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It’s been rough last few days for Democrats in the public and private polls out there, with the exception of Georgia. They’re behind in Iowa (though within the margin of error), which has become a must-win state to retain Senate control. The best Democrats can say about Colorado is that their own polling has them tied when it once had them ahead, while a new Quinnipiac poll shows them trailing the contest by six points. And this (mostly) bad news has come when the public’s and media’s attention has been fixed squarely on the Ebola news coming out of Dallas. Now we can’t say that the intense Ebola focus is HURTING Democratic candidates -- we haven’t seen data or evidence to back that up. But we can safely say that the focus isn’t HELPING them. As the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza writes, Ebola has definitely become the October surprise of the 2014 campaign. “Ebola -- with its sky-high mortality rate and lack of a vaccine -- dovetails perfectly with [other] existing fears and anxieties. And the stumbles -- or, at a minimum, perceived stumbles -- by the CDC and Texas health officials in recent days only adds to them.” And here’s the thing: Republicans seem to be a lot more comfortable campaigning against President Obama and Democrats when there’s fear out there.

The panic doesn’t match the crisis

But here is something else we need to say about the Ebola story: The level of panic doesn’t match the crisis, at least not yet. So far in the United States, one man (from Liberia) has died, and two nurses have been infected from caring for him. And at this rate, it’s possible another health-care worker (or two or three) might get infected, too. But compare this with the thousands who have died from the disease in West Africa, plus the thousands who die from the flu and car accidents each year. Also understand that we know HOW these nurses got infected; after all, health-care workers appear to be those at the biggest risk. This isn’t to say that all the missteps (by the Dallas hospital, CDC, Obama administration) aren’t newsworthy. They are. This also isn’t to say that Ebola isn’t a horrible disease that presents real health-care challenges across the globe. But the panic out there -- in the United States -- doesn’t match the crisis. Indeed, you take a public health concern, add it to a political campaign season and our new media landscape -- and watch out.

Mitch McConnell’s disqualifying moment

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler is the latest to take Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to task for saying that he wants to repeal the federal health-care law -- but that he has no problem with Kentucky’s successful Kynect exchange. Bottom line: You can’t have it both ways, given that it was the federal health-care law that created these exchanges. “If he wants to rip out Obamacare ‘root and branch,’ then he has to explain what he would plant in the health-insurance garden instead. Otherwise his assurances on the future have little credibility,” Kessler writes. If you wanted another example of how Republicans likely won’t be able to deliver on their promise to repeal the four-year-old health-care law, it’s this. And if Senate Republicans really do want to repeal health care if they win control of the Senate, then McConnell has disqualified himself to be their majority leader to do it, as National Journal’s Ron Fournier contends. You can’t say you want to repeal the whole thing, but that Kynect is “fine.” Yes, conservative health-care experts like Avik Roy argue that Kynect could still technically exist if the federal health-care law were repealed. But it would no longer have the federal tax credits and Medicaid expansion to make the exchange work as it does now.

Last night’s FAN-tastic debate in Florida

What is it about debates in the race for Florida governor? Four years ago when debating opponent Rick Scott, Democrat Alex Sink checked a message from a campaign adviser during a commercial break -- which was a rules violation and turned into a national story. Ultimately, it was a defining moment in that race that Sink lost and Scott won. Now fast forward to last night’s FAN-tastic debate between Scott and challenger Charlie Crist, which produced another defining moment -- one that isn’t good news for the incumbent Scott. The Tampa Bay sets the stage for one of the craziest things to happen at a debate. “In the weirdest start of a gubernatorial debate, Florida Gov. Rick Scott initially refused to take the stage Wednesday night because Democrat Charlie Crist insisted on using a fan to keep him cool. The Republican governor finally emerged at least six minutes late as flummoxed moderators struggled on live TV to figure out what to do with a bemused Crist standing solo on stage at Broward College… The sharp elbows started almost as soon as Scott walked out, looking rattled. Scott went on offense quickly, but some of his supporters privately fretted that the fan incident could be a defining and damaging moment for the incumbent in the final stretch of a close race.” No one with a bottomless checkbook is ever a sure bet to lose. But, boy, Rick Scott didn’t help himself last night.

Roberts, Orman clash over abortion

Speaking of debates, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) continued his effort to cast opponent Greg Orman (I) as a liberal Obama supporter in their faceoff last night. And the top clash centered on abortion. The Topeka Capital-Journal: “Greg Orman said the decades-long national discussion over abortion has kept attention from other pressing issues, an answer Sen. Pat Roberts called ‘unconscionable’ during an emotionally charged moment in a contentious debate Wednesday night. ‘I think we spend a whole lot of time in this country talking about this issue, and we have spent a whole lot of time over the last couple of decades talking about it and I think it prevents us from talking about other important issues,’ said Orman, an independent. In response to a follow-up question, Orman said he is pro-choice. Abortion is settled law, Orman also said, adding that it is still an ‘important question.’ Roberts, a Republican, disputed that it is settled law. ‘Get past the rights of the unborn? Get past the guarantee of life for those at the end of life? I don’t think we can say that with any degree of conscience,’ Roberts said.”

Countdown to Election Day: 19 days

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