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First thoughts: A tale of two candidates

Final Brown-Whitman debate takes place at 9:30 pm ET in San Rafael, CA… Moderated by NBC’s Tom Brokaw… In California’s other high-profile contest, Carly Fiorina makes what might be her final push as she releases two new TV ads… DCCC retreats on Driehaus… Obama hosts town hall (with Skype) at 7:00 pm ET… Joe Miller doesn’t want to talk about his background or personal life… Blumenthal and McMahon debate in Connecticut… Bill Clinton stumps for Harry Reid in Nevada… And Patty Murray up with a new TV ad hitting Dino Rossi on abortion and social issues.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
SAN RAFAEL, CA -- What has made California's gubernatorial race such a compelling contest is that the two candidates, Jerry Brown (D) and Meg Whitman (R), couldn't be more different. One represents the state's past (Brown), while the other says she represents its future (Whitman). One has held nearly every political office in the state (Brown); the other has admitted to having an “atrocious” record voting in elections (Whitman). One believes that politics should be geared toward empowering the powerless (Brown); the other says it should be about promoting business (Whitman). These contrasts will be on display here at tonight's final Brown-Whitman debate at 9:30 pm ET at Dominican University, which will be moderated by NBC's Tom Brokaw. And always, always, remember: As much as it pains your Floridian, Texan, and New Yorker authors, what happens in California impacts the rest of the country. Its trends always move east.

*** One thing they share: recent campaign troubles: Despite their contrasts, though, Brown and Whitman share this trait: They and their campaigns have done their best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. First, after Whitman talked tough against illegal immigration during the primaries, we discovered that she had employed an illegal immigrant housekeeper/nanny. And when her campaign argued that the housekeeper had lied about her immigration status without Whitman's knowledge, it turned out that the Social Security Administration had written Whitman about a discrepancy with the housekeeper's Social Security number -- and that Whitman's husband wrote on the letter, "Please check this." Then when it seemed that Brown was in the clear lead, according to recent polls, we found out that someone from his campaign (someone with a fairly high pitch voice, by the way) had referred to Whitman as a "whore," which doesn't help Brown with female voters. One gets the sense that there are more October surprises to come in this race…

*** Fiorina’s final push? In California’s other high-profile race, Carly Fiorina is going up with two new TV ads in what appears to be her final push to move the numbers in her contest against Sen. Barbara Boxer. One ad has voters complaining about Boxer’s support for the stimulus. Fiorina says in it, “We can make Washington work. Cut spending. Ban earmarks. But Washington won't change unless you vote to change the people we send there." The other ad hits Boxer for being in Washington for 28 years. "When bickering ends, solutions begin,” Fiorina says. “I'm prepared to oppose my party when it's wrong. We can change Washington. But first you have to vote to change the people we send there." Keep an eye on Fiorina's ad buy; it's big for now. Will national money follow suit? Meanwhile, Boxer’s camp announced that President Obama will campaign for her on Oct. 22.

*** Retreat and advance: As one of us reported yesterday, Ohio Rep. Steve Driehaus became the first incumbent House Democrat to see the national party (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) pull its financial support for TV ads. And Driehaus won't be the only Democrat who experiences this. There are a number of Dem-held House districts the DCCC will be making tough choices about in the next few days. The reason: If they want to pull BACK a buy they promised a specific TV station, there's no penalty if they do it in the next few days. It all depends on the market and the specific TV station's rules. In the case of the Cincy market in Driehaus' district, the DCCC had to make its final decision early yesterday, and that's how this news leaked out. Forget polling -- as we see Republicans expand their buys into once-safe Dem districts and we see Dems pull out of districts in which they trail, that tells you all you need to know about the House map.

*** Obama and Biden today: At 7:00 pm ET, Obama hosts a DNC-sponsored town hall at George Washington University in DC. Per the Huffington Post, “Obama will be answering queries via all types of media -- including Twitter, email and in-person questions from the audience… According to the source, he will also be asked ‘the first ever question a president has received from Skype,’ an online video-chat service. The question will be coming from a house party in Illinois.” Also today, Vice President Biden stumps for Rep. Leonard Boswell in Iowa and Gov. Pat Quinn in Illinois.

*** Refusing to meet the press: Earlier this month, Politico’s Martin wrote a piece, entitled “Year of the missing candidate,” about how candidates this election cycle -- many of them Tea Party-backed Republicans -- have gone out of their way to avoid both the national and local media. The latest example: Alaska’s Joe Miller. Per the AP, Miller said he will "no longer answer reporters' questions about his background and personal life, following what he called a leak of his personnel record from when he served as a government attorney. Miller offered no proof of this during a brief news conference in Anchorage, saying only that he'd learned over the weekend that members of the media had gained access to his confidential file from his work with the Fairbanks North Star Borough." The AP adds that Miller's vow not to answer questions about his background comes after the local press has uncovered that the candidate received federal farm subsidies and Medicaid benefits -- despite his campaign rhetoric against federal largesse.

*** More midterm news: In Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal and Linda McMahon engage in their third debate… In Nevada, Bill Clinton stumps for Harry Reid… And in Washington state, Patty Murray has a new TV ad hitting Dino Rossi on abortion and social issues.

Countdown to Election Day 2010: 21 days

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