• GA-Sen: Despite a few hiccups, wealthy businessman David Perdue's been riding high in the polls for some time. Thanks to his free-spending ways (Perdue used to be CEO of the discount chain Dollar General), Perdue has dominated the airwaves in Georgia's Republican Senate primary and staked himself to a small but consistent—if not growing—lead over the last couple of months. The only real fight has been between the two potential runners-up, Rep. Jack Kingston and former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who are both vying for the second slot in order to make the July 22 runoff alongside Perdue.
But with less than a week to go before Election Day, it seems that Perdue just experienced a massive outbreak of sanity—the kind of sanity that, among Republican voters, could easily cost a candidate running in a GOP primary. Indeed, in a recent meeting with the editorial board of the Macon Telegraph, flagged by ThinkProgress, Perdue appeared to go stark raving sane:
"Is it better to try to get out of the ditch by curbing the growth of spending or increasing revenue?" an editorial board member asked.It's interesting to see that the dodgy government-as-business analogy, which so often is deployed to service a conservative agenda, is here being used to buttress a liberal priority, and by a Republican, no less. Of course, Perdue's wrong by an order of magnitude about how many senators understand the need for increased revenues—Democrats grasp this perfectly well—but this certainly isn't the first time he's displayed more than a touch of arrogance when it comes to his supposed business acumen.
"Both," Perdue replied emphatically.
"And that's a euphemism for some kind of tax increase, of course," the interviewer noted.
Perdue laughed and explained, "Well here's the reality: If you go into a business, and I keep coming back to my background, it's how I know how to relate is to refer back to it—I was never able to turn around a company just by cutting spending. You had to figure out a way to get revenue growing. And what I just said, there are five people in the U.S. Senate who understand what I just said. You know revenue is not something they think about."
Was it also arrogance that drove Perdue to speak such heresies against conservative dogma? Ronald Reagan's famous 11th commandment for Republicans has long since been usurped by a new doctrine: "Thou shalt never raise taxes." Perdue's not a seasoned politician (he's never run for office before), so maybe he just cracked of out turn. Or maybe he figures none of his opponents have the resources to use this against him.
But Kingston, at least, still has plenty of money, plus there's also that runoff to worry about. And Handel's already pounced, saying that "'raising revenue' is code for raising taxes." It's not even code—it's a synonym!
So either one of two things is likely to happen: Perdue will have to half-apologize and claim he didn't mean what he said, or he'll stand by his statements and pay the price. Door number three, of course, is that he sticks with his pro-tax hiking stance and wins anyway. But in today's Republican Party, is that really the outcome you want to bet on?
• CO-Sen: It's been a little while since we've seen a new Americans for Prosperity ad, but they're back with another spot in Colorado. They don't bother with any of their usual Affordable Care Act lies; instead, they praise GOP Rep. Cory Gardner for supporting the Keystone pipeline and opposing Obamacare. Bor-ring. Meanwhile, the American Energy Alliance attacks Democratic Sen. Mark Udall for opposing Keystone in their own ad.
• IA-Sen: Republican businessman Mark Jacobs takes direct aim at state Sen. Joni Ernst's last ad, where, clad in leather, she rode a motorcycle to a firing range to take shots at a target standing in for Obamacare. Jacobs' new spot features stills of Ernst in her biker getup, with a narrator saying that some people "do strange things to get elected." The ad then accuses her of voting to raise taxes and cites her frequent missed votes in the legislature this year, including some on elder abuse and human trafficking. "When it comes to protecting Iowa," the voiceover concludes, "she's firing blanks," as an unseen hand repeatedly clicks the trigger on an empty pistol. (Note: Blanks actually make noise and can be dangerous! This ad does not show blanks getting fired!)
• MS-Sen: A new ad from Chris McDaniel gives a little praise for his incumbent GOP primary rival, Sen. Thad Cochran, before proceeding to bury him with a litany of pork and pay raises: "Spend 41 years in Washington, and even good men can lose touch with their conservative roots." (David Jarman)
• MT-Sen: Democratic Sen. John Walsh's new ad hits Steve Daines for overseeing outsourcing of manufacturing jobs when he was in the private sector. It also slips in an odd little mention that Daines voted twice to increase the debt limit (um, good?) ... though perhaps the intent there is, a la the Jon Tester campaign in 2012, to sow doubts about Daines' conservative bona fides and try to drive hard-liners to the Libertarian candidate instead. (David Jarman)
• NE-Sen, -Gov, -02: Tuesday night's primaries in Nebraska brought one blowout, one barnburner, and one shocking near-upset. In the open-seat GOP primary for Senate, Midland University President Ben Sasse, who had locked down the support of the entire tea party establishment, crushed the field with 49 percent of the vote. A late surge by self-funding banker Sid Dinsdale fell far short, as Dinsdale only took 22 percent. Former state Treasurer Shane Osborn finished in third with 21—a humiliating fall from grace for the one-time frontrunner. Sasse will face Democratic attorney Dave Domina in November, in a race we rate as Safe Republican.
On the flipside, the Republican primary for governor (also an open race) wasn't called until after midnight Eastern time. Wealthy businessman Pete Ricketts edged past state Attorney General Jon Bruning 26-25, while state Sen. Beau McCoy took third with 21, leapfrogging ahead of better-known state Auditor Mike Foley, who finished with just 19. For Bruning, it's his second serious loss in as many cycles, and like his defeat in the 2012 Senate primary, he was once the favorite here, too. Ricketts will square off against former University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook in the general election. We rate the race as Likely Republican.
Finally, in Nebraska's 2nd District, Rep. Lee Terry has definitely done something to piss off GOP voters. (This is, after all, a guy who once paid for mailers touting the support of "Obama-Terry voters.") Despite facing a totally underfunded Some Dude in Dan Frei, and despite running TV ads in the race's closing weeks, Terry only prevailed by a narrow 53-47 margin. Indeed, Terry's primary performance keeps getting worse, and one day, he'll either lose or retire—or get beaten by a Democrat. That could even happen this year, though it would be a longshot. Terry has to get past Democratic state Sen. Brad Ashford, but Ashford hasn't raised much money and we rate the race as Likely Republican.
• SD-Sen: A new SurveyUSA poll of South Dakota's Senate race finds GOP ex-Gov. Mike Rounds leading Democrat Rick Weiland 44-30, with independent Larry Pressler at 17. The poll apparently did not include conservative Gordon Howie, a Republican running as an independent. Rounds also has a big lead in the Republican primary, taking 45 percent versus 16 for state Rep. Stace Nelson and 11 for physician Annette Bosworth.
• AR-Gov: Democratic ex-Rep. Mike Ross may have received some unwelcome polling news lately, but that didn't stop him from crushing Republican ex-Rep. Asa Hutchinson in fundraising last month. Ross raised $491,000, versus $240,000 for Hutchinson. They've both been spending heavily on TV (over half a million each), but Ross still has a lot more in the bank, almost $2 million compared to $904,000 for Hutch.
• ID-Gov: Idaho Gov. Butch Otter faces a primary challenge next week from state Sen. Russ Fulcher, whose candidacy hasn't grabbed a lot of attention. There hasn't been any polling, and Fulcher remains a longshot, but he actually hasn't been outspent as dramatically as you'd expect. Between Jan. 1 and May 4, Otter spent about $510,000 on the race while Fulcher managed to spend $226,000. However, Otter had much more left over for the stretch run, $605,000 versus just $79,000 for Fulcher.
But we'll see how much conservative discontent Fulcher can tap into on Tuesday. He's slammed Otter for setting up a state-based health insurance exchange under Obamacare, and he also just earned the endorsement from GOP Rep. Raul Labrador, one of Congress' most notorious dystopian extremophiles. Even if Otter's successful, though, this is almost certain to be his last race, and Fulcher or Labrador (who considered a run earlier in the cycle) could have another opening four years from now.
• OH-Gov: Hrm. Quinnipiac's last couple of Ohio polls placed GOP Gov. John Kasich in the low 40s, and in February, he sported just a 43-38 lead on Democrat Ed FitzGerald. But in their newest survey, Kasich's shot up to a 50-35 advantage on Fitz. Now, Kasich has done some television advertising (and so has the RGA) while FitzGerald has not yet gone on the airwaves. But not only did Kasich just triple the size of his lead here, his 15-point edge is the biggest he's ever seen in a public poll. So this is definitely one of those situations where you want to wait for confirmation for someone else.
• PA-Gov: After a virtual blackout that featured just one poll in the last six weeks, we finally have a couple of new surveys of the Democratic primary for governor in Pennsylvania. With less than a week to go before Election Day, Franklin & Marshall still sees businessman Tom Wolf in the lead with 43, but Rep. Allyson Schwartz has made up a lot of ground and is now at 26. At the end of March, Wolf had a 40-9 advantage, but time has almost run out for Schwartz.
Republican pollster Harper Polling, meanwhile, sees Wolf running away with the nomination. He's at the mid-century mark with a full 50, while Schwartz is tied with state Treasurer Rob McCord at 15. In February, Harper had Wolf at 40, Schwartz at 14, and McCord at 8—in other words, no sign of any movement for Schwartz. Regardless of whether she's advancing on the frontrunner, though, it would be a definite upset if Wolf lost at this point.
Meanwhile, Schwartz's closing statement ad is a low-key, policy-driven number, talking about her plan to use drilling taxes to better pay for education.
• CA-31: It looks like the DCCC is still very concerned about a repeat of 2012's nightmare scenario, where two Republicans made it through the top-two primary in California's 31 District, a blue-tilting seat. In a new poll from Tulchin Research shared with Roll Call, Republican businessman Paul Chabot leads the field with 23 percent, while three Democrats are all bunched up behind him: Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar is at 15, while attorney Eloise Reyes and ex-Rep. Joe Baca are at 13.
Tulchin's memo expresses fear that a second Republican, former congressional aide Leslie Gooch, could slip into the second-place slot once she starts spending. However, right now, she's only at 6 percent, and there's a third Republican, consultant Ryan Downing, who's actually at 7. But Downing hasn't even filed any FEC reports, and there's actually a fourth Democrat in the race, San Bernardino School Board Trustee Danny Tillman, who is further splitting the left-leaning vote and currently taking 6 percent.
But the most important line in the memo appears to be this one: "Absent one of the leading Democrats experiencing a drop in support resulting from a negative attack, the November shutout scenario will continue to remain a real possibility .... Research has consistently found that Joe Baca is by far the candidate most vulnerable to negative attack among this primary field." That seems to be a signal/plea to Reyes that if she goes negative, she should aim her fire at Baca, whom Tulchin says it "extraordinarily unlikely to clear the primary," rather than Aguilar, the D-Trip's endorsed candidate.
In other words, if Reyes and Aguilar get into a fist-fight, then Baca will remain at his current level of support, thus keeping the Democratic vote badly divided and giving Gooch a chance to sneak through. But if Reyes (and hey, Aguilar, too) decide to whale on Baca, they can drive down his share of the vote and try to scoop some of it up for themselves.
Indeed, Aguilar's already been sending out mailers attacking Baca, but Baca actually moved up 5 points over the last month, according to Tulchin's trendlines. So it may just be that the DCCC is actually worried about Baca making it past the primary, despite what they say, and want him taken down. Whatever the case, the situation is totally ridiculous, but then again, so is California's top-two primary system.
• GA-12: It's a couple of weeks old, but a poll from Landmark/Rosetta finds businessman Rick Allen with a wide lead in next week's GOP primary for the right to take on Rep. John Barrow. Allen takes 40 percent, while his nearest competitor, businessman Eugene Yu, is back at 15, and everyone else is in single digits. Allen would need to clear 50 percent, though, in order to avoid a runoff.
• NH-02: Here's a more traditional Americans for Prosperity ad, this time attacking Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster over a quote she offered in response to problems with the ACA's rollout, saying "patience is a virtue." The ad then runs through a litany of alleged problems with Obamacare (most of them bogus, naturally), before berating Kuster again over her call for patience.
• NJ-03: GOP Rep. Jon Runyan, whose surprise retirement announcement opened up this seat late last fall, has endorsed former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur in the race to succeed him. MacArthur also earned the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He faces 2013 Republican Senate nominee Steve Lonegan in next month's primary.
• PA-13: With just days to go before the Democratic primary, ex-Rep. Marjorie Margolies has finally unleashed the Big Dog. Her new ad features clips of Bill Clinton praising her in a speech a month ago (but why did she wait so long to run this spot?). Clinton employs a little bit of praeterition, saying, "I'm not coming here saying vote for her because 20 years ago she saved the economy"—but I'll remind you about that anyway. He goes on to add that Margolies will "take initiative, she'll do things and stand up when she needs to stand up and cooperate when we need cooperation." There's no word on the size of the buy, though Margolies has been struggling to make ends meet so it may not be all that large.
• WV-02: Despite engaging in one of the most blatant acts of carpetbagging in recent memory, former Maryland state GOP chair Alex Mooney captured the Republican nomination for West Virginia's open 2nd Congressional District in Tuesday night's primary, in the race to succeed Shelley Moore Capito. Mooney, generally portrayed as a tea partier in spite of his establishment roots, won with 36 percent, while self-funding pharmacist Ken Reed took 22 and former U.S. Trade Commissioner Charlotte Lane finished third with 18.
Mooney will now face former state Democratic Party Chair Nick Casey, who defeated state Del. Meshea Poore 60 to 40. (Oh, and in case there was any doubt, the party organization Casey used to head up was West Virginia's.) Democrats have a plausible shot at picking up this seat, which is the state's bluest judging by presidential numbers—though at 60-38 Romney, it's certainly not blue. But Casey is a better candidate than Mooney, and the district is ancestrally Democratic. Daily Kos Elections rates this race as Lean Republican.
• AK Ballot: PPP's new Alaska poll also includes numbers on three big ballot measures that will go before voters this year, albeit at different times. In the August primary, voters say they want to repeal a controversial tax cut for energy companies by a 45-34 margin, similar to the 43-31 spread PPP found in February.
In November, meanwhile, there's huge support for increasing the minimum wage, with 67 percent in favor of the idea and just 27 percent opposed. However, when it comes to legalizing marijuana (which will also be on the fall ballot), Alaskans are very closely divided, with 48 percent in support and 45 against. One caveat, though, is that PPP is trying to capture two very different electorates in one poll (for the primary and the general), so it's possible some of these numbers are off.