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First Thoughts: Where's the buzz?

Where’s the buzz surrounding the possible 2012 Republicans?... Politico says Hillaryland has its eyes on 2016, not 2012… Obama speaks at rally for O’Malley at 3:15 pm ET… While we all focus on the DE and AK Senate races, don’t forget about CO, IL, PA, WV, and WI… GOP outside money groups have an 8-to-1 spending advantage… “Hicky, blue-collar look”?... About last night’s Crist-Meek-Rubio debate… Profiling VA-2… And Blumenthal and McMahon square off in another debate.

*** Where’s the buzz? President Obama today hits another rally (for Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley), after recently drawing 26,000 in Wisconsin. But looking ahead to 2012, we’ve heard some Republicans ask: If the GOP’s ’12 nominee was out there, wouldn’t that person already have a considerable following? After all, conservatives and Republicans right now are displaying unprecedented enthusiasm, energy, and engagement about the coming midterm elections. That’s largely why Republicans are poised to make big gains next month. But given this GOP excitement, it’s striking that -- outside of Sarah Palin (and she could be more exciting to the media than to the base) -- none of it has rubbed off the potential ’12 Republicans.

*** Comparing '06 with now: In 2006, due to his rock-star status campaigning for other Democrats, political observers could already sense that Obama would be a BIG deal if he ran for president. Ditto Hillary Clinton, whose march to Senate re-election was attracting plenty of buzz. Right now, the only Republican outside of Palin who’s even approaching the same buzz that Obama and Clinton received in ’06 is someone who has said he won’t run: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. There are A LOT of 2012 GOPers traveling the country (Romney, Pawlenty, Huckabee, Santorum, etc), and none is even close to getting real buzz in the base of the party right now.

*** Speaking of buzz about 2012 (and also 2016): Thanks to Drudge and cable TV’s need to feed the beast, we’re not sure the Hillary-Biden “Trading Places” story is really going to go away, despite strong denials by the White House and Clinton. Indeed, Politico yesterday noted that Hillaryland’s true target isn’t VP in 2012 but rather president in 2016. “Not happening,” one of her 2008 campaign’s topmost figures said about Clinton becoming VP in ‘12. “Stay tuned for 2016.” More: “Many in Clinton’s broader circle assume that she is positioning herself with an eye toward that 2016 bid – not that they claim to have first-hand knowledge of it. ‘Once you run for president you always want to be president,” James Carville … told POLITICO when he was asked about Hillary Clinton’s prospects. “My assumption is that once you’ve run you’re going to run again.” Of course, the whole story was written on the premise of making an assumption about her ambition. Those closest to Hillary acknowledge folks AROUND Clinton are more interested in seeing her run again than the prospective candidate herself. In fact, she's actually starting to get into a groove in her current job and starting to enjoy more this year than she did last year.

*** How quickly we forget 1994: The Politico article also made this point: “The renewed buzz around Clinton's prospects, though, has been driven by the political weaknesses of Obama and Biden. Fanned by a media eager for conflict and fascinated by all things Clinton, the spark for the notion of Clinton's return to politics comes from her original argument against Obama. Clinton made the case in the Democratic primaries that Obama would be unable to win among working-class white Democratic voters. The Democrats head into the midterms profoundly weak among some of those same white voters - though Obama's biggest problem remains with Republicans, and pollsters argue that their real problem is a lackluster Democratic base.” Yet here’s our question: If Bill Clinton couldn’t avoid what happened in ’94, then do we think Hillary as president would be any stronger than Obama is right now, especially with unemployment at 10%? Classic grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side analysis.

*** Obama’s day: As mentioned above, President Obama delivers remarks at 3:15 pm ET at a rally for Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley at Bowie State University, a historically black college. Then, in the early evening, he flies to Chicago to speak at a fundraiser for Alexi Giannoulias at 7:00 pm ET.

*** Don’t you … forget about me: While the political and news world fixates on the Senate contests in Delaware (because of Christine O’Donnell) and Alaska (because of Todd Palin’s nasty-gram email to Joe Miller), we want to remind folks that there are MUCH more competitive and consequential Senate races out there. Some examples: Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. In fact, these are, perhaps, the five CLOSEST Senate races in the country, and they rank near the bottom in coverage. Hmmm

*** GOP outside group’s 8-to-1 spending advantage: On Tuesday, we wrote about how GOP-leaning outside groups were blowing away Dem outside groups in TV ad spending. Here are some fresh numbers a source sent us: From August until now, GOP groups have spent nearly $41 million in key Senate seats, including $8.8 million by American Crossroads and $14 million by Crossroads GPS. By comparison, Dem groups have spent just $5.5 million in these states. That’s an 8-to-1 advantage for the GOP. Wow…

*** The ‘hicky’ blue-collar look? Remember that recent tough TV ad the National Republican Senatorial Committee is running against Joe Manchin in West Virginia? The ad features three men -- wearing flannel and baseball caps -- having a conversation about how "Obama's messin' things up" and how Manchin “does whatever Obama wants.” Well, it turns out those weren’t West Virginians. Rather, they were actors shooting the ad from Philadelphia, and they weren’t just actors, Politico reports. “‘We are going for a “Hicky” Blue Collar look,’ read the casting call for the ad, being aired by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. ‘These characters are from West Virginia so think coal miner/trucker looks.’” All of a sudden, Manchin now has three things to hit GOP opponent John Raese with: 1) that Raese’s wife is a resident of another state; 2) Raese’s position on the minimum wage; and 3) this casting call that doesn’t necessarily portray West Virginia in a positive light.

*** About last night: Here's the Miami Herald's take on last night's Crist-Meek-Rubio debate in Florida: "Marco Rubio got the front-runner treatment in a combative U.S. Senate debate Wednesday night, with both his rivals attacking him as a right-wing extremist out of step with Florida voters.” Here's the St. Pete Times: "The surprise of the night was Meek, the Democrat trailing in the polls, money and enthusiasm. Meek was strong throughout the hour, landing some of the best lines." Here’s ABC: “[I]n the end, neither Gov. Charlie Crist (I) nor Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) was able to knock frontrunner Marco Rubio (R) off his game.” And here is the take from NBC's Adam Verdugo, who was there: It was clear that both Crist and Meek had Rubio in their sights. Rubio is the clear frontrunner in the polls and just before the debate, Rubio’s campaign announced a record haul of $5 million in the last quarter, the largest from a Senate candidate this quarter.

*** 75 House races to watch: VA-2: The Democratic nominee is first-term incumbent Glenn Nye, and his GOP opponent is businessman Scott Rigell. In 2008, Obama won 51% in this district -- representing Virginia Beach -- while Bush won 58% in ’04. As of June 30, Nye had nearly $1.3 million in the bank, versus Rigell’s $227,000. Nye voted against the stimulus, cap-and-trade, and health care. Cook rates the contest as Toss Up, while Rothenberg has it Lean Republican.

*** More midterm news: In Colorado, Campaign Money Watch, a nonpartisan campaign finance reform watchdog group, is up with a big ad buy against Ken Buck… In Connecticut, Dick Blumenthal and Linda McMahon square off in another debate today.

Countdown to Election Day 2010: 26 days

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