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Leading Off:

CT-Sen: It certainly looks like Linda McMahon's massive spending spree has paid off: Quinnipiac's new poll shows the Republican wrestling mogul leading Dem Rep. Chris Murphy 49-46, up from a 46-43 Murphy edge in early June. In addition to McMahon's huge advertising blitz, Quinnipiac also switched from a registered voter model to a likely voter model, which partly explains the shift. I'd also note that despite McMahon's attempted makeover, it seems like her negative ads have had more of an impact than her positive spots: Murphy's favorability is now 38-30, compared to 37-17 in June, while hers has changed very little, going from 45-38 to 47-35.

In the same survey, by the way, Obama leads Romney by just 52-45, which is very similar to what PPP found at the end of last month (also using an LV sample). You gotta wonder who these Obama-McMahon voters are. But regardless, the Murphy campaign isn't disputing Quinnipiac's findings, saying in a statement: "This was always going to be a tough race, and we don't take anything for granted and neither should McMahon."

Senate:

AZ-Sen: In his first ad, a veteran who trained alongside Democrat Richard Carmona narrates just a portion of Carmona's absolutely remarkable biography: a poor high school dropout who joined the Army, served in the Special Forces in Vietnam, then became a doctor and eventually Surgeon General of the United States. (And though the spot doesn't mention it, he was awarded two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts.) The only thing it's lacking is any reference to the fact that Carmona is running for Senate, but I'm guessing that must be deliberate.

FL-Sen: If it's not the largest third-party purchase of web ads for a Senate race this cycle, it's certainly up there: The NRA just bought a whopping $347K worth of online ads for the purposes of hitting Dem Sen. Bill Nelson. That goes along with their previous six-figure purchases in Virginia and Ohio. I wonder if they're getting good bang (har har) for their buck.

Meanwhile, GOP Rep. Charlie Sheen IV (sometimes known by his nickname, Connie Mack) is out with a new spot that's 30 seconds of word salad about "freedom."

MA-Sen: Pre-primary fundraising reports were just due in Massachusetts (covering the period of July 1 to Aug. 17), and once again, Democrat Elizabeth Warren smoked Republican Sen. Scott Brown. Warren pulled in $3.7 million versus $2.3 million for Brown, though the incumbent has more cash on hand, $14.2 mil to $12.3.

While we're on the race, Brown has a new TV ad out. He takes his truck out to Gloucester, where he sings a paean to Massachusetts fisherman—but also claims they've been "hit with over-regulation, unfair enforcement, and crushing fines."

MO-Sen: In the previous Digest, we mentioned a new FL-Sen poll from a firm called Gravis Marketing. My colleague Steve Singiser undertook a little sleuthing and found that Gravis does, in fact, bear all the hallmarks of being a Republican outfit, so we thought you should know that. And it also turns out that they conducted a one-day poll of Missouri late last week, finding Dem Sen. Claire McCaskill up two (39-37) over Todd Akin, but Mitt Romney up 17! So, uh, yeah.

And speaking of the Missouri Senate race, it looks like Crossroads isn't bluffing—or at least, that they've raised the stakes considerably. According to Politico, American Crossroads (the super PAC arm) has cancelled $700K worth of TV time on behalf of Akin that had been scheduled for mid-September. But as Alexander Burns notes, both Crossroads and the NRSC still have plenty of time reserved. And they can always buy back more time later—they'll just have to pay a premium to do so, something they'll gladly do if this gambit succeeds in getting Akin out of the race.

NE-Sen: Somehow, that weird super PAC called End the Gridlock found another $200K in the kitty for a second round of TV and radio ads attacking Deb Fischer on behalf of Democrat Bob Kerrey. Earlier reporting claimed that the well-known super PAC Majority PAC was partly funding End the Gridlock, but are they really still throwing good money after bad at this late date? Or is it Kerrey's wealthy finance buds in NYC who are setting this cash on fire?

NV-Sen: PPP is out with the Senate portion of their Nevada poll; this is turning into one of those races like Virginia where the numbers hardly budge from poll to poll. This month, they find Republican quasi-incumbent Dean Heller beating Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley 47-45 (after a 44-43 lead for Heller in June). Of course, it would be preferable to see Berkley in front, but consider that she's holding steady after a) the switch to a likely voter model and b) much Republican trumping of the ethics committee proceedings against Berkley, which began since the last poll.

Berkley's favorables are 42/45, down a net 4 since June, while Heller's are 42/42. Maybe more importantly considering what's been in the news lately, as for the question as to whether Berkley is ethical, 43% say she is, while 39% say she is unethical, not that much different from the poll's overall partisan breakdown. She still has a difficult climb to 50+1, but she remains in the thick of things.

The sample also gives Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval a gold-plated 55/28 approval and a 53-35 victory in over a Generic Dem in 2014. Harry Reid, on the other hand, is at 44/50 approvals. And with control of the state Senate on the line this year, Dems lead 45-41 on the generic legislative ballot. (David Jarman)

OH-Sen: When it comes to delivering speeches, Republican Josh Mandel has about as much gravitas as a Bar Mitzvah boy lecturing the congregation about his Torah portion, but that's not about to stop him from doing so in his latest ad. Sitting on a stool in the middle of a factory floor, surrounded by every-men and every-women, Mandel exclaims: "Every Democrat and every Republican who took our tax dollars and bailed out Wall Street was dead wrong."

Gubernatorial:

MT-Gov: Democrat Steve Bullock's new ad uses a pretty good conceit: As he strides through a courtroom, the gallery is filled with various folks who stand in for the sorts of people Bullock represented in his capacity as attorney general. You've got your ordinary-looking homeowners (foreclosure prevention), hunters in camo (preserving public access), and kids on iPads (protecting them online). Pretty good messaging for a tough race in a red state.

House:

CA-26: Trolling the depths of YouTube, I came across this negative ad from Republican Tony Strickland, which he doesn't appear to have posted to his YouTube account. (Actually, he doesn't even seem to have a YouTube account.) Anyhow, it's a kitchen-sink assault on Democrat Julia Brownley, smearing her as Nancy Pelosi's handpicked "Los Angeles liberal." (Brownley's from outside the district, though represents a chunk of the CA-26 in the Assembly.) Strickland then attacks her for supporting high-speed rail "for L.A." while supposedly cutting "programs Ventura County" to pay for it, then tosses on some of the usual Obamacare lies for good measure.

CT-05: Here's some brighter news out of Connecticut: The DCCC commissioned a poll from Global Strategy Group which features Democrat Elizabeth Esty beating Republican Andrew Roraback 44-35. I think the generic ballot is also instructive here, since both candidates are still light on name rec; on that score, D beats R 48-38, which, if accurate, paints a much brighter picture of the electorate for Team Blue. No presidential toplines were included in the memo, though.

Meanwhile, after taking a post-primary vacation with his family, Chris Donovan has reached out to Esty regarding the Working Families Party endorsement. As you may recall, Donovan (a big labor supporter) received the WFP's backing quite some time ago and is still on the ballot. But obviously no one wants to see Donovan siphon votes from Esty, so ideally the WFP would simply replace Donovan with Esty. Donovan's now signaled he's on board with this, and Esty is meeting with party officials on Tuesday. The good news is that unlike in New York, where getting removed from a third party's line is absurdly arduous, switcheroos are pretty simple in Connecticut.

IN-08: I like the production values in Democrat Dave Crooks' first ad, and the messaging is interesting, too. He starts off talking about his (very) small-town roots, noting that his "mom and sister worked for American Latex before those jobs went to Malaysia." Then, mixed in with some footage of overseas protests, he says: "Every politician promises to stop the outsourcing, but it never gets done. Instead, they send our tax dollars to countries that hate us, and at home, they slash away at our Medicare benefits." That's definitely a sharper attitude about outsourcing than the usual bland "companies that ship jobs overseas" rhetoric. Crooks is running against GOP freshman Larry Bucshon, who isn't on the air yet.

MA-06: In the Bay State's lone competitive House race, Republican Richard Tisei continues to outraised Rep. John Tierney. In the pre-primary period, Tisei took in $173K to Tierney's $126K. The incumbent, however, still leads in terms of cash-on-hand, with $729K to $631K. However, Tisei is already advertising on television while Tierney has not done so yet.

NC-07, UT-04: House Majority PAC is running two new ads, both in Dem-held seats. In NC-07, they're attacking Republican David Rouzer as "lobbyist politician" who wants to replace Medicare with a voucher program (i.e., the Ryan plan). And in UT-04, they go after Republican Mia Love for voting to raise taxes while serving on the city council in Saratoga Springs, where she is now mayor. The North Carolina buy is reportedly for $65K and Utah for $200K, both over two weeks.

NC-08: It looks like Republican Richard Hudson is trying to push back against Dem Rep. Larry Kissell's latest poll with one of his own, but the details are pretty thin. Hudson says his survey (from OnMessage) shows him up 38-37, but all we have are field dates—he apparently hasn't even shared the sample size. In any event, the spread isn't a wildly different from what Kissell's survey found (he was up 43-39), but once again, we have no presidential toplines to provide a sanity check.

RI-01: A new WPRI poll (courtesy Fleming & Associates) finds Rep. David Cicilline improving his standing over Anthony Gemma in the Democratic primary, a couple of weeks ahead of the Sept. 11 election. The survey (with a very small sample of 302 likely voters) finds Cicilline leading 43-31. That compares with a 40-36 edge back in May. Gemma's bizarre campaign also recently found itself in hot water when a staffer tweeted on Monday that there was "nothing wrong with smearing a liar, thief, crook, Sandusky copy cat"—referring to Cicilline, who is gay. Gemma canned the aide, but his former field director also quit the campaign in disgust and endorsed Cicilline.

WI-07: Democrat Pat Kreitlow is running his first ad, a pretty humorous spot in which he pokes fun at GOP freshman Sean Duffy for his past as a reality TV celebrity and, more recently, his attempts to portray himself as a wannabe macho-man/lumberjack by trying to (very unsuccessfully) ape some of Duffy's antics. "But," says Kreitlow, "some things Sean Duffy does, I would never even try. Like making seniors pay sixty four hundred dollars a year more for Medicare so millionaires can get more tax breaks." It's very hard to cut through the clutter, but I think this ad does a decent job in a pretty self-effacing way.

Other Races:

San Diego Mayor: The latest SurveyUSA poll of the San Diego mayor's race (on behalf of KGTV) shows retiring Democratic Rep. Bob Filner expanding his margin over Republican city councilor Carl DeMaio; Filner leads 47-41, up from a 46-43 lead two months ago. It's an ostensibly nonpartisan race, though presumably most voters know who's who, and Filner seems to be strengthening his hand as the rest of the city finds out he's the Democrat. However, Dems have had a notoriously hard time getting elected San Diego mayor, despite its blue-ish turn over the last few decades at the presidential level. (David Jarman)

State Legislatures: One important component of the electoral chess game that we haven't focused on as much this cycle is the state legislatures, where the GOP made big gains in 2010 and where Dems are trying to flip some chambers back in the nation's blue and swing states. Governing magazine's Louis Jacobson has a helpful preview, including some initial handicapping of the races. His picks seem a little generous to the GOP, but do keep in mind that, just as with the U.S. House, redistricting has helped the GOP lock in some of its 2010 legislative gains. As you might expect, the key offensive opportunities that Jacobson sees for the Dems include the New York state Senate, and the state Houses in Colorado, Minnesota, Maine, and Oregon. (David Jarman)

Grab Bag:

Ads: Care to help with a little crowdsourcing project? I'd like to assemble a list of YouTube accounts for basically every competitive and potentially competitive House, Senate, and gubernatorial campaign this year. The reason is simple: to keep better track of campaign ads as we approach crunch-time. I've already pulled together a spreadsheet of all the races (erring on the side of inclusion); now I just need some assistance finding links to the right YouTube pages. (Some candidates have Vimeo accounts instead, which are an acceptable substitute.) Note that incumbents may also have official accounts linked to their offices—we don't want those, just their campaign accounts, because ads only get posts to the campaign side. The best way to find those, I've found, is to scour campaign websites. Your assistance is greatly appreciated!

Counties: "Bellwether counties"—those counties that keep voting for the overall presidential winner each election—don't really have important effect on campaigns' targeting decisions. But if there's one thing we like at Daily Kos Elections, it's a good trivia question. If you've been wondering how many counties have managed to go Bush-Clinton-Clinton-Bush-Bush-Obama in the last six elections, well, there are more than you might think: 74 of them. Only a handful of them are large counties, though, and even fewer of them are in swing states. The only ones with more than 100,000 votes in the last election are San Bernardino, CA; Bexar, TX; Ventura, CA; Will, IL; San Joaquin, CA; Clackamas, OR; Stanislaus, CA; Winnebago, IL; and Buncombe, NC.

If you're looking for a pattern, the list tends to be dominated by counties that a) have a large Latino population or b) have a lot of college students (not just Buncombe, but a little further down the list, also Wood, OH; Centre, PA; DeKalb, IL; and Montgomery, VA). Vigo, IN (home of Terre Haute) is the large county with the longest track record of picking the winner, going back to 1956. (One of the dinky counties may have an even streak, though my spreadsheet doesn't go far enough back to check... anybody know of a longer streak at the county level?) (David Jarman)

Maps: Here's a fun heat map of Republican voter registration by precinct in New York City. Quite a few stark, wide swaths of empty.

Redistricting Roundup:

• TX Redistricting: Big news! On Tuesday, the three-judge panel in Washington, DC that heard Texas's preclearance lawsuit denied approval for all three of the state's new maps, invalidating lines for both houses of the legislature and Congress. (The lengthy 154-page opinion is at the link.) There may not be any practical effect on this fall's elections, since they've long since moved forward using a set of maps drawn by a different court down in San Antonio, though Michael Li thinks some tweaks might even be possible this year.) But no matter what, it definitely means that Texas Republicans, who controlled the map-making process last year and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, will have to start from scratch if they want to use a different set of maps next cycle. Unless, that is, an appeal to the Supreme Court is successful, something AG Greg Abbott says he plans to undertake immediately.

As for the practical impact of the ruling, Li has some initial thoughts here, breaking things down on a district-by-district basis. And Rick Hasen takes a closer look at the legal side, calling it a "jurisprudentially significant decision." Li calls the case "a sweeping win for DOJ and groups opposing the state's redistricting maps," and it's hard to argue with that characterization, as Democrats and minority groups seem to have won on almost every front. Of course, just wait for Scalia and the gang to get their hands on this one.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Aug 29, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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