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Leading Off:

ND-Sen: Ask a Beltway pundit and he'll say that at some point North Dakota has to revert back to its red-state form... but this is really starting to become an undeniable trend: another poll with a Heidi Heitkamp lead. The latest survey from DFM Research, on behalf of the state Democratic Party, gives Heitkamp a 50-44 lead over her Republican opponent, Rep. Rick Berg. DFM has polled the race once before, finding a 49-44 Heitkamp lead in April.

The collection of North Dakota polls is a small one (thanks to their ban on robopolling), but out of the seven polls that I can find, only two have shown a lead for Berg. One of those is from Rasmussen, and the other from a local newspaper that had some elementary methodological flaws. Let's see if Berg is able to offer up his own internal in response—something he's never done before, even though FEC reports demonstrate he's conducted his own polling.

Speaking of Berg, this new ad of his is just brutal. Four women of a certain age sit around a table at a diner and pretend to have an authentic conversation bitching about Democrat Heidi Heitkamp. Their ersatz chit-chat is so painfully stilted and phony that I'm going to have to recommend you not click the link, unless you enjoy torturing yourself like that. You've been warned. (David Jarman & David Nir)

Senate:

AZ-Sen: Liberty for All, the libertarian-ish super PAC that's the personal vehicle of wealthy college-age heir John Ramsey, is reportedly throwing down big on behalf of GOP Rep. Jeff Flake, to the tune of $375K. (You may remember them from their successful efforts to secure the Republican nomination in the open KY-04 for quasi-Paulist Thomas Massie.) They haven't released their ad yet, but this tidbit is funny:

One of the leaders of the Liberty For All super PAC recently pleaded guilty to a DUI charge in Kentucky. During the incident, Preston Bates identified himself to police as "an anarchist," according to news reports.
HI-Sen: The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (the faculty union) is spending another $29K on Democrat Ed Case, this time on mailers and TV (mostly the former, so it's really a very teeny television buy).

IN-Sen: Republican Richard Mourdock is out with a very generic ad that tries to tie Dem Rep. Joe Donnelly to President Obama, while he hitches his own wagon to outgoing GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels. Amusingly, Mourdock says that a vote for Donnelly would mean "more Obamacare." Like what's going to happen, they're going to pass the Really, Really Affordable Care Act?

MA-Sen: In her new ad, Democrat Elizabeth Warren makes a damn good point: "We've got bridges and roads in need of repair and thousands of people in need of work. Why aren't we rebuilding America?" No kidding. I'll be really curious if she can get traction with this message. I hope she does.

MI-Sen: The jackal god Saul "Anubis" Anuzis is adding $40K to his super PAC's ad buy on behalf of Republican Clark Durant, on top of the $400K they've already thrown down.

NE-Sen: A new super PAC (lots of my sentences start off that way) is coming to Democrat Bob Kerrey's aid with a $300K television and radio ad buy attacking Deb Fischer, though the spots don't appear to be available online. Bloomberg notes that the group, called End the Gridlock, is "funded partly by New York financiers" and has more details on the backers at the first link.

NM-Sen: Two military veterans, one a Marine and one an Air Force vet, both talk about Dem Rep. Martin Heinrich's support for the armed forces and their families in this new ad. Meanwhile, the National Wildlife Federation joins the enviro-group assault on Republican Heather Wilson with a $188K ad buy to benefit Heinrich. (I'm not seeing a copy online. Holler at me if you do). Environment America also dropped in a bit more coin, some $29K on canvassing for Heinrich.

NV-Sen: Rasmussen: Shelley Berkley (D): 42 (40), Dean Heller (R-inc): 51 (51). Before you say "ZOMG ethics scandal!" (if you ever care what Rasmussen has to say in the first place, which you should not), just check out those trendlines, which date back to April.

Also, I'm not sure why they've only filed one IE form so far (when they're running new ads in three Senate races), but Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS has reported spending $460K on their new spot attacking Dem Rep. Shelley Berkley over alleged ethics violations. That matches The Hotline's story from a day earlier.

TX-Sen: The Club for Growth is just like some kind of not-giving-up guy, adding yet another half-mil to their existing TV ad buy in the waning days before Tuesday's GOP runoff to help bust Ted Cruz. Meanwhile, David Dewhurst's closing spot features Gov. Rick Perry talking about how Dewhurst is a conservative tax-cutter (i.e., nothing new). The Ending Spending Action Fund (Nebraska billionaire Joe Ricketts' vehicle) is also throwing down $130K in "media" for Cruz.

Gubernatorial:

NC-Gov: There were a few polls in the last couple months that unexpectedly had Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton (a late fill-in after Bev Perdue's decision not to seek a second term) coming within two points of Republican Pat McCrory, in what had previously looked like a probable GOP pickup. Those may have been blips rather than the start of a trend, though: Most subsequent polls have shown a broader McCrory lead, and now even a Democratic poll (from Garin-Hart-Yang, on behalf of NC Citizens for Progress) finds McCrory up 6, 45-39. I guess they want to show that's down from a 12-pt. gap in a previously unreleased April poll, though. (David Jarman)

NH-Gov: Do you remember FDR's legendary 1936 speech, when he surveyed the conservative forces lined up against him, the New Deal, and prosperity for all America, and defiantly told them, "I welcome their hatred"? With enemies like that, you knew Roosevelt was doing it right—and today, we have our modern analog. None other than Grover Norquist (via his front group, Americans for Tax Reform) has decided to take on Democratic ex-state Sen. Jackie Cilley for her refusal to swear fealty to New Hampshire's grotesque anti-tax "pledge." Like FDR, that means Cilley is doing something right, and she ought to welcome Norquist's hatred, too.

WV-Gov: Republican businessman Bill Maloney, trying for a second bite at the gubernatorial apple, has just released his first ad of the race. The first half is a frenetically edited attack on Barack Obama, with the narrator saying that "the change he's promised has darkened." (Darkened? Strange choice of words.) In the second half, Maloney talks to the camera and offers some bright and happy message about how he'll "repeal Obamacare," a rather tricky proposition for a governor, wouldn't you say? One thing Maloney doesn't mention, notably, is Dem Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who seems to be pretty popular these days.

House:

AZ-06: On Thursday we saw an internal poll from Republican Rep. David Schweikert, who's facing fellow freshman Rep. Ben Quayle in a redistricting-forced primary in the dark-red 6th; it put him up 49-33. I don't think anybody had any reason to doubt those numbers, but in case you did, a second poll is out now offering confirmation. It's on behalf of Schweikert-backing Citizens United (via their usual pollster, Wenzel Strategies), and it finds Schweikert leading Quayle by a similar 47-34. (David Jarman)

AZ-09: Two sizable endorsements in the Dem primary in the new 9th CD: Ex-Rep. Harry Mitchell, who represented over 60% of the district, including its heart (the city of Tempe) for two terms until losing in 2010, just came out for state Sen. David Schapira. Meanwhile, Al Gore is backing Andrei Cherny, who was an administration aide in the 1990s and sort of shares Gore's techno-wonk background. Given Mitchell's long tenure in the area (he was mayor of Tempe for 16 years and remains a revered figure), I actually think that get may mean more.

CA-24: In the third DCCC IVR poll in a week, the D-Trip predictably shows a much wider leader for Dem Rep. Lois Capps in the 24th than Republican Abel Maldonado recently did in his own internal poll. The Democratic survey puts the incumbent up 51-40, whereas Maldonado had Capps up just 48-46.

CT-05: Hmm. I wonder if EMILY's List even understands what they've said here, in explaining why they're supporting Elizabeth Esty in the Democratic primary and attacking Chris Donovan:

In 2009, Esty and Donovan were locked in a budget battle—Donovan's version of the state budget didn't touch state Medicaid funding nor education funding, and asked for a millionaire's tax. Esty's budget proposal, meanwhile, cut Medicaid and Husky health funding by $146 million, cut higher education by $54 million and had no millionaire's tax. [...]

Jen Bluestein, an EMILY's List spokesperson, told me that "Our description of Elizabeth Esty as committed to responsible budgeting is a description of her priorities in the past and in the future." I asked if that was inclusive of the 2009 budget proposal, to which she responded, "Sure."

Responsible budgeting? Hardly. Esty's alternative budget (designed only to burnish her "centrist" credentials) was empirically far less responsible than the budget put forth (and eventually adopted) by mainstream Democrats. It's not a question open to interpretation—it's a stone-cold fact. Connecticut's non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis compared the Esty budget (also known as the "Democratic Alternative" or "DA" budget) to the actual budget, and this is what they found:
The DA Budget's General Fund is out of balance by approximately $631 million because it generates approximately $1 billion less in revenue.
$1 billion less! And why was that? Because Esty refused to insist that millionaires pay their fair share. Meanwhile, Donovan's historic budget represented a huge progressive accomplishment that required couples earning over $1 million a year to do the right thing and pay higher taxes so that draconian budget cutbacks could be avoided. But EMILY says they support Esty precisely because she didn't want a millionaires' tax, and even though her budget would have raised far less revenue than the mainstream Democratic budget. That's a pretty twisted definition of "responsible."

FL-09: For a House race, this is a very large TV ad buy... but then again, the guy placing it has a very large bank account. Wealthy former Rep. Alan Grayson has secured $1.75 million worth of television time for the final month of the campaign in his bid to return to Congress.

GA-12: In a new ad, businessman and judge Wright McLeod promises to do something on "day one" of his congressional tenure that his fellow Republicans have already tried at least 33 times: introduce legislation to repeal Obamacare. Good luck with that.

HI-02: That new mail campaign the Sierra Club is doing for Democrat Tulsi Gabbard (see previous Digest) is for $28K worth of flyers (at least, for now).

MI-11: Liberty for All is also throwing down another $44K on mailers for Republican  Kerry Bentivolio. (See AZ-Sen item above.) All told, they've spent about $100K on the reindeer farmer/actor. I also don't quite know what this IE report means: Something called "American Future Fund" has put down $30K on "media placement" for Bentivolio. Is that the same as an ad buy? If so, radio or TV? Or something else entirely?

MI-14: Damn that's a lot of mail. The realtors are carpet-bombing the 14th Congressional District with $233K in mailers on behalf of Dem Rep. Gary Peters. I guess they already know everyone's home address....

MN-08: What if I told you the Big Dog was issue an endorsement of someone who endorsed Barack Obama and not Hillary Clinton in 2008? That would be amazing news, right? It would, alas, also be untrue. Bill Clinton is endorsing ex-state Sen. Tarryl Clark in the Democratic primary in the 8th, and of course she was a Hillary supporter four years ago. Clinton in fact also helped out Clark last year during her unsuccessful run against GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann in the 6th District. Clark faces ex-Rep. Rick Nolan and Duluth City Council President Jeff Anderson in the Democratic primary next month.

NH-01: The CREDO super PAC (they're on the side of the good guys) is targeting what they call the "tea party ten," one of whom is NH-01 freshman Frank Guinta. To that end, they have a new poll out on the race from PPP, finding Guinta with dead-even favorables (42-42) and losing to "someone else" by a 45-39 margin. They didn't include a head-to-head with Democrat Carol Shea-Porter, but this spread is very similar to a in-house PPP poll from May (PDF) which had CSP on top 47-43.

TN-03 (PDF): The clown car strikes again! The dreaded clown car effect—where multiple challengers to a vulnerable office-holder in a primary split the anti-incumbent vote, thus preventing each other from squeezing out the comically undersize door—seems to be helping GOP freshman Chuck Fleischmann. He drew not one but two legitimate opponents, despite not being notably out-of-step with his evangelical, dark-red Chattanooga-area district or having done anything controversial. But a new poll from Wenzel Strategies on behalf of Citizens United finds Fleischmann escaping with 40% of the vote, to 28% for self-funding ice cream magnate Scottie Mayfield and 19% for Weston Wamp, son of the 3rd's previous representative, Zach Wamp. (David Jarman)

WA-01: SurveyUSA (on behalf of KING-TV) has a poll of the fast-approaching primary in the 1st. (Ballots have already been mailed, and must be sent by Aug. 7.) It's also the first poll to show that Suzan DelBene's financial advantage and advertising leverage is starting to take effect: She's now leading among the Dems, at 17, with Darcy Burner at 13, along with Laura Ruderman at 6 and Steve Hobbs at 5. Lone GOPer John Koster tops the top-two field, at 38. (By comparison, their May poll had Burner at 19, Ruderman at 6, and DelBene tied with Hobbs at 4.)

The poll also looked ahead to November; you may recall that their May survey looked like a poll of eastern Washington rather than one of the state's median districts (it had Koster beating Burner 48-39 and DelBene 49-32). This time looks a lot more credible: a Koster/DelBene race is a 42-42 tie, while Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney 50-40 and in the gubernatorial race, Rob McKenna leads Jay Inslee 46-44. (As an indication of how screwed-up the previous poll was, SUSA found Romney winning 45-44, in a district that went 56-42 for Obama in '08 under the new lines.)

P.S. First rule of politics: when your opponent pulls out a MamaPAC, you pull out... well... an even bigger check. That's what Suzan DelBene figures, at least, since she's trying to nail down the second slot in the primary. She has previously self-funded to the tune of $1 million; on Friday, she added another $900K of her own funds to her campaign. (David Jarman)

WI-02: Mark Pocan responds to fellow Dem Kelda Roys, whose newest ad attacked Pocan for "caving in" to GOP Gov. Scott Walker. The narrator says "nuh uh!" and describes Pocan as "the legislature's leading progressive," then concludes with: "Character assassination: We expect it from Karl Rove, not from Kelda Roys."

Grab Bag:

Demographics: The Cooper Center at the University of Virginia is out with a thorough look at demographic change over the years in Virginia, and how that's impacted the presidential races there. If you're wondering why it's turned so rapidly from a red state to a swing state with a slightly blue hue, it turns on two factors (which, if you're a Daily Kos Elections regular, you could probably predict): growth in the minority population and the increasing dominance of the DC-area suburbs at the expense of the rest of the state. UVA finds those trends have only accelerated since 2008: The non-Hispanic white share of the vote is expected to drop by 2% from 2008 to 2012, and northern Virginia is expected to move from providing more than a quarter of the state's votes in 2008 to nearly a third of them in 2012. (David Jarman)

State Legislatures (PDF): Geoff Pallay, writing on behalf of the (incredibly useful) Ballotpedia website, makes note of something that has flown beneath the radar of most media outlets. Pallay points out that, thus far, 2012 is on pace to be a landmark year for state legislative incumbents losing their jobs via primary election defeats. Seventy-six incumbents have already hit the bricks, which already nearly matches the total for all of the 2010 cycle. This is notable, since there are still over two thousand legislators nationwide that still must face their primary elections.

Redistricting certainly played a role in that increase, with a dozen of those defeated incumbents having fallen at the hands of fellow officeholders paired in the same district. However, there has also been a marked increase in apostate incumbents being targeted by party activists. This is nothing new: Names like Mike Castle and Joe Lieberman at the national level come to mind immediately.

These kinds of challenges have also been perking up on the legislative level. A notable recent example was the Democratic primary in Oregon's HD-48 which replaced conservaDem incumbent Mike Schaufler with a progressive alternative (Jeff Reardon) in a deadlocked legislature, a race profiled by our own David Jarman in May. (Steve Singiser)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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