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A new ad from the National Republican Congressional Committee, attacking Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), shows the challenge that the GOP faces in trying to dislodge some of the big senior House Democrats that they've targeted in this seemingly Republican year. Even in an ad calling for Skelton's defeat, they still praise his service in office.

"Ike Skelton -- over three decades in office, he's made us proud," the announcer says. At this point, you might think it's an ad for Skelton. But then the knife gets twisted.

"But now our country faces new and urgent problems. Massive spending, Pelosi's stimulus, mounting debt, job-killing energy taxes -- and Ike Skelton voted for them all. Ike voted with Pelosi 94% of the time. After 33 years in office, maybe it's time for Ike Skelton to come back home."

Will this ad be effective? Or will too many viewers just hear the "he's made us proud" at the beginning, and tune out the rest?

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A new Rasmussen survey of the Washington Senate race finds Democratic incumbent Sen. Patty Murray leading Republican nominee Dino Rossi 49%-46%.

When Rasmussen last took a look at the race on October 6, Rossi was on top 49%-46%. Since the Republican enjoyed a lead in four straight polls from September 27-October 9 (conducted by right-leaning pollster Fabrizio, Rasmussen twice, and Fox News), the incumbent Democrat has found herself atop five straight polls.

The TPM Poll Average finds Murray with a 49.5%-45.9% advantage in the race. The latest poll's margin of error is ±4.0 percentage points.

For more on the race, check out TPMDC's full coverage here.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has a new attack ad against Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), the fiery liberal who is being challenged by top-tier GOP recruit Dan Webster. And while this ad seeks to obviously turn voters against Grayson, it might especially alarm a particular sub-group of the electorate: People with clown-phobias.

The ad goes after Grayson's rabble-rousing image by having a person dressed up in clown makeup and a business suit, possibly meant to be a stand-in for Grayson. (From a distance, you can't tell if the clown actor is a man or a woman -- but the whole scene sure is creepy.) The ad also goes after the recent news over Grayson's "Taliban Dan" ad, which led to attacks that Grayson was selectively quoting Webster out of context.

"You've seen the headlines. Freshman Congressman Alan Grayson is a national embarrassment," the announcer says, as the clown comes into view. "But it's not just Grayson's behavior that's out of line -- it's his votes. Grayson backed a government takeover of health care. Grayson wanted a more radical takeover than the plan Congress passed. Grayson pushed a national energy tax that would cripple Florida's economy. We can't let Alan Grayson embarrass Florida anymore."

An interesting part of the ad, of course, is that the news quote about Grayson's anti-Webster spot being "one of the worst ads I've ever seen, one of the most dishonest," was cited to Sean Hannity -- who as we all know, is a paragon of honesty and virtue when it comes to using quotes from those he opposes.

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While New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino remains in the national spotlight for his controversial comments, polls suggest his chances of actually being elected are slim to none.

A newly released New York Times poll of the contest finds Democratic state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo leading the Republican by 35 points, 59%-24%. This is the first poll conducted by The Times on the race, so there are no numbers for direct comparison. The contest's last survey prior to today's was an October 13 SurveyUSA poll that had Paladino trailing 59%-33%.

The TPM Poll Average shows Cuomo on top, 54.8%-36.8%. The margin of error for the latest survey is ±3.0 percentage points.

For more on the race, check out TPMDC's full coverage here.

The Republican National Lawyers Association hosted a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference this year which featured John Fund, a conservative Wall Street Journal columnist who focuses on voter fraud allegations, and Anita MonCrief, the ACORN "whistleblower," who was actually reportedly fired by the organization over the misuse of a company credit card.

Cleta Mitchell, the co-chair of the RNLA, introduced the February panel, titled "Saving Freedom From Vote Fraud," but, she said, "We might have entitled it saving freedom from those who would steal it whose name is ACORN."

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This poll is either a total outlier -- or a sure sign that voters of all stripes aren't big on dynastic candidates this year. The new survey from Daily Kos/Public Policy Polling (D) shows Ben Quayle, the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, trailing Democrat Jon Hulburd in the race to succeed GOP Rep. John Shadegg in a deep-red Arizona House seat.

The numbers: Hulburd 46%, Quayle 44%. The survey of likely voters has a ±3.8% margin of error. There is no prior PPP survey of this race for direct comparison.

Kos writes: "Yeah, that was a real WTF moment for us in this open seat being vacated by conservative icon John Shadegg. Completely unexpected. Sure, the idiot son of the idiot former vice president is a bit of a joke, but this is a solidly conservative district, one in which McCain won 57-42."

Quayle the Younger is of course known for two things: His early contributions to a raunchy Web site about the nightlife in Scottsdale, and his memorable ad during the GOP primary declaring, "Barack Obama is the worst president in history," "I was raised right," and also: "Somebody has to go to Washington and knock the hell out of the place."

An unusual back and forth between a photographer and a House candidate Thursday culminated in the following exchange.

"It's a free country isn't it?" the cameraman asked.

"It sure is," replied Sean Bielat, who's running against Rep. Barney Frank (D) in Massachusetts' 4th Congressional district. "At least if we can get the Congress back."

"Quit the jokes, dude, you're no[t] funny at all," the photographer responded.

The cameraman in question? James Ready, perhaps better known as Frank's partner. And the whole exchange was caught on camera.

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Many of this year's anti-voter fraud efforts -- which critics say can suppress minority turnout -- come from disjointed, independent groups like Tea Party organizations and conservative websites.

But there's one establishment organization that appears to be putting forth a major anti-voter fraud effort this year -- the Republican National Lawyers Association. To be clear, there's no evidence thus far that what is being said in RNLA training sessions is improper.

But RNLA leadership has clearly been involved in the exaggeration of the threat that voter fraud poses to the election process, raising fears over an issue that most voting rights experts say has been overblown. In 2002, for instance, the RNLA was running "ballot integrity programs in select locations around the country" in "targeted districts and areas where voter fraud is a concern or has historically been a problem," according to their newsletter at the time (and quoted in a story in the Baltimore Sun). They had 1,500 members of their organization ready for cases of voter fraud, the Christian Science Monitor reported in 2002.

Fast forward to 2010, when "RNLA's election education efforts this year have been unprecedented," Charles Bell, Jr. wrote in a message to members of the organization, "These election education efforts aid the recruitment of volunteer lawyers to assist the more than twenty governorships, ten U.S. Senate seats and seventy U.S. House seats that are up for grabs in November."

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Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) says she's worried about Kentucky Democratic Senate nominee Jack Conway's decision to make his opponent's 30-year-old college stories a campaign issue.

"This ad is a very dangerous ad because it reaches back to college," McCaskill said, referring to Conway's latest spot attacking Rand Paul over his years as an undergrad at Baylor University. "I think the ad came close to the line, but what is interesting about this ad is how Rand Paul handled it. I think it shows how thin-skinned and how unready he is for the kind of give-and-take that you've got to be willing to endure if you're going to be at the top levels of discourse in politics."

McCaskill criticized Paul, the Republican nominee, for walking off the stage at a debate last night without shaking hands with Conway.

"The idea that [Paul] wouldn't shake his opponent's hand, I think, is wrong under any circumstances," she said.

Conway has been ripping Republican Rand Paul over allegations that he blindfolded a woman and asked her to "worship Aqua Buddha" while member of a club at Baylor University that Conway says "mocked Christianity." After a hard-hitting debate centered mostly on Paul's college career, Paul called Conway "an embarrassment to this race" and refused to meet Conway when the forum was over.

[TPM SLIDESHOW - TPM's Day At 'Fancy Farm': Kentucky Pols Spar At Annual Political Kickoff Picnic]

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The Department of Justice today filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit in Murfreesboro, Tenn., where opponents of a new mosque are trying to stop its construction. In the brief, the DOJ declares that Islam is a religion and is entitled to freedom of expression.

In a press release, the U.S. attorney for the middle district of Tennessee, Jerry E. Martin, acknowledged that the lawsuit is a "local matter," but that the DOJ wants to "vigorously support" the decision of local authorities to grant the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro building permits.

The center, which has been operating in Murfreesboro for decades, has outgrown its current facility and is building a larger community center and mosque just outside the city. In addition to the legal opposition, the mosque has faced vandalism and arson, and the head of the DOJ Civil Rights Division recently visited area Muslims as a gesture of support.

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