How is the tea party doing in Senate races?

The GOP, fueled by the tea party movement, is all but certain to take control of the House. The Senate is another story, even though tea party-backed candidates are doing well in key races.

By , Staff writer

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    Local supporters turned out Wednesday Oct. 27 to see Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio kick off his "Road to Reclaim America" bus tour in downtown Pensacola. Rubio is ahead of Democrat Kendrick Meek and Gov. Charlie Crist (running as an independent) in recent polls.
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If the 2012 elections are all about outsiders pounding on the door of the political establishment – mainly in the form of the tea party insurgency – it’s worth taking a look at how their most prominent figures are doing the last few days before we’ve all voted and can concentrate on the World Series. (You heard it here: Giants in seven.)

The tea-fueled GOP is all but certain to take control of the US House of Representatives. So we’ll stick with the Senate, where the D’s have more than a fighting chance of hanging on to their majority.

Sharron Angle in Nevada

Expert poll watcher Nate Silver, who blogs at FiveThirtyEight.com for The New York Times, says Sharron Angle “has been improving her position in our forecast in recent days, and for the first time since the spring has better than a three-in-four chance to win her race against Harry Reid.”

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A TIME/CNN/Opinion Research survey this week has Ms. Angle up four points over Senate Majority Leader Reid.

Using a complicated online formula, prognosticators at the Daily Beast’s “Election Oracle” give Angle a 60 percent chance of winning. More on this methodology here.

But allegations of early voting fraud and voter intimidation in Nevada may be setting the scene for a legal battle after next Tuesday. Lawyers from both parties are getting ready for a fight that could delay election results. Did someone say “hanging chads?”

Joe Miller in Alaska

Joe Miller’s main threat comes not from Democratic candidate Scott McAdams but from incumbent Republican and write-in candidate Sen. Lisa Murkowski. And from his self-made image problems, like finally admitting under court order this week that he “lied about what I was doing” (as he wrote in a 2008 e-mail) in inappropriately using government computers when he worked as a part-time lawyer in the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

CNN finds Mr. Miller and Senator Murkowski essentially tied among likely voters with Democrat Mr. McAdams lagging behind. But a new poll of 500 likely voters paid for by a labor union and released Thursday has Miller running third at 23 percent with 29 percent for McAdams and 34 percent for "write in candidate" – presumably Murkowski.

Murkowski got a boost this week when the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that voters can see a list of write-in candidates when they go to the poll. At least that’ll help people remember how to spell “Murkowski.”

"Murkowski has run a smart campaign and dedicated a lot of resources to educating voters about how to vote for her," a senior GOP strategist told Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza. "Next to a hapless McAdams and disastrous Joe Miller, she has a decent shot to make history.”

Rand Paul in Kentucky

The TIME/CNN/Opinion Research poll has Rand Paul ahead of Democrat Jack Conway, the state's attorney general, by a comfortable 7 percentage points (50 to 43) – including a whopping 63 to 26 among independent voters.

A Rasmussen Reports poll for Fox News gives Mr. Paul that same 7 point edge. The Daily Beast’s “Election Oracle” gives Paul an 80 percent chance of winning next week.

But Paul’s message got “stomped on” this week when a couple of his male supporters wrestled to the ground a female activist from the liberal group MoveOn.org. A photo of one the pro-Paul guys pressing his foot to her head ricocheted around the media.

Kentucky seems to be tea party country. Seventy-two percent of those polled say they are either "dissatisfied" or "angry" about the way the federal government is working. Still, questions remain about Paul, whose father – US Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas – is described in a long Atlantic magazine profile as “the tea party’s brain.”

In the Rasmussen survey, 42 percent said they are "concerned" that Paul is "too extreme," and just 43 percent said he "shared their values."

Christine O’Donnell in Delaware

The Senate candidate, who bested the GOP establishment’s US Rep. Mike Castle in a rancorous primary, is far behind Democrat Chris Coons – 21 percentage points (57 to 36) in a survey by her alma mater, Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Christine O’Donnell is best known for her unusual background and pronouncements that sounded just plain weird. Her “I am not a witch” TV spot will be studied by political science undergrads for years.

Ms. O’Donnell’s problem also may be one of geography. Delaware is a politically moderate state, and a CNN/Public Opinion Research poll earlier this month finds Coons with a 68-22 percent advantage among moderates.

“She’s running in absolutely the wrong place,” Fairleigh Dickinson political science professor and survey analyst Dan Cassino told the News Journal newspaper in Delaware. “If she were in Kentucky or Alaska, she’d be winning.’’

In Delaware, the Daily Beast’s Election Oracle says, O’Donnell has only a 10 percent chance of winning.

Marco Rubio in Florida

Marco Rubio is still ahead, but his margin is slipping in Florida’s three-way race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.

Mr. Rubio has 42 to 35 percent for Gov. Charlie Crist, who’s running as an independent. Democrat Kendrick Meek trails at 15 percent. Two weeks ago, Rubio led Governor Crist by nearly twice that margin (44 to 30 percent) in the Quinnipiac poll.

A TCPalm.com/Zogby poll of likely voters has essentially the same result and trend.

“I don’t think you can put a fork into it quite yet,” University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith told TCPalm.com. “Mark Rubio’s lead is now outside the margin of error, but the fact of the matter is we don’t know how the undecided will break. They’re not often given the opportunity to vote for a third party candidate as we have in Charlie Crist.”

Still, Mr. Silver’s model has Rubio winning 43.6 percent of the vote next Tuesday, compared to 31.7 for Crist and 23.7 for Mr. Meek.

In what may be a desperation move prompted by the strength of the tea party movement, Crist has a new TV spot urging Floridians to vote for him as the way to stop “extremism … the road Sarah Palin, the tea party, and Marco Rubio want to take us down.”

Funny, that. Back in 2008, loyal Republican Crist was saying Ms. Palin as John McCain’s running mate would do a “great job” if she had to step in as president.

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