Senate Update

Several new polls out show good news for Democrats in the final week leading to the election:

--In North Carolina, a National Journal poll shows Kay Hagan up 43-37 over incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole, Elon U has Hagan ahead 44-37, and Rasmussen puts Kagan ahead 52-46.

--In Minnesota, Public Policy Polling has Al Franken ahead 45-40 over incumbent Republican Norm Coleman, with Independent candidate Dean Barkley at 14%; University of Minnesota has Franken ahead 41-37-17.

--In New Hampshire, Jeanne Shaheen leads incumbent Repubublican Jon Sununu 48-41 in a Strategic Vision poll,and 53-40 in a SurveyUSA poll.

--In Oregon, a PPP poll shows Jeff Merkley now leading 51-43 over incumbent Republican Gordon Smith.

--In Alaska, the first post-conviction poll has Mark Begich leading incumbent Republican felon Ted Stevens 52-44.

--In Colorado, both National Journal and PPP show Mark Udall opening a 15-point lead for an open Republican seat once expected to be a close contest.

--In New Mexico,  for another open Republican seat, PPP has Tom Udall ahead 58-39.

Along with the expected huge victory for Mark Warner to take an open Republican seat in Virginia, that puts Democrats ahead in eight pick-up seats. Meanwhile, the two Democratic incumbents once thought vulnerable, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, are ahead by 15 points or more in new polls.

And there are other possibilities. Jim Martin is still very close to incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss in Georgia. (Side note: Chambliss is a great big, broad-shouldered guy, and both Martin and the third-party candidate are little dudes, so when they debate it looks like one of those trick-camera things like in Lord of the Rings that makes Elijah Wood look half the size of Viggo Mortenson and Ian McKellen.) In Kentucky, incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell seems to have re-opened a lead over Bruce Lunsford, but it's still a possibility. (In their debate, McConnell's main -- almost sole -- argument was his vast power as minority leader to bring home the bacon to the commonwealth. I'm wondering whether voters, looking at the trends, may wonder whether the least-powerful member of the dominant majority party might have more sway than the most-powerful member of the irrelevant minority. Just wondering.) In Mississippi, two questionable polls show appointed-incumbent Roger Wicker jumping to a double-digit lead over Ronnie Musgrove -- but expected heavy turnout could significantly help the Democrat.

Even Republicans thought of as safe are not necessarily so safe. In Maine, Republican incumbent Susan Collins holds a solid lead over Tom Allen, but turnout (and a new Hillary Clinton robocall) might close that gap.  In Nebraska, an open Republican seat, Mike Johanns's lead over Democrat Scott Kleeb was down to 14 in the last poll, back in September, and Johanns has recently run into some ethics charges relating to his time as USDA Secretary. In Texas, large Hispanic turnout could help boost Democrat Rick Noriega, who is within nine points of incumbent John Cornyn according to a new UT poll -- and now Noriega is pummeling Cornyn for saying that some  Kleeb is getting some dire economic talk is "overblown" "Chicken Little comments" --  which Noriega is describing as out-of-touch and tying to fellow Texan Phil Gramm's comments about "whiners" complaining about the economy earlier this year. For Nebraska's open Republican seat, the last poll was a month ago, and showed Democrat Scott Kleeb closing the gap to 14 points behind Mike Johanns -- and now Johann is facing new ethics charges concerning his time as USDA Secretary. Kleeb is getting some late help: Obama's campaign through some resources into the state to boost turnout in Omaha, and  CA Senator Barbara Boxer has just put Kleeb (and Maine's Allen) on her priority list. In Oklahoma, incumbent Republican Jim Inhofe, who should be cruising to easy re-election, is ahead by an average of around 13 or 14 points in the polls, and Democrat Steve Rice has gotten a big funding boost and flooded the airwaves with attack ads. 

Then there's Idaho, which Michael Pahre asked about recently in this blog's comments. The Republican, Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, has been leading by huge numbers in the polls over the Democrat, former congressman Larry LaRocco, to replace infamous bathroom-stalker Larry Craig. That was to be expected in the early going in a heavily Republican state, and I have wondered whether the race might tighten once people actually started paying attention to it. There is some evidence of that: a poll taken 10 days ago had the lead down to 12, in the only poll taken since the financial collapse. Risch has been under attack the past few days, primarily over his avoidance of military service in Vietnam (LaRocco is a veteran). LaRocco is being helped in these attacks by a third-party candidate, Kent Marmon -- who appears to be running primarily as a grudge against Risch, who once ordered state officers to hunt down and kill Marmon's elks. Oh, and there's another candidate, an organic farmer who has legally changed his name to Pro-Life. So, who knows what will happen.


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