New polling in three key states shows the GOP on track to hold one seat, pick up another, and perhaps remain within striking distance of an upset.  In Pennsylvania, where Democrat Arlen Specter got forcibly retired in a primary, Pat Toomey leads by seven in a new Franklin & Marshall poll among likely voters — and leads by two in a larger group of registered voters as well.  F&M says that claims of a Democratic surge in Pennsylvania were unfounded:

Pennsylvania appears to light up noticeably red ahead of Tuesday’s voting in the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, according to the final Franklin & Marshall poll of this midterm election.

Among registered voters, Republican Tom Corbett leads Democrat Dan Onorato in the race for governor by 12 points, 42 percent to 30 percent with 26 percent undecided.

Corbett’s lead stretches to 15 points among likely voters, 47 percent to 32 percent with 19 percent undecided.

When registered adults that lean toward a candidate are included, Corbett’s lead remains about the same among likely voters, 51 percent to 35 percent with 11 percent undecided.

The poll, which was released Tuesday, also finds that Republican Pat Toomey maintained his lead over Democrat Joe Sestak by 2 points among registered adults.

Toomey’s lead extends to seven points among those more likely to vote, according to poll director G. Terry Madonna.

The flurry of polls showing Sestak moving up against Toomey have mainly reversed themselves, with the exceptions of PPP and Reuters.  The only hope Democrats have in the Keystone State is a massive turnout of their base in Philadelphia.  Madonna noted that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama seem to be “residing in the city” these days in hope of pushing the vote, but sees no evidence that they’re succeeding.

In North Carolina, a race that has mainly escaped national attention, Richard Burr has put himself in position to be the first Senator to win re-election in that seat in decades.  Elaine Marshall trails by 15 while Burr gets over the 50% mark in the latest Survey USA poll:

In an election for US Senator from North Carolina today, 10/26/10, 1 week until votes are counted, incumbent Republican Richard Burr defeats Democrat Elaine Marshall 53% to 38%, according to this latest SurveyUSA poll conducted exclusively for WRAL-TV in Raleigh.

The contest is closer than it was 6 weeks ago, when an identical SurveyUSA WRAL-TV poll found Burr up 24 points; today Burr is up 15. In the end, Marshall cannot overcome the fact that 1 in 4 Democrats statewide cross-over and vote Republican, and that Independents break 2:1 against her.

In fact, Burr tied Marshall in the Raleigh area, usually a Democratic stronghold, 45/45. Marshall has had a strong headwind in this race named Barack Obama, who has become highly unpopular in a state he won in 2008. Obama has a -20 favorability rating in the state, 34/54.  Burr even wins 22% of the African-American vote, a result that should have the White House worried about their re-election chances.  Burr wins every age demographic and every income demographic as well.

The news is not as good in California.  Survey USA’s poll today shows Carly Fiorina five points off the pace, but Barbara Boxer is still stuck at 45% with a week to go:

For US Senator, incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer and Republican challenger Carly Fiorina are even today among voters interviewed on their home telephones, but when voters without home phones, interviewed on their cellphones, are combined, Boxer tops Fiorina 45% to 40%.

Boxer had a 17-point lead among cell-phone only voters, but with oddly low numbers, 43/26 and 22% undecided.  Given Boxer’s high profile in the state and the lateness of the hour, so to speak, those undecideds could break hard away from the incumbent in this cycle.  Fiorina wins seniors and thirty-somethings by pluralities, while Boxer wins the other age demographics by majorities.  It’s going to take a big investment to get Fiorina across the finish line, and the NRSC apparently agrees:

It was the expenditure heard ’round the political world: The GOP is pouring $3 million into the race against Sen. Barbara Boxer on behalf of GOP nominee Carly Fiorina.

The news Monday that the National Republican Senatorial Committee planned to dump that much money into California, this late in the campaign, was enough to cause a double take. The NRSC was already in for $4.8 million in coordinated spending — making the nearly $8 million total expenditure in California the most the committee has publicly committed to any state this year and the most ever in California.

With a huge Democratic voter registration advantage, no independent polling showing Fiorina in the lead in the last month and a new poll Tuesday giving Boxer a 9-point lead, the California Senate contest looks like a sucker bet for the GOP.

So why are Republicans throwing in all that money? Two big reasons: because they can and because they must.

The GOP has to win this seat in order to win control of the Senate, but there’s more to it than that.  With the exception of Harry Reid in Nevada, there isn’t another incumbent Senator that Republicans would like to retire more than Boxer.  They also are still within range of a victory in California.  As long as they’re not neglecting the winnable races in Washington and Colorado, this isn’t a sucker bet at all but an effort to force Democrats to spend money defending what they thought was a safe seat.