Democrats may have hoped for a Senate firewall in Illinois, where Barack Obama’s term will get completed by a special election, and in Washington, where Patty Murray looked safe just a couple of months ago. Instead, PPP shows Republicans with slight edges in both states.  Rossi leads by one in Washington, thanks in no small part to Murray’s favorable rating suddenly doing a backflip:

Every time PPP has polled the Washington Senate race this year it’s found the race to be within 2 or 3 points and our final poll there is no exception. But there is one twist- for the first time we find Dino Rossi leading Patty Murray, by a 50-48 margin.

Neither candidate has much in the way of support across party lines- Rossi’s winning 93% of Republicans and Murray’s winning 91% of Democrats. That means independents, as they are in so many races across the country, are making the difference for the GOP here. Rossi leads Murray with them by a 54-42 margin.

The most worrisome number for Murray within the poll, beyond her small overall disadvantage, is that among voters who say they’ve already returned their ballots Rossi’s advantage is wider at 52-47. Murray’s ability to keep the race close is predicated on the 24% of respondents who have not yet done so returning their ballots. That group supports her by a 51-45 margin.

That is a lot more important in Washington than anywhere else.  Most of the voting in the state takes place by mail.  If Rossi leads among those who have already sent their ballots by mail, and 76% of the likely voters have already sent theirs, that leaves very little room for Murray to regain ground.

They’re not going to be terribly motivated to help Murray in any case.  Her favorable rating has gone to 44/51, a bad place to be for an incumbent in this election cycle.  Rossi doesn’t exactly set the world on fire, either, with a 45/46 rating, but he has the fortune of being a Republican in a good year for the GOP, and not being the incumbent while the electorate fumes at the Beltway establishment.

In Illinois, Mark Kirk has finally moved out to a four-point lead, boosted mainly by independents and strong party unity among GOP voters, and Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady has a five-point lead over Pat Quinn:

Republicans continue to lead the races for both Governor and Senator in Illinois, albeit by close margins. Mark Kirk is ahead of Alexi Giannoulias 46-42 for the state’s open Senate seat and Bill Brady is ahead of Pat Quinn 45-40 for Governor. …

-Independents are leaning strongly toward the GOP. Kirk leads Giannoulias 46-31 with them and Brady has a 45-27 advantage over Quinn with them.

-Republican voters are much more unified around their candidates this year than Democrats are. 87% of GOP identifiers are planning to vote for Kirk while only 78% of Democrats are planning to vote for Giannoulias. In the Governor’s race 86% of Republicans support Brady while Quinn’s only getting 75% support from his party.

-Republican voters are much more likely to head to the polls this year than Democrats. In 2008 Barack Obama won Illinois by 25 points. Those who say they’re likely to vote this year only supported him by 14 points. That’s a strong indication that many of the voters who were a part of the Obama ‘wave’ are staying at home this year.

This race is doubly important, because the winner will get seated immediately.  It’s both a regular and special election for the seat won by Obama in 2004, thanks to a ruling in federal court that Illinois had to hold a special election to replace Roland Burris rather than let him serve the last two months of Obama’s term.  Adding a Republican in this seat will allow the GOP to hold the line in any lame-duck session of Congress.  The same is true for races in West Virginia and Delaware, and it now looks like the GOP can pick up at least two of the three, which will change the Senate’s balance significantly in the next two months.

PPP also shows some good news for Republicans in California, although not as good as Republicans would like:

The contests for Senate and Governor in California have tightened over the final week of the campaign, although the Democratic candidates still retain the lead in both races. Barbara Boxer is up 50-46 on Carly Fiorina for the Senate, while Jerry Brown is ahead of Meg Whitman by a 51-46 margin for Governor.

Boxer leads despite posting atrocious approval numbers in this final poll at 40% of voters happy with her job performance and 50% displeased. Fortunately for her Californians aren’t real enamored with Fiorina either- only 42% rate her favorably to 44% with a negative opinion. Boxer’s position right now might be a lot more perilous if she had drawn a stronger opponent.

We will have a long night Tuesday going into Wednesday morning watching this race.  If the Republican tsunami breaks early in the East, it may impact enthusiasm on the West Coast and either discourage Democrats or encourage more Republicans to join the “throw the bums out” project.  It will all come down to turnout in any case, but it’s hard to imagine that Boxer will get any relative enthusiasm for continuing her incumbency in a state with 12.4% unemployment and a collapsing economy.