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Leading Off:

CA-36: Huh, interesting. A years-old email from GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack that had, in fact, been publicly known is only now coming to light—and it's not making her look very good. Here's the background:

Rep. Mary Bono Mack joked about a description of squalor in the east valley as a "Third World toilet," according to a 2006 email she sent to a talk radio host after he had interviewed a Coachella councilman.

The email to then-talk radio host Gary Stone came to light Thursday as Democratic campaign challenger Raul Ruiz accused Bono Mack of having "a pattern of disdain for her constituents."

"I heard some of your remarks with the councliman (sic) from Coachella. You were great!!!!!!" Bono Mack wrote in the email later published on the left-leaning political blogsite Daily Kos.

"Unbelievably great!!! Third World Toilet? That was too funny."

I found the post in question, written by Daily Kos user John Chapman back in 2006. The email was actually first published in a Spanish-language newspaper called El Informador Del Valle; it doesn't have much of a web presence, but Chapman managed to obtain a scan of the article which included Bono Mack's email. It's not clear why the email, which has been lying in plain sight for years, is only now getting some traction, but I'd guess that Ruiz's oppo team did some good digging and shot this around to local press.

I should also point out that there are some nasty racial undertones here, given that Coachella is almost entirely (96%) Hispanic. That's why Bono Mack is denying that her remarks were about Coachella, which seems like an extraordinary stretch, particularly since her campaign claims she was talking about some unspecified sort of "corruption" in a trailer park right near Coachella (because that's much better). Stone, the radio host, is also back-pedaling, and he's blaming the leak of the email on an unnamed colleague who supported Bono Mack's 2006 challenger, David Roth. (For what it's worth, Stone was fired from the radio station in 2008 after his co-host called Ginny Foat, a Democrat who was then Mayor Pro Tem of Palm Springs, a "murderer.")

Race Ratings:

We're making six ratings changes this week, for one Senate race and five House races. All but one favor the Democrats.

IN-Sen (Lean R to Tossup): It's game on for real now in Indiana. While polls out of the Hoosier state are infrequent (robopolling isn't permitted here), a long stretch of undisputed Democratic internals keeps showing a very close race. Most recent was a new survey on behalf of Rep. Joe Donnelly, which actually showed him ahead of Republican Richard Mourdock 45-42. More importantly, both major party committees—the DSCC and the NRSC—are now advertising here. National Dems aren't going to waste money on Donnelly if he doesn't have a shot, and Mourdock's run a very poor campaign. Win or lose, the ghost of Richard Lugar is going to haunt Indiana Republicans for a long time.

CA-10 (Lean R to Tossup): Democrat Jose Hernandez has an extraordinary profile, rising from poverty to become an astronaut, and he's put up respectable fundraising numbers against GOP freshman Jeff Denham. The DCCC is evidently a believer, recently coming into the race with almost $400K in ad buys, following on the heels of an unanswered internal poll which put Hernandez up 46-44.  That led the conservative American Action Network to respond with almost half a mil for the conservative Denham, who himself went on the air weeks before his challenger. There's also an important background factor at work: Denham only took 49% in June's all-party top-two primary. Historical evidence suggests that California Republicans fare worse in November than they do when the state's conducted such primaries, and with President Obama set to do very well once again in the Golden State, Denham's not in a happy place.

CA-36 (Likely R to Lean R): Two polls, both from PPP on behalf of Democracy for America, have shown physician Raul Ruiz just a hair's breadth behind GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack. That's despite heavy spending by the incumbent, which has left Ruiz very competitive in the cash-on-hand department. The biggest development of all came late last week, though: The DCCC made a low-six figure TV purchase and started running ads attacking Bono Mack. This is still an uphill fight for Ruiz (Bono Mack took 58% in the June primary), but the climb suddenly got noticeably less steep.

IL-13 (Lean R to Tossup): After waging a scrappy outsider's primary campaign, physician David Gill's impressed us with his pivot toward running the kind of race he needs to in this middle-of-the-road district. He also benefitted from the fact that GOP Rep. Tim Johnson unexpectedly bailed on the race late in the game, leaving Republicans with congressional staffer Rodney Davis instead. It's also worth noting that this race was one of the D-Trip's first targets this fall—in fact, they came in before Labor Day—something we wouldn't have anticipated. We always like being pleasantly surprised, and this race has now done that to us on a few occasions.

MI-01 (Lean R to Tossup): Democrat Gary McDowell seemed like the perfect fit to replace Rep. Bart Stupak when he announced his retirement last cycle. Unfortunately, he had to run in 2010—right candidate, wrong time. Now, he's getting a do-over against the guy who beat him, Dan Benishek, and he looks to be in strong shape. Polling continues to show Benishek mired in the low 40s, and outside groups are already ripping him to shreds, including the League of Conservation Voters, SEIU, and the DCCC. (Republican spending has not kept pace.) We'd been somewhat uncertain about how receptive voters in this rural, red-tilting district would be to returning to Democratic representation in Congress, but this is looking like one of Team Blue's top pickup opportunities.

NC-08 (Tossup to Lean R): Sorry, Larry. Dem Rep. Larry Kissell, a weak campaigner with questionable political instincts and even weaker fundraising, saw his district wrenched into a much more conservative configuration thanks to redistricting. Even his own recent polling wasn't very optimistic, showing his race against Richard Hudson getting tighter. But the rug was just pulled by the D-Trip, which started cancelling ad time that had been reserved on his behalf. Yes, it was only for one week, but we're viewing that as a very negative sign. (And check out our separate NC-08 bullet below for their unconvincing spin.) If you're going to triage anyone, it makes sense to let Kissell go, since he's incapable of fending for himself and would need to be propped up every two years, even if he did somehow manage to win this fall. That doesn't seem like a problem the DCCC's going to have to deal with, though.


CT-Sen: Holy hell! After enduring a relentless barrage of negative stories about her million-dollar bankruptcy in 1976 (ignited by a story in The Day which uncovered previously-unseen documents from the filing), Republican Linda McMahon said late on Thursday night that she'll pay back the "individuals" she stiffed almost four decades ago! Democrats had not called for this—they'd simply wanted more transparency from McMahon about the circumstances of her bankruptcy, particularly since she'd been using it to tell a whitewashed rags-to-riches tale about herself for years. But she's obviously hoping to get out from under this story with this dramatic, expedient gesture, though there are a number of reasons to think this won't just go away:

  1. This whole issue must poll disastrously for McMahon, else why try something so grandiose?
  2. McMahon and her husband have enjoyed extraordinary wealth for years. Why didn't they make their creditors whole again before now if they believed it was the right thing to do?
  3. In that vein, bankruptcy laws allow people to discharge debts for a reason—we don't require that people who later acquire the means to repay former creditors do so, otherwise a declaration of bankruptcy wouldn't mean anything. Yet McMahon now apparently feels that she should, so I wonder what else is on her mind.
  4. McMahon previously said she didn't have any further information about which creditors were still owed what when her debts were discharged in bankruptcy. (The documents "simply do not exist," said her campaign manager.) The new documentation doesn't show that either. So how does she know whom to repay now?
  5. And is McMahon going to pay her creditors back with interest? If so, at what rate? If McMahon were charged a 1.5% monthly rate (simple, not compound), she'd owe something like $7.5 million. And also recall that inflation alone has made her $1 million in 1976 debts worth more like $4 million in today's dollars.

This all puts me in mind of attorney Bob Loblaw's commercial for his law firm on Arrested Development: "Why should you go to jail for a crime someone else noticed?" Acting to right a wrong only after you've been caught stinks.

WI-Sen (PDF): I don't think we need more evidence right now that Dem Tammy Baldwin has moved into the lead in Wisconsin's open seat Senate race in the last few weeks, or, at a bare minimum, caught up. Nevertheless, we've got some more evidence! It's from Marist on behalf of NBC; they find Baldwin leading Tommy Thompson 48-46 among LVs (and 49-44 among RVs); they also have Barack Obama up 50-45 (51-43 w/ RVs), so the poll's a little easier to swallow than Marquette's huge leads. (Marist also polled Colorado and Iowa in this week's wave, but there aren't downballot races there this year.)

And later on Friday, yet another two pieces of evidence showed up. One is from PPP, who previously telegraphed a Tammy Baldwin edge; they find she's leading Tommy Thompson 49-45. (That's much improved from their last sua sponte poll a month ago where Thompson led 49-44, but not much different from their narrative-resetting internal poll for DFA from last Monday, where she led 48-45.)

Finally, Rasmussen takes a look at the race and even they have to join the consensus, finding Baldwin ahead of Thompson, 49-46. (That's improved from a 54-43 Thompson lead last month.)

And here's a good sign that Tommy is off his game: he's way off message, mostly exchanging blows with the Romney camp. Thompson publicly blamed Romney's lackluster campaign on Thursday for his own polling decline, and now the Romney camp is actually punching back, at least via surrogate/fixer John Sununu, who came up with an amusing comparison: Thompson "sounds like Barack Obama trying to blame it on somebody else." (David Jarman)


CT-Sen: Good visuals in this Majority PAC spot attacking Republican Linda McMahon: A card dealer lays out playing cards featuring McMahon's face and pictures of people she wants to screw over in various ways, while occasionally pulling a card from up his sleeve as the announcer accuses her of "sleight of hand" and "fix[ing] the game."

IN-Sen: Republican Richard Mourdock goes "standard GOP playbook" and calls on his dad to portray him as a defender of Medicare and Social security (while telling the standard Obamacare lie about Joe Donnelly). And look out! Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS is reportedly going big with a $1 million ad buy to bail out Mourdock.

ME-Sen: The NRSC attacks indie Angus King for allegedly getting a "sweetheart deal" for his windmills, which now dot some Maine hilltops—something a few regular people-types decry.

MT-Sen: Majority PAC portrays GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg as a tool of lobbyists eager to do their bidding.

ND-Sen: Heidi Heitkamp features a trucker who wants his sons to be able to attend college (unlike himself), hitting GOP Rep. Rick Berg for voting "to cut college aid to pay for a tax break for millionaires like himself." The NRSC attacks Heitkamp for supporting TARP and Obamacare.

NM-Sen: Dem Rep. Martin Heinrich goes after the "special interests" who are "here to distort" his record "because they know they can count on Heather Wilson to support their agenda."


MN-Gov, -Sen: And yep, as we suspected when he quit the Romney campaign to take a lobbying job, Republican ex-Gov. Tim Pawlenty is formally ruling out a run for governor or senator in 2014. Have fun with T-Paw, bank lobbyist dweebs.

MT-Gov: Here's one more poll with Democratic AG leading the open seat gubernatorial race in Montana, although by a paper-thin margin. Mason-Dixon finds Bullock leading GOP ex-Rep. Rick Hill 44-43 (with 2 for the Libertarian candidate, who could actually wind up being the difference-maker here).

They also poll the AG race (left open by Bullock's move up); earlier this week we mentioned a huge ad buy here by the Republicans to prop up their nominee here, Tim Fox. (My theory behind that is that they feel they need to build up a bench here; if Denny Rehberg loses the Senate race, they've got basically nothing on the bench, even as the state stays red at the Presidential level.) At any rate, the spending (plus residual name rec—Fox lost to Bullock in 2008) seems to be giving Fox the edge, since he leads Dem Pam Bucy 46-37. There's no mention of the Senate race here; presumably that'll be a separate release later. (David Jarman)

NH-Gov: Yipes: Democrat Maggie Hassan is down to just $16,000 cash-on-hand for the general election, after spending almost $1 million to win her primary. That compares with $258K for Republican Ovide Lamontagne. Presumably the DGA and EMILY's List will bail out Hassan, but obviously you'd rather not be near-penniless.

WI-Gov: PPP also finds GOP Gov. Scott Walker—last seen joining Tommy Thompson in a little Romney-punching of his own—faring much better than the rest of the Republicans; his approvals are 50/46 and he leads Generic D 50-44 in a hypothetical 2014 matchup. Retiring Dem Senator Herb Kohl is the state's most popular politician, though, at 47/35.


MT-Gov: AFSCME accuses Republican Rick Hill of supporting tax hikes on regular Montanans but "tax breaks for corporations.

NC-Gov: One of Republican Pat McCrory's high school teachers says: "Sometimes a student is just special." Referring to McCrory. Seriously. His other new ad is even freakier. A sheriff with a really strong accent and no sense of humor claims to be a lifelong Democrat and says: "Our only hope is McCrory. He'll do great with our state. Or I'll hunt him down." Consider me thoroughly creeped out.

WA-Gov: Republican Rob McKenna goes all positive with this introductory-type ad about his family, which seems a little late in the game. (It's almost October.) He also emphasizes education in a spot that looks very similar to others he's run.

WV-Gov: The RGA once again tries to paint Dem Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin as bad for the coal industry and claims he wrongly took credit for a lawsuit against the EPA that former Gov. (and now Sen.) Joe Manchin initiated.


CA-30: KABC-7 in Los Angeles just commissioned a new poll of the CA-30 race from SurveyUSA, finding Dem Rep. Brad Sherman leads fellow Dem Rep. Howard Berman 45-32 (with the rest undecided). That's very close to Sherman's 42-32 edge in June's top-two primary. Perhaps saddest for Berman is that he's even trailing by 11 points among Republicans, despite his desperate-seeming efforts to make inroads among that group. The poll also appears to pass the presidential topline sanity check, more or less, with Obama beating Romney 60-33 (he won 66-31 in 2008).

FL-26: After two Democratic polls showed him getting pounded, Republican Rep. David Rivera finally found someone to gin up some positive poll numbers for him: local pollster Dario Moreno, who somehow has Rivera up 44-38 over Democrat Joe Garcia. And if you believe that, then I'm sure you'll believe that Mitt Romney is also beating Barack Obama 50-42 in this South Florida district that split its vote evenly four years ago. (Both PPP and Benenson Strategy Group see the president leading.) Most baffling, though, is this writeup in The Hill, proclaiming that "the incumbent is largely believed to be safe, as he's running in a red-leaning district that favors Mitt Romney." Rivera safe?

IN-02: Probably the most famous feature film set in Indiana's 2nd Congressional District (aside from "Knute Rockne, All American") is the 1993 football tearjerker "Rudy," which takes place at Notre Dame. Well, Democrat Brendan Mullen didn't manage to land Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, but he scored the next best thing: Actor Sean Astin, who played Rudy in the movie, is headlining a fundraising event for him. (You younger nerds probably know Astin best from his role in those movies with the little dudes and the weird wedding ring and Magneto when he had long white hair.)

NC-08: Following up on that story about the DCCC cancelling a week's worth of ads on behalf of Dem Rep. Larry Kissell, here's this bit of spin out of the D-Trip's press shop. The tea leaves aren't the clearest, but I'm voting on "triaged":

"Larry Kissell is battle-tested and has won tough fights by gaining the support of Independents and Republicans," said DCCC spokesperson Jesse Ferguson. "Kissell can win against Washington insider Richard Hudson who is running a lackluster campaign and supports an agenda to end Medicare."
Also see our race rating change on this contest up above.

NV-04: The race in the newly-created 4th, between Democratic state Sen. Steven Horsford and Republican person-with-famous-last-name Danny Tarkanian, has been in the Dem column in most prognosticators' columns (probably thanks to the district's 56% Obama lean and Tarkanian's financial woes and gaffe propensities). We've always been a little more skeptical, though, as Horsford has never bothered to respond to several internal polls that Tarkanian has released with him in the lead.

And now we've gotten our first public poll of the race, for SurveyUSA on behalf of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It, too, gives Tark Jr. the lead, though not a convincing one at 45-42. (The sample also shows Obama with a 52-43 edge.) You can wear yourself to a frazzle trying to pick apart a SurveyUSA House poll, especially by delving into the crosstabs... so I'll just let atdnext do the honors. Perhaps most problematic, they have Tarkanian winning by 8 among Latinos (as well as winning among "urban" voters). (David Jarman)

NY-18: PPP's been very busy on the House race front, doing work for all sorts of clients. Their latest private internal to see the light of day was conducted for the AFL-CIO and has the race between GOP freshman Nan Hayworth and Democrat Sean Maloney all tied up at 43 apiece. These numbers compare with a 46-33 spread found by Siena earlier last week, but that poll found Working Families Party placeholder Larry Weissmann scoring 10% of the vote. While there's been some question about whether the WFP still has enough time to pull a switcheroo, the AFL's press release says that they "assume[] that the election is a two candidate race."

Meanwhile, Obama leads Romney 50-42 in the new PPP survey, which suggests the sample might be a tad optimistic (the POTUS won by five in 2008), but given Romney's general nosedive in recent weeks, these numbers are not out of the question. (Siena had Obama up four.) However, as is often PPP's wont, they asked how respondents voted in the 2008 election as well. That produced a seriously gaudy 53-40 Obama margin, which either means GOP enthusiasm in the New York City suburbs is way down, or the sample is too good to be true.

NY-19 (PDF): After almost a week of nonstop good news on the House polling front, I suppose the ride had to end at some point. It seems to have stopped in New York's 19th district, according to Siena: They have GOP freshman Chris Gibson leading Dem Julian Schreibman by a wide margin, 52-36. Now a big part of the problem is that no one knows who Schreibman is (he has 18/18 favorables, compared with 43/28 for Gibson), but even if he fixes that, Gibson's already past the 50% mark.

They also find Barack Obama leading 49-45 in the district (which went 53-45 in 2008). This district was never a must-win for the Dems (we have it slotted in as Lean R), but to actually take back the majority, the Dems will need to not only win most of the Tossups but also make a big dent in some of the suburban Obama districts held by GOP moderates that are currently in the Lean R column, like this one. (David Jarman)

SD-AL: The at-large House seat in South Dakota has always been hanging around on the cusp of competitive, and the latest poll of the race, well, has it looking like it's still on the cusp of competitive. GOP frosh Kristi Noem leads Dem Matt Varilek 51-42 in the latest poll from Nielson Brothers. Their previous poll, back in May, showed a closer race at 47-46, but that had a whiff of outlier about it, and the subsequent lack of involvement by the national parties seemed to confirm that. (Up ticket, Mitt Romney leads 54-39.) (David Jarman)


CA-10: House Majority PAC attacks GOP Rep. Jeff Denham for supporting the Ryan plan and praises Jose Hernandez for opposing it.

CO-07: Dem Rep. Ed Perlmutter touts his constituent work, with footage of him walking door-to-door and hosting meetings. In a second spot, he touts his efforts to pass "Make It In America" laws and attacks Joe Coors for outsourcing jobs.

FL-22: Democrat Lois Frankel goes negative on Adam Hasner, attacking him for supporting the Ryan plan and for voting for pay increases while in the legislature. Eric Cantor's YG Network tries to paint Frankel as someone who abusively used perks while serving as mayor of West Palm Beach. (Ad has since been taken down. Grr.)

FL-26: A local fisherman (who also happens to be mayor of the small town of Marathon) praises Democrat Joe Garcia for his focus on protecting the Florida Keys.

IA-01: Republican Ben Lange attacks Dem Rep. Bruce Braley over the usual Obamacare/Medicare lies.

IA-03: GOP Rep. Tom Latham attacks Dem Rep. Leonard Boswell for voting for TARP and Obamacare, and "against bills to help Iowa's farmers and economy."

NC-07: Dem Rep. Mike McIntyre holds up a Chuck Taylor All-Star and laments the fact that the shoes are no longer produced in North Carolina but instead in Asia. Then he attacks David Rouzer for supporting "tax breaks for companies that send jobs like these overseas," and adds that he opposes NAFTA (not a topic that frequently comes up in ads).

NV-03: House Majority PAC attacks GOP Rep. Joe Heck for voting to defund Planned Parenthood and for other "War on Women"-type votes, while praising John Oceguera. (Size of the buy: $240K.) Heck pushes back against similar attacks, then accuses Oceguera of "double-dipping" by holding two government jobs at the same time.

NY-21: Republican Matt Doheny accuses Dem Rep. Bill Owens of supporting tax increases.

OH-16: John Boehner's Congressional Leadership Fund tries to portray Dem Rep. Betty Sutton as joined at the hip to Nancy Pelosi.

PA-08: Funny visuals in this ad from Democrat Kathy Boockvar: The announcer says that GOP Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick "just doesn't fit us anymore" as a variety of people try on comically wrong-sized t-shirts—and even a onesie—emblazoned with Fitzpatrick's face.

PA-12: Dem Rep. Mark Critz speaks out against "bad trade deals" and dings Keith Rothfus for supporting legislation that would ship jobs overseas. The YG Network attacks Critz over a mish-mash of stuff, and I think the announcer actually scoffs "jeez!" (or close to it) at about 20 seconds in. (Ad also since taken down. Double grr.)

TX-23: John Boehner's PAC attacks Democrat Pete Gallego over the usual Medicare lies and also accuses him of being a tax hiker.

Other Races:

ME Ballot: PPP has some new numbers on the pro-gay marriage ballot measure that's going before voters in Maine this November. They find 52% of voters in favor and 44% opposed, but Tom Jensen cautions that undecideds on this topic typically wind up voting "no," so this may be very close indeed. (A long time ago, back in March, it was 54-41 in favor, but that was under a registered voter model; this new poll is of likely voters.) Meanwhile, Democrats lead on the generic legislative ballot by a healthy 48-37. And in 2014 numbers, GOP Gov. Paul LePage trails Generic D 48-40, but Republican Sen. Susan Collins wallops Generic D 59-25.

Grab Bag:

Independent Expenditures: Pro-Dem:

AFSCME: PA-12: $323K

End The Gridlock: NE-Sen: $227K

House Majority PAC: IA-04: $40K; IL-17: $105K; MN-08: $112K; NC-07: $23K; NH-02: $212K; NY-18: $145K; OH-06: $179K; OH-16: $378K; WA-01: $181K; WI-07: $46K

DCCC: FL-18: $284K

Majority PAC: VA-Sen: $1m

Patriot Majority: ND-Sen: $462K


American Future Fund: AZ-09: $308K (TV); $112K (radio); $60K ("social media")

Center for Individual Freedom: IA-03: $272K; KY-06: $104K; NV-04: $464K; NY-21: $360K; NY-24: $346K; UT-04: $245K

Chamber of Commerce: HI-Sen: $311K; NM-Sen: $455K; VA-Sen: $1.4m; WI-Sen: $750K

NRSC: IN-Sen: $623K

Party Committees: Good fundraising numbers for Democrats in August. On the House front, the DCCC outraised the NRCC raised $11.6 million to $6.8 mil, though the GOP holds a $50 mil to $40 mil cash edge. Meanwhile, on the Senate side, the DSCC raised $7.7 mil versus $6 mil for the NRSC and has $31 mil in the bank compared to $29 mil for Republicans.

Redistricting Roundup:

MA Redistricting: In reviewing our redistricting materials, we discovered a slight error in our Massachusetts data. Apparently, the state legislature rearranged stuff right before passing the bill, without updating the "proposed" maps posted online! The new map affected five towns: East Brookfield, Easton, Palmer, Raynham, and Walpole (and four congressional districts, the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 8th). East Brookfield, which had been split between the 1st and 2nd, was put entirely in the 1st in exchange for a section of Palmer. Walpole was moved from the 4th to the 8th and Easton from the 8th to the 4th; the boundary in the previously-split town of Raynham was also adjusted. Despite all this, presidential results by CD did not change substantially, with the one noticeable change being that the 4th went up 0.1% in Obama performance (and the 8th decreasing accordingly).

As always, our full redistribution analysis is available here, and our county components table here. You can also download our full national CD map in either shapefile or KML (Google Earth) form.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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