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Campaign season doesn't really heat up until September ... which means now. That means all the scandals and ads and ups and downs you've heard and read about in the last several months were just stage-setters. Most voters really begin paying attention now.

It's looking like a tough year for Senate Democrats, almost of whom are polling below 50 percent. Several weeks ago, many Republicans -- including NRSC Chair John Cornyn -- thought Republicans wouldn't be able to retake the Senate. Today, it's a distinct possibility. There are a number of critical races, but you should really keep an eye on these 10.

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Here are two words you're going to hear a lot of in the next couple months: voter enthusiasm. Simply put, polls show Republican voters are super-extra-with-sugar-on-top excited to cast their protest votes against President Obama and his socialist cronies this November while Democrats are -- to put it mildly -- a lot less jazzed about casting a vote for the team currently in charge.

The split has come to define the polling of the cycle. Generic ballot polling of registered voters -- that is, everyone who could vote on election day -- has shown the electorate to be essentially split, with half favoring Democratic control of Congress and half welcoming the reign of Speaker Boehner. When likely voters (the group who theoretically will turn out in the end) are asked how they're going to vote, Republicans leap out to a big lead.

For example, in a recent NBC/WSJ poll, the parties were split at 43% support when all adults surveyed were asked who they'd rather see in control of Congress next year. But when likely voters were asked the same question, the GOP took a nine-point lead. Polling from other firms this year has shown a similar result.

"We have two ways of looking at the enthusiasm gap: measuring whether voters are very, somewhat, or not at all excited about voting this fall, and then a step beyond that looking at how they voted for President in 2008," Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen told me when I asked him to explain how screenings of likely voters work. "We're consistently finding that very excited voters are going strongly toward the GOP while somewhat and not at all excited voters are supporting Democrats."

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Anita MonCrief, a self-described whistleblower who previously worked for the community organizing group ACORN, told tea party activists in D.C. on Friday to get involved in their local elections to prevent progressive organizations from stealing the races through voter fraud.

Tea Party groups, as TPM has reported, have raised the issue of voter fraud ahead of the midterm elections, but most voting experts say such claims of voter fraud are inflated and can lead to policies which suppress the turnout of legitimate voters.

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The new survey of the Delaware Republican Senate primary by Public Policy Polling (D) gives insurgent conservative activist Christine O'Donnell a three-point edge over the Republican establishment's favorite, moderate Congressman Mike Castle.

The numbers: O'Donnell 47%, Castle 44%. The survey of likely primary voters has a ±3.8% margin of error. There is no prior PPP survey of this primary for direct comparison.

The primary will be held this Tuesday. It should be noted that the TPM Poll Average for the general election has Castle leading the presumptive Democratic nominee, New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, by a margin of 47.0%-37.1%. On the other hand, Coons leads O'Donnell in the average by 44.0%-37.5%.

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For the most part, the day was gray, wet and overcast. Though the threat was there, serious precipitation never came. That's not how the several thousand tea partiers gathered in DC for the second 9/12 rally today would describe things, though -- according to them, a hard rain fell on President Obama and his socialist cronies.

This was not the 9/12 rally of a year ago. The crowd was miniscule by comparison, with many tea partiers kept away from the nation's capital by competing 9/12 events in Sacramento and St. Louis, and many others not interested in shelling out for a return schlep to the city so soon after they packed the Lincoln Memorial for Glenn Beck's August 28 event.

Some tea partiers were upset at Beck for holding his own late summer tea party DC rally -- more than one told me they wished he hadn't held his overtly apolitical rally two weeks before 9/12, which is all about political organizing and getting set for November.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Tea Partiers Storm DC For Second (And Smaller) 9/12 Rally]

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1||September 12, 2010: Thousands of tea partiers gather in Washington D.C. for the FreedomWorks-backed 9/12 rally. The crowd is much smaller than it was in 2009 -- which some tea partiers blamed on the lousy weather and Glenn Beck's show-stealing August 28 rally in DC. ||Newscom/Zuma Press&&

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As we await the start of the speaking portion of today's tea party program here in DC, the 9/12 crowd has swelled from the small group gathered at the Washington Monument this morning. But even with the addition of new tea partiers, the crowd remains significantly smaller than all the other nationally-promoted, FreedomWorks-backed DC events I can remember.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Scenes from the 2009 9/12 rally]

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Boehner: I'll Drop Tax Cut for Rich If I Have To Appearing on Face The Nation, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) indicated that a compromise on renewal of the Bush tax cuts -- to renew only the tax cuts for those making under $250,000, and allow the tax cuts for higher-incomes to expire -- could be possible. "I want to do something for all Americans who pay taxes," Boehner said. "If the only option I have is to vote for some of those tax reductions, I'll vote for it. But I've been making the point now for months that we need to extend all the current rates for all Americans if we want to get our economy going again, and we want to get jobs in America."

Goolsbee: U.S. Can't Afford Tax Cuts for High-End Earners Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee indicated the Obama administration's strong position against renewing the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000 per year. "The president strongly believes that ... after a decade of astounding squeeze on the middle class that was followed by the worst recession in our lifetime ... you cannot afford to raise taxes on the middle class. We should make that permanent," Goolsbee said. But he also added: "What we cannot afford to do is pass 700 billion additional dollars of tax cuts for the millionaires and billionaires at a time when we are just going to borrow that money."

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Maybe the tea party movement has had enough of DC's endless subway delays. An hour and a half in to FreedomWorks' second day-after-9/11 megarally, 9/12/10 is no 9/12/09. The thousands of angry Americans who packed Washington during the House vote on health care reform, who poured into town on Tax Day, and who came by the busload to heed Glenn Beck's call on August 28 just haven't materialized today.

The crowd is downright tiny by comparison to those past events. Sure, there are several thousand people here. But it's nowhere near the size of last year's 9/12 crowd. If FreedomWorks wanted a repeat of last year's traffic-halting protest, so far it looks like they've failed.

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For the umpteenth time this year, swarms of tea partiers will descend on the nation's capital to rail against the Democrats who they say have set this nation on a path that ends with a hammer and/or sickle. Yes, it's 9/12, one of the biggest holidays of the year for the tea party movement -- maybe even the most sacred day on the tea party calendar, second, arguably, only to Tax Day, April 15.

Follow my live coverage of the event throughout the day here.

Today, thousands of angry conservatives will march from the Washington Monument to the front lawn of the Capitol where they'll be fired up by plenty of rhetorical lighter fluid from a conservative speaker corps including Andrew Breitbart, Dick Armey and Erick Erickson. Much like they did the last several times they headed to DC, the speakers are expected to declare the rally the end of the line for Democrats.

Thousands of the conservative faithful in DC? Big speeches from the most irascible public figures on the right? I know what you're thinking -- didn't we just see this movie two weeks ago? The answer is yes...and no. Glenn Beck's August 28 "Restoring Honor" rally at the Lincoln Memorial was the Fox News star's sequel to last year's 9/12 rally (you know, that one that basically every American alive attended, according to Beck) and featured some of the same audience who attended last year's 9/12 event.

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