A second health care worker has now tested positive for Ebola. That brings the grand total of Americans to be so diagnosed up to all of three, which perhaps isn’t yet cause for widespread panic. But it’s worth asking whether Ebola is seeping into the political atmosphere in advance of the midterm elections.

As I noted yesterday, multiple Republican Senate candidates are now invoking Ebola, and tying it to border security and ISIS, to attack Senate Dem incumbents as incapable of protecting the country from, well, pretty much everything: Illegal immigration; terrorism; disease. The dovetails with a broader GOP effort to foment generalized fear and anxiety heading into Election Day — call it the Doom-and-Disease Chorus.

A new NBC/WSJ poll suggests that there may be a very specific target for all of this fear-stoking: Republican voters. The poll finds, perhaps hearteningly, that a majority of Americans thinks the country is prepared for an Ebola outbreak, and feels okay about the Centers for Disease Control. But a certain subset of voters is more worried about Ebola than everyone else:

The new poll shows that 56 percent of Americans say that the nation is prepared for an outbreak, while 42 percent disagree – including 20 percent who say that the U.S. is not prepared “at all.”
Confidence in the country’s ability to manage Ebola also varies by party. Sixty-one percent of Democrats believe the U.S. is prepared, while only 54 percent of independents and 52 percent of Republicans say the same. Majorities of rural voters (54 percent) and Tea Party supporters (57 percent) believe the U.S. isn’t prepared
Americans report generally positive feelings about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency most directly handling the nation’s Ebola response.

The other day, in an overview of the GOP’s fear-based midterm strategy, Jeremy Peters wrote: “Playing off feelings of anxiety is a powerful strategy for motivating the Republican base.” This new poll showing fears running higher among Tea Party supporters suggests there may be something to this.

But the Ebola factor may be playing a role in another way: The GOP strategy is also about nationalizing races in which Democrats have managed to hold on by focusing on local concerns and specific GOP candidate vulnerabilities, and about feeding a general sense that the country is skidding out of control while Democrats are asleep at the wheel. And a new Washington Post/ABC News poll suggests it may be working, showing approval of the Democratic Party at a 30-year low, even as two in three Americans think the country is seriously off track. As ABC’s polling director puts it, the findings suggest “a long-running crisis of confidence in the nation’s political leadership.”

I don’t want to overstate the political impact of Ebola. I’m simply suggesting it could be help feeding a political environment that is charged, to an unexpected degree, with worry about unforeseen factors.

* NUNN AHEAD IN GEORGIA? A new Survey USA poll finds that Dem Michelle Nunn has edged ahead of GOPer David Perdue among likely Georgia voters, 48-45. This comes as Democrats have relentlessly attacked Perdue over his claim that he has spent most of his career outsourcing, and his subsequent suggestion that he’s “proud” of it.

The average has Perdue up five, so treat this with skepticism. However, it’s worth noting that the new finding is in sync with Dem internal polling that puts Nunn ahead and close to 50 percent, which is why Dems are pouring more money into the state.

 * CLOSE RACE IN IOWA: Everyone got very excited by a recent Quinnipiac poll showing Joni Ernst leading by six points in Iowa. A new Q-poll finds Ernst only leading by two points, 47-45, and the pollster now pronounces the race “too close to call.” Notable: Independents have gone from 50-43 for Ernst to 48-43 for Braley.

The new Q-poll is in sync with the average, which also finds Ernst up two, so this is still pretty much a toss-up.

 * DEMOCRAT BEHIND IN COLORADO: A new CNN poll becomes the latest to find GOPer Cory Gardner leading Senator Mark Udall, this one by four points, 50-46. Note this:

There is a gender gap, but in this case it appears to be working in favor of the Republican. Udall has a nine-point advantage among women, but that is dwarfed by the 20-point lead Gardner has among men.

That’s not enough of an advantage among women, and if this is right, it suggests Udall’s relentless attacks on Gardner over Personhood are not enough. The average has Gardner up 2.2 points.

* BUT DEMS SAY COLORADO IS TIED: Reid Wilson reports on a conference call in which top Dems lay out the case for why Colorado is still winnable:

Udall’s team said their last two internal polls showed the race tied, with about 10 percent undecided. They said they’re relying on their ground game to bring the race home, and they’ve invested in a field staff four times the size of Sen. Michael Bennet’s in 2010.

A reminder with respect to how voter mobilization might impact this race: This year, Colorado has all-mail balloting for the first time, potentially making it easier to bring in votes from low-propensity voters.

* DID DEMS REALLY ‘PULL OUT’ OF KENTUCKY? Some claim national Dems have given up on Alison Grimes’ candidacy, based on the news that the DSCC is not currently running ads in Kentucky. But the DSCC clarified last night that Dems have just put $300,000 into voter mobilization there. While that obviously isn’t big money, and while it remains to be seen whether the DSCC will go back on the air, I’d caution against reading too much into the “abandoning Kentucky” storyline.

* UNCERTAINTY REMAINS IN BATTLE FOR SENATE: The forecasts say the chances of a GOP Senate takeover are increasing. However, the Upshot’s Josh Katz has a useful explanation as to why there is still a good deal of uncertainty built into these forecasts. Short version: Polling in Alaska is unreliable; there is probably an unpredictable runoff coming in Louisiana; and small shifts in polls show large swings in the forecasts. Watch for the latter.

Meanwhile, the HuffPollster crew does a deep data dive and declares: “differences of two percentage points or greater between the polling margins and the ultimate results are not uncommon.” Still, the GOP is obviously well positioned for a Senate takeover at this point.

* A GOOD DISCUSSION OF POLLING ACCURACY: Don’t miss Nate Silver’s deep dive into the question of whether the polls could be getting it wrong this cycle, including a look at when this has happened in the past and what it means. As Silver notes, we should show skepticism about polls, but even if the polls are wrong, they could be wrong in the other direction from the one you were hoping for.

* AND THE FACTOID OF THE DAY, OBAMA DERANGEMENT EDITION: Last night Senator Mark Pryor and challenger Tom Cotton debated in Arkansas. First Draft marvels at Cotton’s performance:

In one five-minute period, Mr. Cotton said Obama or Obamacare 15 times and, among other things, blamed the Affordable Care Act for the rise in student loan rates and Mr. Pryor for increased tuition at the University of Arkansas.

And it looks like it just might work.