Correction to This Article
In the Monday Fix column, it was incorrectly reported that the National Republican Senatorial Committee was launching ads in the Maine Senate race. While the NRSC had bought ad time in the Portland, Maine, media market, that expenditure was for the New Hampshire Senate race.

Down, Down, Down East for the GOP?

The second Obama-McCain debate made some long for polygraphs to spice up the third one. But you'll have to settle for The Fix's Twitter feed.
The second Obama-McCain debate made some long for polygraphs to spice up the third one. But you'll have to settle for The Fix's Twitter feed. (By Mark Wilson -- Getty Images)
By Chris Cillizza And Ben Pershing
Monday, October 13, 2008

Amid signs that the Senate playing field has badly eroded for GOPers in the past two weeks, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is preparing to launch ads in Maine -- a contest until recently regarded as a long-shot pickup for Democrats.

The ads, which are set to go up early this week in the Portland media market at a cost of $150,000, are the first tangible evidence that Sen. Susan Collins (R) may not be shielded from the strong wind blowing in the face of Republicans nationally.

The NRSC did not respond to a request for comment about their latest ad buy, but Matt Miller, communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was only too happy to cast the new commercials in Maine as a sign that another race had come into play for his side.

"Tom Allen has cut Susan Collins's lead in half in the past month, and now even the NRSC recognizes that he is showing momentum with three weeks to go," said Miller, pointing to a poll earlier this month that showed Collins at 49 percent, compared with 41 percent for Allen, a Democratic congressman. (Barack Obama led John McCain 52 percent to 35 percent in the state, according to the survey, conducted by Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.)

Collins, first elected to the Senate in 1996 and reelected easily six years later, is a political moderate who came into the election cycle with extremely high job approval ratings, and Allen struggled for months -- and months -- to make any dent in despite running a solid and well-financed campaign.

But the focus on the financial crisis gripping Wall Street in recent weeks has caused a general movement toward Democrats nationwide.

Republican senators in Oregon, North Carolina, Kentucky, Minnesota and Georgia have seen their poll numbers sink during that time, and neutral handicappers, such as Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook, have revised their predictions of Democratic gains significantly upward. Rothenberg, in his column for Roll Call newspaper, went so far as to say that the holy grail of a filibuster-proof 60-seat Democratic majority is a possibility.

Already two Republican-held open seats in Virginia and New Mexico are close to certain takeovers for Democrats. Two other seats in Colorado and New Hampshire lean in the direction of Democrats, and in a handful of other contests, in such states as Oregon, Alaska and Minnesota, the races are dead heats.

While gains for Democrats are a virtual certainty given the national playing field, if they want to pick up the nine seats they need to get to 60, the party must find a way to win in a state such as Maine (or Kentucky or Mississippi). The NRSC's decision to take to the airwaves in support of Collins is a sure signal that no Republican incumbent is safe in an environment as toxic as this one is for the GOP.


With the final presidential debate scheduled for this week and the last session -- the "town hall" in Nashville -- garnering less-than-stellar reviews, organizers could be looking for ways to shake things up when John McCain and Barack Obama meet at Long Island's Hofstra University. The solution might just be in Indiana.

Last week, Larry Shickles, the Republican Party chairman in Indiana's 9th Congressional District, proposed a twist for the Oct. 21 debate between Rep. Baron P. Hill (D) and his GOP challenger, Michael E. Sodrel. No, Shickles did not suggest a longer "discussion period" or using questions from YouTube. He wanted a different addition -- polygraph machines.

"While this format may be unusual, I feel strongly that voters need to be able to make a clear decision without all the usual spin," Shickles wrote in a letter to his local Democratic counterpart, according to the Associated Press, suggesting that the candidates be hooked to the "lie detector" machines during the event.

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