Is some kind of lewd political curse haunting Democrats along the great expanse of I-95? That could be given the string of bad news plaguing the majority party from New Jersey to Virginia, lighting up the Northeast in ways unimagined just several months ago. Even though Republican gains in these states seem plausible based on recent polling data, it's still difficult for prognosticators to separate the GOP’s fate from the unpleasant scent of its own brand.

Ultimately, we all agree that political races are popularity contests, pitching one market brand against the other. At the moment, the Democratic brand is "what's up," citing original Philly street parlance. Having an iconic president in the White House who draws more heads than touring musicians isn't that bad either. This is the core energy of Barack Obama's political capital. He's drawing from it like Iron Man's chest generator. Still, marketing experts always warn industry folks about the dangers of "over-branding" or selling it too much. A whispered few wonder if the president's political winds are similar to that of Starbucks: Too many stores have the peeps wanting the independently owned alternative across the way. Which is the main challenge for the right: effectively separating the president's policy from his personality.

Could there be signs of this in Virginia, Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut? That's way too early to tell, perhaps even improbable by any stretch, but Democrats find themselves unusually worried about the Northeast (though it's geographically a Southern state, we could comfortably nudge VA into the NE column due to changing demographics in its northern part and the close proximity to northern political shifts).

Solidly blue-leaning Pennsylvania finds the defecting, newly Democratic-minted Sen. Arlen Specter only 1 percentage-point ahead of conservative firebrand Congressman Pat Toomey (R) in a 2010 matchup, according to a recent Quinnipiac survey, 45 percent to 44 percent.

A Strategic Vision poll finds U.S. Attorney Chris Christie (R) rocking Gov. John Corzine (D) 53 percent to 38 percent. About months ago during a sojourn to Trenton, two eagerly Democratic Jersey strategists labeled Corzine a "shoe-in," counting on big turnout from the state's majority Dem political machine. That was before the big corruption sting. The dramatic arrests of nearly four dozen Jersey political officials and insiders, from an organ-ring rabbi to a bribed Corzine cabinet member, probably gives Christie all the ammunition he needs to paint the incumbent's administration as corrupt.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) could be hanging it up while dragging behind Congressman Rob Simmons (R) 48 percent to 39 percent in another Quinnipiac poll. In Virginia, state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D) wouldn't normally be worried by a short 3 percentage point spread behind Attorney General Bob McDonnell (R) since he's in a fairly purple state with strong GOP pockets. But, he's worried now after an open dis from prominent figures in the Virginia black political establishment, leaving Deeds' worried if he'll get critical support from a voting block which accounts for nearly 30 percent of the state's voting population.

On the real, Dems have much to think about and reverse in how they’re fairing on the local scene. Has power bred complacency, with Democratic state parties simply comfortable (perhaps even worn out) after major gains in 2008? Or, is it a reflection of a deteriorating economic situation? Unemployment in the states mentioned above is either right at or near the official national average, with few signs of a reverse trend.

Charles Ellison is director of the Center for New Politics and Policy and host of "The New School" on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio.