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First thoughts: Once, twice, three times ... a change election

Are we headed for a third-straight change election?... If Republicans pick up just 20 seats, it’ll be just the fourth time since WWI when either of the parties have gained 20 or more seats in three-consecutive cycles… The other times this has occurred: After WWI, during the Great Depression, and during and after WWII… Tomorrow’s midterm topic: What the committees and GOP leadership would look like if Republicans win control of the House… Is McCain crossing the line in his political attacks?... Biden channels the anger… The Tea Party’s very bad day… Do Republicans begin targeting McAdams in Alaska?... Previewing today’s debates and NH-1… And Kasich leads Strickland by 10 points.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Once, twice, three times … a change election: There has been plenty of discussion about this midterm season and history -- whether it’s our write-up yesterday about how a president’s party almost always loses seat in a midterm cycle, or all the comparisons with 1982, 1994, and 2006. But here’s the biggest history we’ll likely see on Election Day: We’re headed for a third-straight change election. In 2006, Democrats won control of Congress. In 2008, Democrats won the White House. And in 2010, Republicans appear poised to take back control of Congress. To put this into perspective, consider that only THREE times since World War I have either the Democrats or Republicans won 20 or more House seats in three-consecutive cycles: after World I (1920, 1922, 1924), during the Great Depression (1928, 1930, 1932), and during and after World War II (1942, 1944, 1946, 1948, 1950, 1952).

*** Making sense of the political volatility: But it hasn’t happened since, until now. If Republicans gain at least 20 House seats -- and that’s viewed as the floor of what is supposed to take place on Nov. 2 -- it would be the FOURTH time since World War I that either Democrats or Republicans will have picked up 20 or more House seats in three-consecutive cycles. In fact, our current times appear to have much in common with those other periods -- economic downturn, war and its aftermath, and political/social unrest (Red Scare, labor strife, McCarthyism). When you step back and look at our current times through this prism, the volatility in our politics makes sense. We are living in a period (high unemployment, war, social/political unrest) that many of us have never experienced before, and that our country has only experienced four times in the last 100 years. Right after WWI, we were transitioning from an agricultural economy to an industrial one. After WWII, we were a country moving away from city/farm live to suburban life as well. So the change was more than just frustration at the economy, or at Washington, or at some foreign enemy.

*** Tomorrow’s midterm topic: The GOP leadership and committee chairmen, if Republicans take back the House.

*** McCain on the attack -- and crossing the line? Here’s a legitimate question to ask: How is the tone in Washington going to change when someone like John McCain -- remember the Gang of 14? -- is being more aggressive than he's ever been before when it comes to attacking fellow senators and colleagues on the campaign trail? First, while stumping for Carly Fiorina (R) over the weekend, he accused Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) of waving “the white flag of surrender.” "Sen. Boxer is the most bitterly partisan, most anti-defense senator in the United States Senate today," he said. "And I know that because I've had the unpleasant experience of having served with her." More: "Barbara Boxer wants to waive the white flag of surrender and endanger this nation's national security. It's time she went back to San Francisco with Nancy Pelosi." Now, per Politico, McCain is airing TV ads -- along with fellow Arizona GOP Jon Kyl -- attacking Arizona Democratic Reps. Gabrielle Giffords and Raul Grijalva.

*** “I’m the same person”: While Republicans attacking Democrats -- and Democrats attacking Republicans -- is hardly news, it is surprising that a sitting senator would be so aggressive in attacking another sitting senator that he might have to work with after Nov. 2. And considering McCain's past as a bipartisan lawmaker, it's really surprising. Then again, McCain's become more rhetorically partisan than he's ever been in his career. In an interview with ABC, McCain justified his attack on Boxer. "[Working with Boxer] has been an unpleasant experience because Barbara Boxer personalizes the political discourse that we have and that's why she's had so very little effect of any kind in the political process," he said. "There is no Republican that will work with her." And McCain added this about the Obama administration, "This is the most partisan administration that I have ever seen ... and I came to the congress in 1983." He also said: "I consider myself a person who stands up for what they believe in. When I was against President Bush on a number of issues I was called a maverick. When I was against President Obama, then I'm called a partisan. What I was trying to say -- I'm the same person."

*** Biden channels the anger: Has anyone else noticed that Vice President Biden channels the public’s anger much better than President Obama does? Here was Biden campaigning in Pennsylvania yesterday. Per the pool report, he noted how the public was angry. "I know they're angry," he said. "They have a right to be angry." There’s more campaigning for Biden today, as he serves as an opening act before Obama’s trip out West later this week. Biden stumps for Patty Murray in Vancouver, WA and later attends an event for Boxer in San Francisco. Meanwhile, at 1:00 pm ET at the White House, President Obama signs the Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans Executive Order.

*** The Tea Party’s very bad day: The folks over at the National Republican Senatorial Committee must have been drinking their fair share of Maalox yesterday due to revelations about some of their high-profile Tea Party candidates. First came Ken Buck comparing homosexuality to alcoholism in his debate on “Meet the Press,” opening the door to the culture wars – and not the economy – being front and center in that contest. Next was the news that security for Joe Miller had put a working journalist in handcuffs. And finally, video surfaced of Sharron Angle telling Hispanic students. “I don’t know that all of you are Latino. Some of you look a little more Asian to me.” She then added, “I’ve been called the first Asian legislator in our Nevada State Assembly." (What?) Make no mistake, if the House flips but the Senate doesn’t -- which would be the first time that’s EVER happened -- it will be because the GOP’s Tea Party candidates in Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, and Nevada lost.

*** Do Republicans begin targeting McAdams? Speaking of Miller in Alaska, at what point do Republicans begin directing their fire at Scott McAdams (D), to help either Miller or Lisa Murkowski (R-ite-in) win? Miller's getting close to being in free-fall if some private polling is to be believed. And while the national Republicans have to be careful not to anger Palin publicly and also come out and endorse Murkowski, about the best way they could assist may be in going after McAdams. Of course, Alaska is a cheap state and, Democrats might decide to play as well. It's going to be a wild ending in Alaska. And here's the best part: We may not know the winner for three weeks, because state law doesn't count the write-ins until it's been determined there are enough write-ins to alter the outcome. #headache

*** Today’s debates: In Delaware’s Senate race, Chris Coons and Christine O’Donnell participate in a radio debate; in Florida’s Senate contest, it’s Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist vs. Kendrick Meek; in Georgia’s gubernatorial contest, it’s Nathan Deal vs. Roy Barnes; in Illinois’ Senate race, it’s Alexi Giannoulias vs. Mark Kirk; and in South Carolina’s GOV race, it’s Nikki Haley vs. Vincent Shaheen.

*** 75 House races to watch: NH-1: The Democratic candidate is two-term incumbent Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, and her GOP challenger is Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta. In 2008, Obama won 53% in this district – which includes the city of Manchester – while Bush captured 51% in ’04. As of Sept. 30, Shea-Porter had nearly $600,000 in the bank, versus Guinta’s nearly $300,000. Shea Porter voted for the stimulus, cap-and-trade, and health care. Both Cook and Rothenberg rate the race as Toss Up.

*** More midterm news: In Ohio’s key gubernatorial contest, a new Quinnipiac poll shows John Kasich (R) with a 51%-41% lead among likely voters over Gov. Ted Strickland (D).

Countdown to Election Day 2010: 14 days

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