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DNC rakes in $16 million in September

1. The Democratic National Committee raised $16 million in September alone, a startlingly strong month of fundraising that party operatives insist is a sign of momentum for their side with roughly one month remaining before the November midterms.

The DNC's September fundraising marks the best month of the 2010 cycle for the DNC and the best month of cash collection for the committee in a midterm election since the passage of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law early last decade.

Official numbers for September aren't due at the Federal Election Commission until Oct. 20. The Republican National Committee, which has struggled on the fundraising front in recent months, has not yet released its September figures.

Of the $16 million the DNC raised in September, more than 80 percent came from online and direct-mail donors -- evidence that the party base is starting to vote with their checkbooks, argued DNC officials.

On a conference call Sunday, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer insisted that President Obama's rally in Madison, Wisc. "showed that we are beginning to make up the enthusiasm gap...Democrats are coming home".

While Democrats have made some marginal improvements in things like the generic ballot test, there does still appear to be a somewhat significant enthusiasm gap present in the data.

A late September Gallup poll showed 48 percent of Republicans describing themselves as very enthusiastic about voting in the 2010 midterms while 28 percent of self-identified Democrats said the same.

Still, the DNC's ramped-up fundraising will allow the committee to exert considerably more influence than the RNC can over the final weeks of the campaign. The DNC has already transferred several million dollars to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as well as to a number of state parties that are hosting competitive gubernatorial races.

2. Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul said in a debate Sunday that the retirement age for Social Security may have to be raised for younger generations.

"To put our heads in the sand and just say we're just going to keep borrowing more money is not going to work," Paul said at the debate, hosted by Fox News Sunday. "There will have to be changes for the younger generation."

In past elections (and this one) Democrats have made a habit of attacking Republicans for wanting to change Social Security -- whether through privatization or raising the retirement age.

Paul also said that he would support Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as his party's leader next Congress and said he supports some federal funding to fight the drug problem in rural Kentucky. He has wavered on both counts previously.

The debate between Paul and Democrat Jack Conway was one of the few times where Paul has directly criticized his opponent. Mostly, Conway has gotten a free ride from the Paul campaign.

Paul said that strategy is an indication of his current lead in the polls. "We'll wait for him to catch up in the polls, and then we may revert to him," Paul said.

Conway, the state's attorney general, defended the Democratic stimulus package and the health care bill. He said he wouldn't have voted for the bailouts and has never supported the cap and trade energy bill, which is broadly unpopular in coal-producing Kentucky.

Conway also said he would extend all of the Bush tax cuts. "It's no time to be raising taxes," he said.

Polling gives Paul a single-digit edge, although Democrats believe the Republican's past impolitic statements will keep Conway in the game over the last month.

3. Louisiana state Rep. Cedric Richmond (D), seeking the seat held by Rep. Joseph Cao (R), is up with a new TV ad featuring an endorsement from President Obama.

"The city of New Orleans has had its trials, but you've also had great champions, fighting to see you through the tough times," Obama says in the straight-to-camera spot. "Cedric Richmond is one of those champions."

Obama goes on to praise Richmond for "coaching and mentoring kids who grew up like he did" and "passing tax credits to help New Orleans businesses get back on their feet after Katrina."

Richmond is favored in the race against Cao, who won election in 2008 against ethically beleaguered former Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) in this heavily Democratic district.

Cao has gone to great lengths to tie himself to Obama; in early September, he told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, "I love the president, and I believe he truly likes me," and touted the fact that he has visited the White House at least 10 times. But Obama's ad on behalf of Cao's Democratic opponent will likely limit the effectiveness of such appeals by the freshman Republican.

In a release last month announcing Obama's formal endorsement, Richmond's camp also took a shot at Cao for trying to align himself with the president. "It is important to be with the president not only when it's easy but also when it's hard," Richmond said in the release.

4. Sitka, Alaska Mayor Scott McAdams announced on Saturday that he raised $650,000 for his Senate bid over the five weeks following the Aug. 24 primary -- an impressive haul that could give the Democrat a boost in the three-way race.

More than half of the contributions came from Alaska residents and 90 percent of them were $200 or less, according to McAdams' camp. McAdams also got a hand from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which contributed $42,000 to his campaign on Friday.

Attorney Joe Miller, who bested Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary, has raised $450,000 online since Murkowski announced Sept. 17 that she would pursue a bid as a write-in candidate. Miller was in Washington last week to raise money.

Recent polling suggests that McAdams trails Miller and Murkowski in a three-way contest. But given the unpredictable nature of Murkowski's write-in bid, the race is hard to gauge.

The Tea Party Express, which contributed heavily to Miller's upstart bid against Murkowski in the primary, has taken aim at Murkowski in recent days following the news, previously unreported, that the senator failed the bar exam four times before she finally passed in November 1987.

Miller, meanwhile, has taken heat for failing to submit required financial disclosure forms to the Federal Election Commission, as well as for reports that in 1995 he obtained a low-income fishing license even though he was working for a white-collar law firm.

5. Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez (R) has taken a 49 percent to 42 percent lead over Democratic Lt. Gov. Diane Denish in the New Mexico governor's race, according to a new poll for the Albuquerque Journal.

Martinez's seven-point lead includes leaners. Without them, she still leads 47 percent to 41 percent.

The poll shows Denish slightly closer than shehas been other surveys of the race, but still suggests she is in real trouble in her effort to succeed Gov. Bill Richardson (D).

Denish takes just 57 percent of Hispanics and 42 percent of women - both core constituencies of the Democratic Party with whom she needs to do better. Martinez actually leads Denish among women and takes 29 percent of Hispanics.

Martinez is widely touted by national Republicans as a rising star; the Republican Governors Association has donated heavily to her in the primary and the general election.

If she wins, she will be the first Hispanic woman to be elected governor.

By Chris Cillizza  | October 4, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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