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Global threats shredded Dem midterm playbook

In this June 30, 2014 photo, militant Islamist fighters in military vehicles parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province.

In this June 30, 2014 photo, militant Islamist fighters in military vehicles parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province.  (Reuters)

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Buzz Cut:
• Global threats shredded Dem midterm playbook
• Q Poll shows Gardner stretching lead
• Vets group blasts Shaheen for reform brag
• Pryor crushed by Cotton in new poll
• Gross, dude!

How did Scott Brown push the New Hampshire Senate race from long shot to toss-up? Why did the Democratic plan to roil the election with an executive order on amnesty disappear? What explains the shift toward the GOP among women, Latinos and now even young adults? When did the Democratic effort to make this an election about social issues fall apart? The answer is as simple as a look at today’s biggest story. A series of national security catastrophes, starting this summer, reset the election and left Democrats in retreat instead of merely on defense. Russian aggression, chaos at the southern border, Ebola’s arrival in America and, most of all, the unraveling of Iraq and Syria at the hands of Islamist militants shredded the Democratic playbook. When things got real, a strategy based on micromarketing of wedge issues was untenable.

[President Obama campaigns today in Maine. That probably sounded like a safer bet before headlines like this.]

Couldn’t hear the siren - Republicans certainly seem to understand the dynamic of the election while Democrats couldn’t quite wrap their heads around the issue set. But if there is one thing that explains why the race is closing so poorly for Democrats it is the huge drop in Obama’s handling of foreign affairs, even after he reluctantly started a limited air campaign against the Islamists in Iraq and Syria. And on Ebola, while there is a partisan split on estimating the president’s handling of the crisis, there is broad disagreement with his actual policies.

[The Judge’s ruling - Fox News Judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano weighs in on the constitutionality of the government’s ability to quarantine. Read it.]

Flipped - Given the difficulty of the overall environment, it is not surprising that Democrats are getting desperate. Like, sweaty desperate. Democrats are optimistic that nominating a hawkish former secretary of State in 2016 will help the blue team retake the high ground on foreign policy and national security. It may work, or we may be seeing a reversion to what was the political norm for most of the 50 years prior to the Iraq war: Republicans are more trusted on national security while Democrats are more trusted on social welfare. But for now, Obama’s handling of the crises of 2014 has left a party led by a man elected in large part for his foreign policy positions in the dumps.

-- 5 days until Nov. 4 --

Denver Post: “The clock is ticking on Democratic incumbent Mark Udall as another poll shows him behind Republican challenger Cory Gardner in Colorado’s important U.S. Senate race. A Quinnipiac University poll gives Gardner 46 percent to Udall’s 39 percent among likely voters, a slight improvement for the Republican from a week ago when he led by five points.”

[Byron York: “As of Wednesday, [Colorado] officials had received 379,250 ballots from Republicans, 294,648 from Democrats, and 222,043 from unaffiliated voters. The total number of votes received so far, about 900,000, is more than half the 1.77 million cast in Colorado's 2010 Senate race… In the high-turnout 2012 presidential election, there were 2.57 million votes cast. If, as expected, the Gardner-Udall race draws more voters than 2010 but fewer than 2012, the number of ballots received so far is a pretty substantial figure. And at the moment, they're looking good for Gardner and his fellow Republicans.”]

Wrap this race? - The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League has launched a campaign warning, “if [Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.] gets his way, you better stock up on condoms.” The television and Web ads conclude with a couple in vexed after they realize they have run out of the prophylactic. In the radio spot, a man returns empty-handed after seeking condoms from every store in the neighborhood. “So, everyone's sold out of condoms! How did this happen?” his girlfriend asks. “Cory Gardner banned birth control. And now it's all on us guys, and you can't find a condom anywhere,” the boyfriend replies.

[Did Tom Steyer’s Democratic “dark money” operation underwrite the ad? The Federalist found evidence that it may have. Also, the ad does talk about “climate change weirding our weather.”]

LAT : “On Wednesday, both [Democrat Bruce Braley and 2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton] spent a good deal of time … [calling] for raising the minimum wage and wage equality for men and women. ‘It is not enough to be a woman. You have to be committed to expanding rights and opportunities for all women,’ Clinton said in a dig at [Republican Joni Ernst,] made without mentioning her name. She laid out a series of questions for Ernst and other GOP candidates on personhood measures -- which would give full human rights from the moment of conception -- and access to affordable contraception coverage.”

She came to a fork in the road - Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst visited a country crossroads for her closing ad saying, “We can continue down Washington's road or change direction and take a new way- the Iowa Way. Protect seniors, not scare them. Balance the budget, instead of passing the buck to our kids and grandkids. It's time to change direction.”

[Watch Fox: Campaign Carl Cameron is on the trail in Iowa and has the latest on the close Senate contest.]

John Adams
, born on this day in 1735, might very well have been doomed to a dim corner of history between the bright lights of Virginians George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. But destiny had something else in mind for Adams, the brilliant but dour New England lawyer, whose zeal for the American Revolution was matched only by his devotion to his beloved Abigail. Adams rescuer was historian David McCullough, whose 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, begat an acclaimed television series about the second president and his wife. McCullough reintroduced Americans to a man who struggled mightily – often against his own impulses – but who never gave up. And was the soul of John Adams: perseverance. A letter from Abigail amid his ordeal in Philadelphia in 1775 could have been the couple’s motto: “Great difficulties may be surmounted, by patience and perseverance.” Adams would probably be surprised, but secretly pleased, with the notoriety he enjoys 279 years hence.  And he would most certainly counsel us, in troubled times, to preserve.  Happy Birthday, John Adams.

Got a TIP from the RIGHT or LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM

Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 41.9 percent//Disapprove – 54.7 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 27.5 percent//Wrong Track – 65.8 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 43.3 percent// Republicans – 45.3 percent

Concerned Veterans of America is hitting Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., for boasting in a recent debate that the number she was most proud of was the 129,000 veterans that can now get care closer to home “because of the legislation that Sen. [Kelly Ayotte , R-N.H.] and I got into the Veterans Reform Bill.” However, the following day Ayotte noted in an interview, “[at] this moment, they don’t have that option because the actual implementation hasn’t been put in place yet.” The group’s CEO, Pete Hegseth slammed Shaheen in statement saying, “I wonder how proud Senator Shaheen will be after everyone knows the truth -- that the real number of Granite State veterans she has improved care access for is actually ZERO.”

Final fight night - WMUR: “It is the most important debate in the most important race in the all year. On Thursday night Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican challenger Scott Brown are scheduled to participate in their most-watched debate. The hour-long debate will air live at 7 p.m. on WMUR-TV and will be streamed live on and through the WMUR mobile app.”

Rubio and Paul pitch for Brown - The Hill: “New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown is getting help from Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in the final week of his challenge to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)… Paul cut a 15-second ad for the Chamber of Commerce touting Brown, while Rubio penned an editorial for the Union Leader praising the candidate as a ‘friend’ and ‘simply a better choice’ than Shaheen… In the ad, Paul makes an appeal to New Hampshire's independent-minded electorate, saying ‘if you're a freedom-loving, liberty-loving, leave-me-the-hell-alone voter,’ go vote for Brown on Election Day.”

Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., appeared to take a page from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s, D-N.H., playbook in saying, “the president has a difficult job,” when she was asked twice if she thought President Obama was doing a good job during an interview with a local television station.

After a slew of recent polls showing a tied Senate race in Georgia, a new Monmouth University Poll gives Republican David Perdue a substantial lead over Democrat Michelle Nunn. In the Monmouth poll, Perdue leads Nunn 49 percent to 41 percent.

Kansas independent Senate Candidate Greg Orman is featuring his endorsements from leading Kansas papers in a new ad. Orman appears in the ad saying, “[Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.] is relying on negative ads to stay in office. I’m counting on something much more powerful, the intelligence and the independent spirit of the people of Kansas.”

Robert’s ad: Orman an embarrassment - Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., hammers Greg Orman’s claims of being independent in two new radio ads. In one a female actor says, “Pat Roberts isn’t perfect but at least I know where he stands. With Greg Orman, the more I learn the more he seems like a very risky choice. Greg Orman could be downright embarrassing for Kansas.” The other hits Orman’s pro-choice stance.

University of Arkansas: “Among very likely voters, Tom Cotton, the Republican candidate, maintains a significant lead over Democrat Mark Pryor, at 49 percent to 36 percent. … Conducted between Oct. 21 and 27, the poll showed solid leads for Republican candidates among very likely voters, continuing a pattern that emerged in 2010. As with the senatorial race, the Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson leads Democrat Mike Ross, 50 percent to 39 percent among very likely voters.”

The Hill: “Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) took heavy fire from both Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and former Air Force colonel Rob Maness in the second and final televised debate featuring all three contenders… Landrieu tacked to the right on a handful of issues, expressing support for a ‘smart fence’ on the border that can differentiate between deer and humans; a 21-day quarantine for nurses and doctors returning from treating Ebola patients as ‘a minimum we should do’ to address the crisis and for leaving ‘all options on the table,’ including ground troops, to tackle ISIS. … But she gave Republicans ammunition for attacks, at one point defending her use of charter planes, which sparked a controversy when an independent analysis found she had paid for tens of thousands of dollars of campaign trips on chartered planes with her official Senate budget. Landrieu said she took ‘full responsibility for the error,’ but that she used the planes ‘to be able to move around the state more quickly and efficiently.’’’

AP: “Veterans’ issues, war and Sen. Lisa Murkowski were among the leading topics during a debate in Alaska's U.S. Senate race. Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and his GOP challenger Dan Sullivan squared off for one of the last times before Tuesday’s election. Sullivan said Begich was slow to respond to problems with the Department of Veterans Affairs and didn't join calls for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. Both Begich and Murkowski reserved judgment on Shinseki, who resigned earlier this year. But Begich also defended his work to improve VA care in Alaska. Sullivan asked Begich why he hadn’t pulled ads touting his level of cooperation with the Republican Murkowski. Begich said the ad is no longer running, but said he was proud of their record of working together.”

Republicans need six more Senate seats to take control of the upper chamber. Which blue seats are the most vulnerable in this year’s midterms? Here are the top picks based upon Fox News First reader’s emails and tweets: Arkansas (13.8%), Montana (13.2%), West Virginia (12.4%), South Dakota (11.9%), Louisiana (11.7%), and Alaska (9%). Reader Mark Lenox writes, “My number 6 is actually a three-way tie between Alaska, Arkansas and Iowa, but I think Alaska is more of a sure thing at this point.  I don’t see how the Democrats can keep the Senate unless there’s an unexpected loss or even two like Georgia, Kansas or Kentucky.”

Share your top six picks. Email them – just your top six, please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM or tweet @cstirewalt.

Climate Changes
’s Upshot says there’s a 68 percent likelihood of the GOP winning the Senate, up three percent from Wednesday.

WaPo’s Election Lab forecasts that Republicans will see a net gain of seven Senate seats. The forecast projects a 93 percent chance Republicans take the upper chamber, unchanged from Monday. The forecast now gives Republicans a 62 percent chance of taking Georgia after calling it a likely Democratic pickup.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight gives the GOP a 64 percent chance of winning the Senate, up two points from Wednesday.

[Follow the money - USA Today: “Wall Street is dominating political giving ahead of next week’s elections and is betting big on Republican gains in Congress, a new analysis shows.]

With Democratic hopes of saving the Senate waning, President Obama is sticking with his union backers and keeping a focus on state races. Obama heads to Maine today in a bid to restore Democratic hopes of unseating Republican Gov. Paul LePage. LePage had been considered a goner, but recent polls show that the libertarian-minded incumbent could hang on in the race. Obama’s visit comes one day after Sen. Angus King, who ran as an independent when elected in 2012 but aligned himself with Democrats upon reaching Washington, renounced his support for independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler in favor of the Democrats’ gubernatorial nominee, Rep. Mike Michaud.

[First lady Michelle Obama will campaign for embattled Gov. Dan Malloy, D-Conn., locked in a pitched battle with Republican Tom Foley. The first lady will also be in Rhode Island to stump for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo.]

Walker closing strong - Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: “Republican Gov. Scott Walker leads Democratic challenger Mary Burke 50% to 43% among likely voters in the latest survey by the Marquette University Law School. That represents a change from other Wisconsin surveys in recent weeks — including a Marquette poll two weeks ago — that showed the race essentially tied. The Marquette results released Wednesday underscore just how much turnout matters to the outcome of the contest for governor. Walker's gains were not among the broader population of registered voters, but among those who said they were certain to vote Tuesday. That’s the group defined as “likely voters” in Marquette's polling. The race is much tighter and has changed little among all registered voters — with Walker leading Burke 46% to 45%.”

Crist corrals independents - A Quinnipiac University poll released this morning reveals Democrat Charlie Crist is enjoying a late surge of independent support. According to the survey, Crist now leads Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., 43 percent to 40 percent. The poll finds independent voters favor Crist 47 percent to 29 percent.

Snyder holds slim lead - Detroit Free Press: “With less than a week before the Nov. 4 election, Gov. Rick Snyder [R-Mich.] has only a two-point, 45%-43%, lead over Democrat Mark Schauer, according to a…poll of likely voters taken Oct. 26-28 by EPIC-MRA for the Free Press, WXYZ-TV and their media polling partners. Nine percent of respondents said they still are undecided, and 3% percent said they are voting for third-party candidates.”

AP: “In a possible preview of a 2016 presidential race, former Florida [Republican] governor Jeb Bush took a swipe at Hillary Clinton on Wednesday evening as he stumped for Republican candidates in the vital swing state of Colorado… During a rally for the Republican ticket at a county fairground in this conservative Denver suburb, Bush, without mentioning her name, alluded to comments Hillary Clinton made while stumping for Democrats on Friday. ‘This last week I saw something that was breathtaking, a candidate — a former secretary of state who was campaigning in Massachusetts — where she said that ‘don’t let them tell you that businesses create jobs.’ Bush paused as the audience booed. ‘Well the problem in America today is that not enough jobs are being created, (but) they are created by business,’ Bush continued.”

[Listen to FoxFOX News Radio’s Jason Bonewald looks at how potential 2016 presidential candidates are using their clout to boost 2014 candidates. Check out this week’s Balance of Power podcast.]

Bloomberg: “The blunt tool of television advertising is getting sharpened in this year’s midterms. The latest craze: Allowing a candidate to target you and your neighbor with completely different messages–even if you’re watching the same show, at the same time, on the same block…Who’s using this service? The John Bolton SuperPAC, which was founded by the conservative former U.N. ambassador and is dedicated to promoting candidates who support strong national defense policies, is one early adopter.  The group has placed TV spots using the DISH/DirecTV model in Arkansas and North Carolina to supplement an extensive online presence.  As part of its targeting research, it employed the consulting firm Campaign Solutions to combine and cross-check state voter files with consumer data such as magazine subscriptions, and also conduct personal interviews. Then voters were sorted into 100 personality types and arranged into 28 clusters.”

Staten Island Advance: “There are, on occasion, electoral races in which both candidates are of high quality and high integrity and conduct a tough but fair campaign about the issues. Fair-minded voters have a difficult choice, but they can know that, no matter who is elected, they'll be well represented by someone who won't embarrass their community. The election for the House of Representatives seat in the 11th New York Congressional District is nothing like that.”

Washington Free Beacon: “Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in Arkansas John Burkhalter said being a male stripper in Little Rock was one of the many ‘tough jobs’ he had in his past. ‘I did have that job for a while, a very short time,’ Burkhalter told Larry Henry in an interview for 5NEWS, a CBS affiliate in Arkansas. He was asked about being portrayed as a candidate with a ‘different background, from Chippendales dancer to multi-millionaire.’ ‘It was when I was in Little Rock,’ Burkhalter said. ‘I’ve always been an athlete, and I was actually buying cows from a farm.’ ‘I had like 17 acres in a little place called Billy Goat Hill, which is in North Pulaski County, and I was trying to make my way in life,’ he said.”

What does your reaction to disgust say about you? Apparently it can be a good gauge of your ideological leanings. Researchers at Virginia Tech used MRI technology to measure how individuals react to images. What they found was the reactions to various images offered a strong indication as to whether or not an individual was a conservative or liberal. Science Daily: “The researchers applied a machine-learning method to all of those pictures together with the test scores in search of a predictable relationship between the two. And, indeed, they found it. Disgusting images, and the mutilated body of an animal especially, generated neural responses that were highly predictive of political orientation. That was true even though the neural predictors didn't necessarily agree with participants' conscious rating of those disturbing pictures.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News.  Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.