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Today's Power Play: Dems Have Tough Job in Building Senate Firewall

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As President Obama arrives in Wisconsin for a campus rally today, he will be coming to a state where his party and his policies are in big trouble with voters.

Democrats are hoping to build a firewall with cash infusions and special attention from the president around a group of incumbent senators to preserve a majority in the upper chamber.

But the latest round of FOX News battleground state polls suggests Democrats have their work cut out for them, especially in Wisconsin where incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold is trailing his Republican challenger badly.

The latest surveys were conducted on Sept. 25 in Wisconsin, Washington, Colorado, Ohio and Illinois by Pulse Opinion Research for FOX. Each survey included 1,000 likely voters and has a margin of error of three points.

The surveys - available to Power Play subscribers through the America's Election HQ application every Tuesday at 7 a.m., two hours before they're released publicly - will be conducted weekly until the election.

Feingold Sinking in Wisconsin Amid Voter Anger

First-time candidate Republican Ron Johnson seems poised to knock off three-term Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin as voters place blame for a sour state economy on Democratic policies.

Johnson, who owns a plastics company in Oshkosh, leads Feingold 52 percent to 44 percent with a scant 3 percent undecided in the latest FOX News battleground state poll. In the survey of likely voters, only 10 percent said that they could still change their minds in the remaining five weeks.

Democrats are pulling out all the stops to try to save Feingold, who won reelection in 2004 by an 11 point margin and explored a 2008 presidential run. President Obama is holding a rally at the University of Wisconsin in Madison today and has visited the state four times this year. The first lady is also scheduled to hold a fundraiser for Feingold next month.

But the president may have a limited capacity to help Feingold. Obama, who won 56 percent of the vote in Wisconsin in the 2008 election, carries a job approval rating of just 41 percent and 45 percent believe Obama's policies have hurt the state's economy. Fifty three percent favored repealing Obama's national health care program.

This may help explain why Feingold is not scheduled to appear with Obama.

Feingold has long been a favorite of liberals nationally, but that reputation may be costing him in the state. Forty Seven percent said he was too liberal, compared to 41 percent who thought him "about right." Johnson, meanwhile, was seen as too conservative by 35 percent and "about right" by half of respondents.

In the race for governor, Republican Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker holds a 4-point lead over Democratic nominee Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, 49 percent to 45 percent.

Wisconsin voters were divided on the Tea Party movement. Forty two percent were supportive and 38 percent were opposed.

One GOP Outsider Fares Well in Colorado While Another Collapses

Colorado Republican Ken Buck is well positioned to unseat incumbent Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet as voters express anger at the federal government and strong disapproval for President Obama's job performance.

In a new FOX News battleground state poll of likely voters, Buck leads Bennet 47 percent to 43 percent, with 5 percent preferring a minor party candidate and 5 percent undecided. Voters who decide late in elections usually favor challengers over incumbents.

The survey found 56 percent of voters disapproved of Obama's job performance and 53 percent supported repealing Obama's national health care program. Forty one percent classified themselves as angry about the way the federal government works - the angriest state in this week's battleground surveys.

This wave against the party in power, though, has not been enough to salvage Republican hopes for governor.

Candidate Dan Maes, a Tea Party backed candidate who grabbed the nomination following a plagiarism scandal that sank the hopes of the GOP frontrunner, garnered just 15 percent of the vote in the three-way contest with Democrat John Hickenlooper and former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo, running on the American Constitution Party line.

Hickenlooper took 44 percent of the vote and Tancredo garnered 34 percent. Without Tancredo in the race, Maes would still trail Hickenlooper by 14 points. Maes, who has been dogged by financial problems and claims he fabricated parts of his resume, has defied repeated Republican calls to drop out of the race.

While respondents generally favored the Tea Party movement - 46 percent in support and 36 percent in opposition - strong support and strong opposition was almost evenly split, 26 percent to 28 percent.

Voters Don't Like Their Choices in Tossup Race for Obama's Former Seat

Voters seem dissatisfied for their choices in the Illinois Senate battle for the seat formerly held by President Obama.

Republican Mark Kirk took 42 percent and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias 40 percent in the latest FOX News battleground poll of likely voters. As evidence of voter dissatisfaction, 9 percent were undecided and 7 percent back Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones.

Kirk and Giannoulias both suffer from trust issues with voters. Fourteen percent of respondents said neither was honest and trustworthy and 27 percent weren't sure.

Giannoulias has suffered for the closure of his family's bank following risky loans, including to mob figures and big losses to state accounts as state treasurer. Kirk has suffered since exaggerations of his military service and teaching career were discovered on his resume.

Moderate Kirk may also be suffering for a lack of Republican enthusiasm.

Conservative Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady holds a sturdy-looking 10 point lead over Democratic incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, 46 percent to 36 percent.

Giannoulias is counting on lots of help from the Obama White House to take him over the top and convince disenchanted Democrats to not cast a protest vote for the Green Party or stay home. And Obama will be more use in his adopted home state than in most places on the map.

Obama's job approval rating came in at 46 percent, better than his national standing in most polls. But even so, more respondents said that Obama's policies had hurt the state economy (36 percent) than those who said Obama had helped (30 percent). Respondents divided equally on the question of repealing the president's national health care program, 45 percent in favor, 45 percent opposed.

Washington State Senate Heading Down to the Wire

Washington State promises to deliver an exciting finish for the battle for the Senate, with Republican challenger Dino Rossi trailing incumbent Sen. Patty Murray by just one point in the latest FOX News battleground state poll.

Just six months ago, the race wasn't even on the national radar. Three-term incumbent Murray won reelection in 2004 by 12 points over Republican Rep. George Nethercutt and she enjoys a powerful post on the Senate appropriations committee.

But Rossi, a businessman and former state Senator who lost his 2004 gubernatorial bid by just 133 votes after two recounts, may be headed for another nail biter. He and Murray are in a statistical dead heat. She got 48 percent in the survey of likely voters while Rossi took 47 percent.

Washingtonians went for President Obama in a big way in 2008, giving him 57 percent of their votes. But the battleground poll shows Obama lagging on job approval. Only 44 percent approved of his job performance and 49 percent disapproved.

The problem seems to be the economy. Forty seven percent of respondents said the state's economy was "not so good" compared to 18 percent who said it was "good." A strong plurality (39 percent) said that Obama's policies had hurt the state's economy. Another quarter said the Obama agenda hadn't done much at all for the state's economy.

The Tea Party movement divided respondents almost evenly - 42 percent were fans, 40 percent were detractors.

Portman Strong in Ohio, Kasich Slips Against Strickland

Ohio Republican Rob Portman is steamrolling Democratic Senate nominee Lee Fisher by 13 points, but the race for governor in the bellwether Buckeye State is getting tighter.

Portman's lead in this week's FOX News battleground state survey held steady. The former congressman and budget boss to President George W. Bush garnered 50 percent of the vote to 37 percent for Lt. Gov. Fisher.

But Republican John Kasich's bid to unseat incumbent Democrat Gov. Ted Strickland has run into some bumps. Kasich's lead of six points last week was cut down to 2 points, 45 percent to 43 percent, well within the polls' margin of error.

Kasich can't blame the slip on softening attitudes about the Democratic agenda either. President Obama's Ohio job approval rating hovered at a sickly 39 percent and a large plurality (42 percent) continue to believe that the Obama agenda has hurt the state's economy.

One way that Portman has helped stay on top of Fisher is by focusing on the economy. Forty three percent of respondents said that Fisher lacked a clear plan on the economy and jobs while 29 percent said the same thing about Portman.

The Day in Quotes

"[Democrats should] remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives. This president has done an incredible job. He's kept his promises."-- Vice President Joe Biden campaigning in New Hampshire.

"I don't think that Sen. Kerry meant to disrespect the voters. What I think is that the voters are justifiably angry about the position this country is in. That happens to be partly our fault. We have to take responsibility to get our message out there."

-- Former President Bill Clinton, campaigning in Massachusetts, defending Sen. John Kerry after his comments that voters were to blame for Democratic troubles.

"The great thing about it, if Rahm goes to run for mayor, is that Eric survived"

-- Former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig caught on an open microphone before a speech at Columbia University revealing the tensions between his fellow Clinton administration alums, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Attorney General Eric Holder.

"I'm smart enough to know I'd make a lousy candidate. I'd lose. If I ran for dog catcher in the most Republican county in Texas, my Democratic opponent would be funded with millions of dollars from Democrats who hate my interiors -- my guts, so to speak."

-- Karl Rove on FOX News "Happening Now" when asked if he'd ever run for public office."I love Madison because when I was just out of college and I moved to Chicago to work as a community organizer, I still had a couple of friends who were up going to school in Madison, so I used to drive up there and have fun times, which I can't discuss in detail with you."

-- President Obama explaining to a group of college journalists why he pays so much attention to Wisconsin.

"The idea of a longer school year, I think, makes sense" -- President Obama on NBC.

"Oh, I can tell you, I'm out on the road. You know, you've got people that are benefiting phenomenally from the health care bill. And they have absolutely no idea."-- Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) on CNBC.

"Take them [Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell] both very seriously. Treat them with respect. Debate their ideas and don't get diverted by all of these silly things that they may or may not have said that have nothing to do with policy." -- Vice President Joe Biden on MSNBC on what Democrats should do to defeat the Palin-O'Donnell Tea Party movement.

"Christine, welcome to my world."

--Sarah Palin "On The Record with Greta Van Susteren" reacting to the lampooning of Christine O'Donnell on "Saturday Night Live.".

"It's very clear that you can say ‘impossible,' Clearly, she wasn't checking her facts."

-- Gary Holton, director of the Alaska Native Language Archive, to the New York Times debunking the claim by long-shot Senate write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski that there is no native word for "impossible." The word is haangina-lix.

"I'm eager for November 2nd. I think it's going to be an interesting night" -- Senior White House Adviser David Axelrod speaking at midterm election forum hosted by Google.

"I guess what I could ask you is, are you anti-religion, are you anti-Christian in your thinking?"

-- North Carolina Republican House candidate Renee Ellmers after being grilled by CNN's Anderson Cooper for an ad that ties her opponent to the Ground Zero mosque.

"Bristol the pistol, that's who we're rooting for."

-- Sarah Palin, making a guest appearance on "Dancing With the Stars," on which her 19-year-old daughter is a contestant.

"Every time, they bring up that other Isaac Hayes. He's no relation, but that's all right. It's a good icebreaker."

-- Illinois Republican House candidate Isaac Hayes, who is suddenly viable in Chicago following a multi-part scandal, quoted by the Chicago Tribune about sharing a name with the late funk/R&B singer.

Rahm Ready to Roll, But Where Will He Stay?

From FOX News White House correspondent Mike Emanuel:

"From a source close to Rahm Emanuel: "Rahm is nearing a decision on whether to leave the White House and explore a run for Mayor of Chicago; an announcement could come as early as Friday. Because of family considerations, no final decision has been made."

Chicago Sun Times columnist Michael Sneed reports that one complicating factor is finding a place to stay since there is a tenant in Rahm's family's North Side home.

Sneed says Rahm renewed the lease with his tenant through June 2011 less than a week before Mayor Daley announced his retirement."Look, according to the lease I am not allowed to speak to the media about the house. But I can tell you I have no plans to move," the tenant, Bob Halpin, told Sneed.

Emanuel made millions as a door opener for Democrats in the investment banking world and big money for a no-show spot on Freddie Mac's board before the mortgage giant collapsed, so presumably he can make other arrangements.Plus, he's got modest standards. He lived five years rent-free in the basement of the Washington home of Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg. Senior White House Adviser David Axelrod confirmed Monday at a Google political forum that he would return to Chicago in the spring to start ramping up President Obama's reelection campaign.

Trail Riders - More Tax Trouble for Dems; Ohio Starts Voting; The Jerry and Meg Show; Krauthammer on the Difference Between Opportunity and Subsidy

Politics on FOX Today

Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) will be on "FOX & Friends" in the 7 a.m. hour.

Newt Gingrich will be on "FOX & Friends" in the 8 a.m. hour.

Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) will be on "America's Newsroom" in the 9 a.m. hour

Election forecaster Larry Sabato will be on "America's Newsroom" in the 10 a.m. hour

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) will be on "Your World with Neil Cavuto" in the 4 p.m. hour

Reporter Bob Woodward will be on "The O'Reilly Factor" in the 8 p.m. hour

(All times Eastern).

More Tax Troubles Divide Democrats

A group of 47 House Democrats have sent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a letter calling for an extension of current investment taxes, which would mean holding off a 20 percent capital gains tax and a 40 percent tax on dividends due to kick in next year.President Obama is seeking a new 20 percent tax on dividends.

Fight Night - Brown, Whitman Square Off Tonight

Tonight, California gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman will have their first of three big debates.

The showdown takes place at 6 p.m. (Pacific) at University of California Davis with questions from the Sacramento Bee, the local NBC affiliate and the local public radio station.

The race is tight and Democrats remain uncertain about Brown. Look for him to hit Whitman on social issues (abortion, gayness and immigration) in an effort to appeal to his base and split conservative support. Watch for Whitman to play up Brown's long-time incumbency.

She has to avoid looking elitist. He has to avoid looking old.

Poll Check

Generic ballot: Tied at 46 in Gallup survey of registered voters; GOP leads by 6 in Rasmussen likely voter model

New Hampshire Senate Rout in the Making: GOP's Ayotte leads Dem Hodes 46 percent to 32 percent in ARG poll

Steady in Pennsylvania: Toomey (R) leads Sestak (D) by 7 points in Senate race says Allentown Morning Call

Castle write in would help O'Donnell in Delaware: Coons 49 percent, O'Donnell 40 percent, Castle 5 percent says Rasmussen Tighter still in Connecticut: McMahon now within 5 points of Blumenthal in Rasmussen survey.

Early Voting Begins Today in Ohio

Neither party has forgotten the lesson of 2008 when John McCain beat Barack Obama in Ohio on Election Day but lost the state because of Obama's performance in the state's month-long early voting period.

Ohio's early voting period starts today, and Democrats have been bombarding voters with exhortations to fill out mail-in ballots or go to their local boards of elections to vote in person.

President Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe is scheduled to appear at an early voting rally this afternoon in Columbus with embattled incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland.

Tea Party Express Under Steam

The Tea Party Express, the California based political group that helped upend Republican Senate primaries in Nevada, Alaska, Delaware and elsewhere has announced its fall bus tour.

The "Express" will start rolling on Oct. 18 with two days of rallies in Nevada. The tour will cover California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and Massachusetts before finishing in Concord, N.H. on Nov. 1.

Crist Faces Legal Hurdles

A Florida appeals court has been asked to prevent Gov. Charlie Crist from spending more than $7.5 million in campaign contributions for his Senate campaign he received before he fled the Republican Party.

The donors are trying to gain class-action lawsuit status against the Crist campaign.

And Now, A Word From Charles

"On the one hand, the taxes on half of all of small business income will go up on the 1st of January, over 10 percent. The government will take the money, and if you are nice, it will lend you some of it back. If you fill out the forms, if you are obedient and you invest it exactly as the government and the loan officer wants."

-- Charles Krauthammer on "Special Report with Bret Baier" discussing the wisdom of passing a small business loan package but not addressing looming tax increases.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he serves as the host of "Power Play" on FoxNews.com and makes daily appearances on the network including "America Live with Megyn Kelly," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace." Most recently, Stirewalt provided expert political analysis during the 2012 presidential election.

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