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What We Learned: It's (Still) The Economy, Stupid What We Learned: It's (Still) The Economy, Stupid

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What We Learned: It's (Still) The Economy, Stupid

-- Swing-state Democrats running for the Senate realize their fates are tied to the president, so they know that running away from him is a lost cause. Red-state Democrats, however, are keeping their distance. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine are appearing with Obama on Saturday. But Heidi Heitkamp criticized the president's coal policies this week in North Dakota and Bob Kerrey wrote an op-ed (curiously for the New York Daily News instead of a Cornhusker State paper) saying Obama should have held off on releasing some of the details about the death of bin Laden last year. -- Things are -- believe it or not -- worse than they look on the surface for Lugar after a poll Friday showed him trailing Mourdock in next week's GOP Senate primary. Looking inside the poll, just 43 percent of likely primary voters have a favorable opinion of Lugar, the same percentage that have an unfavorable opinion. Just five weeks ago, 47 percent had a favorable opinion of Lugar, compared to only 31 percent unfavorable. During the same time period, the percentage of primary voters who have a favorable opinion of Mourdock jumped from 24 percent to 47 percent, while Mourdock's negatives rose from 18 percent to just 25 percent. But it doesn't end there for Lugar. Asked which candidate most shares their values, 42 percent of primary voters choose Mourdock, with just 35 percent for Lugar. Primary voters are split down the middle on which candidate "will get things done," and Lugar holds only a five-point lead on the question of electability, one of his main assets going into Tuesday's election. -- Elizabeth Warren struggled this week to answer questions about her Native American heritage. Is this issue going to decide the race? No. But the next time an issue that puts her on defense comes up, Warren will need improve the way she responds. -- In politics, you'd better have a good explanation for potential problems -- and that explanation needs to come out right away. In Connecticut's 5th District, Republican candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley faces scrutiny and the prospect of an FEC investigation over her ties to disgraced former Gov. John Rowland, who was serving as an unpaid adviser to her campaign while simultaneously working as a paid consultant for her husband's health care business. In California's 2nd District, Democrat Stacey Lawson is in a tough spot after an unsuccessful attempt to delete two years' worth of blog posts on spirituality and meditation. In Massachusetts, Warren struggled following revelations that she was listed as a minority faculty member. In each case, the candidate's initial (and sometimes also subsequent) explanation has proven incomplete or unsatisfactory, allowing the controversy to drag on. -- The ability to self-fund is difficult to resist. Just ask Arizona Senate candidate Wil Cardon and Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon. Both Republican businesspeople have tried to play down their self-funding tendencies. But McMahon capped off this week by adding $600,000 more to the $4 million she had already put into her campaign while Cardon has so far dropped $4.2 million into his primary bid against Republican Rep. Jeff Flake. -- Debates often have little effect on the outcome of an election, especially when candidates avoid any major mishaps. That seems to be the case in the Republican primary in Texas' Senate race. After two debates that were televised on statewide television -- the most recent one on Thursday -- frontrunning Lt. Governor David Dewhurst seems to have survived largely unscathed. Former state Solicitor Gen. Ted Cruz, who has spent much of the last year chastising Dewhurst for avoiding candidate forums, might still be able to force a potential runoff, but he wasn't able to move the needle in his direction during the much-anticipated debates. -- Tom Barrett's run a very impressive campaign in Wisconsin so far. A late entrant into the governor's race, he quickly built a coalition of establishment support which included big names like Sen. Herb Kohl. He offered a unity message and even tried to make inroads with Kathleen Falk's core coalition, labor and women. So it should come as no surprise that he leads Falk by over 20 points headed into Tuesday's primary, according to the most recent public poll. -- Sometimes, you have to spend a lot of money to make a lot of money. Consider Scott Walker, who has raised a record sum of money ... but also spent a huge amount on mail reaching out to a national donor network. -- The GOP presidential race might be over, but that doesn't mean up-ballot contests will cease to affect the House primaries. More than half of the House incumbents who won less than 60 percent in their primaries (barring those running in member-versus-member districts) were in Alabama and Mississippi, two states where Rick Santorum's presidential bid drove conservatives to the polls. Next week in Indiana, Mourdock's insurgent Senate run will also bring out the conservative wing of the GOP in force. Those voters could cause long nights for favored, establishment House candidates, and the danger could be greatest for Rep. Larry Bucshon, who has a tea party challenge in Mourdock's home congressional district. -- Christie Vilsack's congressional campaign hit its first real bump in the road this week. Vilsack has been running a policy-heavy campaign, rolling out planks in different areas and centering her message around those planks for weeks at a time. But this week, Vilsack was grilled about her stance on self-policing manufacturers, a platform her husband, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, has advocated at the federal level. Vilsack initially begged off the issue, citing a lack of experience, and for the first time in the campaign has faced a derailing of her planned message. -- Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., made an unfortunate enemy in his bid for another term in the House this week, when he wrongly accused a San Francisco Chronicle conservative columnist of donating to his Democratic opponent during an editorial board meeting. Since then, the Chronicle has published two negative accounts of his performance in the meeting over three days, publishing a column from the paper's accused employee in between, saying that during his tenure, Stark "has personified all the things that are wrong with Washington." Then, on Friday morning, the paper endorsed his primary opponent, Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell. -- For the second year in a row, the number of Americans with access to a television set dropped. More and more people are using computers and other mobile devices to get their news and entertainment, a reminder that over time, advertisers will be reevaluating the value of placing ads on television versus other platforms like the Internet.

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