In Closing Ads, Candidates Address D.C. Polarization Head On

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We’ve noticed a theme to some of the closing arguments Senate candidates are making in the final days before the election: They’re trying to talk to voters exhausted by polarization and partisanship -- even if these same candidates have contributed to it. Here’s Republican Tom Cotton, who’s the favorite to win Arkansas’ Senate contest: "If you like Washington today, I'm probably not your candidate,” he says in a new TV ad. “But if you're ready to make things right, I'm ready to serve." (You might find it striking that a current member of Congress is saying this.) Here’s Democrat Bruce Braley, who’s trying to come from behind in Iowa’s Senate race: "We need to build bridges and get results, and stop letting the extremists from either party get in the way," he says in his new TV ad. (Again, Braley is a current member of Congress.) And here’s Democrat Michelle Nunn, who’s running in Georgia’s jump-ball Senate race: "We need to recognize that America is better than our Congress right now, and we need to take some of that spirit that I see here in Georgia, and infuse that into problem solving in Washington," she says in her ad. As we’ve written before, America’s increased polarization might be the biggest political story heading into Election Day. And so these candidates are trying to address it -- head on.

What Tuesday’s electorate PROBABLY will look like

Two of the biggest questions heading into Election Day are: “What will the electorate look like?” And: “How will these voters break?” Well, our weekly NBC/WSJ/Annenberg polls have collected merged data from interviews with 6,346 likely voters from Sept. 2 through Oct. 29, and here’s a pretty good clue from this 6,000-plus sample:

  • Overall congressional preference: GOP 49%, Dem 44%
  • Men: GOP 54%-40%
  • Women: Dem 49%-43%
  • Whites: GOP 56%-37%
  • African American: Dem 88%-7%
  • Latinos: Dem 57%-37%
  • 18-29: Dem 51%-42%
  • 30-44: Dem 50%-43%
  • 45-64: GOP 50%-43%
  • 65+: GOP 53%-40%

What is striking about these numbers is how similar they are to the 2010 exit poll, so make of that what you will. Also, these 6,000-plus interviews are a reminder to the political community to never make TOO MUCH of one single poll -- like a survey saying that Republicans are slightly leading among a small sample of “definite” young voters. The other polls and aggregates don’t back that up.

Heads up: Four new NBC polls coming out on Sunday

On Sunday morning, we’re releasing FOUR final polls before Election Day -- NBC/Marist polls of Georgia, Kentucky, and Louisiana, plus results from a national NBC/WSJ poll. So get ready for another Sunday poll-palooza.

On Mary Landrieu and her comment about race in the South

Speaking of Louisiana, that was Chuck Todd’s final stop on his two-week bus tour through the United States. And in his interview with Sen. Mary Landrieu, she explained why President Obama’s standing is so low in her state. And that explanation stirred up a controversy. “One of the reasons that the president's so unpopular is because he put the moratorium on off-shore drilling, remember?” Landrieu added, “I'll be very, very honest with you: The South has not always been the friendliest place for African Americans. It's been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader. It's not always been a good place for women to present ourselves. It's more of a conservative place, so we've had to work a little bit harder on that, but you know, the people trust me, I believe. Really they do. Trust me to do the right thing for the state.” Two quick comments here: One, anyone who is upset at what Landrieu said -- “The South has not always been the friendliest place for African Americans” -- probably isn’t voting for her in the first place. And two, the controversy over her remarks is yet another reminder about how the political world (candidates, strategists, journalists) don’t do a good job in handling the race conversation. We either immediately go into our political corners, or just decide to ignore the subject.

On Bobby Jindal’s unpopularity in Louisiana

Here’s another observation from Chuck’s stop in Louisiana: Man, Bobby Jindal isn’t popular with voters, either Democrats or Republicans in the state. The chief criticism we heard that everything Jindal does (with Common Core being the biggest example) is geared for the national stage and a possible presidential bid, and not for Louisiana. …

Why some GOP candidates are leading and why others aren’t

National Review's Jim Geraghty takes a stab on what separates the GOP’s leading candidates (like Cory Gardner and Joni Ernst) from those who are trailing (like Scott Brown and Terri Lynn Land): "The shortest explanation is that the GOP Senate candidates who are doing best are just plain good candidates: good life experiences and resumes, good on the stump, good on television, good in debates, good at the little stops shaking hands and meeting people, and (mostly) good in interviews." Maybe the main reason why the national environment isn’t lifting all GOP boats is because of the GOP’s lack of a unifying message what they’d do in Washington. We all know what Republicans candidates are against -- President Barack Obama. We just don’t know what they’re for. And that’s why, if there is a GOP wave, it’s not going to lift up all Republicans, even those in competitive battleground states.

Scott Brown steps in it

In his final debate against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), GOP challenger Scott Brown seemed to underscore one of his chief vulnerabilities in his race -- his knowledge of New Hampshire (given that he was Massachusetts’ senator just two years ago). Here’s the Wall Street Journal: “The exchange occurred when [panelist] James Pindell asked Mr. Brown to address economic issues in Sullivan County, located in western New Hampshire."

BROWN: “Geography plays a role along the southern border. We have more jobs, we have more opportunity infrastructure and other opportunities up north are difficult. One of the biggest opportunities is tourism, one of the biggest opportunities are ski areas and trails for snowmobiles. I support those efforts… The biggest wet blanket on the economy in that area is Obamacare…”

PINDELL: “We’re talking about Sullivan County and I think you were talking about the North Country. So what do you see as going well in Sullivan County or not?”

BROWN: “I’m talking about any place past Concord, actually, and the challenges of our state. So I’m referring to the challenges, including the high corporate tax rate, Obamacare coming in after the election. We also have the challenges of high electric costs.

PINDELL: Sullivan County is actually west of Concord, not north of Concord.

Or did he, really?

So it was one of those candidate errors that reinforces a negative narrative? Well not so fast. Pindell later said that Brown’s answer was partially right. “We were talking about the location of Sullivan County. I said that Sullivan County is west of Concord, not north of Concord. The truth is – it’s both. So on this point, Scott Brown was right, I was wrong, and I apologize to Scott Brown and both campaigns.” Bottom line: The exchange doesn’t make Brown look good, but it’s also not the campaign-killer that it once seemed to be. Still, Shaheen today heads to campaign in, you guessed it, Sullivan County.

Countdown to Election Day: 4 days

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