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Sarah Palin, surrogate to the 'very conservative'

1. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin demonstrated her political magic touch in a pair of primaries Tuesday night -- watching while former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte and Delaware businesswoman Christine O'Donnell won their respective primaries due, at least in part, to her support.

But new polling from the Washington Post/ABC News suggests that Palin's effectiveness as a surrogate is limited to a relatively narrow swath of voters, meaning that she may be out on the campaign trail less this fall for Republicans than she was during primary season.

Overall, 20 percent said they would be more likely to support a candidate whom Palin campaigned for while 36 percent said a visit by the 2008 vice presidential nominee would make them less likely to back a candidate. Forty-two percent said a Palin appearance would make no difference in their vote.

Not surprisingly, self-identified Republicans are the most likely to say a Palin campaign appearance would improve their chances of voting for a candidate (39 percent) and Democrats are the least likely (nine percent).

But go even deeper into the numbers and an interesting split is revealed among self-identified conservatives regarding their views of Palin.

Among those who describe themselves as "somewhat conservative," 29 percent said that a Palin visit would make them more likely to support a candidate while 23 percent said it would make them less likely.

Among the "very conservative," the numbers were far more favorable for Palin: 39 percent said a Palin campaign appearance would improve the chances they would vote for a specific candidate while just 12 percent said it would make them more likely to oppose the candidate.

What those numbers suggest is what smart political observers have long suspected: Palin's support is deep but not terribly wide. Palin herself seemed to acknowledge that fact in an interview with Fox News Channel on Wednesday. Asked whether she would be campaigning for O'Donnell in Democratic-friendly Delaware in the fall, Palin replied: "I'll do whatever I can. I want to help, though, and not hurt. And, you know, sometimes it's a double edged sword there if my name is connected to anybody."

That's not to say that if she ran for president in 2012, Palin would not be a serious contender. After all, the composition of the electorates in the Iowa caucus and South Carolina primary has tended toward the "very conservative" end of the spectrum -- a group rightly understood now as Palin's base.

2. Commonsense Ten, an independent group with strong Democratic ties, is launching its first ad of the 2010 election -- a commercial hitting Rep. Roy Blunt (R) in the Missouri Senate race.

The ad seeks to paint Blunt as a Washington insider, using a provision he attempted to insert into a homeland security bill that aimed to benefit Phillip Morris as the evidence. (Blunt was dating -- and later married -- a lobbyist for Phillip Morris's parent company.)

"Roy Blunt ... what's wrong with Washington," says the ad's narrator.

The commercial is set to run for a week in the Kansas City market in a six-figure buy, according to a source familiar with the group. It will be expanded statewide in the near future.

Polling suggests Blunt has a single-digit lead over Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D).

Commonsense Ten was formed earlier this year by former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee executive director Jim Jordan, Monica Dixon, a former aide to Al Gore and Sen. Mark Warner, and veteran party operative Jeff Forbes.

The goal of the group is to counter the increasingly well-organized outside groups on the ideological right -- led by American Crossroads -- that are spending tens of millions of dollars on the election.

Commonsense Ten reported raising just $500 in the second quarter that ended in June but today's buy suggests the group has received far more substantial donations since that time.

3. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll showed former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) leading the field in the three-way race for the seat of outgoing Sen. George LeMieux (R).

Rubio took 40 percent among likely voters in the new poll while Gov. Charlie Crist (I) and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) took 26 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

The survey showed a big enthusiasm gap that favors Republicans, as have others in recent weeks: When the sample is widened to registered voters, Rubio leads by only 10 points instead of 19.

The poll also shows that Crist is leading with 52 percent among independents while Meek holds the edge among Democratic voters, with 47 percent to Crist's 31 percent. Lots of room for movement in those two groups remains, however: 24 percent of independents and 18 percent of Democrats are undecided.

Meanwhile, Crist is being hammered by a new TV ad released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week using footage of another party-switcher, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), claiming that his change in party enabled him to be re-elected. (Specter's primary opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), used that footage to devastating effect in his race against the longtime incumbent.)

In addition, Crist has also been hit hard by Meek's camp, which has run radio ads using the former Republican's own words against him.

The poll is rightly taken as an indication that Rubio is consolidating Republican support while Crist and Meek duke it out for the votes of Democrats and independents -- and it's also an indication that either man has a long way to go to topple Rubio in November.

4. Iowa Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack is in a statistical dead heat with his Republican opponent in a new poll conducted for his opponent and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The Tarrance Group poll shows Loebsack at 41 percent, while repeat candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks is at 40 percent. A Libertarian candidate, Gary Sicard, is at 6 percent, while 13 percent are undecided.

The data suggest that Loebsack isn't all that well regarded in this eastern Iowa district. Just 38 percent of voters say he deserves to be reelected, while 47 percent say they would like someone new.

The second-term Democrat is viewed favorably by 47 percent of voters and unfavorably by 32 percent. Miller-Meeks, who ran against Loebsack in 2008, has a 36 percent favorable/17 percent unfavorable rating.

Loebsack defeated Miller-Meeks handily last time around -- 57 percent to 39 percent -- but slightly underperformed President Obama, who took 60 percent in the district.

Miller-Meeks re-entered the campaign to little fanfare this time and hasn't raised much money, but if she is where the poll says she is, Republicans would be almost certain of winning the House this fall.

A recent poll for the Republican-leaning American Future Fund showed Loebsack leading Miller-Meeks 47 percent to 39 percent.

5. Maryland state Sen. Andy Harris (R) easily won his primary on Tuesday, but he's in for another tough battle in the general election, according to a new poll conducted for freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil's (D-Md.) campaign.

The poll, which was done by Garin-Hart-Yang Research and obtained by The Fix, shows Kratovil holding a six-point lead over Harris, who lost the 2008 matchup by less than 1 percent.

The new poll has Kratovil at 45 percent and Harris at 39 percent. A previous poll had them at 42 percent and 37 percent, respectively.

Kratovil's centrist profile appears to be paying dividends, as he takes 21 percent of the GOP vote and leads by a wide margin among independents. The fact that he performs so well among those groups and still holds a lead in the single digits is a testament to the conservative underpinnings of this Eastern Shore seat. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won it by 19 points in 2008.

Kratovil went on the air with a two-week ad buy during the latter stages of the GOP primary, and the polling memo credits him with a 17-point lead among voters who have seen the ads.

A GOP poll from the Tarrance Group late last year showed Harris ahead 52 percent to 39 percent. An April poll for Republican-leaning Americans for Prosperity showed Harris at 39 percent to 36 percent for Kratovil.

With Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake

By Chris Cillizza  | September 16, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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