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Democratic focus on outside money comes up short with moderates

1. Fewer than half of moderate and conservative Democrats in a new Washington Post/ ABC News poll said that it was very important for them to know who is paying for campaign ads, a number that suggests the intense White House focus on the issue may not change many minds in swing districts when voters go to the polls tomorrow.

Overall, forty-eight percent said that knowing the identity of who is funding campaign commercials is very important while 30 percent called it "somewhat" important. Twenty two percent of likely voters said that knowing the funders behind ads was either "not so" important (11 percent) or "not at all" important (11 percent).

For much of the last two months, the White House has worked to focus the public -- and the media -- on the heavy spending by conservative groups like American Crossroads that are dropping tens of millions of dollars on the election without having to disclose much information about their donors. Democrats argue that the non-transparent spending is evidence of Republicans trying to buy the election.

According to the Post/ABC poll, the group most responsive to that message is, not surprisingly, liberal Democrats -- with 60 percent of the party's base voters saying that it is very important for them to know who is funding the ads.

But other swing constituencies retain far less passionate feelings about their need to know. Just 46 percent of moderate/conservative Democrats say it's very important for them to know the funding sources of the ads, and a similar proportion of independents -- 48 percent -- say the same.

Interestingly, young people aged 18 to 29, who were a critical part of the Obama victory coalition in 2008, were even less interested in the transparency question that the swing constituency-- with just three in ten (31 percent) calling it very important to know who pays for campaign ads.

The data, in other words, suggests that the White House's push on the issue could, marginally, excite their party's base -- although not younger people -- but isn't an issue that resonates all that strongly with voters in the ideological middle.

That could spell trouble tomorrow as, particularly in the House, Democrats are trying to defend seats heavily populated by moderate-to-conservative voters.

2. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee launched its first TV ad in Alaska's three-way Senate race over the weekend, a 30-second spot that takes aim at Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R).

"Maybe it was the fancy cocktail parties or all those pretty monuments. Whatever the reason, Lisa Murkowski has gone Washington," the ad's narrator says, going on to hit Murkowski on spending, Social Security and her vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

The spot is the latest indication that Murkowski is the frontrunner in the race following the collapse of attorney Joe Miller (R), the onetime frontrunner who bested her in the GOP primary. The ad is also a sign that national Democrats believe Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams (D) has a shot at winning in the Last Frontier.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.) said on Sunday during an appearance on ABC's "This Week" that McAdams "actually has a real chance of winning."

Meanwhile, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) pushed back against reports that national Republicans have given up on Miller.

"We are supporting the nominee of our party, which is Mr. Miller, but are concerned," Cornyn said, noting that polls show Murkowski and Miller running neck-and-neck. Cornyn added that national Republicans "want to make sure" that McAdams doesn't win.

On Sunday, Miller's camp charged that staff members at Anchorage CBS affiliate KTVA "openly discuss[ed] creating, if not fabricating, two stories" about the candidate in a conversation that was accidentally recorded on a voicemail message to Miller.

The TV station said that Miller's allegations were false and that the conversation "was about what others might be able to do to cause disruption within the Miller campaign, not what KTVA could do." Palin took aim at the station in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," calling those involved in the conversation "corrupt bastards."

3. Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) has pulled into a virtual tie with former Rep. John Kasich (R), according to a new independent poll.

The mail-in poll funded by the Columbus Dispatch found Kasich at 49 percent and Strickland at 47 percent, within the poll's 2.3 percent margin of error.

An early September poll had shown Kasich with a 12-point lead, but Strickland has significantly closed that gap in most polling since.

There are some other good signs for Strickland in the poll, too. Among voters who say they have already cast an absentee ballot, Strickland leads by 5 percent.

At the same time, Strickland is losing nearly a quarter of the voters he had when he first won his seat in 2006.

Kasich also leads by 8 percent among independent voters, who generally determine elections in a swing state like Ohio.

Both national parties are spending heavily in Ohio as they seek the upper hand in redistricting in 2011 and in the 2012 presidential race.

4. The Pennsylvania Senate race remains in a dead heat, according to two polls released over the weekend.

Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) takes 46 percent to Rep. Joe Sestak's (D) 44 percent in a new Susquehanna survey, and the latest Muhlenberg College tracking poll shows Toomey winning 45 percent and Sestak taking 43 percent.

The polls came one day after President Obama visited Philadelphia in an effort to rally young voters around Sestak's bid, a sign of the high stakes for the White House in the race. Democrats hold an advantage of nearly 1.2 million in voter registration in the state.

The Susquehanna poll showed that the Obama factor cuts both ways for Sestak. Among those in the survey who support Sestak, a plurality - 45-percent - said that they are backing Sestak in order to support Obama. But overall, 50 percent of likely voters in the state disapprove of the job Obama is doing while only 41 percent approve.

Toomey has repeatedly sought to link Sestak to Obama and national Democrats, while Sestak has portrayed Toomey as in line with conservative Republicans such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), who endorsed Toomey last month, and marketing consultant Christine O'Donnell (R), the Senate nominee in nearby Delaware.

The fact that both Sestak and Toomey have nationalized the race is just one more reason why what happens in Pennsylvania tomorrow night will have implications for both parties long after Election Day.

5. Former healthcare executive Rick Scott (R) carries a five-point lead into the final days of the Florida governor's race, according to a new poll from the University of South Florida.

The poll shows Scott leading 44 percent to 39 percent, but a high number of voters - 11 percent - still undecided.

Despite her deficit, Sink is doing very well among independent voters, winning them by a margin of 49 percent to 23 percent. But Scott is doing better among his base, and Republicans appear to have more enthusiasm on their side.

Scott enters the final week with a more negative public image, though. Forty-three percent of voters view him unfavorably, versus 34 percent who see him favorably. Sink's unfavorable number is just 34 percent - about the same as her favorable number.

The governor's race in Florida has emerged as one of the two big prizes of the night for Democrats - the other being the Ohio governor's race. The Democratic Governors Association is likely to sustain significant losses, but would like to win in those two big states in addition to a likely pickup in California.

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  | November 1, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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