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Leading Off:

AR-Sen, -Gov: PPP's new Arkansas poll sure is an odd duck. It's somewhat less bullish for Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor than other recent polling, seeing as he's in the low 40s, but he's still up a point on GOP Rep. Tom Cotton, 43-42. That's little changed from the 44-all tie PPP found last December, though both candidates are pretty unpopular thanks to negative advertising: Pryor's now at 38-46 in job approvals, and Cotton sports a 37-42 in favorability. It's fairly remarkable that Pryor's even doing this well in the first place, though, considering that Obama has a deeply negative 33-61 approval score.

But here's where things get really strange: In the governor's race, Republican ex-Rep. Asa Hutchinson is beating Democratic ex-Rep. Mike Ross by a wide 46-38 margin. Last time, Hutchinson led by just 44-43. It's hard to come up with plausible reasons why he'd surge like this, particularly with Pryor ahead in the Senate matchup, and even Tom Jensen hints that something might be off, acknowledging that "most recent surveys show the race much closer." (This is indeed the case.)

So if Ross' numbers are actually better than what PPP's showing, it stands to reason that Pryor's would be as well. That's not a conclusion I'm ready to make, given that PPP is a trustworthy pollster and many of the other outfits that have polled Arkansas don't have the same track record. But the laws of statistics tell you that you'll always have outliers, so the possibility can't be ruled out.

Senate:

AK-, AR-Sen: It looks like AHA plans to take on a couple of Senate races. The American Hospital Association is spending $180,000 apiece to aide Democrats in Alaska and Arkansas, though their ads aren't available online (but maybe they will be, in a day or two). Somehow Greg Giroux obtained screenshots and text from the Alaska spot, though, which praises Sen. Mark Begich for "protect[ing] Alaska's rural hospitals from harmful cuts" and "ma[king] sure seniors and veterans can see doctors and nurses closer to home."

HI-Sen: Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz's new ad hits a theme that doesn't come up a lot even in Democratic primaries: gun safety laws. Schatz says "as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check," and introduces his kids as the reason for his concern about guns. Schatz concludes with his support of mandatory background checks and an assault weapons ban.

Gubernatorial:

FL-Gov: Several recent polls have shown a tighter contest in Florida's gubernatorial race, and a couple have even had GOP Gov. Rick Scott ahead. But Quinnipiac is saying nuts to all that, as their latest survey has ex-Gov. Charlie Crist ahead by a comfy 48-38 margin. That's actually a slight improvement for Crist compared to his 46-38 edge in January. Quinnipiac, though, has always provided some of the most Dem-friendly polling in the Sunshine State this cycle. Crist has never been up by fewer than 7 points—and a year ago, his lead started off at 16!

ME-Gov: Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud continues to kick butt in fundraising, besting his two opponents in the most recent reporting period (from Jan. 1 to April 22). During that timeframe, Michaud raised $462,000 and has $813,000 cash-on-hand. Meanwhile, independent Eliot Cutler pulled in $389,000, but more than half of that came in the form of self-funding, and he has just $109,000 in the bank. But GOP Gov. Paul LePage was the most feeble of all, raising just $123,000 and winding up with $618,000 left over.

OH-Gov: A new poll from SurveyUSA finds GOP Gov. John Kasich leading his Democratic challenger, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, 46-36, which is the biggest margin Kasich's seen in almost a year. However, Green Party candidate Anita Rios takes 4 percent, and her presence could be problematic for FitzGerald. At the same time, Libertarian Charlie Earl was not included in the matchup. He was kicked off the ballot in March by Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, but he's currently contesting that move in court.

PA-Gov: With the Democratic primary now less than three weeks away, things keep heating up. State Treasurer Rob McCord has a pair of new TV ads, one of which goes after the frontrunner, businessman Tom Wolf, over the fact that his cabinetry company makes some of their products outside of Pennsylvania. I sort of chuckled in spite of myself when McCord explained, "So when I heard that they manufacture those cabinets in Indiana, I figured they were made by workers here. But guess what? It's not Indiana, Pennsylvania. It's Indiana Indiana."

The other spot is narrated by his wife, who references McCord being raised by a single mom and runs through a list of his policy priorities.

House:

MI-13: This would be a hell of a way for a long and storied career to end. Rev. Horace Sheffield, who is running against veteran Rep. John Conyers in the Democratic primary, has challenged Conyers' nomination petitions in an effort to throw him off the ballot. It's not known how many signatures Conyers has submitted, but Michigan requires congressional candidates to file at least 1,000 but not more than 2,000, so there's only so wide a margin for error. (It looks like a couple of Conyers' petition-gatherers may not have been registered to vote, in apparent contravention of the law.)

If this all sounds familiar, that's because last cycle, Conyers bizarrely submitted just 1,051 signatures, putting his candidacy in serious jeopardy. Luckily for him, no one contested his petitions last time, but now Conyers is facing serious scrutiny and could very well get booted.

Even if that does happen, though, it may not be the end of the line for Conyers, since he could still run in the primary as a write-in candidate, and thanks to his name recognition, he'd probably be favored. But this kind of sloppiness doesn't augur well for the congressman, and perhaps it's a sign he should consider going out on top, rather than risk an ignominious end to his political life story.

Other Races:

NH State House: Former state Sen. Jackie Cilley, whom you may remember from her unsuccessful bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2012, says she's going to run for New Hampshire's state House this fall. Ordinarily, we wouldn't pay much attention to individual candidates running for the zillion-member House, but Cilley is a much more high-profile name than usual. What's more, House Speaker Terie Norelli is retiring, and if Democrats retain control of the chamber, Cilley could take over—a possibility she's not ruling out. That in turn could set Cilley up for another run for higher office somewhere down the line.

NY State Senate: This would be interesting: Former New York City Comptroller John Liu, who ran a failed bid for mayor last year, is reportedly considering a primary challenge to turncoat Democratic state Sen. Tony Avella. Liu's mayoral bid was dogged by allegations of campaign finance fraud that ultimately sent his former treasurer to prison, though Liu himself was never implicated. He later was denied public financing as a result (a move many regarded as unfair), which dealt a death blow to his campaign.

But Liu's progressive bona fides cannot be doubted, and he's an extremely vigorous campaigner with a wildly energetic base in the Chinese-American community. He would definitely pose a threat to Avella, whose 11th District is safely blue at 64 percent Obama. And if Oliver Koppell also runs against Jeff Klein, the leader of the renegade Democrats, that could offer mainstream Democrats a serious one-two punch.

Grab Bag:

Ads:

GA-Sen: Jack Kingston (R)

IA-Sen: Matt Whitaker (R); Mark Jacobs (R)

AZ-Gov: Doug Ducey (R)

CA-33: David Kanuth (D)

ID-02: Mike Simpson (R-inc); Simpson; Bryan Smith (R); Madison Project (anti-Simpson)

NJ-03: Tom MacArthur (R)

PA-09: Art Halvorson (R)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Thu May 01, 2014 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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