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Deja Vu: Could These Midterms Be a Rerun of 2006? Or 2002?

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There are two ways to look at all of the close races across the country. The way Republicans see the upcoming elections is as 2006 all over again -- with close Senate race after close Senate race breaking one way, sweeping the minority into power. Remember back then: Jim Webb in Virginia, Jon Tester in Montana, and Claire McCaskill in Missouri all narrowly won. And as our friends at the Cook Political Report point out, close races TYPICALLY go in one direction. But Democrats are hoping for a different kind of outcome -- 2002, when the close races broke pretty evenly that cycle. Here is what we do know: The campaigns and political parties are pretty evenly matched in money and mechanics. Yes, there are some bad candidates this cycle. And, yes, there are a couple of campaigns focused on questionable messages. But when it comes to running campaigns, both sides are performing as well as they could be. And here’s one more thing to chew on: It’s very possible that Republicans could win a net of six (or more) Senate seats, and not have a single GOP candidate get more than 52% of the vote. Folks, the races are thisclose. It now just comes down to how they break.

One big difference between 2006 and 2014

The opposition party is going to see some of its governors go down to defeat: That said, Republicans’ argument that this is 2006 all over again is probably the smart bet heading into Election Day. But here is one flaw with that view -- look at the gubernatorial races. In 2006, one of the few GOP candidates who survived during that Democratic wave was Charlie Crist in Florida’s gubernatorial contest. But this time around, it’s possible that several Republican governors could go down to defeat, suggesting that the overall political mood is more anti-incumbent (for either party) rather than anti-Obama or anti-Democrat. And leading the charge here, strikingly, is Crist, who’s now running as a Democrat. In Florida, a new Quinnipiac poll shows that Crist has inched ahead of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, 43%-40% after the two men were tied at 42% each a week ago. In Maine, independent Eliot Cutler says he’s still running but has signaled to voters that they should vote for someone else if they conclude he can’t win. That wasn’t good news for incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage, and Cutler’s statement spurred Sen. Angus King (I) to switch his endorsement from Cutler to Democrat Mike Michaud. And in Pennsylvania, it’s pretty clear that incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is going to lose.

Marquette poll shows Scott Walker ahead

But if some of the GOP governors are going to lose this cycle, Republicans got some very good news with the latest Marquette poll, which showed GOP Gov. Scott Walker ahead of Democratic challenger Mary Burke by seven points among likely voters, 50%-43%. Those numbers, however, had some folks scratching their heads, because all the body language in that race -- especially coming from Scott Walker’s corner -- suggests a much closer race. The Marquette survey has been the gold standard in Wisconsin races, and it’s possible they’re nailing yet another race. Or is the contest much closer than this? We’ll soon find out.

Chuck’s final stop: Louisiana

Chuck Todd’s two-week bus tour across the country makes its final stop today in Louisiana, which features the Senate contest between incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and top GOP challenger Bill Cassidy. There are three sets of numbers for Landrieu to meet (or exceed) in order to win this race: First, the African-American percentage of the electorate has to be 30% or higher. Second, Landrieu needs to win 31% or more of the white vote. And third, she needs to be at 46% or higher in the Nov. 4 “jungle primary” to have a good chance at winning the Dec. 6 runoff. If she’s in the low 40s, a path to victory looks much less likely. And don’t miss Chuck’s takeaways from his stop yesterday in Arkansas.

Other midterm polls to watch

In North Carolina, an Elon poll shows Democrat Kay Hagan leading Republican Thom Tillis by four points, 45%-41%... And in Michigan, an EPIC-MRA poll has Democrat Gary Peters with a 15-point lead over Republican Terri Lynn Land, 50%-35%.

Christie: “Sit down and shut up!”

There are two professions where you must deftly handle hecklers to succeed at your job -- comedians and politicians. And yesterday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie bombed when a protestor heckled him for not finishing the job rebuilding New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. “I’d be more than happy to have a debate with you anytime you like, guy, because somebody like you who doesn’t know a damn thing about what you’re talking about except to stand up and show off when the cameras are here,” Christie responded. “I’ve been here when the cameras aren’t here, buddy, and done the work.” After the heckler continued to talk over Christie, the governor said, “You want to have the conversation later? I’m happy to have it, buddy. But until that time, sit down and shut up!” It was this kind of combative style that first thrust Christie into the national spotlight, and it endeared him to conservatives and Tea Party types who believed he was channeling their anger. But after Bridge-gate, after his state’s credit downgrades, and after his clash with that nurse, Christie might be alone in thinking that act is still working. It looks like a tired act, and it’s hard to see how it plays in Iowa -- especially if rival camps know how to push Christie’s button.

Jeb takes a shot at Hillary and talks 2016

Campaigning in Colorado yesterday, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush singled out Hillary Clinton for criticism. "The former secretary of state who was campaigning in Massachusetts, where she said, ‘Don't let them tell you that businesses create jobs,’ Bush told the crowd, per MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt. “The problem with America today is that not enough jobs are being created. They are created by businesses, where people's incomes rise, where they can live a life of purpose and meaning independent of government. That should be the mission.” (Clinton has said she misspoke and that she was talking about “trickle-down economics.”) Hunt also asked Bush about his son’s suggestion that it was likely he might run in 2016. "He's got an opinion, he didn't talk to me,” Bush replied. “When you have kids, you'll probably have the same frustration: You love them to death, and they have their own opinions -- but I'll make up my mind just as I've said at the end of the year."

Countdown to Election Day: 5 days

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