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First thoughts: Ch-ch-changes

We aren’t living in ordinary times, and November could reflect that… Since World War I, we have seen only three periods (after WWI, the Great Depression, and during/after WWI)I when the parties picked up 20 or more House seats for at least three-consecutive cycles... This coming cycle could give us our fourth such period… New WashPo/ABC poll confirms what our NBC/WSJ showed a couple of weeks ago… Looks like Dem have their 60 votes for financial reform… Previewing today’s Alabama run-offs; polls close there at 8:00 pm ET… What’s the matter with Colorado?… And Rubio’s big fundraising quarter.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Ali Weinberg
*** Ch-ch-changes: From 1996 through 2004, American politics barely changed. We lived in a 50-50 nation, with one party picking up/losing just a handful of congressional seats per cycle, and with the presidential contests decided by razor-thin margins or the winner not getting 50%. It was like a WWI battle -- so much blood, sweat, and money spent for a few inches of political change. But that wasn't the case in 2006 (when Democrats won back the House and Senate) or in 2008 (when Obama won decisively in the presidential election, and Dems picked up many more House and Senate seats). And this year, we could be headed for our third-straight change election.

*** Another turbulent time:
Indeed, per the Vital Statistics on Congress, there have been only three periods since World War I when we have seen at least three-straight cycles of one of the parties (Democrat or Republican) picking up 20 or more House seats: after World War I (1920, 1922, 1924, 1926), during the Great Depression (1930, 1932, 1934), and during/after World War II (1942, 1944, 1946, 1948, 1950, 1952). And if Republicans make substantial gains this year, we'll see another such period (Dems picked up 30-plus seats in '06 and 20-plus in '08). When you think about it, this all makes sense. Those other periods, after all, were marked by war and its aftermath, economic upheaval, or controversial political movements (the Red Scare, McCarthyism). We seem to be in another turbulent time. One other thing this history teaches us: Throw out the House gain/loss averages -- these change elections come in cycles (especially when we’re having a discussion about the direction of the country).

*** Pile-on time: A new Washington Post/ABC poll confirms what our NBC/WSJ poll showed a couple of weeks ago: Obama and the Democrats aren’t in great shape heading into November. “Four months before midterm elections that will define the second half of his term, nearly six in 10 voters say they lack faith in the president to make the right decisions for the country, and a clear majority once again disapproves of how he is dealing with the economy.” With these kind of numbers, it’s not surprising we’re seeing a Dem “pile on the White House” moment. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently took a subtle dig at the White House when asked where he disagrees with the president (“He's a peacemaker,” Reid told Jon Ralston. “And sometimes I think you have to be a little more forceful and sometimes I don't think he is.”) And now you’re seeing Democrats criticizing White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs for saying what everyone knows: that the House is in play.

*** Looks like financial reform has 60 votes: Per NBC’s Ken Strickland, GOP Sens. Scott Brown and Olympia Snowe yesterday said they intend to vote for the final financial reform package, which appears to give Democrats the 60 votes needed to bypass a Republican filibuster. (To recap: All but one of the 58 Senate Democrats -- Russ Feingold -- will vote for the reform, along with Brown, Snowe, and Susan Collins. That’s your 60.) Last night, Harry Reid released a statement praising the Brown/Snowe/Collins support and saying that final passage would come this week. “Despite the difficult political climate, these Republicans have joined Democrats to support these common-sense protections for consumers, investors and financial institutions that will help prevent another financial crisis,” he said. “We will finish our work on this bill this week to ensure that these critical protections and accountability for Wall Street are in place as soon as possible."

*** Delayed justice:
Meanwhile, it appears that the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing vote on Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination -- which was scheduled for today -- will be delayed for a week. Under the panel's rules, Strick says, any Judiciary member can request a one-week delay on a vote of a judicial nominee. This would likely move the vote to next Tuesday, July 20.

*** The Bama run-offs: Alabama today holds two GOP run-offs worth watching: for governor and Congress. In the gubernatorial run-off, Bradley Byrne (who got the most votes in the original primary) faces off against Robert Bentley for the right to take on Ron Sparks (D) in the general election. And in a congressional run-off, establishment fav Martha Roby competes against Tea Party fav Rick Barber, whose campaign has produced those provocative “Gather your armies” and “Slavery” Web ads. The Roby-Barber winner squares off against Dem incumbent Bobby Bright. There’s also a Democratic congressional run-off between Terri Sewell and Sheila Smoot for the seat that failed gubernatorial candidate Artur Davis vacated. Polls close at 8:00 pm ET, per NBC’s Ellie Hall.

*** What's the matter with Colorado? Come Election Day, Colorado will be one of the top states we're following -- because it has competitive Senate and gubernatorial contests, and because it was a red state Obama turned blue in '08. But the GOP Senate candidates there are acting as if they're running in crimson-red Alabama. To recap: Former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo, while campaigning for Senate candidate Ken Buck, declared that President Obama was a greater threat to America than Al Qaeda. Per Politico, Buck distanced himself from those remarks, but then Buck’s primary opponent -- establishment favorite Jane Norton -- said on Facebook that there was a “real measure of truth” to what Tancredo said. Then speaking to ABC yesterday, Buck said that Democratic liberals were the greatest threat to America. “I think the largest threat we really have is the progressive liberal movement. I think if Barack Obama stepped down tomorrow, we would still have that threat.” When ABC asked Buck if that liberals were a greater threat than Al Qaeda or Iran, Buck replied: “I believe that.” This is a potential problem for some Republican candidates: The message that GOP primary voters want to hear isn’t necessarily what indies want to hear.

*** More midterm news:
In Florida, it’s a tale of two different financial outlooks -- with Senate candidate Marco Rubio (R) raising a very impressive $4.5 million for the quarter, while the St. Pete Times reports that gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum has just $800,000 left in the bank in his primary against wealthy Rick Scott. http://bit.ly/9G4dlk and http://bit.ly/9Wv8t9

Countdown to GA primary: 7 days
Countdown to OK primary: 14 days
Countdown to KS and MO primaries: 21 days
Countdown to CO and CT primaries: 28 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 112 days

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