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Down the ballot: Abandon ship!

NRCC Chair Tom Cole must be feeling the heat big time. He's got some on-the-record advice for House Republicans -- run against the party and don't attend the GOP convo in St. Paul. "During a conference call, the National Republican Congressional Committee chairman instructed candidates, campaign managers and press secretaries that given the anti-incumbent environment, it could be beneficial for House GOP candidates to distance themselves from politicians they may be serving with next year. 'These [congressional approval] ratings are worse than we had on the eve of losing the majority,' Cole said. 'Don't be afraid to say you are disappointed in fellow Republicans… don't hesitate to be anti-Washington, D.C.'"

"The NRCC chief discouraged candidates from attending the national convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, saying that spending days there would be a 'waste of time,' and they would be better off campaigning.

The Cook Report's Jennifer Duffy has the National Journal cover story on the GOP's tough road in the Senate. "How did this year's Senate playing field become one of the most lopsided in recent memory? A quartet of important factors--political climate, math, money, and retirements--are all working against the GOP this time. By any number of measures, the national political climate is extremely hostile to the Republican Party."

More: "Basic math is also working against Senate Republicans, because they must defend 23 seats compared with the Democrats' 12. (Two of the GOP-held seats will be on the line in special elections in November because of the resignation last December of Mississippi's Trent Lott and the death in June 2007 of Wyoming's Craig Thomas.) Heading toward Election Day, Democrats enjoy a target-rich environment while Republicans have many fewer opportunities to offset losses by flipping Democratic-held seats into their column."

"The third factor, money, is traditionally a plus for Republicans--or at least a wash. This time, though, Democrats have an overwhelming advantage: As of June 30, the DSCC had raised $93.3 million for the cycle and had $46.2 million in the bank. The National Republican Senatorial Committee had taken in $58.8 million and had $24.6 million cash-on-hand. The gap is huge even though the NRSC's fundraising has improved in recent months."

"A final factor this year is retirements. One of the basic tenets of campaign politics is that it's always easier to snatch an open seat away from the other party than it is to defeat an incumbent. Five Republican senators are retiring: Wayne Allard of Colorado, Larry Craig of Idaho, Pete Domenici of New Mexico, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and John Warner of Virginia. Not a single Democratic senator plans to retire this year."

"Together, these four factors put 10 of the Republicans' Senate seats in play. Democrats contend that an additional four or five could become competitive by fall."