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More midterm mania

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In his weekly National Journal column, NBC political analyst Charlie Cook observes that a total of 59 Republican-held seats are in play in November (with Democrats on their best day possibly picking up 30-35 of them), and that control of the Senate will likely come down to the races in Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, and New Jersey.  "[W]e need to be aware of the how bad this election could be for Republicans, while also keeping in mind that politics is a volatile business."

The Washington Post front-pages a look at how the Republican House and Senate campaign committees are redirecting resources away from races they're less likely to win toward the incumbents they need to protect, first and foremost, in order to retain their majorities.  "Some top Republicans privately talk about losing a minimum of 12 seats... and as many as 25 or 30 seats. Democratic strategists see the range of potential pickups in almost identical terms." 

USA Today says state ballots around the country this year will feature "the most citizen-sponsored referendums in a non-presidential election in nearly 100 years...  Eighteen states will decide 76 ballot initiatives in November...  That's exceeded only by 87 such measures in 1914 - when initiatives were popular as part of the Progressive movement that fought moneyed special interests...  There were also 87 ballot measures in 1996, which was a presidential election year." 

Bill Clinton campaigns in favor of the pro-environment and pro-alternative fuels Proposition 87 in CALIFORNIA today; former Vice President Al Gore has appeared in ads for the measure.  Yesterday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides' campaign filed an official complaint with the FCC protesting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's appearance on The Tonight Show earlier this week and demanding equal time from NBC and its 11 stations in California.  "The FCC has told us that it will move quickly on this complaint, with an answer as early as Monday at 12 noon." 

In the second of four debates, IOWA gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver (D) "worked to associate" Rep. Jim Nussle (R) and his tenure in the House "with President Bush and public dissatisfaction with Washington, D.C."  Culver also "referred to the sex scandal surrounding former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley and associated Nussle with House Speaker Dennis Hastert and former Majority Leader Tom DeLay." 

Kerry campaigns with Senate nominee and Rep. Ben Cardin of MARYLAND on Sunday.  Republican Senate nominee Michael Steele, who trails Cardin in the polls, has taken "one of his most direct swipes at his party in a new commercial yesterday while continuing to fault Democrats."  A new Steele ad takes a shot at No Child Left Behind. 

The New York Times covers Sen. Barack Obama (D) stumping for NEW JERSEY Sen. Bob Menendez (D) yesterday.  "In the surest sign that the tight race between Mr. Menendez and State Senator Thomas H. Kean Jr. had moved into its most crucial period, the stars have begun to come out: in the wake of Mr. Obama's visit, campaign events in the next three weeks promise two Clintons, a Kissinger and a Giuliani."  

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes up yesterday's testy debate between PENNSYLVANIA Sen. Rick Santorum (R) and challenger Bob Casey Jr. (D):  "The two candidates interrupted each other, talked over each other, ignored time limits, ignored the moderator and generally stopped just short of playground name-calling and shin-kicking." 

Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman campaigns in TENNESSEE.  The Washington Times reports on how GOP Senate nominee Bob Corker has "retooled" his campaign in an effort to gain ground against Democrat Harold Ford, with whom Corker is tied, or whom Corker slightly trails, depending on the poll.  Meanwhile, AFL-CIO chief John Sweeney stumps for Ford today in Nashville.

The Hill suggests that one of the Democrats who could feel fallout from Warner's decision not to run for president is VIRGINIA Senate nominee Jim Webb, because Warner's PAC "has helped raise about $400,000 so far for Webb's campaign, and Warner has several more statewide appearances in the works this month to help Webb build further momentum."