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Harry Reid's closing argument: It's the economy, stupid

1. After spending millions of dollars savaging former Nevada state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R) for her impolitic statements, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) is closing his campaign with a simple message: She'll cost us jobs.

Reid's closing ad, which launched over the weekend, features testimonials from a series of major business players in the state -- most of whom are from the gambling, er, gaming industry.

"Electing Sharron Angle would cost Nevada thousands of jobs," says Jan Jones, a senior vice president of communications at Harrah's and former Democratic mayor of Las Vegas. "She would be the knockout punch for Nevada's economy," says Larry Ruvo, the senior managing director of Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada, of Angle.

The ad ends with a quote from a Reno Gazette Journal editorial that argued "replacing Senator Reid with Sharron Angle would be a disaster."

Reid's closing ad is a recognition that in spite of all of the personal slings and arrows exchanged between the two campaigns -- and this has been right at the top of the list of nastiest races this cycle -- the deciding factor for Nevada voters is which of the two candidates can do more to turn around the state's struggling economy.

Nevada currently has the highest unemployment rate in the country -- 14.2 percent -- and has been incredibly hard hit by the home foreclosure crisis.

At issue for Reid is whether he can win the economic argument over Angle. In the spring Reid ran ads touting his work to create jobs that simply didn't move numbers for him.

Have Angle's statements about the economy in the intervening months changed that calculation for voters? Reid has to hope so.

2. Democrats are in a solid position in the Senate and governor races in California, according to new polling from the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Times.

Most notably, the poll showed state Attorney General Jerry Brown (D) opening up a 13-point lead over former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R) in the open seat governor's race. It also showed Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) holding onto an eight-point lead in the Senate race.

The poll was conducted by the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and the GOP firm American Viewpoint. It surveyed more than 1,500 likely voters.

Brown's 52 percent-to-39 percent lead is about double what it was last month and suggests that a controversy over an illegal immigrant Whitman employed as a housekeeper slowed any momentum she was hoping to build in the final month.

More than half of voters (52 percent) said she did not handle the situation well. Meanwhile, Brown's support among Latinos increased from 20 points to 34 points, and Whitman ceded some ground to Brown among self-described conservatives.

In the Senate race, Boxer leads 50 percent to 42 percent - the same margin by which she led last month. The campaign of former HP executive Carly Fiorina took issue with the poll, describing it as an outlier when compared with the other public data on the race.

The Real Clear Politics polling average does indeed suggest a closer race with Boxer with the incumbent holding a narrow two-point edge.

3. A new independent poll shows former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) widening his lead in Florida's three-way Senate race with a little over a week until Election Day.

Rubio takes 41 percent to Gov. Charlie Crist's (I) 26 percent among likely voters in the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald poll, with Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) trailing with 20 percent.

Rubio is winning the support of 70 percent of GOPers, compared with 17 percent for Crist who was elected governor in 2006 as a Republican. Forty percent of independents are backing Crist while 21 percent are backing Rubio and five percent are supporting Meek. Among Democrats, Meek leads with 42 percent, followed by Crist with 36 percent.

Crist has been appealing to Democrats since announcing in April that he would run as an independent, but it appears that his efforts are falling short. Meek, meanwhile, has not been able to gain traction among independents, who would be key to a statewide win.

By splitting up the Democratic vote, Crist and Meek have paved the way for a surprisingly easy Rubio win in eight days' time.

The three Senate hopefuls met Sunday in a contentious debate on CNN's "State of the Union," trading accusations on character, ideology and economic issues.

Meek and Crist directed most of their fire at Rubio, casting the Republican as extreme and out-of-touch. But Meek and Rubio also teamed up at times against Crist, taking issue with the governor when he stated that he would have pursued an independent bid even if polls had showed him leading Rubio in the GOP primary.

"We know why the governor is running as an independent -- because he couldn't beat Marco Rubio," Meek said.

In the end, neither Crist nor Meek scored a knock-out punch against Rubio, leaving the front-runner well-positioned heading into the final week of the campaign. The three meet Tuesday night for their next debate, which will be moderated by NBC's David Gregory. (As always, for the full rundown on this season's debates, check out The Fix's 2010 Debate Guide).

4. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) appears to have a narrow lead in his bid for a second term, according to a new poll conducted for the Boston Globe.

Patrick took 43 percent to former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care CEO Charlie Baker's (R) 39 percent among likely voters. State Treasurer Tim Cahill (I) received 8 percent, Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein took 2 percent. Eight percent are undecided.

Patrick's lead is within the poll's 4.3 percentage point margin of error, but it's wider than in a late-September Globe poll, which showed Patrick taking 35 percent to Baker's 34 percent.

For the first time in the race, more voters view Baker unfavorably than favorably, a sign that the controversy involving the defection of Cahill's former aides and running mate to Baker's camp appears to have damaged the Republican.

Forty percent of likely voters now view Baker unfavorably while 38 percent view him favorably; in the previous Globe poll, 31 percent viewed him favorably and 25 percent viewed him unfavorably. Meanwhile, Patrick's favorability rating is on the uptick: 49 percent of those surveyed view the governor favorably while 43 percent view him unfavorably.

The issue in the closing week of the campaign is whether Cahill can hold on to the support he currently enjoys or whether, as often happens in the final days of an election, his strength will ebb as voters decide not to cast a ballot for someone who can't win.

The better Cahill does, the more likely it is that Patrick wins.

5. Former Sen. Mark Dayton (D) is favored to win the open Minnesota governor's race, after a new poll from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune showed him leading state Rep. Tom Emmer (R) 41 percent to 34 percent.

Dayton's margin is down only slightly from a Strib poll last month, when he led 39 percent to 30 percent.

Independence Party candidate Tom Horner appears to be losing support, but it's not clear exactly who he's stealing votes from. Emmer has gained slightly as Horner has faded, but without Horner in the race, Dayton's lead would expand to 10 points - 49 percent to 39 percent.

Dayton doesn't appear to have suffered from his admission that he may need to raise taxes as governor in order to balance the budget and provide government services. He is viewed favorably by 48 percent of voters and unfavorably by 40 percent.

Emmer's favorable rating is just 41 percent, with an even higher number of voters viewing him unfavorably.

The poll was conducted among 999 likely voters. It is the only non-automated poll to test the race in nearly a month. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) is leaving office after two terms to pursue a near-certain presidential bid in 2012.

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  | October 25, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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