Political potpourri: News and notes from the campaign trail

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International  |  Oct. 31, 2010 at 6:52 AM
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So many political stories ... so little time to read them. This by-no-means-thorough digest reviews some of the stories that may have flown under the radar and includes a sample of polls as Election Day draws closer.

The truth is out there ... barely

Voters can't handle the truth, apparently.

Truth was a casualty of the 2010 campaign. But we found many claims had just enough to earn our Barely True rating.

After rating hundreds of claims in the 2010 election -- from ads to debates and from interviews and mailings -- PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter needle rested on Barely True.

The majority of fact-checked claims began with a grain of truth, but were so twisted, exaggerated or distorted that Pinocchio might blush.

PolitiFact defines "Barely True" as a statement with an element of truth, but "ignores critical facts that would give a different impression."

Since Sept. 1, True ratings accounted for 10 percent. PolitiFact said it noted a jump in Barely True from 15 percent during the three years since the Truth-O-Meter was introduced to 21 percent since Sept. 1. And the real whoppers judged to be in the False or Pants on Fire ratings zipped from 28 percent in the last three years to 34 percent since Sept. 1.

Many of the Barely True designations were given to ads from outside groups, PolitiFact said, noting such groups tend to push the envelope -- and stretch the truth.

Barely True ratings generally were for ads relying on stock lines straight from the party lines such as Democrats accusing Republicans of wanting to privatize Social Security and Republicans saying Democrats voted to cut Medicare.

Upset in the making?

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, running as a write-in candidate after losing the Republican primary to Tea Party-backed Joe Miller, has taken a narrow lead in a three-way Senate race, public and internal polling indicate.

Miller appears to have slipped to third place, behind Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams, the Democratic candidate, CQ Politics said. The slip -- coming after several well-publicized gaffes -- prompted the National Republican Senatorial Committee to release its first independent expenditure ad targeting McAdams.

A recent Hays Research Group poll indicated McAdams had 29 percent and Miller, 23 percent. Leading the poll was "write-in candidate," with 34 percent, interpreted as meaning voters who support Murkowski.

Miller's cause wasn't helped by a state Supreme Court ruling saying a list of certified write-in candidates could be provided to voters at polling places, seen as a boost to Murkowski, given the difficulty of pulling off a write-in win, CQ Politics said. Earlier, Miller revealed he was disciplined during his tenure as a local government lawyer for using municipal computers for political purposes and trying cover it up.

"He's slipping for sure," a Republican insider said of Miller. "The Alaska Supreme Court ruling allowing voters to ask for a write-in ballot further sets him back. I still believe, as do most folks, that he will win -- but just barely. If the write-in weren't so confusing he would probably not win."

Return to sender

Most Americans said they think the entire Congress should be turned out, a recent Rasmussen Reports survey indicated.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey indicated 65 percent of likely voters said they'd vote to get rid of the entire Congress and start over again -- if they only could. Twenty percent said they'd keep the entire legislative body and 15 percent said they weren't sure.

Not surprisingly, likely voters said they don't like either party much.

Fifty-three percent said they viewed the Democratic Party unfavorably while 38 percent said they have a favorable opinion of the majority party.

Republicans shouldn't gloat, though, the survey indicated. Just 29 percent said they viewed Republicans favorably, while 54 percent held an unfavorable opinion.

Results are based on a survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted Tuesday and Wednesday. The margin of error is 3 percentage points.

Key advertising rule: Pay your bills

Republican Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady learned the hard way about the importance of paying one's bills on time.

At least three Chicago-area television stations yanked dozens of political commercials for Brady Thursday because the stations weren't paid, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Brady, running on a plank of cleaning up Illinois' budgetary mess, called the development just days before Tuesday's election a "glitch" that appeared to be straightened out late Thursday, allowing his ads to resume airing Friday.

"I understand there was a glitch with our media buyer," Brady said. "We've paid our media buyer. He's taking care of it."

Incumbent Pat Quinn couldn't resist commenting about fiscal responsibility, the Sun-Times said.

"Well, you know, you've got to pay for ads," Quinn said. "You can't just run ads and expect commercials to be aired without payment."

Looking ahead to Election Day

The Crystal Ball predicts Republicans will see a net gain of 47 seats in the U.S. House once the dust settles from Tuesday's elections.

They must pick up 39 seats to assume the majority in the lower chamber.

The Crystal Ball, directed by Larry Sabato and published by the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said it considered 116 House races competitive just five days before the elections. Democrats hold 99 House seats considered in play, while the Republicans are working to protect 17 endangered seats.

The Crystal Ball predicts Republicans likely would pick up eight seats in the Senate where they must pick up 10 to control the chamber.

The GOP also is predicted to pick up eight governorships, the Crystal Ball said. Democrats occupy 26 governor's offices and Republicans have 24 governorships.

Polls, polls and more polls

U.S. Senate:

A recent Allentown, Pa., Morning Call/Muhlenberg College tracking poll indicates Republican Pat Toomey has an 8 percentage point lead over Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak in the U.S. Senate race, 48 percent to 40 percent with 12 percent undecided.

A Hays Research survey in Alaska shows Democrat Scott McAdams pulled ahead of Republican Joe Miller, 29 percent to 23 percent, allowing an unnamed write-in candidate -- presumably Sen. Lisa Murkowski -- to lead the pack with 34 percent, with undecided voters still at 13 percent.

A Quinnipiac poll in Florida shows Republican Marco Rubio ahead of independent Gov. Charlie Crist, 42 percent to 35 percent, with Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek at 15 percent.

A Rasmussen Report shows a slight lead for incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer over Republican Carly Fiorina in California, 49 percent to 46 percent.


A SurveyUSA poll in Ohio indicated Republican challenger John Kasich leads Gov. Ted Strickland, 49 percent to 44 percent.

A Quest Research poll in Rhode Island shows independent Lincoln Chafee leading Republican John Robitaille by 7 points, 35 percent to 28 percent, with Democrat Frank Caprio in third at 25 percent.

A Field Poll in California shows Democrat Jerry Brown has a 10 percentage point lead over Republican Meg Whitman, 49 percent to 39 percent.

An MPR News-Humphrey Institute Poll in Minnesota shows Democrat Mark Dayton sporting a 12 percentage point lead over Republican Tom Emmer, 41 percent to 29 percent, with independent Tom Horner at 11 percent.

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