• DCCC/NRCC: We've finally reached the stretch run of the 2014 campaign season: The DCCC and NRCC have just launched their first real independent expenditure TV ad campaigns targeted toward the November general election. The D-Trip is starting off with two spots going on offense in the Northeast. One is in NY-11 in New York City, throwing the kitchen sink at indicted GOP Rep. Mike Grimm. It features a zillion newscast sound bites accusing him of "fraud" and even mentions the time earlier this year when he threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony.
The other ad is in NJ-03 (near Philadelphia), and it accuses Republican Tom McArthur of profiteering off of Hurricane Sandy in his role as CEO of an insurance company. This open Republican seat was always expected to be competitive, so it's no surprise to see the DCCC going up here. However, the fact that they're running ads against Grimm shows that they don't think that race is in the bag, despite the congressman's massive legal troubles.
Republicans, meanwhile, are focusing on defense. Their first spot targets Democrat Gwen Graham, who is trying to unseat GOP Rep. Steve Southerland in north Florida's 2nd Congressional District. A bunch of actors posing as reg'lar folk accuse Graham of secretly loving Obamacare and Nancy Pelosi, saying "she sure acts the DC way." The NRCC hasn't posted any independent expenditure reports yet, but the DCCC has: They're spending $106,000 on Grimm and $113,000 on MacArthur—small sums, especially for such expensive media markets, but undoubtedly the first of more to come.
P.S. To keep tabs on independent expenditures nationwide, bookmark this page at the FEC where new reports are posted in something close to real time. There's also a searchable database useful for finding older data.
• HI-Sen: We now have clarity on exactly how Hawaii officials will handle voting in the two Big Island precincts that were shuttered due to Tropical Storm Iselle during last Saturday's primaries. Instead of switching to an all-mail election, the state will conduct a special election this Friday, with polls open from 7 AM to 6 PM local time (midnight ET). There are only some 8,255 registered voters in the affected precincts, and some proportion of them have already cast absentee or early votes (probably around 1,500).
Sen. Brian Schatz, who has a narrow but daunting 1,635-vote lead in the Democratic primary, is in the region, known as Puna. The damage is quite severe, so Schatz has been eschewing active campaigning and instead has been helping deliver relief supplies. As for Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, her campaign "would not tell Civil Beat where she was." A very strange time to go to ground, indeed.
But she hasn't gone completely quiet. Hanabusa said on Monday that there "are irregularities that have occurred in terms of just access" and claimed that people have told her they were unable to vote, though she provided no evidence or further details. Hopefully we're not about to start seeing Chris McDaniel-esque allegations about how the election went down.
In any event, whether or not anyone starts openly campaigning in Puna, the math still heavily favors Schatz. Friday will play host to one of the strangest special elections of all time—and feature the tiniest number of voters we've ever liveblogged about—but nothing is likely to change.
• KY-Sen: After over a year of Democrat-vs.-Republican polling that never gave either contender more than a 2-point lead, PPP's latest survey of the Kentucky Senate race now finds a different picture with a third-party candidate in the mix. GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell leads Democrat Alison Grimes 44-40 while Libertarian David Patterson takes 7 percent. In June, when Patterson wasn't included, Grimes was up 48-46, and in April, she also had a 45-44 edge. So what's changed?
As Tom Jensen points out, McConnell's earning a higher share of the Republican vote: 78-11, compared to 69-20 in April. Back then, McConnell was in the midst of a primary battle with businessman Matt Bevin; McConnell won handily, but he took a few blows. Now, though, Republicans have begun to unify and his image has improved. His approval rating still sucks—37 positive, 54 negative—but it's better than it was in December, the last time PPP asked about it, when it stood at an even more feeble 31-61.
The real difficulty for Grimes, assuming PPP's read is correct, is that even if disaffected voters peel away from Patterson, they're very apt to come back to the GOP. Patterson's supporters prefer McConnell by 44-34 margin, and when those votes are redistributed, McConnell comes out ahead 47-42. Of course, the sample size is quite small here, but the true undecideds don't paint a pretty picture, either: They went for Mitt Romney by a 46-27 margin.
McConnell's still unpopular, though, and undecided voters don't like him, either, giving him just a 10-66 approval score. And, as we always like to remind folks, this is just one poll. But the demographic realities of that final part of the Kentucky electorate that still hasn't made up its mind have figured in our analysis from day one, and it's why even someone as disliked as McConnell still has the edge.
• MI-Sen: The Koch-backed Freedom Partners just cancelled a $1.1 million ad reservation in Michigan, but don't necessarily read too much into it. It could be because they're getting ready to triage Republican Terri Lynn Land, who's run a very disappointing campaign, but it might also be part of the normal "public co-ordination" that large outside groups engage in all the time, as Nathan Gonzales previously explained. The NRSC still has airtime booked here, so its possible the Kochs didn't feel it necessary to deploy in Michigan any longer. But if other groups start pulling out, then you know there's real trouble brewing for Land.
• GA-Gov, -Sen: A new poll from the Hicks Evaluation Group on behalf of the Truman National Security Project, a progressive think tank, finds mixed results for Democrats in Georgia's marquee statewide races this year. In the contest for governor, Democrat Jason Carter is tied with GOP Gov. Nathan Deal at 45 apiece, very close to the 47-45 average Deal lead that HuffPo Pollster currently calculates (not including this poll).
On the Senate side, though, Republican David Perdue is beating Democrat Michelle Nunn by a 48-42 spread. Recent polling has been all over the map lately in this race, but Pollster (again, sans this survey) has Perdue ahead 47-44. It may just be that Republicans have finally started to rally around their nominee now that the exceedingly lost and nasty GOP primary and runoff have finally concluded.
• KY-Gov: PPP's Kentucky poll also offers our first good look at next year's gubernatorial race, an open seat that Republicans badly want to pick up but one that Democrats will fight hard to defend. Democrats have already united around attorney General Jack Conway, but the GOP faces a potential multi-way primary. Here's how Conway fares against the field:
• 38-35 vs. state Agriculture Commissioner James ComerConway has an early name recognition advantage, but there are still lots of undecideds. Democrats have fared far better on the state level in Kentucky than federally in recent years, so Conway's path to 50 percent is easier than Alison Grimes', but this will still be a very tough race.
• 39-36 vs. 2014 Senate candidate Matt Bevin
• 39-32 vs. former Louisville City Councilman Hal Heiner
• 42-30 vs. former Ambassador Cathy Bailey
Republicans are far from deciding on a nominee, though. Heiner and Comer are the only declared candidates so far, with the former leading the latter 28-22 in a head-to-head. In a four-way matchup, Bevin starts out in first at 25, with Comer at 20, Heiner at 18, and Bailey at 11. Either way, Conway would have the race to himself for quite some time as Republicans duke it out. And perhaps Bevin, whose primary challenge to Mitch McConnell gave Grimes a boost earlier this year, can do something similar once again in 2015.
• MA-Gov: Mass Forward, a super PAC supporting state Treasurer Steve Grossman's gubernatorial bid, has abruptly cancelled a big ad buy it had planned on his behalf and, according to CommonWealth magazine, may have run out of money. Grossman has been second banana to frontrunner Martha Coakley from the very start, but his number have barely ticked up lately despite a recent $400,000 blitz by Mass Forward, so it's possible his patrons have just given. There's still a month until the Democratic primary, and both Grossman and Coakley have just gone on the air themselves, but the nomination is really Coakley's to lose.
• OH-Gov: The Ohio Democratic Party's regular polls from PPP have generally portrayed the state's race for governor in a more competitive light than other polling has, so it's a bit surprising they've chosen to publish their newest survey, which finds GOP Gov. John Kasich leading Democrat Ed FitzGerald 50-44. Now, that's still closer than Quinnipiac's most recent poll, which put Kasich up 48-36, but it's considerably worse than the 45-44 Kasich advantage PPP found in early July, and in fact, it's the widest lead PPP's publicly shown for the incumbent to date.
But it might also represent an attempt by the Ohio Democrats to argue that the bogus non-scandal that the GOP just churned up—in which a cop found nothing doing when he investigated a parked car where FitzGerald was figuring out how to help an associate get back to her hotel—hasn't had much of an impact. I question whether releasing this data was the right way to do that, though, seeing as Kasich's margin did go up 5 points, not to mention the fact that he's also kissing 50 for the first time in a PPP poll. Fitz will need to somehow change the equation if he's to have a chance of pulling off an upset.
There is an alternate explanation for why the Ohio Dems chose to put out these numbers, though: They have much more optimistic findings for three other statewide races this fall. For secretary of state, Republican incumbent Jon Husted leads Democrat Nina Turner 46-43 and for auditor, the current office-holder, Republican Dave Yost, has just a 44-42 edge on Democrat John Patrick Carney.
But the most delicious result of all is in the treasurer's race, where the odious Josh Mandel actually trails Democrat Connie Pillich 47-44. It sure would be sweet to defeat Mandel, who ran one of the most mendacious campaigns in recent memory last cycle against Sen. Sherrod Brown. There is one contest missing from the list, however, and that's the race for attorney general. Presumably, Mike DeWine, the Republican incumbent, has a solid lead on Democrat David Pepper.
• FL-26: Seems like Republican ex-Rep. David Rivera decided, "What the heck—I might as well run for Congress anyway!" Rivera launched an improbable comeback bid some months ago, only to decide in July that he'd rather seek a seat in the state legislature in 2016 instead. But then last week, reports of pro-Rivera robocalls surfaced in the district, and now, with early voting in the Aug. 26 GOP primary just getting underway, Rivera's openly acknowledged that he does intend to continue with his congressional run after all. (Who knows what he'll decide next week.)
Even though he's thoroughly damaged thanks to serious corruption allegations, Republicans have to be at least a little worried that Rivera might somehow win the party's nomination, just thanks to his residual name recognition. The NRCC very much wants Miami-Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo to prevail, since they think he'd match up well against Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia. But if Rivera were to beat Curbelo, that would likely take one of the GOP's better pickup shots off the table.
• NE-02: Oh no he didn't! Of all the congressmen—all the congressmen—GOP Rep. Lee Terry is the very, very last guy who should be kvetching about how much he earns. Yet when state Sen. Brad Ashford, the Democrat trying to unseat Terry in Nebraska's competitive 2nd Congressional District, threw down the gauntlet over congressional pay (which now stands at $174,000 a year for members of the House), Terry just couldn't help himself:
"I'm proposing we do cut our salary by 10 percent," Ashford announced Monday morning.Guess what, bub? Americans haven't had a cost of living increase since 2008, either! In fact, they haven't seen any kind of gains in pay whatsoever. As most people know—or more likely, have experienced—average wages have remained utterly stagnant for over a decade. So for Terry to act like he made some kind of huge sacrifice by giving up a perk that virtually none of his fellow citizens enjoy is obnoxious in the extreme, especially when most Americans have been treading water for years.
Ashford says he is not only committed to cutting congressional paychecks, but has vowed to return 10 percent of his pay, if elected, until he gets the cut passed.
Congressman Lee Terry says, not so fast.
"What he's not telling you is that Congress hasn't had a cost of living increase since 2008, when I led the charge for a freeze," said Rep. Terry.
But it's not surprising in the least. Remember this particularly brazen outburst?
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., was blunt when asked if he would continue collecting his paychecks during the shutdown.Terry quickly had to apologize for those remarks. Wonder how long it'll be before he tries to walk back these latest comments.
"Dang straight," he said. [...]
"I've got a nice house and a kid in college, and I'll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That's just not going to fly."
• NY-19: The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (better known as "SMART") has conducted a series of polls this cycle on rail-related issues in different parts of the country, often with some political questions included. Their latest survey, from DFM Research, is actually a month old and covers New York's 19th Congressional District, where they find sophomore GOP Rep. Chris Gibson with a dominant 56-29 lead on Democrat Sean Eldridge. Obviously a big part of that has to do with Gibson's higher name recognition and Eldridge's lack thereof, but there's no way for the challenger to find any good news here.
However, last cycle at around the same time, Gibson released an internal that had him up 53-36 on his Democratic opponent; he wound up winning 49-44, so if Eldridge is lucky, then perhaps this poll is overly optimistic for Gibson, too. Still, that's hoping for an awful lot.
• TN-04: Things are looking good for Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who's clinging to a 35-vote lead on state Sen. Jim Tracy following last week's GOP primary. According to Reid Epstein at the Wall Street Journal, there are only around 100 provisional ballots left to be reviewed, and many if not most of those votes won't count. After the vote is certified on Aug. 25, Tracy can seek a recount, but unless there are serious irregularities or vote totals were recorded incorrectly somewhere, he's unlikely to prevail.
• WA State Senate: It's generally accepted that Washington's top-two primary is pretty predictive of how things will play out in November, in comparison to California's top-two (where weak turnout undersells Dem odds in the general); in fact, Jeff Singer recently described that tendency in Washington in great detail.
However, here's some new data that suggests that this year's primary in Washington—where Democratic state Senate nominees generally seemed to underperform expectations—may not be as predictive as usual, because the GOP spent significantly on key races before the primary and the Democrats entirely saved their powder. (In fact, it's possible the GOP is aware of the perception of top-two's predictive power and gamed the primary accordingly.) The disparity in independent expenditures is greatest in SD-28, where Republicans outspent the Democrats $100,292 to nothing, while it was $37,000 to zip in SD-45 and $24,311 to zilch in SD-30. (David Jarman)
• FL Redistricting: Republican legislators in Florida have, as anticipated, passed the revised congressional map they created to comply with a judge's order that ruled existing district lines were unconstitutional. Lawmakers made as few changes as possible to comply with the letter of the ruling, which ultimately was quite narrow. Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign the new map into law. Plaintiffs will then have until Aug. 18 to file any objections, and the judge will hold a hearing on Aug. 20 to decide whether to accept the new lines.
Ads & Independent Expenditures (Jeff Singer):
• GA-Sen: Democrat Michelle Nunn hits Republican David Perdue's business record. The NRSC also begins their $2.5 million buy, tying Nunn to Obama. Ending Spending also shells out another $117,000 against Nunn.
• MA-Gov: Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley is out with her first spot, with the narrator portraying her as someone who will stand up for people against special interests. The ad is currently only running for $56,000, a very measly sum in an expensive state like Massachusetts.
• MI-Gov: Democrat Mark Schauer is out with his first ad, portraying himself as a champion of the middle class and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder as someone who only helps the wealthy. The DGA also hits Snyder on pensions and retirement.
• AZ-02: Democratic Rep. Ron Barber focuses on saving the A-10 warplane, while Republican Martha McSally highlights her battle with the Pentagon to change a policy that required women serving in Saudi Arabia to wear Muslim garb.