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Blog Home Page --> November 2009

Gallup: More Americans Don't Want Health Care Bill Passed

The Senate will begin debate this afternoon on a comprehensive health care bill that a plurality of Americans don't want passed.

Gallup reports that 49% of Americans now say they would lean toward advising their member of Congress to vote against health care legislation, while 44% say they want their representative to vote in favor of it. Before those with no opinion were asked which way they leaned, the divide was even greater: 42% against, 35% in favor, and 22% had no opinion.

"Despite the considerable efforts of Congress and the president to pass health insurance reform, the public remains reluctant to endorse that goal," Gallup's Jeffrey M. Jones writes.

The downward trend among independents is troublesome for Democrats, who are pushing the bill to be passed as soon as possible. In mid-September, 48% of independents wanted their member of Congress to vote for health care. But that number has dropped to 37% in Gallup's latest survey. Support among Democrats, at 76%, has dropped in the last two months as well, while Republican support -- after peaking at 24% last month -- is back down to 12%.

"The cost question is vital," the San Francisco Chronicle reported this morning, citing concerns with the unpredictability of the Senate bill's cost control mechanisms. "Parts of the Senate bill could control costs but no one knows how much. Nearly everyone agrees that the bill's cost controls have been weakened and may grow weaker. And all agree that the House bill would do even less."

After voting Nov. 21 to allow debate on health care legislation and a subsequent Thanksgiving week recess, the Senate convenes today at 3 p.m. to begin floor arguments on the bill.

The Gallup survey was conducted Nov. 20-22 of 1,017 adults with a margin of error of +/- 4%.

The Non-Decider Decides

Three months after he took the McChrystal report with him to Camp David for a weekend read, and 10 months after taking office, President Obama said Tuesday that he is ready to announce a new strategy for the United States in Afghanistan.

In confirming the news during an East Room gathering with India's prime minister, Obama immediately talked of how his administration's lengthy review of its options was "comprehensive and extremely useful," while taking a thinly veiled swipe the Bush administration for not always having a clear strategy.

"It is my intention to finish the job," the president said.

That line seemed a deliberate attempt to sound forceful in teasing his long-awaited announcement, which comes after nine meetings of his "war council." The public nature of his long deliberation, as illustrated through photo releases and press office readouts, has been portrayed by the White House as the commander in chief giving this solemn decision the careful consideration it deserves.

But critics, most famously former Vice President Dick Cheney, have called it "dithering," and say the delay in reaching a conclusion not only undercuts the military leadership, but unnerves allies and shows some measure of weakness to enemies. Regardless of one's opinion, it's a notable departure from the frequent modus operandi President Bush, who famously called himself "The Decider" in 2006.

Obama will reportedly make that public announcement in a nationally televised address after Thanksgiving.

"And I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we're doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals that they will be supportive," Obama said Tuesday.

A new USA Today/Gallup poll shows that Americans right now are not supportive of Obama's handling of the issue -- 55 percent disapprove now, compared to 56 percent who approved a month ago. The nation also appears divided on the proper course of action, with 39 percent saying the United States should begin withdrawing, and 37 percent supportive of an increase on par with General McChrystal's recommendation of about 40,000 more troops.

"I think he's in an impossible situation," said Caroline Wadhams, national security senior policy analyst for the Center for American Progress. Though an announcement will be received politely in the Senate, the more liberal House Democrats will be "in open revolt," she predicted.

Sure enough, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during a conference call Tuesday that there is "serious unrest in our caucus" about just the cost of the war.

One result of the delay in Obama's decision-making has been it galvanized both sides of the debate. Still, Wadhams said she's inclined to side with the White House in stating that the time has been needed for "a genuine grappling with the issues."

"After the McChrystal request and the election fiasco, they felt they had to reconsider, re-look at all the options," she said. "What McChrystal requested was so costly and I think that it was sort of a wake up call for what counterinsurgency actually meant, what it actually cost. And in the middle of a financial crisis, there are all these domestic priorities to think about."

It may cost the president some political capital at a time when he can't afford to spend much more. Ultimately, though, officials are confident it won't cost the president.

"The president understands that the war in Afghanistan was one that he was always going to have to deal with, and I don't think that dealing with that as an issue threatens the president from also being able to deal with very important issues like the economy, like health care, and many other things that are either part of his agenda or might not be planned but end up on his desk anyway," Robert Gibbs said Monday.

Fiorina: Boxer Can't Count On Women's Vote Against Me

Carly Fiorina defended her assertion that her gender makes her the stronger Republican candidate to face Barbara Boxer next fall, arguing that she can the stronger appeal to women voters on economic issues.

"Barbara Boxer - and in some cases the Democratic Party - has taken the women's vote for granted because they have assumed that all women are single-issue voters," Fiorina said in an interview with Real Clear Politics Monday afternoon. "Women are the majority of voters in this country, and they care about economic issues just as much as men do. Barbara Boxer does not have anything to say about economic issues. I do."

In a gathering with reporters earlier Monday, Fiorina reportedly said that Boxer relished a race against Assemblyman Chuck DeVore. "With all due respect and deep affection for white men, I am married to one. But [Boxer] knows how to beat them in California, she has done it over and over and over again," she argued. DeVore, running as a conservative insurgent in the race against the NRSC-backed Fiorina, later responded saying he "thought we moved beyond the politics of gender when Obama beat Clinton."

Speaking with RCP, Fiorina said she and DeVore have some similarities, and "share many conservative values." But, "I just bring a different set of experiences to Washington than he would. And I talked about all of that, but I also made the comment that Barbara Boxer as a candidate has in many ways taken the women's vote for granted in all of her bids for election or re-election. And as a woman candidate, she will not be able to do that running against me."

Fiorina, a former HP executive, clearly intends to run an economic-focused race. She was critical of Democrats in Washington for enacting "a grab bag of big spending programs" rather than focusing on job creation.

"I would have focused on job creation as a number one priority, and the only way you create jobs is, A, to create more credit for small businesses and consumers. And B, make sure that you make it easier for small business owners," she said. "None of those things has the Obama administration focused on."

While acknowledging the challenge of running as a Republican in the dark blue Golden State, she argued that the state's severe fiscal challenge has "focused" voters.

"California is a test case of what not to do," she said. "California is a state that has had ever-increasing size of government, and ever-higher taxes. And the results have been ever-poorer services delivered by government and more jobs leaving the state than are coming to the state. In other words, people can see right in the state of California what happens if you tax and spend."

Fiorina expects the race to be expensive, but says she is "not a self-funder," and that her campaign will be "financed by the voters and by interested participants." Though much has been made of Republican challenges nationwide, including her own, Fiorina downplayed the DeVore challenge.

"Time will tell how tough a primary it is," she said. "I think, frankly, the challenge is the same whether we're talking about the primary or the general. I am a fiscally conservative person who shares the values of Republican primary voters, and we also will talk to Californians of all political varieties about what it actually takes to create jobs, which is their number one concern, and what it actually takes to get federal spending under control, which is their second concern."

Asked who she saw as the leader of her party, Fiorina said there are many, listing, in order, John Thune, Sarah Palin, Mitch McConnell, John McCain and Lamar Alexander. Asked if there was one in that group she'd seek out above the rest to campaign with her, Fiorina said she'd rather make her own case to voters.

"I welcome the help of and will welcome the help of lots of people as this campaign goes forward. But frankly I think what's most important right now is that people actually get to know me," she said. "There's a lot of misrepresentation about who I am and what my views are. And so I think the most important thing is over the next several months is not for others to be campaigning for me, but for me to be campaigning for myself, getting to know the voters of California and making sure they get to know me."

Sanford, Former RGA Chair, Keeps Low Profile

CEDAR CREEK, Texas -- When the Republican Governors Association kicked off efforts to take back a majority of governorships in the 2009-10 cycle, it was South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) leading its efforts. When we interviewed him in February, he also was leading Republican opposition to the proposed stimulus package and the subject of 2012 speculation.

As the organization meets here this week, however, Sanford has kept a decidedly low profile, avoiding most of the open press sessions like this morning's health care press conference. The photo below was a rare glimpse by myself and several other reporters as we shuttled between events.

sanfordrga.jpg

Back home in the Palmetto State, meanwhile, Sanford's woes continue. Today the speaker of the State House "has called on Gov. Mark Sanford to release a disputed investigative report into the governor's possible ethical or criminal violations stemming from his travel and use of campaign funds," The State reports. Yesterday, the state ethics panel ruled that the governor "will face an ethics panel next year to answer charges that he may have violated state law," per AP.

As RGA Celebrates Wins, DGA Mocks 'Comeback'

Here in Texas today, the RGA continues to crow about their 2009 victories and sound bullish about their 2010 prospects. But the DGA is responding by looking again at some of the familiar names they're putting on the ballot next year, saying it belies the idea of a promised GOP comeback. Check out the video here, which is being sent to the party organization's mailing list this afternoon:

More from the e-mail:

20 Republican governors. 500 conservative donors. A private resort in Texas. 3 days to finalize their comeback strategy... Sound like a bad dream? Unfortunately, it's all too real. And it's all happening right now in Austin, where the Republican Governors Association is holding their annual conference.

...

The "comeback" faces of the GOP include lackluster has-beens like John Kasich, former FOX News host and a leading figure at Lehman Brothers at the time of the bank's collapse, and Bill McCollum, a long-time politician/lobbyist whose crowning achievement in his 30 year congressional career is sponsoring the legislation that helped turn the housing market into a "big gambling casino." And the list only gets worse from there.

GOP Govs Blast Health Care Bills, Claim Dems Also Wary

rgahcare.jpgCEDAR CREEK, Texas -- Republican governors expressed strong opposition to versions of health care legislation being considered in the House and Senate, saying both would impose heavy burdens on state governments that are already struggling to balance their books.

In making a joint statement at a press conference here today, the 17 Republican governors on stage said that they spoke as well for many of their Democratic colleagues.

"We've not typically intervened on subjects like this, but we didn't know who else would do it," Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said. The non-partisan Nationals Governors Association, he added, "has been paralyzed by partisan reluctance to say what many Democratic governors have said to us privately and a few have said publicly."

Daniels also said many representatives of the business community on hand for this conference have told them that they're make their concerns public as well, for fear that their "business interests would be threatened."

"We just hope that in some way we can contribute to the national dialogue this morning," he said. "There's a far better way forward. Before it's too late let's find it."

Twenty-two of the members of the Democratic Governors Association did release a letter earlier this year in support of the federal policy. The White House has also highlighted the support of former Republican officials.

The major concern that governors outlined was changes to Medicaid that would result in what Gov. Haley Barbour called a $25 billion tax on the states.

"We're concerned about the federal government overreaching and trampling the prerogative of states across this great country," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. "At a time when state budgets that are tighter than ever, that's not only going to be burdensome. But also from a policy direction, it heads our country in the wrong direction."

Each of the governors who spoke emphasized that they agree improvements need to be made in the health care system, but that the federal fix would not address what they say most see as the biggest concern: cost.

"And when you add millions more people in the public program, then that's just going to be like putting fuel on fire of the whole cost containment issue," Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia said.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also outlined 10 points where he said there is bipartisan consensus, including portability, tort reform, expanding health savings accounts and rewarding healthy lifestyle choices.

"The bottom line is this: We stand ready to work with the administration and Congress. We're offering bipartisan ideas that really will bring down the costs of health care," he said.

RGA Notebook: The Palin Chronicles

newgovs.jpgAUSTIN, Texas -- As noted yesterday, the RGA kicked off here Wednesday in the shadow of a blockbuster media tour by one of its former members -- former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. As she promotes her own tome and potentially sets up her future political move, the question was posed to victorious candidates in New Jersey and Virginia why the former vice presidential nominee was not on their list of surrogates this fall.

New Jersey Gov.-elect Chris Christie first answered by saying he intentionally avoided bringing any national party leaders into the state in an effort to keep the focus on his own solutions specific to the state. But after it was pointed out that figures like Jeb Bush, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney made stops in the Garden State, Christie offered a new explanation.

"The people I asked to come into campaign for me were either someone like Mayor Giuliani, who I have known for the better part of a decade, or two governors who had faced the same kind of things and could talk about those issues in an intelligent way to show how Republican ideas had fixed those fiscal problems in those states," he said.

Virginia's Bob McDonnell said that he had initially reached out to Palin at an early stage in his run for governor seeking her involvement. But she "was in such incredible demand" and busy with work in Alaska that an early visit was not possible. By the time she resigned her post, McDonnell then claimed, "we had pretty much already arranged all of the folks that we had for the home stretch for fundraisers, including several current and former governors."

Focus On 2010, Barbour Warns

At a gathering that includes a number of leaders thought to be on the 2012 short list, presidential politics was an unavoidable matter of discussion among guests and the press corps gathered here. Gov. Tim Pawlenty led a public panel of governors and gubernatorial candidates focusing on "solutions" on health care, energy and efficient government. On the panel: Govs. Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry, who each face the voters again before 2012 but are on a number of darkhorse lists. Singled out in the audience by his colleagues several times was Gov. Mitch Daniels, who was praised for his budgetary "miracle" in Indiana.

Asked if he thought the party's 2012 standard bearer was on the stage tonight, another potential candidate -- RGA chairman Haley Barbour, emphasized the short term.

"Every Republican needs to have his or her eye on the 2010 elections. Those are the elections that matter," he said. "Those are the elections that are going to be critical about putting our foot on the break and stopping some of the bad things that are happening in this country. After the 2010 elections are over, then and only then do I think people ought to be thinking about who's going to run for president."

Jindal: Louisiana Wary of Health Reform

Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana made an expansive critique of proposed health reform in Washington, while arguing that Republican opposition was more than just politics.

"I think that the danger for America is far, far greater than any perceived political advantage," he said. "What I worry about is the damage that could be caused by these bills would be structural, would be long lasting, would harm innovation, would harm our quality of care, and continue to exacerbate our deficits."

Governors in particular are concerned about a "massive cost shift" to states in new responsibilities for Medicaid, Jindal said, and he outlined some alternative reforms that would not rely on a new government option. That increased federal role is of particular concern to Louisiana, he said.

"The ones that have seen government at its best and its worst are very concerned by this idea of government getting between patients and their physicians," he said. It seemed to be reference to a clear failure by the government when the state needed it most: after Hurricane Katrina.

The Daggett Gambit

Recapping the 2009 races, RGA officials took particular pride in a key decision made in New Jersey late in the race. Independent Chris Daggett was a wild card throughout, and as his support grew to double-digit levels, the RGA launched a tough attack ad on broadcast television targeting the independent.

"A lot of people in the state accused us of raising his profile," said RGA executive director Nick Ayers. Even in the party, some feared that the move may have cost the party its chance to win by further raising the profile of a relatively unknown candidate. "We felt vindicated a day later when Christie's campaign also attacked Daggett."

Paul Lerner, a pollster used by the RGA in the Garden State, said the decision was based on a troubling trend they saw in Daggett's numbers. It wasn't the total, but the profile of his support -- early on, they saw him drawing votes from Gov. Jon Corzine by a 2-to-1 margin. By early October, though, Daggett was drawing equally from both candidates. So a strategic call was made, which Lerner said essentially recreated a primary among GOP voters between Christie and Daggett, that Christie clearly won.

Perry: Time For Governors To Push Back

CEDAR CREEK, Texas -- Hosting more than 20 of his colleagues outside the state capital tonight, Gov. Rick Perry said that Republican governors are the ones carrying the torch for the GOP in opposing an overreaching Democratic administration in Washington, as the RGA made a strong case for the philosophical leadership of the party.

Just as Senate Democrats were unveiling legislation to reform the nation's health care system, Texas' governor called for a simpler approach to governance that emphasized tax cuts, lower spending and less obtrusive regulation.

"By and large, it's been those Republican governors who have had the courage and the will and the discipline to push those types of changes through," Perry said at the opening public session of the Republican Governors Association Conference here tonight. "We have a federal government today that is wanting to ... create one-sized fits all policy for all of the states. I happen to think it's time for a substantial number of governors to have the courage to stand up and push back on Washington, DC."

It was the strongest message of the featured speakers tonight, but one that could define the gathering as Republican state leaders celebrate double wins in New Jersey and Virginia. Perry, as well as Govs. Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal and Mitch Daniels, emphasized the idea of states driving policy and competing with one another, rather than the federal government implementing one universal policy on all 50.

"I get pretty passionate about the Tenth Amendment," Perry told his fellow governors and hundreds of other attendees at a resort outside Austin. "We don't need to back away from in the least bit."

Tonight the RGA also highlighted two of its newest members, Govs.-elect Chris Christie of New Jersey and Bob McDonnell of Virginia. Each credited the national organization with tactical decisions that contributed to their victories, while soberly acknowledging the challenges they face. And despite their colleagues' resistance to federal action, each signaled a willingness to partner with Washington as they begin their tenures.

"The problems in this country and the state of New Jersey are too big for us to be always emphasizing the partisan divide," Christie said at a press conference with McDonnell and RGA chair Haley Barbour. "The places I don't agree with the president - and there are more of those than I agree with him - I'm going to speak out vocally and I'm going to stand up for the things I believe in -- that's what the people elected me to do. But they didn't elect me to be disagreeable just for the sake of doing it."

McDonnell noted that he emphasized a bipartisan message in his campaign in Virginia, and highlighted his agreement with the president on areas like education.

"There is so much heartache in this economy, and there's so much bad news that people hear about," McDonnell said. "What they don't need is more rancor out of Washington or Richmond or any other state.

Republican governors will continue to draw contrasts with the Democratic administration in Washington Thursday in a press conference addressing health care reform. That specific issue was raised several times tonight, most notably by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. He said that his state's residents have seen both teh best and worst of government (a reference to federal response to Hurricane Katrina), and that they were wary of government "involvement in health care."

Live From Austin

I'll be here in Austin covering the RGA Annual Conference, previewed here this morning.

Keep checking back for updates on what the Republican Governors are saying about their 2009 victories and 2010 prospects. You can also get instant updates on what's going on at some of the sessions by following me on Twitter.

MO Senate Poll: Dead Heat

Public Policy Polling (D) revisits the Missouri Senate race today, an in the expected matchup of Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) and Rep. Roy Blunt (R), the result is just where it was at the start of the year.

General Election Matchup
Carnahan 43 (-2 vs. last poll, 1/10-11)
Blunt 42 (-2)
Und 15 (+4)

In another matchup, Carnahan leads state Sen. Chuck Purgason 42-35. Blunt leads Purgason in a GOP primary matchup, 53-16. You can find more polling on the race here.

Carnahan is the daughter of Missouri's late Gov. Mel Carnahan and former Sen. Jean Carnahan, who took her husband's seat when he was posthumously elected in 2000. She boasts the strongest name recognition and favorable score of the group.

Favorable Ratings
Carnahan 40 / 36
Blunt 30 / 38
Purgason 7 / 14

President Obama has just a 43 percent approval rating in the Show Me State; 52 percent disapprove of his job performance. The proposed health care reform bill is very unpopular, supported by just 34 percent of Missourians and opposed by 55 percent.

"If Robin Carnahan had faced off against Roy Blunt in any election year between 1996 and 2008 she would likely have won given her superior popularity," PPP's Dean Debnam says in a polling memo. "But 2010 has the potential to be an extremely good year for Republicans, and that's made this race highly competitive."

Republican Governors Seek To Build On '09 Successes

As Republican governors gather outside Austin today for their annual conference, the atmosphere will be a far cry from their gathering a year ago. Then, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin stole the spotlight in what was her first major public appearance since the GOP ticket lost the presidential election. This year, Palin again is center of attention as she kicks off a book tour in Michigan. While 300 media credentials were issued last year, the RGA expects only a few dozen reporters this year.

But the mood is different for another, more important reason for the Republican leaders gathering here -- they're celebrating big wins in New Jersey and Virginia weeks ago, and expecting that momentum will continue in 2010 when the battlefield grows considerably larger.

"This year there's a lot more smiles," RGA spokesman Mike Schrimpf said. "The focus among the governors last year was how are we going to win back a majority of governorships. This year, that remains the focus. But it's always a lot more joyful when you're actually gaining members this year."

Twenty of 24 Republican governors are attending, in addition to Governors-elect Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell, and several candidates seeking office in 2010. The RGA plans to contrast what's going on in these Republican-lead states with the goings on in Washington, DC, Texas Gov. Rick Perry told reporters Tuesday evening.

"Unlike our Republican friends in DC, governors are able to implement effective, conservative policies that are gonna regain the trust in our party's ability to govern," he said. "We knew that there are Republicans that are concerned all across the country. What they're seeing out of the governors, and particularly what they're seeing out of RGA, is an organization that is being very effective and very efficient with their dollars."

Gov. Haley Barbour, the RGA chairman, said the organization expects to be able to do more to help its incumbents and challengers next year than in any previous cycle. The organization spent $13 million in New Jersey and Virginia, and has $25 million on hand as the next cycle begins, which he credited to an aggressive small donor effort that has allowed the group to be "less reliant on corporate money."

In that vein, Palin is still very much a part of the the RGA's 2010 plans. The group purchased a large supply of "Going Rogue" at a considerable discount, and will reward new donors with a copy signed by Palin herself.

"I suspect we're going to raise a whole lot of money with this," Barbour said. "She's mighty good to do this -- she was a great colleague."

The event is a showcase for all the governors, but particularly those who are building national profiles with an eye toward 2012. In addition to Barbour and Perry, Govs. Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal and Mitch Daniels will be featured as the group plans to discuss specifically the views of RGA members on the latest developments in Washington.

Palin Calls GOP Battles Healthy; Hits "Dithering" Obama

Former Gov. Sarah Palin said that Republicans should not hesitate "duking it out" with each other in primaries, and downplayed the need for a third party movement to espouse conservative principles.

Speaking on Rush Limbaugh's radio show today about the results of the New York 23 election, Palin called Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman's apparent defeat evidence that, "If you're not the anointed one within the machine, sometimes you have a much tougher road to hoe." Limbaugh then asked about whether the former GOP VP nominee thought a third party would be viable.

"Ideally, sure, a third party or an independent party would be able to soar and thrive and put candidates forth and have them elected. But I don't think America is ready for that," she said. Palin said she didn't consider herself an "obsessive partisan," and also referred to her husband as being someone who was a registered independent but has "got more common sense conservatism than a whole lot of Republicans that I know."

"But to answer your question, I don't think the third party movement will be what's necessary to usher in some common sense conservative ideals," she repeated.

Palin added that independents would continue to move toward the Republican Party, as they did this November in New Jersey and Virginia, if Republicans focus on "just implementing common-sense, conservative solutions." And she said that she appreciates that her party hasn't shied from having "contested, aggressive, competitive primaries."

"We're not like this herd mentality, like a bunch of sheep, with the fighting instincts of sheep ... like some of the Democrat Party, where heaven forbid you take a stand and you oppose somebody within your own party because it's the right thing to do," she said. "Some in the other side, they're observing what goes on in the GOP and say, 'That's infighting and they can't get along and there's no consensus there.' No! This is healthy debate. Good competition that makes candidates work harder. It makes for a better product, if you will, at the end of the day. I appreciate that about our party."

Anyone who watched the 2008 presidential primaries might disagree that Democrats have a "herd mentality." But her comments nonetheless represent her first extended views on domestic and international politics beyond occasional Facebook notes, and come as she gets ready to kick off a multi-state book tour.

Palin was particularly eager to weigh in on national security, criticizing President Obama, though not by name, for "dithering and hesitation" on Afghanistan.

"We're gonna claim what Ronald Reagan claimed. Our motto's gonna be, we win, you lose," she siad. "The way that we do that is allow McChrystal to have the reinforcements that he's asking for in Afghanistan that sends the message to the terrorists over there that, now we're going to end this thing with our victory."

After the jump, Palin's views on health care, Iran and other issues.

On Iran:

We need to start facing Iran with tougher and tougher sanctions that need to be considered. ... We need to look at halting Iran's imports of refined petroleum products. They're quite reliant on imported gasoline. We need to use that hammer to wake up the leadership there too. Those are two big challenges that we have right now.

On Health Care:

There are so many questions unanswered. I don't like the idea in general of the federal government thinking it needs to take over health care, which essentially this is, and control one-sixth of our economy. Not when there are common sense solutions to meeting our health care challenges in our country, like alloying the intra- and interstate competition with insurers, tort reform, cutting down on the waste and fraud that the Obama administration insists if we did that would just pay for this ...

On green energy:

"I think there's a lot of snake-oil science involved in that, and somebody's making a whole lot of money off people's fears."

On climate change:

"I don't attribute all the changes to man's activities. I think that this is, in a lot of respects, cyclical, and the earth does cool and it warms. Our greatest challenge with energy is that we're not tapping into the abundant domestic supplies that God created right under foot."

On VP Biden saying it's more complicated than "Drill Baby Drill"

"What is complicated about tapping into abundant, safe, domestic supplies that could provide stability for our country and security for our country?"

DE Poll: Health Care Vote Hurts Castle?

A new Susquehanna Polling & Research survey gives Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden (D) a 5-point lead over Rep. Mike Castle (R) in a hypothetical Senate matchup, news that has to relieve Democrats worried about a dubious trifecta in 2010.

General Election Matchup
Biden (D) 45 (+11 vs. last poll, 4/09)
Castle (R) 40 (-15)
Und 8 (unch)

Castle leads by 2.3 points in the RCP Average of Delaware Senate polling.

In this poll, Castle performs slightly better among Republicans than Biden does among Democrats, and holds a 5-point lead among independents. The problem for the state's lone Congressman and former governor is that there are 106,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in the First State.

Susquehanna also attributes Castle's slippage to "negative publicity he received in the state after casting a 'no' vote for President Obama's health care bill in the U.S. Congress." That vote occurred just over 48 hours before the poll went into the field.

This survey of 850 registered voters was conducted November 10-15, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.36 percent.

NY Poll: Paterson Still Struggling

Even after a recent ad buy aimed at improving his numbers, New York Gov. David Paterson (D) looks like a sure loser in either the primary or general election next year, a new Siena poll (11/8-12, 800 RVs, MoE +/- 3.5%) finds.

The TV ads may have bought the governor a slight improvement in his fav/unfav rating, but that's about it. His job approval rating is still an abysmal 21 percent, compared to 79 percent who disapprove. Only 17 percent say they'd vote to elect him in 2010, while 69 percent prefer someone else. Here are how the primary and general election matchups pan out:

Gubernatorial Primary Election Matchup
Cuomo 75 (+5 vs last poll, 10/14-18)
Paterson 16 (-4)

Gubernatorial General Election Matchups
Giuliani 56 (unch)
Paterson 33 (unch)

Lazio 42 (+5)
Paterson 39 (unch)

Cuomo 53 (+3)
Giuliani 41 (-2)

Cuomo 67 (+1)
Lazio 22 (+1)

"While it's true that the Governor's new commercials had only been airing for less than a week while Siena was polling, it seems clear that he's going to have to spend a lot of campaign funds very early to even have a chance of improving the measurements by which voters judge David Paterson," Siena's Steven Greenberg said.

Fifty-two percent of voters prefer that Andrew Cuomo run for governor instead of another term as attorney general. Just as many say he has time to wait, while 33 percent want him to declare now.

Favorable Ratings
Paterson 27 / 61
Lazio 29 / 22
Cuomo 67 / 20
Giuliani 62 / 34

After the jump, a look at Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's improving re-election prospects.

Senate General Election Matchups
Giuliani 49 (-4)
Gillibrand 43 (+7)

Gillibrand 45 (+4)
Pataki 44 (-2)

Favorable Ratings
Pataki 55 / 36
Gillibrand 34 / 24

IA Poll: Culver In Trouble

A Des Moines Register poll shows that Gov. Chet Culver (D) is at risk of being a one-term governor in a state that has re-elected every governor -- often multiple times -- since four-year terms were approved in 1972. He's particularly vulnerable against one of his predecessors -- four-term Gov. Terry Branstad (R), who is likely running in 2010.

General Election Matchups
Branstad 57 -- Culver 33 -- Und 8
Vander Plaats 45 -- Culver 37 -- Und 15
Culver 42 -- Rants 35 -- Und 18
Culver 42 -- Fong 34 -- Und 20

In the matchup against Branstad, the Register poll finds that one of five Democrats chose the Republican, as do 58 percent of independent voters. Culver's job approval rating is just 40 percent in the latest poll, far lower than former Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack ever scored, and a point Branstad hit only briefly in his tenure.

Favorable Ratings
Culver 48 / 46
Branstad 60 / 22
Vander Plaats 24 / 12
Rants 14 / 11
Fong 10 / 6

In the 2010 Senate race, incumbent Charles Grassley (R) is much safer, leading potential Democratic opponent Roxanne Conlin 57-30. He has a 57 percent approval rating, though he scores lowest when asked about his role in the health care debate. Thirty-nine percent give him good marks for that issue, while 49 percent grade him as fair or poor.

The Iowa Poll for the Des Moines Register was conducted by Selzer & Co. from November 8-11, with an overall sample of 800 Iowans and margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent. The gubernatorial and Senate matchups were taken from a sample of 539 likely voters and had a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percent.

AR Poll: Warning Sign For Red State Democrat

Public Policy Polling (D) surveyed voters in Arkansas' Second Congressional District, carried narrowly by Pres. Bush in 2000 and 2004 but that went for Sen. John McCain by a 10-point margin in 2008. Rep. Vic Snyder (D), who recently voted for the health care reform bill in the House, could face a tough race there in 2010.

General Election Matchups
Snyder (D) 44
Griffin (R) 43
Und 13

Snyder (D) 45
Meeks (R) 42
Und 13

Snyder (D) 44
Wallace (R) 42
Und 13

Snyder has an upside-down 42 percent job approval rating, with 46 percent disapproving. President Obama fares worse, with 41 percent approving and 52 percent disapproving.

Only 32 percent of district respondents support the health care bill, while 55 percent oppose. Still, 45 percent say Snyder's ideology is "about right" for the district, while 42 percent say he's too liberal. But 50 percent say the Democratic Congress is too liberal, while 39 percent say the GOP conference is too conservative.

"Vic Snyder's situation is pretty emblematic of the perils Democrats face going into 2010," said PPP's Dean Debnam in a release. "His district hasn't been competitive in a long time but his health care vote and Obama's unpopularity with his constituents has put him in a vulnerable position."

The survey of 400 voters was conducted November 11-13 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent.

TX Gov Poll: Perry Retakes Commanding Lead In Primary

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) had taken a small lead after announcing her campaign for governor. But the man who still holds that job has retaken a commanding lead in the primary race, a new Rasmussen poll finds.

Primary Election Matchup
Perry 46 (+8 vs. last poll, 9/16)
Hutchison 35 (-5)
Medina 4 (+1)
Not Sure 14 (-5)

Looking deeper, Rasmussen finds that Gov. Rick Perry's (R) advantage is among the more conservative voters in the primary electorate. He leads 52-30 percent among those who identify themselves as conservatives, while Hutchison leads among moderates and liberals.

Perry has ratcheted up his anti-Washington rhetoric of late, generating a banner headline on Drudge for saying this week that the Obama administration was "hell-bent" on socialism. That's proving to be a winning message in the race considering both candidates are very popular in their own right. Among these primary voters, Perry's job approval rating is 73 percent, and both have nearly identical fav/unfav ratings -- 75/24 for Perry, 75/23 for Hutchison.

The survey also asked if Hutchison should resign her Senate post in making a gov run, something she was expected to do but not yet indicated when. Sixty percent of primary voters said she should, while 26 percent said no.

The survey of 798 likely GOP primary voters was conducted November 11 and had a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

A Senate Trifecta the Dems Want to Avoid Losing

While Democrats face competitive Senate races in a number of states carried last year by President Obama, three in particular could send shock waves through a party that stormed back to control Washington the last two cycles: President Obama's former Illinois seat, Vice President Biden's Delaware seat and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's seat in Nevada.

Based on recent polling, a shifting national mood and excellent candidate recruitment by the GOP, Republicans could be in position a year from now to win seats once held by three of the four most powerful elected officials in Washington. Should that happen, it wouldn't be at all surprising if states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut and Florida -- all of which Obama won last year -- elected Republicans as well.

In Illinois, the National Republican Senatorial Committee succeeded in recruiting Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to give up his congressional district to run statewide. Meanwhile, Democrats -- including the White House -- were unable to convince state Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) to run, as she eventually opted for re-election. Running instead are Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman and Chicago Urban League president Cheryle Jackson, who previously served as press secretary for disgraced governor Rod Blagojevich. Obama's appointed successor, Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), opted not to run for reelection.

Limited polling in the state has shown Giannoulias ahead of his primary opponents and statistically tied with Kirk, who is expected to win the GOP primary. Whoever wins the Democratic primary will likely receive substantial support from the White House and Democratic National Committee, as the prospect of losing the president's former Senate seat two years after he was elected president would be embarrassing.

Republicans scored a coup in Delaware with the recruitment of Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), who has won 11 statewide races including two for governor (in 1984 and 1988) and the past nine for the state's lone House seat. Biden won the seat for the seventh time in November 2008 -- when he was also elected vice president -- and Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Biden's longtime chief of staff, was appointed to replace him. It was widely rumored that Kaufman, who will not run next year, would serve as a placeholder for Biden's son, state Attorney General Beau Biden, until the 2010 special election.

Castle has led Biden in the four polls released this year. However, the most recent one -- a DailyKos/Research 2000 survey out last month -- found Castle up by just a single point.

The third race of what could be a crushing trifecta for Democrats is in Nevada, where recent polling shows Majority Leader Harry Reid to be among the most vulnerable incumbent senators, despite the amount of power he wields in the Senate. Both of his potential Republican opponents -- former state party chair Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian, son of a famed UNLV basketball coach -- lead Reid by more than 5 points in general election matchups, and have led him in every poll that has been released.

Whoever takes on Reid will need to raise serious money in order to compete statewide, as Reid has a national network of donors and $8.7 million in the bank.

Still, the GOP is targeting Reid in hopes he will become the second Democratic leader in the Senate in six years to be defeated, following then-minority leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who was knocked out of office in 2004 by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).

Losing these three seats would be particularly embarrassing to President Obama and his party just two years after capturing the White House and expanding majorities in Congress. Beyond the humiliating symbolism, however, the defeats would deliver a serious blow to the party's advantage in the Senate -- and more than likely be just a few of the Democratic losses on Election Day 2010.

'09 Results May Push Ehrlich Toward Re-Match

Big wins for the GOP in last week's gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey may have been a tipping point for another Beltway-area Republican considering a run in 2010: Bob Ehrlich.

The former Maryland governor has said he's strongly considering a rematch against Martin O'Malley, the former Baltimore mayor who beat Ehrlich in a hard-fought 2006 campaign. The huge swing of independents toward the GOP in Virginia and New Jersey last week is just the kind of news Ehrlich was looking for.

"Independents, as you know, pretty much decide races these days," Ehrlich told his hometown Arbutus Times this week. Ehrlich, who in 2002 made history by becoming the Old Line State's first Republican governor in four decades, was especially encouraged by GOPer Chris Christie's victory in strongly Democratic New Jersey. "It's a blue state, a lot of labor, very organized Democratic Party, so it's a tough state for Republicans to win. So Christie winning there, it's a pretty big deal," Ehrlich said.

Two other, lesser-known Republicans have been preparing for a potential run in Maryland, but both have said they would defer to Ehrlich, who enjoyed strong favorable ratings even as he lost his re-election bid. One state Republican who is running for Congress in 2010 speculated the odds were now better than even that Mr. Ehrlich would make the race.

Even with GOP victories this fall, success in Maryland is far from guaranteed in 2010. A Clarus Poll released this week showed O'Malley leading Ehrlich 47-40 in a hypothetical matchup. But like other incumbents in both parties, Gov. O'Malley might find himself weighed down next year by a still-bad economy, offsetting any partisan advantage in the heavily-Democratic state. If Team O'Malley is worried, though, his campaign manager didn't let on in a memo to supporters this week. "Frankly, it doesn't matter who the Republicans settle on. We'll be prepared for them, and we will beat them," Tom Russell wrote.

NC Sen Poll: Burr Treading Water

Public Policy Polling's (D) latest survey in North Carolina finds not much has changed for Sen. Richard Burr (R) as the year to Election Day begins.

His job approval rating is just 40 percent, typically a warning sign for an incumbent. But against several potential Democratic foes, the numbers have changed little since last month's survey, with Burr still ahead by double-digits. The only significant change being a 6-point uptick in a matchup of the incumbent versus a generic Democrat. "It's gotten closer because Democrats this month expressed a stronger commitment to supporting their party nominee," a PPP analysis says.

General Election Matchups
Burr 44 -- Cunningham 31 -- Und 25
Burr 45 -- Etheridge 35 -- Und 20
Burr 44 -- Foy 32 -- Und 23
Burr 45 -- Lewis 32 -- Und 26
Burr 45 -- Marshall 34 -- Und 21
Burr 45 -- Wicker 33 -- Und 22

Burr 44 -- Generic D 40 -- Und 16

More from PPP:

"Every poll we do on Richard Burr provides more evidence that his fate will be tied up in the national climate," said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. "His approval numbers are mediocre but he'll still get reelected if it's a Republican year. If things move back in a more Democratic direction he's extremely vulnerable."

The automated telephone survey of 711 state voters was conducted November 9-11, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.7%.

Another Stop For Pawlenty: Alabama

Continuing what has been a very active schedule on the rubber chicken circuit, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will headline the Alabama Republican Party's winter dinner next February, a state party spokesman told RCP this morning.

This year Pawlenty has also headlined local or state party events in Arkansas, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and South Dakota. He also addressed at the RNC convention in San Diego, and the Values Voters summit in Washington. Yesterday, the Union Leader reported that Pawlenty will make his first trip to New Hampshire as a potential 2012 primary candidate, speaking at an event for the state Republican Senate Majority Committee PAC on December 16.

Pawlenty has a particularly active political schedule just this month. Last weekend, he made his first visit to Iowa for that state party's fall dinner. He'll be in Florida again tomorrow, speak at an NRSC conference in Washington early next week, then join other Republican Governors for an RGA event in Austin, Texas. As the RGA vice chair, he also campaigned with candidates in this month's elections in New Jersey and Virginia.

The Alabama GOP dinner is scheduled for February 5.

CT Sen Poll: Dodd Trails Top GOP Candidates

A new Quinnipiac poll in Connecticut shows that Sen. Chris Dodd (D) in a dangerous position a year before the election, with a ceiling of just 42 percent against any of his potential GOP opponents, some barely known to state voters.

General Election Matchups
Simmons 49 -- Dodd 38 -- Und 11
Foley 47 -- Dodd 40 -- Und 13
McMahon 43 -- Dodd 41 -- Und 14
Dodd 42 -- Caligiuri 42 -- Und 14
Dodd 42 -- Schiff 41 -- Und 15

The RCP Average for Dodd vs. Simmons has the former Republican Congressman up 8.3 percent. On a general re-elect question, 39 percent say Dodd deserves another term and 53 percent say no. Voters give him high marks on leadership (61 percent) but fewer say he is honest or trustworthy (39 percent).

In a GOP primary, Simmons gets 28 percent in the multi-candidate field, with former WWE CEO Linda McMahon the next closest challenger at 17 percent. Former Ambassador Tom Foley (9 percent), stockbroker Peter Schiff (5 percent) and state Sen. Sam Caligiuri (4 percent) round up the field. Simmons had taken 43 percent in a September poll taken before McMahon entered the race. In a Democratic primary, Dodd just gets 55 percent compared to 22 percent for Merrick Alpert, a former Gore staffer who has virtually no name recognition.

Favorable Ratings
Dodd 42 / 49
Simmons 40 / 10
McMahon 20 / 13
Caligiuri 10 / 3
Foley 20 / 6
Schiff 7 / 4
Alpert 1 / 3

Dodd has a 40 percent job approval rating, with 54 percent disapproving. His colleague Joe Lieberman, up for re-election in 2012, has a 49 percent approval rating, and 46 percent say he should be re-elected vs. 45 percent who say no -- a drop from the last time that question was asked. President Obama's is strong in the Nutmeg State: 58 percent approve, 35 percent disapprove.

The survey of 1,236 registered voters was conducted November 3-8 and has margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent. The GOP primary subsample of 332 voters had a +/- 5.4 percent margin of error, and the Democratic subsample of 474 voters had a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent.

Why Things Don't Look Good For Dems In The Midterms

Independent political observers and Democrats themselves have been saying for months that 2010 is shaping up as a bad year for Democratic candidates, and the latest Gallup generic congressional ballot test only reinforces the point. Not only do Republicans lead 48 percent to 44 percent, but independents now favor the GOP by 52 percent to 30 percent.

Although generic Republican candidates hold just a 4-point lead, the GOP's perpetual turnout advantage means their lead would likely be higher if the midterm elections were today. Even a single-digit lead for Democrats in Gallup's testing often only means the two parties will be competitive, as more registered voters identify with the Democratic Party but more Republicans go to the polls on Election Day.

In the final Gallup survey before the 1998 midterms, Republicans trailed by 9 points but still went on to win a small majority of House seats. In the 2002 midterms, Republicans were down 5 points just before the election but again kept a slim majority in the House.

A year before the 2006 midterm elections --when Democrats regained control of both houses of Congress -- generic congressional ballot testing forecast the shifting mood of the country. An August 2005 Gallup survey found Democrats leading by 12 points -- one of the widest margins between the parties Gallup had found since the GOP took back Congress in 1994.

That survey was far from the only one to show a shifting mood. This is the first Gallup survey to show Republicans leading this cycle, and while a year is a long time in politics, the poll falls in line with other signs pointing in the GOP's direction.

"It's better to look at a series of these polls than one of them, but the fact is Republicans haven't led the generic ballot since the stone ages," said David Wasserman, who analyzes House races for the Cook Political Report. "Any sort of deficit is dangerous for Democrats because their support is more heavily concentrated within a few base districts."

The last time Republicans led was September 2008, just after the Republican National Convention. The poll was an outlier, as no other generic ballot test by any other polling firm had shown Republicans leading in at least four years. None did soon after, either, and Democrats went on expand their majority to more than 75 seats in the House.

Further significance in the poll is the shift among independent voters. The 22-point advantage for Republicans is a far cry from July, when the two parties were statistically tied. The migration of independents toward the GOP mirrors what occurred in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial elections last week, when a Republican knocked off the incumbent governor in the Garden State and the GOP nominee won by nearly 20 points in the Old Dominion.

The independent swing shows in the new Pew Research survey also released today. It found incumbents -- most of which are Democrats these days -- in a perilous place, with just 52 percent saying they want their representative re-elected and only 34 percent say most representatives should be re-elected.

"Both measures are among the most negative in two decades of Pew Research surveys," Pew reports. "Other low points were during the 1994 and 2006 election cycles, when the party in power suffered large losses in midterm elections."

The latest Gallup survey was conducted Nov. 5-8 of 894 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent. The Pew poll was taken Oct. 28-Nov. 8 of 1,644 registered voters.

Virginia Dems: Bucking Party, Defending Votes

With heavy GOP criticism and recent gubernatorial election results highlighting a shifting mood in the state, Virginia Democratic Reps. Rick Boucher, Glenn Nye and Tom Perriello, all from outside Northern Virginia, took their chances in Saturday night's health care vote and are now back in their districts defending their votes.

In what already appears to be a difficult year for Democrats in Virginia, these three have been busy proving they don't always walk the party line, though Perriello is having a tougher time doing that this week.

Boucher, who's represented Southwest Virginia since 1982, voted with Republicans in opposition to comprehensive health care reform, as did Nye, a freshman who hails from Norfolk. Both must walk a fine line by keeping the more conservative and liberal Democrats in their districts happy.

The two have gone against the party in previous votes -- especially Nye, who voted against the omnibus appropriations and Waxman-Markey climate change bills, among others.

In statements following their votes, however, both Boucher and Nye left open the possibility of supporting the final bill, should there be a compromise with the Senate that is more to their liking.

"It's more important to pass the right bill, one that will reduce costs and help families and small businesses, than to pass this bill right now. ... I'm going to keep working until we get this right," said Nye.

Boucher made a similar statement following the vote: "Reform is needed, and I hope to support the final passage of legislation that emerges from a House-Senate conference..."

Perriello, who represents a diverse district that includes economically struggling Southside and liberal Charlottesville, voted in favor of the House bill and was immediately targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee. After winning by only 727 votes in 2008, he already had a GOP bull's-eye on his back.

He defended his vote in a Monday call with reporters, saying "The choice was between solving the problem and sitting on the sidelines."

Perriello, though, has also bucked his party leadership this year, including publicly supporting a bill that would prohibit congressmen from taking campaign contributions from a company in the same campaign cycle that they requested an earmark for that company. Democrats have so far done nothing with the bill. He also supported, along with only a dozen or so other Democrats, privileged resolutions brought forth by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to look into the relationship between earmarks and campaign contributions. Those also went nowhere.

Four days before the vote, GOP gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell won a lopsided victory over Democrat Creigh Deeds, including winning Boucher's district with 66 percent of the vote, Nye's district with 62 percent and Perriello's with 61 percent.

In 2008, John McCain won Perriello's district by 3 points and Boucher's by 19. President Obama carried Nye's district by 2 points, in large part because 22 percent of the district's population is African American. In the midterm election, when Obama will not be on the ticket, turnout is expected to drop considerably and make re-election more difficult.

The local newspapers were all over their votes, including Perriello's Charlottesville Daily Progress, Boucher's Martinsville Bulletin, and Nye's Daily Press of Newport News. Perriello also got treatment from the state's largest newspaper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, as did Nye and Boucher.

OH Gov Poll: Economy Weighs Down Strickland

Economic woes in the Buckeye State put Gov. Ted Strickland in a vulnerable position for 2010, a new Quinnipiac Poll (1,123 RVs, 11/5-9, +/- 2.9%) finds.

General Election Matchup
Strickland 40 (-6 vs. last poll, 9/15)
Kasich 40 (+4)
Don't Know 18 (+3)

Other recent Ohio polls have also found this race a dead heat at this early stage. Strickland, who won his 2006 election by more than 20 points and boasted strong poll numbers early in his term, now sees his approval rating at an all time low, 45 percent, with 43 percent disapproving.

Former Rep. John Kasich still is an unknown quantity to nearly 70 percent of voters, the poll finds, but has pulled into a tie with the incumbent after trailing by 30 points in Quinnipiac's initial matchup in February.

"This race is about Ted Strickland," Quinnipiac's Peter Brown says in the poll release. "Because so few voters have a firm fix on Kasich, the campaign is likely to be a race to define him in the eyes of most voters. That will mean the Strickland campaign will be trying to convince those seven in 10 voters who don't know enough about Kasich that he isn't their kind of guy."

Nearly two-thirds of Ohio voters say they're dissatisfied with the way things are going in Ohio. Just 33 percent approve of how Strickland is handling the economy, a number that's held steady in the last few surveys. Kasich has an 8-point lead now when voters are asked who would do a better job handling the economy and state budget.

In short: add Strickland to the long list of incumbents who will face tougher-than-expected challenges next fall because of the economy.

Poll: Snowe Vulnerable To Conservative Challenge

A new survey from Public Policy Polling (D) tested Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) against a generic conservative challenger in 2012. The result: the moderate may not survive such a fight.

2012 Primary Election Matchup
Conservative Challenger 59
Snowe 31
Not Sure 10

Snowe boasts a strong approval rating among the larger electorate, 51 percent vs. 36 percent who disapprove. But, PPP says:

"Snowe's numbers are steady with independents but down with both Democrats and Republicans compared to three weeks ago, an indication of the perilous political position she finds herself in. Republicans are mad at her for supporting any Democratic bill, while Democrats still are not completely happy with her because of her hesitance to support a public option."

Snowe is just halfway through her term, but these numbers suggest that Tim Pawlenty was not alone when he told MSNBC last week, "We want Olympia Snowe in the big tent but she can't say she's a Republican and vote against the Republican position much of the time." Still, any conservative challenger would need to amass considerable resources against the established Mainer.

The survey of 1,133 likely voters was conducted before last week's election, from October 31-November 1. The subsample of 415 likely GOP primary voters had a margin of error of +/- 4.8 percent.

Five Senators To Watch On Health Care

With 60 Democrats in the Senate, the party has enough votes to pass any bill it pleases -- but that total includes two independents that caucus with the party and leaves no room for error. The tight margin is on display once again as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) searches for enough support to both bring health care reform up for a vote and actually pass it.

While many Republicans do not support passing comprehensive reform at all, Reid is struggling to win over the centrist members of his own party on a couple sticking points: a government-run insurance option and banning federal funding for abortions.

Following House passage of its reform legislation Saturday night, President Obama expressed confidence that the Senate would follow suit. The president has done his part, meeting personally with a number of centrist Democrats to discuss reform. How successful he and Reid can be remains to be seen, but there is consensus on the fact that it will be far more difficult than passing it out of the House.

As the Senate awaits cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office this week, all eyes remain on a select group of senators whose support or opposition could alter the ultimate success of the bill. Here are Five Senators To Watch as Senate Democratic leadership looks to pass its own health care reform by the end of the month:

Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska)

As the Almanac of American Politics puts it, "He often is found in the middle of battles between the extremes of both parties." That was true in 2005, when he was part of the Gang of 14 that sought to allow President Bush's judicial nominations to move forward, and it remains true today, as Nelson continues to be at the heart of each battle over health care.

Nelson is against the public option, even with an opt-out clause, which had been the center of debate until this week. Now, since House Democrats passed a bill Saturday that bars federal dollars from being spent on abortions, Nelson says he will not support a bill that doesn't do the same thing. "If it doesn't make it clear that it does not pay for abortion then I wouldn't support it," Nelson told reporters Monday, according to Reuters.

The second term senator could introduce his own amendment that would solve the issue. House Democratic leaders were forced to include the Stupak amendment to get enough Dem votes for passage, and Senate Democratic leadership will likely be in the same boat.

Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)

As a moderate Republican who has joined Democrats in previous key votes, Snowe is often mentioned in the health care debate. Her vote in the Senate Finance Committee helped move health care reform to the cusp of the Senate floor. However, she made sure to note at the time that she will not necessarily support the final bill that is introduced to the full Senate.

Snowe's voting record pits her in the middle of the Senate, and Democrats are hoping to win her support on this crucial vote. But Snowe has said she does not support a public option, even with an opt-out clause. So winning her vote does not appear likely -- as Reid announced the bill will indeed include it -- unless Democrats decide to give the public option a "trigger," which Snowe supports.

Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut)

If you take Lieberman at his word -- and there's no reason not to -- Democrats should all but count out his support. The independent, who caucuses with the Democrats, has said he'd rather see no health care reform passed than reform that includes a public option. "The public option plan is unnecessary," Lieberman said on Fox News Sunday. "It has been put forward -- I'm convinced -- by people who really want the government to take over all of health insurance."

While he's in favor of insuring as many of the uninsured as possible and stopping the continuing unsustainable costs of health care, Lieberman opposes the public option because of the effect he feels it will have on the national debt. If the bill Reid brings to the floor includes the option, Lieberman maintains he will join a Republican filibuster to not allow it to come up for a vote.

Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas)

Lincoln is considered one of the most vulnerable senators up for re-election in 2010, and she's feeling the heat as every vote she casts is carefully scrutinized. Republicans are lining up to take on the second-term senator, even though she won both her elections with at least 55 percent of the vote.

Lincoln supported the Baucus bill that came out of the Senate Finance Committee, but she has stated her displeasure with a government-run public option, saying she'd prefer a nonprofit organization to run it. Unlike Lieberman, Lincoln has indicated she may join Democrats to allow a floor vote on the bill before eventually voting against its passage, though this possibility has already earned her flak from the Republican National Committee.

Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana)

Just re-elected last year, Landrieu does not have the same issues as Lincoln. She has repeatedly said she does not support a government-run insurance company, however the third-term senator has left plenty of room for compromise -- and both Reid and Obama have met privately with her to discuss their differences. Landrieu said she was "skeptical" of Reid's plan to include an opt-out clause for states.

Landrieu has indicated support for the public option "trigger," which is also backed by Snowe. This would allow the option to kick in after a few years if insurance rates don't decline and state markets continue to be monopolized by a few large companies.

CT Gov. Rell (R) Won't Seek Re-Election

In an unexpected move, Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell (R) announced today at 5 p.m. that she will not seek re-election.

"After much soul-searching, I have decided not to seek re-election next year," Rell said, according to the Hartford Courant.

The newspaper reported that it was "a hastily called press conference" held in her Capitol office "with her family standing by."

Connecticut is one of 18 states with Republican governors whose terms are up in 2010. Nine of the 18 had either already announced they weren't running again or were term-limited. With Rell adding to that total, now a majority of the Republican-held governorships will be open races next year.

Rell originally assumed office in July 2004 after the resignation of Republican governor John Rowland, who left before impeachment proceedings could begin. Rell was elected to a full term in 2006 with 63 percent of the vote, and she was fully expected to run for re-election next year.

Club For Growth Backs Rubio, Unfazed By NY-23 Fallout

With the endorsement today of Marco Rubio in the Florida Senate race, the Club For Growth sends a message that it is not deterred by a defeat last week of its preferred candidate in the New York 23 race.

"We have no hesitation at all," Club for Growth (CFG) president Chris Chocola told RCP today. "The Hoffman race was certainly a disappointment. We would have rather won than lost. But we look for champions of economic freedom wherever they might be."

Chocola, a former Indiana Congressman, disputed the idea that the New York special election was a feud within the Republican Party, arguing that Dede Scozzafava "was never a real Republican." The real lesson from the result, Chocola said, was that the electorate "is very energized," as shown by Hoffman getting 48% of the vote and nearly winning as a third party candidate.

"We believe that the center of the electorate is essentially for limited government and tolerant on social issues," Chocola said. "If you run unapologetically as a fiscal conservative, and you reflect your district on social issues, I think you'll win a lot more times than you're going to lose."

The endorsement of Rubio, which was not unexpected, is the second in a Senate race by Club For Growth in the 2010 cycle. Its early support for former CFG President Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania preceded Arlen Specter's decision to switch parties. And it comes as Gov. Charlie Crist (R) faces renewed criticism in the Florida Republican Senate primary over his support for the Obama administration's Recovery Act.

Last week the CFG launched an ad built around a clip of Crist's appearance with President Obama at a town hall meeting in the Sunshine State last winter. The organization has been monitoring this race for some time, but held back on an endorsement until Rubio's campaign showed improvement in his fundraising.


"We've liked the candidate all along, but we take our endorsement process very seriously and part of it is making sure the candidate [is viable]," Chocola said. "We never shy away from underdogs or even long-shots. But we think Rubio is in a great spot, where we can recommend him to our members with full confidence that he's going to run a great campaign and he's got a good chance of winning."

Rubio, Chocola said, is a "very appealing candidate" who offers a stark contrast in the race. "Clearly one is a champion of economic freedom and one is not," he said, pointing not just to Crist's support for the stimulus bill, but also concerns over his position on cap-and-trade and taxes.

Chocola said the Club for Growth will likely continue independent expenditures as the race continues, and will be raising money to fund those efforts. The group reportedly spent $1 million on last week's special election in NY-23.

The Crist campaign responded to today's news by attempting to turn the tables on Rubio.

"While Marco Rubio has a record of raising taxes and spending exorbitantly, Charlie Crist is a true fiscal conservative and looks forward to working with Club for Growth on their shared goals as Florida's next US Senator," Crist communications director Andrea Saul said in a statement.

Crist, once seen as the clear frontrunner in the open-seat race, has seen his approval rating dip recently. In an interview this weekend, he chalked that up to continuing unease with the economy.

"When you're in times like [this], sometimes there's a desire to blame somebody," he said. "Some people are just unhappy. I wish they were happier. I'm working hard every day to make sure that they have a better future and a brighter economy."

Breaking Down the Dems' Health Care Defections

House Democrats were able to pass comprehensive health care reform Saturday night by a 220-215 vote, despite the defection of 39 members of the Democratic caucus. The tight margin is indicative of the divisive nature of the bill, as well as the volatile political atmosphere of the country.

Members know that each major vote cast on the floor of the House chamber could be the issue that defeats them in the following election. All but one Republican opposed the bill, and the party, down 81 seats, is already using the vote as a wedge issue for next year's midterm elections.

The National Republican Congressional Committee released the following statement shortly after the vote to media in the congressional districts of nearly 50 of the Democrats who supported the bill:

"As the country recoils against the Democrats' reckless crusade for higher spending and more government control, Dina Titus just walked off a cliff at the request of her party bosses by voting for a bill that hikes taxes, slashes Medicare, kills jobs, and puts small businesses and middle class Nevada families in an even bigger bind."

In 2008, John McCain won 49 districts that also elected a Democrat to the House. On Saturday, 31 of the 39 Democrats who opposed the bill represent districts McCain carried, including 19 where McCain won 55 percent of the vote or more. Of the 31 McCain districts, 11 are represented by freshmen.

Fifteen of the 41 Democrats elected in 2008 voted against the bill, while just two from the even larger 2006 class opposed it. Just fewer than half of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, whose votes the Democratic leadership aggressively lobbied for, voted against the bill -- the 24 Blue Dogs made up more than 60 percent of the bill's Democratic opposition.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), one of the most liberal members of Congress and whose Cleveland-based district Obama won with 59 percent, opposed the bill because it didn't go far enough. Kucinich favored a "robust" public option, which leadership eventually concluded could not win enough support to pass.

Two of the opposing votes came from Members who are running for higher office next year -- Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.), who's running for governor, and Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.), who is challenging Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). McCain won at least 59 percent in both states in 2008.

Other noteworthy opposing votes came from Reps. Rick Boucher and Glenn Nye, both from Virginia, whose congressional districts were won Tuesday by Republican Bob McDonnell in the race for governor. The other two
Virginia Democrats whose districts McDonnell won, Reps. Gerry Connolly and Tom Perriello, voted in favor of the bill.

The lone Republican to support the bill was Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.), whose district leans heavily Democratic and has one of the 10 highest percentages of African American voters. Cao is widely considered the most vulnerable incumbent in the country, as his election in 2008 hinged on ethical and legal woes of incumbent Bill Jefferson (D-La.).

Connolly: Va. Dems Not 'Spooked' By McDonnell's Election

Republicans argue that Tuesday's election results were enough to make some Democratic lawmakers - especially moderates from districts that lean Republican -nervous about their re-election viability, and in turn, cause them to think twice before voting to enact comprehensive health care reform.

But one of the Democrats who fits that description, Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia's 11th Congressional District, told RCP in an interview that using the gubernatorial results on Tuesday to determine vulnerability in the 2010 midterm elections makes no sense, and that he's not reading much into them.

"Prudence dictates you don't overanalyze one election," Connolly told RealClearPolitics.

However, none of the four Democrats in Virginia whose congressional districts were won by the Republican gubernatorial nominee have said which way they will vote tomorrow night. While all four are on record professing skepticism of the House reform bill well before Tuesday, any 'No' votes will likely be construed as a political decision.

Calling his colleagues "principled individuals," Connolly says "they're not going to be somehow spooked by one election cycle."

Wednesday morning, the National Republican Congressional Committee singled out the four Virginia Dems who could be feeling the heat after Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell (R) won their districts -- Reps. Rick Boucher, Glenn Nye, Tom Perriello and Connolly. The latter three are freshmen serving in districts long held by Republicans, and John McCain's largest vote percentage came in the 14-term Boucher's 9th District.

"Turn the clock back," said Connolly, referring to Virginia Democrats' success at the House, Senate and presidential level in 2008. "If I had said Bob McDonnell was in trouble a year ago, how would my comment look now?"

"Everything ultimately hinges on the economy" improving, he said. "We've got a whole year for that to happen."

Of the four, Connolly may have the least to worry about, even though his Northern Virginia district was represented by Republican Tom Davis for 14 of its 17-year existence. With Davis retiring last year, Connolly won 55 percent against businessman Keith Fimian; President Obama won 57 percent there -- his third largest percentage in the state.

McDonnell's 55 percent take in the 11th District Tuesday was his smallest of the four Democratic districts he won. Fimian, who outspent Connolly last year, is taking on the congressman again in 2010.

Republicans, including Republican Governors Association Chairman Haley Barbour, quickly began comparing this year's gubernatorial results in New Jersey and Virginia to 1993, when Republicans also swept the two elections and went on to win back Congress the following year.

Connolly says that to ensure nothing like that happens again, Democrats need to "prove we can govern. That's why passing health care reform is so important."

According to his spokesman, as of this afternoon Connolly is leaning toward voting for the health care reform bill that will likely come up for a vote Saturday night, but so far he's alone in that category. Jessica Barba, Perriello's spokesman, told RCP this afternoon that the congressman is still undecided, while spokesman Clark Pettig confirms Nye has not yet announced his decision. Boucher did not return a request for comment.

Storming The Castle In Delaware

The other day, I noted that Republican efforts to win back Senate seats in 2010 are hampered by the fact that there are competitive primaries in almost every key race. The one exception was Delaware, where Rep. Mike Castle (R) is arguably the early favorite to win the seat formerly held by Vice President Biden.

That may have been a bit premature, as it appears now that Christine O'Donnell, the party's nominee in 2008 against Biden, plans to run an aggressive race from the right against the longtime Congressman. This Saturday, O'Donnell will make her first speech of the campaign at a Delaware Tea Party Rally in Dover. From a campaign release:

Christine will join participants to stand in opposition to the Obama-Pelosi liberal agenda that seeks to increase government authority and decrease individual freedom and liberty.

Committed to promoting conservative Reagan principles, Christine will address the rally and express her opposition to a government takeover of health care, wasteful spending, and other anti-free-enterprise efforts by Washington beltway politicians, and why 2010 holds great promise in turning the tide in Congress.

In a separate op-ed in a local paper, O'Donnell suggests the New York-23 race emboldens her effort, taking a shot at the moderate Castle:

"Republican leaders backed a liberal Republican, also referred to as a RINO (Republican in Name Only.) In the true spirit of grassroots activism, voters rallied behind a conservative Republican who then ran on an independent ticket. As all three candidates remained neck and neck, the RINO jumped ship and backed the Democrat. Some spin doctors are trying to say that the Conservative was the spoiler in this race. ... The majority of the voters in NY-23 voted Republican. Had the RINO endorsed the Conservative, I believe the outcome would have been different.

It's hard to imagine a scenario in which Castle loses to O'Donnell, given his advantage in name recognition and strong popularity in the First State. And as he takes shots from the right, he also faces an attack from Democrats today, with state party leaders holding a conference call on the possibility of Castle voting against health care reform legislation this weekend. He may actually embrace taking fire from both sides to burnish a moderate persona for the general election. But stranger things have happened and could happen with more than 300 days until a primary.

Strategy Memo: Working Overtime

Health care press conferences continue today in the House, as GOP leaders and Rep. Joe Wilson are holding at least three events on the Hill. Floor debate on health care reform is set to begin tomorrow morning at 9 a.m., with a vote expected Saturday night or Sunday so members can go home to their districts for the entire week of Veterans Day. On the floor today, the House will vote on the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009, and the Senate will hold no roll call votes.

The economy will also be part of the discussion today, as unemployment increased again to 10.2 percent in October -- the highest since April 1983.

Today after his morning briefings, President Obama signs the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009. Later he'll visit Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a stop added in the wake of yesterday's killings in Fort Hood, Texas. Back at the White House, Obama will then welcome Congressman-Elect Bill Owens to the Oval Office. Tomorrow he will meet with House Democrats on the Hill to push for their support on the impending health care reform vote.

And it will be like old times in Des Moines this weekend, with a 2012 double feature this weekend. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks at an Iowa GOP dinner on Saturday. Mike Huckabee visits West Des Moines and two other cities promoting his new Christmas book.

**President Obama
*Obama will formally back the House health care legislation today with a statement of administration policy, ABC reports.

*Yesterday he addressed the killings in Fort Hood, Texas, saying: "It's difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas.. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil," per The Hill.

*Politics Daily reports that "mental stress is emerging as a prime factor in the horrific shootings."

*AP: "Obama and House Democrats scrambled on Thursday to secure the votes to pass a historic health care overhaul initiative, working to ease disagreements with rank-and-file lawmakers over abortion and illegal immigrants."

*Obama stopped by the press briefing room briefly to tout the endorsement of the AARP for health care legislation. First Read calls it "a strategic maneuver by the White House to regain control of the message" amid yesterday's Capitol Hill protests.

*LA Times: "As President Obama struggles over a new military strategy for Afghanistan, his advisors are trying to satisfy sharply divergent demands: assuring Americans that any military buildup will be limited while convincing Pakistan and other wary allies that the U.S. presence is substantial and not about to end."

**Congress
*Roll Call reports that the House Hispanic Caucus has warned Obama that 20 of its members are ready to vote against health care "if language restricting the rights of illegal immigrants to buy insurance is added to the bill."

*"Pelosi insisted 'we will' get the 218 votes Dems needed for passage. She must find supporters within her 258-member caucus because Republicans are united against it," The Hill reports.

*Politico: "The fate of the bill itself rests on the shoulders of a new generation of Democrats whose young careers will be defined, in part, by the votes they cast Saturday -- votes sure to be used against many of them in 2010."

*Meet Rick Scott, who Politics Daily reports is "the one man arguably most responsible for stalling the rush toward ObamaCare."

**Campaign Stuff
*The Pioneer Press previews Pawlenty's Iowa jaunt. "State GOP leaders picked Pawlenty to give this year's speech because he is a 'fresh face on the political front. He's a popular, conservative governor who has been successful in a blue state,' said Chuck Larson Jr., a former legislator, state Republican Party chairman and U.S. ambassador to Latvia."

*Bloomberg writes about the early activity in Iowa for 2012, while noting: "Obama's re-election campaign will have an Iowa presence this month as well, when Vice President Joe Biden speaks Nov. 21 at a Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Des Moines."

*In the race to replace Pawlenty, Democrats have a live one now as Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak enters the race. The Star Tribune: "No Minneapolis mayor has ever won a governor's race, and Rybak, who campaigned heavily for President Obama last year, brings both assets and issues to the statewide race."

*New York Gov. David Paterson is getting an early start on his ad campaign, the New York Times reports. "The two ads, each 30 seconds long, highlight his biography and address criticism Mr. Paterson has faced from labor unions and business interests over his proposed cuts to the state budget. Both directly confront what polls say is Mr. Paterson's central political problem: widespread public skepticism that he has the ability to lead the state effectively."

*Josh Kraushaar reports that Montana Sen. Jon Tester may get a challenge in 2012 from the state's longtime Congressman, Denny Rehberg.

*AP reports that Carly Fiorina's record at HP will be the key to the California Senate race. And Kyle spoke with her primary opponent, Chuck DeVore, in the wake of Fiorina's endorsement by eight U.S. senators.

*Rep. Mark Kirk's (R-Ill.) request for support from Sarah Palin "has become fundraising fodder for" Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, Chicago Tribune reports.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

California Senate: The Next NY-23?

Carly Fiorina's nascent Senate campaign won the public backing Thursday of eight Republican senators, whose personal politics run the gamut on the GOP political spectrum. The early endorsements from the senators could serve as a boon to Fiorina's credentials. It could also further drive a wedge between the national party and conservatives who feel the party is turning its back on them.

The senators, some of whom are reportedly hosting a fundraiser for her in Washington later this month, include the GOP's 2008 presidential nominee and the Senate's minority leader and whip: John McCain (Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).

Fiorina's endorsement by Coburn -- a celebrated conservative for his demand for fiscal discipline in Congress -- particularly stands out, and perhaps could be a bridge Fiorina needs to the conservative wing of her party.

"One of Carly's greatest strengths is that she has never served in elected office," Coburn said, according to a press release from the Fiorina campaign. "Carly's common sense and fiscal conservatism will be a welcome addition to the United State Senate."

However, some grassroots conservatives around the country have already begun supporting California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, Fiorina's more-conservative primary opponent. DeVore, in an interview with RealClearPolitics, said the opinions of elected officials from inside the Beltway will hardly make a difference in the race.

"It's not surprising at all to me that the Republican establishment would come in behind her," said DeVore, who claims the support of 60 percent of Republican state office holders. "The only surprise I have is that it wasn't more than eight."

DeVore said he represents a "principled Republicanism," unlike some of the senators who supported Fiorina.

Although Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the committee would not spend money in contested Republican primaries, it is promoting fundraisers for select candidates, including Fiorina and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Also, the Associated Press reported today that the NRSC is hosting a fundraiser for an Arkansas Senate candidate, State Sen. Gilbert Baker, who has six primary opponents.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) endorsed DeVore earlier this week, adding to his activity in contested primaries. DeMint was also an early endorser of Marco Rubio in the Florida Senate race. Rubio is taking on Crist, who was endorsed by the NRSC and Senate leadership minutes after officially entering the race.

The primary race has already become reminiscent of one that ended badly for the party this week. Republicans suffered an awkward defeat Tuesday in the special election for New York's 23rd District, where the national party initially supported the Republican nominee while conservatives from around the country backed Doug Hoffman, who was running on the Conservative Party line.

The Club for Growth, which offered considerable financial assistance to Hoffman, has not decided whether it will endorse a candidate in the California Senate race, or whom it would endorse if it does. The organization, which demands fiscal conservatism in its candidates, has already announced it will not be backing other establishment-supported Senate candidates, including Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.).

Boehner: GOP In The Mainstream

Currently down 81 seats in the House and 20 seats in the Senate, Republicans represent a minority of Americans in Congress. However, they continue to contend that they stand with mainstream America in opposing the Democrats' "tax and spend" agenda, including health care reform.

Calling Democrats' efforts to pass health care reform "gangster government at its worst," Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) invited people from all over the country to the Capitol today, to "tell their Representatives to vote no to a government take-over of one-fifth of our economy." Thousands of people showed up to the West Front of the Capitol as House GOP leaders, Bachmann, actor Jon Voight, and radio host Mark Levin bashed President Obama and congressional Democrats.

The event used populist themes in its disapproval of reform, as the word "freedom" was uttered countless times by speakers. Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the Dems' bill "the greatest threat to freedom that I've seen in my 19 years in Congress."

"I'm going to stand with you and all freedom-loving Americans against this bill," he continued.

Asked at a press conference later in the day about some racist signs that turned up in the crowd, Boehner said he didn't see any. Asked if he worried that the signs that appeared on the Capitol grounds today might show that the GOP is out of the mainstream, Boehner said it was just the opposite.

"I think Republicans are standing with the mainstream in opposition to Pelosi-care," he said.

Earlier in the day, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said she was excited for Democrats' special election victories Tuesday in California and New York, not only because it gave her two more votes for health care reform, but because "health care was the issue" in both races. She did not mention the Democrats' losses in the New Jersey and Virginia governor's races.

Asked about Pelosi's comments, Boehner laughed and said he disagreed with her analysis of the races. As evidence, he pointed to the election results in New York's 23rd District, where 46 percent voted for Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman and 5 percent voted for GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava, who left the race days before the election.

"A majority of the people who voted in that election in New York on Tuesday night voted against the Obama-Pelosi agenda here in Washington," he said. "And so they can spin it any way they want, the leaders can, but let me tell you what: Their members saw what happened Tuesday night."

Strategy Memo: Start Spreading The News

Today, President Obama participates in the White House Tribal Nations Conference. After meetings with advisers, he'll then have lunch with Vice President Biden. This afternoon, he has separate meetings with Treasury Secretary Geithner, Secretary of State Clinton, and representatives of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He'll also meet Botswana President Ian Khama.

Speaker Pelosi and her leadership team are currently whipping votes on health care, as they prepare for a Saturday vote. In the meantime, House Republicans are holding what they're calling a health care "House Call" on the West front steps of the Capitol today at noon. GOP leadership will speak, with most of the conference standing on the steps behind them.

On the House floor today, the chamber will vote on the Senate-altered Unemployment Compensation Extension Act and begin consideration of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009. The Senate will debate and move closer to a vote on the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill.

**Health Care
*AP: "A debate and vote are expected Saturday on the 10-year, $1.2 trillion bill that would extend coverage to 96 percent of Americans, require employers to insure their employees and bar such insurance company practices as dropping coverage for sick people. Democratic leaders shrugged off Tuesday's election losses in governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey, focusing instead on their wins in two House races, a Democratic seat in northern California and one in New York that had long been held by the GOP. Both winners will be sworn in ahead of Saturday's vote."

*"House Democrats continued to whip their sweeping health care bill Wednesday before a planned Saturday vote, holding around-the-clock meetings to try to finalize abortion language and make other tweaks to the bill," Roll Call reports. "House leaders are hoping the White House will help whip the bill in the coming days, including a potential visit from President Barack Obama, given that they do not yet have 218 firm votes to pass the bill."

*The expected AARP "endorsement would be a huge boost to the legislation and would come six years after consumer group infuriated Democrats by backing President George W. Bush's Medicare prescription drug measure," The Hill reports. The "rare Saturday evening vote" is expected to take place by 6 or 7 p.m.

**Election Post-Mortem
*AP: "What we learned from the off-year elections: The president's influence is limited, independents rule, incumbents beware, issues trump ideology and, once more, 'It's the economy, stupid.'"

*CNN's Peter Hamby writes about the GOP's new superstar, Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell (R). "Fred Malek, a prominent Republican fundraiser and party insider who spent Election Night in Richmond with McDonnell, agreed that it's too early to speculate about the governor-elect's political future. But he said he expects Republicans around the country to welcome McDonnell as a campaigner and fundraiser for years to come."

*Wall Street Journal: "Elections this week left Democrats scrambling to renew the coalition that elected President Barack Obama after independent voters, whose power to determine U.S. elections is rising with their numbers, broke heavily toward Republicans. But even as Republicans celebrated their victories, they faced a struggle to build unity between the party establishment and the conservative activists who have helped lift the GOP out of the doldrums after two successive election cycle defeats."

*Adam Nagourney's take on the state of the GOP: "The divisions within the party extend beyond the traditional strains between the shrinking ranks of Republican moderates and the social and economic conservatives who have dominated the party in recent years. The situation is all the more complicated because, after the party's defeats in 2008, it has no dominant leaders or cohesive establishment to bridge the divides and help articulate a positive agenda. In that vacuum, the conservative activists and party leaders were both jockeying for advantage on Wednesday."

*"An ebullient" Michael Steele yesterday "modestly credited conservative and Republican activists and volunteers" with GOP wins on Tuesday, Washington Times reports.

*Speaking of Biden's last-minute visit to New York-23, a senior White House official tells ABC: "We're 2-0 against Palin. The Vice President went in and took on Governor Palin and the other national Republicans who had gotten involved in the race and we're sure happy that Owens pulled out that win."

**Campaign 2010/2012
*It's coming! The mayor-elect of Manchester, New Hampshire got congratulatory phone calls from Pawlenty, Romney and Pataki, ABC reports.

*With the president in Wisconsin, Obama's top political adviser met with potential Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Tom Barrett, Politico reports.

*Conservative groups aren't hanging their heads after the NY-23 loss, Politics Daily reports. Instead, these six 2010 races will provide "a test of their contention that conservatives make better GOP candidates": Florida Senate, Texas Governor, California Senate, California Governor, Kansas-01 and Georgia-09.

*"Two big questions loom in the wake of the 2009 elections. The first is whether Barack Obama learned anything new about American voters. The second is whether American voters will soon learn something new about Obama," Politico reports.


*SurveyUSA poll in Kentucky: Rand Paul and Dan Mongiardo lead the GOP and Democratic Senate primaries, respectively.

*Despite low poll numbers, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) is announcing her intention to seek a full term.

**Sports Alert: Start spreading the news! As Mike predicted in this very space on Opening Day in April, the New York Yankees are the 2009 World Champions. The first time in nine years, and the fifth time for the "core four" of Posada, Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte. Bring on the parade!

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Lessons To Be Learned (And Quickly For Some)

As everyone tries to explain what the elections last night mean for 2010, there's a cliche in some of the analysis: that the midterm elections are a lifetime away. There's no disputing that the general election is a full year away, but time is not on the side of many candidates as you look at the primary calendar. And two news items just today underscore the problems facing Republicans in particular as they plan for Senate races.

Believe it or not, the first primary election of 2010 is just 90 days away, in Illinois. Given the debate over New York-23 and its implications for the GOP, that may make Mark Kirk the latest test case in just how moderate or conservative a Republican can be to win a primary and, ultimately, the election. Today, Chris Cillizza reports that the Senate hopeful is appealing for Sarah Palin's endorsement. Her support for Doug Hoffman spurred Dede Scozzafava out of the race, but ultimately could not keep the seat from going to a Democrat. Kirk seems convinced that he needs her backing to win on February 2, however, before he can think about November.

A more significant problem for the GOP, however, comes as a result of NRSC chair John Cornyn's announcement today that the committee would not commit any resources in contested primaries. A day after tough Democratic losses, it had to feel like Christmas come early at the DSCC as they mapped out how this could change the entire playing field.

One could make the case that the GOP has primaries or the threats of primaries in every key Senate race except for Delaware. And now, would-be challengers who may have been holding off for fear of the NRSC's organizational might have seen a major roadblock taken away. Cornyn's announcement has local reporters across the country checking in with these candidates as well as the increasingly nervous Washington-preferred challengers (one, Carly Fiorina, announced her candidacy just today). And Democratic state committees and some candidates in these states have cranked out press releases celebrating the decision.

The calendar comes into play here, too, because some of the GOP's most contested primaries take place later in the calendar year, meaning that any major battle, particularly one expected in Florida, and others in New Hampshire, Colorado, and Connecticut, will produce a nominee with less time to recover before a general election campaign.

After the jump, a chronological clip-and-save of the 2010 primary season.

February 2
Illinois (Senate & Governor)

March 2
Texas (Senate & Governor)

May 4
Indiana (Senate)
North Carolina (Senate)
Ohio (Senate & Governor)

May 11
Nebraska (Governor)

May 18
Arkansas (Senate & Governor)
Kentucky (Senate)
Oregon (Senate & Governor)
Pennsylvania (Senate & Governor)

May 25
Idaho (Senate & Governor)

June 1
Alabama (Senate & Governor)
New Mexico (Governor)

June 8
California (Senate & Governor)
Iowa (Senate & Governor)
Maine (Governor)
Nevada (Senate & Governor)
North Dakota (Senate)
South Carolina (Senate & Governor)
South Dakota (Senate & Governor)

June 22
Utah (Senate & Governor)

July 20
Georgia (Senate & Governor)

July 27
Oklahoma (Senate & Governor)

August 3
Kansas (Senate & Governor)
Michigan (Senate & Governor)
Missouri (Senate)

August 5
Tennessee (Governor)

August 10
Colorado (Senate & Governor)
Connecticut (Senate & Governor)

August 17
Washington (Senate)
Wyoming (Governor)

August 24
Alaska (Senate & Governor)
Arizona (Senate & Governor)
Florida (Senate & Governor)

August 28
Louisiana (Senate)

September 14
Delaware (Senate)
Maryland (Senate & Governor)
Massachusetts (Governor)
Minnesota (Governor)
New Hampshire (Senate & Governor)
New York (Senate & Governor)
Rhode Island (Governor)
Vermont (Senate & Governor)
Wisconsin (Senate & Governor)

September 18
Hawaii (Senate & Governor)

Fiorina Enters California Senate Race

As expected, Carly Fiorina is running for Senate in California. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO and 2008 surrogate for John McCain will face conservative Assemblyman Chuck DeVore in the GOP primary before she gets a chance at Sen. Barbara Boxer (D).

In an op-ed in the Orange County Register today, Fiorina said her motivation to enter the race is that "the decisions made by the Senate impact every family and every business, of any size, in America."

"Our most pressing problems today are too few jobs for Americans and too much spending in Washington," Fiorina wrote. "As California's senator, economic recovery and fiscal accountability will be my priorities."

Fiorina opened her op-ed with an explanation of her spotty voting record, which has dogged her campaign even before she officially entered the race. The San Francisco Chronicle reported in June that Fiorina voted in just one-in-four local, state and national elections in the Bay Area since 2000.

"Admittedly, I have not always been engaged in the electoral process, and I should have been," writes Fiorina, who also discussed her voting record, along with taxes and abortion, in an interview with a California Republican blog.

Although Fiorina will be well-funded, she does not have a clear path to the general election. DeVore, who will challenge her on conservative principles, was endorsed yesterday by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). This is DeMint's latest foray into a 2010 Senate GOP primary -- he also endorsed Marco Rubio in Florida, instead of party favorite Gov. Charlie Crist.

However, Fiorina will also get be getting some help from the party establishment, as The Hill reports she will attend a Washington fundraiser hosted by a number of senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and McCain.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee isn't waiting for the primary to conclude to begin knocking Fiorina's credentials. In a statement released this morning, DSCC spokesman Eric Schultz indicates which angle the committee will take against her.

"The hallmark of Carly Fiorina's resume is her tenure at Hewlett-Packard where she laid-off 28,000 Americans while shipping jobs overseas - just before taking a $21 million golden parachute," said Schultz. "Given that record, the United States Senate is the last place Carly Fiorina should go next."

Strategy Memo: Election Remains Edition

Republicans swept the gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia yesterday, while Democrats picked up another House seat with the special election in New York's 23rd District. The GOP wins continues the decades-long streak of the party in power in the White House losing the following gubernatorial elections in both states.

As pundits debate what last night's elections mean for the future of his administration, President Obama will leave the Beltway bubble and travel to Wisconsin for an event focused on education. On the anniversary of his election, Obama also participates in a credentialing ceremony for foreign ambassadors, and tonight will host an event celebrating classical music back at the White House.

In Congress, the House takes up the Expedited CARD Reform for Consumers Act of 2009, while the Senate resumes consideration of the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009.

**National Political Climate
*Gallup: "The 2010 election cycle begins in a political climate that is shaping up to be not as favorable to the Democratic Party as the 2006 and 2008 elections were. Having capitalized on broad public discontent with the course of the nation in general and the Republican Party in particular to win control of the White House and both houses of Congress, the party faces the 2010 midterm elections trying to preserve its recent gains."

*Washington Times: "Top Democrats predicted that the backlash against the Republican Party in a New York congressional election Tuesday marked the start of a wave that will continue in key 2010 Senate races, saying they think independent voters will abandon a divided Republican Party."

*Politico: "The off-year elections were, in two big races, an unmistakable rebuke of Democrats, reshuffling Obama's political circumstances in ways likely to have severe near-term consequences for his policy agenda and larger governing strategy."

*The Hill: "Vulnerable House and Senate Democrats want their leaders to skip the party's controversial legislative agenda for next year to help save their seats in Congress. In the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections, they don't want to be forced to vote on climate change, immigration reform and gays in the military, which they say should be set aside so Congress can focus on jobs and the economy."

*New York Times: "The Republican victories in the races for New Jersey and Virginia governors put the party in a stronger position to turn back the political wave President Obama unleashed last year, setting the stage for Republicans to raise money, recruit candidates and ride the excitement of an energized base as the party heads into next year's midterm elections. But a Democratic victory in an upstate New York Congressional district ... signaled that the Republican Party faces continued upheaval."

*AP: "Voters nervous about the economy and fed up with the political establishment dominated the off-year elections, sending a strong message to President Barack Obama, who won the White House as a change agent but has himself become the face of political power and incumbency."

*"By seizing gubernatorial seats in Virginia and New Jersey, Republicans on Tuesday dispelled any notion of President Obama's electoral invincibility, giving the GOP a lift and offering warning signs to Democrats ahead of the 2010 midterm elections," the L.A. Times reports.

*ABC's look at the exits: "Vast economic discontent marked the mood of Tuesday's off-year voters, portending potential trouble for incumbents generally and Democrats in particular in 2010. Still the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey looked less like a referendum on Barack Obama than a reflection of their own candidates and issues."

*For the record, Obama was not watching the results anyway. So there.

**New Jersey Governor: Christie (R) 49 - Corzine (D) 45
*The Star Ledger reports, "Corzine becomes just the third New Jersey governor in the past 60 years to go down after a single term in office. Veteran legislators who have worked with Corzine -- both in public and behind closed doors -- point to a number of reasons for his defeat, but they say none looms larger than the Democratic governor's struggles to deliver on his signature issues: reining in taxes and firming up the state's shaky finances."

*The Bergen Record: "More than 20 key players interviewed in both campaigns said regardless of Corzine's wealth and a strong Democratic endgame strategy, Christie was always favored to win a race defined by a weak economy, high property taxes and troubling unemployment."

*Independent Chris Daggett, thought to be a potential spoiler, said this of his showing: "What we found was the most important thing is you have to have money. What I fear is if you're not independently wealthy, you might not have a chance."

*AP notes a somewhat surprising result in the exit polls: Christie "won decisively among independent women, a key group that Corzine's campaign courted with gusto, harping on Christie's opposition to abortion rights in most cases and his support of allowing low-cost insurance plans for some."

*Corzine lost the base? Sierra Club chief tells PolitickerNJ: "Jon Corzine wasn't true to his base and he lost. Groups like the environmentalists are angry at him... so many other progressives and liberal Democrats stayed home."

**Virginia Governor McDonnell (R) 59 - Deeds (D) 41
*Richmond Times-Dispatch: "A year after tipping Democratic for president for the first time since 1964, Virginia fell to Republicans in a dramatic statewide sweep that is a historic reminder of its enduring competitiveness -- but may not be a model for a national GOP comeback."

*Politics Daily: "Republicans who are looking for a model would do well to look to McDonnell. He is unabashedly conservative, yet focused his race on issues such as transportation and the economy - issues that most Virginia voters would tell you are near and dear to them these days. It doesn't hurt that he's so telegenic or that he ran a smooth as butter campaign."

*Virginian-Pilot: "A staunch conservative on many issues, McDonnell's successful campaign strategy emphasized kitchen table concerns rather than social ideology. His message of restoring economic prosperity and creating jobs appeared to resonate with voters worried about the recession and national policies coming out of Washington."

*Kyle's take from Richmond: "A social conservative who successfully ran on bread and butter pocketbook issues, McDonnell racked up huge victories in the key exurban counties of Loudoun and Prince William, which Gov. Tim Kaine carried in 2005 and President Obama won just a year ago. He also carried Fairfax County, which Obama won by 21 points. ... While Deeds's inability to continue the blue streak is official, the reasons for it vary. Many political observers blame the Deeds campaign for being inept and lacking discipline, while also recognizing an unmistakable shift in the national mood from a year ago."

**New York-23 special election Owens (D) 49 - Hoffman (C) 45
*Watertown Daily Times: "For the first time since the mid-19th century, a Democrat will represent Northern New York in the U.S. House of Representatives. William L. Owens, the Democratic and Working Families candidate for the 23rd Congressional District special election, won a tight race Tuesday night."

*"Democrat Bill Owens has won the special election in New York's 23rd district, giving Democrats a big House takeover in a race that garnered plenty of national attention," The Hill reports. Doug "Hoffman appeared to have the momentum going into Election Day in the upstate district, but the de facto Republican nominee appeared to succumb to the Democratic turnout machine and a late visit from Vice President Joe Biden."

*Washington Post: Owens's "triumph came after a bizarre weekend in which the Republican nominee, state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, dropped out on the eve of the election and endorsed Owens. Her decision came after a slew of prominent Republicans had backed Hoffman and distanced themselves from her, dooming her chances."

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Election Night Live Blog

Head over to the RCP Blog for a live election night thread on the races in New Jersey, Virginia, New York and elsewhere. Mike and I, as well as our RCP colleagues, will be updating it throughout the night.

Mike is in New Jersey and I'm in Virginia.

Rallying Labor, Corzine Says Election Will Send Message

corzineeday.jpgPARAMUS, N.J. -- As the national party and the White House downplay the implications of today's vote, Gov. Jon Corzine (D) fired up a labor rally here by saying his re-election would give a boost to the Obama agenda in Washington.

Joined by national labor leaders, Corzine specifically brought up the fight over the Employee Free Choice Act, and said: "We want to send a message to America that in the most labor friendly state in America, we're returning the governor no matter how tough times are."

Several hundred workers attended the lunch-time rally, some greeting him by asking if he was "Fired up," an Obama campaign credo. The governor, saying this was "the last election I run in," said the union's GOTV efforts were critical not just for his future but the president's.

"Our president is working for a national health care program," he said. "He needs our help so that he can tell the Congress there is no lack of support out in the countryside. We stand with our president."

He surprised even some in the union hall with some salty language, saying Obama has already begun to "stop that trickle-down economic stuff that got us into this damn mess from the Bush people."

"We will have things going in the right direction," he said.

Corzine then went to a local diner, where actor Abe Vigoda also made an appearance.

Enough Sound Checks Already

RICHMOND -- OK, sound checks are part of the process of setting up an election night party, especially one most expect to be of the victorious sort. But there's only so many times you probably need to play the following refrain:

"I gotta feeling, I gotta feeling, I gotta feeling / that tonight's gonna be a good night, that tonight's gonna be a good night, that tonight's gonna be a good good night / I gotta feeling."

And the Deeds campaign just released another turnout report from campaign manager Joe Abbey:

"Our afternoon reports have shown that Charlottesville continues to be a bright spot for Deeds turnout today, with numbers running way ahead of targets. Democratic turnout has surged in Roanoke over the past several hours and we are hitting our targets in Democratic precincts in that market. And turnout continue to look strong in key precincts in Northern Virginia."

Facing daunting polling numbers over the past month, Deeds advisers have continued to say that if they can just get a few hundred thousand Obama surge voters out to the polls they can win this thing. Easier said than done, of course, but it's their one hope and something they pushed pretty hard for the last few days with door knocks and phone banking.

The lack of an energized base in Northern Virginia, as well as the big question mark that is those Obama voters around the state, especially in Hampton Roads, make predicting Deeds' final tally pretty tough.

Live From Bob McDonnell Election Night Headquarters

RICHMOND -- Not much excitement here yet at Bob McDonnell's election night headquarters, downtown in a large hotel ballroom. The Creigh Deeds campaign has set up camp on the outskirts of Richmond -- perhaps analagous to where the candidate will find himself when the polls close at 7 p.m., on the outside looking in.

Hoping for positive, midday media reports, the Deeds campaign released a statement just before 1 p.m. (while this reporter was driving down from D.C.) stating that turnout was looking good in essential counties for statewide Democratic candidates.

"We are seeing encouraging numbers in key parts of the state. Northern and Central Virginia in particular look strong," said Deeds campaign manager Joe Abbey. "The Charlottesville area, which includes areas represented by Creigh Deeds in the state Senate is particularly strong and 10 percent of voters in key Democratic precincts had already voted by 10 AM. Meanwhile, voters in the populous and Democratic precincts of Alexandria and Arlington have been voting at rates well above the average in other parts of the Commonwealth."

Deeds currently trails by 13.4 points in the polls and recent fundraising data shows he's way behind in large donations received over the last two weeks of the campaign.

McDonnell, according to reports compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project, accepted nearly $1.5 million in $5,000+ donations since the last campaign finance filing deadline on Oct. 21. That's three times what Deeds took in, and Deeds started the last two weeks far less dough than McDonnell.

It was evident in Northern Virginia, where McDonnell blanketed the airwaves with ads showing him to be a pragmatic problem solver in Richmond and a candidate for governor -- though it wasn't clear which party he was part of.

Countdown '09: New York-23, New Jersey and Virginia (Today!)

NEW YORK-23 (Latest Polls)

*A local paper writes about the big final rallies.

*Scozzafava talks about her decision to drop out, and back the Democrat.

*What to watch for in the race.

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Christie +1.0)

*On Election Day, Gov. Jon Corzine's schedule is heavy on labor GOTV events. Chris Christie visits some diners and goes to a local GOP headquarters. Chris Daggett also has some retail stops and does some interviews.

*Expecting a recount? And charges of voter fraud. Gear up for what could be a wild day.

*Judges and attorneys will be on hand in courthouses around the state.

*Democrats admitted that they were behind a robocall praising indie Daggett and knocking Republican Christie.

*The suburbs are key in a state that's mostly suburban.

*Corzine thinks he has momentum.

*Look who joined Christie yesterday: former Gov. Christie Whitman. Also, Tom Kean.

*The Seinfeld of races: A "campaign about nothing"?

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +13.4)

*Polls close at 7 p.m. ET.

*Down so far in the polls, Deeds is facing a tougher task of getting out the vote than McDonnell.

*Virginians want "jobs, jobs and more jobs."

*Both candidates swung through Charlottesville yesterday.

*Chuck Todd calls Deeds' campaign "inept."

*Brad Todd says the race came down to the "advertising decisions made by both parties" in Northern Virginia.

*Democratic strategists are preparing to lose all three big races today.

Strategy Memo: E-Day 2009

Today is Election Day, and voters are voting as you read this. The major contests to watch are the Congressional race in New York-23, and the down-to-the-wire gubernatorial race in New Jersey. The race in Virginia looks much sleepier, with a likely Republican win. There are also some big races for mayor among the downballot contests nationwide.

In Washington, meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits. She'll meet with President Obama at the White House before heading to Congress to speak to a joint session. Also at the White House, Obama meets with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and later joins a U.S.-European Union Summit with the Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, and the European Council High Representative Javier Solana. He'll also sit down with Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), a key vote on health care.

Merkel's address to Congress is at 10:30 am. Outside of that event, the focus on the Hill remains health care, as Democratic House leaders are hoping for a vote on their bill by the end of the week.

**President Obama
*A CNN/Opinion Research poll one year after his election puts President Obama's approval rating at 54 percent. "Obama's approval rating of 54 percent is nearly identical to the 53 percent of the vote he won a year ago," notes CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "And in nearly every demographic category, the percent that approve of Obama today is within two to three points of the percent who voted for him in 2008."

*New York Times' Zeleny goes back to Iowa and finds misgivings about a president whose path to victory started there. "For Democrats, the immediate peril of failing to hang on to some of these swing voters could play out Tuesday in the governor's race in Virginia, a state Mr. Obama wrested away from Republicans last year but where the Democratic candidate for governor has struggled to recreate Mr. Obama's enthusiastic coalition."

*Ed Henry interviewed Vice President Biden. On his tendency to go off script: "There's a big difference between me giving the president my advice and having direct access to him on every major issue ... and me going out with a policy that is separate and apart from other people in the administration, which you saw with Cheney," Biden said.

*AP: "The president has spent a considerable amount of time and energy trying to ensure that Democrats win governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey and pick up a GOP-held congressional seat in upstate New York. In doing so, Obama raised the stakes of a low-enthusiasm off-year election season -- and risked political embarrassment if any lost."

*Washington Times: "The White House is beginning to send strong signals that it recognizes the $1.4 trillion budget deficit is a looming political problem that needs to be addressed, even as President Obama reminds Americans that the country's fiscal crisis originated with the Bush administration and will not be resolved overnight."

**Health Care
*"While House leaders are moving toward a vote on health-care legislation by the end of the week, enough Democrats are threatening to oppose the measure over the issue of abortion to create a question about its passage," Washington Post reports.

*The House bill "is much tougher on the drug industry than what the Senate is considering. And that could prove one of the challenges for lawmakers when the legislation eventually reaches a House-Senate conference committee," New York Times reports.

*"Sen. Joe Lieberman has reached a private understanding with Majority Leader Harry Reid that he will not block a final vote on healthcare reform, according to two sources briefed on the matter," The Hill reports.

**Congress
*All seven members of Congress who are currently the subjects of a "full-scale ethics committee probe" are African American, Politico reports. "...members of the Congressional Black Caucus are wary of talking about it on the record. But privately, some black members are outraged -- and see in the numbers a worrisome trend in the actions of ethics watchdogs on and off Capitol Hill."

*"Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said Monday she will not be intimidated by GOP boycott threats and vowed to begin marking up her climate change legislation Tuesday regardless of whether Republicans show up at the Environment and Public Works Committee session," Roll Call reports.

**Campaign Stuff
*AP runs down exactly what's on the ballot nationwide. Chuck Todd offers this pre-spin: "It isn't about whether or not Tuesday's elections matter. Tuesday is about which party learns the messages voters are sending. And which party over-interprets or under-interprets those messages."

*It was Biden vs. Palin again on the campaign trail yesterday.

*CBS has an excerpt from the first of several books documenting Sarah Palin's time on the campaign trail.

*Republicans have a primary in the Florida gubernatorial race afterall, with state Sen. Paula Dockery entering the race, the Miami Herald reports. Bill McCollum had thought to have a clear path.

*Speaking of Florida primaries, check out Marco Rubio's new fundraising site.

*Politico: "The conservative coup in upstate New York did much more than lay bare the power of conservative activists: It exposed how little control GOP officials hold over this surging and formidable political movement."

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

NJ Gov Poll: FDU Shows Corzine Ahead, But Omits Daggett

FDU has released updated numbers (10/22-11/1, 1,119 LVs, +/-3%) from the governor's race, showing Gov. Jon Corzine (D) narrowly ahead. But we post with an important disclaimer: the results are from a ballot test that did not mention independent candidate Chris Daggett.

General Election Matchup (Daggett Volunteered)
Corzine 43 (-1 vs. last poll, 10/22-28)
Christie 41 (-2)
Daggett 8 (+2)
Don't Know 5 (+1)

In the last survey, Corzine also lead when respondents were given just the two major party candidates. But Christie led in a ballot test that included Daggett.

Also today, Democracy Corps (D) released its latest poll which again shows Corzine in the lead, 41-37-15.

Rep. Foxx: Health Care Reform Scarier Than Terrorism

In a statement from the House floor today that is surely already making the rounds in Democratic circles and in the liberal netroots, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said Americans should be more fearful of Congress passing the Democrats' health care reform legislation than terrorism.

"I believe that the greatest fear that we all should have to our freedom comes from this room -- this very room and what may happen later this week in terms of a tax increase bill masquerading as a health care bill," Foxx said. "I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country."

National Democratic campaign committees are e-mailing video of the statement by Foxx, of teapot museum earmark fame. Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse called her "an extreme right wing Republican" and criticized her for making such an "outrageous" comparison. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reacted similarly.

"Representative Foxx believes that reducing health care costs for consumers is a greater danger to Americans than terrorists?" asked DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson. "It is outrageous that a representative of our nation that was hit by terrorists would have the gall to claim that Americans reducing their health care costs is a greater threat. The question is: Does Virginia Foxx's leadership agree with this Republican extreme right wing ideology?"

Recount In Jersey? Candidates, Parties Planning For One

With recent polling showing that the top two candidates in New Jersey's gubernatorial race are separated by just a few points, it's no surprise that the campaigns and parties are preparing for the possibility of a recount should the final result be too close to call.

"We certainly have anticipated and prepared for this scenario," said Maria Comella, spokesperson for Republican Chris Christie. Spokesperson Lis Smith said officials in Gov. Jon Corzine's campaign are also "preparing" for a possible recount; both declined to comment further on the nature of those preparations, however.

Robert Giles, director of the New Jersey Division of Elections, said that there is no automatic trigger which would require a recount after Tuesday's vote. Either candidate has 15 days to request that county officials double-check their tallies, and can do so no matter what the margin of victory. Such a request would be made in state Superior Court.

"It's definitely a possibility," Giles said, noting that in 1993 and 1997, the gubernatorial races were decided by fewer than 25,000 votes. The 1981 race was even closer, as Republican Tom Kean was victorious by just an 1,800-vote margin. That was the last time a candidate requested a recount take place (then-Rep. Jim Florio).

Officials from both the Republican and Democratic Governors Association say they would be prepared to help their candidates with a recount, but neither said they expect a recount to be called. RGA spokesperson Mike Schrimpf said he would expect Corzine to seek a recount if the result is with 2 percent, but posited that the final result would not be that close.

In a recount, each of the Garden State's 21 counties would then re-run the votes from so-called DRE (direct-recording electronic) voting machines, comparing the internal memory to the totals reported on Election Night. Mail-in ballots and provisional ballots would also have to be recounted, either by rescanning them or via a hand-count, based on a candidate's request. There is a fee for the petitioning candidate, but all costs are incurred by the counties.

Once the counties report the results of the recount, the petitioning candidate can either accept the result, or file to contest the election. That request would have to be filed within 30 days of the election, and would have to include specific allegations as to whether there were illegal ballots cast, legal voters turned away, etc.

"The campaign attorneys are well versed" in what a contest would require, Giles said. The New Jersey Board of Canvassers is scheduled to meet December 1 to certify the result of the election, barring any court challenge.

Tuesday's election is the first gubernatorial race in New Jersey that allows voters to cast their ballot by mail without requiring a specific reason. In 2005, 91,000 absentee ballots were cast; this year, 184,000 requests were received, with a return rate typically as high as 90 percent. Giles estimates that overall turnout tomorrow could be in the mid-50 percent range, which "would be average turnout for a gubernatorial election." Turnout was lower in both 2001 and 2005.

Democrats are optimistic that while polls show Corzine either narrowly behind or ahead, their proven get-out-the-vote effort would put the incumbent over the top. President Obama's visit to New Jersey Sunday was intended to help in that effort. Today, the AFL-CIO reports that they'll have 12,000-15,000 volunteers working in the state tomorrow, with 500 volunteers calling 180,000 union households in the state. AFL-CIO President Trumka will join Corzine and other union officials for a GOTV bus tour.

VA Gov Poll: McDonnell +18

SurveyUSA's latest poll slams another nail in Virginia Democrats' coffin, as it shows Republicans leading each of the top three races on the ticket by at least 16 points -- including gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell up 18 points. The potential GOP sweep tomorrow would certainly be a blow to Dems, who have enjoyed a run of statewide success in recent years.

McDonnell now leads by 14.0 points in the RCP Average for Virginia. Both candidates will be in Richmond tomorrow night, on opposite sides of the city.

NJ Gov Polls: Photo Finish

Two more surveys out in New Jersey, both with different results. The takeaway: this race is likely within the margin of error.

Monmouth University/Gannett
(722 LVs, 10/31-11/1, +/- 3.7%)
Corzine 43 (+1 vs. last poll, 10/28-30)
Christie 41 (-2)
Daggett 8 (unch)
Don't Know 7 (+2)

SurveyUSA
(582 LVs*, 10/30-11/1, +/- 4.1%)
Christie 45 (+2 vs. last poll, 10/26-28)
Corzine 42 (-1)
Daggett 10 (-1)
Undecided 3 (unch)

"If the undecided vote breaks largely for the Republican, this race could be a squeaker," says Monmouth's Patrick Murray. Their polling sample has a lower GOP response rate than SurveyUSA's, though the latter has a higher Dem response rate as well.

SurveyUSA notes that the poll was in the field as New Jerseyans were glued to the World Series, and families were out trick-or-treating. "As such, results of this survey should be interpreted cautiously: a narrow Corzine victory is not inconsistent with the data, but a narrow Christie win is more consistent with the data." A warning sign, however: Christie's lead among independent voters has climbed from 12 to 30 points in a month. Corzine does lead, however, among those who say they have already voted.

RNC Radio Ad In NY-23: Vote Conservative

So much for pushing moderateness in this Northeastern swing district.

"Vote conservative," says the announcer in a new 60-second, RNC-sponsored radio ad in New York's 23rd District. Now that GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava has left the race, the national Republican campaign committees are pushing Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman.

Scozzafava was lambasted by the GOP's conservative base for her relatively liberal positions on such issues as abortion, taxes and spending. The new RNC ad mentions the word "conservative" five times in the ad, which is airing today and tomorrow in New York's North Country media markets.

"Let's tell the liberals, enough is enough," the announcer continues. "No more bailouts, taxes and budget busting spending. It's time to create jobs, with proven conservative ideas like lower taxes. Let your voice be heard, join the movement to bring real conservative change."

You can hear the ad here.

NY-23 Poll: Hoffman +5

With GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava now out of the race and directing her supporters to back Democratic nominee Bill Owens, the special election race for New York's 23rd Congressional District has drastically changed. Siena Research Institute conducted a new poll yesterday to keep up with the late-breaking, game-changing events, and found Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman leading Owens by 5 points.

Hoffman 41 (+6 vs. last poll, Oct. 31)
Owens 36 (nc)
Scozzafava 6 (-14)

Click here to see all of the polls released in the NY-23 special election.

"With nearly one in five voters undecided the day before Election Day and voters still trying to comprehend the dramatic withdrawal of Scozzafava, and her subsequent endorsement of Owens, this is still a wide open race," said Siena pollster Steven Greenberg. "The two candidates and campaigns are both in a sprint to try and convince these undecided voters to support them. Which ever campaign succeeds in convincing the undecided voters and then getting them to the polls tomorrow, will likely be looking at a victory tomorrow night
Und 18 (+9)

Countdown '09: New York-23, New Jersey and Virginia (1 Day)

NEW YORK-23 (Latest Polls)

*Owens (D) and Scozzafava (R), together on the campaign trail.

*Politico has a tick-tock on Scozzafava's decision to back the Democrat.

*VP Biden will do what he can today as he campaigns for Owens.

*The race could be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the conservative base bucking national GOP leadership.

*The weekend's developments will reverberate beyond the district's boundaries.

*Is it a good sign for the GOP if NY-23 is a bellwether for 2010?

NEW JERSEY (RCP Average: Christie +1.2)

*New Polls: Is Christie pulling ahead?

*The Times looks at Democratic efforts to score a victory tomorrow.

*Christie says it all comes down to turnout.

*Republicans are unhappy with a late robocall that aims to push Christie voters to Daggett.

*Joe "You Lie" Wilson was in the Garden State boosting his fellow Republican.

*The Post says Obama's butt is on the line for Corzine.

*Property taxes is the big issue, as always.

VIRGINIA (RCP Average: McDonnell +13.8)

*New York Times looks at the two governor's races and what they could mean for Obama and Democrats.

*McDonnell appears to be running away with the race.

*Deeds took to criticizing McDonnell for negative campaigning.

*Whoever is elected will likely need to slash the budget, as the state faces a $1 billion shortfall.

*Jim Moran being Jim Moran: He compares McDonnell to Taliban.

*Did GOP's road to victory start with "The Deal"?

*What it's really all about -- this is where the candidates stand on the issues.

*Sarah Palin is robo-calling Virginians, urging them to "vote for Sarah's principles."

Strategy Memo: The Great Debate

The House will begin floor debate this week on the Democrats' comprehensive health care reform legislation, with a vote taking place perhaps as early as Thursday. The Senate continues to move forward today on the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act.

President Obama's day focuses on the economy. He'll meet with his Economic Recovery Advisory Board to talk about job creation, a session that will be streamed online in its entirety. Also today, the National Economic Council will hold a principals-level meeting, led by Larry Summers. Later, the president meets with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt of Sweden.

Today Vice President Biden heads to upstate New York to campaign for Bill Owens in NY-23 race, which saw a big shakeup this weekend with the withdrawal of Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava.

Election Day is tomorrow for the governor's races in New Jersey and Virginia, as well as special elections in New York-23 and California-10, and the New York City mayoral race.

**Health Care
*"Ready or not, House Democratic leaders they are pushing for a healthcare vote this week. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is poised to send a bill to the floor Monday in its final form, setting up a vote as early as Thursday," The Hill reports.

*The GOP plans to introduce its own version of health care legislation, Wall Street Journal reports. "Republicans have talked about a variety of alternatives to Democratic efforts on health care, but decided to put out their own bill after seeing details of the legislation unveiled by Democrats last Thursday. GOP leaders hope to offer the measure as an alternative during debate on the Democratic bill, and a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said Republicans would be allowed to do so."

*AP looks at the tax impact of the Democratic health care bill: "The typical family would be spared higher taxes from the House Democratic plan to overhaul health care, and their low-income neighbors could come out ahead. Their wealthy counterparts, however, face big tax increases that could eventually hit future generations of taxpayers who are less wealthy."

*The New York Times offers an upbeat assessment of the Obama White House's strategy. "In interviews, senior advisers to the president said the progress on Capitol Hill vindicated Mr. Obama's strategy of leaving the details up to lawmakers, though they are wary of sounding overconfident."

**Congress
*"The climate-change bill that has been moving slowly through the Senate will face a stark political reality when it emerges for committee debate on Tuesday: With Democrats deeply divided on the issue, unless some Republican lawmakers risk the backlash for signing on to the legislation, there is almost no hope for passage," Washington Post reports.

*"The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is engaged in public partisan warfare over a climate bill, a battle that foreshadows the deep struggle the Obama administration will face as Democrats attempt to push a version of the sweeping legislation through the Senate," Politico reports. EPW Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) "announced last week that she will proceed with a markup of the bill beginning Tuesday, even though all seven Republicans on the committee say they plan to boycott the proceedings."

*Washington Post has more details on the unintended disclosure of lawmakers under investigation, and points out that many under investigation "remain in positions of power."

**President Obama
*Wall Street Journal looks at "quiet changes": "Some promises that Mr. Obama made during his campaign, such as repealing much of the post-Sept. 11, 2001, Patriot Act, allowing openly gay service members into the military or making major changes to the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act have gone nowhere. But other issues that once consumed Congress are now sailing into law, often without much public notice."

*Roll Call's Koffler: "President Barack Obama, criticized in some quarters for appearing too passive, is projecting a very different aura of late, as he and his aides pick fights all over town while the president transforms himself into the very picture of a wartime leader."

*The Daily News looks at some of the familiar-sounding names on the White House visitor log.

*Washington Post has a beat-sweetener, profiling White House political director Patrick Gaspard and noting how often the White House has weighed in on local races this year.

**Gay Marriage: "Maine residents will decide Tuesday whether to repeal a law allowing same-sex marriage, an effort that has succeeded in every state where it has been put before voters. Public opinion surveys in Maine show a dead heat on Question 1, which would cancel the marriage statute that passed the legislature in May and was signed by Gov. John E. Baldacci (D)," Washington Post reports.

**Campaign Stuff
*Gallup's Generic Ballot test: "Gallup's most recent test of the 2010 elections, from an Oct. 1-4 poll, showed 46% of registered voters saying they would support the Democratic candidate in their local district if the election were held today, compared to 44% who would vote for the Republican candidate. That was a slightly better showing for Republicans than Gallup's prior test in July, which had Democrats up by 50% to 44%."

*The NRCC "is more than $10 million behind where the Cole-led NRCC was at this point in the 2007 election cycle. This disparity has caused several Members, staff and GOP political operatives to question whether Sessions has delivered on his commitment to excel where he thought Cole had failed," Roll Call reports.

*"Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) are raising tons of money, dishing the cash to key House colleagues and cementing their place in Nancy Pelosi's inner circle. Their maneuvering within the Democratic Caucus tells the story of their ambition -- all three want to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 2012 election, and whomever Pelosi picks could have an inside track to a major leadership job in the future," Politico reports.

*Nine of Roll Call's Top 10 most endangered House incumbents are Democrats, "but that is because their party did so exceptionally well in the 2006 and 2008 elections." The one Republican, Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.) "may be the single-most vulnerable incumbent."

*We'll have more in our campaign countdown, but AP takes a good big-picture look at what Tuesday's elections will tell us about politics

*More warning signs for Gov. Charlie Crist in a new St. Petersburg Times poll. "Only 42 percent of likely Florida voters think Charlie Crist is doing a good or excellent job as governor, by far the worst approval rating of Crist's 34 months in office." In the primary, Crist leads Marco Rubio 50-28.

"Even little-known and 22 points behind, however, Rubio poses a real threat to the self-described 'people's governor' no longer appreciated so much by people who overwhelmingly see Florida headed in the wrong direction."

*A poll commissioned by Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Jim Rex has him leading the primary field, 41-32 over state Sen. Robert Ford, The State reports.

*Former Atty. Gen. Jim Ryan (R) is going to file petitions to run for governor in Illinois, the Tribune reports. He lost to Blagojevich in 2002.

**Cheney Alert: "On 72 occasions," AP reports, "Cheney equivocated to the FBI during his lengthy May 2004 interview, saying he could not be certain in his answers to questions about matters large and small in the Plame controversy."

**Sports Alert: The New York Yankees are 27 outs away from their 27th World Championship after a thrilling win last night in Philadelphia. Tonight they face a tough test in Cliff Lee, however, who won Game 1 in dominating fashion.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

VA Gov Polls: McDonnell Running Away With It

Two new polls in Virginia find Bob McDonnell leading by double digits, with Election Day now just 24 hours away. If the polls are even close to accurate, it would appear Creigh Deeds will lose to the Republican for the second election in a row, after losing the 2005 attorney general race by fewer than 400 votes. The margin likely won't be so close this time.

McDonnell leads by 14 points in a PPP survey released this morning (Oct. 30-Nov. 1, 1457 LV, MoE +/- 2.6%). The polling firm has found the GOPer to be up by a similar margin in each of its other two surveys released in the past month.

Yesterday, the latest Richmond Times-Dispatch poll conducted by Mason-Dixon found McDonnell up 12 points, 53%-41% (Oct. 28-29, 625 RV, MoE +/- 4.25%).

As reporter Jeff Schapiro wrote, McDonnell "appears poised to win the governorship and lead a GOP sweep Tuesday, ending nearly a decade of reverses for his party."

McDonnell now leads by 13.8 points in the RCP Average for Virginia.

NJ Gov Poll: More Evidence Of A Christie Surge

Quinnipiac's final poll in New Jersey (1,533 LVs, 10-27-11/1, +/- 2.5%) shows a significant late swing toward Republican Chris Christie, giving us a trend showing movement against the incumbent.

General Election Matchup
Christie 42 (+4 from last poll, 10/20-26)
Corzine 40 (-3)
Daggett 12 (-1)
Undecided 6 (+1)

Christie's support seems to be most committed at this point, with 90 percent of his supporters saying their mind is made up. Nearly four in 10 of Daggett's supporters could still change their mind; Corzine is the second-choice candidate of 39 percent, with Christie at 29 percent.

The Republican now has a 1.2 point lead in the RCP Average of New Jersey.

Weekend Polls: Christie Feeling the Mo'?

There appears to be a late surge against the incumbent in New Jersey as we count down the hours to Election Day 2009. Two surveys released this weekend give Chris Christie (R) an edge over Gov. Jon Corzine (D), with Chris Daggett's (I) support fading.

Public Policy Polling (D)
(994 LVs, 10/31-11/1, +/- 3.1%)
Christie 47 (+5 vs. last poll, 10/23-26)
Corzine 41 (+3)
Daggett 11 (-2)
Undecided 2 (-4)

Monmouth University/Gannett
(1,041 LVs, 10/28-30, +/- 3%)
Christie 43 (+4 vs. last poll, 10/15-18)
Corzine 42 (+3)
Daggett 8 (-6)
Don't Know 5 (-2)

Christie has now retaken a lead in the RCP Average for New Jersey, at +1.0.