-- Republican Senate nominees Richard Mourdock of Indiana and Rick Berg of North Dakota have something in common: they're both dramatically underperforming other Republican candidates running statewide, and it could cost the GOP its chance at taking back the majority in the Senate. Romney is favored to win both states handily, while gubernatorial nominees Mike Pence and Jack Dalrymple are potentially looking at double-digit blow-outs of their own. Meanwhile, recent polls in Indiana show Mourdock and Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly in a dead heat, while Heidi Heitkamp is running so competitively in North Dakota that the NRSC is now gobbling up fall air time. That's money that could be going to help George Allen, Tommy Thompson or Dean Heller instead of being spent in a state that Republicans originally expected to win easily. -- Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna (R) got some unwelcome press this week thanks to Republican Governors Association chairman Bob McDonnell, who compared McKenna to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) -- the same controversial conservative he's been running from for months. Rep. Jay Inslee (D) brought up the connection again in a debate later in the week, leading McKenna once again to accuse Inslee of focusing too much on national issues instead of what's going on in Washington state. McKenna spent the rest of the debate tying Inslee to state Democrats, saying he represents the same failed leadership that has plagued Washington for 28 years under Democratic governors and with Democratic majorities in the legislature. The message is mixed, at best. Not to mention the fact that it's McKenna, not Inslee, who has spent almost 20 years serving in state government. McKenna has a choice to make: Inslee can either be a creature of Washington, or just another Olympia Democrat. He can't be both. -- On its face, this was a bad week for Texas Republicans. First, on Tuesday, a federal court in D.C. ruled that the new maps passed by the state legislature during redistricting was crafted with the purpose -- and had the effect -- of denying minorities proportional representation. Then, two days later, a separate three-judge panel tossed the state's new voter-identification law, ruling that, like with redistricting, Texas failed to prove that its voter-ID requirements would not harm minorities' voting rights. But there is a silver lining for the GOP and Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has announced that he intends to appeal both decisions to the U.S. Supreme Court. Abbott told delegates at the Republican National Convention in Florida that he will push for the high court to declare Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act -- which forces Texas and other jurisdictions to pre-clear all election-law changes with the Justice Department or a federal court -- unconstitutional. In fact, some in-state newspapers suggested that was Abbott's endgame all along. The discarding of Section 5 has long been on conservatives' wish list, but the last time the issue came before the Roberts court, in 2009, the chief justice punted, writing that "Whether conditions continue to justify such legislation is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today." Republicans in Texas and elsewhere -- like South Carolina, whose similar voter-ID law's fate is still pending -- are hoping that Roberts and the conservative majority will be more willing to tackle that question in the court's next session. If the Court strikes down the provision, the issue could serve as a nice feather in Abbott's cap heading into 2014, when many Texas political observers expect him to run for governor if Rick Perry opts against running for reelection. -- Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., released a new television ad Friday as he seeks to defy a troubling trend: the four-term incumbent is the last white Democratic House member in the Deep South. His new spot highlights his opposition to President Obama's health care law and even touts his record of voting more than 50 percent of the time with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The ad never mentions the congressman's party affiliation, and it's becoming increasingly difficult to identify Barrow as a Democrat.
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