• KS-Sen: Wow! For the second time in one week, a Democrat seeking statewide office in a red state has dropped out in favor of an independent candidate who, as the polls tell it, has a better shot at beating the Republican incumbent. First it happened in Alaska; this time, it's Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Kansas who'd raised absolutely bupkes in his quest to unseat Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
And this is very good news for Team Blue, because wealthy independent Greg Orman had been running a much stronger campaign—and what's more, PPP recently found him beating Roberts by a 43-33 margin in what was at the time a hypothetical two-way race. In a three-way, Roberts clung to a slim 32-25 lead over Taylor, with Orman pulling 23 percent, meaning the anti-incumbent vote was badly split. And Taylor actually trailed Roberts 43-39, so Orman is definitely the preferred horse.
Now, we're talking about Kansas, so you can't expect any great progressive saviors here. But Orman, before his independent bid, was a Democrat (he briefly ran for Senate back in 2008 as well), and he's well to Roberts' left. But who would he caucus with? In a canny move, Orman's promised to side with whichever party wins the majority in the Senate this fall, so he can really only make life difficult for Republicans. (That is to say, if Democrats lose their majority, who really cares what a Sen. Orman might do?)
Of course, PPP's polling reflected reality a few weeks ago, before Orman became the de facto Democratic candidate. As such, Republicans will try to tie paint him as a typical libruhl and tie him to Obama at every opportunity, which will likely drag him down. But Roberts is a very damaged candidate whose image took a major hit during the GOP primary earlier this year, when he revealed that he didn't even live in Kansas. (All he's got is a time-share in a La-Z-Boy.) Indeed, according to PPP, Roberts' job approval rating has shrunk to a miserable 27 positive to 44 negative.
But could Roberts really lose in dark red Kansas? Yes, he could. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, Roberts' ticket-mate, is in dire shape for an entirely different set of reasons, and he's looking very vulnerable. A federal race is harder for a Republican to botch here, but Brownback and Roberts are very liable to drag each other down, as both are deeply unpopular. And Orman is an aggressive, motivated candidate who hasn't self-funded yet but certainly could. For all these reasons, Daily Kos Elections is changing our rating on this race from Likely R to Lean R.
No matter how things wind up, though, this is a big blow to national Republicans because all of a sudden, one seat that absolutely should not even remotely be in play has suddenly become a lot more competitive. Orman can pull his own weight, but if the NRSC has to come in and bail out Roberts, that would not only represent a terrible embarrassment but a serious diversion of resources from other seats the GOP is hoping to pick up. Orman may not have a "D" after his name anymore, but Democrats just got very lucky indeed.
Senate:is pouncing for once.
• KY-Sen: CNN and ORC International finally released their long-teased poll of Kentucky's Senate race, finding GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell up 50-46 on Democrat Alison Grimes. Rather notably, this is the first and only time McConnell's hit 50 percent in a public poll—ever. There's a good reason, too: CNN didn't bother to include Libertarian David Patterson in their questionnaire.
That's a fairly bizarre choice, given that Libertarians in general have been polling unusually well this cycle, and given that recent SurveyUSA and PPP polls have given Paterson 5 and 7 percent of the vote, respectively. Yes, Republicans are trying to knock Patterson off the ballot, but while Libertarians aren't particularly good at actually winning any elections, they usually are quite adept at securing ballot access for themselves.
And yes, Patterson is likely to wind up with a smaller share of the vote than he's getting now in other polls, but he can certainly have an impact on the race nevertheless, especially since he's liable to scoop up some anti-McConnell protest voters who would never pull the lever for a Democrat. So CNN's poll simply isn't reflective of the choices voters are likely to have before them in November, which means they aren't polling an actual election—just some hypothetical contest that doesn't exist. (And in any event, there's no reason not to ask two versions of the horserace, one with Patterson and one without.)
Some analysts fetishize independent polls over partisan ones, but what matters is the overall quality of the survey, an assessment that involves many criteria. And sometimes, it's as simple as making sure you ask the right questions. CNN didn't do that here, offering a good example of why it makes no sense to prize non-partisanship above all else.
And speaking of dodgy polling: Rasmussen: Mitch McConnell (R-inc): 46, Alison Grimes (D): 41 (May: 48-41 McConnell).
• LA-Sen: Big Dog Alert! Bill Clinton is getting increasingly busy post-Labor Day, and one new spot on his itinerary is New Orleans, where he'll be headlining a fundraiser for Sen. Mary Landrieu this Saturday. The former POTUS is still quite popular in the South: Earlier this year, PPP found him with a 55-37 favorability rating just next door in his home state of Arkansas, and SurveyUSA's new Kentucky poll gave him a positive 53-26 score. So odds are, he's still well-liked in Louisiana, too.
• NH-Sen: I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if dozens of Scott Brown staffers cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something bqhatevwr has happened.
The former Republican senator from Massachusetts appears to be testing out how dumb he can be while still winning the Sept. 9 GOP primary. During a radio interview, a caller who was identified as being from out-of-state asked why voters should pick Brown over the other GOP primary contenders. Brown's response was not exactly... smart:
Host: "'Ask Scott why people should vote for him instead of the other GOP candidates.' That's from Vermont actually."Brown's staff claims this was a joke, and they're probably telling the truth. Though given that Brown basically just decided to just come down from Massachusetts and run for office in another state, you can't be sure. Then again, maybe Brown just sees this as a good way to secure some votes in preparation for a U.S. Senate run in one of the other four New England states.
Brown: "Well sure. The first – Where's that from? Vermont?"
Host: "Yeah. 8-6-0. Yeah."
Brown: "Well they can come over and do same-day registration and say they want to come down and vote. So if they feel compelled to do so, come on down."
Brown quickly managed to pry his foot out of his mouth, but only so he could put it back there a few days later. On Wednesday, Brown said at a town hall, "Here's the thing, people say, what are you going to do to create jobs? I am not going to create one job, it is not my job to create jobs. It's yours." Brown continued on by blaming Obamacare for job losses. Not a nice thing to say. Of course, if Brown succeeds in unseating Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, he will be responsible for the net loss of one New Hampshire job already. (Jeff Singer)
• FL-Gov: A new poll from the University of Florida, taken on behalf of a bunch of media organizations, finds GOP Gov. Rick Scott up 41-36 on Democrat Charlie Crist, with Libertarian Adrian Wyllie at 6. UF hasn't polled its home state in a long time; the last time they did, back in January, they had Crist up 47-40, but without Wyllie in the mix. However, as Stephen Wolf points out, UF did something very strange: They didn't weight by race or gender, only by age (which is good) and party preference (which is not).
Making matters worse, they somehow wound up with a sample that is 35 percent Republican, 30 percent Democratic, and 26 percent independent. That would be tsunami-level for Florida, seeing as in 2010, exit polls had the electorate evenly split between the two parties. Maybe the folks at UF are geniuses and see something no one else is seeing, but the odds are against 'em.
P.S. If you were looking for a proper link (complete with crosstabs) to that SurveyUSA poll that put Crist back up 45-43, here you go.
• IL-Gov: Weirdly, that We Ask America poll of the Illinois Senate race that we were picking apart just a day earlier apparently did not include a gubernatorial portion. However, there's now a separate WAA poll, taken on behalf of the website Reboot Illinois, that does have some numbers on the governor's race (and also seems to support our suspicion that WAA is practically giving away its polling data right and left).
The survey finds Republican Bruce Rauner leading Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn 46-37. That's actually closer than last time, when WAA put Rauner ahead 51-38 a month ago. Quinn's been landing some hits on Rauner as a destructive vulture capitalist, so the trendlines aren't impossible to believe (even if there's good reason to be skeptical of the pollster.) And Rauner just helpfully reinforced that image by admitting he belongs to a wine club where membership costs at least $100,000 a year. (A wine club! Not even a golf club!) As you might imagine, the headlines just piled on and on and on. Quite the bouquet, indeed.
• MA-Gov: A new poll from UMass Lowell runs counter to other recent surveys that have shown the Democratic primary for governor tightening and instead gives Martha Coakley a huge 52-20 lead on Steve Grossman. That's not too far off from another new survey, this time from MassINC, that has Coakley up 47-23. Two other pollsters, Suffolk and SocialSphere, had shown Grossman gaining on Coakley, but with less than week until the election, he looks too far back to have a shot.
• AZ-01: On Tuesday night, a week after Arizona's Republican primary, wealthy businessman Gary Kiehne finally conceded to state House Speaker Andy Tobin, who ultimately prevailed by just 407 votes, or a 0.8 percent margin. Tobin, who's run a disappointing campaign compared to the expectations the NRCC had for him, will now face Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in this sprawling northeast Arizona district. It should be a prime GOP pickup opportunity, given that it's a rare seat held by a Democrat but won by Mitt Romney (50-48 in this case). But Kirkpatrick is the better campaigner, and she starts the general with an enormous cash edge, $1.4 million to just $82,000.
• CA-52, GA-12: In a rare move, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is backing freshman Rep. Scott Peters, one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the House. The Chamber, as you know, almost always endorses Republicans, so that makes this choice quite notable, particularly if they wind up spending money on Peters' behalf. Amusingly, the a staffer for Peters' Republican opponent, Carl DeMaio, kvetched that he was "not surprised that a special interest group in D.C. is trying to protect members of Congress," only to have a Chamber spokesman expose him as a phony because DeMaio had also sought the group's support.
In a somewhat less surprising decision, the Chamber will also reportedly endorse Georgia Rep. John Barrow on Friday. Barrow, who faces Republican businessman Rick Allen, has always cut a conservative path, so he fits the Chamber's mold more. He also represents a very red district, unlike Peters, whose San Diego-area seat voted for Barack Obama.
• WA-04: Retiring Rep. Doc Hastings awoke briefly from his slumbers to give an endorsement to ex-state agriculture director Dan Newhouse, the much more establishment-flavored of the two Republicans facing each other in the general election to replace Hastings in this dark-red district. Newhouse's Paulist rival, ex-NFL player Clint Didier, quickly issued a statement deriding Hastings as beholden to "lobbyists, Dow Chemical, Dupont, Monsanto, DC and other beltway insiders." (David Jarman)
• House: Generic ballot polling often serves as a cheap substitute for the lack of decent polling of most House races, even though one number drawn from a nationwide sample doesn't tell you anything about how one particular unique House race will play out (which is why there's still a market for old-school race-by-race prognosticating when it comes to predicting the House). The Washington Post's Philip Bump digs a little deeper into the generic ballot as a prediction tool, though, and finds that not only was it not ever very useful, but it's getting even less useful today.
Part of the problem is the average error on the generic ballot from the nationwide House vote has been 2.5 percent in recent decades. But an even bigger problem is that sometimes (a la the Dems in 2012) the party that wins the nationwide House vote doesn't even win the most seats in the House; there was a much stronger correlation between the generic ballot and the number of seats won in the 1974-1994 period than there was in the 1994-2012 period. Bump doesn't really get into the "why" behind that change, but think about what happened during that period: much more effective gerrymandering, on top of more geographic self-sorting and less ticket-splitting, meaning more districts locked in to "D" or "R," and not so subject to the direction of nationwide winds. (David Jarman)
Ads & Independent Expenditures (Jeff Singer):
• AR-Sen: Crossroads GPS goes after Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor on Obamacare. I know, who could have seen that coming? The NRSC also attacks Pryor as a creature of Washington. On the Democratic side, Senate Majority PAC goes after Republican Rep. Tom Cotton for wanting to raise the eligibility age for Medicare and Social Security.
• IA-Sen: We've noted that Democratic attacks on Republican Joni Ernst have recently been getting more focused, and Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley continues that trend. His spot features Iowa seniors criticizing Ernst over Medicare and Social Security privatization.
• KS-Sen: Well-funded independent Greg Orman stresses how bi-partisan and different from the current political leadership he is. Basically, Orman does what basically every independent that can afford TV time does.
• MI-Sen: The League of Conservation Voters once again ties Republican Terri Lynn Land to the Koch brothers, again blaming them for polluting the state. NextGen Climate goes with a very similar theme.
• NC-Sen: Democrat Kay Hagan has a bunch of new spots hitting Republican Thom Tillis. On the other side of the aisle, the NRSC goes after Hagan and mainly attacks her past service in the state Senate, which is a bit unusual. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also portrays Tillis as the fiscally responsible candidate in the race.
• OR-Sen: Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkely once again ties Republican foe Monica Wehby to the Koch brothers. Wehby has her own spot decrying policies that hurt state jobs, and calling for replacing Obamacare.
• RI-Gov: With less than a week to go before the Sept. 9 Democratic primary, Clay Pell once again focuses on education. Pell mentions how his grandfather the late Sen. Claiborne Pell helped create Pell Grants: I believe this is the first time Pell has invoked his famous grandfather in an ad.
• AZ-02: Democratic Rep. Ron Barber gets some help from his predecessor and former boss Gabrielle Giffords. Her group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, attacks Republican Martha McSally for supporting a loophole to get around a background check for gun purchases. There haven't been many (or maybe any) pro-gun control ads in any general election contests this cycle, and it will be interesting to see if anyone else runs of this theme.
• FL-02: House Majority PAC hits Republican Rep. Steve Southerland, arguing his votes hurt North Florida. The size of the buy is $104,000. Democrat Gwen Graham also goes after Southerland for voting against the Violence Against Women Act after saying he voted for it. Like many Republicans, Southerland voted for a watered down version of the law, while voting against the bill that became law.
• MA-06: Democratic Rep. John Tierney is the last congressional incumbent who is in serious danger of losing a primary. With the Sept. 9 Democratic primary almost here, both Tierney and primary foe Seth Moulton have begun the long awaited task of nuking one another.
Tierney ties Moulton to national Republicans, arguing that he's receiving special interest money from groups that only back Republicans. The group in question is White Mountain PAC, which is run by former New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg. The Boston Globe describes what happened: In September of last year the group donated $1,000 to Moulton: In February, Moulton returned the donation. Moulton's spot throws the kitchen sink at Tierney, portraying him as an unethical do-nothing congressman. Moulton then touts his endorsement from the Boston Globe.