• HI-Gov: Could Gov. Neil Abercrombie be the next Eric Cantor? Okay, the analogy doesn't quite work for a few reasons, not least because there are plenty of warning signs that Abercrombie's in trouble, but as with Cantor, it's not so easy to put a finger on what ails him. What we do know is that an unpublished Merriman River poll found him losing the Democratic primary to underfunded state Sen. David Ige by double digits—a result Civil Beat found so startling that they sent Merriman back into the field only to confirm that Ige was indeed ahead by a 48-37 margin.
But in a way, these numbers aren't a total surprise. Just a couple of weeks ago, Abercrombie released an internal that gave him a weak 42-28 lead, and Merriman's last survey back in February had the race tied at 37. Indeed, like a lot of governors in both parties first elected in 2010, Abercrombie has never really been popular. But even local analysts, like Civil Beat's Chad Blair, are flummoxed:
But the governor's first term has been rocky, marked by high turnover and battles with the Legislature. His approval ratings have never broken 50 percent, according to past Civil Beat polls. And, though Hawaii's economy is pretty healthy, voters don't seem to be giving him much credit.That sounds like a pretty good record to me! And yet Abercrombie is still remarkably vulnerable, though one thing to note is that Republicans are allowed to vote in Hawaii's open primaries, so crossover votes are probably hurting him. But regardless, if he goes down in the primary (which isn't until Aug. 9), the political autopsy reports will at least be fascinating.
That said, Abercrombie has had solid legislative victories. He called lawmakers into special session last fall to pass same-sex marriage legislation. He pushed for an increase in the minimum wage, something that is now law. The state's fiscal situation is sound. And several members of his staff and Cabinet are widely respected.
• AK-Sen: A new GOP primary poll from Vox "at least we're not McLaughlin" Populi finds former state Department of Natural Resources chief Dan Sullivan leading the way with 32 percent, while Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell takes 23 and 2010 nominee Joe Miller manages just 15.
• GA-Sen: Yet another poll, this time from InsiderAdvantage, finds Rep. Jack Kingston leading businessman David Perdue in the GOP Senate runoff. Kingston is up 46-35, which is in line with all the other polling to date. Kingston also earned the support of the NRA, which praised him for his A+ rating.
• MN-Sen, -Gov: A new SurveyUSA poll finds Sen. Al Franken beating businessman Mike McFadden, the likely Republican nominee, by a 48-42 margin. He also defeats state Rep. Jim Abeler, a longshot who's challenging McFadden in the primary, 48-39. In February, Franken led McFadden 50-40 and Abeler 48-37, so McFadden may be experiencing a slight bump in the wake of the GOP's recent convention. Also, both he and Franken have been on the TV airwaves.
Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton leads Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson (who, like McFadden, earned his party's official endorsement at the convention) by a 46-40 spread. That's tightened considerably from Dayton's 52-34 edge last time. Johnson still faces a fairly competitive primary, and Dayton holds slightly larger leads against all the other GOP contenders: He's up 46-39 on former House Speaker Kurt Zellers; 46-38 versus former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert; and 47-37 against businessman Scott Honour. Dayton had leads of around 20 points against all of these guys in February, but now he's stuck at 46. Either the race has gotten more competitive abruptly (and without much explanation), or this is another example of SUSA weirdness.
Q: What happened in Virginia the other day—does that concern you for your chances here in this run-off?I guess this isn't too surprising, given that Cochran said not long ago that he doesn't "really know a lot about" the tea party. He also probably doesn't really know that he's on track to lose the June 24 GOP runoff, too. And indeed, a new poll from WPA Research for Chris McDaniel shows Cochran in the worst shape yet, trailing 49-41.
A: I don't know what you're talking about. What happened in Virginia?
Q: With Eric Cantor losing his seat.
A: Well, I haven't really followed that campaign very closely at all.
(Or maybe Cochran was just joking about the whole Cantor thing? Even so, being a sarcastic wanker—particularly when your sarcasm isn't obvious to anyone—is just not a good idea on the campaign trail.)
Yes, the Realtors are trying to ride to Cochran's rescue, with $300,000 behind a TV buy and another $100,000 on mail. The Chamber of Commerce is also reportedly spending $308,000 to air this platitude-filled positive ad, which says Cochran will bring "honor and dignity" to Mississippi. And fundraising reports indicate that the money is still pouring in for him.
But Cochran's also getting some "help" he might not particularly appreciate: It turns out that Mike Bloomberg donated $250,000 to the pro-Cochran Mississippi Conservatives PAC. What's especially weird is that Cochran has an A+ rating from the NRA and also voted against the Senate's immigration reform legislation, so it's impossible to see what they have in common. Of course, the Breitbart minions are all over this, branding Bloombo and Cochran as two peas in a pod (two shells in a magazine?) regardless, so chalk this up as another clueless move in Cochran-land.
Meanwhile, one thing that's stood out from the primary results is that each candidate demonstrated distinct regional strengths within the state, Cochran more in the agricultural flatlands and McDaniel in the hilly areas—reflecting a tension that really goes back for centuries, between establishment grandees and populist peckerwoods. That long-running strain is visible in an amazing pair of maps that are part of a data-rich piece by Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley: Compare the Cochran/McDaniel results with a map of the 1980 general election between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Cochran's strengths largely overlap with Carter's, while McDaniel's dovetail with Reagan's.
It's not a perfect match if you think about which counties are actually populous; for instance, the few parts of the state that went for Reagan but then Cochran include the Jackson and Biloxi areas (the most densely inhabited regions of the state). But the map clearly shows which areas like to stick with the traditional messages that they've long been comfortable with, and which areas respond more readily to insurgents who are better at pushing right-wing buttons.
• NH-Sen: Right at the filing deadline, conservative activist Karen Testerman dropped out of New Hampshire's GOP Senate primary and endorsed ex-Sen. Bob Smith. Smith may be erratic and underfunded, but in a one-on-one race, he could cause problems for Scott Brown. However, ex-state Sen. Jim Rubens is also in the mix, so it'll probably be hard for a single anti-Brown candidate to gain traction.
Then again, Brownie's doing everything in his power to run a terrible campaign—and conclusively prove that he's a carpetbagger down to his very soul:
Scott Brown's New Hampshire Senate campaign sent a news release Wednesday questioning why Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) wasn't appearing with President Obama while he was "in town."Once a Masshole, always a Masshole.
But Obama was in Worcester, Mass., about 50 miles from the New Hampshire border. The president will then be raising money in Boston for Senate Democrats.
• Polling: In addition to their Kentucky and Arkansas polls we saw in the previous Digest, Magellan also conducted surveys for the National Mining Association in six other states (all aimed at showing that voters allegedly hate the EPA's proposed new carbon emissions regulations). Here are all the Senate toplines, though we lack full polls for several of these, along with trendlines where available:
• CO-Sen: Cory Gardner (R): 47, Mark Udall (D-inc): 45 (April: 45-42 Udall)Good trends for Democrats in Michigan and North Carolina; not so hot in Colorado and Louisiana.
• NC-Sen: Kay Hagan (D-inc): 47, Thom Tillis (R): 46 (April: 43-43 tie)
• MA-Gov: Whoa. The Boston Globe plans to conduct at least 20 surveys before Election Day? Ordinarily, I'm all for more data, but really, Massachusetts just isn't that interesting—and of course the paper's latest poll has some unexplainable gyrations compared to the one they paid for ... just one week ago. But at this pace, they're going to be doing one a week. I'm gonna guess that we're probably not going to cover them all, unless something unexpected pops up.
• NY-Gov: Law professor Zephyr Teachout, who lost the Working Families Party nomination to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, now says she'll challenge Cuomo in the Democratic primary instead. Teachout had been considering the possibility ever since the WFP's convention a few weeks back and says she's begun to circulate petitions. However, getting on the ballot in New York is very difficult, especially for a statewide race, so a contested primary is by no means assured.
• AZ-02: A new Normington Petts poll for the House Majority PAC finds Democratic Rep. Ron Barber leading Republican Martha McSally 45-37. That's considerably better than an April McSally internal from OnMessage that had her up 45-42, especially considering that Barber is one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the House. Barber also sports a strong 56-37 job approval rating and a 49-28 favorability rating, despite a heavy ad assault by the Koch empire.
However, Barber's almost universally known, with 92 percent name recognition, and is still several points back of the 50 percent mark. On the flipside, McSally, who also ran against Barber in 2012, already has a pretty high level of recognition herself—76 percent—so her proverbial "room to grow" is smaller than it is for most challengers. Her favorables are also just middling, at 32-28. Still, even if this poll is accurate, this is going to be a very difficult race for Democrats.
• AZ-07: God, Mary Rose Wilcox is just horrible. Just the other day, she was forced to abandon a lawsuit she supported to boot her Democratic primary opponent, state Rep. Ruben Gallego, off the ballot because he'd changed his surname. (Gallego's father had abandoned his family when he was young, so he adopted his mother's name to honor her.) When asked if she'd apologize to Gallego for this insult, she did nothing of the sort and instead insisted she'd been right to question him all along:
What happened is my campaign had been bombarded with people who didn't understand how a candidate running for Congress could be called by several names.Bombarded? Shah, right. This "issue" didn't come up until Wilcox brought it up. Notice, by the way, how she repeatedly mispronounces Gallego's actual name as "Gallegos"—she still can't get his name right. And no, there are no "questions" about his name, either. What's truly chutzpadik, though, is that Wilcox has used her maiden name, Garrido, in official literature!
He could be called by Ruben Gallegos [sic]. He was called by Ruben Marinelarena. And there were several names that were floating around. [...]
And I believe the issue has been put to rest, but I think there are—still are questions how one candidate used several names several times. And it's been put to rest. Now we go on to the issues. But you all need to know who is standing before you, what is their true name and if they go by other names, why.
It's worth noting that the only poll of the campaign was a Gallego internal from late last month that had him up 38-32. Wilcox never answered with contradictory numbers of her own, but this kind of b.s. seems like the response of a flailing campaign.
• CA-31: The final ballots were counted Friday, and it looks like Team Blue has indeed narrowly avoided another top-two debacle in California's 31st. Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar has edged out Republican Lesli Gooch by 209 votes to take the general election spot. Aguilar, who was not so lucky in 2012, will be favored against Republican Paul Chabot in November in this 57-41 Obama seat.
These results aren't quite set in stone, though. Under California law, the returns must be certified by July 1, and any voter in the district may request a recount within five days after certification. It remains to be seen if Gooch will concede or ask for a recount, though it's hard to see this result getting overturned. This seat is probably the Democrats' top House pick-up opportunity in the nation, and the DCCC has to be breathing a sigh of relief right now. (Jeff Singer)
• LA-05: Hey, whatever happened to Vance McAllister? You may remember him from such films as "Make-Out King of Monroe," "Jagged Attraction," and "The Erotic Adventures of Hercules." The last time we checked in with the scandal-tarred freshman Republican, he seemed to be sticking with his plan to retire but was leaving the door open just a crack to run for reelection.
However, in an interview on Friday, McAllister sounded much more interested in seeking another term. McAllister told radio host Jim Engster that he is leaning "55-45" toward running again. The relevant portion begins at the end of the interview at the 20:53 mark, but the earlier part of the interview is worth listening to as well.
If McAllister runs again, he may find himself up against a familiar foe. State Sen. Neil Riser, who like McAllister is a Republican, has been considering a run in the wake of McAllister's personal problems. Riser also told LaPolitics.com on Friday that he will make a decision "within the next week." Riser was the frontrunner for this seat in the 2013 special election, but surprisingly lost to McAllister 60-40 in the runoff.
The filing deadline in Louisiana is a not until August 22, and it could be a long time before this race takes shape. Nevertheless, the Glascock Group conducted a poll on behalf of some unnamed Baton Rouge lobbyists. They find that in a hypothetical jungle primary, McAllister and Riser would start off basically tied at 26 apiece. Democratic Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, who ran in the special but has not declared his intentions yet, is at third with 14 percent, ahead of a host of other potential candidates from both parties. In a hypothetical one-on-one rematch, Riser edges McAllister 51-49.
However, like previous Glascock polls, this survey does not appear to have allowed respondents to select undecided as an option. That's a major no-no in polling and a good reason to take this with a massive grain of salt. From the interview, though, McAllister seems to be taking this survey seriously, and he'd hardly be the first Republican congressman this month to be tricked by a bad poll. (Jeff Singer)
• NY-11: Nothing's coming up Milhouse for Republican Rep. Mike Grimm. The embattled congressman had previously suggested that his campaign fundraising started to dry up after his late April indictment, and for once, he wasn't lying.
Grimm's FEC report shows him raising only $47,000 since April 1, with his Democratic opponent, New York City Councilor Domenic Recchia, hauling in $144,000. Recchia now holds a $1.07 million to $1 million cash-on-hand advantage over Grimm, and as long as the incumbent is under indictment, it's hard to imagine that gap isn't going to get wider. It appears that, as expected, Grimm's legal troubles broke his fundraising in half—like a boy. (Jeff Singer)
• NY-22: Moderate Republican Rep. Richard Hanna has always looked potentially vulnerable, and this year, he has conservative Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney challenging him in the June 24 primary. Hanna has his share of apostasies, but it hasn't been clear whether Tenney would have the resources to go up against the wealthy congressman. On Thursday, Tenney's pre-primary FEC report gave us our first look at her fundraising, and it's not particularly good. Thanks mostly to a $100,000 loan, Tenney has spent $112,000 since April 1 and has just $17,000 left. By comparison, Hanna's spent $294,000, and he has over half a million still in the bank.
Hanna is also benefiting from significant outside group spending. American Unity, a group funded by wealthy hedge fund manager Paul Singer (no relation to me) to support pro-same sex marriage Republicans, has been splurging big on Hanna. They have spent $560,000 to portray Hanna as the true conservative in the race, and to attack Tenney's right-wing bona fides. Hanna has also benefited from other groups' help: The Oneida Indian Nation is spending $120,000 on the race due in large part to Tenney's opposition to their local interests.
By contrast, no outside organizations have spent any real money to help Tenney fight back. Tenney's campaign isn't entirely hopeless, if for no other reason than the VA-07 upset proves that a candidate can be heavily outspent and still win. However, she's facing an onslaught of spending and just doesn't look like she has the time or resources to adequately respond. (Jeff Singer)
Calling McLaughlin "one of the absolute best in the business," Allen said there was no way they could have seen this coming from normal polling methods.If you're convinced that one of the absolute worst pollsters in the business is in fact the best, then of course you're not going to see it coming. Most Republicans, however, are sounding a lot more clear-eyed these days about McLaughlin, but unfortunately, no one's willing to go on the record. One unnamed GOP strategist, though, speaks for most of his party when he says, "I don't understand how he wasn't run out of the business years ago." Well, when people are delusional enough to insist he's the "best in the business," that kind of explains it.
Meanwhile, the statistical evidence still doesn't support the inference that a Democratic surge tipped the balance in the race, but that isn't stopping several Democratic consultants from coming forward and touting their small roles in helping topple Cantor. Steven Adler (formerly of the Voter Activation Network, now of rVotes) tells Campaign & Elections that Brat's campaign used his microtargeting data to expand his universe of potential Republican primary election voters. (This wasn't gratis, though; Brat's campaign paid $1,500 for the data.)
And Brian Umana, who was the campaign manager for Cantor's 2010 Democratic opponent, writes a first-person account in the Washington Post about giving tactical advice and modeling suggestions to Brat's campaign. These accounts are about behind-the-scenes trench work, though, and still don't offer any numeric evidence for big movement by actual Democratic voters. (David Nir & David Jarman)
• Fundraising: Thursday's pre-primary FEC reports also added some clarity to a few upcoming intra-party battles. Here's a quick rundown:
State Sen. Scott Renfroe has also opened his wallet to spend $214,000. Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer is bringing up the rear, raising little and spending only $61,000 without much left over for the homestretch.
• CO-05: Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn seems to rub a lot of voters the wrong way, winning a pretty meh 62 percent in his 2012 primary, albeit against a well-funded foe. This time around, Lamborn faces retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Bentley Rayburn, who came in third to Lamborn in 2006 and 2008. Lamborn doesn't appear to be taking Rayburn seriously, spending only $105,000.
That at least makes sense, since Rayburn doesn't seem to be setting the world on fire, spending only $52,000 and having little left over. The very conservative Lamborn hasn't attracted any real outside spending against him either. Lamborn still seems to be a polarizing figure, though, and it's not out of the question he could turn in an unimpressive performance again on June 24.
• OK-05: Several Republicans are running for Rep. James Lankford's open seat, but two are emerging as the frontrunners. Wealthy state Rep. Mike Turner has spent the most, $392,000. Just behind is state Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas, who has spent $340,000. No other candidate comes close. In the likely event that no one wins a majority, a runoff will be held.
Roll Call's Abby Livingston has a handy financial summary of every seat that is expected to be competitive June 24 or in the general. There aren't any surprises, though it's still notable what a fundraising machine Democrat Andrew Romanoff is in his race against Republican Rep. Mike Coffman in CO-06. (Jeff Singer)
• Providence Mayor: The race for Rhode Island's largest city may prove to be a lot more interesting than we thought. The field hasn't fully formed in this contest to succeed gubernatorial candidate Angel Taveras, and one very big name is considering a comeback bid: Buddy Cianci. Cianci was first elected here as a Republican in 1974 and later became an independent. Cianci left office in 1984 after getting convicted of assault, but returned in 1990. Cianci once again ran into trouble in 2002, resigning and soon going to prison for racketeering.
Cianci, now 73, has been out of jail since 2007 and is thinking about making another run for his old office, as either an independent or a Democrat. He doesn't have much time to decide, as the filing deadline is June 25. If the charismatic Cianci ran, he would certainly make things more entertaining here, and he can't be counted out. Cianci seems to have an Edwin Edwards-like appeal to him among many in the city, remaining popular despite (or maybe because of) his battles with the law. (He's also maintained a presence on radio and TV.)
If Cianci enters the race, he wouldn't be the only candidate capable of grabbing attention, though. Brett Smiley, a Democrat and the former chairman of the Providence Water Supply Board, is out with a very creative spot. Candidates running as policy wonks often have a hard time selling themselves to voters because, well, policy wonks are usually boring. But Smiley has an interesting approach, detailing himself as a very organized planner going all the way back to fifth grade.
The ad also features Smiley's husband describing how the candidate proposed to him with a PowerPoint presentation. This is the first time I can recall a campaign ad highlighting a same-sex marriage proposal (it's also funny and emphasizes the main point of the spot). The entire ad is worth watching and it's pretty much a textbook example of how to make a potentially boring trait interesting while still allowing the candidate to be taken seriously. (Jeff Singer)
• LA-Sen: Democrat Mary Landrieu once again features her father, former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu, in a spot. There's a pretty cute exchange at the beginning over the cliché (but legally necessary) "I approve this message" line.
• OK-Sen-B: Oklahomans for a Conservative Future continues to portray Republican Rep. James Lankford as an Obama budget-loving, Obamacare-supporting libruhl. Bonus points to the narrator for getting the word "truth" in three times in just the first four seconds.
• MD-Gov: Democratic frontrunner Anthony Brown goes positive with two spots. In the first commercial, he talks about helping others. The second spot features Rep. Elijah Cummings praising Brown for his military service, and for being an adoptive parent and encouraging others to become foster parents.
• RI-Gov: Democratic contender Clay Pell has a minute long introductory ad. His more-famous wife, Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, makes a brief cameo at the end. Sadly, it seems the campaign isn't going with my "Clay Pell: On Ice!" ad proposal.