• CA-21: Roll Call's Emily Cahn takes a detailed look at the pitiful finances of Democrat John Hernandez, whom you may recall squeaked through the top-two primary in California's 21st Congressional District last cycle, ahead of establishment choice Blong Xiong. Hernandez then proceeded to run a joke of a campaign that allowed Republican David Valadao to win in a walk, even as Barack Obama carried the 21st by a 55-44 margin.
So why does he matter? Unfortunately, Hernandez claims he's running again this year (oy) and has even been soliciting donations. However, hasn't filed a single quarterly fundraising report, as required by law, but he does have 13 letters on file from the FEC upbraiding him for compliance failures. Hernandez is also deeply in debt and even managed to bounce a $42 check (!) to a local Democratic club last summer.
Fortunately, Democrats have a legitimate alternative this time in former congressional staffer Amanda Renteria, who raised more in the fourth quarter of last year than Hernandez did during his entire 2012 bid. But Hernandez could nevertheless prevail in the primary again, thanks to his name recognition. Indeed, he probably beat Xiong (who is Hmong) simply by having a surname that was more familiar to most voters in this majority-Latino district. At least that advantage will be more limited against Renteria, who is also Hispanic.
But a recent Harper poll for the NRCC still shows Hernandez starting out ahead. According to Harper, Valadao, the only Republican running, sits at 45 percent, while Hernandez takes 25 and Renteria just 13. However, Renteria hasn't begun paid advertising yet, and the primary isn't until June, so she still has every opportunity to overtake Hernandez. She'll have to work hard for it, though, and even if she succeeds, beating Valadao will be no easy task, especially in a district like this where midterm turnout among Democratic-leaning voters tends to drop off dramatically compared to presidential years.
Nevertheless, with limited options for going on offense to (one day) retake the House, Democrats can't afford to screw up here. Another Hernandez victory will once again be tantamount to a forfeit, and that would be a shameful outcome indeed.
• GA-Sen: GOP Rep. Paul Broun is up with his first ad of the campaign, and Democrats will definitely enjoy it. Broun, talking directly to camera from the back of a pickup truck, claims that "[t]he Democratic Party is attacking me for one reason: I'm the strongest conservative running for the U.S. Senate. Liberals fear a genuine conservative candidate." Well, I suppose "fear" is one way to put it. "Gleefully pray for" might be another. As Cameron Joseph notes, the small sum backing the buy—just $50,000—is reflective of Broun's weak fundraising so far.
• HI-Sen: Civil Beat's new Merriman River poll also included data on the Democratic primary for Senate, where Sen. Brian Schatz is tied with Rep. Colleen Hanabusa at 40 apiece. That's little changed from Schatz's 38-36 edge last October, but note that this is the same Merriman survey that rather improbably found Gov. Neil Abercrombie tied with his own Democratic primary opponent, little-known state Sen. David Ige.
• IA-Sen: PPP's new Iowa poll shows Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley's advantage shrinking, but he still leads the entire Republican field. Here's how Braley fares, but note that the trendlines (listed in parentheses) date all the way back to July:
• 40-34 vs. former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker (43-34)Braley remains better-known that his potential GOP opponents, but his favorability rating has barely budged, from 34-24 last year to 31-25 now. Instead, it's Barack Obama's woes that have put downward pressure on Democrats: He's dropped from a 46-50 job approval score to 40-54. It's a positive sign, though, that Braley's favorables haven't slipped along with the president's. That means voters aren't holding him directly responsible for whatever it is that's caused them to view the White House so dismally, so he can aim for a rebound that's not tied to Obama's fortunes.
• 41-35 vs. state Sen. Joni Ernst (45-33)
• 41-35 vs. former energy company CEO Mark Jacobs (44-32)
• 42-34 vs. radio host Sam Clovis (43-31)
Meanwhile, the GOP primary is still unsettled. Thanks in all likelihood to his early advertising, Jacobs is in the lead with 20, while Ernst takes 13, Whitaker 11, Clovis 8, and a couple of Some Dudes are in low single digits. Democrats would very much like to see the Republican nomination thrown to a convention, but that will only happen if no candidate fails to clear 35 percent. With David Young dropping down to the open IA-03 race and Bob Vander Plaats declining to run for Senate, that scenario is looking less likely.
• NC-Sen: A firm we hadn't previously heard of called American Insights has a quirky new North Carolina poll with tons of undecideds. The firm finds Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan edging all of her Republican challengers by similar margins, with a 38-35 lead over Thom Tillis; 39-35 over Mark Harris; and 38-36 over Greg Brannon. Spread-wise, those are actually slightly better results for Hagan than PPP's recently seen, but the large number of voters without any preference makes this data less helpful.
One interesting thing about this survey, though, is that American Insights not only reached both landline and cellphone users, but they also conducted an online panel. That's something we haven't seen before, but perhaps this triple-barreled approach will grow in popularity.
• IA-Gov: PPP also asked about the governor's race in their new Iowa poll, but there's not much to see. Republican Gov. Terry Branstad leads Democratic state Sen. Jack Hatch 48-36, virtually unchanged from his 47-35 edge last July.
• MI-Gov: A new poll from the firm of Target-Insyght, commissioned by local tipsheet MIRS, finds Republican Gov. Rick Snyder leading Democratic ex-Rep. Mark Schauer 47-38. Target-Insyght doesn't appear to have any published track record—we can't find any reference to them in our polling databases—though they are headed up by Ed Sarpolus, who used to be the chief lobbyist for the Michigan Education Association, a large teachers' union.
• PA-Gov: According to Harper Polling, all that early ad spending by wealthy businessman Tom Wolf has paid off. The Republican pollster finds Wolf now leading the Democratic primary, surging in a big way from their last poll in November (shown in parentheses):
Tom Wolf: 40 (5)Of course, plenty of rich guys have forked out loads of their own money only to lose badly, and with Pennsylvania's primary not until May 20, Wolf certainly doesn't have things locked up. (Plus, this is only one poll, though McGinty certainly can't like that trendline.) But other candidates are going to have to ramp up their own paid media campaigns soon if they want to keep up, which means we could see a truly massive combined fortune spent to capture the Democratic nomination.
Allyson Schwartz: 14 (22)
Rob McCord: 8 (12)
John Hanger: 7 (7)
Jack Wagner: 7 (--)
Katie McGinty: 6 (15)
Undecided: 19 (34)
• TX-Gov: Pre-primary fundraising numbers are now also available for Texas' gubernatorial race. Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis reported raising $2.85 million over the last month, split between her own campaign and a separate vehicle called the Texas Victory Committee. Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, meanwhile, took in $2.45 million, but he has much more cash-on-hand: $30 million, versus $11.3 million for Davis.
• WI-Gov: Apparently, that RGA ad buy targeting Democrat Mary Burke is a whole lot bigger than originally thought. According to progressive group One Wisconsin, the total outlay has reached $1.2 million, far more than the vague "six-figure" expenditure that was first reported.
• AR-04, FL-02, OH-06: I don't know that an endorsement from the Blue Dogs counts as much more than a bogus cootie shot against libruhl rabies these days, but some folks still want to go "circle, circle, dot, dot" anyway. And as you'd expect, the first three Democrats lining up for vaccinations this cycle are all running in red districts: James Lee Witt (AR-04); Gwen Graham (FL-02); and Jennifer Garrison (OH-06).
• CA-31: Another prominent California Democrat is chiming in on behalf of attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes: former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who served in the House prior to joining the Obama administration. Solis didn't represent any parts of the new 31st District, but her old 32nd was right nearby. A day earlier, Rep. Xavier Becerra, a high-ranking member of the House, also endorsed Reyes.
• FL-13: A new poll for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from Fabrizio Lee finds Republican David Jolly, whom the Chamber has spent heavily on, with a 44-42 edge on Democrat Alex Sink. Those aren't especially optimistic numbers for a GOP internal, though in fairness, we haven't seen any Democratic polling except for a DCCC robopoll that put Sink up 4 late last month.
Unfortunately, Fabrizio Lee (which used to be known as Fabrizio McLaughlin) has almost no public track record. All we could find was one late 2012 poll in NY-01 that had Republican Randy Altschuler leading Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop 49-46; Bishop went on to win 52-47, so chalk that up as an 8-point miss in the GOP direction.
Meanwhile, Jolly is out with a new ad featuring his mom and an aunt; says Jolly: "Protecting their Social Security means everything to me." His mother complains about Alex Sink's negative attacks and finishes by saying, "He learned that from Bill Young." ("That" = "I stand with them, and all Pinellas." Doesn't exactly flow.)
Incidentally, total TV ad spending has now topped $8.2 million, with $3.6 million coming from Jolly and GOP interests versus $4.6 million from Sink and her Democratic allies. It may seem surprising that Democrats have such a wide edge in the air wars, but that's because Sink herself has been responsible for $1.5 million in ads, while Jolly has only managed $353,000. Most prior analyses have focused solely on outside spending, where Republicans have indeed had the edge.
It's not clear, though, if these tallies include new independent expenditure reports filed by the DCCC ($503,000), the NRCC ($304,000), or American Crossroads ($170,000) on Tuesday. But that $8.2 million total definitely does not account for mailers, though the Tampa Bay Times estimates that $635,000 has been spent on them so far.
• FL-18: Despite earning the endorsement of ex-Rep. Allen West, and despite the fact that several congresswomen lent their names to a high-dollar fundraiser on her behalf last fall, Juno Beach Councilwoman Ellen Andel's fundraising was absolutely pitiful. In the fourth quarter, she somehow managed to collect just $13,000 and had scarcely $6,000 left in the bank. That's probably not enough to win re-election to her 3,000-person town's council, let alone prevail in a race for Congress, so it's not really surprising that Andel's decided to drop her bid against Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy.
Andel's departure doesn't change things much, though, since the rest of the GOP field is equally pathetic. The top fundraiser last quarter, state Rep. Carl Domino, took in only $56,000, roughly a tenth of what Murphy raised.
• GA-01: Republican state Sen. Buddy Carter, the nominal frontrunner to replace Rep. Jack Kingston, is running the first TV ad of the race, backed by a small $25,000 buy. The spot is filmed in a pharmacy, with Carter wearing a white coat and referencing his "30 years" of experience as a pharmacist as a means for bashing Obamacare ("a train wreck, and it has to go"). He concludes with a terribly groany line that's totally out of place with the pharmacy motif, saying: "Together, we can turn Obamacare into a 3-D movie: Delay it, defund it, defeat it." This isn't a drive-in, yo.
• IL-13: Former state court judge Ann Callis is now going on the air as well, joining her Democratic primary rival, physics professor George Gollin, who released his first ad a couple of weeks ago. It's a solid spot, in which Callis touts her work to create "the state's first veterans' court" to help vets "in legal trouble" "get treatment and get back on their feet." Callis concludes by noting this issue is of special importance to her because she's "a proud Army mom." According to Roll Call, the buy is for $20,000. The primary is March 18.
• MI-12: According to two unnamed "senior Democratic strategists on Capitol Hill," Debbie Dingell, the wife of retiring Rep. John Dingell, will indeed seek to replace her husband in Congress. Nothing from the horse's mouth yet, though an announcement is supposedly planned for later this week.
• NH-01, MA-06: The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund has also issued endorsements for a pair of gay Republican candidates. (See our VA-08 item below for more on the GLVF.) They're backing ex-state Sen. Richard Tisei in MA-06, whom they controversially supported last cycle, and former UNH business school dean Dan Innis in NH-01. The latter race is particularly notable, since Innis, unlike Tisei, faces a competitive GOP primary, so it will be interesting to see whether the GLVF helps or hurts Innis against ex-Rep. Frank Guinta.
Also worth pointing out is that the GLVF has not yet endorsed the third prominent gay Republican running for Congress this year, former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, who is challenging Rep. Scott Peters in CA-52.
• TX-04: Republican hopeful John Ratcliffe is out with another positive ad ahead of the March 4 primary. This one's less cheesy than his first spot and just touts his conservative virtues the whole way through. However, there's an amusing edit at five seconds in, when a shot focused on a bunch of cattle in a pen gets captioned "A new generation of conservative leadership." Ratcliffe is trying to unseat veteran GOP Rep. Ralph Hall.
• VA-08: One interesting thing about the extremely crowded Democratic primary in Virginia's 8th is that there are three prominent gay candidates running: state Sen. Adam Ebbin, radio host Mark Levine, and state Rep. Mark Sickles, who just came out last week. Now, though, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a group that supports gay office-seekers, has chosen sides and endorsed Ebbin. The organization didn't explain their rationale, beyond calling Ebbin "an outspoken voice of progressive values," but presumably they think he has the best shot at winning.
• WA-04: Scratch two more local Republicans off the list for the open seat being vacated by ten-term GOP Rep. Doc Hastings, who's off to look for a quieter place to nap than the Capitol. Benton County Commissioner (and ex-state Sen.) Jerome Delvin and state Rep. Charles Ross have both declined in the last few days. (David Jarman)