it stated that General McChrystal should "put her in her place."

Pelosi responded to that remark today, calling it "inappropriate" and language she hadn't heard "in decades."

Boehner: Pelosi, Reid Abusing Power

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) criticized Democrats for attaching a hate crimes measure to the Defense Authorization bill, scheduled for a vote today on the House floor. Boehner is opposed not only to adding charges to a crime if the accused committed a violent act based on the victim's sexuality, but mostly the Democrats' use of a troop-funding measure to get it passed.

"This is just an abuse of the legislative process," Boehner said during his weekly press conference. "It's an abuse of power by Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid. And it's offensive, it's offensive to me and a lot of my colleagues. And that is why I will vote no and urge my colleagues to vote no."

Boehner will not be alone in voting against the bill, as Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Conference Chair Mike Pence (R-Ind.) have also stated that they will not support the bill. Cantor called it a "political ploy and symbolic of everything that is wrong with Washington."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also criticized the Democrats' legislative maneuver during a briefing with reporters yesterday, but he said he will likely vote for it when it hits the Senate floor.

Second Poll Shows Corzine Lead

Gov. Jon Corzine's (D) campaign can now point to a second poll showing the Democrat pulling ahead of Chris Christie (R). A Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll conducted for Democracy Corps gives the incumbent a three-point lead.

General Election Matchup
Corzine 41 (+2 from last poll, 9/22-23)
Christie 38 (-2)
Daggett 14 (+3)
Undecided 7

For the first time, GQR finds that more Democrats say they'll support Corzine than Republicans who say they'll back Christie, showing that the governor has consolidated his base. Christie's fav/unfav split is 30 / 42, a net drop of 10 points. Corzine is viewed favorably by 37 percent of voters, and unfavorably by 46 percent.

The mammogram issue seems to be playing a big role in swaying women voters. From the polling memo:

Christie has lost significant ground with women, especially independent women. He now posts a net favorability rating of -19 with women, down from -7 two weeks ago. Among independent women, the drop is even more pronounced: from -7 two weeks ago to -34 today, with half of independent women giving him an unfavorable rating. This has clearly benefited Corzine in the vote as the governor now leads among women by 14 points (up from 6 points two weeks ago).

The telephone survey was conducted from October 6-7, 2009 among 614 likely voters. The margin of error is +/- 4.0 percent.

Pelosi: I'm In My Place

Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded this morning to a National Republican Congressional Committee press release that stated General McChrystal should "put her in her place" regarding Afghanistan war policy.

"It's really sad they don't understand how inappropriate that is," Pelsoi said. "I'm in my place, I'm the Speaker of the House, the first woman Speaker of the House. I'm in my place because the House of Representatives voted me there. But that language is something I haven't heard in decades."

Pelosi was asked for her reaction during her weekly press conference, which focused on health care and the economy.

The Money Race In Florida

Gov. Charlie Crist (R), the NRSC's favored candidate in the Florida Senate race, announced another impressive fundraising haul today. In the third quarter, Crist raised $2.4 million, giving him $6.2 million cash on hand.

"I am overwhelmed by the support we received during our second quarter and throughout the first five months of the campaign," Crist said in a statement.

It's not clear how much of the money Crist raised included money that would only be available in a general election campaign. Crist had raised $4.4 million in the previous quarter.

Crist's GOP challenger, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R), announced earlier this week that he topped $1 million in the quarter, a big improvement from his $350,000 haul in the previous period. A Rubio spokesman said their total is almost all money targeted toward the primary.

Rep. Kendrick Meek (D), the leading potential general election challenger, has not yet announced his third-quarter total. A spokesman said he will likely wait to announce at this weekend's state Democratic convention. He now faces a new primary challenger, former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre.

NC Sen Poll: Despite Low Approval, Burr Appears Safe

The seat that Sen. Richard Burr (R) now holds has changed hands every six years for decades. But even with an approval rating that would be considered dangerous for an incumbent at this point, Burr is poised to buck that trend, a new PPP (D) poll finds.

General Election Matchups
Burr 46 -- Cunningham 27 -- Und 27
Burr 44 -- Etheridge 33 -- Und 23
Burr 45 -- Foy 29 -- Und 26
Burr 44 -- Lewis 30 -- Und 26
Burr 44 -- Marshall 32 -- Und 24
Burr 43 -- Wicker 30 -- Und 26

Burr 45 -- Generic D 34 -- Und 22

In PPP's last survey, Burr ranged from 41-43 percent against these same opponents. His approval rating is now 36 percent, down from 38.

The survey of 683 voters was conducted October 2-4, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percent.

CA Gov Poll: Brown Poised For Comeback

A new Field Poll shows that state Attorney General Jerry Brown is well-positioned for a return to the governor's office, as he leads by double-digits in both the Democratic primary and in matchups with all three GOP opponents.

Democratic Primary Matchup
Brown 47 (+21 from last poll, March)
Newsom 27 (+11)
Undecided 26 (-32)

The March survey included several other potential Democratic candidates, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Now, Brown leads in all regions and age groups; Newsom scores best among women voters, but trails even there -- 40-31. A three-way race Sen. Dianne Feinstein is also tested. She would lead the field with 40 percent, followed by Brown (27 percent) and Newsom (16 percent).

Republican Primary Election Matchup
Whitman 22 (+1)
Campbell 20 (+2)
Poizner 9 (+2)
Undecided 49 (-5)

General Election Matchups
Brown 50 -- Whitman 29 -- Und 21
Brown 48 -- Campbell 27 -- Und 25
Brown 50 -- Poizner 25 -- Und 25
Newsom 40 -- Whitman 31 -- Und 29
Newsom 38 -- Campbell 33 -- Und 29
Newsom 39 -- Poizner 30 -- Und 31

Both Democrats have stronger name recognition, though San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is viewed less favorably.

Favorable Ratings
Brown 44 / 29
Newsom 30 / 40
Whitman 18 / 14
Campbell 20 / 21
Poizner 22 / 17

The overall sample was 1,005 registered voters (MoE +/- 3.2%), with primary subsamples of 496 Democrats (MoE +/- 4.5%) and 373 Republicans (MoE +/- 4.5%). The survey was conducted from September 18 to October 5.

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (26 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Christie +2.6)

*New York Times weighs in on the whether Chris Christie's (R) weight is a factor in the race.

*Vice President Biden and labor comes to the aid of Gov. Jon Corzine (D).

*Also helping: Corzine's wallet. He's spent $19 million of his own money this year.

*Daggett is having trouble raising money still.

*Tonight, the lieutenant governor candidates will debate.

*Christie vs. Corzine, The Boss vs. Bon Jovi.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +7.3)

*The race is a battle of style and ideology, Jill Lawrence writes.

*Deeds gets a boost from the president's half-million e-mail list in the state.

*Some well-known Dems are calling on Deeds to push a more positive message during the campaign's final weeks, something many rank-and-filers around the state may be hoping for as well.

*McDonnell talks hunting and fishing with the Free Lance-Star.

*UVA's newspaper chronicled Deeds' event at the school yesterday.

Strategy Memo: Hoopster In Chief

Yes, the Major League Baseball playoffs are in full swing. But it's basketball day at the White House. Tonight, President Obama will play on the White House court with four Cabinet secretaries and 11 members of Congress -- nine of them Democrats. He starts his day with morning briefings and then has lunch with business leaders. He'll also drop in this afternoon on a game of hoops played by the National Naval Medical Center Marine Wounded Warrior basketball team. He and the vice president will also hold separate meetings with Secretaries Clinton and Geithner.

Vice President Biden, seemingly always in campaign mode these days, will head to Virginia today for an event with Creigh Deeds. As part of today's economic briefing, Biden will also discuss progress in implementing the recovery act.

The Senate Finance Committee could vote on the chairman's health care bill as early as tomorrow after CBO delivered an encouraging score, at least as Democrats see it. On the floor today, the Senate will resume consideration of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill. Still awaiting House action is the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act conference report. Also scheduled for a vote on the floor is a bill giving active service members a one-year extension on the first-time homebuyers credit, through Nov. 30, 2010.

**President Obama
*AP: "The formal request by the nation's top Afghanistan commander for more troops is now in President Barack Obama's hands, administration officials said Wednesday as the war launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks reached its eight-year mark with no end in sight. Obama was not expected to discuss the troop request at a meeting with war advisers Wednesday but was likely to do so on Friday."

*In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Tuesday, "most Americans embrace U.S. goals in Afghanistan." Eight in 10 say weakening terrorists' ability to stage attacks on the United States is "an important reason" to stay, but they are less certain that progress is being made, especially in establishing a stable democracy. Overall, 48 percent say send more troops, 38 percent say no.

*Washington Post sees the Afghanistan debate as civilians vs. military officials. "With the costs now clearer, some officials at the National Security Council and the State Department who voiced support for counterinsurgency in March have started to consider other options. There is increasing interest in Biden's stance, as well as in a modified counterinsurgency effort that would involve sending more military trainers but not more combat forces."

*What strategy is Joe Biden advocating, anyway? His hometown paper hears from the White House that it's been misconstrued.

*Obama's New York fundraiser on October 20 now includes a separate fundraiser for NY-23 candidate Bill Owens.

*Days before he speaks to the Human Rights Campaign Dinner, Obama nominated David Huebner, an openly gay attorney, to be ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, Bloomberg reports.

*Here's the list for tonight's White House basketball game: Secretaries Shaun Donovan (HUD), Arne Duncan (Education), Tim Geithner (Treasury) and Ken Salazar (Interior). Members of Congress: Mike Arcuri (D-NY), John Boccieri (D-OH), Brad Ellsworth (D-IN), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Baron Hill (D-IN), Jay Inslee (D-WA), Frank Kratovil (D-MD), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Patrick Murphy (D-PA), John Shimkus (R-IL) and Heath Shuler (D-NC).

**Congress
*AP: "Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief after a positive cost report on health care overhaul gave them a chance to rally around a Senate plan that significantly expands coverage while trimming the federal deficit."

*Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "said he hopes to combine the bill with a competing measure approved by the Senate health committee and present the result to the full Senate later this month. He will begin to convene small meetings in his office next week with Baucus, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and senior White House officials, including Orszag, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior health adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle," Washington Post reports.

*A new Quinnipiac poll finds voters want a bipartisan health care reform plan, but also want a public option.

*As expected, "House Democrats on Wednesday blocked a Republican effort to force Representative Charles B. Rangel from the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee and instead referred the demand to the panel already investigating the New York Democrat," New York Times reports.

*Speaker Pelosi and Reid "emerged from the White House Tuesday with broad, bicameral smiles -- until Reid put his arm around Pelosi to announce that 'everyone' would support 'whatever' Afghanistan policy the president produces. Pelosi doesn't agree with that -- not at all -- and the TV cameras captured the California Democrat rolling her eyes and slightly recoiling from Reid's grasp as he spoke," Politico reports.

**Fundraising
*Jane Norton (R) raised $505,000 in just over two weeks for her Colorado Senate bid.

*Kelly Ayotte (R) has raised $613,000 for her campaign in New Hampshire. Her campaign says they've raised a third of what former Sen. John Sununu raised over six years in just two months.

*The Hill reports that Mark Kirk (R) now has a well-financed GOP opponent to deal with in the Illinois Senate race. Developer Patrick Hughes (R) said "he will report $380,000 in receipts in the month-plus after he entered the race in late August."

*Independent candidate Lincoln Chafee is trailing major party candidates in fundraising for Rhode Island governor, ProJo reports.

*Gov. Bill Ritter's (D) GOP challenger raised $416,000.

**Campaign Stuff
*Much in the landscape mirrors the conditions that led to the GOP's big win in 1994 midterms. But, the Wall Street Journal reports, "there are some little-understood forces that suggest a full repeat of 1994 is unlikely."

*Terry Branstad's decision to seek another term in Iowa has created "tension" among the other Republican candidates. Des Moines Register says there's a debate over "which choice would most boost the party's chances next year: Branstad and his four winning gubernatorial campaigns and 16 years of experience, or one of the field's newer faces."

Meanwhile, Iowa Dems have a funny YouTube video on the Branstad news.

*MA Sen: In a new campaign ad, Steve Pagliuca (D) refers to his role in the Celtics "turnaround" and sells his bio.

*MA Sen: City Year founder Alan Khazei "will formally announce an endorsement by Max Kennedy, the nephew of the man who held the seat for 47 years," Boston Globe reports.

*FL Sen: Ex-Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre "officially launched his upstart bid for the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, banking on political experience and potential appeal in the fast-growing Hispanic community to overtake rivals with multimillion-dollar head starts," Miami Herald reports.

*Joe The Plumber will raise money for Cherilyn Eagar, who is challenging Sen. Bob Bennett (R) in a primary.

*David Axelrod, speaking at the University of Delaware yesterday, said he didn't know if Beau Biden will run for U.S. Senate, but if he does, he and Rep. Mike Castle (R) "would provide an example to other politicians on how to run a 'very civilized race.'"

*State Sen. Robert Hurt (R) "jumped into the deep pool of Republican candidates" challenging freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D). But his "political pedigree and popularity that could make him the GOP frontrunner and a potential formidable foe," the Roanoke News reports.

**Sports Alert: Yankees got a monkey off their back and won Game One last night, thanks to who else: Derek Jeter. The Dodgers and Phillies also won their series openers. Today, another baseball triple-header. Nothing beats October baseball.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Pelosi, Reid: Open To a Second Stimulus

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid met with President Obama at the White House this afternoon to discuss the economy and the potential for further spending bills to stimulate more growth. In a statement released following the meeting, Pelosi indicates her willingness to do so:

"Today's meeting with President Obama reaffirmed our top priority as a nation: getting Americans back to work. The President, Leader Reid, and I all agree that we must respond to the urgent need to promote the creation of good jobs, rebuild our workforce, and restore stability to our neighborhoods. Congress stands ready to partner with the White House to keep our economy moving in the right direction and lay the foundation for growth long into the future.

"Our recovery efforts have brought our economy back from the brink. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Cash for Clunkers, and a series of other steps have halted the freefall and have begun put us back on the path to long-term prosperity. The House has passed measures to invest in the clean energy jobs and to extend unemployment benefits to workers hardest hit by the recession.

"We are beginning to see signs that the economy is turning around. But we are committed to take further action on behalf of the millions of Americans out of work or at risk of losing their jobs, their savings and their homes."

Here is Reid's statement:

"Today's meeting with the President reinforces our shared commitment to creating more jobs and providing relief to the millions of Americans who are out of work. President Obama inherited the worst economic crisis in generations and has brought our nation back from the brink. But too many families are still hurting, and it's critical that we do everything possible to create jobs and strengthen the economy.

"We're optimistic about the prospects of using renewable energy legislation to create green jobs while promoting energy efficiency. In addition, we need to continue working toward ensuring that more families can stay in their current homes and continue efforts to strengthen the housing market by extending the homebuyer tax credit. We also need to think about creative, innovative ways to encourage businesses to create new jobs and we're committed to working with the President to do that.

"The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other legislation passed this year is already making a real difference. We need to ensure that the recovery funds get out the door as quickly and effectively as possible while also enacting new ideas to get more Americans back to work and the economy back on track."


CBO: Baucus Bill Would Reduce Deficit

The Congressional Budget Office said today that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus's (D-Mont.) health care bill would cost $829 billion and reduce the federal government's annual deficit by $81 billion during the years 2010 to 2019. By 2015, 94 percent of Americans would have health insurance, according to CBO's preliminary analysis (large .pdf).

The CBO score appears to be the "clean bill of health" Baucus had been hoping for, and the Finance Committee could vote on the plan as early as tomorrow. Should the committee pass the bill, a conference will gather to mesh the plan with the one passed in July by the HELP Committee.

The report also indicated that states would take on an additional $33 billion in Medicaid costs from 2010-2019, something that governors around the country are worried about.

LA Senate Poll: Vitter Leads Melancon

UPDATE: Rasmussen's site had posted some incorrect data. Post has been updated with correct info.

Even with their top recruit and an incumbent who seemed vulnerable, Democrats look to be facing a tough race in Louisiana in 2010. Rasmussen's latest poll of the Senate race shows Sen. David Vitter (R) well ahead at this point.

General Election Matchup
Vitter 46
Melancon 36
Not Sure 13

Melancon also trails Secretary of State Jay Dardenne (R), but by a much wider margin: 46-33. Dardenne is said to be considering running against Vitter, who was identified as a client of the "D.C. Madam." The DSCC, which recruited Rep. Charlie Melancon (D), had released a poll showing Vitter leading the Democrat 47-37.

Considering the perceived vulnerability of Vitter -- DSCC chair Bob Menendez identified him and North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr as the top targets -- he has a relatively high favorable rating in the Bayou -- 56 percent. Only 34 percent had an unfavorable opinion of the first-term senator. Some of the gap for Melancon has a fav/unfav split of 43/39.

President Obama has a 41 percent job approval rating in the state; 59 percent disapprove. Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) approval is strong -- 65 percent, with a disapproval rating of 34 percent. In the state, 36 percent of voters favor health care reform, while 61 percent oppose.

The survey of 500 likely voters was conducted October 5 and had a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

DGA Mocks GOP 'Comeback'

The Democratic Governors Association uses the formation of a campaign committee by former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) today as an opportunity to mock its Republican counterpart, saying their field of candidates seems more "throwback" than "comeback."

Branstad was first elected in 1982 and served four terms as Iowa's governor, but is exploring a new bid in 2010 against incumbent Chet Culver (D). The DGA web video adds to his resume the founding of the Iowa Caucuses in 1920 and lobbying for Iowa statehood in 1846. Also targeted in his "Band of Breakout Buckaroos" are some well-known GOP gubernatorial candidates who have been on the scene for some time: Florida's Bill McCollum, Ohio's John Kasich, and Rick Lazio and Rudy Giuliani, announced and potential candidates in New York.

The RGA has used as a fundraising and recruiting pitch the idea that the Republican Party's comeback begins with wins in gubernatorial races in 2009, and continues in 2010. The DGA's point here is that the party's candidates suggests more of the same from the party.

Democrats, of course, have some "throwback" candidates of their own. We've noted that three former Democratic governors are looking to win back their old posts: Oregon's John Kitzhaber, California's Jerry Brown and Georgia's Roy Barnes. All three, however, face primaries.

Dems Ramp Up Pressure On Health Care

Here is my story today on the Democrats' efforts to pressure Republicans to support comprehensive health care reform:

While the Senate Finance Committee awaits a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office on Chairman Max Baucus's (D-Mont.) health care bill, Democrats are ramping up their efforts to build support among the American people and pressure Republicans to eventually back comprehensive reform.

In a briefing with reporters Thursday, Senate Democratic leadership focused solely on what they referred to as the Republicans' obstructionist efforts on reform.

...

In pressuring Republicans, Democrats have also utilized recent quotes from prominent Republicans around the country who have stated a desire for Congress to work in a bipartisan fashion to pass reform this year.

Read the rest here.

Carter Again Seeks To Remove Rangel From Ways & Means

Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.) is again working to remove Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) from his post as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee until the House ethics committee completes its investigation into his potential impropriety.

Carter read aloud his privileged resolution on the House floor at 12:55 p.m. today, and by rule it will be voted on. However, his previous resolution, introduced in February, was tabled by Democrats and today's vote appears to fare a similar outcome.

"We cannot tolerate a double standard in this country, one for the common man and another for the rich and powerful," Carter said in a press release this morning. "To allow Mr. Rangel to continue to serve as Chairman of the very committee with IRS oversight, without paying a nickel in penalties, and with no end in sight to his ethics investigation, sends a clear message to the American public that this government refuses to abide by the same laws they impose on the working people of this country."

An investigation into Rangel has continued for more than a year now, as the ethics committee first announced on Sept. 24, 2008, the formation of an investigative subcommittee to look into his dealings. The committee announced a separate inquiry in June for trips he has taken to the Caribbean.

The full text of the resolution can be read here.

UPDATE (1:51 p.m.): The House voted to refer the resolution to the ethics committee, ending the chance for any debate. The resolution is now dead as the committee has no mandate to do anything with it.

Two Democrats voted with the Republicans to not refer the motion to committee: Reps. Gene Taylor and Travis Childers, both of Mississippi. Childers represents a swing district, but Taylor is regularly re-elected with well more than 60% of the vote.

"These votes show that support for the Democratic Leaders' decision to sweep this matter under the rug is starting to crack," said Michael Steel, spokesman for Minority Leader John Boehner.

Here is a released statement from Boehner:

"Today's vote is just the latest example of Speaker Pelosi breaking her promise to have the most 'open and ethical' Congress in history. Instead of holding Chairman Rangel accountable for his actions, House Democrats are once again circling the wagons and demonstrating their loyalty to a leader who faces serious questions about his official conduct.

"In public service, there is a time to put the interests of the American people before your own, and for Chairman Rangel, this should be one of those times. With an economic recession causing millions of Americans to lose their jobs, it is not in our nation's best interest to have the chairman of the House's powerful tax-writing committee under investigation for running afoul of tax laws. The American people deserve better."


Internal Poll Shows Coakley Far Ahead

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's (D) campaign has released an internal poll today that shows her still outpacing the Democratic field in the coming special primary election.

Primary Election Matchup
Coakley 47
Capuano 12
Pagliuca 4
Khazei 1

A release from the Coakley campaign said that she "leads among all demographic and regional lines," and gets at least 40 percent in every part of the state. Her favorable rating among Democrats is 66 percent, compared to 11 percent unfavorable.

A Rasmussen poll conducted last month also showed Coakley with a strong lead, though the field has changed since then. Rep. Michael Capuano is now the only member of the Congressional delegation running, joined by businessman and Celtics part-owner Steve Pagliuca and Alan Khazei, founder of City Year.

The survey of 800 likely primary voters was conducted by Lake Research Partners from September 21-24, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent. The special primary election is on December 8.

WI Sen Poll: Thompson Beats Feingold

Tommy Thompson (R), the former four-term Wisconsin governor and secretary of Health and Human Services, would take down Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) if an election for Senate were held today, according to a new poll from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (Sept. 27-29, 700 A, MoE +/- 3.8%).

Thompson leads Feingold, who's up for re-election to a fourth term next year, by a 43%-39% margin. However, Thompson has not indicated interest in the race, and Feingold's only challenger right now is businessman David Westlake. Feingold has never won with more than 55% of the vote.

Thompson made a brief run for president, officially announcing his candidacy in April 2007 and dropping out after the Ames straw poll four months later. He made headlines this week after urging Congress to pass health care reform this year.

Feingold made headlines this morning after lambasting the White House for not sending a representative to his Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on President Obama's policy czars.

New McDonnell Ad Knocks Deeds On Taxes

The Bob McDonnell campaign has done the calculations, and it turns out Creigh Deeds' tax policies would cost Virginia families $7,800 over four years and result in the killing of 56,000 jobs, as it states in a new TV ad.

These numbers are based on Deeds' support for a 20-cent gas tax increase and the climate legislation bill passed by the House; although according to the National Association of Manufacturers report that the job loss number is based on, this total would not occur until 2030.

The campaign did not immediately return a message regarding the size and location of the ad buy.

Toomey Raises $1.5M In 3rdQ

The campaign for Pennsylvania Senate candidate Pat Toomey (R) announced this morning it raised more than $1.5 million in the 3rd fundraising quarter of the year. The campaign also stated it has now raised more than "$3.1 million from over 20,000 contributors" in the last five and a half months, and already has "33 percent more contributors than the total number of donors amassed during the entirety of his 2004 Senate run."

Toomey, then a congressman, challenged Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) in the 2004 GOP primary, losing by just 2 points. It was his challenge again this year that prompted Specter to switch parties, though Specter still faces a credible primary challenger in Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.).

Specter and Sestak have yet to announce their 3rd quarter fundraising hauls.

Pawlenty Headlining Iowa GOP Dinner

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has landed a significant speaking slot in the state of Iowa next month as he makes his first trip to the early caucus state as a presidential hopeful.

The Iowa Republican Party announced today that Pawlenty will be the "featured guest" at the organization's "signature fall event," called "Leadership For Iowa," to be held November 7 at the Iowa State Fair Grounds.

From the Iowa GOP release:

Governor Pawlenty, who also serves as vice-chairman of the Republican Governors Association, will be joined by Iowa Republican candidates for governor as the Party starts a 12-month countdown to new leadership that will culminate in the election of a Republican governor and legislative majority in November 2010.

Strawn said, "During his two terms as Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty effectively worked to balance the state's budget, reduce spending, and enact important health care and education reform initiatives.

"Governor Pawlenty is an innovative, conservative leader and, as Iowa Republicans prepare for a robust gubernatorial primary election and nationally-watched general election for governor, his message of balanced budgets, lower taxes, and market-based reforms for health care and education will resonate with all Iowans," said Strawn.

Pawlenty has had an active travel schedule since announcing he wouldn't seek a third term in 2010, but this is his first trip to Iowa -- a state, it should be noted, that has some familiarity with him as Minnesota borders the Hawkeye State to the the north.

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (27 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Christie +2.6)
*Rasmussen has Christie's lead down to 3.

*Christie was defensive yesterday, responding to charges he lacks specifics.

*The Republican promised to restore property tax rebates, but said other cuts will come when the economy improves.

*Big donations, some barred through state campaign accounts, are being funneled through the DGA and RGA.

*A big environmental endorsement for Christie means two green groups have now snubbed Corzine.

*Vice President Biden is making his second trip to New Jersey for Corzine.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +7.3)

*Bad sign for Deeds? Wall Street Journal reports the White House is stepping back from the race.

*Still, VP Biden is coming to help Deeds raise money. John McCain will stump with McDonnell this month as well.

*Deeds said yesterday that Washington is making it harder for him to win.

*At a forum yesterday, Deeds and McDonnell showed that they actually share some common ground.

*Deeds did GOTV work in the college town of Harrisonburg.

Strategy Memo: Awaiting the Score

Today President Obama starts his day with his daily briefings and a meeting with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. This afternoon, he awards the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in the East Room. Then, it's back to Afghanistan and Pakistan, with a meeting with his security team in the Situation Room. Tonight, he and the first lady host an event on the South Lawn for local students "to star gaze and conduct hands-on experiments with astronomers." It's meant to encourage the study of science.

Vice President Biden starts his day with events in New Jersey to boost Gov. Jon Corzine (D) in his re-election bid. He'll take part in the Afghanistan/Pakistan briefing, and then get back to his role as fundraiser-in-chief, with an event in DC for Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.).

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is hopeful to get a CBO score on his health care bill today, which would restart movement toward a final committee vote. On the floor, the Senate will resume consideration of the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill. The House may take up the conference report for the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Appropriations Act of 2010

**President Obama
*Though Gallup shows his approval rating down to 50 percent, an AP poll has Obama's numbers rising since September, now at 56 percent. "But concerns about the economy, health care and war persist, and support for the war in Afghanistan is falling."

*"President Obama told Congressional leaders on Tuesday that he would not substantially reduce American forces in Afghanistan or shift the mission to just hunting terrorists there, but he indicated that he remained undecided about the major troop buildup proposed by his commanding general," the New York Times reports.

Bloomberg reports that Obama "won backing for his deliberative approach to a new strategy in Afghanistan from congressional leaders yesterday, even as lawmakers indicated little change in their own views on the war."

But the Post reports that lawmakers left "divided over what strategy the administration should adopt to fight an increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan and how quickly it must do so to protect U.S. forces already on the ground."

*Sarah Palin weighed in on Afghanistan via Facebook. "Now is not the time for cold feet, second thoughts, or indecision -- it is the time to act as commander-in-chief and approve the troops so clearly needed in Afghanistan," she writes.

*CNN: The White House is enlisting the help of some Hollywood celebrities "to judge a contest that asks grassroots supporters to create a television commercial promoting health care reform."

*Los Angeles Times: "Five constitutional experts testified at a Senate hearing Tuesday that President Obama's extensive use of policy 'czars' is legal -- as long as the officials do not overstep their authority." No one from the White House testified, but in a letter, White House counsel Greg Craig wrote: "Neither the purpose nor the effect of these new positions is to supplant or replace existing federal agencies or departments."

*Politico reports that in New York, David Axelrod sat down with Fox News chief Roger Ailes.

*AP reports that Biden's trip to New Jersey AFL-CIO conference today "was nearly skirted because Corzine was locked in a tense labor negotiation and union members threatened to picket. Biden, a pro-union politician, was unlikely to cross a picket line."

*Meanwhile, is the White House abandoning Creigh Deeds? Wall Street Journal says they want to conserve political capital.

**Congress
*Health Care: Three Democrats and one Republican -- Sens. Jay Rockefeller, Blanche Lincoln, Ron Wyden and Olympia Snowe -- are expected to support the Finance Committee's health care bill, but they "have not indicated how they will vote ... and said Tuesday that they were agonizing over the decision," NY Times reports. "Taken together, the four senators represent the spectrum of concerns Democrats will face in trying to assemble the 60 votes they need to get a bill through the full Senate using regular procedure."

*Afghanistan: "Congressional leaders left a rare bipartisan meeting with President Obama on Tuesday divided over what strategy the administration should adopt to fight an increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan and how quickly it must do so to protect U.S. forces already on the ground," Washington Post reports.

*Defense: "The Senate approved a $625.6 billion Pentagon budget Tuesday, ending a weeklong debate reflecting very different but related wars: one in Afghanistan and the other among aerospace giants vying to keep production lines open," Politico reports.

*Economy: "If Democrats enact another large stimulus -- as some are now urging -- they will feed into Republican charges that the first plan failed, just as they said it would. But if they don't, Republicans will still say the first plan failed, and it will become harder as time goes on to keep blaming former President George W. Bush for a weak job market," Roll Call reports.

*Oversight: "Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) scolded the White House for not showing up to an oversight hearing Tuesday to answer questions about executive-branch czars," The Hill reports.

**Ethics
*At the Senate GOP's weekly policy luncheon, "Ensign spoke up on health care reform, mixing it up with colleagues as if it were another day at the office -- rather than the first full day back at work after becoming the subject of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation and possible Justice Department inquiry," Las Vegas Sun reports.

*CREW's Melanie Sloan "says Ensign conspired to evade lobbying restrictions that prohibit former congressional workers from influencing their former colleagues for a year after leaving the government. A willful violation of this ban is a felony, Sloan wrote in a four-page letter with 15 pages of supporting documentation," Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

*House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer "said Tuesday that he will move to block any Republican attempt this week to push Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel to step aside until an ethics probe is complete," CQ reports.

*"Two years after creating a center in his own name at City College, Harlem Rep. Charles Rangel has come through with a $3 million defense grant for the school -- for a project the Pentagon doesn't even want," NY Post reports.

*"To its supporters, ACORN was an inspiring progressive force that got liberals out of their limousines and into the streets where they belonged -- into the nation's poorest neighborhoods where they could agitate and organize and pressure city governments to do right by people most in need," Politics Daily reports. "Now, nearly four decades after its founding, with its rhetoric excess, operational overreach and appalling lapses in ethics, ACORN is on the verge of" proving its critics right.

**Fundraising
*Alex Sink (D) raised $1.6 million for her gubernatorial bid in Florida, and has $4 million in the bank.

*Andrew Romanoff (D) raised $200,000 in 21 days since announcing his challenge of appointed Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

*Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) raised $452,000 for his re-election bid.

*Merrick Alpert (D), challenging Sen. Chris Dodd (D), raised just under $20,000.

**Campaign Stuff
*Gallup: "Roughly a year before the 2010 midterm elections, Gallup finds the Republican and Democratic Parties nearly tied in the congressional ballot preferences of registered voters. Forty-six percent of registered voters say they would vote for the Democrat and 44% say the Republican when asked which party's candidate they would support for Congress, if the election were held today."

*Pollster Peter Hart tells the Wall Street Journal why the unemployment rate is a key marker to watch next year."Unemployment is the leading economic indicator when it comes to politics," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart. "Anytime unemployment hits double digits, it's hard to see the party in control having a good election year."

*"In an effort to show that the committee has moved to playing more offense than defense in the 2010 cycle, the NRCC will announce Wednesday that it will limit its next "Patriot Day" fundraising blitz to only a handful of GOP Members," Roll Call reports.

*FL Sen: "Charlie Crist has a real race on his hands," St. Petersburg Times' Adam Smith reports, as Marco Rubio announced raising nearly $1 million in the 3rd quarter. "The hefty fundraising quarter establishes Rubio's viability and is likely to spur more interest in the 38-year-old Cuban-American from Miami."

*PA Gov: Allegheny County Exec. Dan Onorato jumped yesterday into the crowded Democratic primary field for governor, Philly Inquirer reports.

*The News Journal reports that Mike Castle did call Joe Biden to inform him of his decision to run for his old Senate seat. He did not call Beau Biden, his likely opponent, because he said he does not know him well.

*Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad will file paperwork to form a campaign committee today, the Des Moines Register reports. "Longtime Branstad associate Richard Schwarm ... said it should not be interpreted as a definitive sign that Branstad is committed to running. But veteran Iowa GOP strategists see the move as a tacit campaign launch, establishing Branstad as the prohibitive favorite capable of thinning the robust primary field."

*Former Amb. Tom Foley is up with his first TV ad in the Connecticut Senate race; he says he isn't beholden to special interests.

*Kendrick Meek has a new challenger for the Democratic nomination in Florida's Senate race. St. Pete Times: "The worst-kept secret is out: Former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre is announcing tomorrow via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube video, and old-fashioned press release."

*Jennifer Horn (R) will run again for the New Hampshire 2nd District seat, per DiStaso.

*The Sun reports that former President Clinton will raise money for Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-Md.), another Hillary backer in '08.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Biden: Still Time For Senate Decision

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden released the following statement on Rep. Mike Castle's (R) announcement today:

"Mike Castle is a good and decent man who has served our state well for a long time. Like all Delawareans, I look forward to hearing his ideas on how we should address the difficult issues facing our state and the nation."
Regarding his own decision on whether to run, he says:
"I just got back from a year in Iraq. I'm spending time with my family and I'm getting back to work. There will be time to make a decision."

McCain: Afghanistan Tests Obama As Commander In Chief

The decision facing President Obama will test his leadership as the nation's commander in chief, Sen. John McCain said today after a White House meeting on Afghanistan.

"Of course it is," he told reporters after the meeting. "I'm sure the president is very aware of that, and that's why he's going through the process that he's going through."

The former Republican presidential nominee urged his former rival to act "with deliberate haste" in making a determination on Afghanistan, saying that time "is not on our side." He said that while a number of options should be considered, the White House should give special weight to the recommendations coming from commanders in the field.

"They were correct in employing the strategy that succeeded in Iraq. That strategy, adjusted to the different conditions in Afghanistan, can work in Afghanistan as well," he said.

He also took issue with the notion believed to be coming from the White House that the Taliban should be targeted differently than al Qaida.

"We all know that if the Taliban come back, al Qaida will come back," he said. "I don't think it's a proper reading of both history and the situation to somehow think that al Qaida will not quickly emerge in Afghanistan if it falls to the Taliban."

House Majority Leader John Boehner said that his party in the House stands by the previous stated goal with regard to Afghanistan: to deny al Qaida and the Taliban safe haven. "If that is the goal, I believe that my colleagues on the House side will be there to support him," he said.

He, too, urged Obama to press forward with a decision soon.

"We need to remember that every day that goes by, the troops that we do have there are in greater danger," he said. "We need to get this right. And I'm hopeful that the president will make a strong decision.

Speaking for the Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described today's meeting as "respectful," while acknowledging the "diversity of opinion" in the room. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid initially said that his sense from the participants on both sides of the aisle was that "whatever decision you make, we'll support it." He later hedged, as did Pelosi.

"There was agreement that it's a difficult decision for the president to make," she said. "Whether we agreed with it or voted for it remains to be seen."

Rasmussen: Christie Lead Down To 3

In the first poll conducted entirely after Friday's debate, Rasmussen shows that Chris Christie (R) still leads in the New Jersey gubernatorial race, but that his lead has shrunk to three points, within the margin of error.

General Election Matchup
Christie 47 (-1 from last poll, 9/21)
Corzine 44 (+3)
Daggett 6 (unch)
Don't Know 3 (-2)

Corzine's 44 percent showing is his highest in any poll this year. Christie's lead in the RCP average was at 2.5.

In an interesting signal of how the race might break in the final four weeks, Rasmussen finds that Christie holds a 5-point lead among those who are certain of their choice and won't change their mind. But among the one-third of the electorate who say they are undecided or could change their mind, Daggett is their top choice with 27 percent, followed by Corzine at 24 percent and Christie at 22 percent.

"At the moment, Christie's voters are a bit more certain to actually show up and vote. However, in New Jersey, Democrats have traditionally displayed a stronger ground game to get-out-the-vote," the Rasmussen release states.

The one main jump for Daggett since the debate has been in his favorable rating. His rating in the last Rasmussen poll was 28 / 27, but he's seen a big spike on the positive side.

Favorable Ratings
Christie 46 / 50
Corzine 45 / 52
Daggett 44 / 27

The automated telephone survey of 750 likely voters was conducted October 5, and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

Baucus 'Not Discouraged' On Forthcoming CBO Score

The Senate Finance Committee is awaiting a cost estimate, or "score," from the Congressional Budget Office, and Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said today he's unsure when it will come.

"I'm hopeful it's tomorrow, but I can't guarantee it," Baucus said after emerging from the Senate Democrats' weekly luncheon.

Movement on his health care bill has stalled so senators on the committee, especially Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), can cast their vote knowing how much the bill will cost. As for when a vote will take place, Baucus said it all depends what the CBO score looks like.

"If it's a clean bill of health," the vote will take place sooner, said Baucus.

Asked if he had spoken with CBO during the process and what he expected in the score, Baucus smiled and said, "I'm not discouraged."

Who Is At The White House

Here is a list of the bipartisan group of congressional party and committee leaders who trekked down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House this afternoon for a briefing with President Obama and Vice President Biden on Afghanistan and Pakistan:

US Senate
• Senator Harry Reid, Majority Leader, D-NV
• Senator Dick Durbin, Majority Whip, D-IL
• Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican Leader, R-KY
• Senator Jon Kyl, Republican Whip, R-AZ
• Senator Carl Levin, Armed Services Chairman, D-MI
• Senator John McCain, Armed Services Ranking Member, R-AZ
• Senator Daniel Inouye, Appropriations Chairman and Defense Subcommittee Chairman, D-HI
• Senator Thad Cochran, Appropriations Ranking Member and Defense Subcommittee Ranking, R-MS
• Senator John Kerry, Foreign Affairs Chairman, D-MA
• Senator Richard Lugar, Foreign Affairs Ranking Member, R-IN
• Senator Patrick Leahy, Foreign Operations Appropriations Chairman, D-VT
• Senator Judd Gregg, Foreign Operations Appropriations Ranking Member, R-NH
• Senator Dianne Feinstein, Intelligence Committee Chair, D-CA
• Senator Kit Bond, Intelligence Committee Ranking Member, R-MO

US House
• Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA
• Representative Steny Hoyer, Majority Leader, D-MD
• Representative John Boehner, Republican Leader, R-OH
• Representative James Clyburn, Majority Whip, D-SC
• Representative Eric Cantor, Republican Whip, R-VA
• Representative Ike Skelton, Armed Services Chairman, D-MO
• Representative Howard McKeon, Armed Services Ranking Member, R-CA
• Representative Howard Berman, Foreign Affairs Chairman, D-CA
• Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Foreign Affairs Ranking Member, R-FL
• Representative David Obey, Appropriations Chairman, D-WI
• Representative Jerry Lewis, Appropriations Ranking Member, R-CA
• Representative Nita Lowey, Foreign Operations Appropriations Chairman, D-NY
• Representative Kay Granger, Foreign Operations Appropriations Ranking Member, R-TX
• Representative John Murtha, Appropriations, Defense Subcommittee Chairman, D-PA
• Representative Bill Young, Appropriations, Defense Subcommittee Ranking Member, R-FL
• Representative Silvestre Reyes, Intelligence Committee Chairman, D-TX
• Representative Peter Hoekstra, Intelligence Committee Ranking Member, R-MI

Perdue Numbers Drop Again

Two separate North Carolina-based polling organizations released new surveys today that found Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue's approval ratings hovering below 30 percent. Unfortunately for Perdue, this is nothing new for the governor still in her first year in office.

Public Policy Polling's survey found Perdue at her lowest mark yet -- 24 percent approval, as more Democrats (39%) now disapprove of the job she's doing than approve of it (38%).

These numbers, as we've written previously, stem from a down economy and a difficult budget process with the North Carolina Legislature, one that included raising taxes and cutting state services.

The Civitas Institute survey puts Perdue at 29 percent. Civitas also found 63 percent disapproving of the job she's doing -- easily her highest disapproval rating yet.

"While the number of voters approving of her job is holding steady, the number who said they disapprove is skyrocketing," said Civitas executive director Francis De Luca. "A lot of people dismiss job approval ratings this far from an election, but at some point Perdue has to see her numbers stabilize. According to these latest numbers, it appears her support continues to fall."

PPP's survey was conducted Oct. 2-4 of 683 RV with a +/- 3.8% margin of error. The Civitas survey was taken Sept. 29-30 of 600 RV with a +/- 4% margin of error.

Castle Announces Senate Run, Expects Biden As Foe

In a major recruiting win for the GOP, Delaware Rep. Mike Castle (R) announced today that he will run in a 2010 special election to fill Vice President Joe Biden's unexpired Senate term, with the expectation that his Democratic opponent will be Biden's son, Beau.

"When you deal with any of the Bidens, you're dealing with all the Bidens," Castle said at a press conference outside of the Wilmington train station this afternoon. "My hope is that in Delaware, we can have the kind of campaign that people can be proud of."

Castle said he "doesn't have any illusions that this will be easy street." Indeed, where the race was silent for months, it instantly catapults to one of 2010's marquee races. Castle has a moderate persona and a 20-year record of electoral success in the First State, as lieutenant governor, governor and for the past nine terms an at-large Congressman. He was re-elected in 2008 with 61 percent of the vote, even as Biden won a new Senate term with 65 percent of the vote and Barack Obama carried the state.

He highlighted his "independence" today, saying he believes "in civility and bipartianship." Health care is one issue "that just begs working together," he said. But it's the economy that's the most pressing issue facing the nation. "We need to bring to Washington the same economic skills we brought to Delaware a while ago," he said.

Democratic Senate Campaign Committee chair Bob Menendez last week said he expects Biden, the state attorney general, to be the Democratic candidate. He'd be supported by the DSCC and have the benefits of his father's clout at the White House and in Delaware behind. Biden returned from a deployment in Iraq with the Delaware National Guard late last month; he's not expected to comment himself today.

Castle said he decided just over a week ago to run, after talking with various state party officials, family and friends. He waited until Biden's return from Iraq to make an announcement. It's still the earliest he's ever announced for a campaign, he noted, but said he understands the nature of Senate campaigns today. He acknowledged there will be considerable influence from national campaign committees in the contest, but, "Rest assured I will be at the Apple Scrapple and the Delaware football games to make my case."

Castle, now 70, had announced earlier this year he was unlikely to run for another House term, with his main choice being to run for Senate or retire. Serving at least four years in the Senate could have been an attractive conclusion to his career, even if it's likely to be in the minority party. He suffered strokes in 2006 -- the only election for the House since his first where he was held to less than 60 percent of the vote. But he described those incidents as minor and said he has no health problems.

Jason Miller, a spokesperson for Beau Biden in the attorney general's office, said he was unlikely to speak publicly today. DSCC spokesperson Eric Schultz previewed what will likely be a race of youth versus experience in a statement before Castle's announcement, noting he first ran for office in1967.

"After four decades in politics, it is clear which direction Mike Castle wants to move Delaware and the country," he said. "He built-up a record of supporting the George Bush's economic policies, including tax cuts for the super-wealthy, that drove Delaware's economy into a ditch - and now won't support any of the Obama-Biden plans to fix it. This will be a race about who is positioned to lead Delaware into the future, and Democrats fully intend to hold onto the Vice-President's seat."

Castle's campaign quickly launched a Web site and even a Twitter feed. In a statement through his new campaign, Castle said, "It has never been more important for Delaware to have the strongest and most experienced leadership to represent us in Washington. We are best served by an experienced, independent voice and that is why I am announcing my intention to run for the United States Senate."

Officials in Vice President Biden's office had no comment yet on Castle's announcement.

Rubio Raises Close to $1M in 3rdQ

Marco Rubio, the upstart, conservative challenger to the NRSC-backed Gov. Charlie Crist, announced today in an e-mail to supporters that he raised "almost $1 million during the 3rd quarter" fundraising period.

Crist has not yet announced his fundraising total for the months of July, August and September, though it's likely to be well ahead of Rubio. Exact totals won't be known until the Oct. 15 filing deadline.

Still, the fundraising quarter was a success for the campaign, Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos told RealClearPolitics. Rubio has always known he can't compete financially with Crist, but instead will rely on a more grassroots approach. Whatever Rubio's exact number is, it will be far more than his 2nd quarter take of $350,000; Crist raised $4.4 million last quarter.

Burgos confirmed to RCP a report that Karl Rove had donated money to the campaign. He said the donation took place over the internet Saturday Oct. 3, so it won't show up on a fundraising report until the 4th quarter, due Jan. 15.

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (28 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Christie +2.5)

*Gov. Jon Corzine (D) has a lead for the first time since January.

*On "Morning Joe" today, Corzine called Obama a "clear, unadulterated plus" in his bid.

*Chris Christie fights back in a TV ad, and says "exactly" what he'll do. Democrats say he still lacks specifics.

*Today, Christie will accept the endorsement of the New Jersey Environmental Foundation.

*The Republican is sticking to his strategy, while arguing that Chris Daggett (I) won't be a factor.

*Daggett has seen a "modest" fundraising boost since his debate performance.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +7.3)

*Both candidates are participating in a forum this morning in Loudoun County, an essential exurb for both parties. The Washington Post is live-blogging the event.

*Both McDonnell and Deeds are targeting "vote-rich" Northern Virginia.

*Sheila Johnson apologizes for mocking Deeds' halting speaking style -- a video of which was circulated by the Deeds camp.

*By most accounts, this race is getting nasty.

*USA Today sums up the race as a referendum on Pres. Obama.

*McDonnell pledges to not raise taxes for transportation funding.

Strategy Memo: Republicans At The White House

After morning briefings, President Obama will visit the National Counterterrorism Center. This afternoon, he'll welcome bipartisan and bicameral leadership to the White House to discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan in the State Dining Room. Reports indicate that it will be the first formal visit in six months for some members of the GOP leadership.

Vice President Biden, after a day of politics yesterday, will join Obama for the Afghanistan briefing with Congressional leadership at the White House today. But first he'll have breakfast with Secretary of State Clinton and Richard Holbrooke, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tomorrow he's back on the stump, though, campaigning with New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.

On the chamber floors, the Senate will consider the nomination of Thomas Perez to be an Assistant Attorney General and later resume consideration of the Defense Appropriations bill, including votes on 14 amendments. The House returns to session at 12:30 p.m. with a series of votes expected at 6:30 p.m., including one to send the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010 to conference.

**President Obama
*Robert Gates seemed to rebuke General Stanley McChrystal, saying the Pentagon would follow whatever strategy Obama orders. "In this process, it is imperative that all of us taking part in these deliberations, civilians and military alike, provide our best advice to the president candidly but privately," he said.

Later, though, Gates said that was not a message to McChrystal and called him the right man for the job.

*Bloomberg: "Obama is considering a mix of spending programs and tax cuts to respond to widening job losses that would amount to an additional economic stimulus without carrying that label."

NY Times: "Obama's economic team discussed a wide range of ideas" to boost the economy at a meeting on Monday. "But officials emphasized that a decision was still far off and that in any event the effort would not add up to a second economic stimulus package, only an extension of the first."

*AP: "Obama plans to address the nation's largest gay rights group this weekend in an effort to mollify an uneasy Democratic constituency frustrated with the White House's slow pace."

*The New York Times reports that on health care, "the Obama administration is courting support from Republicans and independents some distance from Capitol Hill, and aggressively publicizing the results."

**Congress
*"Congressional leaders from both parties will head to the White House on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the worsening situation in Afghanistan," The Hill reports. "It is the first time in six months that House Republican leaders have been invited to the White House to discuss official business; Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) are both scheduled to attend. If Obama decides to send all the troops McChrystal wants, he will probably need Republican votes to sustain the escalation. National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones will brief the full House on the Afghanistan situation in a closed meeting later this week in the Capitol Visitor Center."

*"As Democrats prepare to take up health care legislation on the floor of the Senate and the House, they are facing tough choices about two competing priorities. They want people to pay affordable prices for health insurance policies, but they want those policies to offer comprehensive health benefits. These goals collide in the bills moving through Congress," New York Times reports.

*"As the Senate Finance Committee slogged through amendments to a high-stakes health care bill last week and basked in the media spotlight, House Democrats were quietly contemplating a troubling question. When it comes to health care, does the House even matter?" Politico reports.

**Supreme Court
*USA Today: "New Justice Sonia Sotomayor, hearing cases Monday on the first day of the 2009-10 term, showed she can match the most relentless of the justices in challenging lawyers who make their cases in the well of the courtroom. During arguments on criminal law and civil procedure disputes, she jumped in with the vigor of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. These three justices act quickly when they want an answer."

*"Sotomayor, a former prosecutor, was part of an animated bench for the first case of the 2009-2010 term. That case asks whether a suspect's request for an attorney means that police cannot question him again years later if more information in the case becomes available," Washington Post reports.

**Fundraising
*Mark Kirk (R) raised $1.6 million for his IL-Senate race. Alexi Giannoulias (D) announced this morning that he raised $1.1 million, but has a slight lead in cash on hand.

*Gilbert Baker (R) has raised $500,000 in his effort to unseat Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D). Arkansas News reports that Lincoln has $3.2 million in the bank.

*Marco Rubio (R) hasn't announced his fundraising totals, but word leaked out that Karl Rove made a contribution to his primary effort against Gov. Charlie Crist (R) for Florida's Senate seat.

*Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Baker raised $540,000 for his 2010 race. The Globe also notes that independent candidate Tim Cahill raised more than $200,000 but has $3 million in the bank. Gov. Deval Patrick raised just $48,000 and has only $481,000 on hand.

**Campaign Stuff
*"It wasn't a partisan rally" when Biden joined Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep. Jim Himes for a stimulus-related event yesterday, "but the vice president nevertheless found a few moments to praise two of of the state's Democrats in Washington," the Hartford Courant reports.

*Former Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan, who lost to Rod Blagojevich in 2002, may run for governor in 2010, the Tribune reports.

*KS Sen: Moran leads Tiahrt by 16 points.

*In a hypothetical 2010 matchup, Tommy Thompson would defeat incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold, according to a University of Wisconsin poll.

*In an interview with Politico, Newt Gingrich has praise for Tim Pawlenty, but also notes he will sit down and make "a very difficult decision" of his own about the 2012 race.

*"Candidates are using the midterm elections to build their presidential campaigns under the guise of helping the Republican Party," The Hill's Wilson reports. "And they will spend the next year raising money for Republican congressional candidates -- earning favors that can be cashed in if they decide to mount a White House bid, along with the side benefit of being able to introduce themselves to voters and donors."

*GOP: "Republican campaign efforts are 'far ahead' of where they were the year before the party took back the House in 1994," NRCC Chair Pete Sessions (R-Texas) told Human Events yesterday.

*Did Michael Steele praise ACORN leader Bertha Lewis? He at least took a much softer tone in a recent speech, CNN reports. "Appearing September 21 at Philander Smith College, a historically black college in Arkansas, the RNC chairman spoke diplomatically of the group and its history of organizing in low-income communities." Steele: "I will say that current head of the organization, she has done a phenomenal job of getting out in front of it. I applaud her. I take her at her word that she wants to make sure that the bad apples are thrown out."

*The Bill Clinton payback tour continues. He visited San Francisco for Gavin Newsom's gubernatorial bid. The Chronicle: "With eight months to go until the 2010 primary, the backing of the former president presents a chance for Newsom's campaign to shrink the money gap with Brown, a two-term governor and likely rival, who has raised $7.3 million compared with Newsom's $1.2 million as of June 30."

*TX Gov: The Texas Farm Bureau endorsed Kay Bailey Hutchison over Rick Perry, but "may have exposed itself to political payback."

*Politico reports that Republicans are closing in on a challenger for newly controversial Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.).

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

FDU Poll: Corzine Claims First Lead Since January

After trailing in the race in every poll since January, Gov. Jon Corzine (D) holds a lead in a major public poll. The FDU/Public Mind survey gives him a one-point lead over Republican Chris Christie (R), with independent Chris Daggett now drawing significant support.

General Election Matchup
Corzine 38
Christie 37
Daggett 17
Don't Know 6

Christie's lead in the RCP Average is down to 2.5.

In FDU's last survey in early September, Daggett was not included in the list, but 1 percent volunteered his name. In this month's survey, Daggett was volunteered by 4 percent in a survey in which his name was not included. But Corzine led that head-to-head as well, 44-43.

A cautionary vote, however. When the name of another independent candidate -- Gary Steele -- was included instead of Daggett's, even he drew double-digit support. That would seem to suggest that Daggett's pool of support includes many casual voters unhappy with the major party options, and who may ultimately not vote at all.

Debate Impact

The first televised debate occurred during the polling sample. Of the pool of respondents polled from Friday on, only 24 percent say they watched. Of that group, 14 percent of voters say Daggett won, followed by 12 percent who say Corzine, and just 4 percent say Christie. Three-in-five voters couldn't say. The real impact may be in boosting the independent's visibility -- only a third of voters say they had heard of him in the September survey; now, half of voters did.

Voters are increasingly convinced Corzine will win, with 49 percent now saying they expect that result -- up from 45 percent in September. Only 38 percent say they approve of Corzine's job performance, though that's a slight improvement from last month. His favorable rating jumped 6 points while his unfavorable number held stead. Christie's favorable number dropped 3 points, while his unfavorable rating climbed 7 points.

Favorable Ratings
Corzine 37 / 54
Christie 35 / 42
Daggett 16 / 7

The telephone poll of 667 likely voters was conducted from September 28-October 5, and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

NH Sen Poll: Ayotte Holds Lead Over Hodes

A new University of New Hampshire WMUR Granite State poll shows that former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (R) maintains a lead over Rep. Paul Hodes (D) in the battle for the state's open Senate seat.

General Election Matchup
Ayotte 40 (+1 from last poll, 7/2)
Hodes 33 (-2)
Undecided 25 (+1)

That last poll was taken just before Ayotte resigned and announced her Senate candidacy. It hasn't been the easiest road for her since then, but she still appears to be the strongest Republican candidate against Hodes. The caveat is that only 14 percent of voters have definitely decided on who they'll vote for in one year, or are leaning toward someone.

Hodes 37 -- Lamontagne 28 -- Und 33
Hodes 37 -- Mahoney 28 -- Und 33

Favorable Rating
Hodes 30 / 26
Ayotte 37 / 8
Lamontagne 11 / 7
Mahoney 5 / 3

Gregg 56 / 23
Shaheen 51 / 36

After the jump, favorable ratings for the candidates for New Hampshire's Congressional races.

First District
Shea Porter (D-Inc) 42 / 31
Guinta (R) 28 / 11
Stephen (R) 18 / 10

Second District
Kuster (D) 6 / 2
Swett (D) 12 / 17
Horn (R) 13 / 10
Bass (R) 39 / 22

The survey of 503 voters was conducted September 25 to October 2, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent. The Senate subsample of 466 likely voters has a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent. The First District subsample of 251 adults had a margin of error of +/- 6.2 percent, and the 2nd district subsample of 253 voters had the same.

VA Gov Poll: Deeds Gain, Still Trails

In its second poll in the race in the past week, SurveyUSA finds Creigh Deeds (D) gaining 3 points on Bob McDonnell (R) but still trailing by double digits (Oct. 2-4, 608 LV, MoE +/- 4%). The poll found Deeds picking up support among women, whom the campaign has targeted in much of its ads about McDonnell's socially conservative views.

McDonnell 54 (-1 vs. last poll, Sept. 29)
Deeds 43 (+2)
Und 4 (nc)

McDonnell leads by 7.3 points in the RCP Average

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the popular former governor, hit the trail with Deeds this morning in Arlington. It's just Warner's latest foray into the race -- he's previously stumped alongside Deeds and is also featured in a TV ad.

KY Sen Poll: Conway Outperforms Mongiardo

A new Rasmussen survey finds Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway (D) outperforming his Senate primary rival, Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, against their potential general election foes, Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R) and Rand Paul (R).

Grayson, the favored candidate among national GOP leadership, leads Mongiardo by 7 points, but ties with Conway. Paul also leads Mongiardo, though trails Conway by 4 points.

For all the talk of the GOP picking up seats in the midterm elections, this open seat could be one the party has a difficult time holding -- which is perhaps why Grayson picked up a fundraising boost on Capitol Hill last month.

General Election Matchups
Grayson 44 - Mongiardo 37 - Und 14

Paul 43 - Mongairdo 38 - Und 13

Grayson 40 - Conway 40 - Und 17

Paul 38 - Conway 42 - Und 15

Mongiardo was recently caught on tape criticizing Gov. Steve Beshear (D), who recently named a new running mate for his 2011 re-election bid. A DailyKos survey out a month ago found Mongiardo leading Conway in the Dem primary and both candidates performing similarly against Grayson and Paul.

The Rasmussen survey was conducted Sept. 30 of 500 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.5%.

Merkel To Give Speech To Congress Next Month

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will speak Nov. 3 to a joint session of Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office announced today. Merkel will be the first German leader in 52 years to address the legislative body, and her speech comes just six days before the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"Congress will warmly welcome Chancellor Merkel to the Capitol next month as part of her visit to the United States," Pelosi said in a released statement. "We look forward to hearing the Chancellor's views on how we can continue to work together to confront international security threats, to implement necessary climate change measures, and to resolve the global financial crisis."

The last German leader to speak before Congress was Konrad Adenauer, a German spokesman said at a news conference held this morning to announce Merkel's speech.

Reuters reports that "Adenauer, like Merkel a member of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), was West Germany's first postwar chancellor and an ally of the United States in the Cold War."

Merkel's speech will take place Nov. 3 at 10:30 a.m. in the House chamber.

White House Unhappy With McChrystal "Campaign"?

Robert Gibbs tried his best today to downplay talk that the White House is unhappy with General Stanley McChrystal making a very public case for particular Afghanistan strategy, chalking such speculation up to the standard Washington parlor game.

"The general made an assessment and we're going through a series of decisions, including that assessment," the press secretary said. "That's what these meetings are about. That's the process that the president is going through in meetings three and four this week, to try to get this strategy right and to do it not based on the back-and-forth or rumors about this or that, but on what he thinks is best -- in the best national security advice and posture of the United States of America and how it can best protect us."

National Security Adviser Jim Jones seemed to send something of a message in an interview yesterday, saying recommendations should typically work their way through the chain of command and not be made publicly. Tangling with CNN's Ed Henry today, Gibbs denied that the White House was unhappy with McChrystal "campaigning" for his recommendations. "I get that the Washington game is to do the back-and-forth," he said.

Though Gibbs was not present for Obama's one-on-one meeting with McChrystal in Copenhagen last week, he said it was "very constructive" and focused on "what's going on in Afghanistan, not what's going on on cable television." He repeatedly stated that Obama is "comfortable with where the process and how it's moving forward."

Meetings will continue at the White House this week on Afghanistan, with Obama set to brief a bipartisan group of leaders from the House and Senate tomorrow. All options are on the table, with one major exception, Gibbs said.

"The president was exceedingly clear that no part of the conversation on -- no part of the conversation involved was leaving Afghanistan," he said. "That's not something that has ever been entertained, despite the fact that people still get asked, 'What happens if we leave Afghanistan?' That's not a decision that's on the table to make." He went on to say, "I don't think we have the option to leave. I think that's -- that's quite clear."

Outside the White House there are some significant protests about Afghanistan, with the anniversary of the United States' first strikes in the nation after 9/11. Somewhat surprisingly, Gibbs said he was unaware that they were going on, despite their proximity to his office. Reporters could hear them from the Rose Garden at an event this morning.

Warner Stumps For Deeds

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) dropped by an Arlington, Va., cafe this morning to stump for gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds, who is currently trailing Bob McDonnell in the polls by 7.2 points. The senator, as well as Deeds's former primary rival Brian Moran, pumped up a small crowd of Deeds supporters as the campaign pushes into full gear with less than a month to go.

"As my friend Mark Warner, our great governor and leader, pointed out, we are the best managed state in the country," Deeds said following Warner's introduction. "We are the best state for business in the country; we are the best state to move your business to in the country; we're the best place to raise a child in the country."

Deeds mentioned the 2004 bipartisan, taxes-raising budget deal Warner struck with a Republican-controlled state legislature, which helped move Virginia from a deficit-ridden state to one with an annual surplus. McDonnell voted against that budget plan.

"The reason we are not California is because of leadership like Mark Warner's," Deeds quipped.

Deeds is pushing for voters to view him as someone who will simply carry on the torch first lit by the popular Warner, and carried on by the less popular Tim Kaine, who is simultaneously serving as governor and chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The DNC cut a $1 million check to Deeds today, pushing its total contribution amount to $6 million.

The decision in this election, Deeds said, is "whether we continue the pragmatic, problem-solving, reach-across-the-aisle form of government that Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have exercised, or whether we stop in the middle of the road, abruptly turn around and go in a dramatically different direction. Because that's what's at stake."

Today marks the deadline for voter registration in the state -- one reason Deeds is spending the day in Northern Virginia, which is rich in Democrats. McDonnell's day includes an appearance at a local business in Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, and a tour of the Richmond city jail.

Speaking with reporters following the speeches, Warner criticized McDonnell's transportation plan, saying it would take money away from the state's funding for education.

"You know that's not what made Virginia the best managed state, that's not what made Virginia the best state in the country for business," said Warner. "I think over the next 29 days the campaign has to drive home that we've got a real stark choice here."

Obama Leans On Doctors For Reform Push; No "Public Option"

President Obama returned to the health care debate with a familiar set of talking points, but omitted one phrase in his remarks: public option.

Standing in the Rose Garden flanked by a group of doctors from states represented by senators with swing votes, Obama talked about the health care debate that's stretched on "for months" now, including "crazy claims about death panels to misleading warnings about a government takeover of our health care system." He said what's "most telling" is that doctors and nurses who know the system best are among the "most supportive" of reform.

"These men and women here would not be supporting health insurance reform if they really believed that it would lead to government bureaucrats making decisions that are best left to doctors. They wouldn't be here today if they believed that reform in any way would damage the very critical and sacred doctor-patient relationship," he said.

He then outlined components of reform that have emerged from various committees, which of course does not include a public option. Though the L.A. Times reported that there is a furious behind-the-scenes push by the White House to include it, the president made no mention of it today.

The doctors joining Obama on the stage were from Maine, Nebraska, Florida and Arkansas -- the first home to Sen. Olympia Snowe, and the latter three represented by Democrats who have key votes at various stages of legislation here. The president acknowledged some degree of politics in the selection, noting they represent "red states, blue states, [and] recalcitrant states."

Obama urged doctors to help him make the closing pitch for health care reform, since "nobody has more credibility with the American people on this issue than you do." Organizing for America, his former campaign organization now working through the Democratic National Committee, has physicians fanning out throughout the country to do just that.

New Deeds Ad Targets Opponent in SW Virginia

The Deeds camp released another new TV ad today, on a day the Democratic National Committee is cutting a check to the campaign for another $1 million. The ad targets voters in Deeds' home -- Southwestern Virginia.

"Does Bob McDonnell really stand with us?" the ad's narrator asks, placing Deeds on the side of the region's residents and McDonnell as the outsider.

McDonnell released an ad over the weekend targeting Northern Virginia and the always volatile issue of transportation.

Countdown '09: New Jersey and Virginia (29 Days)

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Christie +3.8)

*A Wall Street resume just ain't what it used to be.

*The debate put the national health care discussion into local focus.

*Dan Balz said the debate exposed weaknesses for Corzine and Christie.

*AP profiles Corzine and Christie.

*Rothenberg says don't buy the Corzine surge yet.

*Daggett's plans get more attention.
*J-Mart says national Democrats are more optimistic about New Jersey, less about Virginia.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +7.2)

*Today On the Trail: Creigh Deeds (D) will campaign in Arlington alongside Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and one of his Democratic primary rivals, Brian Moran. Bob McDonnell (R) will talk business in Charlottesville, then tour the Richmond City Jail.

*Washington Post profiled Deeds yesterday, with his stance on gay marriage as the lede.

*Tim Kaine's DNC is sending an additional $1M to the Deeds campaign.

*McDonnell launched a new TV ad on transportation yesterday -- it ran during the Redskins game, which was likely on in a majority of NoVa homes.

Strategy Memo: Biden On the Trail

Today at the White House, President Obama will get back to selling health care. He hosts a Rose Garden event with doctors from around the country. Later, he meets with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Looking ahead: On Tuesday, Obama will visit the National Counterterrorism Center. Wednesday, he awards the National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology, meets with his national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and hosts an event for middle-school students on science. Friday he'll again meet with his team on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Vice President Biden has a busy day boosting New England Democrats. In Connecticut, he'll attend a fundraiser for Rep. Jim Himes, then hold an official event with Himes and Sen. Chris Dodd (D). Tonight he'll raise money for New Hampshire Senate candidate Paul Hodes in New York.

There will be no roll call votes on the Hill today -- the House is not in session and the Senate will only hold debate on the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. Tomorrow, Speaker Pelosi will present the Dalai Lama with the Lantos Human Rights Prize.

**President Obama
*The Los Angeles Times reports: "Despite months of outward ambivalence about creating a government health insurance plan, the Obama White House has launched a behind-the-scenes campaign to get divided Senate Democrats to take up some version of the idea for a final vote in the coming weeks. ... Senior administration officials have been holding private meetings almost daily at the Capitol with senior Democratic staff to discuss ways to include a version of the public plan in the healthcare bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to bring to the Senate floor this month."

*It's already that time! Boston Globe: "President Obama, facing a critical series of domestic and foreign challenges in upcoming months that will determine whether he delivers on the promises of his presidency, now must grapple with another potential peril: next year's midterm congressional elections."

*John Harwood: "Whatever the fate of health care legislation, persistently high unemployment has made 'Where are the jobs?' the most potent Republican campaign argument as next year's midterm elections come into view."

*Speaking of 2010, Politico looks at Biden's role in helping Democrats' campaign to hold the House.

*AP: "Campaign rhetoric" about Afghanistan "is coming up against a tough reality for the president, who now must make a crucial decision about how to proceed in what he's called a war of necessity." The wire service reports: "With mounting U.S. casualties in Afghanistan, waning public support for the war and a dire assessment of the situation on the ground by his commanding general, Obama may be forced to decide there is no military solution in Afghanistan," as he has said in Iraq.

*New York Times looks at the different role David Petraeus has in the Obama White House, adding: "The change has fueled speculation in Washington about whether General Petraeus might seek the presidency in 2012. His advisers say that it is absurd -- but in immediate policy terms, it means there is one less visible advocate for the military in the administration's debate over whether to send up to 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan."

**Supreme Court Back In Session: AP previews: "The featured argument on the court's first day will be over how long a suspect's request for a lawyer should remain valid. Other high profile cases come later in the year -- including arguments over strict local and state gun control laws."

**Congress
*"GOP leaders, in a private meeting last month, delivered a blunt and at times heated message to RNC Chairman Michael Steele: quit meddling in policy," Politico reports. "Elected Republicans urged Steele to focus on the governors' races in New Jersey and Virginia and other political matters, such as fundraising, rather than on attempting to establish party policy."

*"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), once in polite disagreement over the idea of a public option component in healthcare legislation, are approaching a breaking point over the issue," The Hill reports.

*Although Baucus "said he has the votes to pass the 10-year, $900 billion bill out of the committee, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) remained undecided Sunday. If all 10 Republicans on the panel vote no, two Democratic defections would be enough to send Baucus and the Obama White House scrambling to regroup," WaPo reports.

*Rockefeller "has waited a long time for this moment. Since 1964, to be exact. So he was unabashedly