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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Last-Minute Help From Wealthy Donors

Some wealthy donors appear to be acting as a kind of SWAT team for Democratic and Republican candidates by pouring last-minute contributions into competitive House races. These 11th-hour gifts are often their first to these campaigns.

Joseph A. DiMenna Jr., a hedge fund manager, and his wife, Diana, have put at least $40,000 into nine House races since Oct. 17, including the campaigns of Representative Bobby Schilling of Illinois, a conservative freshman facing a tough re-election bid, and Andy Barr, a Republican lawyer from Kentucky, challenging an incumbent Democrat, Ben Chandler.

Previously, the DiMennas had given more than $70,000 to the Romney Victory Fund, which helps Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and Republican Party committees.

David and Susan Duff, who own Pine Bluff Coal in Kentucky, gave at least $30,000 in October to House campaigns in Arizona, California, Florida, Minnesota and New York, including those of Ann Marie Buerkle of New York and Chip Cravaack of Minnesota, both freshman Republicans. The Duffs had donated $60,000 to American Crossroads, a “super PAC” that supports Mr. Romney and other Republican candidates.

Democratic donors are also getting in on the act. One donor, Gilbert Silverman, a Michigan developer, has given at least $33,000 to 27 Democrats in more than a dozen states.

Mary and Steven Swig, a California couple whose business interests include a real estate firm and a lingerie company, sank at least $15,000 this month into seven campaigns in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois and Ohio. Among those they supported were Representative Betty Sutton, who, as a result of redistricting, is battling a freshman Republican, James B. Renacci, in Ohio.

The Swigs and Mr. Silverman have been major contributors to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, each contributing $30,800.

Video: Romney In His Own Words

From a speech Wednesday at a campaign rally in Tampa, Fla.:

My view is pretty straight forward and that is, I believe that this is time for America to take a different course, that this should be a turning point for our country. And I say that because I look at where we are and with 23 million Americans - you think about that, these are real people, these are folks trying to put food on the table - twenty-three million people struggling to find a good job. This is something that requires in my view a different path than we've been on. Likewise, we have half our kids coming out of college who can't find work. This hasn't happened before in our history. We're at a 30-year low in new business formations. This is a real challenge for a nation that normally grows through innovation and risk-taking and start-ups of all kinds.

We also have one out of six people living in poverty. We need to take a new course. We have 47 million people on food stamps. Think of that - richest country in the history of the earth, largest economy in the world, and yet 47 million people need food stamps? So I believe that this is the year for us to take a different course. I will bring real change and real reform and a presidency that brings us together. Now, I don't just talk about change; I actually have a plan to execute change and to make it happen.

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Total Cost of Election Could Be $6 Billion

The total cost of the 2012 election could reach $6 billion, according to estimates from a leading research organization, which would obliterate the previous record by more than $700 million.

The increase has largely been driven by rapidly increased spending among “super PACs” and outside groups that can raise unlimited amounts of money from donors. Spending by outside groups could reach to more than $970 million for the 2012 cycle, although precise estimates are difficult because the rate of spending by outside groups has been rising so quickly since Labor Day

But even that increase could substantially understate the total. While super PACs - political committees that sprang into being after the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling - spent at least $539.4 million through Oct. 31, hundreds of millions of dollars more are being spent below the radar by groups that do not register with the Federal Election Commission and purport to focus on educational, not political, activities. Such groups spent at least $203 million in the last two months, a window during which federal law requires formal disclosure of any expenditures that mention a candidate, and they spent even more earlier in the campaign cycle, on “issue ads” that are not subject to disclosure. Measured merely by the spending that is disclosed, three of the top six outside groups in 2012 are issue groups that are not required to publicly reveal their donors.

“One thing we can say for certain is that the transparency the Supreme Court relied upon to justify this new framework has been sorely lacking,” said Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which released the estimates on Wednesday.

The center said that the presidential election would likely account for about $2.6 billion in total spending, including spending by the candidates, parties, and outside groups. That figure would represent a decrease from 200 8, in part because of lower spending by candidates in the primaries: President Obama, the incumbent, had no significant opposition, and the Republican candidates on the whole raised much less than the field did in 2008. But total spending by the two parties and their nominees through Election Day is likely to easily outpace 2008, because neither Mr. Obama nor Mitt Romney is accepting public financing and spending caps for the general election.

Perhaps the biggest expansion of outside spending has been in the battle for the House and Senate this year. Between 2008 and 2012 - neither a midterm election - independent expenditures in the House and Senate races increased from $46 million to $445 million, a tenfold increase that does not include issue ads run early in the cycle to soften up incumbents of both parties.

Follow Nicholas Confessore on Twitter at @nickconfessore.

App Snapshots: Storm Diversions

The Election 2012 App

Returning to normal life, for many, has been a struggle after the storm, and there might not be as much time as usual for politics. So ease back in slowly with some lighter news you might have missed, plus some unusual insights into the race in the key states of Florida and Ohio. We collect the best of it all, essential and diversionary on the Election 2012 app.


  • In Florida, ‘Cuban Conundrum' Vexes Pollsters - and Obama
    President Obama comfortably leads Mitt Romney among Hispanics nationwide, but only narrowly in Florida - thanks to conservative Cuban-American voters. (The Miami Herald)
  • In Ohio, Teachers Run for Statehouse - and Could Give Obama a Boost
    A surge of candidacies by Democratic teachers is a byproduct of last year's voter referendum repealing a stat e law that would have curbed public employees' bargaining rights. Another byproduct is reusing teacher phone banks from that effort to support Mr. Obama. (NPR)

During a stop at a diner in Florida, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. made a joke - we think - about his White House intentions.

  • Biden Already Thinking About 2016
    “Look, I'm not trying to talk you into voting for me, I just wanted to say hi to you. And after it's all over, when your insurance rates go down, then you'll vote for me in 2016. I'll talk to you later,” Mr. Biden said to a Florida Republican. (The Hill)

A video of a girl's tearful frustration with the election is quickly becoming an Internet sensation. Also, a look at a campaign aide out to make viral videos of opponents' gaffes.

  • Video: ‘Tired of Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney'
    A 4-year-old in Colorado bursts into tears after hearing one too many election stories on NPR. (YouTube)
  • Dear Little Girl: Sorry We Made You Cry About ‘Bronco Bamma' and Mitt Romney
    NPR apologizes. (NPR)
  • A Day in the Life of a Campaign Tracker
    “You truly never know when a seemingly innocuous statement will eventually emerge as a major issue,” writes a tracker, who follows the opposition to record their every word. (Marketplace)

Sandy and the Need for More Time, Paperwork for Mortgages

Homes on the New Jersey coast damaged by Hurricane Sandy.ReutersHomes on the New Jersey coast damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

A colleague whose home is located in an area affected by Hurricane Sandy had applied last week for a refinance of his mortgage and thought he was done signing forms. But today, his lender said that because his home was in a declared disaster area, he'd have to provide additional documents.

That might not be the easiest thing to do, since getting documents may be a challenge for those in areas without power.

A Bank of America spokesman, Kris Yamamoto, said that due to “GSE guidelines and our policy, and depending on the category of the disaster area,” there may be additional requirements to process a loan, like an inspection or certification on the property. (The term GSE refers to government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, which are major buyers of home loans.)

He also said that if the processing of a loan is delayed due to a bank site being temporarily closed  and the interest rate lock expires during that time, the customer will continue to qualify for their previous interest rate.

A Chase spokeswoman said she was looking into my inquiry. Meantime, she said, Chase is automatically giving many borrowers affected by the storm an extra seven-day extension on an interest-rate lock, if they were scheduled to close on a mortgage this week. (She said the extension applies to Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington, D.C.)

Wells Fargo didn't immediately respond to an e-mail request for information about how the storm i s affecting loan applications.

Do you have a home loan or refinance pending? Has the storm affected your application?

10 House Races to Watch

Weary of the race for the White House? You're not alone! So, how about dialing into some of the most exciting House races of 2012?

Thanks to the powerful force of gerrymandering, the vast majority of the hundreds of races around the country are anti-climactic, with the party registration numbers in each Congressional district dictating the outcome. Republicans appear poised to hold their majority in the House, but Democrats are likely to pick up at least a few seats. Many races, though, mirror the fight for the presidency - tight, exciting and riddled with tough advertisements. While there are more than 10 competitive races, some of them even closer than the ones we have listed list here, these House races are 10 worth watching.

California's 15th District
History and tradition suggest that Representative Pete Stark, who has served nearly four decades, should cruise to re-election, and maybe indeed he will. But this race is on the radar screen because Mr. Stark, who has not faced a serious challenge in years, has been knocked off his game many times by competition - a situation illustrated by his announcement at California newspaper editorial board meeting, absent any proof, that some of its members had donated to his primary opponent. No Republican qualified in the California primary for this race, so Mr. Stark, 81, will have to beat back a Dublin City Council member, Eric Swalwell, a perky 31-year-old prosecutor with the stomach for a fight.

California's 36th District
For eight terms, Representative Mary Bono Mack, the Republican incumbent, has won in this largely blue state, and redistricting seemed to favor another good outcome for her. But she found herself in a scrappy fight against the Democrat, Dr. Raul Ruiz, an emergency room physician. Latinos make up nearly a third of the district's voters, and Ms. Bono Mack, one of the most moderate Republicans in the House may have boo-booed when she said on the campa ign trail that she would reach out to Latinos “after the election.” Twist: If she loses, and her husband, Representative Connie Mack of Florida, fails in his Senate bid, they will be a married Congressional couple out of work.

Colorado's 6th District
As goes this district, so likely goes the presidential candidate in this western bellwether state. Representative Mike Coffman, a favorite of the Tea Party movement, is known for his colorful statements, including calling into question President Obama's American-ness, and his path to a third term narrowed after political mapmakers redrew his overwhelmingly Republican district to include near-equal amounts of registered Republican, Democratic and independent voters. His Democratic rival, Joe Miklosi, a state lawmaker, has struggled to raise money for his own campaign and has had to rely on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to keep afloat. (Colorado Race Turns Fierce Aft er Republican's Anti-Obama Remark, Oct. 30)

Florida's 18th District
Representative Allen B. West is one of the few nationally known freshmen Republicans, a former Army officer who in 2010 became one of only two black Republicans to be elected to the House since Reconstruction. A Tea Party favorite who works the talk-show circuit and is a fund-raising powerhouse, he is in a too-close-to-call contest with a wealthy construction executive, Patrick Murphy, and Democrats would love to see Mr. West go. This race has also featured some of the nastiest ads, in a year with a high bar for that.

Illinois's 17th District
Among the many lawmakers who came to Washington with no political experience, Representative Bobby Schilling was among the most unlikely. The affable pizzeria-owning father of 10 won in a district near the Iowa border that had not elected a Republican in nearly 30 years, and Illinois Democrats drew him into an even tougher district this year, mak ing him one of the most vulnerable incumbents. But his opponent Cheri Bustos, a former East Moline alderwoman and close ally of Senator Richard J. Durbin, has had to work hard to fight Mr. Schilling, who has tried to charm the working-class voters in this district. The race has remained a nail-biter, though Democrats think this one is in the bag. (Ex-Outsiders, Running on Record in Congress, Oct. 28)

Iowa's 3rd District
This race was the war of the nice guys. Iowa lost a seat after the 2010 census, and two veteran incumbents - Representatives Leonard L. Boswell, a Democrat, and Tom Latham, a Republican - found themselves facing off in a new district made up of a nearly equal number of Republican, Democratic and independent voters. The cash advantage went to Mr. Latham, who got a ton of fund-raising help from his B.F.F., House speaker, John A. Boehner. But more of the district is currently held by Mr. Boswell, and Mr. Obama enjoys a narrow edge in the state.

Georgia's 12th District
The last white Democrat laboring in the deep South, Representative John Barrow has hung on through every attack that Republicans have launched over the course of four terms. This year, he is forced to compete in an even more Republican district, and has worked to emphasize his Blue Dog status and his “I vote my district not with the president” cred. His opponent is Lee Anderson, a state representative who nabbed the Republican nomination by a mere 159 votes in a primary runoff, and Mr. Barrow has given as hard as he has gotten in this close race.

Massachusetts's 6th District
So, an openly gay Republican member of the House from Massachusetts? Get ready, as it could happen. Representative John F. Tierney, an eight-term Democrat, should have cruised to re-elected, but he has been dogged with nagging questions about his in-laws' illegal offshore gambling enterprise. His opponent is the former state senator Richard Tisei, an openly gay Republican who supports abortion rights, and polling shows Mr. Tisei heading into the last month of his campaign with a strong lead.

New York's 27th District
There are many close races in New York, and a few involving freshmen, but the first-term incumbent, Representative Kathy Hochul, is considered among the most vulnerable Democrats in the country. Ms. Hochul, a former county clerk, won her seat in a closely watched special election in a conservative district in the Buffalo area last year in a race that was viewed nationally as a referendum on a Republican proposal in Washington to overhaul Medicare. This year, redistricting has given her an even more Republican district than the one she had and her well-known Republican opponent, Chris Collins, the former Erie County executive, has gotten a lot of help from his party.

Utah's 4th District
Representative Jim Matheson, one of the last remaining Blue Dogs, is used to winning in a district and stat e where the Republican nominee for president always prevails. But this time, Mr. Matheson is in a battle against Mayor Mia Love of Saratoga Springs, who is looking to become the first African-American woman ever to join the House of Representatives as a Republican. Ms. Love is sure to have big coattails from Mitt Romney to ride, and her party is giving her strong support, but incumbency is not without its benefits, even in this district. (Utah Mayor Hopes Star Turn, and Romney's Star Power, Lift Her to the House, Oct. 31)

- All New York Times House Race Ratings

Christie Greets Obama in New Jersey Prior to Touring Storm-Ravaged Coast

President Obama greeted Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey in Atlantic City.Doug Mills/The New York Times President Obama greeted Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey in Atlantic City.

Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, greeted President Obama as he emerged from Air Force One on Wednesday for a joint tour of the state's devastated coast.

The two shook hands at the bottom of the stairs from the president's plane, and Mr. Obama patted the governor on the back several times. Craig Fugate, the head of FEMA, also shook hands with Mr. Christie.

Mr. Christie and Mr. Obama talked to each other as they walked to Marine One, the president's helicopter, for the brief ride to the storm-damaged area. Mr. Obama gestured to Mr. Christie to board the helicopter first.

The tour of the area was expected to last about an hour.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

Wrestling With Halloween Cost Creep

A Halloween display in Decatur, Ga.European Pressphoto AgencyA Halloween display in Decatur, Ga.

Halloween used to be a one-night event. When I was a kid, my mother helped me and my brothers put together costumes - usually, homemade. We carved a pumpkin. Maybe we bobbed for a few apples. We went trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. We tried to con each other into trading candy we liked better. And that was it, until the next year.

Times have changed. Halloween has morphed into days - even weeks - of October parties, festivals and candy giveaways that strain budgets and overload youngsters with more sweets than my Milky Way-addled childhood brain could ever have imagined. There's no need for sibling bargaining, when everyone has an over abundance of treats.

I find this “holiday creep” annoying, not to mention potentially fattening, as well as expensive. The average American will spend nearly $80 on decorations, costumes and candy this year, up from $72 last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Total Halloween spending is expected to be about $8 billion.

It's not that the organizers of all the extra events aren't well intentioned. Last week, my children attended a “fall festival” (it involves costumes and candy, but is apparently named so as not to put off those who object to Halloween). It was a fund-raiser for a very deserving local charity. But bringing two children, plus a friend, totaled $60 for the night. (I realize I have free will, and could simply have chosen not to go. But it gets harder to sit out when excess celebration is becoming the norm, and all of your children's friends are attending, too).

Today, my younger child had a celebration at school. (Call me a party pooper, but I didn't bake cupcakes.) And this afternoon, my offspring will go trick-or-treating at their dad's workplace, where employees elaborately decorate their cubicles for the holiday to entertain the kids. Finally, at dusk, we'll venture out into the neighborhood for the actual door-to-door event.

In addition to being tiring, the cost of all this partying adds up. Unless you're adept at homemade costumes or have time to browse thrift shops, you'll pay about $15 to $20 per child for an out-of-the-bag get-up, and three to four times that if you order from a higher-end catalog. If your child is the messy type, you may need more than one costume for the different events, which adds to the cost. (My youngest was a vampire for the fall festival, but agreed â€" whew! â€" to recycle a Pocahontas costume from a school play for the “official” trick-or-treat outing.) This year we're pet owners, so my kids begged for a pumpkin sweater for the dog. (O.K., I do h ave to admit that she looks really cute).

By the time we're finished, we'll have shopping bags full of candy. This is the situation that leads parents to turn to the “Halloween fairy,” who takes away excess treats in exchange for a toy, which adds to the cost further. But wouldn't it make more sense to scale back the excess in the first place?

How do you keep the lid on Halloween, without appearing to be a killjoy?

Jobs Report Will Be Released Friday as Planned

Labor Report on Jobs to Arrive Friday on Schedule

WASHINGTON - The October jobs report - the most anticipated piece of economic data still to be released before the election - will come out as scheduled on Friday morning, the government said Wednesday.

The hurricane had shut down government offices on Monday and Tuesday, and threatened to delay the release of the monthly jobs numbers. That led to hand-wringing in the presidential campaigns and even some accusations that the Obama administration might delay the numbers for its political benefit.

But a Labor Department spokesman said Wednesday in an e-mail message that the report would come out as planned, at 8:30 a.m. E.S.T. on Friday.

Economists expect the jobs figures to show slow, steady employment growth, the product of an anemic but persistent recovery, with the unemployment rate remaining about where it is in the coming months, and employers expected to add workers too slowly to pull the overall jobless rate down further.

Last month, the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent, the lowest since President Obama took office. Regardless of the results, the numbers will immediately become headline fodder for an Obama campaign looking to trumpet a 25th consecutive month of job growth and a Romney campaign looking to underscore the historical weakness of the recovery and the failure of Mr. Obama's economic policies.

Economists estimate that the report will show that the economy added around 100,000 jobs in October, though there is a large margin of error in any given report. Recently the economy has been adding jobs at a pace of about 90,000 a month.

Recent economic data has been mixed, with manufacturing and exports showing significant weakness but consumer spending and confidence on the rise.

Gay Couples May Want to File a Protective Tax Refund Claim

The recent decision by a federal appeals court regarding the Defense of Marriage Act suggests gay couples may want to file something known as a protective refund claim with the Internal Revenue Service in the event the Supreme Court overturns the law, according to accounting experts.

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York struck down the law's definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman as unconstitutional. The decision was the second by a federal appeals court striking down DOMA, as the law is known. The law's constitutionality is expected eventually to be considered by the United States Supreme Court.

If the high court invalidates DOMA, legally married same-sex couples will be able to file claims for refunds of federal tax overpayments, said Janis Cowhey McDonagh, a partner at Marcum LLP in New York and a specialist in the firm's national LGBT and non-traditional family practice.

Currently, same-sex marriage is recognize d by six states - New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont - and the District of Columbia.

Patricia Cain, a law professor at Santa Clara University and an authority on legal issues faced by same-sex couples, said others might want to consider filing a protective claim, too.

For instance, she noted that an additional nine states, as well as Washington, D.C.,  recognize “marriage equivalent statuses” for same-sex couples, like domestic partnerships or civil unions. While most people presume those relationships aren't marriages, she said in an e-mail, “there's a good argument that absent DOMA such relationships should be treated as marriages for tax purposes.”

In light of such uncertainty, she said, some details may end up being settled by further litigation. “I actually would advise anyone who would benefit from joint filing to file an amended return as a protective claim for refund if they ar e married (no matter where they live) or in a marriage equivalent status.”

Ms. McDonagh said couples should file a protective refund claim now because there is a three-year statute of limitations on tax refund claims. By filing a claim now, couples will have standing for overpayments dating to 2009, while DOMA wends its way through the court system. The claim applies to income taxes, estate taxes as well as gift taxes, she said.

It's possible, Ms. McDonagh said, that if the Supreme Court voids the law, the I.R.S. could waive the three-year statute of limitations. That would seem the fair thing to do, she said, but there isn't any precedent for the agency doing so. So to be safe, filing a protective claim makes sense.

Couples should consult their accountants for advice about filing a protective claim, which essentially involves filing an amended tax return, she said.

The case decided earlier this month was brought on behalf of Edith Windsor of New Yo rk City, who married her longtime partner, Thea Clara Spyer, in 2007 in Canada. When Ms. Spyer died in 2009, Ms. Windsor inherited her property. Because the I.R.S. was not allowed, under the Defense of Marriage Act, to consider her as a surviving spouse, she faced a tax bill of $363,053 that she would not have had to pay if the marriage had been recognized.

Do you intend to file a protective claim?

Poll Watch: Track the Polls In the Race\'s Final Days

Less than one week to Election Day, national polls are showing a close race betweenPresident Obama and Mitt Romney among likely voters in a number of polls. Check back here daily to track the race as it heads into its final days.

Wednesday Reading: Three Travel Trips to Get Around Sandy

A variety of consumer-focused articles appears daily in The New York Times and on our blogs. Each weekday morning, we gather them together here so you can quickly scan the news that could hit you in your wallet.

  • Supporters of same-sex marriage see room for victories. (National)
  • Oklahoma prepares for law that makes guns more visible. (National)
  • For flood victims, an insurance blow is possible. (Business)
  • The risk of tapping  your retirement fund for an alternative use. (Dealbook)
  • Homemade Halloween candy for adult tastes. (Dining)
  • Why Consumer Reports and J.D. Power are so different. (Wheels)
  • A wireless charging solution for the Leaf and Volt. (Wheels)
  • Google adds new emergency resources due to Sandy. (Bits)
  • Insect robots, just in time for Halloween. (Gadgetwise)
  • Sticking with Windows 7. (Gadgetwise)
  • How to carbo-load for a marathon. (Well)
  • Helpâ€"my daughter wants to make movies. (Motherlode)
  • Three travel tips to navigate the storm. (In Transit)
  • A shortcut for hailing cabs in European cities. (In Transit)
  • A four-day, best-Brazil-beach quest. (Frugal Traveler)

The Early Word: Countdown

Today's Times

  • The latest poll of likely voters by Quinnipiac University/The New York Times/CBS News, along with interviews with strategists and supporters in the three battleground states, illustrates the dynamic facing both campaigns in the final days of the race, Jeff Zeleny and Dalia Sussman report. In Ohio, President Obama has a slight edge, and the race is essentially tied in Florida and Virginia.
  • For a president locked in a razor-thin battle for re-election, the storm has presented Mr. Obama with a moment â€" both promising and perilous â€" to project the image of a leader responding forcefully to a crisis and to shift the tone of a campaign that had settled into a grinding slog to Election Day, Mark Landler writes.
  • Just a year ago, Mia Love was an unheard-of mayor in Utah. Now, she could be the first black Republican woman in the House, with humble beginnings and Tea Party credentials to boot, Jennifer Steinhauer reports.
  • The storm that ravaged the East Coast has pushed the presidential campaign into a delicate and ambiguous phase, with many Americans watching an improvised leadership test for both candidates as they navigate the politics of a natural disaster, Michael Barbaro and Michael D. Shear report.
  • Many election officials in storm-battered states are asking themselves how to get ready for Election Day next week as early voting sites have been closed and postal service disruptions are threatening to slow the delivery of absentee ballots, Michael Cooper reports. In an age in which the voting process depends heavily on electricity, the obstacles are formidable.

 Happenings in Washington

  • The Labor Department will release the third-quarter employment cost index.
  • The Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases about the use of drug-sniffing dogs.


Poll: Democratic Senate Candidates Lead in Ohio, Florida and Virginia

The Democratic candidates for Senate in Florida, Ohio and Virginia are leading their Republican challengers, according to the latest Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News polls of likely voters, which complicates efforts by Republicans to win a Senate majority.

Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, holds an advantage over Josh Mandel, the state treasurer. Mr. Brown was the choice of 51 percent of likely voters to 42 percent for Mr. Mandel. Six percent said they were undecided.

In Virginia, a race between two former governors, Tim Kaine, a Democrat, holds a narrow edge over George Allen, a Republican. Mr. Kaine was the choice of 50 percent to 46 percent for Mr. Allen. Four percent said they were undecided.

In Florida, Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, holds a wider lead over Representative Connie Mack, a Republican. Mr. Nelson was the choice of 52 percent to 39 percent for Mr. Mack.

The polls, which were conduc ted Oct. 23 to 28 by landline and cellphone, have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Follow Jeff Zeleny on Twitter at @jeffzeleny.