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Leading Off:

WI-Gov: Marquette's newest poll of Wisconsin's gubernatorial race is their tightest to date. Among registered voters, GOP Gov. Scott Walker and Democrat Mary Burke are tied at 46, compared to a 48-41 Walker lead in March. Walker does, however, have a small 48-45 edge among likely voters. While it's possible the race has tightened, it's also possible it was already this way: Last month, PPP also had Walker up 48-45, so Marquette's prior poll may have been a little too favorable for the incumbent.


GA-Sen: One of the most interesting themes from Tuesday's primaries was the decline of former Secretary of State Karen Handel. In the first round of the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary, she was the top vote-getter—with room to spare—taking 34 percent to eventual winner Nathan Deal's 23. This week, she fell about four points short of the second-place runoff spot, losing out to Rep. Jack Kingston 26-22. (David Perdue led with 31.)

A couple of maps help visualize what changed between 2010 and Tuesday. This 2010 map from Dave Leip's Election Atlas shows Handel dominating in metro Atlanta. Handel carried large counties like Cherokee, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett by at least double digits.

Contrast that to this Atlanta Journal-Constitution map of Tuesday's primary. Handel only took first place in three metro Atlanta counties, and her margin over Perdue was never any greater than 7 points. Handel was able to keep things close with Perdue in the other big counties, but this wasn't enough. With Perdue also carrying most of the central part of the state and Kingston cleaning up in the south, Handel needed a stronger performance in the Atlanta area in order to advance. (Jeff Singer)

IA-Sen, -Gov: PPP's new Iowa poll finds state Sen. Joni Ernst clearing out some space in the GOP primary with a 34-18 lead over businessman Mark Jacobs, while radio host Sam Clovis takes 14 and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker brings up the rear with 6. In February, PPP had Jacobs up 20-13, but Ernst has received a bunch of attention for her quirky TV ads and she's also consolidated a lot of establishment support. Most importantly, she's just shy of clearing the 35 percent mark necessary to avoid a nominating convention. If current trends hold, the GOP will likely avoid this worst-case scenario.

In the general election, though, Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley leads Ernst 45-39, which is the same margin as his 41-35 spread last time. That still favors Braley, though, as it means there are fewer undecided voters for Ernst to target in this light-blue state. For what it's worth, Braley also beats Jacobs 42-36, Clovis 43-34, and Whitaker 43-36. The fact that Ernst pushes Braley to his highest vote share may reflect that while she's gotten better known, she also has the highest negatives in the GOP field, with 32 percent saying they have an unfavorable view of her versus 27 percent who see her favorably. (That's a reversal from her 16-7 mark in February.)

Meanwhile, in the governors race, the brief tightening that a few pollsters had seen, including PPP, seems to have slackened. GOP Gov. Terry Branstad leads Democratic state Sen. Jack Hatch 48-40, a recovery from a much uglier 43-38 reading in April. You can see Branstad's dip and rise in HuffPo Pollster's chart.

KY-Sen: Democrat Alison Grimes is rolling out her first post-primary ad, a minute-long positive spot that stresses bipartisanship. Says Grimes: "[W]e need a senator who puts partisanship aside and works with both Democrats and Republicans to do what's right for Kentucky. And no matter who our president is, I won't answer to them; I'll only answer to you." Business Insider reports that the ad is backed by a "six-figure" buy.

P.S. This is some awful excuse-making from the awful Gravis Marketing about why their awful Kentucky GOP primary poll was so awful.

LA-Sen: In a not particularly coherent Americans for Prosperity ad, a female narrator says that "Women understand: It's a struggle to make ends meet," then tries to accuse Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of living "by her own rules," because she allegedly "voted to put our country deeper in debt" seven times. This seems to be an attempt to compare belt-tightening at home with Washington profligacy, a conservative trope that at one point was deployed so successfully even Barack Obama started repeating it, but the message is delivered very awkwardly here.

MT-Sen: Democratic Sen. John Walsh and GOP Rep. Steve Daines are hitting each other with new ads that both feature women sharing personal stories. In Walsh's spot, Melissa Barcroft says she was raped at the age of 14, then goes on to criticize Daines, saying "That's why it's so insulting that Congressman Steve Daines sponsored a bill to make abortion illegal for victims of sexual assault. He's even proposed making women criminals for having an abortion."

In Daines' ad, Rebekah Uzenski describes terrible violence she experienced at the hands of her ex-husband, then thanks Daines for supporting the Violence Against Women Act. Says Uzenski: "I am so thankful there's men like Steve out there that actually stand up for women's rights and what is right."


CA-Gov: SurveyUSA's new California poll predictably showing Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown crushing all comers with 57 percent of the vote in next month's top-two primary, but what's most notable is where his opponents rank. Despite spending millions of his own money on TV ads recently, former Treasury official Neel Kashkari ranks third with 11 percent, while ultra-conservative Assemblyman Tim Donnelly is in second with 18. Not that it really matters, but at least Kashkari would be less of a drag on the GOP than Donnelly. It's doubtful Kashkari will get the chance to lose less badly, though.

NY-Gov: Quinnipiac's new survey still shows Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo handily dispatching likely GOP nominee Rob Astorino, but confirming last month's Siena poll, a hypothetical Working Families Party challenger would draw a sizable share of the vote. In a two-way race, Cuomo beats Astorino 57-28, but that drops to 37-24 in a three-way fight, with an unnamed WFP candidate taking 22. That's very similar to the 39-24-24 matchup that Siena found.

But whether the WFP actually nominates someone other than Cuomo is a very different matter, of course. Cuomo and the WFP have been in talks regarding campaign finance reform legislation, a priority for the party, so it's possible a deal will get struck that leads the WFP to eschew a challenge. But no matter what, the party is holding its annual convention at the end of the month, so a decision has to be made soon.

Cuomo also just tapped a replacement running-mate for Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who decided not to seek a second term, and it's a name that'll be familiar to political observers: ex-Rep. Kathy Hochul. Cuomo undoubtedly views this pick as "checking off a couple of boxes," because Hochul is a woman and because she's also from western New York. But Hochul's selection definitely does nothing to appease liberals, as she was endorsed by the NRA when she unsuccessfully sought re-election in 2012 and once declared that she "led the fight against giving illegal immigrants driver's licenses."


AR-04: We seldom write about campaign web videos in the Digest unless they really stand out, but this one qualifies: Bill Clinton cut a two-minute pitch for James Lee Witt, his former FEMA director who earned great acclaim rebuilding the agency in the 1990s after years of Republican neglect. Witt (whom Clinton refers to as "James Lee") has almost the perfect non-partisan profile for this very conservative district, and Clinton stresses that ably, calling Witt a proven "problem solver." (Just about the only policy specifics he mentions is Witt's support of job training programs.) Undoubtedly some of this will wind up in a 30-second spot on the airwaves.

NE-02: Some very good news for Democrats: Former Republican state Sen. Chip Maxwell, who recently indicated he was considering a bid for Congress, says he'll run as an independent this fall. Maxwell presents himself as the true "conservative" alternative to GOP Rep. Lee Terry, who's angered the base with his occasional departures from the party line, both in style and substance. Maxwell, who says he'll rejoin the GOP after the election, has the potential to siphon votes off of Terry's right flank, potentially giving Democratic state Sen. Brad Ashford a big boost in the general election.

Other Races:

ID Legislature: Of the half-dozen states to hold primaries Tuesday night, an argument could be made that the most interesting may well have been Idaho.

A growing GOP civil war hit center stage, with incumbent Gov. Butch Otter barely winning his primary (51-44) over state Sen. Russ Fulcher. What's more, a half dozen GOP state legislators actually lost, several of whom were Otter allies who faced challenges to their right. Compounding the wound for Otter, he had targeted several north Idaho legislators who had been loyal to Fulcher, but only one of the five tasted defeat.

There may well have been some political crosswinds at play as well. At least one of the downed legislators, state Sen. John Goedde, was a major backer of Otter's education reform package, which tanked in a 2012 referendum. (Steve Singiser)

Grab Bag:

Primaries: Tuesday was the biggest primary night of the year to date, with voters in six different states choosing nominees in a wide variety of contests. Here's a recap of all the key action, state-by-state, with Daily Kos Elections' general election competitiveness rating for each race:

KY-Sen (R): Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell handily dispatched tea partying businessman Matt Bevin by a 60-35 margin. McConnell will now face Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in one of the year's marquee matchups. (Lean R)

GA-Sen (R): Businessman David Perdue edged Rep. Jack Kingston 31-26, with former Secretary of State Karen Handel finishing third with 22. Because no candidate cleared 50 percent of the vote, Perdue and Kingston will square off again in a July 22 runoff. The winner will run against Democratic non-profit CEO Michelle Nunn, the daughter of ex-Sen. Sam Nunn, in the fall. (Likely R)

GA-01 (R): Several Georgia House races are also headed to runoffs, including the contest for Kingston's seat. State Sen. Buddy Carter, as expected, finished in front of the six-candidate pack, taking 36 percent to 23 percent for physician Bob Johnson. (Safe R)

GA-04 (D): Rep. Hank Johnson, who'd raised some caution flags with some eccentric comments over the years, survived a reasonably close brush with DeKalb County Sheriff Tom Brown, winning 55-45. (Safe D)

GA-10 (R): The race for Rep. Paul Broun's seat wound up incredibly tight on Tuesday night, with both radio host Jody Hice and businessman Mike Collins (a son of ex-Rep. Mac Collins) taking 33 percent of the vote in a seven-person field. Hice finished less than 300 votes ahead of Collins. (Safe R)

GA-11 (R): Democrats might crack a smile at the name of one of the candidates who made it to the runoff in the race to succeed Rep. Phil Gingrey: Bob Barr. The former Republican congressman, notorious Clinton impeachment manager, and privacy gadfly who ran for president on the Libertarian line in 2008, landed in second with 26 percent of the vote. He'll meet state Sen. Barry Loudermilk, who took 37 percent in this six-candidate affair, in the runoff. (Safe R)

GA-12 (R): Delvis has left the building: NRCC pick Delvis Dutton, a state representative, finished third with just 14 percent, but the GOP caught a break anyway, because businessman (and 2012 candidate) Rick Allen avoided a runoff by capturing 54 percent of the vote. (Businessman Eugene Yu, a very shady figure, took 17.) This gives Allen a clear shot at Rep. John Barrow, one of the last Democrats to hold down seriously red turf anywhere in the nation. But Barrow has proven very hard to beat in the past and likely will again. (Lean D)

PA-Gov (D): Wealthy businessman Tom Wolf, who poured many millions into his own campaign, absolutely crushed the rest of the field, taking an outright majority of 58 percent. Rep. Allyson Schwartz finished a very distant second with 18, while state Treasurer Rob McCord took 17 and former state environmental secretary Katie McGinty managed just 8. (For a good post-mortem on what ailed Schwartz, the one-time front-runner, try this.) Wolf will now face GOP Gov. Tom Corbett, who has looked very vulnerable for a long time. (Lean D)

PA-08 (D): Iraq vet Kevin Strouse, an early DCCC recruit, very narrowly edged scientist-turned-businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton, who had the backing of EMILY's List, prevailing by a 51-49 margin. Strouse now has an uphill battle against GOP Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick in this suburban district. (Likely R)

PA-09 (R): Rep. Bill Shuster survived the night with just 53 percent of the vote, but tea partier Art Halvorson finished relatively far back at 35, thanks to the presence of a third candidate, businessman Travis Schooley, who took the remaining 13 percent. It's a scary result for the incumbent, though, given that he spent heavily and Halvorson was penniless. Next time, Shuster might not get so lucky.

PA-13 (D): State Rep. Brendan Boyle, the only candidate from Philadelphia, won a surprisingly large victory in the race to succeed Schwartz, taking 41 percent of the vote. Ex-Rep. Marjorie Margolies finished second with 27, while state Sen. Daylin Leach, a progressive favorite, took 17, and physician Val Arkoosh 15. (All three are from suburban Montgomery County.) Boyle was the most socially conservative candidate, but he rode geography and heavy union backing to victory and will be a lock in the fall. (Safe D)

AR-02 (R): Banker and former George H.W. Bush aide French Hill (known as "Freedom Hill," 2003-2006) demolished state Rep. Ann Clemmer, 55-23, as expected. Hill will face former North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays in the race for GOP Rep. Tim Griffin's seat. (Griffin, incidentally, handily won the primary for lieutenant governor.) (Lean R)

AR-04 (R): In a much closer-than-expected race, state House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman defeated energy executive Tommy Moll 54-46. Westerman will square off against Democrat James Lee Witt, a former FEMA director under Bill Clinton, in this open-seat race to succeed Rep. Tom Cotton, who's running for Senate. (Likely R)

ID-Gov (R): Gov. Butch Otter's political career nearly met its maker Tuesday night, as he scraped together just 51 percent of the vote in his quest for a third term. State Sen. Russ Fulcher, who made a huge issue out of Otter's decision to create a health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act, finished with 44, while those two crazy weirdos combined for 5 percent. With just a little more help, Fulcher could have been the nominee. Well, there's always 2018. (Safe R)

ID-02 (R): The Club for Growth initially had high hopes for attorney Bryan Smith and wanted to make an example out of GOP Rep. Mike Simpson, despite his very conservative record. But Smith fizzled out, the Club abandoned him, and Simpson won comfortably, 62-38. (Safe R)

OR-Gov (R): State Rep. Dennis Richardson crushed his five opponents, earning 66 percent of the vote. He'll be a major underdog, though, to Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber in the fall. (Likely D)

OR-Sen (R): The various stalking and harassment allegations surrounding physician Monica Wehby came too late to derail her, thanks in part to Oregon's all-mail voting system that encourages a high level of early voting. Wehby beat state Rep. Jason Conger, who was running as the true conservative, 50-38. She'll face Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley in the fall, when these various stories about her past behavior may play a bigger role. (Likely D)

OR-05 (R): Clackamas County Commissioner Tootie Smith beat former congressional aide Ben Pollock, 63-37. The underfunded Smith will have a difficult time against Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader, though, an incumbent the GOP has never had much luck targeting despite the swingy nature of this district. (Likely D)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Thu May 22, 2014 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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