In an interview, the three-term senator acknowledged that he did not have a home of his own in Kansas. The house on a country club golf course that he lists as his voting address belongs to two longtime supporters and donors—C. Duane and Phyllis Ross—and he says he stays with them when he is in the area. He established his voting address there the day before his challenger, Milton Wolf, announced his candidacy last fall, arguing that Mr. Roberts was out of touch with his High Plains roots.Man oh man. If you followed the Indiana Senate race last cycle, you'll remember how badly Lugar got beat up over his frayed ties to his home state. Lugar's critics focused on the fact that he was still registered to vote at a home he'd sold—in 1977! As a result, they succeeded in getting him dumped from the voter rolls until he re-registered at a "rustic" farm Lugar admitted he didn't actually live in.
"I have full access to the recliner," the senator joked. Turning serious, he added, "Nobody knows the state better than I do."
It didn't help matters much, though, because Lugar faced continued scrutiny over just how much time he spent back in the Hoosier State. He finally confessed to setting foot in Indiana on just 1,800 days over a period of 36 years—barely 14 percent of his congressional tenure. In the end, the tea party-backed Richard Mourdock whacked Lugar by more than 20 points in the GOP primary.
The parallels with Roberts' situation are many. Like Lugar, Roberts has long since "gone Washington." As the New York Times' Jonathan Martin notes, he's a "fixture" of the D.C. Sunday talk shows, and his wife is a real-estate broker who claims "extensive knowledge" of their home town of Alexandria, Virginia. It's "hard to find anyone who has seen" the senator, writes Martin, around the Kansas home he's pretending to rent.
Indeed, that aspect of the situation is the most egregious and makes Roberts sound outright delusional:
He began paying the Rosses $300 a month to allow him to stay overnight with them occasionally. "We're not going to get Lugar'd," said David Kensinger, an adviser to Mr. Roberts.So $300 a month for "full access to the recliner" on the rare occasions when Roberts bothers to visit the Sunflower State is supposed to inoculate the incumbent from "getting Lugar'd"? Good luck with that! At least Lugar owned the farm he listed as his bogus residence. Pat Roberts just has a time-share in a La-Z-Boy.
Roberts' primary opponent, Wolf, still has a long way to go. He doesn't have much money in the bank, and polls have shown him trailing far behind. And unlike Mourdock, who was state treasurer, he doesn't have prior elective experience. But narratives like this can be exceptionally toxic, which is why Roberts has feebly tried to get ahead of this one. And while he may have galloped to the right in an attempt to outflank Wolf ideologically, it's a lot harder to wash off that Beltway stank. The smell alone just might sink him... right back into that comfy recliner.
• KY-Sen: Big Dog Alert! And man, it's like AP reporter Joseph Gerth read our minds: In his writeup of Bill Clinton's newly scheduled visit to Louisville on Feb. 25 to campaign for Alison Grimes, Gerth even calls him the "Big Dog." No details yet, though, on what's in store for our favorite large canine on this particular trip, but fundraisers are extremely likely and perhaps there'll even be a rally.
• MT-Sen: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock went the simplest and safest route on Friday, appointing Lt. Gov. John Walsh to fill the vacancy left by outgoing Sen. Max Baucus, who was easily confirmed as the next U.S. envoy to China by his fellow senators a day earlier. Walsh was already running for the Senate, since Baucus had previously said he wouldn't seek a seventh term this year, and the Democratic establishment had long since rallied around his candidacy.
Walsh had been facing a fight in the primary, from former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger and rancher Dirk Adams, but Bohlinger recently said he might reconsider the race if Walsh was tapped as senator. Either way, Walsh, whose fundraising has far outstripped his Democratic rivals', is the overwhelming favorite to win his party's nomination.
The biggest question now is how, if at all, this affects Walsh's quest to hold this seat. Republicans are running their first-choice recruit in Rep. Steve Daines, who took in over $1 million in the last quarter of 2013 (a ton for a tiny state like Montana) and who held a wide 52-35 lead in a PPP poll last November. On the one hand, Walsh's promotion, of course, renders him the incumbent, giving him a more prominent platform and perhaps easier access to money.
On the other, Walsh will now have to spend much of his time in Washington, D.C. (and schlepping back and forth from there to Montana). That means fewer hours on the campaign trail, and it also means potentially taking some difficult votes that might not play so well back home. After all, it's not like Congress is particularly popular these days.
But Walsh and the DSCC have undoubtedly polled these questions to death, and if a Senate appointment had been a net negative, Bullock would have surely picked someone else. What's more, with Democrats at a decided disadvantage against Daines, Walsh's elevation at least has the potential to alter the contours of this contest. For now, though, Daily Kos Elections still rates this race as Lean Republican, meaning we think the GOP has an identifiable advantage heading into this fall's elections.
• SC-Sen-A: We have dueling internals in the GOP primary for South Carolina's Class II Senate seat. State Sen. Lee Bright, one of the Lilliputian hopefuls trying to squeeze into the runoff with Sen. Lindsey Graham, kicked things off with a numbers from Wenzel Strategies finding Graham under the magic 50 percent mark with 46. Bright is in second with 17 while the other three candidates all take 5 or less.
Graham then responded with polling from North Star Opinion Research (conducted before the Wenzel survey) showing him... well, only a touch better off. Graham beats Bright 53 to 11 in his own poll, with businesswoman Nancy Mace at 8. Graham also has leads of 30 points or more against all comers in one-on-one matchups, but those numbers are basically irrelevant, since the posture of this race will change considerably if a second round of voting is required.
• WY-Sen: Hah! So it turns out Liz Cheney was just basically lying about how much money she raised in the fourth quarter before euthanizing her disastrous primary challenge to GOP Sen. Mike Enzi. On her way out, La Liz claimed she'd taken in a million bucks in the final three months of 2013, as a way to emphasize that she wasn't quitting for financial reasons. But the National Journal's Steven Shepard dug up her FEC filing and found that Cheney raised under $620,000 and chipped in another $100,000 herself—a far cry from a cool mil. What's more, she had a wild burn rate, spending $900,000 during the same timeframe. Not a sustainable situation, of course, which is why we are where we are.
• AZ-Gov: Well, we finally have another survey of the severely underpolled Arizona governor's race, but it's from the Behavior Research Center, which means the undecideds are ridic. In fact, they're greater than 50 percent in every general election matchup they tested, and around 70 percent for both primaries. Whatevsky.
• PA-Gov: Wealthy businessman Tom Wolf is already out with his third ad of the Democratic primary, scarcely a week after going on the air. Wolf talks about why he shares profits with workers at the cabinetry company that made him rich, saying he does it "in part because it's right" and also because "it's really smart business." It's worth noting, though, that his firm, the Wolf Organization, is a non-union shop, so emphasizing profit-sharing might help Wolf blunt any criticism along those lines.
• CA-33: Interest in Rep. Henry Waxman's seat seemed to die down in a hurry after two heavyweight Democrats, Wendy Greuel and Ted Lieu, quickly announced their campaigns. One big name, though, still remained, but while he probably could have made a big impact on the race, outgoing Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky says he won't join the field. Yaroslavsky cited his age (65) and his four-decade career in office as his reasons for not wanting to run.
Greuel, meanwhile, racked up another key endorsement, albeit an entirely expected one. EMILY's List, which supported Greuel's unsuccessful bid for Los Angeles mayor last year, will once again back her play.
• FL-13: In a new ad, Democrat Alex Sink pushes back against Obamacare attacks by highlighting the law's most popular aspects. A narrator accuses Republican David Jolly of wanting to return to the bad old days of "letting insurance companies deny coverage"—and yep, that's pretty much what repealing Obamacare would entail. Instead of doing that, says Sink, "we need to keep what's right, and fix what's wrong."
• IL-13: With the Winter Olympics upon us, physics professor George Gollin is invoking 1980's "Miracle on Ice" victory for the U.S. men's hockey team in his first ad ahead next month's primary. The connection, apparently, is Gollin's argument that "changing Washington would be a miracle, too," so is he saying that he's capable of pulling off such a feat? That would be a rather grandiose claim, which is why he probably pivots to calling himself a "proud progressive" who is "not a political insider." He then finishes by saying, "This is our time." Whose time, exactly? Gollin faces former judge Ann Callis for the Democratic nomination in this GOP-held seat.
• GA-01: Republican pollster Rosetta Stone has released the toplines of a one-day robopoll of the GOP primary to succeed Rep. Jack Kingston, who is running for Senate. State Sen. Buddy Carter leads state Rep. Jeff Chapman 27-14, while a trio of candidates are in the low single digits and fully 51 percent of voters are undecided. No crosstabs are available. Georgia's primary is May 20.
• NC-06: Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger, Jr. is up with his first ad of the GOP primary to succeed retiring Rep. Howard Coble. Berger opaquely says he kept his promises as D.A. because "we beat the courthouse crowd," whatever that means, "and today prosecutions have more than tripled." He then goes to talk about how conservative he is, tax cuts spending Obamacare bad bad bad, etc.
• NJ-01: Every single Democrat in New Jersey's congressional delegation just endorsed state Sen. Donald Norcross to replace retiring Rep. Rob Andrews. Woe betide any independent-minded candidate who wants to force a primary ... such are the ways of the Joisey Machine.
• NY-21: In response to the warning shot that wealthy businessman Matt Doheny squeezed off the other day, 11 of the 12 county GOP leaders in New York's 21st returned fire themselves, with an endorsement of former George W. Bush aide Elise Stefanik. Doheny (or at least his backers) trotted out poll numbers showing him with a wide lead over Stefanik in a hypothetical primary matchup, but obviously the establishment is trying to deter him from entering the race.
• TX-32: Rep. Pete Sessions, who faces a tea party challenge in next month's GOP primary, is running a TV ad that, interestingly, emphasizes his electoral rather than congressional achievements. Sessions reminds viewers of how "bleak" things looked after Barack Obama first won office, but then takes credit for booting Nancy Pelosi in 2010 when he was head of the NRCC. It's a tack rarely seen in political advertising, but it seems like a pretty decent way to connect with conservative primary voters, who undoubtedly despise Pelosi. Sessions' buy is for a reported $300,000, on cable and online.
• WV-02: While the Republican field in the open-seat race for West Virginia's 2nd District has seemed weirdly weak—and bizarrely led by former Maryland state GOP chair Alex Mooney—there's actually a new name in the mix. Former state Sen. Steve Harrison, who long ago said he was considering a bid, did indeed wind up making the race. He hasn't filed a fundraising report yet, but given that Mooney was the only candidate to even break six figures, Harrison may well have a shot here. (H/t Paleo)
• PA State Senate: This is going to make Democrats' chances of picking up the Pennsylvania Senate this year a good bit harder. State Sen. Rich Kasunic, who represents by far the reddest district of any Democratic incumbent, has announced his retirement after a 20-year career. His 32nd District, which is primarily in southwestern Pennsylvania's Fayette County, went 59 percent for Romney, though it's worth noting that the collar counties around Pittsburgh have retained at least something of their once-blue roots at the local level even as they've turned red in federal elections. Democrats have a few pickup opportunities in Philadelphia's suburbs (and this race was going to be a tough one even before Kasunic's retirement), so it's still possible they'll net the two seats they need to get to a 25-25 split. (David Jarman)
• Crossroads: Much like the NRCC did a day earlier, Karl Rove's American Crossroads has pushed out a batch of polls from Harper Polling aimed at driving a particular narrative: namely, that Republicans are poised to make big gains in the Senate. Here are all the numbers:
One seat, though, isn't on the list this time: West Virginia, interestingly enough, where Republicans had a wide 51-34 lead. There's also no data for Colorado and Iowa—or Virginia, where Beltway fluffers have nearly drowned themselves drooling over former RNC chief Ed Gillespie.
Of course, if you're inclined to accept these numbers as accurate, then they certainly suck for Democrats. But bear in mind that recent polling from other firms have shown different results. PPP, for instance, has had more optimistic findings for Mark Begich, Mary Landrieu, Gary Peters, and even Mark Pryor, while they have Jeanne Shaheen much close to 50 percent. (Oddly, Kay Hagan fares a little better with Harper.)
There's no doubt that 2014 has shaped up to be a difficult year for the Democratic Party, and control of the Senate is very much up for grabs. But this is just one set of data from a firm with no track record, leaked by a group with an agenda. And wise analysts know they should never read too much into a single poll.
• Demographics: In the long running argument between Team Georgia and Team Texas as to where the Democrats' next great hope lies, the latest round goes to Team Georgia. Gallup is out with some Texas polling that suggests a longer slog to get the Lone Star State into swingable territory, despite rapid growth among the state's Latino population. Texas Latinos, they find, tend to be a smidge more GOP-friendly than in other states: 27 percent of them identify as Republican, compared with 21 percent in all other states. Conversely, 46 percent identify as Dems, compared with 51 percent elsewhere.
Of course, that shouldn't surprise anyone who carefully watches election results; remember, for instance, George W. Bush's strong 2004 performance in the Hispanic-heavy Rio Grande Valley (50 percent in Cameron County, and 45 percent in Hidalgo County), though of course that was a GOP high-water mark, at a time when outreach, not self-deportation, was the word of the day. However, Republicans also overperform among white Texans, 61 percent, compared with 48 percent of the rest of the country. White voters are a declining share of the state's population but still the majority, so it's not simply a matter of waiting until there are more Latinos than Anglos in Texas in order for Democrats to start winning there. (David Jarman)