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Republicans unveil their "Pledge for America": Will it work?

1. House Republicans will unveil their long-awaited "Pledge to America" plan today, a set of policy proposals aimed at showing the voting public what the GOP would do if put back into power and, party strategists hope, the final piece of the puzzle that will deliver them the majority in 40 days.

The main components of the "Pledge" -- a spending freeze, repealing President Barack Obama's health care law and replacing it with a smaller-scale version -- are things that Republicans have been talking about for months on the campaign trail.

The goal of the "Pledge" then is not to propose a sweeping series of heretofore unmentioned ideas but rather to crystallize what the party has been saying for the last two years into a single document that can be used by candidates to ensure that people know what Republicans stand for.

"House Republicans have momentum, close to even money, but have largely relied to date on an anti-Obama message," said Phil Musser, a senior Republican strategist. "That's worked so far, but the innovative approach that produced this document addresses the "party of no" charge with America's own ideas and voice." (The "Pledge" was led by California Rep. Kevin McCarthy but House Republicans also solicited ideas from the general public for it.)

Republicans are clearly hoping that the "Pledge" functions as the new "Contract with America", the governing document engineered by Newt Gingrich and others in the run-up to the 1994 tidal wave election that put Republicans in charge of the House for the first time in four decades.

(While the "Contract" is widely credited as being the key element in that takeover, there is a strain of thought within the party that giving Democrats a target to shoot at before the election actually narrowed rather than broadened the number of seats the GOP won 16 years ago.)

Democrats are already hard at work trying to use the "Pledge" to create a choice election this fall rather than simply a referendum on President Obama and the Democratic-led Congress.

In a blog post released last night, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer cited the "Pledge" as evidence that Republicans "want to take America back to the same failed economic policies that caused this recession."

Still, voters almost always want to feel as though they are casting an affirmative vote for something rather than just against everything. The "Pledge" is an attempt by the GOP to allow voters soured on Democrats to feel as though Republicans are something more than just the loyal opposition.

"The key for the electorate is which party has the better plan to create jobs and grow the economy," said GOP pollster David Winston. "If you don't have a jobs and economic plan, why would the electorate give you the responsibility of governing?"

It's a major gamble by the House GOP this close to an election and almost certainly will share a major piece of credit/blame for whatever the final result is this fall.

2. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) will travel to Illinois tomorrow for two events on behalf of Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady and Republican Senate nominee Mark Kirk.

Romney will attend a breakfast for Brady sponsored by the Republican Governors Association, followed by a luncheon for Kirk's Senate campaign.

In addition to the two events, Romney's Free and Strong America PAC announced that the former governor is endorsing a slate of ten GOP candidates in the Prairie State.

Those candidates include Brady, lieutenant governor nominee Jason Plummer, Reps. Judy Biggert, Tim Johnson, Don Manzullo and John Shimkus, businessman Bobby Schilling, who is running against Rep. Phil Hare (D) in the 17th district as well as state legislators Patti Bellock, Rich Brauer and state Sen. Dale Righter.

A Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll earlier this month showed Brady leading incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn (D) 37 percent to 32 percent among likely voters, with 19 percent undecided. Kirk, meanwhile, was tied with state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) at 34 percent each in the race for President Obama's former Senate seat.

As The Fix noted yesterday, Romney leads the field when it comes to 2010 primary endorsements. In our analysis of 20 competitive Republican Senate and gubernatorial primaries, Romney has made endorsements in 18 races - he endorsed 7 candidates before their primaries and 12 after (in one race, the Michigan gubernatorial primary, he backed a losing candidate in the primary and later endorsed the winner).

That's more total endorsements than former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), Massachusetts Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

Romney is the latest national Republican to make a visit on behalf of Kirk and Brady. The two were also boosted last week by a visit from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

3. Things are looking a little better for Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln but she's still got plenty of ground to make up in the next six weeks, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll.

The poll shows Lincoln still trails Rep. John Boozman (R) by double digits, 53 percent to 39 percent, but she's five points closer than the same poll two months ago, when she trailed 54 percent to 35 percent.

Boozman is still picking off 13 percent of Democrats and winning among independents, 32 percent to 17 percent. But there are some positive signs for Lincoln. After a difficult primary with Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D), voters seem to be softening their negative opinion of Lincoln.

The poll gave four statements and asked respondents whether Lincoln or Boozman better fit the profile. On who "fights for Main Street over Wall Street," Lincoln has turned a 13-point deficit into a one-point advantage. She also gained ground for "a strong leader for Arkansas" and "understands the problems of someone like me."

Two months ago, 48 percent said Lincoln "will say anything to win votes," versus 18 percent for Boozman. Lincoln still leads the dubious category, but only by 14 points.

If Lincoln is to pull off a comeback -- and it still seems very unlikely -- she will need to win almost all of the 50 percent of independents who still say they are undecided, a tough task in the conservative-leaning state.

4. A new CNN/Time/Opinion Research poll shows Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck (R) opening up a lead over Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

Buck leads Bennet 49 percent to 44 percent among likely voters in the survey. As previous polls have indicated, Colorado Democrats face a big enthusiasm gap: when registered voters are polled, Bennet takes 47 percent to Buck's 44 percent.

Buck's camp heralded the poll as "good news" for their side. "Coloradans know that Ken will fight to create jobs and reduce spending, not be a rubberstamp for big spending," Buck campaign manager John Swartout said.

"Sometimes we'll be up and sometimes we'll be down, this poll clearly illustrates both," said Bennet spokesman Trevor Kincaid.

The survey comes as both campaigns, national parties and outside groups have taken to the Colorado airwaves in a contentious back-and-forth in recent weeks. The Club for Growth and American Crossroads, two conservative-aligned independent groups, are running ads slamming Bennet for his record on spending.

Democrats appear to be countering by launching spots focused on winning over independent women. Bennet's latest TV ad, which went up on Tuesday, charges that Buck "would ban common forms of birth control" and "wants to make abortion illegal, even in cases of rape or incest." The ad follows on one being run by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that also hits Buck on reproductive rights.

5. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D) got a key endorsement Wednesday from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) in a press conference that created more questions than it answered.

"I think the platform that Andrew has laid out is an impressive blueprint for change," Bloomberg said. "He's shown that he is willing to take on the toughest issues and the biggest interest groups. What impresses me the most is he doesn't do it for the cameras."

Bloomberg also took a not-so-veiled shot at the rising Tea Party movement, noting that "anger is not a governing strategy."

And, that's where the trouble started. Cuomo followed Bloomberg on stage by declaring "I'm angry". Whoops! Then Cuomo said he had voted for Bloomberg for mayor, a claim a spokesman later retracted.

Cuomo's endorsement from Bloomberg came on the same day that a new Quinnipiac poll showed his lead over surprise GOP nominee Carl Paladino at only six points. (Cuomo led Paladino, a tea party favorite, by 37 in the poll less than a month ago.) Cuomo said at the Bloomberg endorsement press conference that he takes the poll "with a grain of salt."

And, rightly so. The Quinnipiac sample was 55 percent male, far above what exit polling in the Empire State has shown the gender breakout of the vote to be in recent elections. In 2008, women -- not men -- made up 54 percent of the New York electorate while in 2006, the last congressional midterm, the electorate was 50 percent female.

"He had a primary win last week; he got a lot of press," Cuomo said of Paladino. "The amount of press you get often shows up in polls. But the campaign is just starting."

With Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake

By Chris Cillizza  | September 23, 2010; 7:45 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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