• AR-Sen: Like a scam artist who tries to make himself "judgment proof" by turning over all his assets to his wife, Americans for Prosperity has figured out a way to avoid getting fact-checked: don't offer any facts. Their latest ad, attacking Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in Arkansas, is an extraordinary exercise in nihilism, featuring Jerry Buckley, a trucking company owner who would rather film TV ads than take time to learn about his health insurance situation:
We got a letter telling us that we were gonna be—you know, our current policy was gonna be cancelled. Even though I've seen reports where our insurance commissioner's granted another two-year extension, we've yet to receive anything telling us that we're gonna be extended.That's just brilliant. AFP got body slammed for their last Obamacare horror story ad in Arkansas, after reporters pointed out that no plans had been cancelled, thanks to a waiver issued by the state's Insurance Department that grandfathered in existing policies until 2017. (That spot, by the way, was narrated by Buckley's wife, Wanda.)
It's like living in a haze. You don't know whether you're gonna have insurance, or whether you're gonna be able to afford your insurance. It was taken away from us. Or it was given back to us. Or it was taken ... we don't know what it's been now!
So how does AFP respond? By promoting a guy who, in spite of his exposure to the facts, insists he's still confused about his situation. You can't fact-check confusion! And there probably are plenty of Arkansans out there who are facing genuine uncertainty and don't have access to good information, so this ad may be effective in reaching such people.
But of course, a key reason why lots of folks are unsure of their health insurance options is the misinformation peddled by the likes of Americans for Prosperity. Sow confusion, then complain about the confusion. It's a plan worthy of an evil genius. And considering the Koch brothers are spending another $540,000 on this ad, they must be convinced that it's working.
The first fundraising quarter of the year is now over, though federal candidates don't have to file reports until April 15. Of course, plenty will leak advance numbers, most in the hope of looking good compared to the competition. So far, it's just a trickle, but there will be plenty more to come.
• GA-Sen: Michelle Nunn's been lucky so far: Not only are all her potential GOP opponents beating on one another in a bruising primary, but she's also avoided the avalanche of attack ads that many Democratic incumbents have faced. That's changing, though, with a new spot from Ending Spending, the outside conservative group created by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, that's backed by a $150,000 buy.
The narrator accuses Nunn of supporting "Obamacare and higher taxes." He continues: "Under the Michelle Nunn-Obama plan, the IRS will be asking about your health insurance. And, if they don't like your answer, or your health plan—sorry, you could pay a penalty." However, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, it's now pretty much by definition impossible to obtain health care coverage that does not pass muster (at this point, it would have to be something like a vision- or dental-only plan). There are also extensive exemptions from fines for failure to comply with the individual mandate, so this particular bogeyman probably won't pack a very big punch this year.
• KY-Sen: Republican businessman Matt Bevin's new ad attacking Sen. Mitch McConnell is kind of a sloppy mess, featuring an echo-y audio track, overly dour music, and no coherent message that I can really summarize. Meanwhile, the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition is running a pro-McConnell spot featuring a farmer who complains that "the death tax makes it harder for us to hand our farm on to our kids," but says McConnell is fighting to end it. Ah yes, the estate tax—which now only affects the richest 0.14 percent of Americans. If this guy's covered by it, then he's as sympathetic as Paris Hilton. If not, he's just a dupe.
• MS-Sen: Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, who faces a primary challenge from state Sen. Chris McDaniel, is trying to shore up his conservative credentials in his latest ad. The narrator touts Cochran's endorsement by the NRA and Gov. Phil Bryant, as well as his "100 percent pro-life voting record from National Right to Life" and the fact that he's "voted against Obamacare more than 100 times."
• NC-Sen: Karl Rove's American Crossroads is running a new ad slamming Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan for her "Obamacare deception" and "attacking our common sense voter I.D. law," while praising Republican Thom Tillis for having "the conservative guts to replace Obamacare with honest health care reforms." Crossroads is spending $277,000 to air the spot.
• MI-Gov: Please kill me now. The RGA is running a second ad featuring their brain-dead moronic totally not funny pun about how "the shower is over" because, you see, that's a homophone for MARK SCHAUER no seriously I am done here.
• AL-06: Republican businessman Will Brooke, who is running for Rep. Spencer Bachus' open House seat, is going on the air with a pair of introductory ads. Both tout him as a job creator, while the first heavily focuses on his faith (one shot features him leading a group in what looks like prayer), and the second is about reforming Washington and repealing Obamacare.
• CO-05: Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Bentley Rayburn has decided to once again challenge GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn, but the last time he tried to, things didn't go so well. Rayburn sought this seat when it became open in 2006 but finished third in the Republican primary, behind Lamborn and radio host Jeff Crank. Lamborn, a Club for Growth vessel, won with just 27 percent and was absolutely despised even by members of his own party, leading both Crank and Rayburn to oppose him once more just two years later.
Crank and Rayburn weren't dummies, at least not initially, because they knew they might split the anti-incumbent vote and let Lamborn survive. So they came up with an interesting agreement: They'd jointly conduct a poll of the primary, and the weaker of the two would drop out. Rayburn, it turned out, drew the short straw, only he refused to jump. Instead, he stayed in the race and Lamborn predictably snuck through, winning a mere 44 percent of the vote. Whoops.
At this point, Lamborn may just be too entrenched to be vulnerable. Last cycle, he faced a well-financed challenge from self-funding businessman Robert Blaha, who still lost, 62-38. If Rayburn had really wanted Lamborn gone, he should have stuck with the deal he made six years ago.
• FL-02: American for Prosperity is running a new ad on behalf of GOP Rep. Steve Southerland that's strange in two ways. For one, it's a positive spot, which is not exactly AFP's strong suit. More importantly, the ad doesn't mention "repeal" at all. Rather, the narrator merely says that Southerland "understands Obamacare's not working, and he's fighting to protect us." It's yet another sign that running on outright repeal may not be the clear-cut winner that conservatives imagine it to be.
• FL-19: Former state Rep. Paige Kreegel, who is running in this month's special GOP primary to replace ex-Rep. Trey Radel, is running his first ad of the race. It's narrated by his wife, who praises her husband's career as a physician, including his work "on a SWAT team, a trauma doctor saving the lives of our servicemen." She also mentions that "as a legislator, he fought to protect life and Second Amendment rights."
• MI-04: Given the red-leaning nature of Michigan's 4th District, most of the names cropping as potential successors to Rep. Dave Camp belong to Republicans. The first to jump in is state Sen. John Moolenaar, one of the most talked-about candidates. State Sen. Roger Kahn, however, is out. There are still several other possible entrants out there, though, including state Rep. Kevin Cotter, state Rep. Jim Stamas, and former state Rep. Tony Stamas. (The two Stamases are brothers.) The Detroit News tosses in one more, former state Sen. Alan Cropsey.
And while Democrats are unlikely to make a serious play for this seat, the Detroit Free Republic does cite three possibilities: former Rep. Jim Barcia, Bay County Executive Tom Hickner, and former state Rep. Joel Sheltrown. Barcia used to represent the old 5th District in the 1990s but was a redistricting victim in the 2002 cycle and, in an interesting move, later served as a state senator. However, his old seat bears almost no resemblance to the present-day 4th.
• MI-08: So Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, who originally said he "intends" to continue serving in his present post, now admits that he's "considering" a bid for retiring Rep. Mike Rogers' House seat. (This is a good lesson as to why you can never trust a politician who uses the word "plans" or "intends." Plans change!) The thing is, Bernero really may be better off staying put.
In 2010, when Bernero ran for governor, he got absolutely crushed by Republican Rick Snyder, losing 58.1 to 39.9. Yes, it was a massive GOP wave year, but not only did Bernero fail to clear 40 percent, he turned in the worst blue state performance of any Democrat who ran in a two-way race that cycle. Some Democrats who did better include Ron Sparks (Alabama), Bill White (Texas), Terry Goddard (Arizona), Roy Barnes (Georgia), Vincent Sheheen (South Carolina) ... you get the picture.
Bernero also chalked up a particularly poor showing in the 8th District, falling 66-34 to Snyder in the two-party vote, according to an estimate by Stephen Wolf. It's hard to pinpoint Bernero's precise faults, except to say he seemed to run an undisciplined campaign and alienated more voters than he won over by embracing the title of "America's Angriest Mayor." A race for Congress in a more neutral year is a different beats, but Bernero's history in the district is still an obstacle for him.
And while he contemplates, Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum, is reportedly visiting D.C., according to a paywalled report at MIRS, presumably to meet with the DCCC. And Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing is expressing interest, but only if Byrum doesn't run. A couple of other Democrats, meanwhile, have bowed out, including state Rep. Sam Singh and ex-state Rep. Mark Meadows (who says he's hitting the Appalachian Trail—for real!).
There's also an early Republican primary poll from a trio of firms who say they don't have any dogs in this hunt: Murray Communications, Portable Insights, and Combat Data. They find former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop leading state Sen. Joe Hune 23-18, while Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett takes 6, former state GOP chair Saul Anuzis is at 4, and just 2 percent support Steve Hantler, who appears to be something like consigliere for Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus. Almost half of respondents, though, are undecided, and only Bishop and Barnett have actually declared for the race.
• MI-14: State Sen. Vincent Gregory is dropping out of the Democratic primary to succeed Rep. Gary Peters and will instead run for re-election. Plenty of other candidates still remain, with Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence the probably front-runner in this dark blue district.
• MS-04: If you want to get a sense of how former Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor is campaigning these days as a Republican, reporter Paul Hampton offers a good place to start. Taylor is hammering Rep. Steven Palazzo on straight-up pork barrel grounds, arguing that federal funds have been crucial to Mississippi in so many ways, particularly with regard to storm recovery. (Palazzo infamously resisted voting for aid after Hurricane Sandy, even though his district had been pummeled by Katrina, and only relented after tremendous pressure.)
Taylor's also following a more traditional GOP playbook, attacking Palazzo for voting "with Nancy Pelosi to cut billions from the military budget," nut keeping federal dollars flowing seems to be his main thrust. And while Taylor is certainly right about how important that money is to his state, his real test will be whether he can make this case to Republican primary voters. At the campaign event in Biloxi that Hampton describes, Taylor was greeted enthusiastically, but the ballot box is a different place altogether.
• NC-07: Former state Sen. David Rouzer is joining his GOP primary rival, New Hanover County Commissioner Woody White, on the air with his first ad. Driving around in his SUV, Rouzer says that the people he talks to are "worried about our future, and they should be." Why? Because "Barack Obama's put this country on a path to financial ruin, and Congress hasn't stopped him."
• RI-01: Former state Rep. John Loughlin, who lost to Democrat David Cicilline by 6 points in 2010 in an open-seat race for Rhode Island's 1st District, says he's thinking about trying again. Loughlin obviously couldn't get it done during a massive GOP wave, but following that election, tons of information came out exposing Cicilline's financial mismanagement of the city of Providence, where he had served as mayor prying to running for Congress.
However, it wasn't enough to help highly touted former state police chief Brendan Doherty unseat Cicilline in 2012, and scandals generally fade in importance as they recede in time. What's more, Rhode Island Democrats gave Cicilline a boost in redistricting, so Loughlin would have a pretty tough time making this contest competitive.
Democratic Sen. Cory Booker won a special election for his seat last October and should have no problem winning a full term this year. Booker has no primary opposition, and Daily Kos Elections rates the seat as Safe Democratic. However, one of Booker's four Republican foes does have an interesting past. Jeff Bell narrowly unseated Sen. Clifford Case in the 1978 Republican primary, then proceeded to lose the general election to Bill Bradley by 12 points. Since Case's time, no Republican has been elected to the Senate from New Jersey.
Three of the Garden State's House members are retiring. In the heavily Democratic 1st District, state Sen. Donald Norcross is the overwhelming favorite to replace former Rep. Rob Andrews. Norcross hails from a very powerful family and should have little trouble against Logan Mayor Frank Minor in the Democratic primary. Over in the 12th District, things are less predictable. Four Democrats are competing to succeed Rush Holt: Assemblymembers Upendra Chivukula and Bonnie Watson Coleman; state Sen. Linda Greenstein; and physicist Andrew Zwicker. We rate both seats as Safe Democratic.
Meanwhile, in the 3rd District, Republican Rep. Jon Runyan's departure has created a competitive contest in a swingy seat. On the Republican side, 2013 Senate nominee Steve Lonegan faces former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur. Democrats would prefer to deal with the unpredictable Lonegan, which is why the Republican establishment has largely consolidated behind MacArthur. On the Democratic side, Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard is expected to be the nominee. The district voted for Obama 52-47 but is ancestrally Republican. We rate the general election as Lean Republican.
Most of the House members seeking re-election have little to worry about in either their primaries or in the general election. One potential exception is 2nd District Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo. The incumbent represents a district Obama won 54-45 and Democrats are fielding Bill Hughes, Jr., an attorney and the son of former Rep. Bill Hughes. However, LoBiondo appears to be entrenched in this seat and will be tough to beat. We rate the general election as Likely Republican. (Jeff Singer)