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Republican Governors Association moves $500,000 to New Mexico

1. The Republican Governors Association in recent days has donated $500,000 to Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez's gubernatorial campaign in New Mexico, the latest sign that national GOP strategists believe that they have a genuine pickup opportunity in the Land of Enchantment.

Martinez, who won a contested primary in June with the financial help of the RGA, is running strongly against Lt.Gov. Diane Denish in the race to replace term limited Gov. Bill Richardson (D).

In a poll conducted for the Albuquerque Journal late last month, Martinez took 45 percent to 39 percent for Denish.

The Democratic Governors Association is on the air in New Mexico with ads hitting Martinez for giving out bonuses to her staff.

The news of the RGA's donation to Martinez comes less than 24 hours after the committee touted its ad offensive in five states -- Ohio, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Maine and, starting today, Michigan -- currently controlled by Democrats. On Wednesday morning the DGA launched ads in Vermont and Maine.

To date, the RGA has run six ads apiece in Ohio and Wisconsin-- two critical battlegrounds not just in 2010 but in the 2012 presidential race as well.

In Ohio, Gov. Ted Strickland (D) is struggling to overcome a struggling economy -- and the RGA ad onslaught -- as polling suggests former Rep. John Kasich (R) has moved past him.

In Wisconsin, Republicans face a primary on Tuesday although conventional wisdom suggests Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker will win easily. Democrats will nominate Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

In addition to its commercials in Maine, Vermont and New Mexico, the DGA -- and its affiliated groups -- are up with ads in five other states: Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Georgia. Of the eight, Republicans control four.

All of the money moving through the RGA and DGA to candidates and campaign ads should serve as a reminder to inside-the-Beltway types just how important governors races this fall are to both national parties.

2. A trio of Senate polls show tight races in in Florida, Kentucky and California -- three races both national parties view as critical to the fight for control this fall.

In the Florida Senate race, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) is in a statistical dead heat with Gov. Charlie Crist (I) -- 36 percent to 34 percent -- with Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) taking 24 percent.

In California, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) is in a virtual tie with former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (R) -- 48 percent to 44 percent.

And in Kentucky's Senate race, ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R) and state Attorney General Jack Conway (D) are tied with 46 percent each.

All of the polls were conducted by CNN and tested registered rather than likely voters.

3. Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski continues to mull the possibility of waging a write-in campaign this fall after losing a Republican primary earlier this month to attorney Joe Miller, according to sources briefed on her thinking.

"Write-ins are incredibly hard campaigns to run, but if there's any place it could happen, it's Alaska," said Eric Ueland, a former chief of staff to then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and an informal adviser to Murkowski.

Roll Call newspaper reported Wednesday said Murkowski could announce her decision as early as Thursday, citing an anonymous source.

The paper also reported that talks between Murkowski and the state Libertarian Party about removing their nominee and swapping her in haven't amounted to much -- mostly because the state party's executive board has resisted.

Meanwhile, national Republicans made clear they will stand behind Miller in his campaign against Democratic Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee on Wednesday confirmed that it was sending $42,600 to Miller's campaign and pledged $170,000 in coordinated funds for the candidate. And, Politico reports that longtime party operative Terry Nelson is traveling to Alaska to aid Miller's campaign.

4. At a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Wednesday, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) brushed aside questions about whether he may pursue a White House bid in 2012.

"I'm not going to give any serious thought to running for president until after the November election," said Barbour, adding that as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, he is devoting all of his energies to electing Republicans to governorships this November.

But, Barbour did do some message-testing with an eye on 2012 describing himself as "a lawyer..a lobbyist...a politician," and adding that "advocacy, whether it's in a courtroom like I did when I was a young lawyer or lobbying, is something that presidents have to be very good at." The message? Lobbying isn't all that bad, after all.

Should Barbour decide to jump in the race, he would start off in an enviable position. As The Fix noted in our most recent Friday Line of the ten most influential Republicans, the RGA chairman's fundraising prowess and behind-the-scenes clout have made him the de facto leader of the GOP.

And if Republicans do as well in November's gubernatorial races as they're hoping, Barbour will enter the 2012 cycle with more than a half-dozen new governors in several key states who will owe their victory, in no small part, to the RGA under his leadership.

While Barbour was tight-lipped about his own White House prospects, he spoke at length about another possible contender, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R).

"Mike's got a following," Barbour said on Wednesday. "He was 10 years governor of Arkansas and was very much in the middle of things in 2008. He's got a popular TV show. If he chose to run again, I think he's got a starting place. But I think that's all anybody's got, is a starting place."

Barbour added that he expects the 2012 primary to be "a very, very wide-open nomination contest, but if Mike ran, I think he would be a formidable candidate."

Asked whether he thinks former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) may run, Barbour was less effusive. "I have no idea," he said.

5. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is going up with a new TV ad against Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (D) - and it may look somewhat familiar.

The 30-second spot, which launches statewide today, features two actors who appeared in a now-famous spot run by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on behalf of Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) during her 2008 bid against former Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R). Much like the DSCC ad, the Burr spot features the two elderly men sitting in rocking chairs on a porch, discussing the Senate race.

"Boy, we sure got it wrong last election," says one of the men. "Some hope and change. Bad economy. Lost jobs," the other says. "Who's going to pay the bills?"

"You're looking at her," a young woman standing next to the men says.

The spot closes with the trio praising Burr for "working to cut the spending and create jobs."

The ad will initially be featured in rotation with Burr's first general election TV ad, which went on the air last week. Then the new spot will go up by itself as part of a $300,000 buy beginning in the middle of next week, said the Senator's campaign.

According to Burr's camp, one of the men approached the Senator at an event in May and said that he wanted to support Burr's campaign. Both men are registered Republicans while the woman is an unaffiliated voter, Burr's camp said.

Polls show Burr maintaining a steady lead in the race; the incumbent Senator was also sitting on a $6.3 million war chest as of the end of June. Marshall, who waged a contentious primary against former state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D), had just $163,000 in her campaign coffers at the end of June.

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  | September 9, 2010; 7:25 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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