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This Week In Congress: Oct. 15

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By Elizabeth Wynne Johnson, Capitol News Connection

This week in Congress, the lawmakers were out and about--pretty much anywhere but in Washington. For a couple of hours Tuesday morning, a stage inside Union Station was awash in a sea of consonants. There was the NRSC, the DSCC, the NRCC and the DCCC. In other words: The Senate and House campaign arms of the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively. The heads of all four campaign organizations gathered for a little pre-midterm chest-thumping.

In the House Republican corner: Guy Harrison, executive director of the NRCC.

"Every single one of these incumbents that we're going to discuss today on the Democrat side is probably under 46 on their initial ballots--and I just don't think that's a good place to be a month out," Harrison said.

His Democratic counterpart, Jon Vogel, countered that Republicans failed to achieve the early shut-out they were aiming for.

"All the chips are on the table on their side right now. They've declared victory in the House. Maybe they're dialing it back a little bit now," Vogel said.

In the land of campaigns-and-consonants, expectations have a tendency to become self-fulfilling, and "truth" is relative. On the question of whether Republicans will take control of the House, Harrison-the-Republican says, "We have enough races in field to get this done."

Whereas, according to Vogel-the-Democrat, "They still have to beat 35 Democratic incumbents which is a very, very tall task."

On the Senate-side, one race in particular stands out: Nevada, where Tea Party-backed Sharron Angle continues to run neck-in neck with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Senate Republican operative Rob Jesmer and his Democratic counterpart, JB Poersch, almost agree on this one.

"I just think this is going to be a really, really, really, really close race," Jesmer says.

"I think it'll be close but I see it differently. I think the Leader's had a lead here for two to three months and will hold it right through election day," Poersch says.

A GOP takedown in Nevada would have huge symbolic value for Republicans. Especially, notes David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, if they can combine it with taking the President's old Senate seat in Illinois "regardless of whether they took back the House. They would be able to point to that as a serious scalp that they claimed from 2010."

In the midst of it all, money is pouring in to American electoral politics at an unprecedented rate--thanks to a new breed of entity that has emerged in a big way: groups that raise and donate money from unnamed sources and corporations. It comes as no surprise that those outside groups are suddenly pouring millions into the Illinois and Nevada Senate races, among others.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, outside groups have pumped more than $150 million into 2010 electioneering overall. And the meter's still running.

JB Poersch, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, points out that most of the money, by far, is flowing in the other party's favor in tight races.

"So far on the Senate side, at least to date $44 million on the Republican side. Almost half of it is Crossroads, Karl Rove's group," Poersch says.

It's a new political reality post-Citizens United, in which the Supreme Court opened the doors to unfettered (and unidentified) political spending. And former White House power broker Karl Rove is fast becoming the face of it; the "face" of potent anonymity, as it were.

So far, most of the action is Senate-side. NRCC head Guy Harrison explained away the lesser focus on his Republicans in House races, saying there are just so many: "Let’s see: Ohio-6, Tennessee-4, Minnesota-1, Missouri 4..."

Regardless of the outcomes in November, in individual races and for the Parties collectively, one thing is certain: An industry is born.

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