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Leading Off:

Senate: As part of the launch of their new data-focused site called The Upshot (which has already put out some interesting work), the New York Times has released new polls in four Southern states, conducted in conjunction with the Kaiser Family Foundation. The results range from middling to very positive for Democrats, and we'll get to the toplines right away, but let me warn you that there are some very serious red flags with sample composition ahead.

AR-Sen: Mark Pryor (D-inc): 46, Tom Cotton (R): 36

AR-Gov: Mike Ross (D): 40, Asa Hutchinson (R): 41

KY-Sen: Alison Grimes (D): 43, Mitch McConnell (R-inc): 44; Grimes: 41, Matt Bevin (R): 35

LA-Sen: Mary Landrieu (D-inc): 42, Bill Cassidy (R): 18, Paul Hollis (R): 5, Rob Maness (R): 4

NC-Sen: Kay Hagan (D-inc): 42, Thom Tillis (R): 40; Hagan: 41, Greg Brannon (R): 39

These numbers are all mostly in line with what we've seen lately, though that 10-point lead for Pryor is extremely gaudy. Of course, it's not the only double-digit edge he's sported recently, but we had questions about that last poll, too. And boy do we have questions about all of these.

Rather unusually, the Times conducted a poll of all adults, then further broke down the results by registered voters—but only for certain questions. So while they asked respondents how they voted for president in 2012, they only reported the "all adults" results, and those numbers just made no sense. After a bit of a firestorm erupted over this quirky decision, the paper then released the breakdowns among registered voters, but the problem is, they're still very strange:

Crosstabs of April 2014 NYT polls on Obama-Romney 2012 vote.
(click for larger)
Romney carrying Arkansas by just 2 points? (He won by 24.) Obama winning Louisiana by 4? (He lost by 17.) And 19 percent of Kentucky voters saying they didn't vote in 2012, but nevertheless plan to in a midterm? It's all hard to figure. Sensing a problem, the Times' Nate Cohn quickly penned a defense, calling the polls' critics "misguided."

Cohn argues that the surveys accurately measured Obama's vote share, but that many Romney supporters abandoned him as the loser, preferring instead to they didn't remember who they backed, or went with "someone else." Cohn says that these voters were "overwhelmingly white," which in the racially polarized South buttresses the notion that they were in fact Romney partisans. (Race is a very strong predictor of voting behavior in much of the southern U.S.)

However, other pollsters who ask this demographic question don't seem to have this issue. For instance, a PPP poll of North Carolina earlier this month found 49 percent of respondents saying they voted for Romney and 47 for Obama (very close to the 2012 results), with just 4 percent saying they weren't sure or picked another candidate. Put another way, if someone released a Michigan poll showing Terri Lynn Land up 10 and Romney carrying the state by the same amount, we'd question those results sharply.

Interestingly, Cohn tries to offer a further sanity check by pointing out that Obama's approvals "look about right." Like the toplines, they do indeed mostly make sense. But it's a curious approach from Cohn, who castigated PPP for alleged methodological deficiencies while arguing that the firm's accuracy was largely beside the point. Wrote Cohn: "Pollsters, though, tend to judge one another based more on methodology than record."

In reality, though, political professionals judge pollsters on their results, and indeed, it's perfectly acceptable to point to those results to validate a survey, just as the Times has tried to do here. Whether these results are in fact valid is a separate matter, though, and as the foregoing shows, there are still plenty of reasons for skepticism.

Senate:

AK-Sen: Now way Democrats get this lucky, right? Forrest Nabors writes that at an event earlier this month, Republican Senate hopeful Joe Miller did not rule out an independent bid if he loses the GOP primary. That would be manna from heaven for Democratic Sen. Mark Begich: A February poll from Hays Research found Miller scooping up 10 percent of the vote in a three-way race, allowing Begich to cruise past Republican Dan Sullivan 45-33. Is Miller crazy enough to do such a thing? As Miller himself is doing, you just can't rule it out.

CO-Sen, -Gov: We have three new polls out of Colorado, from PPP, Quinnipiac, and Republican pollster Fabrizio Lee. PPP (on behalf of a group called the National Coalition for Safer Roads), finds Democratic Sen. Mark Udall with a 47-45 lead on Rep. Cory Gardner, while Fabrizio, polling for the U.S. Chamber of Comerce, has Gardner up 44-42, with Libertarian Gaylon Kent at 7.

PPP also has gubernatorial numbers, as does Quinnipiac (which will likely unveil Senate data later this week). First, here's how Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper fares against his various GOP opponents according to PPP, with March trendlines in parentheses:

48-41 vs. Bob Beauprez (48-38)

48-41 vs. Scott Gessler (48-36)

50-41 vs. Tom Tancredo (50-36)

And here's Quinnipiac (with February trendlines):
47-40 vs. Tancredo (48-39)

48-38 vs. Gessler (46-40)

48-39 vs. Beauprez

47-38 vs. Mike Kopp (47-38)

Almost no change in either poll, though it is a little odd that Tancredo performs the best (by a small margin) according to Quinnipiac, while he's the worst (by a small margin) per PPP, which is more like what you'd expect.

GA-Sen: In a new ad from GOP Rep. Phil Gingrey, a mother who lost her son, an Army sergeant, in Iraq says that she was unable to find out what had happened from the Defense Department, but praises Phil Gingrey for helping her get the answers she sought.

KY-Sen: Republican businessman Matt Bevin's many children say he's an awesome dad in his latest ad.

NC-Sen: American Crossroads has a new spot praising Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis' conservative values and saying that "Washington liberals are attacking" him to "stop" him.

OK-Sen-B: For the first time, a poll has former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon leading Rep. James Lankford in the GOP primary for Sen. Tom Coburn's open seat. The survey is from Public Opinion Strategies, on behalf of a super PAC supporting Shannon called Oklahomans for a Conservative Future, and it gives Shannon a 42-32 edge on Lankford. Just a month ago, POS had Lankford ahead 37-28, and a previously unreleased internal from February gave him a huge 51-16 advantage.

But Oklahomans for a Conservative Future has been spending heavily on Shannon, totaling over $400,000 on mail, TV, and online ads to date—and no deep-pocketed groups have come to Lankford's aid. The primary isn't for another two months, so Lankford still has time to turn things around. But he definitely wants to avoid any perception that he's not running competitively with Shannon, and that his numbers are in free-fall. Given that Lankford came out of nowhere just four years ago to win a very difficult House primary against some big establishment names, though, I wouldn't count him out.

OR-Sen: Republican physician Monica Wehby's new TV ad features a woman who, through tears, says Wehby performed life-saving spinal surgery on her daughter when she was an infant, giving her hope after her obstetrician originally recommended terminating the pregnancy.

AFP: Americans for Prosperity is launching a new round of ads targeting Democratic Senate candidates in four states: Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, and New Hampshire. All of the spots, of course, are about the Affordable Care Act:

In Colorado and Michigan, virtually identical spots claim that hundreds of thousands of residents have had their health insurance cancelled "because of Obamacare" and asks, "Can you really afford to pay thousands of dollars more?" (Is there a single proven case of this particular fate befalling anyone?) Rather obnoxiously, the Colorado ad includes a cropped photo of Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and Barack Obama—from a visit they made to the hospital treating victims of the horrific Aurora theater shooting in 2012. Real nice.

In Louisiana, a Marine veteran says he did two tours of duty in Iraq and "because of my service, I was able to get a health care plan that worked for me." But, he goes on, he got a letter from his policy issuer saying that his "insurance costs were going way up because of Obamacare—and, oh, by the way, you should be happy about it." Documentation, please?

Finally, in New Hampshire, AFP takes a slightly different tack and complains that as a result of Obamacare, some people might have to "drive more than an hour to see a doctor." The ad cites an NPR report in support of this claim.

Gubernatorial:

NM-Gov: Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's latest ad features a pair of Democratic mayors praising her, and like Martinez, both men are Hispanic. I'd like to hope that no traffic problems in Las Cruces were involved.

OH-Gov: Republican Gov. John Kasich is airing a second minute-long ad that sounds like it could have come from a Democratic campaign. Kasich starts by talking about the values his parents imparted in him, beginning with the notion that "those people who are hurting are people that we need to help—we can't look the other way." He goes on to say that "economic growth and prosperity shouldn't be limited to a few" and adds that his job "is to lift people." Good messaging, but to the deeds match the words?

RI-Gov: Unless your rivals are criminals, LaRouchies, or Joe Lieberman, there's no excuse for refusing to say you'll support your party's nominee if you lose your primary bid. Yet Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, who is running for governor, did just that at a recent candidate forum, even though his two Democratic opponents, state Treasurer Gina Raimondo and attorney Clay Pell, both said they'd back the winner. Taveras needs to start sounding like a team player, because this is not cool.

WI-Gov, -Sen: PPP's new Wisconsin poll finds a slight tightening in the race for governor, with GOP Gov. Scott Walker leading Democrat Mary Burke 48-45, compared to 48-42 last September. Tom Jensen observes that this is probably due to a spike in Burke's name recognition (she's been advertising on TV, and she's been attacked on TV, too), moving her favorables to 36-35 from 18-21. Walker's job approval has barely budged and stands at 50-47.

On the generic legislative ballot, by contrast, Democrats hold a small 45-41 lead. Given the brilliance of the GOP's gerrymander, though, that may not be enough to allow the party to take back the state Senate.

PPP also polled a couple of hypothetical 2016 Senate matchups. Democratic ex-Sen. Russ Feingold would beat the man who defeated him, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, 47-41, while Johnson would edge Rep. Ron Kind 41-39.

House:

CA-33: Radio host Matt Miller, one of a zillion Democrats running for Rep. Henry Waxman's open seat, playfully bounces from scene to scene in his latest ad, telling different groups of people about his background ("economic advisor in Bill Clinton's White House") and vague legislative priorities. The spot is a little bit reminiscent of Paul Wellstone's classic "Fast Paced Paul" ad featuring him running hither and yon and talking a mile a minute.

GA-01: In a new ad Republican Bob Johnson touts his service as an Army Ranger and his work as a head and neck surgeon, and also says he wants to "repeal and replace Obamacare" and "end this liberal nightmare," which seems to refer to life in general, not just the Affordable Care Act.

NY-13: Rep. Charlie Rangel has finally earned a notable endorsement from the Democratic establishment, and it comes from none other than Bill Clinton, whom Rangel loyally stood by during his presidency. However, this doesn't count as a Big Dog Alert because Clinton, who has backed Rangel in the past, only issued a press release, and it does not appear that any public events or fundraisers are forthcoming. Meanwhile, Rangel's chief primary rival, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, also just picked up a bit of establishment support of his own, from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

PA-08: Army vet Kevin Strouse, who faces businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton in next month's Democratic primary for the right to take on GOP Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, is up with the first TV ad of the race. The idea behind the spot seems to have failed in the execution, though. The video features footage of Strouse playing goofy games with his kids, while he explains just how "serious" he is in his narration. The mismatch between the visuals and audio is terribly distracting, though, and I couldn't remember a word he said (other than "serious," repeated ad nauseam) after one viewing.

VA-07: I guess Eric Cantor just wants to play it very, very safe. The number two Republican in the House is running a negative TV ad against his primary opponent, David Brat, despite the fact that Cantor has 22-to-1 cash-on-hand advantage.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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