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First thoughts: The Corrections

History lesson: A president’s party almost always loses House and Senate seats in a midterm season… But all signs point to this NOT being your average midterm correction… Tomorrow’s midterm topic: Are we headed for a third-straight change election?... It’s fingernail biting time -- for both Democrats and Republicans… Another busy campaign week for Obama… The AFL-CIO makes its case… Joe Miller security guards arrest Alaska reporter… Buck compares homosexuality to alcoholism on “Meet”… Questions of decency and “Aqua Buddha” in Kentucky… Profiling MA-10… And Cuomo up 35 points in NYT poll.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** The Corrections: Two weeks before Election Day, we begin rolling out our primer on the midterms (hint: pieces of our network Election Book that we’ll publish on msnbc.com). Today’s topic: how a president’s party almost always loses House and Senate seats in a midterm election. In a way, midterms serve as a midcourse correction of sorts to the previous presidential contest, especially a president’s first midterm cycle. Political observers sometimes forget this fact since Republicans -- due largely to 9/11 and its aftermath -- actually gained seats in George W. Bush’s first midterm. Here are the numbers: Since World War II, a president’s party has lost, on average, nearly 25 House seats and four Senate seats in a midterm cycle. The numbers are essentially the same in a president’s FIRST midterm, 25.5 House seats and 2.5 Senate seats. (However, the average is lower -- nearly 20 House seats and slightly more than one Senate seat -- if you don’t count Truman’s and Ford’s first midterms in 1946 and 1974 because they had assumed office instead of being elected to it.)

*** But not your average correction: That said, all signs are pointing to this NOT being an average midterm cycle for President Obama’s party. Our current Voter Confidence Index stands at -41. To put that into perspective, the VCI was -35 in 1982, when Ronald Reagan’s party lost 26 House seats; it was -30 in 1994, when Democrats lost 54 House seats; and it was -65 in 2006, when Republicans lost 30 House seats. Right now, both the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political are projecting Republicans to pick up 40 to 50 House seats. They need to net 39 to take control of the chamber. By the way, what’s really making that 40-50 prediction seem more likely by the day: the fact that more Democratic seats are moving into the “battleground.” We’re up to more than 100 Democratic seats in play now (what we count as in play are incumbents we think will poll under 60% on election day or even 55%).

*** Ch-ch-changes: Tomorrow’s midterm topic: Are we heading for a third-straight change election? If so, this is truly historic, something most of us have NEVER experienced.

*** Fingernail biting time: With two weeks to go, you get the sense that both Democrats (at least the White House) and Republicans want to get this election over with -- right now. For Democrats, President Obama was hoarse while campaigning in Ohio last night, and you can bet Dems want to end this midterm storyline ASAP and simply move on to the “how will Republicans govern?” narrative that they believe they’ll win and the “what’s the White House going to do now?” story. On the other hand, Republicans probably wish Election Day was today, because they’re unsure if some of their candidates -- Joe Miller (whose security guards detained an Alaska reporter), Ken Buck (who compared homosexuality with alcoholism on “Meet the Press”), Rand Paul (who refused to shake opponent Jack Conway’s hand after Conway question his religion), and Florida House candidate Allen West (who NBC’s Lisa Myers reported has ties to an outlaw motorcycle gang, which West denies) -- can survive another two weeks. Both sides are biting their fingernails right now…

*** Obama’s busy campaign week: On the heels of his event last night in Ohio, which was attended by an estimated 35,000, Obama embarks on another busy campaign week. On Wednesday, he heads to Portland to stump for Oregon gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber (D). On Thursday, he travels to Seattle to attend a rally for Sen. Patty Murray (D). On Friday, he hits Los Angeles (for Barbara Boxer) and Las Vegas (for Harry Reid). And on Saturday, he campaigns in Minneapolis for gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton (D). That’s a busy four days for the president. Today’s agenda: At noon ET, Obama delivers remarks at the White House science fair. And in the evening, he headlines a fundraising dinner for the DSCC.

*** AFL makes its case: The AFL-CIO has released a memo to reporters that puts its influence squarely on the line in its efforts to mobilize union voters. For starters, it identifies the competitive House districts (HI-1, IL-14, NY-24, NV-3, OH-13, PA-3, PA-12, PA-11) and Senate contests (CA, IL, NV, PA, WV, WI) with large union populations. And then it argues that its outreach program is working. “For example, in Pennsylvania on Labor Day, Sestak had a slim 45% to 39% lead among union members. Since then, Sestak’s lead has ballooned to 29 points (55% to 26%), a major reason Sestak trails Toomey by a single point in the most recent polls. And Pennsylvania is not the exception. Over the last month we have seen similar margins reached for Senators Reid, Boxer, Murray, Feingold and for Giannoulias’s campaign.”

*** Observe and Report: We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: If some Tea Party candidates don’t like interacting with the media, they aren’t going to enjoy working in the House or Senate, which are full of congressional reporters. The Anchorage Daily News reports that an Alaska reporter/editor/blogger “was arrested by U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller's private security guards Sunday as the editor attempted to interview Miller at the end of a public event in an Anchorage school. Tony Hopfinger was handcuffed by the guards and detained in a hallway at Central Middle School until Anchorage police came and told the guards to release Hopfinger.” In a statement, Miller accused the blogger of assault and trying to “create a publicity stunt.” Lisa Murkowski weighed in with her own statement: “This behavior is particularly disturbing, especially for someone who claims to be a ‘constitutional conservative.’ Apparently Joe Miller has forgotten both the 1st and 4th Amendments to the United States Constitution.” To us, this is just more evidence that Murkowski and Scott McAdams (D) have real shots at winning this race. It’s Miller’s second unforced error in as many weeks.

*** Elevating the culture wars in Colorado: As we said above, Republicans have to be sweating that their candidates don’t make major mistakes between now and Election Night. Here’s a potential problem for Colorado Senate candidate Ken Buck (R), who has been leading Sen. Michael Bennet (D) in most polls. The Denver Post: “Buck suddenly elevated the culture wars from minor player to center stage in the Senate race … when he compared homosexuality to alcoholism in a nationally televised debate. Appearing with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in a 27-minute showdown on Meet the Press, Buck responded to a question from host David Gregory by saying that he believed homosexuality was a choice but had limited biological influences ‘like alcoholism and some other things.’ Buck said after the debate that he ‘wasn't talking about being gay as a disease’ but also said of his remark that ‘there's no doubt there will probably be a commercial on something like that’ from Democrats.” One thing that’s benefited Tea Party candidates and the movement is that they’ve stayed away from the social issues. Particularly, out West, the libertarian streak has been helpful to the Tea Party. Buck has to be careful not to undermine the libertarianism he’s been tapping into...

*** Questions of decency and Aqua Buddha: And it’s getting personal in Kentucky. "A debate filled with unabashed personal attacks concluded Sunday night with Republican Rand Paul briskly brushing past Democrat Jack Conway, refusing to shake the hand of an opponent who raised questions about his religious beliefs," the Lexington Herald-Leader notes. "'Jack, have you no decency? Have you no shame?' Paul asked Conway during the fourth of five scheduled debates between Kentucky’s U.S. Senate candidates." More: Paul’s initial comments in the debate focused on a Conway TV ad that began airing over the weekend that says Paul was in a secret brotherhood while in college at Baylor University that mocked Christianity. It also alleged that he tied up a woman while in college and forced her to bow down to a god named ‘Aqua Buddha.’” It was an interesting decision by Conway to, well, go there. Nobody is condoning the alleged behavior of Paul in college, but voters usually don’t reward candidates who decide to go after their candidates’ youth. It didn’t work against Dubya, Clinton or Obama.

*** 75 House races to watch: MA-10: Norfolk District Attorney William Keating is the Democratic nominee in the race to replace retiring Rep. Bill Delahunt (D). Keating’s GOP opponent is state Rep. Jeffrey Perry. In 2008, Obama won 55% in this district – which includes Cape Cod – and Kerry won 56% in 2004. As of Aug. 25, Keating had more than $360,000 in the bank, while Perry had $128,000. Both Cook and Rothenberg rate the contest as Lean Democratic.

*** More midterm news: In New York, a New York Times poll has Andrew Cuomo (D) leading Carl Paladino by 35 points among likely voters (59%-24%).

Countdown to Election Day 2010: 15 days

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