THURSDAY’S CAMPAIGN ROUND-UP….Today’s installment of campaign-related news items that wouldn’t generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers.

* Believe it or not, the first televised campaign ad of the 2010 election cycle began airing today in Pennsylvania. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) launched a spot criticizing Club for Growth President Pat Toomey, who’s likely to challenge Specter in a Republican primary, but who has not yet launched a campaign.

* A new Quinnipiac poll in Connecticut shows the bottom effectively falling out for Sen. Chris Dodd (D) — he now trails former Rep. Rob Simmons (R) in a hypothetical general election match-up, 50% to 34%. Making matters worse, Dodd also trailed Simmons’ virtually unknown GOP primary opponents — state Sen. Sam Caliguri and former Ambassador Tom Foley — in head to head match-ups. Expect Dodd to face a new round of pressure to retire.

* Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) is in a tough spot. If he refuses to sign the election certificate that would send Al Franken to the Senate, his constituents will accuse him of dragging this process out for partisan reasons. If he does sign the certificate, the Republican establishment will be mad at him, and it might undercut his 2012 presidential campaign.

* Reiterating what he’d indicated earlier, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said he will not seek re-election next year. His recent absurdities, then, are sincere.

* Rep. Kendrick Meek’s (D) Senate campaign in Florida is off to a good start, at least as far as fundraising is concerned. Meek no doubt benefited from Bill Clinton’s support — the former president has hosted two events for the Florida Democrat this year.

* Newt Gingrich told a group of college students in Missouri yesterday, “If the Republicans can’t break out of being the right wing party of big government, then I think you would see a third party movement in 2012.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.