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Top 10 events shaping the midterm season

Note: This is the last Friday we scale back our morning note. Below is a fun Top 10 list to read as you take advantage of (hopefully) a long Labor Day weekend. Our morning note will return this coming Tuesday.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Ali Weinberg
*** First Read’s Top 10 events that shaped the midterm season: Now less than two months before Election Day, we look at what we consider the Top 10 events that have shaped this midterm season.

1. Health-care reform signed into law (March 23, 2010): It was a historic event, but -- in the short term -- no issue has been more responsible for energizing Republicans and conservatives in November, and for fueling the charge of government overreach.

2. Greece riots, Dow plunges 1,000 points before partially recovering (May 6, 2010): As we argued yesterday, this event might have killed all the economic progress the U.S. was making in the first part of the year. What has created more uncertainty for investors and business -- the Obama administration, or that European instability? http://bit.ly/csc8Rp

3. The Deepwater Horizon explosion (April 20, 2010): This explosion -- and the oil spill it produced -- created an ongoing crisis for the Obama administration, it distracted them from being able to focus on other things (like the economy), and it delivered a psychological blow to the entire country.

4. Scott Brown's victory (Jan. 19, 2010): The precursor of things to come for Republicans in November? Brown winning Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat displayed GOP energy and enthusiasm. What's more, the Republicans' win eliminated the Dems’ filibuster-proof majority and forced them to spend another two months to pass health care -- which essentially killed the chances to pass energy reform.

5. Charlie Crist leaves the GOP (April 29, 2010): This was truly the first event signaling that the Tea Party had taken over the GOP. Robert Bennett's loss in Utah loss and wins by Rand Paul in Kentucky and Sharron Angle in Nevada would soon follow.

6. Obama fires GM’s CEO (March 30, 2009): In retrospect, this move appears to have been a success. But at the time, it furthered the GOP critique that the government was getting too involved in private business.

7. PA-12 (May 18, 2010): Despite the favorable political climate for them, Republicans lost this special congressional election -- their third-straight loss in a competitive House special since Obama took office. Democrats believe these victories show their strength (and the GOP's weakness) in winning contested House races. Will that play out in November?

8. Michael Steele's Afghanistan gaffe (July 1, 2010): Here's another hope for Democrats -- the problems at the RNC, an institution that has been essential for the GOP in funding their races and turning out the vote. But this gaffe by Steele -- essentially saying that the war there was a mistake -- was really the last straw for many Republicans, and the GOP heads into November without a strong RNC.

9. Obama wades into the mosque controversy (Aug. 13, 2010): Democrats also have had their share of distractions, and President Obama wading into the controversy over the mosque near Ground Zero, and then appearing to walk it back the next day, was the latest one -- following the Shirley Sherrod firing and Robert Gibbs’ the-House-is-in-play comment. All of these distractions turned into multi-day stories, knocking Democrats off message.

10. J.D. Hayworth challenges McCain (Feb. 15, 2010): Had McCain not received a legitimate primary challenge from Hayworth, we might have seen more bipartisanship in the Senate -- if not from McCain then from his friend Lindsey Graham.