The Fix: Trail Mix

Chris Cillizza, The Fix, on the midterm elections

The Fix: Trail Mix
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Neck and neck in Kentucky

A new poll shows Democrat Jack Conway surging in the Kentucky Senate race. The Bennett, Petts and Normington poll, conducted for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and shared with The Fix, shows Conway at 49 percent and Republican Rand Paul at 47 percent - Conway's best showing in a survey since late June.

The poll was conducted Sunday and Monday, after Conway's campaign began running a controversial new ad questioning Paul's Christian faith. Conway also went after Paul hard during their debate Sunday night - something that could have shown up in polling on Monday.

Democrats are already using the survey to push back at the idea that the ad was an act of desperation by a candidate watching his chances of victory slip away. The last poll to show Conway with a higher share of the vote was a Benenson Strategy Group survey for his campaign four months ago. It showed Conway at 48 percent and Paul at 46 percent. Kentucky is the Democrats' best - and almost certainly only - chance to win a Republican-held seat this fall. Sen. Jim Bunning (R) is retiring after two terms.

One tie that doesn't bind

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) is in a statistical tie with his Republican rival, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, according to a new Reuters-Ipsos poll.

The survey shows Buck taking 48 percent to Bennet's 45 percent among likely voters. As in other races around the country, there's an enthusiasm gap in Colorado that benefits Republicans. When registered voters are sampled, Bennet takes 48 percent to Buck's 42 percent.

The poll was conducted Oct. 15-17, meaning it sampled voters both before and after the candidates' contentious "Meet the Press" debate Sunday morning, during which Buck drew criticism for comparing homosexuality to alcoholism.

In the gubernatorial race, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (D) continues to lead with 46 percent, although former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo, who is running under the American Constitution Party banner, took a respectable 35 percent. Businessman Dan Maes, the beleaguered GOP nominee, garnered only 14 percent.

Riding the wave

If 2010 shapes up to be a wave election, as many prognosticators predict, it will be the third one in a row - and depending on how big it is, more could be on the way, according to Charlie Cook, the editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

He writes: "The bigger the wave, the weaker the class and the harder it will be to hold onto those seats. Democrats only have to look at their 2006 and 2008 classes for plenty of examples."

The number of weak Democrats - or Democrats elected in strongly Republican districts over the past two years - Cook continues, could mean that "we will likely have our third wave election in a row this year, and the bigger this one is, the more likely that there will be a countervailing wave in either 2012 or 2014."

That's probably not welcome news for this year's political newcomers, many of whom may win election in less than two weeks only to immediately begin gearing up for the next big wave.

Staff writers Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.

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