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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls -- Week Ending September 12, 2014

The focus has largely been on which party will control the U.S. Senate after Election Day. But 36 states are also electing governors this November, and quite a few of those races are unusually competitive.

Right now, the latest projections on the Rasmussen Reports 2014 Gubernatorial Scorecard show that 10 are Toss-Ups. Another six are leaners but still well within striking range for the other side. We have a handful of races left to check on.

This past week, we looked at six representative governor’s races across the country and out into the Pacific and found some interesting results:

-- Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper remains locked in a near tie with Republican challenger Bob Beauprez in Colorado.

-- GOP Governor Rick Scott and Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist are still running neck-and-neck in Florida.

-- Democratic Congressman Mike Michaud now leads incumbent Republican Paul LePage by four points in Maine's hard-nosed gubernatorial race, with Independent Eliot Cutler a distant third.

-- Troubled Democratic candidate Ed FitzGerald has now fallen 20 points behind Republican Governor John Kasich in Ohio.

-- Democrat John Kitzhaber has a 10-point lead over Republican challenger Dennis Richardson in his bid for a fourth term as governor of Oregon.

-- The race to be the next governor of the Aloha State is nearly dead even.

We reported on just two Senate races this past week. One is no surprise: Longtime Republican Senator Susan Collins holds a near two-to-one lead over Democrat Shenna Bellows in her bid for reelection in Maine. This one’s definitely Safe Republican.

But Kay Hagan’s “war on women” strategy may be beginning to pay off in North Carolina. The embattled incumbent Democrat has now moved ahead of Republican challenger Thom Tillis in a race that’s critical to GOP hopes for winning the Senate.

Tillis, like many Republican hopefuls, is counting on the continuing unpopularity of Obamacare to make a difference on Election Day. The health care law definitely isn’t winning any new friends: 56% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of it again this month. 

However, Republicans hoping to knock off incumbents who voted for the law may be as surprised as we were to find out that nearly one-out-of-three (31%) voters still don’t know how their congressional representative voted on Obamacare.

Slightly more are not even aware which political party controls the House of Representatives and which has a majority in the Senate - less than two months before an election that may put one party in charge of both. It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of representative democracy.

Check our latest video election update.

Republicans continue to lead Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot. After trailing for much of this year, Republicans have now led five out of the past six weeks, although the two parties have been separated by two points or less.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans and unaffiliated voters to vote early if they can.

President Obama’s daily job approval ratings continue to hover in the negative high teens.

One likely reason is that voters continue to believe cutting taxes and government spending will help the economy, but many still expect the Obama administration to do just the opposite.

We asked again just before the anniversary date this past week: Do Americans still remember September 11, 2001?

Worry that another 9/11 could happen in the next 10 years is at its highest level since 2010, and Americans still fear a domestic terror attack more than one from outside the country.

Speaking of domestic terror, most Americans think Ray Rice should be banned from the NFL.

Just before the video of Rice knocking out his fiancée with a punch became public, half of American Football Fans approved of the National Football League's new crackdown against players guilty of domestic violence. Rice has since been fired by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely from playing.

A sizable number of both women and men say they have been victims of domestic violence and question whether legal authorities are taking the problem seriously enough.

Just 24% of Americans think professional athletes are good role models for young children.

Still, an overwhelming number of Americans consider sports important in childhood development, although most parents think winning is more important than just participating on a team. Americans also believe free play is better than organized sports activities.

Seventy-nine percent (79%) think children today do not get enough exercise.

It was a bad week for consumer and investor confidence.

In other surveys last week:

-- Twenty-six percent (26%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

-- Americans still think a government job pays better and requires less work than one with a private company.

-- Major League Baseball fans remain fairly divided as to which team will win this year’s World Series, but they are more confident which players will take home the MVP awards.

-- Voters say sanctions against Russia haven’t done much to ease tensions in Ukraine, but they favor stepping up that pressure if fighting in Ukraine resumes.

-- Bullying remains a serious issue for Americans, but now more are saying it's a problem for the schools, not parents, to handle.

-- School’s back in session, but what do Americans think of what kids are being taught and how much it costs?

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