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Leading Off:

NH-01, -02: We've criticized the University of New Hampshire for many years because of their notorious tendency to feature wild shifts in their polling that defy explanation. What's particularly disturbing is that Andy Smith, the program's director, seems entirely unbothered by this problem and has never sought to correct it. Case in point: UNH's latest poll has Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter leading Republican ex-Rep. Frank Guinta 44-35 in the 1st Congressional District—even though Guinta was up 45-39 in January.

Graph of UNH NH-01 poll results between Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) and ex-Rep. Frank Guinta (R)
The earlier October trendlines make this movement even more bizarre, and no, there's just no way in hell this race moved 15 points in that timeframe, especially when not a single advertisement's been run. Even stranger, Shea-Porter has maintained a relatively constant lead on former business school dean Dan Innis, including in January, when Guinta shot in front. (The companion chart to the graph above illustrates the difference.)

And nor was UNH's new poll somehow much more Democratic-leaning than October's: Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's lead over Republican Scott Brown dropped from 47-37 to 45-39, at the same time as Shea-Porter's was expanding. Meanwhile, their numbers are also weird in the 2nd District, with Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster expanding her advantage on Gary Lambert but seeing it shrink against Marilinda Garcia. Seriously, what's going on here?

Again, this is not a one-time issue. This is something we (and others) have called out for a long time, dating to long ago in our Swing State Project days. I'd be embarrassed to run a polling operation whose numbers gyrated so inexplicably, and I'd want to fix it. It's incredible that Smith never has.

1Q Fundraising:

AK-Sen: Joe Miller (R): $100,000 raised, $300,000 cash-on-hand

IA-Sen: Fundraising numbers for the whole field

SD-Sen: Rick Weiland (D): $204,000 raised, $485,000 cash-on-hand

Senate:

AK-Sen: The new ad from Republican candidate Dan Sullivan's campaign is almost entirely about his recent Club for Growth endorsement, quoting generously from the Club's press release. That's a level of meta I can't see being a big difference-maker, though maybe it's meaningful to the most hardcore of the party faithful who are the likeliest voters in the GOP primary. (David Jarman)

GA-Sen: InsiderAdvantage (which regularly polls on behalf NewsMax, though this time conducted a survey for a local FOX affiliate) still finds a very unformed race in the fight for Georgia's GOP Senate nomination. Businessman David Perdue is in the lead, but with just 19 percent, while Rep. Jack Kingston takes second with 15. Former Secretary of State Karen Handel is at 13, Rep. Paul Broun at 11, and Rep. Phil Gingrey at 9.

Kingston, meanwhile, just got a boost from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which endorsed him Thursday. If the Chamber spends real money, like it has in Kentucky and Mississippi, that could make a real difference, given how pitiful the Republican field's fundraising has been. (Kingston has led the pack, though.)

As for Perdue, it turns out that, like so many other executives who boast about their track records creating jobs, he's actually laid off and outsourced thousands of them. A new report from MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin details how Perdue, as a senior vice president at Haggar Clothing in the 1990s, shut down production in the U.S. and shifted it to Mexico. Of course, every other clothing company was doing the same thing at that time, but that's on Perdue to explain. And when you're explaining ....

KS-Sen: Ayup. Through a spokesperson, outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says she is "not considering a run for the Senate." Meanwhile, a Rasmussen poll that came out just a bit too late showed Sebelius trailing GOP Sen. Pat Roberts 54-37, while Shawnee County DA Chad Taylor lags 50-32. Bizarrely, Rasmussen didn't ask about Roberts' Republican primary opponent, physician Milton Wolf.

MI-Sen: The Koch-linked Americans for Prosperity has dominated the airwaves so far in Michigan's Senate race, with only the Senate Majority PAC around to return fire in a limited way. SMP will have soon have some assistance, though, from a pair of labor unions, who'll be running their own ads in four markets. The SEIU says it'll spend $320,000, while the AFSCME will be spending $45,000. (David Jarman)

NC-Sen: We now know the size of the buy on that ad from the Thom Tillis camp that we mentioned last Thursday, in which he claims Harry Reid is meddling in the GOP primary. It's $555,000 for a nearly three-week run, which takes us all the way up to the May 6 primary. (David Jarman)

Gubernatorial:

PA-Gov: As the May 20 Democratic primary gets closer, Tom Wolf, who's moved into the frontrunner position thanks to an early ad blitz, has a bigger and bigger target on his back. Rob McCord's new ad is a hard-hitting example. He speaks straight to the camera about his proposed tax on fracking operators, saying "Tom Wolf would leave hundreds of millions in the drillers' pockets." (David Jarman)

House:

FL-19: With the special GOP primary to replace ex-Rep. Trey Radel just days away, St. Pete Polls conducted what looks like the first (and probably only) poll of the race. Businessman Curt Clawson leads the pack with 30, while state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto is close behind at 26 and ex-state Rep. Paige Kreegel is at 21. A fourth candidate, aviation consultant Michael Dreikorn, takes 11 percent of the vote, and 12 percent are undecided. The general election is set for June 24, but in this dark red district, Tuesday's primary is the key date.

IA-04: Pro-immigration group FWD.us (co-founded by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg) is out with two ads hitting Republican Rep. Steve King for, well, being Steve King—as well as, more specifically, not wanting to allow children of undocumented immigrants to serve in the military. One minute-long spot juxtaposes an aspiring Marine against some of King's choicest quotes. (David Jarman)

NC-02: When I picture a Crisco ad, the visuals usually involve a juicy-looking pie crust, but the latest ad from Keith Crisco (the former state commerce secretary who has to first match up against Clay Aiken in the Democratic primary before facing Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers) focuses more on how he'll protect Social Security. (David Jarman)

NC-07: Did David Rouzer really spend a whole ad testifying to how he's not a lawyer? He complains that over one third of all members of Congress are attorneys, before mentioning his own background in agriculture and business instead. He doesn't mention his Republican primary opponent, Woody White, by name ... but White just happens to be a law-talking guy, too. (Rouzer and White are both former state senators.) (David Jarman)

NY-07: Earlier than expected, New York's Board of Elections has put together a complete list of candidates who have filed for the June 24 federal primary. We'll have a rundown of who's running in the coming days, but one interesting thing to note is that former New York City Comptroller John Liu will not be running for Congress this year. Liu had flirted with a bid in the 6th District against Rep. Grace Meng before contemplating a run in the 7th District against Rep. Nydia Velazquez (all three are Democrats).

The filing deadline for state races is not until June 24, though, so Liu could still challenge state Sen. Tony Avella, a member of the Republican-friendly Independent Democratic Conference, in the Democratic primary. (Jeff Singer)

WI-06: Shortly after long-time Republican Rep. Tom Petri's retirement announcement, the name of 27-year-old Justin Nickels, the mayor of Manitowoc, bubbled up as a potential Democratic option. Now Nickels is indeed confirming his interest in running, but another one-time Manitowoc mayor is also floating his name as a Democratic candidate. Kevin Crawford served as mayor for 20 years and was succeeded by Nickels after his 2008 retirement. (David Jarman)

Grab Bag:

HMP: The Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC, which you can think of as the official unofficial super PAC of the DCCCC, has released a list of 24 districts where it's made its first fall ad reservations of the cycle. The reservations (which don't actually commit the group to buy, but allow it to lock in lower rates) total $6.5 million, but HMP's executive director, Ali Lapp, says she expects the PAC to spend between $45 million and $50 million overall.

The roster of seats therefore gives an early picture of where Democrats are focusing their firepower this cycle, but it's an incomplete one: Last cycle, HMP got involved in over 50 races. And other groups, the D-Trip in particular, will of course bring millions to bear as well. The list is still an instructive place to start, and to help make more sense of it, we've organized it according to how we rate the competitiveness of each contest (from most GOP-favored to most Dem-favored):

All but two races we have listed as Tossups make the cut here: NY-21, an open Democratic-held seat in upstate New York that's looking increasingly like it'll be a Republican pickup, and WV-03, where Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall is facing an exceptionally tough re-election battle in a district that's rapidly trended red. HMP has already spent $600,000 here, but it's possible that they're getting ready to triage this race. Citing unnamed Democratic operatives, a new piece in Politico reports that private polls show that Rahall "now trails his Republican opponent significantly."

For the most part, though, everything on this list is more or less what you'd expect, though a few races are a bit surprising to see here. Chief among them are those at the margins, particularly MN-02, where Democrat Mike Obermueller faces a big financial disparity against Rep. John Kline, and NY-24, where Republican John Katko is in a similar situation vis-à-vis Rep. Dan Maffei. Whether these reservations reflect a genuine belief that these seats are flippable or instead are more of a feint we can only speculate.

And we're also left guessing as to the bigger question, which is where will HMP expand next? As you can see, Democrats are mostly on defense, as just half a dozen seats here are GOP-held. Will future reservations seek to move the playing field in more of an offensive direction, or will it be necessary to shore up more vulnerable incumbents? Party committees and super PACs may be getting a jump earlier than ever—HMP says it didn't make initial reservations in 2012 until July—but it'll still be a while before anyone can really know what this year will look like.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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