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RGA drops $6.5 million in quartet of governors races

1. In a last-minute push, the Republican Governors Association is putting another $6.5 million into gubernatorial races in Florida, Illinois Ohio and Pennsylvania as they seek to close out competitive contests in these large states.

The RGA has dumped $2 million more into Pennsylvania, $1.8 million into Illinois, $1.75 million into Florida and another $1 million into Ohio, according to a source familiar with the move.

In Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio, the money will fund final flights of ads, the source noted, while in the Sunshine State the cash will be dedicated to get out the vote efforts.

With these latest -- and presumably last -- expenditures, the RGA has dropped better than $35 million on these four governors races this cycle. The RGA, fueled by Republican momentum nationwide and Chairman Haley Barbour's (Miss.) deep connections in the world of donors, raked in $31 million between July 1 and Sept. 30. In that same time period, the Democratic Governors Association raised $10 million.

The RGA is trying to exert its spending advantage to win this quartet of seats -- each of which is a major prize due to the size of the state and the potential impact on redistricting. Florida is slated to gain two seats in the House of Representatives in the decennial re-apportionment process while Ohio is likely to lose two; Illinois and Pennsylvania will see their congressional delegations contract by a seat, according to current estimates.

Polling suggests the races in all four states are close. Republicans have led steadily in Illinois and Pennsylvania, while the Ohio race between Gov. Ted Strickland (D) and former Rep. John Kasich (R) has been a nip-and-tuck affair. Florida State CFO Alex Sink (D) has led wealthy businessman Rick Scott (R) in public polling but Scott appears to be on the uptick in recent days.

2. With Democrats' hopes of pulling an upset in the Florida Senate race almost nonexistent, an aide to Bill Clinton confirmed that the former president had tried to talk Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) into leaving the race and endorsing Gov. Charlie Crist who is running as an independent.

Meek, who has enjoyed the active support of Clinton in the race, sought to downplay the report. "Any rumor or any statement from anyone that says I made a decision to get out of the race is inaccurate at best," Meek said. "There was never a deal." The Plum Line's Greg Sargent reported that the outreach by Clinton and his associates had been triggered by a request from Crist, who has been struggling for months to rally Democrats and independents behind his candidacy.

The news of Clinton's involvement, which was first reported by Politico's Ben Smith, set off a furor in what had been a sleepy race

Crist ignored the controversy -- and his role in it -- in a statement released by his campaign Thursday night. "The governor's focus is on uniting common-sense Democrats, independents, and Republicans behind his independent campaign," said a campaign spokesman.

While the Clinton contretemps is absolutely fascinating -- particularly to veteran Clinton watchers like us -- it ultimately will have little effect on the race. Polling suggests Rubio is a clear favorite and, even if Clinton had been successful in edging Meek from the race, it's hard to imagine Crist coalescing enough of the vote at this late stage to make a run at the Republican.

What the report might do is further depress Meek's vote share, which, if polling is to be believed, was hovering in the high teens.

3. A new independent poll in Alaska shows Republican nominee Joe Miller taking a nosedive in the race for the state's open Senate seat, a development which may open the door to Democrat Scott McAdams.

The Hays Research poll showed Miller dropping to third place with just 23 percent of the vote. He trails McAdams, at 29 percent, and a "write-in candidate," a stand-in for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, at 34 percent.

In just the last three weeks, Miller's unfavorable rating has gone from 51 percent to 68 percent -- with 60 percent of voters now saying they view Miller "very unfavorably."

While Miller and Murkowski have bickered, though, McAdams has largely avoided the crossfire, and his unfavorable rating is about half of Murkowski's 42 percent.

National Republicans remain continue to back Miller, and they have run ads trying to improve his image. But Miller has fallen victim to several revelations about his time as a government attorney, during which he was reprimanded and admitted to lying about his conduct.

As we have written, however, there is a growing sense that this is Murkowski's race to lose--although it's difficult to predict, given that voters will have to write her name in after she fell short in the Aug. 24 primary against Miller.

4. Two new polls in Florida show state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (D) with a narrow edge over her Republican rival, wealthy former health-care executive Rick Scott.

Sink leads Scott 45 percent to 41 percent in a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday. Eleven percent were undecided and nine percent said they might change their minds before Election Day.

Meanwhile, a Mason-Dixon poll has Sink taking 46 percent to Scott's 43 percent, within the poll's four-point margin of error. The survey also showed both candidates' unfavorability ratings climbing higher: Sink is now viewed unfavorably by 39 percent of likely voters, while 52 percent view Scott unfavorably.

Sink's slight edge appears to come from her support among Democrats and independents; the Quinnipiac poll shows her winning 85 percent of registered Democrats and 42 percent of independents. Scott, who faced a contentious primary against state Attorney General Bill McCollum (R), is winning only 74 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of independents. Scott has spent more than $60 million on the race to date.

One piece of good news for Scott: as the Miami Herald's Adam Smith points out, 250,000 more Republicans than Democrats have now voted early in Florida. Still, four days out, the race looks to be one of the tightest in the country.

5. California Attorney General Jerry Brown (D) has opened up a double-digit lead in the state's open governor's race, according to a new Field Poll.

The venerable Golden State pollster shows Brown turning what had been a dead heat into a 10-point lead over the last five weeks. He is now at 49 percent, while former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R) is at 39.

The last Field Poll showed Brown and Whitman tied at 41, but Brown appears to have put some real distance between himself and the self-funder. Most recent polls have shown Brown's lead well outside the margin of error.

The most recent Field Poll shows Brown gaining among women, independents and Latinos, while Whitman's personal favorability has taken a hit -- partially, no doubt, because of her troubles with an illegal immigrant former housekeeper who spoke out against her.

Whitman's favorable rating is now 42 percent, compared to 51 percent of voters who view her unfavorably.

Whitman has spent $163 million on the campaign, with most of it coming before Brown was even on television. She seems set to join a list of self funders in California -- Al Checchi, Steve Westly, Michael Huffington -- who spent big but ultimately came up short.

With Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake

By Aaron Blake  | October 29, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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Next: The Fix 50 (plus 15): Democratic House majority in deep peril

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