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Colorado Senate race spending nears $25 million

1. Nearly $25 million has been expended by outside organizations in the Colorado general election race between appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and Weld County prosecutor Ken Buck (R), a total that makes it -- by far -- the marquee contest in the country for spending by the national parties and third party groups.

In the last week alone, more than $7.5 million was spent in Colorado. The National Republican Senatorial Committee was the biggest spender over the last seven days, dropping $1.7 million. American Crossroads, a Republican-aligned outside group, spent $1.2 million followed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee at $1.03 million and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who spent $1 million.

Over the last seven days, an amazing 27 groups made some form of independent expenditure in the state; 17 of them are Democratic-aligned while 10 are affiliated with Republicans. Still, 59 percent of the overall spending was made by GOP groups.

(All of this spending data comes courtesy of T.W. Farnum, the Post's resident numbers guru and his campaign finance chart that is an absolute must-bookmark for political junkies.)

For the entirety of the race, the DSCC is still the biggest spender in the race at $6.3 million followed by American Crossroads' $4.9 million and $4 million by the NRSC.

No other Senate race rivals the non-candidate spending on Colorado. The second most expensive contest -- the open seat in Pennsylvania -- has seen $17.5 spent. The rest of the top five include: Washington State ($13.6 million), Illinois ($12.4 million) and Missouri ($11.7 million).

The Nevada Senate race between Harry Reid (D) and Sharron Angle (R) has seen $11 million spent since the June primary although it's a near-certainty that when candidate spending is factored in, the Silver State contest will be the most expensive in the country. (Smart insiders estimate total spending in Nevada to well crest $50 million.)

Still, the amount of spending in Colorado is eye-popping and reinforces the race's centrality to both parties' calculus heading into Nov. 2. All of the spending appears to have little overall effect as the race is a genuine toss up; the Real Clear Politics polling average shows Buck ahead by a single point but strategists on both sides believe it is a tie at the moment.

2. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) is swooping into Alaska tomorrow to give a boost to attorney Joe Miller (R) in the three-way Senate race.

Palin and her husband, Todd, will campaign for Miller at Dena'ina Park in Anchorage Thursday night, according to an announcement on the Conservatives4Palin.com website.

National GOP luminaries including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) will address the rally via video, according to the announcement.

Palin endorsed Miller in June, back when he was still a (very) longshot against Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary. He won that race narrowly, a victory attributed in no small part to Palin's advocacy.

Murkowski is pursuing a write-in bid against Miller and Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams (D). (As we've written before, the Palin-Murkowski feud has a long and tortured history.)

Republican insiders now believe Murkowski has a real chance to become the first senator to win a write-in bid for Senate since Strom Thurmond as Miller has struggled badly since becoming the nominee.

Will Palin's visit help or hurt Miller? It's hard to tell -- the former governor is just as polarizing in Alaska as she is elsewhere, and it could help Murkowski make the argument (as she has been) that national Republicans are trying to sway the election.

What we do know is Palin's appearance for Miller will draw lots -- and lots -- of media attention.

Meanwhile, employment records released Tuesday night brought new controversy to Miller's campaign. The documents revealed that when Miller was working as a part-time government attorney in 2008, he used three colleagues' computers without their knowledge to participate in a political poll hosted on his own website. The poll was aimed at ousting state Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich.

The documents show that Miller tried to cover up his use of the computers by clearing their Web cache, and then lied about it.

Murkowski's camp slammed Miller for the controversy. "The bottom line is Joe cheated, he lied, tried to cover it up, lied again, then finally got caught and had to admit it, just as he lied to Alaskans when he initially denied any problems with his employment at the Borough, claiming his record was 'exceptional' and 'second to none,'" Murkowski said in a statement.

Miller, meanwhile, sought to downplay the issue. "I appear to be the only candidate in this Senate race whose entire life history matters to the media," he said. "No one has requested school, medical or work records for Senator Lisa Murkowski or Scott McAdams. Regardless, I am willing to let these records go public so that the people can see that the computer polling matter and my decision to leave the Borough's employment a year-and-a-half later were unrelated."

3. Two new polls show ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R) improving his standing against state Attorney General Jack Conway (D) in the Kentucky Senate race even as a controversy over the physical attack of a protester at Monday night's debate continues to roil both campaigns.

A Fox News poll shows Paul taking 50 percent to Conway's 43 percent among likely voters. A survey by Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling, meanwhile, shows Paul with an even wider lead: the Republican takes 53 percent to Conway's 40 percent, with 7 percent undecided.

The polls indicate that Conway's attempt to focus voters' attention on the "Aqua Buddha" controversy -- a college-age indiscretion by Paul -- appears to have backfired.

Meanwhile, both campaigns are sparring over an incident Monday night outside of a debate in which a MoveOn.org activist was knocked to the ground and stomped on by Paul supporters outside of a debate.

"The Paul campaign has disassociated itself with the individual who took part in this incident, and once again urges all activists -- on both sides -- to remember that their political passions should never manifest themselves in physical altercations of any kind," said Jesse Benton, Paul's campaign manager.

Conway's camp called on Paul to apologize to the victim, saying that "a boot stomp to the head of a woman is never appropriate."

4. Two new polls from Quinnipiac University show the governor's races in Connecticut and Ohio remain competitive, even as their open Senate races appear to be over.

The polls, which were released Tuesday, showed Gov. Ted Strickland (D) trailing former Rep. John Kasich (R) 49 percent to 43 percent, even as former Rep. Rob Portman (R) leads the open seat Senate race by 17 points.

Strickland's improved favorable ratings appear to be helping him. A month ago he was viewed favorably by 36 percent of voters and unfavorably by 52 percent. Those numbers are now 43 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

In Connecticut, former Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley (R) has worked his way to within five points of former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy (D), even as former WWE CEO Linda McMahon appears to have lost steam in the Senate race. Foley trails 48 percent to 43 percent, while McMahon is 12 points behind state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D).

The disparate polling is proof positive that candidates -- and the campaigns they run -- matter. Take Ohio. Portman has run a picture perfect campaign while Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher's (D) effort has been lackluster at best.

The Ohio governor's race is a major prize for both parties. President Obama and Vice President Biden will campaign in the state this weekend in a final push for Fisher.

5. Haley Barbour, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, has given $440,000 to aspiring 2010 candidate and party
committees via his Haley's PAC, another clear signal that the Mississippi governor is seriously considering running for president in 2012.

Barbour has contributed to all 37 GOP gubernatorial candidates -- directly or through the state party -- and has also made a slew of donations to GOP Senate and House candidates.

In the first half of October, Barbour's PAC contributed to Senate candidates in more than 20 states, including Ken Buck in Colorado, Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, Mike Lee in Utah, Joe Miller in Alaska, Rep. John Boozman in Arkansas, Rep. Mark Kirk in Illinois, Linda McMahon in Connecticut, Marco Rubio in Florida, Rep. Jerry Moran in Kansas, former Rep. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania and even long-shot Joe DioGuardi in New York.

Rubio, Rossi and Angle got the most, at $5,000 apiece. In total, Barbour has given money to the GOP candidate in 31 of 37 Senate races this year, along with almost two dozen House contests.

Barbour is in the midst of a five day, 13 state tour of governors races from around the country -- a trip seen by some as a precursor to a presidential bid.

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Aaron Blake  | October 27, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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