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Breaking election controversies: A guide

Pollsters predict a Republican rout in tomorrow's election, while candidates steel themselves for the last hours of campaigning. Here's a rundown of the latest flareups

With candidates in hundreds of races across the country furiously trading final shots in the run-up to Election Day, it can be a challenge to keep a handle on all the action. Here's a regularly updated rundown of some of the most fun and notable pre-election controversies:

Monday, November 1

VIDEO: Lee Fisher is on like LeBron
The story
: The Democrat senate candidate for Ohio has spoofed LeBron James' commercial for Nike, in which he asks the viewer, "What should I do?" In the video, Fisher asks the same question, continuing: "Should I tell you how much I care about Ohio?" The celebrated basketball player left the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this year to play for the Miami Heat, a move which provoked much ire in the Buckeye state.
The reaction: "This will certainly play well to the people," says Royce Young at CBS Sports. "Well done, Lee Fisher. Your pandering to the emotions of jilted Cavalier fans could very well work." Uh, not likely, says Kurt Helin at NBC Sports, given he's 22 points behind his Republican rival in the polls. "I know next to nothing about his politics or his opponents, but I know there are no 22-point shots." Watch the video here, then take a look at The Week's round-up of pop culture-influenced political ads:

UPDATE: The numbers behind the midterm elections
As much as $4 billion will have been spent on the 2010 elections by the time the polls close tomorrow, according to a Washington research group, a record amount for a midterm election. Republicans just about have the edge on donations, but the largest outside spender is a liberal-leaning labor union. For a look at how the numbers break down, see The Week's take on the most expensive midterm election in history.

UPDATE: Republicans poised to 'massacre' Democrats tomorrow
The story: A new Gallup poll gives the Republicans a "substantial lead" over the Democrats. Between 52 and 55 percent of likely voters prefer the Republican candidate, while 40 to 42 percent skew Democrat. Among likely voters, the GOP has an unprecedented 15 percentage-point lead. In Gallup's view, a Republican majority in the House is "highly probable," with the "question of interest... not whether the GOP will win the majority, but by how much."
The reaction: "Game over," says Dave Weigel at Slate. Even a last-minute get-out-the-vote push can't help Dems now. This is just one poll, says Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight, in a year that "pollsters are having an awfully difficult time getting a handle on." And these polls will mean nothing if conservatives don't vote, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. The Republican party could receive "a real mandate to return to a limited government approach at the federal level" tomorrow. But only if their base turns up.
For related coverage on The Week, see: "The House: How badly will the Dems lose?"

OPINION: The four House races to watch on Tuesday
Democrats may be widely predicted to lose control of Congress on Tuesday, but a handful of House seats will determine if it's merely a bad night for the Democrats — or a catastrophe. Close races in Indiana, Virginia, Florida, and New York could make all the difference. Read The Week's round-up of too-close-to-call House races here.

Friday, October 29

VIDEO Louisiana senate race gets dirty
The story: As campaigning draws to a close, yet another nasty attack ad has emerged — this time from the Louisiana senate race. Democrat Charlie Melancon's TV ad accuses Republican incumbent David Vitter of spending taxpayers' money on prostitutes. "Our tax dollars pay David Vitter's salary, and he used it for prostitutes," says the ad. "You're welcome Senator." Vitter admitted to a dalliance with a Washington, D.C. escort in 2007. Melancon kept up the attacks on his opponent's "serious sin" during last night's debate.
The reaction: Melancon seems to have no other weapon with which to attack Vitter, says Jason Linkins at The Huffington Post. "Basically this senate race has become a referendum on whether Louisiana residents approve of whoring or not." It has not been a successful tactic, says Carl J. Kelm at The Wall Street Journal, given that Melancon "lags in most polls by double digits." Luckily for Vitter, voters are "more interested in electing whoever will oppose the Obama agenda" than in the senator's sins. Watch the video here:

OPINION The four races that could decide the Senate majority
Election Day is just a handful of days away, but some races are still too close to call. If Republicans hope to gain control of the Senate, they'll need to win the four most unpredictable races in the election — in Illinois, Colorado, Nevada, and Alaska. Read The Week's round-up of opinion on these too-close-to-call battles.

UPDATE Did Bill Clinton ask Kendrick Meek to drop out of Florida race?
The story:
According to a report from Politico's Ben Smith, the former president tried to persuade Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek to withdraw from the Florida Senate race last week to give a boost to independent candidate Charlie Crist. Without third-place Meek in the race, former governor Crist might stand a chance against Republican candidate Marco Rubio, who is way ahead in the polls. Meek has denied allegations that he considered dropping out. It later emerged that Crist may have asked Clinton to talk to Meek. (Read The Week's guide to the Florida Senate race)
The reaction:
This kind of backroom dealing helps only Rubio, says Kyle O. Peterson at the National Review. Just days before the election, "Meek looks an unsteady choice, while Crist looks slimy and driven to win at all costs." Whatever the truth, the story has planted "door-closing doubts about Meek in the minds of the state's Democratic voters," says Jay Newton-Small at Time. Whether that's enough to help Crist remains to be seen.

Thursday, October 28

VIDEO Democrats release "scary" anti-Rand Paul "stomping" ad
Kentucky Democrats have produced an anti-Rand Paul ad featuring the controversial stomping incident caught on video earlier this week. "Rand Paul," the ad's text goes. "Stomping on you. Stomping on Kentucky." The "scary" commercial, in support of Jack Conway's candidacy, can apparently only be shown after 10 p.m. because of its violent content. This "latest reminder of how crazy this campaign season has been" is better than many of Conway's attack ads, says Ray Rahman at Mediaite. At least this one tries to focus on the issues. But it's unlikely to have an effect on the race, says Jeremy P. Jacobs at the National Journal. Conway is too far behind in the polls for this "hail mary" to make a difference. Watch the video here:

UPDATE Obama responds to "Shove It" Democrat Frank Caprio
The story: The president has responded to the Democrat who angrily told him to "shove it" earlier this week. Rhode Island gubernatorial candidate Frank Caprio was angry at Obama for not endorsing him in his race, and attacked him during a radio interview. Today, Obama said Caprio's outburst was "not a big deal." He told American Urban Radio that Caprio made his comment "off the cuff," before adding, "in politics you don't worry about people saying stuff about you." Caprio's comments haven't gone down well with likely voters. An NBC poll found he has slipped 12 points during this month. 
The reaction: Caprio's poll slump is no surprise, says Edward Fitzpatrick at the Providence Journal. While he "had a right to be angry," telling the president to "shove it" is "not the kind of quote that gets you mentioned as a great statesman." And it's fed into a narrative about the hot-headed candidate, adds Felicia Sonmez at the Washington Post. His opponents have tried to persuade voters Caprio lacks the "character and temperament to be governor." It looks like he's done their work for them. 

VIDEO Jerry Brown ad spoofs Dos Equis commercial
This newly-released ad for the California gubernatorial candidate riffs on the Dos Equis commercials featuring "The Most Interesting Man in the World" — and seems unafraid to bestow the same superlative on Brown. California's Democratic Party must be very confident in Brown's chances, says Christopher Weber at Politics Daily, "judging from the levity of the material with only six days until the election." Brown is currently leading opponent Meg Whitman by 47 points to 40. (Watch Brown's ad, along with 7 other political ads spoofing pop culture, here)

UPDATE Alaska GOP candidate Joe Miller slips to third place

The story: Despite being endorsed by Sarah Palin, the Tea Party-backed GOP candidate for Alaska's Senate seat is suffering in the polls. A "jaw-dropping" 60 percent of Alaskans feel "very negative" about Miller as a candidate, reports Jeanne Devon at The Huffington Post, and he has slipped behind both write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Scott McAdams in the race for senator. (Read The Week's guide to the Alaska senate race)
The reaction: A stream of bad news about Joe Miller is behind his lapse in the polls, says Ivan Moore at the Anchorage Press. It recently emerged that he lied about misusing computers while a government lawyer and has been "sucking the teat" of various federal programs. But it's worth noting that Hays Research, the pollster who came up with these figures, has gotten things wrong before, says Jim Geraghty at the National Review. Miller's numbers may have taken a hit, but I doubt "his circumstances are as dire as the Hays poll suggests."

UPDATE Independents could seal Harry Reid's fate, says poll
The story: The Senate majority leader could lose his Nevada seat to Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle, according to a new poll. The Republican challenger has a 15-point lead among independent voters, giving her a 2-point lead overall against Reid. The Time/CNN/Opinion Research poll also gave Kentucky GOP senate candidate Rand Paul the edge over Democrat rival Jack Conway.
The reaction: We may not win a majority in the Senate, says conservative blogger Sister Toldjah, but we could still topple its majority leader. What a "major feather in the respective caps of both conservatives and the GOP" that would be. This is all because "our side won't turn out," complains the liberal Daily Kos site. If the GOP does "win huge," it won't be because the country has turned conservative, "but because Democrats stayed home."
Wednesday, October 27

UPDATE Connecticut voters can wear WWE clothing, says judge

The story: Voters in Connecticut will be able to wear their World Wrestling Entertainment clothing to the polling booth, after a federal judge ruled that it did not constitute political advertising. Linda McMahon, the sports empire's former chief executive, is the Republican party's Senate candidate for the Nutmeg State, and election officials had warned that voters clad in WWE garb might be guilty of political hucksterism.
The reaction: What a ridiculous spat, says Kevin Eck at the Baltimore Sun. Not only are there no WWE T-shirts that bear Linda McMahon's likeness, no-one would assume someone wearing a "John Cena cap or an Undertaker T-shirt" is a McMahon supporter. This petty controversy is just "politics as usual." It's certainly "not the most earthshaking judicial decision of the 2010 mid-term elections," agrees Frank James at NPR.

FLASH Rand Paul 'stomper' asks victim for apology
The Rand Paul supporter who stomped on the head of a protestor outside the Kentucky Senate debate has attempted to explain his actions on local TV — and demanded an apology from his victim. Watch the video, along with reactions from Washington Monthly's Steve Benen and blogger Ann Althouse, here.

UPDATE Shock news? Democrats spending more on campaigns
The story: Democratic candidates have outraised their Republican opponents by over 30 percent in 109 key House races, reports The New York Times. Despite the controversy over outside spending, often by anonymous Republican donors, it is the Democrats who have "wielded a significant head-to-head financial advantage" over the GOP.
(Read The Week's roundup of opinion on outside spending)
The reaction: Finally, says James Joyner at Outside the Beltway, the "much ballyhooed" outside spending on GOP candidates has been put in proper context — it's making up for a "major deficit in campaign level spending." But outside spending "is still worth focusing on," says Jesse Zwick at the Washington Independent. Not only is it a "new phenomenon," but it "almost invariably" favors Republican candidates. In an election year when the GOP controls Congress and can expect greater campaign funds, such outside spending may make a huge difference.

OPINION Obama's post-election gameplan: 5 suggestions
What will the president do if the widely-expected Republican landslide comes to fruition? Stick to his guns, accept the blame, or start building bridges with the GOP? Pundits from the Christian Science Monitor, Time, Townhall, and more weigh in at The Week's latest opinion roundup.

VIDEO Joy Behar vs. Sharron Angle
"The View" host calls the Nevada senate candidate a "bitch" and says she is "going to hell." Watch the video, and read what commenters from Salon, Right Pundits, and The Washington Examiner have to say about Behar's outburst.


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