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Democratic outside group launches Washington, West Virginia ads

1. A Democratic-aligned outside group is spending more than seven figures on television ads in Washington State and radio ads in West Virginia -- two of the most critical Senate contests in the country -- beginning today.

The ads are being funded by Commonsense Ten, a super PAC formed by Democratic aides Monica Dixon, Jim Jordan and Jeff Forbes and designed to counter the heavy spending on the election by Republican groups like American Crossroads and the American Action Network.

In Washington, the ads go after former state Sen. Dino Rossi (R) for his ties to lobbyists -- alleging that lobbyists helped him buy an apartment building and a bank before noting that lobbyists hosted a fundraiser for the Republican nominee in Washington, D.C..

"There's an old saying, Dino, you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas," says the ad's narrator. The commercials are set to run on Seattle broadcast and cable stations as well as Portland (Oregon) cable and cost roughly $1 million.

In the West Virginia ad, a narrator notes that wealthy businessman John Raese (R) would eliminate the minimum wage "even when too many of us are struggling to get by" and favors a 23 percent sales tax. "Maybe it's just hard to see how folks in West Virginia are hurting sitting there in his Florida mansion -- with its pink marble driveway," says the narrator of Raese.

The West Virginia ads will run on statewide radio for the remaining two weeks of the race between Raese and Gov. Joe Manchin (D).

"We've done enough to help in a meaningful way, we believe, in a handful of important races.," said Jordan, who would not get into specifics about the group's financing or spending.

To date, Commonsense Ten has run ads in four Senate races: Washington, Missouri, Kentucky and Colorado. According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, the group raised $935,000 between July 1 and Sept. 30 and spent $770,000 during the period. (It's worth noting that the group almost certainly has raised more cash since the end of September to finance this last round of ads.)

The vast majority of the group's donations came from labor sources; the American Federation of Teachers gave $400,000 while the Service Employees International Union chipped in $250,000.

Commonsense Ten's fundraising pales in comparison to that of some of the larger conservative-aligned outside groups spending money on the midterms. American Crossroads and its affiliate Crossroads GPS have already raised better than $50 million for the election.

2. The Democratic Governors Association has transferred another $500,000 to the Florida Democratic Party, bringing its investment in the open seat gubernatorial race to $6 million.

In addition to the latest cash infusion, DGA Chairman Jack Markell will be in the Sunshine State today to campaign with state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (D) in Broward County.

With all the attention and money being lavished on it, it's no secret that Florida is perhaps Democrats' top priority as a pickup opportunity at the gubernatorial level.

Not only has Florida been among the swingiest states in the last three presidential elections, it's also slated to gain two seats in the 2011 reapportionment and whichever party controls the governorship will have significant say over the line drawing process.

Polling suggests that Sink and wealthy former health care CEO Rick Scott (R) are running neck and neck, and, despite Scott's significant personal wealth, the Republican Governors Association has spent considerable money in the state and continues to fund ads bashing Sink.

The DGA's continued investment in Florida -- particularly in light of the RGA's considerable cash edge in the final weeks of the campaign -- make clear that the party is going for broke in the Sunshine State.

3. The three-way Alaska Senate race has taken (another) bizarre turn in recent days with reports that Republican nominee Joe Miller's security detail handcuffed a reporter and new details regarding a controversy surrounding his tenure as a part-time borough attorney.

Tony Hopfinger, the editor of the Alaska Dispatch website, told The Fix that he was trying to interview Miller in the hallway of an Anchorage public school after a town hall meeting Sunday night when several of Miller's private security guards handcuffed him and detained in an empty corridor, where he was held for 25 minutes until Anchorage police released him.

Hopfinger said that he was trying to ask Miller about a controversy regarding his tenure working for the Fairbanks North Star Borough from 2002 to 2009. The Alaska Dispatch, the Alaska Daily News and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner have filed suit seeking details of Miller's departure from the job and records of any disciplinary action; Miller declared last week that he would not answer any more questions regarding the matter.

"I think the only thing that I could say to Joe Miller is, 'Hey, let's just move on here,'" Hopfinger said. "'Why don't you either show up at our debate, or why don't you come into the office and answer some questions? Talk to us. What's the issue here? Talk to all the media.'"

(The owner of the security firm that protected Miller said in an interview with Real Clear Politics that he and the other guards were just doing their job and that they weren't "thugs.")

The handcuffing incident apparently did lead Miller to (partially) reconsider talking with the press - he didn't return repeated phone calls from The Fix, but he did sit down Monday night for an interview with CNN in which he (partially) discussed the borough attorney controversy.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who Miller beat in an Aug. 24 Republican primary, and Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams (D) were slated to face off Monday night at an Alaska Dispatch debate; Miller said he had a scheduling conflict and would not be able to participate.

4. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin kicked off the Tea Party Express' "Liberty at the Ballot Box" tour on Monday night, headlining an event in Reno. Nevada.

"I think the machine within the GOP will realize the 'we the people' message is rising and is resonating throughout with independents, with moderates, with hard core conservatives because it's so full of common sense," Palin said in an interview with CNN from Reno.

She added that "time tested truths that could put the economy back on track that heaven forbid the GOP machine strays from this message if so, the GOP is through."

In the interview, Palin also pushed back against critics who call her divisive. "They're going to say what they're going to say," Palin told CNN. "If I spend all my time just answering the critics I might as well close up shop and do nothing else."

The Tea Party Express tour will pass through four different states this week. It makes its way to Ely and Las Vegas, Nevada, today, then to California Wednesday, Arizona on Thursday and Friday and New Mexico and Texas on Saturday and Sunday.

The tour winds its way across the country and up through the Midwest next week and over to the Northeast -- making it to the Fix's homestate of Connecticut by early November.

5. A series of new GOP internal polls shows Republican candidates running away with House races in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington state.

The polls, conducted for the independent expenditure arm of the National Republican Congressional Committee and shared with The Fix, show Reps. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio) and Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.) all down by double digits.

Grayson, a well-funded liberal firebrand in a swing Orlando-area district, trails former state Sen. Daniel Webster (R) 46 percent to 30 percent in an OnMessage poll conducted last week. Just 29 percent of voters say the freshman congressman deserves another term.

Dahlkemper and Kilroy, who have both received little financial help from their national party, trail by 17 and 12 points, respectively. Car dealer Mike Kelly (R) leads Dahlkemper 56 percent to 39 percent in a Fabrizio McLaughlin poll, while former state Sen. Steve Stivers (R) leads Kilroy 51 percent to 39 percent in a Public Opinion Strategies survey.

The numbers also show Republicans taking a double-digit lead in a battleground open seat in Washington's 3rd district. In the Washington race, state Rep. Jaime Herrera (R) leads former state Rep. Denny Heck (D) 51 percent to 38 percent in a new American Viewpoint poll conducted last week.

The NRCC also conducted polls in seven other competitive contests over the last week with results that suggest tight but winnable races.

In New York's 20th district, retired Army Col. Chris Gibson takes 48 percent to Rep. Scott Murphy's (D) 45 percent; In the open seat race for Massachusetts' 10th district, state Rep. Jeff Perry (R) receives 44 percent while Norfolk County District Attorney Bill Keating (D) takes 42 percent; Pizzeria owner Bobby Schiling (R) stands at 44 percent to Rep. Phil Hare's (D) 41 percent in Illinois' 17th district; former U.S. Attorney Tom Marino (R) takes 41 percent to Rep. Chris Carney's (D) 37 percent in the northeastern Pennsylvania 10th district; longtime Rep. Rick Boucher (D) and state Del. Morgan Griffith (R) each take 44 percent in Virginia's 9th; in Oregon's open 5th district, state Rep. Scott Bruun (R) stands at 44 percent to 42 percent for state Rep. Kurt Schrader (D); and in Ohio's 6th district, Rep. Charlie Wilson (D) and challenger Bill Johnson (R) are knotted at 40 percent.

Got all that? The broad message: Republican strategists feel as though the playing field is expanding by the day -- giving them more margin for error as they try to win the 39 seats they need to retake the majority.

With Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake

By Chris Cillizza  | October 19, 2010; 8:15 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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