Republican Mike Taylor is back in the race for a Senate seat from Montana.
After suspending his campaign over a smarmy commercial that featured a film clip from his days as a leisure suit-clad hairdresser in the 1970s, Taylor announced Tuesday that he would again actively try to win the Nov. 5 race against incumbent Democrat Max Baucus.
"What would my forefathers do -- those salt of the earth people who settled the West? Would they just walk away? No way," Taylor said. "After conferring with my wife, my children, my family, the decision was made that I must come back -- not just because I want to be a senator, but because I want to make a statement about decency."
Taylor was trailing in the polls when he shelved his campaign Oct. 10 after the ad hit the airwaves. The commercial, which showed a blow-dried Taylor applying a facial to a male customer with dated disco music playing in the background, was seen by many analysts as a not-too-subtle attempt to convince Montana's conservative voters that the married Taylor was gay.
Taylor had called for a write-in candidate to take up the Republican flag, however, he said Tuesday that long sessions of prayer had persuaded him to get back into the game under the banner "Countdown to Decency."
"I want to save democracy from the smear campaigns," he declared. "I realize that our effort is David vs. Goliath -- the people vs. the muckrakers. They (the Democrats) may have 10 times more money than we do, but Montanans have 10 times more integrity than them."
Poll: Gov. Jeb Bush has edge
A new Mason-Dixon poll of 638 probable Florida voters released Tuesday showed Gov. Jeb Bush with a 5 percentage point lead over scrappy lawyer Bill McBride, his Democratic challenger in the race for governor.
The poll gives Bush 49 percent of the vote to 44 percent for McBride, with 6 percent undecided. It also said most of the undecided are Republicans. The margin of error was 4 percent. A Mason-Dixon poll taken a month ago showed Bush with a 6 percent margin.
Bush's mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, campaigned with the governor at a retirement community in southwest Florida Monday and former President George H.W. Bush was to appear at a Jacksonville rally Tuesday.
"This still is a very competitive race," said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research. Other polls earlier this month have shown the contest as being a little tighter than that. "I think we're in pretty good shape two weeks out, but we've got a lot of work to do," Bush said.
McBride's campaign manager Alan Stonecipher had a different view.
"If anyone's moving, it's us," he said. The two candidates were scheduled to hold their third and final debate Tuesday night.
Lautenberg widens lead
The latest poll on the New Jersey Senate race shows Democrat Frank Lautenberg extending his early lead over Republican Douglas Forrester to 8 points.
The Newark Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers Poll of 800 likely voters taken from Oct. 13-17 found Lautenberg, a former U.S. senator plucked out of retirement to replace Sen. Bob Torricelli on Oct. 1, leading Forrester, 47 percent to 39 percent.
Lautenberg had a 6 percent lead in a survey released Oct. 11.
Much of Lautenberg's strength is among women, the poll showed. The Democrat had a 21 percent lead among women -- 53 percent to 32 percent -- and a 9 percent edge with independents. Forrester led among likely men voters 47 percent to 39 percent.
Torricelli was behind by 13 points in an Eagleton poll released two days before he withdrew after being cited for ethics questions by a Senate committee.
Napolitano leads in polls
Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano leads Republican Matt Salmon in the race for governor in two statewide polls.
A Rocky Mountain Poll of 662 voters conducted this week gave Napolitano a 16-point lead, up from 3 percent last week. A poll by KAET-TV/Channel 8 in Phoenix gave the Democrat an 8-point edge, 46 percent to 38 percent. The polls each had a margin of error of 5.2 points.
Pollsters said Napolitano is winning the support of female voters, 2-1.
Missouri Senate candidates agree on tax cuts
Democratic and Republican Senate candidates in Missouri faced off in their first and only face-to-face televised debate in St. Louis Monday night with polls showing them locked in a statistical dead heat.
Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan, who took the post two years ago after her husband, Gov. Mel Carnahan, was elected posthumously, argued in favor of a middle-class tax cut.
Republican Jim Talent, a former four-term congressman, said he favored new tax cuts to stimulate the economy, even though the federal budget deficit is growing.
A new poll by KSDK-TV showed Carnahan with 50 percent, Talent 47 percent with 3 percent undecided. The poll had a margin of error of 4.2 percent.
Talent stressed his Washington experience over and over, mentioning his service in the U.S. House 19 times in the hour. The debate was Carnahan's first.
The winner of the special election will serve a four-year term.
Texans begin absentee voting
Early voting started this week in Texas and both candidates in the hot governors' race have already cast their ballots.
In his hometown of Laredo, Democrat Tony Sanchez and his wife, Tani, cast their ballots at Cigarroa High School Monday.
"We have 15 days to go until the general election, and I feel real good," Sanchez said. "Our field operations are kicking into high gear right now across the state. Everybody is very excited. ... I think we're going to have a massive turnout in this election."
Sanchez, who would be the first Hispanic governor of Texas, is hoping to draw a record number of Hispanic voters to the polls in early voting or on Nov. 5.
In Austin, Republican Gov. Rick Perry, voted at a senior citizens' home Monday, using the photo opportunity to criticize Sanchez's record of not voting.
"The key today is just to bring attention to people to go vote. It's a great privilege. It's a right that Texans need to exercise. In fact, I congratulate Mr. Sanchez on voting for the first time in eight years," he said.
Sanchez, a millionaire oilman and banker, has apologized for not voting in several recent elections. He is running for public office for the first time, while Perry has been a fixture in Texas politics for nearly 18 years, succeeding George W. Bush as governor.
In-person, early voting began this week across Texas and will end on Nov. 1.
More than 12.8 million people have registered to vote in the Texas general election, an increase of nearly 450,000 from the 2000 presidential election, according to the secretary of state's office. Of the total, about 19.7 percent have Hispanic surnames, the office says.
Vote (absentee) early and often ...
Election officials in Colorado are blaming a faulty addressing machine at a private vendor for mailing duplicate absentee ballots to about 200 Denver households.
Officials began receiving calls from confused citizens on Friday after the election commission put about 56,000 absentee ballots in the mail.
Another 200 voters in north-central Denver will be mailed a corrected ballot. The first ballot left off the candidates in House District 5.
Commission Executive Director Robert Mendoza, who took office earlier this month, called the mistakes "unfortunate" but said he's confident the election will run smoothly.
The ballots have a computerized bar code and duplicates would be disqualified, an election commission official told Tuesday's Denver Post.
In Nebraska, with a smaller than usual turnout likely at the polls Nov. 5, absentee ballots could play a major role in deciding political races.
Twelve percent of the ballots counted in the 2000 election were cast early under the state's no-excuse absentee voting, which does not require voters to give any reason why they can't get to the polls on Election Day.
Absentee ballots can be cast at county offices or by mail by Nov. 4.
Previously voters had to state they had a health problem or were jailed on a misdemeanor to qualify to vote absentee.
State Democratic and Republican leaders told WOWT-Channel 6 in Omaha both parties are courting registered voters who missed the primary to make sure they vote this time around.
Heston stumps for gun rights
Oscar-winning actor Charlton Heston kicked off a 12-state tour in New Hampshire Monday night campaigning for candidates who support the right to bear firearms.
He admitted, however, he didn't know the names of any of the local candidates on the ballot, according to the Union Leader of Manchester.
The only thing that interested the president of the National Rifle Association were candidates who oppose gun control laws.
At an NRA rally in Manchester, Heston, 78, told the audience: "It's not only important that you vote, but who you vote for."
Heston, who recently announced he has Alzheimer's disease, ended his remarks by raising an antique rifle over his head and proclaiming, as he has before, "From my cold dead hands."
A group of about 30 protested outside, criticizing Heston and the NRA for blocking "common sense measures" to reduce gun violence and for failing to promote gun responsibility.
Gov. Jesse Ventura clearly will be an outspoken maverick until the end of his term in January.
The former professional wrestler-turned-politician, who is not running for re-election, Monday told reporters he is considering leaving office a few days early so Minnesota can have its first woman governor, Lt. Gov. Mae Schunk.
"I just thought it would be fun, the last week, to leave early and make Mae the first female governor of the state," he said.
Schunk says she'll pass on the honor. She said the state's first woman governor should be elected by the people.
Ventura supports Independent Party candidate Tim Penny in the Nov. 5 election.
During Monday night's gubernatorial debate the four candidates were asked to sum up Ventura's single term. Penny said it was "quite a ride." Republican Tim Pawlenty called it "loud," Democrat Roger Moe said it "was a lost opportunity" and Green Party candidate Ken Pentel credited Ventura for breaking "the two party dominance" in Minnesota politics.
(Les Kjos in Miami, Phil Magers in Dallas and Dave Haskell in Boston contributed to this report.)