• SC-Gov: The RGA is running a second ad in South Carolina attacking Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Vincent Sheheen, and they're peddling yet another Obamacare horror story, albeit in a different vein from the typical Americans for Prosperity variety. Rather than someone who says they've lost insurance coverage, this spot features a business owner who claims that "Obamacare has cost jobs in my company" because of an alleged "increase" in premiums, and then uses that to bash Sheheen.
There are a couple of problems here, though. First off, insurance companies have always been free to jack up rates, so tying this one company's rate hike to Obamacare is tendentious at best. Second, a title card that says "34,000 South Carolina jobs could be lost" due to Obamacare actually cites to a totally bogus blog post from Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform. The ATR's claims are based on a long-discredited willful misreading of a report last month from the Congressional Budget Office that rather pointedly did not say that the Affordable Care Act would cause 2.5 million people nationwide to lose their jobs; rather, the law may allow some Americans to work less.
Of course, the RGA can probably peddle this b.s. for as long as they like. It'll be up to Sheheen and his allies to call them on it.
• CO-Sen: PPP's new Colorado poll confirms exactly what we imagined when up-and-coming GOP Rep. Cory Gardner made a late and unexpected entry into his state's Senate race: The numbers look pretty good for him. Democratic Sen. Mark Udall sports a narrow 42-40 lead over Gardner, who starts off already known to half of all voters with a 23-25 favorability rating, despite representing just a seventh of the state for barely three years. (Udall's job approval is a middling 41-40.) A year ago, when PPP tested a hypothetical Udall-Gardner matchup, the incumbent led 49-39. Things, evidently, have changed.
But it's important to point out that even before Gardner's appearance, Udall was facing a re-election campaign that had already grown more difficult than initially anticipated. In PPP's December poll, Udall only sported a 46-42 lead on 2010 GOP nominee Ken Buck, who has since dropped down to run for Gardner's seat. And in the new survey, Udall also doesn't do a whole lot better against the one remotely plausible non-Gardner candidate still in the race, state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, who trails 44-37 and is unknown to 70 percent of the state. (Udall led 47-40 last time.)
But what about state Sen. Owen Hill, who was so voluble about the backroom switcheroo arranged by Buck and Gardner that he branded as "corrupt"? Well, Hill's decided to be a team player after all: On Monday, he dropped out and endorsed Gardner, saying Republicans need a "united front."
It's possible, though, that his departure might aid Baumgardner if any kind of anti-Gardner movement coalesces. And actually, Baumgardner came closest to Gardner (albeit not close) in PPP's test of the GOP primary, trailing 44-15, with the now-departed Hill at 6 and a couple of Some Dudes in low single digits. Hill, though, had at least earned the backing of the outside group Tea Party Express; no one really seems to love Baumgardner, and Democrats have to operate with the expectation that Gardner will be the nominee.
As we always like to caution, this is just one poll—but it doesn't come in a vacuum. Not only is there Gardner's decision to consider, but the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity just inserted itself into the race for the first time, with a $1 million television ad buy targeting Udall.
Udall, though, is a strong campaigner and excellent fundraiser, and he still has an advantage here. But Republicans have succeeded in putting this race into play, and even if Udall prevails, a competitive contest in Colorado means that already-stretched resources will likely get spread even thinner. With control of the Senate up for grabs and so many blue seats vulnerable, this is not a positive development for Democrats.
• KY-Sen: A non-profit called the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition is reportedly slated to begin a $1.8 million ad campaign on behalf of GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell this week, and as expected, the much-mocked wordless video footage of McConnell creepily smiling for the camera has indeed made its way into the group's first commercial. The spot touts McConnell's alleged support for the military while claiming that Obama wants to "cut" it, and every shot of McConnell is from that now-infamous B-roll.
• MT-Sen: Republican Rep. Steve Daines is out with a very non-partisan ad that touts his record as a job creator. Daines says he ignored people who told him he was "crazy to start a high-tech firm in Montana instead of somewhere like California," but he forged ahead with a software company called RightNow Technologies that he says employs over four hundred people in his home state. According to his own Wikipedia page, though, Daines joined the company as a vice president three years after its founding.
• OK-Sen-B: Oklahomans for a Conservative Future, an outside group that's supporting former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon in his bid for Senate, has released a new poll of the GOP primary from Public Opinion Strategies showing Rep. James Lankford with a 37-28 lead. If you're wondering why someone would tout a poll that has their guy down, it's because the margin is much smaller than the 47-17 spread a Lankford internal found last month. OCF is also probably trying to justify the $300,000 it's already spent on TV ads and mailers on Shannon's behalf.
• SC-Sen-A: Wow. A gravelly-voiced announced actually deploys the hackneyed "In a world..." trope in GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham's latest ad, something I don't think I've ever seen in the political arena. Graham tries to appeal to the conservative id by saying he's "not going to stop criticizing the president for a foreign policy that's a failure," invoking Benghazi, Iran, and "radical Islam." The narrator then (without any irony, of course) continues: "In a dangerous world, where the only guarantee of peace is strength, Lindsey Graham stands strong." I just really wish he ended with "No, I like it in here!"
Graham says the ad is backed by a "six-figure statewide" buy.
• CO-Gov: Fortunately for Colorado Democrats, PPP's poll actually offers some reasons to be upbeat, too: Gov. John Hickenlooper has expanded his leads against the entire GOP field, and he holds a healthy edge on newcomer Bob Beauprez, too. Here's how Hickenlooper fares (with December trendlines in parentheses):
• 48-38 vs. ex-Rep. Bob BeauprezAh, the vagaries of polling. Three months ago, the little-known Brophy was just a point behind the incumbent; now he trails by 15. Still, it's interesting to see Hickenlooper's fortunes headed in a different direction from Sen. Mark Udall's, despite the fact that they share a party. Hick's approvals have rebounded to a positive 48-41, from 45-48 last time. It may just be that Udall, as a member of Congress, is bearing the brunt of Obama's unpopularity more directly than Hickenlooper, a state official.
• 48-36 vs. Secretary of State Scott Gessler (47-40)
• 50-36 vs. ex-Rep. Tom Tancredo (48-40)
• 48-33 vs. state Sen. Greg Brophy (44-43)
• 49-33 vs. ex-state Sen. Mike Kopp (45-37)
And therein lies something positive for Udall: If the governor stays strong, GOP Rep. Cory Gardner would need quite a few crossover votes from Hickenlooper supporters in order to win the Senate race. In today's hyper-polarized world, that's no easy task.
Gardner could also find himself on a ticket with the very unappetizing Tancredo, who still has a small edge in the GOP primary. Beauprez's entry has shaken things up, though, and Tancredo only leads him 24-20, with Gessler at 18, Kopp at 8, Brophy at 7 and a couple of Some Dudes barely registering. In December, Tancredo had a stronger 34-15 over Gessler, so the Republican establishment has to be pleased with this development. Still, Tancredo could most certainly earn the nomination, which would be good news for Hickenlooper and bad news for Gardner.
• FL-Gov: The University of North Florida has a strange new gubernatorial poll, with a ton of undecideds and some questionable framing. Democrat Charlie Crist leads GOP Gov. Rick Scott just 34-33, far closer than any other polling has found, but that's because UNF offered respondents the option of choosing "someone else," even though there simply isn't any kind of "someone else" who is remotely capable of earning 17 percent of the vote, as that choice garnered here. (The same percentage were undecided.)
At most, this shows that a sizable chunk of voters aren't thrilled with either candidate, but that's the case in a lot of elections. That's why it's much more informative to ask about the contest that voters will actually be confronted with, rather than some vague hypothetical that can't possibly come to fruition. What's particularly strange, though, is that UNF included "someone else" when they last polled in October, but that choice only netted 2 percent at the time (when Crist was up 44-40). It's possible voters have soured on both Crist and Scott as the campaign quickly became very negative since that time, but again, these are the only major candidates to choose from.
UPDATE: Actually, the question wording changed. It looks like UNF allowed respondents to volunteer "someone else" in October and recorded those responses, but in their new poll, "someone else" was actually given as an option when the ballot test was asked.
• KS-Gov: Road Map Solutions, a conservative group supporting GOP Gov. Sam Brownback, will reportedly start airing ads on the incumbent's behalf, starting with an $82,000 buy. The spots aren't available yet but it sounds like they will be positive in nature. Brownback, a Republican running in a red state, theoretically shouldn't have to worry about re-election. But in reality, he's deeply unpopular and polls have shown him in difficult shape against his Democratic challenger, state House Minority Leader Paul Davis, which probably explains why Brownback's supporters are going on TV so early.
• PA-Gov: Here's another ad from Democrat Katie McGinty, in which the narrator says she was "endorsed by Al Gore" and "praised by President Clinton"—which means "not endorsed by," right? McGinty goes on to tout her record in creating "clean energy jobs" when she served as the state's secretary for environmental protection. She concludes with a somewhat awkward line, insisting that Pennsylvania should be tops in "opportunity, whether you wear steel-toed boots or a white lab coat."
• TX-Gov: The Emerson College Polling Society, which was the only public outfit to nail the margin in last year's gubernatorial race in Virginia, is back with their first poll in a while, on behalf of a group called the Texas Research Institute. Emerson finds Republican Greg Abbott leading Democrat Wendy Davis 49-42 in the race for governor, which is the closest margin anyone's found for Davis in a while. However, Abbott's just a point shy of 50 here, so these numbers are not especially optimistic for the Democrat.
• CO-03: That was quick. Pueblo County Commissioner Buffie McFadyen, who only decided to run against GOP Rep. Scott Tipton last month, has already dropped out. That leaves Democrats without any declared candidates to take on Tipton, a sophomore.
• ID-02: GOP Rep. Mike Simpson, who faces a tea party primary challenge from the right, has mostly been looking to shore up his conservative bona fides on the economic front, but he's not averse to some Second Amendment remedies, too. On Monday, the NRA endorsed Simpson, who has earned an A+ rating from the group.
• PA-06: Businessman and Army veteran Mike Parrish has dropped out of the race for Pennsylvania's open 6th District and endorsed physician (and fellow vet) Manan Trivedi, the lone remaining candidate for the Democratic nomination. While Parrish had locked up a good deal of D.C. establishment support, he'd only recently switched over from the GOP and lacked the local backing and name recognition of Trivedi, who unsuccessfully sought this seat the last two cycles. Now Democrats will have to hope that the third time's the proverbial charm for Trivedi, who will face Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello, the consensus Republican choice, in November.
• ME-02: The League of Conservation Voters has endorsed state Sen. Emily Cain, who is seeking Rep. Mike Michaud's open seat and is running against fellow state Sen. Troy Jackson in the Democratic primary.
• TX-04: A new survey from dodgy Republican pollster Wenzel Strategies, on behalf of the conservative Now or Never PAC, finds former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe leading Rep. Ralph Hall 47-35 in the GOP primary runoff scheduled for May 27. Hall prevailed in the first round of voting, but with a fairly soft 45 percent, while Ratcliffe finished second with 29.
• VA-08: Wow—it's an extremely rare Oprah Alert! It's not often that the one-time queen of daytime talk gets involved in the political arena, but Oprah Winfrey is headlining an April 5 fundraiser in Arlington for former non-profit CEO Lavern Chatman, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Virginia's open 8th Congressional District. In a crowded field like this one, this is a particularly good get for Chatman, seeing as Winfrey's very short list of prior endorsees is pretty much limited to Cory Booker and Barack Obama.
• WA-04: State Sen. Sharon Brown says she won't run in the GOP primary to replace retiring Rep. Doc Hastings, and she isn't endorsing anyone else, either. A large field of Republicans is already in the race, including state Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, former state Department of Agriculture director Dan Newhouse, Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck, and former NFL player Clint Didier.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage is seeking another term, but he has a tough race ahead of him. Democrats have recruited Rep. Michael Michaud, who represents half the state in the House. Neither candidate has any primary foes. The conservative LePage has proven to be quite controversial and unpopular in this Democratic-leaning state, but the presence of left-leaning independent (and 2010 candidate) Eliot Cutler makes things somewhat more unpredictable. (The deadline for independents to file has not yet passed, so Cutler's name is not on the candidate list). Daily Kos rates this as Leans Democratic.
To the disappointment of Democrats, Republican Sen. Susan Collins is running again. The incumbent has proven to be incredibly popular and has scared off any would-be primary challengers. The only Democrat is former ACLU state director Shenna Bellows. We had this rated as a Race to Watch due to some less-than-definitive statements from Collins about whether she would run again. However, now that it's certain Collins will once again be the Republican nominee, we're moving this to Safe Republican.
Both parties have competitive races to succeed Michaud in ME-02. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Emily Cain faces Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson and Some Dude Alden Smith. The Republican field consists of former Treasure Bruce Poliquin and former state Senate President Kevin Raye, who was the Republican nominee in 2002 and 2012. The district backed Obama 53-44, and we rate the general election as Lean Democratic. There's a lot less drama in the state's other House seat, where Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree has no primary foe and is safe in November. (Jeff Singer)