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More Midterm Mania

Another estimate of the price tag for these midterms: $3.1 billion in advertising and direct mail. "The most noticeable change is in gubernatorial races, where spending will exceed $1 billion for the first time," says USA Today. "With 36 contests, many considered close, campaigns are on pace to spend $1.1 billion - up 757% vs. 2004, when there were just 11 races. House candidates will spend $744 million, up 38%, while Senate contenders are spending $705 million, up 40%." 

The New York Times writes that the GOP Senate campaign committee is pouring nearly $1 million into Maryland and $800,000 into Michigan, while Democrats announced that they will be buying air time in Arizona. Democratic Senate campaign committee chairman Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, holds a pen-and-pad press briefing to talk about expanding the Senate playing field.

Roll Call says the blow-up over Kerry's botched joke demonstrates the downside of Democrats' strategy to nationalize the elections by possibly reminding "swing voters what they don't like about Kerry and his party," while Republicans' insistence that they will run races on local issues hit a road bump this week with a "report in the Times Union serving Albany, N.Y., on Wednesday that state police responded to a call of alleged domestic violence at the home of Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) in December." Sweeney was already locked in a tight race to begin with. "The Kerry and Sweeney headlines illustrate just how volatile these elections have become - and are a reminder that the final days are sure to be brutal and unpredictable." 

CONNECTICUT Senate nominee Ned Lamont has spent almost $16 million of his own money on his challenge to Sen. Joe Lieberman.

NBC's Mark Potter reports from FLORIDA that in the race to replace resigned Rep. Mark Foley (R), replacement candidate Joe Negron (R) has waged a strong and well-financed campaign that many now feel he could win, even though Foley's name remains on the ballot.  (Republicans are urging voters to "Punch Foley For Joe.") Jim Kane, president of the Florida Voter independent polling organization, told Potter yesterday that GOP internal polls have Negron up by four points, a sign to him that Republican voters are finally "coming home" and are still unwilling to give the seat to a Democrat, despite the scandal.  Robert Watson, a political scientist at Florida Atlantic University, tells Potter he also believes the traditionally Republican district will remain in the GOP column, even though the latest public polls have the Democrat ahead.

While Rep. Katherine Harris managed not to stumble in last night's Florida Senate debate, the Miami Herald says that "With less than a week to the election, though, there were few fireworks, and with Nelson maintaining his cool, it was unlikely Harris delivered the knockout required to overcome the incumbent's daunting lead in the polls."

The Boston Globe says last night's MASSACHUSETTS gubernatorial debate was the "nastiest" debate yet with candidate Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey (R) and Deval Patrick (D) going to the mat on a host of issues including education, crime and honesty.

Pegged to Bush's visit to MONTANA today to campaign for vulnerable Sen. Conrad Burns (R), Bob Novak writes has Burns seems to have closed the gap against Jon Tester (D) by emphasizing that he will raise taxes. "Democrats want a referendum on Burns, while Republicans want a choice between Burns and Tester. Which tactic works will determine the winner here and perhaps control of the Senate."

"'You Votin' For Me?'" The New York Daily News reports that NEW YORK Sen. Hillary Clinton is adding some muscle to her campaign -- Robert DeNiro. The actor has recorded phone messages for her boasting "that Clinton 'took on the Bush administration' to keep a Dubai-owned company from managing the city's ports and has worked to boost homeland security funds." Voters in New York should also expect to hear from actor Paul Newman, too.

The New York Times examines the at least four GOP-held congressional seats that are in play in OHIO.  "Discontent with the war in Iraq, the limping regional economy and a corruption scandal in the Republican-controlled statehouse tilted the table in favor of the Democrats from the start of the campaign. But in the final days before the election, Republicans are fighting hard to hold on."

The Washington Post looks at how endangered GOP Sen. Lincoln Chafee of RHODE ISLAND can become the nice guy turned nasty when on the ropes, and how it has worked for him before.