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8:42 AM PT: Special Elections: Johnny Longtorso gives us the scoop on three Bay State elections taking place Tuesday:

Massachusetts Senate, 5th Middlesex: This is the seat left vacant by Democrat Katherine Clark, who was elected to Congress to replace Ed Markey. The district consists of Malden, Melrose, Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield, and part of Winchester. The candidates running are Democrat Jason Lewis, a state representative, and Republican Monica Medeiros, a Melrose alderman. The district voted 59-39 for Barack Obama and 51-49 for Elizabeth Warren in 2012, and went 58-42 for Ed Markey in last year's U.S. Senate special election.

Massachusetts House, 4th Hampden: This is an open Republican seat located in the City of Westfield. The candidates here are Democrat John Velis, an attorney, and Republican Dan Allie, a member of the Westfield City Council. This district went 52-46 for Obama and 57-43 for Scott Brown in 2012, and 62-37 for Gabriel Gomez last year.

Massachusetts House, 16th Suffolk: This is an open Democratic seat stretching across parts of Chelsea, Revere, and Saugus. The candidates are Democrat Roselee Vincent, who was the previous incumbent's chief of staff, and Republican Todd Taylor, the owner of a temp agency. The district voted 64-35 for Obama, 57-43 for Warren, and 59-41 for Markey.

If Lewis wins the first race, that will cause a fourth special election domino to fall, in the chain that started with John Kerry getting appointed secretary of state. Also, there's one more contest taking place Tuesday—the one in Alabama that had quietly been delayed a week. Background on that one here.

9:16 AM PT: HI-Sen: Barack Obama just endorsed Sen. Brian Schatz in the president's home state of Hawaii, a place where his support is likely to carry more weight than usual thanks to his "favorite son" status. Schatz was tapped to replace the late Sen. Dan Inouye by Gov. Neil Abercrombie in Dec. 2012, but he faces a challenge in the Democratic primary from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who had also sought the appointment. The winner will be the overwhelming favorite in November but will have to run for re-election again in 2016. Polling has shown a close contest for the nomination, though Schatz has dominated in fundraising. Now he'll be able to tout Obama's endorsement in ads and campaign literature, giving him a shot at breaking the race open.

9:33 AM PT: CO-03: Last week, Democrats landed an unexpectedly credible recruit to take on sophomore GOP Rep. Scott Tipton in former state lottery director Abel Tapia, who previously served in the legislature for many years. Given that Mitt Romney carried this district by a 52-46 margin, Tapia won't have an easy time, but Tipton's suffered a few ethical bruises and with Tapia's profile, an upset can't be ruled out. For that reason, we're moving this race from Safe Republican to Likely Republican.

9:52 AM PT: MS-Sen: Rasmussen: Travis Childers (D): 31, Sen. Thad Cochran (R): 48; Childers: 35, Chris McDaniel (R): 47.

10:07 AM PT: MI-11: Well, radio host Nancy Skinner has taken the plunge in Michigan's 11th District, but boy is that a scary-looking website. In 2006, Skinner challenged Republican Rep. Joe Knollenberg in the old 9th District and lost by a surprisingly tight 52-46 margin despite being badly outspent, but the huge Democratic wave was probably responsible for the closeness of that final margin. I say that because two years earlier, she'd run in the Democratic primary for Senate in Illinois, taking all of 1 percent. (You probably recognize the guy who won that race.) Skinner will square off against several other Democrats for the nomination, including former State Department official Bobby McKenzie. GOP Rep. Kerry Bentivolio faces his own primary challenge from foreclosure attorney Dave Trott.

10:09 AM PT (Darth Jeff): SC-Gov: Republican Gov. Nikki Haley attracted a last-minute primary challenger Saturday, with lawyer Tom J. Ervin throwing his hat into the ring. While Haley faces a potentially competitive general election with Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, there's been little indication that she had any trouble with the party base.

In any case, it doesn't look like Ervin, who long ago served in the state House of Representatives and as a judge, will run to Haley's right. Instead, he's expected to run a center-right campaign, which is usually not a good strategy in Republican primaries. However, Ervin reportedly has the ability to self-fund. While it's very difficult to imagine him unseating Haley, if Ervin opens up his wallet he could at least force her to spend time and money on him going into the June 10 primary.

10:33 AM PT: CO-Gov: Ex-Rep. Bob Beauprez may have represented a swingy district in Congress, but he was always very conservative. And now, thanks to an old radio interview unearth by Democrats, we've learned that he's a full-blown birther, to boot:

In June 2010, Beauprez appeared as a guest on The Talk to Solomon Show, and was asked about whether President Obama was born in America by the host, Stan Solomon, a favorite of fringe conservatives who is an anti-gay birther who said last year that Trayvon Martin "deserves to be dead."

"On the birth certificate, I don't know," Beauprez said, responding to Solomon's claim that there "is no birth certificate."

"I've heard both sides of it. I find it absolutely astounding that, if he has one, if this is all just a myth, why in the world not put it to bed? There's a reason why they haven't at least settled that controversy."

Beauprez was only too happy to wallow in the movement conservative id:
"I address it another way: if this guy is an American citizen, he's a different kind of an American than virtually any that I know," Beauprez said.

"My dad and mother taught me a long time ago that you're known by the company you keep. We should have figured out a lot, and some of us did. When this guy's friends are Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, Rev. Jeremiah Wright—his mentor, again, is Saul Alinsky—what do you think you're going to get?"

Beauprez faces several other Republicans for the right to take on Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, including ex-Rep. Tom Tancredo and Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Comments like these probably only make Beauprez more appealing to GOP primary voters, but naturally, they'd make him more toxic in a general election. The Democrats who leaked this interview have to be aware of that calculus, and they may be hoping to deter establishment Republicans from supporting Beauprez, who, in spite of these remarks, is still likely the strongest challenger his party can put forth.

That seems like a wise choice, since Beauprez is smart enough to know he can't explicitly run on a birther platform in the primary. So best to make GOP power brokers queasy now, and you can still use this against Beauprez later even if he does win the nomination.

10:54 AM PT (Darth Jeff): South Carolina: Filing closed Sunday for the state's June 10 primary. The state has a list of candidates here. In races where no one wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the top-two candidates will advance to the June 24 runoff.

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley is running for reelection, and faces a primary with attorney Tom Ervin (see above). Haley looks like the clear favorite, but faces a potentially tough rematch with Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen. When Haley and Sheheen faced off in 2010 Haley won 51-47, not a particularly impressive result for a conservative state in a Republican wave year. Haley doesn't appear to be particularly popular, but there hasn't been much polling here. Daily Kos Elections rates this race as Leans Republican.

In the open race for lieutenant governor, four Republicans are facing off: businessman Mike Campbell (who narrowly lost the primary for this seat in 2006), businessman Pat McKinney, former Attorney General and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Henry McMaster, and minister Ray Moore. The winner will face Democratic state Rep. Bakari Sellers. There's also a crowded open-seat race for state superintendent of education, where six Republicans and four Democrats are squaring off. Republican incumbents for the state's remaining six statewide offices are all seeking reelection.

Lindsey Graham, the state's senior Republican senator, is running for a third term. While Graham has a conservative record, he has an unpredictable streak that has angered many Republicans. Six Republicans are running to try and unseat Graham: state Sen. Lee Bright, businessman Richard Cash, and businesswoman Nancy Mace look like they have the best chance to give Graham a hard time. However, none of Graham's foes have raised much and there hasn't been much reliable polling here. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Brad Hutto should be favored against Jay Stamper, who has not run a very impressive campaign so far. We rate this as a Race to Watch, but Hutto could make things interesting if Graham loses his primary.

The state's other federal races look a lot less exciting. Appointed Republican Sen. Tim Scott is running in a special election to fill the rest of the term, and faces little primary opposition. Scott appears to have made a good impression in his short time in the Senate, and we rate him as safe in the general election. The seat will be up again in 2016. The state's seven House members (six Republicans and one Democrat) are also all seeking reelection and face only nominal primary opposition. We rate each seat as safe for the party that holds it.

11:10 AM PT: AZ-07: Retiring Rep. Ed Pastor is taking sides in the Democratic primary to replace him, with an endorsement of Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox. Wilcox faces ex-state Rep. Ruben Gallego and state Sen. Steve Gallardo for the nomination.

11:32 AM PT: MI-04: When GOP Rep. Dave Camp ultimately decided not to run for Senate last year, we noted that he didn't say anything about seeking a 13th term, and now Politico reports that Camp hasn't even confirmed his intentions to "senior House Republican leaders". A Camp spokesman said his boss always "makes his election announcement close to the filing deadline," which is just around the corner on April 22.

Camp, the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, originally shied away from a Senate bid because he said he wanted to pursue his own tax reform efforts. But Camp's tax plan was killed by fellow Republicans even before he introduced it, so perhaps he's just fed up with D.C. Camp's House seat went for Mitt Romney by a 54-46 margin, which probably puts it out of reach for Democrats, even if he does retire.

12:02 PM PT: CA-31: After a number of twists and turns, it turns out that Republicans have wound up with three candidates in California's 31st—crucially, one more than the magic number of two they'd need to pull off a (very unlikely) repeat of what happened in 2012, when a pair of GOP candidates snuck through the top-two primary to the November general election. The late entrant is political consultant Ryan Downing, who joins former congressional aide Lesli Gooch and businessman Paul Chabot. Four Democrats are also competing in this blue-leaning open seat.

12:21 PM PT: MI-Sen: The Washington Post dug further into the claims made by Michigan resident Shannon Wendt, who said in ad released last week by Americans for Prosperity that her new health insurance plan was "not affordable." And what the paper found is nothing short of amazing:

The Fact Checker reviewed a series of Facebook posts that Wendt wrote about her experience earlier in March, including some of the financial choices involved. A key issue is that the family qualified for Medicaid, but she was opposed for philosophical issues; she did not think a family making as much money as hers should qualify for Medicaid. She also thought the level of care was poor. So the family opted for a more expensive plan.
So while Wendt claimed that Obamacare had robbed her of her old insurance plan and left her worse off, in point of fact, it expanded her family's options, but she refused to avail herself of them. Extraordinary.

2:11 PM PT: MI-04: Well, there we go: Camp has made it official. He'll retire at the end of this term.

2:14 PM PT: HI-Sen: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also chimed in with an endorsement of Schatz, though the DSCC long ago made it clear they would (as they always do) stick with the incumbent.

2:28 PM PT: MI-08: Potential candidates have started to make up their minds about running in Michigan's 8th Congressional District, a seat that's now open thanks to GOP Rep. Mike Rogers' retirement. Rochester Mayor Bryan Barnett was the first Republican to enter the fray, followed quickly by former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop. Two others have taken their names out of consideration: state Rep. Bill Rogers (Mike's brother) and Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard.

There's no further word as yet from the various Democrats considering the race, but one candidate had actually filed with the FEC even before Rogers announced he wouldn't seek re-election: Susan Grettenberger, a professor of social work at Central Michigan University.

2:38 PM PT: NE-Sen: Following a rough stretch during which he was exposed for circulating a bogus Navy memo touting his military accomplishments, and then saw FreedomWorks withdraw its endorsement and give it to his top rival, former state Treasurer Shane Osborn is trying to change the conversation by becoming the first candidate anywhere to leak his first quarter fundraising numbers—even before the quarter officially ended. Osborn says he raised $550,000 and has $600,000 on hand, meaning his burn rate is pretty high, since he had $582,000 in the bank at the end of last year.

Meanwhile, the Senate Conservatives Fund is plunking down $279,000 to air this new ad on behalf of that rival, Midland University President Ben Sasse. The spot touts Sasse as "the rock solid conservative choice" and displays a Brady Bunch-esque tableau of "leading conservatives" who've endorsed Sasse, like Sarah Palin and Utah Sen. Mike Lee.

3:01 PM PT: NJ-Sen: This is funny. Just click.

3:15 PM PT: SD-Sen: Man, does no one ever learn? The use of unwise images in campaign literature, ads, and websites has always been a regular occurrence, of course, but in the last week or so, it feels like there was a special outbreak of idiocy. We had Dan Sullivan trying to turn New Zealand into Alaska; Mitch McConnell deploying Duke fans to celebrate Kentucky basketball; Bruce Braley calling an English farm Iowan; one of Braley's Republican opponents, Joni Ernst, calling Dutch pigs American; and Republican ex-Gov. Mike Rounds using a bunch of random stock photos to portray South Dakota, including one of an office in Paris! Rounds earns top billing because, like McConnell, his pics were set to appear in an ad ... that he's now yanked from his upcoming media buy. Well done, everyone!

3:25 PM PT: IA-Sen: Republican businessman Mark Jacobs is taking a much more direct approach with Bruce Braley's "farmer" dig in his new ad, compared to a recent spot from Priorities for Iowa, a conservative super PAC. Jacobs simply features Braley delivering his now-infamous remarks, as a transcript plays down the side of the screen. The one difficulty is that, in the chosen excerpt, Braley doesn't actually mention his target, GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, by name, but nevertheless, Jacobs' ad is more effective than the PAC's, which cut up Braley's comments into smaller chunks.

3:52 PM PT: NC-, VA-Sen: We've often referred to the 60 Plus Association as the Bizarro AARP, but they're also a tentacle of the many-limbed Kochtopus. Now this particular arm is running a $1.5 million ad campaign aimed members of the Senate Banking Committee over a bipartisan plan to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and two of those targets are Democrats up for re-election this year, North Carolina's Kay Hagan and Virginia's Mark Warner.

The Hagan spot tries to liken this proposal to Obamacare, claiming that the senator "is teaming up with Barack Obama to take over the mortgage industry." An increasingly histrionic announcer declares that "ordinary investors—teachers! police officers! firefighters!—could lose retirement savings" as a result of this plan, because "the federal government will seize all profits." The AP points out, though, that the two mortgage giants "already send most of their profits to the Treasury Department under terms of their federal bailout." It's not immediately clear to me why Charles and David Koch are opposed to this legislation, and nor is this a campaign topic we've seen come up anywhere else this cycle.

4:01 PM PT: SC-Gov: The RGA is running another ad attacking state Sen. Vincent Sheheen over the Affordable Care Act, this time featuring a woman who says her son is autistic and her husband has heart disease. "Our first increase," she claims, referring to her health insurance premiums, "was 30 percent, because of Obamacare." Because insurance companies never raised rates before the ACA was passed.

4:04 PM PT: PA-Gov: Democratic businessman Tom Wolf has yet another ad (I've long since lost count how many he's aired), this time featuring him driving in his jeep while he lambastes state politicians for their lousy tax policies.

4:14 PM PT: AK-Sen: Riding on a snowmobile through the tundra in his newest ad, Democratic Sen. Mark Begich explains how he fought Washington to open the National Petroleum Reserve to drilling. Republican Dan Sullivan, meanwhile, is out with two intro spots. The first tries to recite every aspect of his biography (served in the military, pursued terrorists at the State Department, sued to stop Obamacare as state attorney general). The second is a minute-long ad narrated by his wife, who says her husband "fell hard for me, and for Alaska," when she brought him to her "family's fish camp on the Yukon River."

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