TPM News

The two men vying to replace Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) squared off in a televised debate tonight that centered around which of them was the more extreme. Pat Toomey, the Republican nominee, tried to paint Democrat Joe Sestak as representing the extreme liberal edge of the Democratic Party, negatively associating him with teachers unions and what he called Democrats who are "not friends" of Israel.

Sestak, a retired admiral and current member of Congress, fought back by positioning Toomey with personalities like Sarah Palin and Delaware Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell. He also took every possible opportunity, it seemed, to place President Bush's name as close to Toomey's as possible.

Toomey is the former president of the ultra-conservative Club For Growth and a former Republican member of Congress. He held firm on his belief in school vouchers, decreased regulation and at least the partial privatization of Social Security.

Toomey also got Palin's endorsement today, perhaps reaffirmig his conservative bona fides with his base, but also leaving him open to Sestak's attacks that he's too far to the right for Pennsylvania's swinging electorate. (Toomey declined to say whether he thinks Palin is qualified to be president.)

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Republican Rand Paul has a slim lead over Democrat Jack Conway in the latest public poll to come out of the Kentucky Senate race. Conducted by respected pollster Mason-Dixon, the poll shows Paul leading the race 48-43.

This is the first Mason-Dixon poll of the Kentucky Senate race. The survey of likely voters was conducted Monday and Tuesday, at the high point of Conway's Aqua Buddha kerfuffle, produced when the Democrat ran an ad calling out Paul for alleged shenanigans while he was an undergraduate at Baylor University.

Other recent polling has shown Paul ahead as well, but has also shown Conway with the momentum heading into the final days of the campaign. The TPM Poll Average shows Paul ahead 47.1-42.6.

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Republican Linda McMahon has a new ad in the Connecticut Senate race to replace Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, who is retiring and has had to deal with a mortgage scandal involving Countrywide. So her new salvo to attack Dem state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is...Chris Dodd's mortgage?

In fact, the new one-minute ad ties Blumenthal to Dodd and Countrywide, for a settlement that Blumenthal worked out with Countrywide that this ad charges was so lenient that it was itself corrupt.

"It was the mortgage scandal that devastated our economy, created by greed and corruption at the highest levels. We know about Chris Dodd and his sweetheart deal with Countrywide. But did you know about Dick Blumenthal? Blumenthal cut a deal with Countrywide that let the mortgage giant off the hook for billions. A deal that raided the retirement funds of teachers, firemen, policemen and state employees. Blumenthal protected Countrywide, said the deal was 'in the best interest of investors.' That it wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime. But it did. Even worse, turns out Blumenthal is an investor in the mortgage giant. Billions in ransacked pensions, billions in taxpayer bailouts. Dick Blumenthal, he took care of Countrywide -- and took care of himself, just like Chris Dodd."

The TPM Poll Average gives Blumenthal a lead of 51.5%-43.6%.

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A new ad funded by the group of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who is supporting Joe Miller in the Alaska Senate race, attacks Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for her stance on abortion. "There are three Senate candidates. But only one choice to defend the unborn. Republican Joe Miller is pro-life," the ad says.

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True the Vote, the Tea Party affiliated organization that was founded explicitly to combat what they say is the widespread issue of voter fraud, posted a message on their website on Wednesday responding to allegations that poll watchers intimidated voters.

"Claims by partisan operatives and bloggers with an agenda that voter intimidation was conducted by True the Vote are false and libelous, and they should be retracted immediately," said the statement. "True the Vote has never, and will never, condone or promote voter intimidation at a polling place."

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Kentucky's Republican nominee for Senate, Rand Paul, isn't the only Paul upset over Democrat Jack Conway's notorious Aqua Buddha ad.

"I am truly shocked by Conway's ads questioning Rand's faith based on nothing more than anonymous accusations from nearly three decades ago," Kelley Paul told reporters today, according to a report from CNN's Peter Hamby.

Paul said that she and her husband have "attended a Presbyterian Church in Bowling Green for nearly two decades" and are both "devoted Christians."

She claimed that Conway's ad was an attack on her family, one she appeared to find reprehensible.

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The new CNN/Time poll of the Alaska Senate race shows a tied race between Republican nominee Joe Miller and incumbent GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is running a well-organized write-in campaign after she narrowly lost the Republican primary to the Tea Party challenger.

The numbers: Miller 37%, Murkowski 37%, and Democratic nominee Scott McAdams 23%. The survey of likely voters has a ±3% margin of error. In the previous survey from late September, Miller had 38%, Murkowski 36%, and McAdams 22%.

A caveat: This poll appears to list Murkowski's write-in bid as a choice for voters to pick. Some other pollsters have listed only Miller and McAdams while accepting Murkowski as a voluntary answer, as Murkowski's name is not on the ballot. It is not clear which approach is better for polling this unique election, but it seems important to know about.

The TPM Poll Average gives Murkowski 36.7%, Miller 36%, and McAdams 25.5%.

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Turns out that Rand Paul -- who has been incensed over Jack Conway's suggestion that Paul's college hijinks are relevant to the Kentucky Senate race -- was very recently the candidate making attack ads aimed at the decisions another man made in his college years.

Back in the hotly contested Republican primary, which pitted Paul against establishment pick Trey Grayson, Paul had a field day making an issue out of Grayson's college-age support for Bill Clinton. Grayson, the current Kentucky Secretary of State, told a group of students in 2008 that when he cast his first presidential ballot in 1992, at age 20, he cast it for Bill Clinton. Most other Kentuckians did, too -- Clinton won the state that year, and did it again four years later.

Grayson said he became a Republican later, "when he realized he agreed more often with the GOP on issues."

As our Eric Kleefeld reported back in February, Paul had a field day with the story, fielding a TV ad calling Grayson and Clinton "dangerous allies" and highlighting the fact that Grayson "admitted to voting for draft-dodger Bill Clinton."

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