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Quinnipiac to Launch ’08 Swing State Poll

The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute is planning to launch a new survey project to track the progress of the 2008 White House race in three key swing states.

Dubbed the Swing State Poll, Quinnipiac plans to poll a sample size of 1,000 voters each in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, then release the cumulative results.

The first poll will be released in coming weeks, with subsequent surveys being released every two months.

The polling gurus at the institute, which does national polling as well as in six eastern states, have a little more free time on their hands this cycle since only one of those states they routinely poll in, New Jersey, has a major statewide contest on tap next year.

The Swing State Poll will look at both primary and general election matchups.

Peter Brown, assistant director of the polling institute, said the decision to poll in the three states was simple.

“These are the three biggest swing states in the county,” Brown said. “This is where the votes are. It is very difficult to come up with a reasonable electoral scenario … where the winner does not take at least two of these three states.”

Vilsack’s Out. Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack’s (D) announcement Friday that he was ending his 2008 presidential bid leaves the key endorsement of Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) up for grabs.

In 2004, Harkin endorsed former Vermont Gov. and now-Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean 10 days before the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. Dean went on to a third-place finish.

Vilsack’s departure also frees up several experienced Iowa organization and money players, including former Harkin campaign manager and state Democratic strategist Jeff Link.

Link served as Iowa director for then-Vice President Al Gore’s (D) 2000 presidential bid and has extensive political experience in the state.

Link is close to the upper echelons of Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) campaign — including senior adviser Steve Hildebrand and Iowa State Director Paul Tewes, who directed Gore’s 2000 field operation in the state.

However, Link also has ties to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) campaign. JoDee Winterhoff is a former top aide to Harkin who is now serving as the Clinton campaign’s Iowa state director.

Vilsack cited his inability to keep pace financially in the contest as the reason for ending his campaign.

“It is money and only money that is the reason we are leaving today,” Vilsack said.

His campaign showed a little less than $400,000 in its bank account as of the end of 2006.

Vilsack, who announced his candidacy in November, said he would not be endorsing any of the other Democratic candidates immediately.

Obama Ruling. The Federal Election Commission last week released a draft proposal that, if approved, would allow Obama to continue to raise private funds over the limit required to accept matching public money, while keeping the public financing option open.

In its draft response to Obama’s request for a ruling on the matter, the FEC said the presidential contender could raise private funds for the general election, keep it in a separate escrow account, and later return it if he opts to accept up to $105 million in public money that is available in the primary and general election. The money would have to be returned to donors within 60 days of his becoming eligible for the public funds.

Obama has said he would consider accepting public funds if he becomes his party’s nominee, and if the Republican nominee agrees to do the same.

Currently, Obama as well as Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) — the three leading contenders for the Democratic nod — plan to fund their bids solely through private donations.

The FEC will meet to consider a final ruling on the matter Thursday morning.

Going for Dodd. Christy Setzer has signed on to Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-Conn.) 2008 presidential campaign as national press secretary.

Setzer most recently worked for the Senate Majority Project, a 527 political action committee that formed in the previous cycle as an opposition research clearinghouse to aid Democrats’ continuous anti-GOP drumbeat.

Setzer has previous experience working for Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and on the unsuccessful New York City mayoral bid of former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer (D) in 2005 and Dean’s unsuccessful 2004 presidential run.

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