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midterm snapshot

The Midterm Snapshot: October 6

With the election now less than a month away, here's a look at where the race for ownership of the inevitable congressional gridlock stands today:

National Polls:

• A poll sponsored by the Hill newspaper and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (?) finds Republican congressional candidates leading Democratic freshman incumbents in eleven of twelve key swing districts. Undecided voters in those districts, by a large margin, want health-care reform repealed.

• Pollster Mark Blumenthal examines what exactly makes someone a "likely voter," calling the question "arguably the most important polling story of the year," since different methods used by pollsters in figuring out who qualifies as a "likely voter" can result in wildly different results in polls.

• Pew confirms that the most damaging thing that a candidate could have done, according to voters, is voted for TARP. The best thing they could have done is bring pork to the district. Interestingly, being an incumbent doesn't inherently change voters' attitudes either way.

• According to Gallup, a plurality of Democrats will vote for Democratic candidates this year primarily because they "always vote Democratic."

Strategy:

• Speaking of which, the Times reports that President Obama is "increasingly focused on generating enthusiasm within the base that helped put him in the White House two years ago, from college students to African-Americans." Obama supporters aren't "frustrated," David Axelrod points out in the article, they're just not sufficiently motivated to vote. The problem for Democrats, as we point out here, is that the enthusiasm for voting among content liberals just can't match the enthusiasm for voting among irate tea partiers on a mission to save the republic from certain doom.

• Perhaps one thing that could excite these young voters: legal weed! Democrats hope that ballot resolutions decriminalizing marijuana can be to them this year and in 2012 what gay marriage bans were to the Republicans in 2004 — a reason to get off their asses and vote, apart from the whole "civic duty of choosing one's representatives in government" thing.

• Meanwhile, after a big underwhelming rollout, Republican candidates aren't really talking about the "Pledge to America."


Predictions:

• Oklahoma Republican senator James Inhofe says he's "very confident that Republicans will take over the Senate" and that he'll "become chairman of that Environment and Public Works Committee" — unfortunately for the environment, since Inhofe does not believe in climate change. Inhofe's outlook may be a little too optimistic though, as he predicts that Christine O'Donnell will beat Chris Coons in Delaware.

Senate:

• That's a bold prediction, considering that new polls show Coons leading O'Donnell 49 percent to 30 percent, and 53 percent to 36 percent, respectively.

• In New York, Public Policy Polling finds Kirsten Gillibrand leading Joe Dioguardi by ten points, while Chuck Schumer remains a comfortable 22 points ahead of challenger Jay Townsend.

• In Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal leads Linda McMahon by fifteen points.

• Republican businessman John Raese continues to lead popular but Democratic governor Joe Manchin in the race for Robert Byrd's old seat, which was once assumed safe for the Democrats. Manchin's struggles might explain why he's now suing "the federal government over the Obama administration's crackdown on mountaintop removal coal mining."

Governor:

• The candidates for governor of Connecticut had a debate last night (maybe New York will have one of those someday!). Dan Malloy, the Democrat, spoke "at a speed that seemed almost twice that of his opponent," businessman Tom Foley, who is gaining on Malloy, according to the Times.

• Meg Whitman, currently beset by angry former domestic workers, has spent an absurd $140 million of her own money on her campaign, but seems to be falling behind the comparatively indigent Democrat Jerry Brown.

House:

• In Florida, firebrand Democratic congressman Alan Grayson kind of regrets calling his GOP opponent "Taliban Dan." Nate Silver now predicts that Grayson has a 60 percent chance of losing the seat.

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Photo: Brendan Hoffman-Pool/Getty Images