From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, Huma Zaidi, and Jennifer Colby.
Two weeks out... The latest round of MSNBC/McClatchy/Mason-Dixon polls suggest several key Senate races might be breaking for Democrats, but the polls don't reflect a giant wave building that will shut Republicans out of all competitive seats.
The polls show the GOP incumbents in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island trailing their Democratic opponents by margins wider than the margin of error (by 8 points, 12 points, and 5 points, respectively). The GOP's incumbents in Missouri and Montana and their challenger in New Jersey also lag behind their Democratic rivals, but within the margin of error (by 3 points in each case). Their incumbent in Virginia and their nominee in Tennessee both have slim leads. The horse-race results:
Missouri TALENT (R) 43%, McCaskill (D) 46%
Montana BURNS (R) 43%, Tester (D) 46%
New Jersey MENENDEZ (D) 45%, Kean (R) 42%
Ohio DEWINE (R) 40%, Brown (D) 48%
Pennsylvania SANTORUM (R) 39%, Casey (D) 51%
Rhode Island CHAFEE (R) 43%, Whitehouse (D) 48%
Tennessee Corker (R) 45%, Ford (D) 43%
Virginia ALLEN (R) 47%, Webb (D) 43%
Remember: Democrats are looking to pick up two seats between Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia to add to the four they're more likely to win in order to put together the six they need to retake control of the Senate.
Three new national polls show Bush with a job approval rating of 37% The new Cook Political Report/RT Strategies Poll shows a 22-point edge for Democrats on the generic congressional ballot test among likely voters. The new Gallup poll for USA Today, which finds voters "more focused on national issues than in any previous congressional election," has the generic at 13 points among likely voters. The new Washington Post/ABC poll, the headline for which is that Republicans are bleeding support among independents, shows Democrats with a 13-point edge among adults.
Today is one of three days this week that President Bush hits the road to campaign for GOP candidates (the White House just added campaign events for Saturday). He heads to Florida to talk more about the economy and to raise money for the Republican in the toss-up race to replace Senate nominee Katherine Harris, and for his party's national committee. Laura Bush, who's the Administration's universal donor on the campaign trail, capable of going anywhere to help anyone, headlines events for Republicans in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The joint press conference in Baghdad with US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George Casey, and the testimony of Rep. Tom Reynolds before the House Ethics Committee in the Mark Foley probe, keep those two unfavorable storylines for Republicans -- including the intraparty dissent on both -- front and center. NBC's Mike Viqueira reminds us that Reynolds has said that he reported to his "supervisor," Speaker Dennis Hastert, last spring when he heard of the "over friendly" e-mails from Mark Foley to a House page. Hastert says he doesn't recall such a conversation. Reynolds' re-election prospects appear to have recovered somewhat from the blow they took when his knowledge of Foley's inappropriate behavior was first revealed. The House Ethics Committee heard yesterday from Hastert chief of staff Scott Palmer and from a top Reynolds aide.
Some GOP strategists we know were expecting Democrats to revive the ghost of Social Security reform right before the elections, but they may not have been expecting the President to serve it up. Bush told CNBC's Maria Bartiromo yesterday that his Social Security reform plan is "very much alive," and he hasn't given up on private accounts.
And it's all politics, all the time on MSNBC again today from 9:00 am till 6:00 pm, with hours anchored by NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, NBC's Andrea Mitchell, David Gregory, and Campbell Brown. NBC and MSNBC correspondents will report from states hosting key races around the country. Interviews during the day will include Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman and Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean (not together); GOP Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Jim Talent (MO); Democratic Senate candidates Ned Lamont (CT), Claire McCaskill (MO), and Harold Ford (TN); Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman (I); and NBC political analyst Charlie Cook and MSNBC analyst Chuck Todd.