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Midterm Roundup: The Worst Attack Ad Of The Year?

Here are some interesting stories on the midterm campaigns that you may have missed on Thursday, October 9:

• If Democrat Wendy Davis is going to lose Texas’ gubernatorial election, she’s going to lose ugly. On Friday, her campaign released a vicious ad invoking Republican nominee Greg Abbott’s partial paralysis to attack him as a hypocrite, causing Abbott’s campaign to angrily accuse Davis of reaching a “historic low.” Abbott leads by 11.3 percent in the Real Clear Politics poll average.

• A new set of New York Times/CBS News/YouGov polls finds that Democrats are making gains in gubernatorial races across the country. Democratic candidates now lead the races in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Maine — all of which currently have Republican governors — and are within striking distance in several other states, including Wisconsin.

• Iowa’s Senate race remains one of the closest in the nation. A new Lukens Company poll finds Democrat Bruce Braley barely leading Republican Joni Ernst, 39 to 38 percent; 21 percent remain undecided, suggesting that the race could still tip either way. Ernst leads by 1.5 percent in the poll average.

• For the past week, New Hampshire’s Senate race has been dominated by debate over Democratic senator Jeanne Shaheen’s claim that her Republican opponent, Scott Brown, “co-sponsored legislation to let employers deny women coverage for birth control.” Brown has vociferously denied the charge, leading PolitiFact to weigh in on the claim. Their verdict: True.

• And how can you tell that Independent candidate Larry Pressler is a legitimate force in South Dakota’s unpredictable Senate race? Both Democrats and Republicans are suddenly lashing out at his longshot campaign.

Screenshot: YouTube

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Midterm Roundup: A New Frontrunner In Florida?

Here are some interesting stories on the midterm campaigns that you may have missed on Thursday, October 9:

• Another survey of Florida’s gubernatorial race suggests that Democrat Charlie Crist is close to reclaiming his old job. The University of North Florida poll, released Thursday, shows Crist with a 5-point lead over incumbent Republican Rick Scott. Crist only leads by 1.4 percent in the Real Clear Politics poll average, but Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam C. Smith has seen enough to declare that “Crist may have become the clear frontrunner.”

• Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) continues to lead Republican challenger Scott Brown in New Hampshire’s Senate race. A new WMUR Granite State Poll finds Shaheen up 47 to 41 percent. Democrats’ strategy of aggressively attacking Brown appears to be paying off; his net favorability rating has plummeted to a startling negative-19 percent, down from negative-2 percent in August. Shaheen now leads by 6.5 percent in the poll average, and Brown’s odds of a comeback appear increasingly long.

• A CNN/ORC poll released Thursday shows Republican Dan Sullivan leading Democratic senator Mark Begich, 50 to 44 percent, in Alaska’s Senate race. Sullivan is now up 4.8 percent in the poll average, although it must be noted that polling in Alaska is notoriously unreliable.

• Larry Pressler, whose surging Independent campaign has turned South Dakota’s Senate race upside down, won’t say which party he’d caucus with if he scores an upset victory. But he did tell The Hill that he’d be a “friend of Obama” if he wins, creating another headache for Republican nominee Mike Rounds.

• And Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) continues to dominate the tailgate scene in Louisiana. After helping a fan do a kegstand at LSU two weeks ago, video has now emerged of Landrieu doing the wobble at a Southern University tailgate. The campaign trail isn’t all fun for the Democratic incumbent, however; she trails Republican Bill Cassidy by 5.6 percent in the poll average, and on Thursday she replaced her campaign manager — a move that bodes poorly so late in the race.

Photo: Mike Cohen via Flickr

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Will The Election Turn On Terrorism?

DERRY, N.H. — The beheadings of Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff by the Islamic State enraged and horrified the nation. But someone who knows her state down to the block and town green level said the killings were felt even more deeply here.

The threat from the Islamic State “is personal for us in New Hampshire,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. “You know, Jim grew up in New Hampshire and Steven Sotloff went to school at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden.” More than most, she said, her constituents see the Islamic State “as the threat that it is.”

Thus has Shaheen, a Democrat up for re-election this year, taken a hard line in supporting airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. She speaks in favor of help for “the fighters on the ground in Iraq” and building a broad international coalition to push back the terrorist group.

But a campaign advertisement that Scott Brown, Shaheen’s Republican opponent, started airing last week underscored a truth about politics: that a candidate’s actual positions often have a very strained relationship with what an opponent says about them.

Brown, the former senator from Massachusetts, decamped over the border after his defeat two years ago in an attempt to return to what its members extol as the world’s greatest deliberative body. Yet his ad had little to do with deliberation and played instead on emotion and innuendo. It reflected Republican confidence that whenever the country gets scared by terrorism, it reflexively moves to the GOP.

“Anyone who turns on the TV these days knows we face challenges to our way of life,” Brown says. At this point, a figure clad in black and carrying an Islamic State flag parades across the screen. “Radical Islamic terrorists are threatening to cause the collapse of our country. President Obama and Sen. Shaheen seem confused about the nature of the threat. Not me. I want to secure the border, keep out the people who will do us harm, and restore America’s leadership in the world. I’m Scott Brown, and I approve this message because protecting the homeland is the first step to making America strong again.”

There is nothing quite like hyperbole to grab your audience, so why not stoke fears about “the collapse of our country”? Then notice Brown’s abrupt shift to the need to “secure the border.” Here he’s exploiting the threat of terrorism to smuggle the immigration issue into the campaign dialogue. Since Obama chose not to sign executive orders on immigration before the election, Republicans have had to find other ways to keep anxieties at full boil.

Then there’s the attack on Obama and Shaheen for seeming “confused,” the ultimate weasel word that tells us nothing about Brown’s own views. And this is where Shaheen goes on offense.

“What does he oppose?” she asked during an interview in the athletic director’s office at Pinkerton Academy before she spoke at the school’s 200th anniversary celebration last weekend. “Does he oppose the airstrikes? Does he oppose building an international coalition? Does he oppose doing something about financing and recruitment?” She added: “If he doesn’t like any of those things, then he’s got to be for putting troops on the ground, and, you know, at some point he’s going to have to acknowledge that.”

Shaheen’s volley hints at how the debate over the Islamic State could take another turn before Election Day. As she suggests, it is hard to be more hawkish than Obama already has been without supporting the commitment of substantially more American forces. But this is one place where most Americans don’t want to go — a fact not lost on her or on other Democrats, most recently Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado, facing Republican broadsides on terrorism.

There is also at least some evidence that Obama’s tough stand may have abated his party’s vulnerability on the issue. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll found Americans approving Obama’s Islamic State policy by a margin of 50 percent to 44 percent. It was the first time since January that Obama had cracked 50 percent approval on any issue.

Nonetheless, Shaheen, who leads in the polls by an average of 6 points, would be quite happy to campaign on matters other than terrorism, not the least being Brown’s convenient adoption of New Hampshire as a new political base. When the former governor addressed the Pinkerton Academy dinner, she mentioned that her daughters had competed for state volleyball championships in Pinkerton’s gym. There is nothing at all “confused” about where her roots are planted.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.

Screenshot: YouTube

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Midterm Roundup: Shaheen Pulls Away

Here are some interesting stories on the midterm campaigns that you may have missed on Tuesday, September 30:

• Republican hopes that New Hampshire’s Senate seat could be in play appear to be on life support. According to a new American Research Group poll, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) leads Republican challenger Scott Brown by 10 percent. Shaheen is now up by 5.8 percent in the Real Clear Politics poll average, and has led in all but one public poll of the race.

• In another state where the GOP hoped to expand the Senate map, their candidate has literally disappeared from public view. Michigan Republican Terri Lynn Land has not made a public appearance since a fundraising event last Tuesday. She currently trails the Democratic nominee, Rep. Gary Peters, by 4.7 percent in the poll average.

• Iowa holds better news for the GOP. A Public Policy Polling poll released Tuesday shows Republican Joni Ernst leading Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in the Hawkeye State’s Senate race, 45 to 43 percent. Ernst is ahead by 2.2 percent in the poll average. If Ernst can hold on for the win, it could be fatal to Democrats’ hopes of holding the Senate.

• In New York, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino has released one of the strangest ads of the cycle in his longshot attempt to unseat Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo is expected to win re-election in a landslide.

• And apparently it still is possible to go too far in a heated campaign: Yesterday’s attempt to fraudulently portray Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) as a 9/11 truther is backfiring on GOP opposition research PAC America Rising.

Photo: Roger H. Goun via Flickr

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