Republican challengers to Mississippi's incumbent Democratic congressmen continue to be encouraged by their district specific polling and national political trends.

Recent polls by The Tarrance Group put state Senator Alan Nunnelee (R) eleven points ahead of First District Congressman Travis Childers (D). Nunnelee has a 15 point lead among "extremely likely" voters and only 32 percent of those polled said Childers deserved reelection.

This comes on the heels of another Tarrance poll that puts state Representative Steven Palazzo (R) within the margin of error in his challenge to 21-year incumbent Fourth District Congressman Gene Taylor (D): Taylor leads 45 percent to 41 percent. Again, the Republican takes advantage in voter intensity with Palazzo posting an eleven point lead in "extremely likely" voters: 48 percent to Taylor's 37 percent.

Even Republican Bill Marcy in his Second District challenge to Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson is touting a poll showing him close. His poll conducted by JMC Enterprises listed Thompson at 34 percent and Marcy at 31 percent. Personally, I have my doubts about their polling model. JMC said the polling response was 63 percent white in this majority black district, but they "weighted the survey answers to reflect the racial breakdown of those we believe who will vote in the general election" which they believe will be a 50-50 black-white turnout.

But Marcy received another boost this week, as did Nunnelee. Former Alaska Governor and 2008 Republican nominee for Vice President Sarah Palin endorsed each of them.

Palin announced on her Facebook page, "I had the privilege of meeting Bill Marcy at the Restoring Honor rally in August. Bill is tough - a former cop who walked a beat in Chicago - and he's the got the values and judgment Congress needs. I'm proud to join so many others in supporting his campaign to represent Mississippi's 2nd Congressional District."

She continued on Mississippi, "Congress could use more leaders like Alan Nunnelee. Alan is a steady, conservative leader that Mississippi can depend on. His opponent stands with Nancy Pelosi and other national Democrats; Mississippi's 1st Congressional District deserves a leader who will stand with them." Palin had endorsed Nunnelee opponent, Fox News contributor Angela McGlowan in the waning hours of the GOP primary earlier this summer. McGlowan, too, has since endorsed Nunnelee.

But with all this good news in the press for Republicans locally and nationally, and the continuing story of a likely GOP takeover in the House, the national press has gone looking for a narrative change. The new story involves a late Democratic voter surge and is being pushed by Democratic operatives.

An October 6 strategy memo from Democracy Corps (Stan Greenberg and James Carville) and the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner advises, "We are very close to believing that the 2010 election can move to a new place. Our latest poll shows the Democrats with a 6-point deficit-and any shift will have a significant impact on the number of House seats and the hold on the Senate. This conclusion and recommendations on strategy and message are based on a special program...aimed at producing an 'October surprise.' This is not a fool's errand." The memo claims Republican leads are diminishing, attacks on Republican incumbents are successful, and - my favorite - "the mood about the state of the economy has become slightly less negative."

The memo encourages attacking Republicans on Social Security and Medicare and arguing Democrats support the middle class and American jobs while Republicans support corporations, Wall Street and trade agreements that export American jobs.

Republican pollster Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies says the theory of the Democrat surge is a "myth" and the chatter about it "is the sound of Democrats whistling past the graveyard."

Bolger writes on his firm's blog, "In the last two weeks, I've polled in more than 50 congressional districts (nearly all of them currently Democratic-held), and there is no evidence of a surge of either Democratic enthusiasm or of a surge in ballot strength. The enthusiasm gap actually widened last week compared to the week prior. To further explore the concept of a Dem surge, I also went back and looked at 41 Democratic-held districts [and saw no] statistical significant shift over the course of one month. Overall, the GOPer leads in these more than 40 Democrats held seats by +7.7 on the generic. That is a significant margin. While individual campaigns do not always match the generic, a lead of this size across forty Democrat districts underscores how tilted the political environment is against the Democrats. It is likely that the enthusiasm gap will fall back a few points, but it still means Republicans will win the close races."

In Mississippi, Nunnelee appears to be on the verge of a decisive win; Palazzo is giving Taylor his closest challenge in twenty years; and Marcy's grassroots efforts continue to give Thompson headaches.

Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at