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Voters still want pork in their home districts

1. Despite primary victories by tea party candidates running directly against increased government spending, new poll numbers out of the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation suggest that a strong majority of voters want their own member of Congress to work to win pork for their own district.

Fifty-seven percent of those polled said they wanted their own Congressman to "fight for more government spending in your congressional district, in order to create jobs" while 39 percent said they preferred their member of Congress to "fight" government spending even if it means fewer jobs in their district. A majority of independents (52 percent) said they preferred their congressman to focus on local spending to create jobs.

Those numbers stand in contrast to the state of the electorate in the fall of 1994 -- less than two months before Republicans retook control of Congress with a message built on the public's distaste for government.

In a September 1994 Post/Kaiser poll 42 percent said they wanted their member of Congress to fight for more government spending in their own district while 53 percent said they wanted their member to fight government spending.

Similarly, in the latest Post/Kaiser poll 39 percent said they wanted their representative to do what's best for the country while 46 percent said they wanted to primarily focus on what's best for the district.

Those numbers were far more locally focused in 1994; just 25 percent then said they wanted their member to do the best thing for the country while 65 percent said they wanted their congressman to do what's best for the district.

Taken together, the data suggests that while there is considerable anti-government sentiment in the electorate, there isn't the same level of distaste that existed in 1994 when voters delivered a sound rejection of the federal government. (The results at the ballot box led then President Bill Clinton to declare "the era of big government is over" in 1996.)

The poll shows that voters are deeply ambivalent about the role government should play in their lives -- an uncertainty that makes it nearly impossible for politicians to effectively navigate what are very choppy political waters. And that makes the final three weeks of the midterm campaign all the more intriguing.

2. Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias said Sunday that he "didn't know the extent" or the criminal backgrounds of two men who received $20 million in loans from the Giannoulias family bank.

Giannoulias, who was senior loan officer at the bank when the loans were issued, was pressed repeatedly in a debate on NBC's Meet the Press about whether he knew that the two men who received the loans - Michael Giorango and Demitri Stavropoulos - were convicted felons.

Giannoulias would say only that he did not know "the extent" of their criminal histories. "If I knew then what we know now, these aren't the kind of people you do business with," Giannoulias said.

Republicans immediately pounced, attempting to make an issue of Giannoulias' answer and dredge up the controversy that began with an April story in the Chicago Tribune.

Meanwhile, Giannoulias landed his own zinger during the debate, hitting Rep. Mark Kirk (R) for his claim that he is a "fiscal hawk"; "the Congressman has told some real whoppers during this campaign, but that may be the biggest one of all," Giannoulias said.

Kirk was forced to address his own political liabilities -- namely, a record that shows he frequently misstated -- and/or exaggerated -- his military career. Kirk said he "was careless, and I learned a very painful and humbling lesson."

3. West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin's (D) Senate campaign is up with a new ad seeking to capitalize on a flap over a recent Republican ad that sought "hicky" actors, but national GOP strategists say it's out of line.

Manchin's ad, titled "Hicks," attempts to tie Raese to the ad, even though it was created independently of Raese's campaign -- and even of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

"John Raese thinks we're hicks," the ad begins, going into detail about the ad, which was run by the NRSC. "It's insulting, and he didn't even apologize."

There is no evidence that Raese had anything to do with the ad, and the NRSC has taken strides to distance itself from the request for "hicky" actors.

The NRSC pushed back on the storyline this weekend, releasing a memo detailing its case and releasing internal e-mails showing that it did not use that word when requesting actors. The NRSC says it contracted Jamestown Associates for the ad, and Jamestown hired a talent agency to seek the actors. The ad agency is where the term "hicky" initiated.

"The reality is that no one in the Republican Party, no one associated with the party and certainly no one associated with John Raese's campaign has ever used the language that" Manchin's campaign cites, NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said.

4. Ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R) is running virtually even with state Attorney General Jack Conway (D) in the Kentucky Senate race, according to a new independent poll.

The survey shows Paul taking 43.4 percent to Conway's 39.5 percent among likely voters. Seventeen percent were undecided in the survey, which had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Conway is running neck-and-neck with Paul even as the survey shows Kentucky voters strongly opposing national Democrats including President Obama. Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed approve of the job Obama's been doing, compared with 60 percent who disapprove. On the generic congressional ballot, Republicans lead Democrats 47 percent to 37 percent.

One national Democrat who is likely faring much better in the state is former President Bill Clinton, who is slated to headline a morning rally at the University of Kentucky on Conway's behalf. The rally is likely to give Conway a boost, although some Democrats have questioned the decision to hold the rally in heavily-Democratic Lexington rather than in more rural parts of the state.

In a statement, Conway's camp said that the poll shows the Democrat "well-positioned" to become Kentucky's next senator. Conway's camp also hit Paul on Medicare and the issue of drug abuse in the state, which has become a flashpoint in the campaign, and said that Kentucky voters "aren't fooled by the misleading attacks funded by Karl Rove and foreign donors" -- an apparent reference to the conservative outside group American Crossroads, which has spent heavily on the race.

Paul's camp said that the poll showed that Kentuckians "are fed up with this unsustainable debt and spending; they oppose job-killing schemes like cap and trade and want Obamacare repealed."

5. Businessman Rick Snyder (R) continues to lead Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero (D) by a wide margin in the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), according to a new poll released over the weekend.

The EPIC MRA poll shows Snyder leading Bernero 49 percent to 29 percent among likely voters, with 18 percent undecided. In the previous survey, conducted in September, Snyder led Bernero 53 percent to 29 percent.

Bernero is struggling to garner support from members of his own party, according to the new survey; he takes only 68 percent among Democrats, compared with Snyder's 83 percent among Republicans. Among independents, Snyder leads 48 percent to 14 percent.

Bernero faces an uphill climb in a state that's been battered by the economic downturn and where voters are turning sharply against Democrats. Granholm is now viewed unfavorably by 58 percent of likely voters in the EPIC MRA survey -- worse even than President Obama, who is viewed unfavorably by 47 percent. National Republicans have spent heavily on the race, airing TV ads linking Bernero to the unpopular Granholm.

The poll results are also further evidence of the problems Democrats face in races up and down the ballot across the recession-hit Rust Belt. In House races, the region is a top battleground with Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania accounting for $20 million in general-election spending already this cycle.

By Chris Cillizza  | October 11, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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Next: Joe Manchin takes aim at the cap and trade bill (literally)

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