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The midterms: For the love of meatballs

The Sunday New York Times reached a conclusion that we agree with: Republicans winning the House isn’t a sure thing just yet. "Republicans carry substantial advantages as they move into the final month of the fall campaign, but the resilience of vulnerable Democrats is complicating Republican efforts to lock down enough seats to capture the House and take control of the unsettled electoral battleground. By now, Republicans had hoped to put away a first layer of Democrats and set their sights on a second tier of incumbents. But the fight for control of Congress is more fluid than it seemed at Labor Day, with Democrats mounting strong resistance in some parts of the country as they try to hold off a potential Republican wave in November."

The DNC tells First Read that when it files its finance report for September later this month, it will report raising more than $16 million that month -- its best month in a midterm cycle since McCain-Feingold. “We've found that our supporters are now focused on the election, are responding to the president's message laying out the choice and understand the stakes,” a DNC source emails us.

Politico’s Martin: “Once-despondent Democrats now believe that they may be able to avert a total midterm wipeout, as a series of important states now appears to be trending in their direction or growing more competitive. The bad news: In a sign of how hostile the election environment remains for the party, the cautious optimism is largely due to the view that the impending political hurricane could be downgraded from category 5 to category 4.”

CALIFORNIA: The Boston Globe goes to California, where it sets the stage for the Senate race there: “Over her three terms in the Senate, Boxer, 69, has been blessed with good timing, avoiding strong Republican election cycles and strong opponents, say political strategists in California. But this year the climate could work against her. California’s jobless rate is 12.4 percent, well above the national average of 9.6. The state has historic budget problems. Voters are dispirited.”

At a debate Saturday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman accused her Democratic opponent Jerry Brown of being behind the revelation that Whitman’s housekeeper was an undocumented immigrant, the Los Angeles Times recounts. ‘Jerry, you should be ashamed,’ Whitman said. ‘You and your surrogates put her deportation at risk. You put her out there. You should be ashamed for sacrificing Nicky Diaz on the altar of your political ambitions.’”

The Los Angeles Times “is backing Democratic candidate Jerry Brown over his Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, in the November 2 election. But the Times writes that both candidates ‘fall well short of our current needs,’” Reuters writes.

RNC Chairman brought his “Fire Pelosi” bus tour to California’s 45th district, where Rep. Mary Bono Mack “is facing her most aggressive re-election challenger yet in Democrat Steve Pougnet,” the Desert Sun writes.

CONNECTICUT: “National Democrats have begun airing a TV ad attacking the business record of the Republican candidate for Connecticut's U.S. Senate seat, accusing former professional wrestling executive Linda McMahon of being ‘a bad CEO.’”

McMahon and state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal square off tonight in their first Senate debate.

DELAWARE: For the love of meatballs… Well, Christine O’Donnell just didn’t dabble in witchcraft. Here’s yet another clip that Bill Maher has released, per Taegan Goddard:
O'Donnell: I was dabbling into every other kind of religion before I became a Christian.
Maher: You were a witch.
O'Donnell: I was. I was.
Maher: You were.
O'Donnell: I was dabbling in witchcraft. I've dabbled in Buddhism. I would have become a Hare Krishna but I didn't want to become a vegetarian. And that is honestly the reason why -- because I'm Italian, I love meatballs.
Maher: Boy, are you spiritual.

“Tea Party darling Christine O'Donnell treats religion like one big buffet,” The New York Daily News quips.

O’Donnell recounts to AP how she first got on the TV circuit in 1992.

GEORGIA: In the Georgia governor's debate, “Democrat Roy Barnes took several swipes at the continuing financial troubles of his Republican opponent Nathan Deal. At one point Deal suggested Barnes had made $2 billion in campaign promises he couldn't keep. Barnes fired back that Deal was using bad math. ‘I'll be very frank with you. I don't trust your adding on financial matters,’ Barnes quipped.” Meanwhile, Barnes and Deal had the chance to ask each other questions, and Deal asked Barnes if he would vote for Obama again if the Presidential election was this year. Barnes' response: "As you know, I supported the Democratic nominee for president in 2008.... I don't know [if I'd support him again]. I would have to see who else was running. I always believe you choose from between the best-qualified candidates who are running. I don't know who might be running against him so I don't know how to answer that." It’s a fine line to walk for conservative Democrats in the South. Georgia’s electorate is 29% African American.

KENTUCKY: “Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for senator from Kentucky, said yesterday that the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare may need to be raised for future recipients,” The Boston Globe reports. “But Paul, speaking during the first televised debate of the general election season with Democratic opponent Jack Conway, said he doesn’t want to change those benefits for older people already receiving them. The debate in Louisville, Ky., was aired on ‘Fox News Sunday.’”

Paul “sought to position the race as a referendum on President Barack Obama's agenda, in the first of a series of debates with his Democratic rival ahead of November's election,” the Wall Street Journal writes. Democratic nominee Jack Conway, “the state's attorney general, meanwhile, criticized his opponent's ideas as being ‘outside the mainstream.’”

“Kentucky GOP Senate nominee Rand Paul said Sunday he would support Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) if he is elected next month,” The Hill writes. ‘I will vote for whoever comes out of the caucus as the Republican leader, absolutely,’ he said. ‘And I presume that that will be Senator McConnell.’”

LOUISIANA: “After finishing about 200 votes shy of securing the 3rd district GOP nomination in his August primary, attorney Jeff Landry finished the job Saturday. He will now be heavily favored to flip the southeast Louisiana seat into the Republican column in November.”

NEVADA: Today, at events in Reno and Las Vegas, National Nurses United, the largest union of registered nurses in the country, is announcing a new $200,000 campaign against Sharron Angle. The campaign will include TV ads, Internet ads and direct mail. This is the largest ever expenditure on a political race by the union.

NEW YORK: Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, “who got his start in politics managing his father’s campaigns, cannot seem to stop managing his own,” the New York Times writes. “Because he has not fully entrusted anyone else with managing the operation, the campaign has at times become trapped by the candidate’s overthinking, most noticeably in the critical days after Mr. Paladino’s upset victory in the Republican primary.”