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What We Learned: The Homestretch What We Learned: The Homestretch

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What We Learned: The Homestretch

-- Campaign ads this cycle are increasingly looking like "Choose Your Own Adventure" novels with candidates employing the second person in an effort to relate to their constituents. It's an unusual tactic and often comes out demanding and, in some case downright creepy (see: Christine O'Donnell). In the the Nevada Senate race, Sharron Angle (R) joined the "I know you better than you know yourself" team this week with her "Harry Reid Vs. You" ad.

-- Judging from independent expenditure spending so far, Democrats and Republicans are depending on two strategies from outside groups. Republicans are receiving support with massive ad campaigns across all spectrums. Democrats, while still getting large amounts of help on the airwaves, are relying more on labor's get out the vote efforts. We've already seen that Democrats are doing well in early voting in some states, but it's the ground games that could make the difference in places that have huge enthusiasm gaps like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois.

-- Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) is putting all his presidential eggs into the Iowa basket. He's visiting other early primary states, sure, but it's becoming quite apparent that Santorum knows his only shot at capturing the Republican nomination is winning the Iowa caucuses in February 2012. His decision this week to join a three-day, 1,300 mile bus tour through 45 Iowa counties calling for the removal of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who helped legalize gay marriage is a shrewd political maneuver that will grant him priceless exposure to the state's grassroots conservative groups. It also confirms Santorum's strategy of approaching Iowa as an all-or-nothing gambit.

If he can effectively sell his social conservative platform to Iowa voters, Santorum has an opportunity to do what former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) did in 2008: Pull off a stunning upset by running hard to the right in hopes of exploiting the divisions between better-known top tier candidates who are more socially moderate. Even if he manages to pull it off, he's still a long shot -- but at least it's a shot. Conversely, if he loses Iowa, Santorum can kiss his White House ambitions goodbye.

-- As campaigns enter the final stretch, they sink to the lowest common denominator. Former Gov. Roy Barnes (D) accused former Rep. Nathan Deal (R) of being soft on rape crimes due to legislation he championed while serving in the Georgia state Senate. In a twist, a woman whose rapist Deal successfully prosecuted came to his defense. Deal responded to Barnes by lobbing a charge that Barnes defended a child molester as an attorney.

And Georgia is not alone. In the Colorado Senate race, Republican Ken Buck's attitude toward women has come into question after a 2006 case resurfaced in which a college woman called out Buck for not filing criminal charges against her alleged rapist when he was a district attorney. Buck said at the time, "A jury could very well conclude that this is a case of buyer's remorse." And in New Mexico, gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez (R) donated $20,000 to a rape crisis center because that money came from a company founded by a man who said rape victims should "relax and enjoy it."

This post was updated at 4:09 p.m. to reflect early vote totals. 

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