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Quick shots: Are Democrats gaining?

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • John Avlon: Polls show Democrats gaining in Senate races though GOP wave is likely
  • He says centrist voters are giving some Democrats momentum
  • Erick Erickson says Republicans are worried about heavy union spending
  • He says GOP feuding over party leadership could erupt after the election is over

Editor's note: In 11 days, voters will cast ballots in the hotly contested midterm elections. In this special feature, CNN's political contributors share their quick thoughts on what's making news.

John P. Avlon is a CNN contributor and senior political columnist for The Daily Beast. He is the author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America."

Erick Erickson is the editor-in-chief of the conservative website RedState.com

Avlon: Democrats gaining in Senate races

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Polls are tightening in races across the nation as candidates make their final push. And while there's no question a Republican tidal wave is on its way, there is some new good news for Democrats in specific races.

From Pennsylvania to Connecticut to West Virginia, Democratic Senate candidates are surging in the late innings. A look at the underlying polls shows that is because self-described centrist voters are swinging to Democrats. In Ohio, a governor's race between incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland and the popular former congressman John Kasich has tightened to a virtual tie because Strickland is beating Kasich 2 to 1 among moderates, according to the CNN/Time/Opinion Research poll.

Usually, independent voters and centrists track together, but this year there is an interesting split -- independents continue to favor Republicans, a trend that has been building for over a year. But in part because of the extremism of high-profile Tea Party-backed candidates such as Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle, centrist voters seem to be shifting momentum toward specific Democrats in swing states as Election Day comes closer.

Erickson: Republican feuding may erupt after election

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Republicans have a little doubt in the back of their heads this week. They do not believe the polls showing the races tightening. Those results are not really reflected in any of the national media and independent polling, just in university conducted and Democrat oriented polling.

But there is a concern about the vast amount of money being thrown into the races by unions. The AFSCME is pouring massive amounts of money into races. So is the SEIU. So are other unions. Should the GOP take back the House of Representatives, there will be inquiries you can guarantee into union fundraising, involvement in elections, and whether government should make it opt-in instead of opt-out for union dues to go to political activity.

Nonetheless, the union money is deeply worrying because of the ground game potential. Why?

Well there are two related stories out this week. One is that the Republican National Committee, despite raising a significant amount of money in September, is in debt and does not have the resources to adequately fund state get out the vote efforts. The second is that chairman Michael Steele is sending money to Guam. Seriously.

It is only $15,000, but make no mistake in what it actually is: Steele is already campaigning again for RNC chairman. Should the Tea Party movement beat the union effort in 11 days, Michael Steele will do his best to take credit for their work. So will John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. And the victories they take credit for will be had in spite of them.

That alone may incite more intra-party feuding than any other action the Republican leadership in Washington takes in the next 30 days.

The opinions expressed in these commentaries are solely those of the authors.