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The midterms: Ford tough

CALIFORNIA: Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner releases his first TV spot today, "painting himself as the race's true conservative and dissing his Republican rival Meg Whitman," the L.A. Times reports.

The New York Times' Nagourney parachutes into Barbara Boxer's re-election bid. "Early polls in California suggest that Sen. Barbara Boxer is facing what could be the toughest election of her career," he writes. "Her difficulties in a state that has for 20 years proved reliably Democratic in national elections suggests how the pendulum has swung against Democrats in just a year."

ILLINOIS: The campaign of Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias yesterday called Mark Kirk's criticism of Giannoulias' involvement with his family back "outlandish." Yesterday, Kirk said Giannoulias "bears direct responsibility for reckless loans that could bankrupt the Broadway Bank," the Chicago Tribune reported.  
 
Kirk said of Giannoulias: "Alexi Giannoulias engaged in the same kind of reckless lending that brought our U.S. economy to its knees," Kirk said. 

NEW YORK: In a New York Times op-ed today, former Rep. Harold Ford explains why he will not be running for Senate: "I've examined this race in every possible way, and I keep returning to the same fundamental conclusion: If I run, the likely result would be a brutal and highly negative Democratic primary -- a primary where the winner emerges weakened and the Republican strengthened."  
 
"Gillibrand has been widely criticized for a lackluster performance in the Senate and has had weak approval ratings in recent polls," the New York Post writes. "But Ford failed to catch on with many Democratic leaders. He conducted a poll less than a week ago to measure his support. It was believed to have shown a difficult path to the nomination for Ford -- who received massive Wall Street compensation and voted twice for a constitutional ban on gay marriage, two problematic issues." 

"In an explosive development that puts Gov. Paterson at the center of an alleged cover-up, the governor instructed two female state workers to contact the woman involved in a domestic-violence case against his closest aide -- even enlisting one of them to ask the victim to downplay it, sources told The [New York] Post last night. Paterson instructed his press secretary, Marissa Shorenstein -- who met with probers from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office yesterday -- to phone Sherr-una Booker just as the media was preparing to unleash a damning piece on Booker's ex, troubled longtime Paterson pal David Johnson, one source said."  
 
The New York Daily News: "Gov Paterson personally directed two female staffers to reach out to a domestic violence victim who was pointing the finger at his right-hand man."

SOUTH CAROLINA: "Americans for Job Security has launched an ad attacking GOP gubernatorial candidate Gresham Barrett for his support of the bank bailout in 2008 and various earmark requests," the Charleston City Paper reports.

TEXAS: The AP previews today's Texas primary. Gov. Rick "Perry, the state's longest-serving governor, wants an unprecedented third full four-year term. [Sen. Kay Bailey] Hutchison argues he's trying to stay too long and has grown arrogant in office. Medina calls herself the best alternative to establishment candidates. Perry has pushed an anti-Washington message and talked up Texas as having one of the nation's best economies, something he says he helped bring about."  
 
Politico's Martin says Perry's "success against the once seemingly formidable Hutchison illustrates both the political opportunity and danger at the moment for Republicans. The Perry message, in which the federal government wants to redistribute wealth and foist a radical agenda on states, plainly resonates among right-leaning voters who don't just oppose Obama but are downright afraid of him. Already, White is training his fire at Perry and making the case that the Republican has hurt himself with swing voters by moving to the right to dispatch Hutchison. It's a view held by some Hutchison supporters, as well."

Roll Call looks at the Texas primary -- not just at the top of the ticket -- as a test of Tea Party strength: "The loose confederation of anti-government and anti-tax activists is aiming to wield greater influence in the fall elections, and it also hopes to influence lower-profile primary challenges against sitting Members. In Texas today, 14 of 32 incumbents in the delegation face primary challenges, including 11 of 20 Republicans. Though none of the 14 is expected to lose or even be forced into a runoff next month, Texas does have a more libertarian and anti-establishment streak than most states. A large protest vote against incumbents could be a harbinger of bigger anti-incumbent sentiment in the fall elections." 
 
The Hill notes of Kay Bailey Hutchison's troubles and others going forward this cycle: "If you want to run for higher office, the worst thing to put on your campaign mail might be the word 'congressman.'"