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Indie Rock: Third Party Candidates Shake Up 2014 Landscape

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First, it was Democrats in Alaska uniting around independent Bill Walker, who is challenging incumbent Republican Gov. Sean Parnell. Then it was the Democratic Senate nominee in Kansas, Chad Taylor, dropping his bid to make way for indie Greg Orman in Kansas. And now we have a third example of Democrats possibly working with independents to take down a Republican favorite in a red state: On Wednesday, we learned that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is going to spend $1 million in South Dakota targeting GOP nominee Mike Rounds, the state’s former governor. And they’re hoping that the negative attacks boost either Democratic nominee Rick Weiland (whom the DSCC hadn’t bothered to help this cycle) or independent Larry Pressler (the former Republican senator who previously endorsed Barack Obama). Indeed, a recent robo-poll (which doesn't meet NBC's methodological standards) showed the three-way Rounds-vs.-Weiland-vs.-Pressler race to be very competitive. The South Dakota Senate seat is currently held by retiring Sen. Tim Johnson (D), and Democrats winning it -- or convincing a victorious Pressler to caucus with them -- would mean Republicans would have to win AN ADDITIONAL seat to win control of the Senate. We’ve been talking about independents rocking the 2014 landscape for some time. And now we have three clear examples in Alaska, Kansas, and South Dakota.

October surprises

There’s a reason why the political world always talks about October surprises: A month out before the election, we typically see a surprise development (like Democrats now spending money in South Dakota) or a surprise poll (like the two surveys yesterday showing Sen. Pat Roberts ahead in Kansas, when the previous polling showed him trailing). And here’s yet another friendly reminder from your First Read authors: Between now and Election Day, you’re going to see A LOT of divergent poll numbers. And the reason why is that not all likely voter models are created the same, even among good pollsters. We’re seeing more money being spent on turnout than ever before in a midterm cycle, but we’re also seeing American voters more turned off from the midterms than before. Those two things make polling more unpredictable. No one is confident who will be showing up to vote.

Limits of the U.S. air campaign against ISIS

The U.S. air campaign against ISIS in Syria has been going on for about three weeks, and we’re seeing the limits of the air campaign. NBC News: “ISIS militants control more than a third of the besieged Syrian border town of Kobani, a monitoring group said Thursday, despite U.S.-led airstrikes in the area aimed at supporting Kurds who are fighting to save the city. ‘ISIS control … all eastern areas, a small part of the north east and an area in the south east,’ head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdulrahman, told Reuters.”

White House gets good news on budget deficit, economy

While the Obama White House has been dealing with a host of rough headlines over the past few months -- on ISIS, Ebola, Ukraine, and the list goes on -- it’s important to highlight some good news it received yesterday. The Congressional Budget Office said the federal government ran an estimated $486 billion deficit in Fiscal Year 2014, the smallest deficit since 2008. What’s more, that deficit relative to the size of the economy (2.8% of GDP) is lower than the historical average over the past 40 years. As budget expert Stan Collender writes, “The tea party is going to have to find something else to complain about. One of its basic reasons for living -- the federal budget deficit -- is really, truly and absolutely falling…rapidly.” When you combine that falling deficit with the unemployment rate now at 5.9% and with another 248,000 jobs created last month, it’s notable that the two biggest issues from the 2012 presidential campaign (the economy and deficit) are in better shape than at any time in Obama’s presidency. The irony, of course, is that Obama’s political standing is now at its lowest point.

What happens in Cartagena doesn’t always stay in Cartagena

Of course, the good-news stories don’t last for long. “The White House dismissed as old news a report Wednesday night that it knew about but failed to thoroughly investigate evidence that a prostitute may have been an overnight guest in the hotel room of a member of President Barack Obama's advance team in Colombia in 2012. The Washington Post cited numerous government documents that it said showed that senior White House aides were given extensive details of a Secret Service investigation into the incident, which it never publicly acknowledged,” per NBC News.

Colorado and 2016

Turning back to the midterm races, Bloomberg’s Josh Green notes -- as we have in the past -- how Colorado’s Senate race could be the most fascinating in the country, because of what it may portend for 2016. “Colorado’s Senate race has become a presidential campaign in miniature, with two strong candidates who are both career politicians facing off over mainly national issues, as billionaires on the left (Steyer) and the right (the Koch brothers) saturate the airwaves with tens of millions of dollars’ worth of attack ads. Politically, Colorado is a slightly ­exaggerated version of America. Because the state makes it so easy to place initiatives on the ballot, it’s a testing ground for highly charged national issues.” But maybe most importantly, we’re looking to see if Republicans can break the Democrats’ 10-year stranglehold on the state. If Republicans can’t win Colorado in THIS year and in THIS environment, it’s hard to see them winning Colorado’s nine electoral votes in 2016.

Is Charlie Crist now the front-runner in Florida?

Florida political reporter Adam Smith writes that Democrat Charlie Crist may very well be the front-runner in the state’s uber-competitive gubernatorial contest. “For most of the past year, my gut has told me that Rick Scott would likely win a second term and that there was a reasonable likelihood it wouldn't even be close... Now I'm thinking Crist may have become the clear frontrunner. I have just seen an internal poll of likely voters in Florida House 36, the west Pasco County district currently represented by Democrat Amanda Murphy and formerly represented by Republican Mike Fasano. District 36, loaded with working class Floridians and retirees may be the single best bellwether state House district in Florida. Barack Obama narrowly won it in 2008 and 2012, and Rick Scott narrowly won it in 2010. The telephone poll was taken Monday and Tuesday by the Democratic firm SEA Polling & Strategic Design (which nailed it on Murphy's special election win in 2013) and found 45 percent planning to vote for Crist, 37 percent for Scott, and 14 percent for Libertarian Adrian Wyllie. In August, the firm showed Scott leading by five points, with 43 percent support to 38 percent for Crist and 10 percent for Wyllie.”

First Read’s Race of the Day: NY-19: Gibson vs. Eldridge

This race has already been producing national headlines because of the famous challenger in this Catskills-area district. Eying the seat early in 2013, venture capitalist Sean Eldridge moved to a $2 million home in the district with his husband Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder who walked away from the company with half a billion dollars. A Democrat who’s been active in the gay marriage movement, Eldridge is challenging Republican Chris Gibson, who’s kept his job in this Obama-leaning district in part by his bipartisan work and his credentials as an Iraq war veteran. Eldridge will have plenty of cash to compete in this pricey area, but he’ll have to fight perceptions that he’s an overly ambitious rich outsider.

Countdown to Election Day: 26 days

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