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First Read’s Morning Clips

OFF TO THE RACES: Deadlocked

One of us(!) writes of our pre-election NBC/WSJ poll: "Republicans and Democrats are deadlocked heading into Election Day, with 46 percent of likely voters preferring a Republican-controlled Congress, and 45 percent wanting a Democratic-controlled one, according to the final national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll before the election. To put these numbers into perspective, Republicans held a six-point lead among nationwide likely voters (49 to 43 percent) right before the 2010 midterms, when the GOP picked up 63 House seats and six Senate seats."

And: Domestic issues are far more important to voters than issues like Ebola and ISIS, although the small minority who are highly animated by those issues are planning to vote Republican.

The latest numbers from Sunday in the key Senate races in Kentucky, Georgia and Louisiana, from one of us(!): "In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell leads Democrat Alison Grimes by nine points among likely voters, 50 percent to 41 percent. In Georgia, Republican David Perdue leads Democrat Michelle Nunn 48 percent to 44 percent. And while Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana leads in a three-way contest with 44 percent of the vote, she trails in a hypothetical runoff against either Republican candidate –Rep. Bill Cassidy or Tea Party candidate Rob Maness."

Here's Rand Paul, to one of us(!) over the weekend, speaking about voter ID laws. ""It doesn't mean that I think it's unreasonable, I just think it's a dumb idea for Republicans to emphasize this and say 'this is how we are going to win the elections."

NBC's Leigh Ann Caldwell takes a look back at the cycle's most memorable ads.

NBC's John O'Connor reports on ballot initiatives around the country -- from abortion to marijuana to the minimum wage.

The Wall Street Journal maps Facebook data to look at the most important issues in various parts of the country.

The New York Times sums up one of the possible outcomes for tomorrow night: "A Republican rout or a Democratic surprise in the overall results on Tuesday could mean that runoffs, if they happened, would make a difference only at the edges of the composition of the Senate. But if control of the Senate is not settled on Tuesday, strategists foresee a frenzy of third-party advertising and visits from high-profile surrogates and presidential contenders that would make a runoff look like Iowa during a presidential campaign."

And a nugget from over the weekend: "The National Republican Senatorial Committee held a conference call Friday with lawyers and aides to candidates in close races to discuss potential recounts. It will have a chartered jet waiting on Tuesday to fly wherever a contest is close enough to be disputed."

The Associated Press: "More people have voted early in at least 10 states than in 2010, and Republicans and Democrats alike say the numbers show they have the advantage in key Senate and gubernatorial races heading into Tuesday."

Ted Cruz won't pledge support for Mitch McConnell, writes the Washington Post.

OFF TO THE RACES: Running through the Senate races

ALASKA: The AP reports on Ted Cruz's visit for Dan Sullivan. (Mitt Romney will stump for him today.)

ARKANSAS: Bill Clinton made his third trip to his home state Sunday to stump for Democratic candidates there.

COLORADO: The Wall Street Journal: "With its pockets of immigrants and young families, this growing city outside Denver symbolizes the demographic winds that seemed to be pushing Colorado and similar states into the Democratic fold. That drift this year appears more tenuous, making Colorado a test case of voter sentiment in an important swing state. Recent fights over gun control, same-sex unions, immigration, marijuana, fracking and the death penalty have left some voters exhausted—and more skeptical of the Democrats who lead the state."

Gay marriage used to be an animating issue for Colorado Republicans, but now they're mostly shrugging it off, writes the Denver Post.

The Denver Post also notes national media coverage of Cory Gardner's relentlessly cheerful demeanor -- and adds that he's been known to have a slightly wider range of emotions.

IOWA: ICYMI: A tough poll for Bruce Braley the weekend before the election. The Des Moines Register showed Joni Ernst up 51 percent to Braley's 44 percent.

Ummmm... Buzzfeed: "Retiring Democratic Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin says that Iowa voters shouldn’t be fooled because Joni Ernst is “really attractive” and “sounds nice.” MORE: “In this Senate race, I’ve been watching some of these ads,” Harkin said at the Story County Democrats’ annual fall barbecue last week honoring the retiring senator. “And there’s sort of this sense that, ‘Well, I hear so much about Joni Ernst. She is really attractive, and she sounds nice ... Well I gotta to thinking about that. I don’t care if she’s as good looking as Taylor Swift or as nice as Mr. Rogers, but if she votes like Michele Bachmann, she’s wrong for the state of Iowa.”

KANSAS: Pat Roberts to Kelly O'Donnell in an exclusive interview, hitting Greg Orman: "his business of not choosing either party, walking down the middle of the aisle with a sign saying," 'I'm an Independent looking for good ideas" that sounds like a high school sophomore." Roberts also demanded that Orman apologize for referring to his surrogates (including Bob Dole) as participants in a "clown car."

What's different in Kansas this cycle? "Kansas voters are beginning to believe that Kansas finally matters in national politics for once," writes the Wichita Eagle.

The Kansas City Star: "On Thursday, the Roberts campaign posted a commercial with a videotaped endorsement from Kansas State University head football coach Bill Snyder. On Friday, K-State president Kirk Schulz told colleagues in an email he had received several inquiries about the commercial. He said the coach was unaware his videotaped comments were “going to be used in such a fashion and was apologetic for the resulting issues.” The email also said school officials had asked the Roberts campaign to suspend use of the ad."

KENTUCKY: From over the weekend: "Alison Lundergan Grimes' U.S. Senate campaign said it has filed suit in Franklin Circuit Court alleging that the Republican Party of Kentucky is trying to suppress voter turnout in Eastern Kentucky, where it sent official-looking mailers that say "Election Violation Notice" on the envelope, and is asking for a criminal investigation into voter intimidation."

NEW HAMPSHIRE: The final WMUR Granite State poll finds Shaheen barely leading Brown 46 percent to 43 percent.

NORTH CAROLINA: The AP notes how gay marriage could sway the outcome in the North Carolina Senate race. "The state House speaker endeared himself to social conservatives when he helped get on the ballot the constitutional referendum to prohibit gay marriage that was approved by May 2012 voters. Now he's refused to give up on the ban even when the state's attorney general stopped defending it. Tillis and his state Senate counterpart have hired an outside attorney at taxpayer expense for a long-shot fight to preserve the amendment."

Mecklenburg County early vote is up 39 percent, reports the Charlotte Observer.

SOUTH DAKOTA: Well, there's that. The Argus Leader: "Rick Weiland's campaign has featured heavy dose of music and Social Security and Medicare, and on Friday he combined those into a single event with Jon "Bowzer" Bauman of the 70s doo-wop group Sha Na Na."

OFF TO THE RACES: Running through the GOV races

Notes the Wall Street Journal: "As chairman of the group and a prominent campaign surrogate and fundraiser for Republicans this cycle, Mr. Christie has visited 37 states, many multiple times and some of them important presidential-primary states, all on the RGA’s dime. The group also has retained top political consultants who are close to Mr. Christie and paid more than $1.2 million to a New Jersey charter-plane operator that the governor prefers, according to the RGA’s financial filings."

CONNECTICUT: "Days before the polls open in an election that Thomas C. Foley, Mr. Malloy’s Republican challenger, has cast as a referendum on the incumbent, voters across the state are struggling to reconcile themselves to their downsized prospects. For public employees who once sought a raise, or storekeepers hoping for a bump in demand, merely getting by in a stalled economy evokes a mixture of gratitude and resentment," writes the New York Times.

FLORIDA: "With polls showing Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist in a virtual deadlock, both sides are making plans in case of a stalemate next week. Republicans and Democrats would mobilize armies of lawyers in a frantic search for ballots, triggering memories of the agonizing and chaotic five-week Florida recount that followed the 2000 presidential election," writes the Miami Herald.

OBAMA AGENDA: 71% support quarantines

Seventy-one percent of adults support mandatory quarantines for health workers who treated Ebola patients in West Africa, according to the new NBC/WSJ poll.

The New York Times reports that the armed security officer who was in an elevator with President Barack Obama in Atlanta was not actually a convicted felon. He has since lost his job. The man also disputes press reports of what happened that day.

The Washington Post: "The Obama administration’s Syria strategy suffered a major setback Sunday after fighters linked to al-Qaeda routed U.S.-backed rebels from their main northern strongholds, capturing significant quantities of weaponry, triggering widespread defections and ending hopes that Washington will readily find Syrian partners in its war against the Islamic State."

From the New York Times: "Iraqi security forces, backed by American-led air power and hundreds of advisers, are planning to mount a major spring offensive against Islamic State fighters who have poured into the country from Syria, a campaign that is likely to face an array of logistical and political challenges."

PROGRAMMING NOTES.

*** Monday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s Craig Melvin anchors from NY and interviews NBC’s Chuck Todd, Luke Russert, Jacob Rascon , Pete Williams, Cook Report’s Amy Walter, WaPo’s Dan Balz, USA Today’s Susan Page, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), Lee Miringoff, Bill McInturff and Peter Hart

*** Monday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall interviews Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), Fmr. PA Governor Ed Rendell, Salon.com’s Joan Walsh, and The Miami Herald’s political writer, Marc Caputo on the 2014 Midterms; plus, 10-time Grammy winner Carlos Santana on his new autobiography, “The Universal Tone."

*** Monday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Peter Alexander fills in for Andrea and will interview Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Fmr. Gov. Haley Barbour, NBC’s Tom Brokaw, Kelly O’Donnell, Pete Williams and Luke Russert, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Eugene Robinson and the New York Times’ Jackie Calmes.