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Senate "Big Six" will determine fate of parties on Election Day

1. The Fix's Big Six Senate races -- Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia -- are certain to determine whether Republicans have a good night or a great one Tuesday.

Already four Democratic-held Senate seats are effectively conceded as GOP takeovers: North Dakota, Arkansas, Indiana and Wisconsin. Democrats have some long-shot hopes for Sen. Russ Feingold (D) but acknowledge that he is a clear underdog against wealthy businessman Ron Johnson.

Democratic pickup opportunities, on the other hand, are few and far between. The Kentucky open seat contest appears to have slipped as ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R) has a clear lead over state Attorney General Jack Conway (D) in recent polling.

The best chance for Democrats appears to be, oddly enough, Alaska where an independent poll released Monday showed attorney Joe Miller (R), Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams (D) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is running as a write-in candidate, all within three points of one another.

But it is in the Big Six races where the two national parties have placed the vast majority of money and attention over the last few days.

Colorado, where appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and Weld County prosecutor Ken Buck (R) are facing off, is widely acknowledged to be the closest race in the country with early voting having turned out dead even. Outside groups and the two national party committees have combined to spend more than $33 million on the race -- the most of any contest.

In President Obama's home state, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released a poll late Monday that showed state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) ahead of Rep. Mark Kirk (R) by two points. That survey showed a whopping 16 percent undecided -- a number that suggests voters in Illinois don't like either of their choices.

The Nevada Senate race between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) and former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R) is easily the nastiest in the country and, along with Colorado, could be the closest. Democrats pronounced themselves thrilled with the early vote totals but Republicans insist the race is a tossup and recent independent polls have given Angle an edge.

In Washington State, Sen. Patty Murray (D) is well-liked but most polling suggests that she and former state Sen. Dino Rossi (R) are in a very close race. Seeking to counter the idea that Rossi is surging -- as some recent data suggest -- the DSCC released a poll Monday night that showed Murray at 51 percent and with a seven point edge.

The West Virginia Senate race tilts to popular Gov. Joe Manchin (D) who, after a rough early October, appears to have built a mid-single-digit edge over businessman John Raese (R). But Obama is deeply unpopular in the Mountain State and it's possible that Raese could pull an upset based almost exclusively on voters' distaste for the Democratic brand.

Keep an eye on the Big Six tonight. Those half-dozen races will tell us whether Republicans are able to ride the wave or whether it crested a week or two too soon.

2. The projections of a Republican rout in the House continued to grow larger on Monday.

The Cook Political Report, a leading congressional handicapper, moved four more Democratic House seats into the "lean Republican" category, making 29 Democratic seats where Republicans are favored, 49 tossup districts and 120 total Democratic seats in play.

Reps. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) are among the newest "tossup" seats in Cook's ratings.

Meanwhile, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll predicted Republicans are poised to win 53 seats and hold a 231 to 204 majority in the House.

And, the newest Gallup poll showed voters choosing Republicans 55 percent to 40 percent, which is a higher margin than in any Gallup poll of likely voters in history.

Combine all of those factors and there now seems to be little question whether Republicans can take the 39 seats they need to win back control. If Democrats can keep their losses anywhere close to that margin, they might well try to spin it as a victory for their side.

3. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) on Monday endorsed and recorded a robocall for former GOP Rep. Tom Tancredo, who is running under the banner of the American Constitution Party in Colorado's three-way gubernatorial race.

"Hi, this is Governor Sarah Palin. I'm calling to ask that you and your neighbors vote for Tom Tancredo to be the next governor of Colorado on Tuesday," Palin says on the call. "Tom is the right man for the job and he'll fight for lower taxes, and he'll stop growing government and start growing the economy, and we know he'll continue working to end illegal immigration."

The endorsement marks Palin's 61st this cycle, according to The Post's Palin Endorsement Tracker.

Tancredo is facing off against Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (D) and businessman Dan Maes (R) in the three-way contest.

Recent polling shows Hickenlooper maintaining a consistent lead over Tancredo, with Maes -- the beleaguered GOP nominee who rejected calls to withdraw from the race -- dropping down to the single-digits.

Palin's 11th-hour announcement, similar to her last-minute endorsement of marketing consultant Christine O'Donnell (R) in the Delaware Senate primary, appears aimed at supporting an insurgent conservative candidate who has an outside shot of winning.

Tancredo remains a long shot, and the Post ranks the race as "Lean Democratic," placing it among gubernatorial races in California, Minnesota, Maryland and New Hampshire where Democrats appear headed toward victory.

Still, if Tancredo manages to eke out a win Tuesday, Palin will almost certainly be credited with giving the candidate a last-minute boost.

4. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) said Monday that an independent might have more success as president than a Democrat or a Republican -- a suggestion that will heighten speculation of whether there is a presidential bid in the mayor's future.

"I think actually a third-party candidate could run the government easier than a partisan political president because the partisan political president -- yeah he's got half the votes, but he can't get the others -- whereas the guy in the middle may very well be able to get enough across the aisle," Bloomberg said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Bloomberg, after considering a run in 2008, has said publicly that he won't run in 2012 and has been mostly supportive of Obama -- with a notable exception being the president's tone and policies toward the financial industry.

In the interview, Bloomberg reiterated that he will not run in 2012, saying he is "sort of inclined" to serve out his four-year term as mayor. He was reelected in 2009.

But he added that, at some point, "the public gets so upset that they say, 'I'm going to pick the third party.' "

Bloomberg's massive wealth -- his media company has made him a billionaire -- and profile as a non-partisan problem-solver in his nine years as mayor make him a potentially attractive candidate for a public that repeatedly expresses its dissatisfaction with the political status quo.

5. Need round-the-clock analysis of tonight's hot races? The Fix posse is here to help!

Starting at 3 p.m. Eastern, we'll be live-blogging the midterms in this space. Come chat with the Fix original recipe, FixAaron and FixFelicia about the top races to watch, tell us what you're seeing on the ground and get the latest analysis on the more than 500 (!) Senate, House and gubernatorial races happening around the country.

And don't forget to share your predictions with us in The Fix's Election Prediction Contest! Get your prognostications by 7 p.m. Eastern for a chance to win an official Fix T-shirt (and undying glory).

We'll be going all (or at least most) of the night, so keep it locked on the Fix for the latest and greatest from the big night. Spread. The. Word.

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  | November 2, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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