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MI-Sen: In a new 15-second spot, Republican Terri Lynn Land tries to Koch-ify billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, who's been active on behalf of Democratic candidates nationwide but hasn't spent anything like the sums the Koch brothers have. Says the ad: "Steyer could make millions by stopping the Keystone pipeline, and Peters stood with Steyer, voted against energy independence, killing jobs, increasing oil and gas prices."

And how does Land justify that claim? According to The Hill, Land's campaign says Steyer "might be invested in natural gas or green energy products that could go up in value if Keystone is blocked." That's an almost comically tendentious act of projection. It's actually very difficult to turn anonymous billionaires into potent campaign trail villains, and the jury's still out as to whether it's working with the Kochs, despite a concerted Democratic effort. Maybe Land's gambit will pay off, but she'll need to work a lot harder than this.

Race Ratings:

We're changing our ratings on three races this week, two on the Senate front and one in the House.

AR-Sen (Lean R to Tossup): There's no question that Democratic Sen. Pryor's still in trouble—of course he is. But trouble gets an incumbent to tossup. "Screwed" gets you to Lean Other Guy. And for a good long while, it did seem that Pryor was indeed screwed, with poll numbers locked in the low 40s, endless Koch-fueled assaults hitting him daily, and a non-crazy opponent in Rep. Tom Cotton, who didn't have to contend with a messy primary. And that doesn't even include Arkansas' brutal demographics and the fact that Obamacare became a massive anvil late last year.

But a funny thing happened: Pryor's poll numbers improved, rather markedly, though in fairness a lot of the earlier polling was not of the highest quality. Most telling of all, after a spate of positive Democratic and non-partisan surveys, was a poll from none other than Karl Rove, which showed Cotton's margin dropping six points, into a tie.

So why has Pryor rebounded? It's hard to say, though the further things get from Obamacare's disastrous rollout, the better they've gotten for him. And it also looks like Pryor's vote share has increased (rather than Cotton's dipping), so it may be that the incumbent's started to restore his standing with voters. Either way, as we say, Pryor still has a hell of a race on his hands, and a "Tossup" rating doesn't mean we give both sides an equal shot. Cotton probably still has an advantage. But Pryor is looking a lot more hale than he was at the start of the year.

CO-Sen (Lean D to Tossup): When GOP Rep. Cory Gardner made a late entry into Colorado's Senate race, we knew he had to have internal numbers that showed him with a good shot at victory. Why else risk a promising House career otherwise? The public polling seems to have born this theory out, as seven of the eight surveys taken since Gardner's entry have shown the contest as a 1- or 2-point race, and the eighth had Democratic Sen. Mark Udall up all of 3.

With both candidates in the mid-40s, that augurs for Tossup status. Colorado offers something of a mirror-image to Arkansas, though, and Udall likely retains a slight edge. Gardner's only led in one poll, and Colorado's demographics, while still rather swingy, have been trending in the Democratic direction for some time. This is a good reminder that not all tossups are created equal, and that every ratings category contains a range of races within it. But Udall definitely has a much fiercer fight for re-election than he'd anticipated.

IL-08 (Likely D to Safe D): While Democrat Tammy Duckworth handily won this seat with 55 percent of the vote in 2012, then-Rep. Joe Walsh was able to bring a lot of money to bear on the race, thanks in part to some very wasteful third-party spending. This time, that definitely won't happen, as Duckworth's GOP opponent, Larry Kaifesh, had all of $6,000 in the bank at the end of March. Duckworth had over $1 million, and she won't be seriously challenged.


GA-Sen: Rep. Jack Kingston mocks businessman David Perdue in his newest ad, casting Perdue as a toddler in revenge for Perdue's frequent ads showing Kingston and the rest of the GOP field as babies. Li'l Davey Perdue is shown eating a giant mess of a cake as a narrator explains he "chewed up businesses—8,000 jobs were lost" while taking a huge bonus and "millions more from Obama's stimulus." Perdue also "has no problem with Obama Common Core standards, that nationalize schools." (Uh, whatever.) Then the ad just gets gross, as the tyke starts fussing and the narrator says, "Something doesn't smell right, because the change he wants stinks," complete with a shot of the poor kid's butt, all covered in cake. Gnarly, but memorable, I guess.

Meanwhile, the American Future Fund has a spot touting Karen Handel as "somebody who backed Obama down," though exactly what incident they're referring to goes completely unmentioned.

  IA-Sen: In his newest ad, Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley thanks his mom for pushing him not to give up on his dreams after his father died.

MT-Sen: GOP Rep. Steve Daines slams Democratic Sen. John Walsh in his newest ad, teeing off on a clip from Walsh's recent spot where he declared there's "no graver threat than the exploding national debt." Daines' narrator then accuses Walsh of "mismanagement of millions of our tax dollars while running a government agency," supporting Obamacare, and casting his "very first vote" in Washington "to raise the debt ceiling, so Obama can spend even more." Debt ceiling politics has really become totally psychotic, but sadly, ranting about it probably polls well with certain demographics.

NC-Sen: State House Speaker Thom Tillis just secured the GOP nomination less than a week ago, but Democrats aren't wasting any time in dropping the hammer. The Senate Majority PAC is unleashing a hefty new $850,000 ad campaign attacking Tillis with this spot:

In the ad, a woman purporting to be in attendance at Tillis' victory party asks viewers to "take a closer look" at his record, charging that Tillis "gave tax cuts to the wealthy and big corporations—even kept breaks for private jets and yachts. He raised taxes on 80 percent of North Carolinians." Oh, but here's the remarkable thing: The narrator was actually at the party and recorded the ad there, while Tillis was giving his acceptance speech! Sure, it's a stunt, but it's one that should drive the Tillis camp a bit batty wondering how they let this happen.

Meanwhile, the untrustworthy Rasmussen offers the first post-primary look at the November general election. They find Tillis leading Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan by just a single point, 45-44, which is all the more remarkable since they had Tillis up 47-40 in January.

Now, you can't simply say that Rasmussen is biased pollster, hence we can "just add 5 points" (or some fixed number) to the Democrat's score. Rasmussen is simply too unreliable to be wrong in a consistent way—it's really a case of garbage in, garbage out. But still, it's not a helpful narrative to Tillis that "even Rasmussen" shows the race tightening, especially at a time when Tillis should theoretically be experiencing a primary bounce. Fortunately, we'll have much more credible numbers from PPP this week. And in the meantime, Tillis may want to start vetting his guest lists a little better.

NE-Sen: Yep, Dinsdalemania's for real, folks. Republican Ben Sasse tried to calm his supporters with a quickie internal poll from Strategic National showing him at 34 percent in the GOP primary, but Sid Dinsdale is now in second with 23, the first time any poll has ever placed him there. Shane Osborn, meanwhile, is back at third with 20 percent of the vote. Sasse may like the fact that he has an 11-point lead with the primary on Tuesday, but even though we lack proper trendlines here, there's no question Dinsdale's been surging.

Is there enough time left for him to upset Sasse? That's hard to say. But Sasse, of course, is taking no chances, running a final ad touting various endorsements he previously received, including from the Nebraska Farm Bureau and ex-Gov. Kay Orr, who supposedly "likes that Ben never ran a single negative ad." Of course, he didn't have to, since his third-party allies were more than willing to bash Osborn and Dinsdale. Indeed, Citizens United is squeezing out one more ad, too, hitting Dinsdale on his willingness to raise the debt ceiling (as other groups already have).

NH-Sen: It really seems like Scott Brown doesn't know what he's doing:

Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) opened up a new and interesting line of attack on Thursday against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in his bid to move to the Granite State and take her job.

Speaking to the Nashua Republican City Committee Thursday night, Brown accused Shaheen of voting for "every debt ceiling increase," according to Friday's edition of the Nashua Telegraph. He also pledged he would get the debt and deficit "under control," the paper reported.

But there was something he left out of his remarks to the Republicans: He also voted for raising the debt limit every time it came up.

OK-Sen-B: Oklahomans for a Conservative Future's new ad features Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin enthusiastically endorsing T.W. Shannon in the GOP primary. If the terrible sound quality is not an artifact of YouTube compression, this ad is going to be inaudible to most people who see it on TV.

OR-Sen: State Rep. Jason Conger finally managed to put together a TV ad, though how he's paying for it is anyone's guess, seeing as he had just $51,000 left in the bank in his most recent fundraising report. The spot is mostly focused on his GOP primary opponent, physician Monica Wehby, featuring one clip of her suggesting she's "pro-life," while in another, she apparently calls abortion "a personal decision." Conger says he's "consistently conservative" and "proudly pro-life." The election is May 20.

SC-Sen-A: Here are a couple more ads in the GOP primary for Sen. Lindsey Graham's seat, which is now a month away. One spot is from Graham, who touts his efforts to secure funding to deepen the Port of Charleston. Meanwhile, attorney/pastor Det Bowers quotes, of all people, Cicero, saying "While I breath, I hope"—hope, presumably, that he can enact his smorgasbord of conservative priorities, like repealing Obamacare and balancing the budget.


CT-Gov: Quinnipiac, which is still the only outfit that has publicly polled Connecticut's gubernatorial election all cycle, has some new numbers ... that are pretty much the same as their old numbers. Here's how Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy fares against the entire GOP field, with March trendlines in parentheses:

43-42 vs. 2010 nominee Tom Foley (42-42)

44-40 vs. state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (43-37)

44-39 vs. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton (44-35)

45-37 vs. Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti (44-34)

46-36 vs. ex-West Hartford Town Councilor Joe Visconti (45-34)

46-37 vs. attorney Martha Dean

Most of the Republicans saw their vote shares climb a bit, but otherwise, things are pretty steady. One thing that will change soon, though, is the state of play in the GOP primary. Right now, Foley is far ahead of the pack with 39 percent, while everyone else is in single digits. However, Connecticut Republicans will hold their bi-annual convention this coming weekend, and depending on how things shake out, the party may rally around a single candidate (with Foley presumably the best bet). But other hopefuls can still petition their way on to the Aug. 12 primary ballot, so Foley may or may not have a clear path to the nomination.

ME-Gov: Progressive activist group Democracy for America has a new PPP poll of the Maine governor's race, and it shows a lead for Rep. Mike Michaud, whom the organization just endorsed. Michaud edges GOP Gov. Paul LePage 43-39, while independent attorney Eliot Cutler brings up the rear (as per usual) with 15. That's actually down a touch from last month, when Michaud led LePage 44-37 in a PPP survey for MoveOn, but it's right in line with the bulk of recent polling. (Note that while the press release lists a couple of issue questions about Medicaid expansion before the horserace matchup, DFA informs me that the head-to-heads were asked first.)


FL-13: This has to be just about the worst no-pology—hell, it's a straight-out non-apology—I've ever seen in politics. It's from Pinellas County Democratic chair Mark Hanisee, who you may remember as the jerkbag who browbeat Baptist pastor Manuel Sykes into quitting the race against GOP Rep. David Jolly, chiefly because Hanisee insisted that Sykes couldn't win because he's black. Yet in a tortured piece of verbiage, Hanisee insists that "if I thought I did something wrong, I would apologize." Seriously, read the whole thing to see what a schmuck this guy is.

MI-13: Oof. Things are not looking good for veteran Rep. John Conyers. According to the Detroit News, a report from the Wayne County Clerk has concluded that Conyers fell 400 signatures short of the 1,000 he needed to submit in order to appear on the Democratic primary ballot, because two of his petition circulators were not registered voters. A final decision is expected Tuesday, and Conyers will be able to appeal to the secretary of state. Presumably further litigation beyond that is possible as well, though Conyers could also elect to run as a write-in candidate in the primary, something he's apparently already considering.

NY-01: After months of harshly negative campaigning, Republican attorney George Demos' newest ad is a positive one. Demos touts his local upbringing (obvious pushback at attacks that he actually lives in Manhattan), then says he opposes the Common Core education standards because it's "just another liberal program that won't educate and won't work." Groan, yeah, another liberal program adopted by 44 states.

PA-13: In physician Val Arkoosh's latest ad, set in a hospital delivery room, she says, "I've spent my career working with people. From the delivery room, to building a national coalition to help President Obama pass healthcare reform." It's not the first time she's mentioned her efforts on behalf of the Affordable Care Act, which makes state Sen. Daylin Leach's attempts to tarnish her because of the support she's gotten from a doctors' group that opposed the law ring kind of hollow. Arkoosh then pledges in Congress, she'll "stand up for women and protect social security by ensuring everyone pays their fair share."

P.S. Arkoosh also just injected $700,000 of her own money into her campaign for the stretch run, while Leach poured in $250,000 to support his own cause.

Grab Bag:

Dark Money: Lots of groups are constantly promising to spend all kinds of lavish sums on elections, but we pass over most of those press releases because, well, it's easy to make such promises. But when Americans for Prosperity says it will spend $125 million on this year's midterms, you should probably believe them. If anything, their final outlays will probably wind up being higher than that, considering the Kochtopus dumped $400 million into the 2012 elections. At a certain point, though, the exact numbers don't even mean much anymore, because eventually, it all just adds up to "a buttload."

Fundraising: The May 20 primaries are rapidly approaching, and with six states going to the polls, there are lots of races to watch. Pre-primary fundraising reports were due for federal candidates on Thursday, and we've put together a chart for all the key house races, along with a few observations about where some under-the-radar races might be headed. (Jeff Singer)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Mon May 12, 2014 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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