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2009/2010: Special problems for GOP?

Emerging C.W.: "The GOP could lose its fifth of five big special elections in two years -- a development that has Republicans asking why the irregular races continue to bedevil their party, even as it rebounds in other ways," The Hill notes. And, as we've noted at First Read, the problems the GOP has faced in NY-23, in particular, could serve as a precursor to next year's 2010 primaries. "GOP consultant Brian Donahue said Hoffman's success in recent polling shows the ensuing battle between pragmatism and idealism that Republicans will face in many other races, including a few Senate races where big-name centrists face grassroots favorites."
More: "And the GOP is still grumbling about the March special election in New York's 20th district, where Republican State Assembly leader Jim Tedisco lost to Democrat Rep. Scott Murphy by less than 1 percent. 'The NRCC shows up at these things with their one-size-fits-all playbook,' the consultant said. 'The same people who screwed up New York-20 are screwing up New York-23.'" The other specials were in NY-20, Illinois (former Speaker Dennis Hastert's seat), Louisiana (former Rep. Richard Baker's seat) and Mississippi (Sen. Roger Wicker's former House seat).

MASSACHUSETTS: The candidates for Senate debated last night.  Here's the Boston Globe's take: "In their first debate of the campaign, the four Democratic candidates for US Senate sparred gently last night, each seeking to play to a liberal base and win recognition as the rightful heir to the seat once held by Edward M. Kennedy. The debate allowed the four to highlight their candidacies and their themes: US Representative Michael E. Capuano played to his blue-collar progressive roots and his insider political skills; Attorney General Martha Coakley was crisp and efficient, showing a command of the issues and making a point to address the camera; Stephen G. Pagliuca and Alan Khazei presented their nonpolitical backgrounds as assets."

NEW JERSEY: Gov. Jon Corzine admitted on CNN that "it might have been a 'good idea' to use different wording in a campaign commercial criticized by some as a cheap shot at his Republican opponent's girth."

Corzine has two more appearances with high-profile Democrats this week. Former president Bill Clinton visits today, followed by an appearance by President Obama in Camden. (Ed Secretary Arne Duncan also appears with Corzine today.) In a radio interview, Christie criticized his opponent's focus on endorsements, saying, "When all these folks come in and campaign, they get on the plane and leave, and if you vote for Jon Corzine, we're going to be stuck with him." Independent Chris Daggett disregarded the Republican nominee, painting the race as one between Daggett and Corzine: "It's either going to be Jon Corzine or me," the independent said.

Some '09 pre-spin 'from Dem strategist Bob Shrum: "The outcome in New Jersey will probably be a nail-biter, but the Corzine lesson is that Democrats are better off being Democrats than trying to triangulate themselves into some dubious pale blue mutation."

: A new Washington Post poll shows Bob McDonnell with a double-digit lead over opponent Creigh Deeds, 55-44%. Seven in 10 voters said their views of President Obama, who comes to Old Dominion University today to campaign for Deeds, would not be a factor in their voting. And, demonstrating the enthusiasm gap between Republican and Democratic voters that has been apparent throughout the race. "About a quarter of Deeds voters say they are supporting him 'not too' enthusiastically or 'not at all' enthusiastically," but "more than nine in 10 of those who back McDonnell are 'very' enthusiastic or 'fairly' enthusiastic about the Republican." 
McDonnell also has the money edge. In the past month, McDonnell raised $4 million and has $1.8 cash on hand; Deeds raised $3.1 million and has just under $1 million left.