The Midterm Snapshot: October 20

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With everyone basically writing off the Democrats' chances of retaining the House (the well-respected Cook Political Report now has 99 Democratic-held seats in play), the real action is in a handful of races that will determine the balance of power in the Senate. The past couple of days have produced positive polls for the Democrats in their Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Colorado races, which seem to be getting tighter as we approach Election Day. But other polls in California and Wisconsin show Democratic candidates losing ground. Basically, there are about eight to ten Senate races that look like they could go either way.

Meanwhile, in our look at election battles around the country, Meg Whitman eats daintily, John McCain's Democrat opponent exists and sings a song, Joe Miller's old boss was glad to get rid of him, and a Republican candidate for Congress can't think of a Supreme Court decision he disagrees with besides Dred Scott.

In California, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman recently ate a chili dog thusly: "She cut a chili dog into quarters with a plastic knife and took a bite, pinky finger extended."

In Alaska, Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller may not want to talk about his past, but other people do. People like his old boss, who says, mysteriously, "We at this firm were not eager to have him stay, and so when he announced he was leaving, we were relieved." Meanwhile there will be no charges for the detention of a journalist by Miller's private security guards.

In New Jersey, Jon Runyan, a former NFL offensive lineman running as a Republican for Congress, said that "an example from the last 10 or 15 years of a Supreme Court decision" that he strongly disagreed with was the Dred Scott case, which happened in 1857. He's in a tight race with Democrat John Adler.

In Nevada, Harry Reid is trying to get some traction out of Sharron Angle's weird "you Latinos kind of look Asian" comment last week. "I really don't know what my opponent was talking about, because you all look like Nevadans to me," he said at a rally.

In Massachusetts, Democratic congressman Barney Frank has loaned his campaign $200,000 — out of his retirement savings, he says — because he doesn't “intend to be ambushed by the kind of right-wing spears that assailed John Kerry in 2004 and that led to the defeat this year of responsible Republican members of Congress whose records were badly distorted by tea party-backed candidates.” The Tea Party Express, a major tea-party group, recently targeted Frank's race against military vet Sean Bielat.

In Kentucky, Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul conveniently claims that he doesn't remember anything about the time he got stoned and tied up a woman and made her pray to Aqua Buddha. Paul is still the favorite to win, but polls show Democrat Jack Conway closing in.

And finally, did you know that there is a Democrat running against John McCain in Arizona? It's true. Even though everyone lost interest in the race after McCain beat J.D. Hayworth in the primary, Rodney Glassman, a former Tucson city councilman, is trying to beat McCain in the general election. Glassman, who used to sing in the Male Choir of Tucson, is hoping that his vocal skills propel him to victory.