• CO-Sen: Republican Rep. Cory Gardner's taken a lot of heat over his rather unsuccessful attempts to flip-flop on fetal personhood, an extremist anti-choice position he kinda-sorta tried to abandon when he began his Senate. In a new ad, berates Barack Obama and his "smart guys from Washington" for attacking him even though he supposedly changed his mind on personhood "after I learned more and listened to more of you." That, he claims, contrasts with Obama and Democratic Sen. Udall, who he says "refuse to listen" to complaints that their "takeover of health care is a disaster."
But as Jed Lewison has observed for quite some time, Gardner is still listed as a co-sponsor of federal legislation that would enshrine fetal personhood into law. (It's not that complicated: The bill is called the "Life at Conception Act.") So that's why Democrats haven't and won't let up, and indeed, Udall has a new ad of his own hammering Gardner. Says Udall directly to the camera, Gardner "led a crusade that would make birth control illegal. Sponsored a bill that would make abortion a felony, even in cases of rape and incest."
It's a good hit, and it's much better than this extremely vague spot from Udall about how "each of us has the freedom to make our own choices," which doesn't even mention the word "abortion." Perhaps there are strategic reasons for airing different ads, but it's the first one that goes hard at Gardner's weakness—a weakness he knows he has.
• AR-Sen: It's officially been A While since we've seen a poll where Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor was in the lead (May 4, to be exact), but it's also been just as long since we've seen a poll from a non-GOP outfit. The latest survey fits the same mold, an OnMessage internal for Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, finding him ahead 47-40. That's up from a much smaller 42-40 edge back in early May, which started this six-poll streak of pro-Cotton numbers.
But Republican pollsters haven't been looking too great lately, and OnMessage's track record isn't exactly sparkling. All three of their late 2012 polls were slanted toward the GOP, two of them horrendously so. In RI-01, they gave Republican Brendan Doherty a 6-point lead; he went on to lose by 12 to Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, a miss of 18 points. They were even worse in MN-08, saying Republican Chip Cravaack was up 10 when he wound up losing by 9 to Democrat Rick Nolan, whiffing by 19 points.
In a way, John McLaughlin's epic 45-point monstrosity in Virginia almost takes a bit of the heat off other GOP firms, because a 19-point debacle doesn't look quite so bad (even though it's awful). But how did the Cravaack and Doherty campaigns feel about OnMessage after Election Day? Did they think it was money well spent? And did OnMessage's—or McLaughlin's, or Tarrance's, or anyone else's—new clients do any due diligence before hiring them this cycle?
It would appear not, because it just seems like there's very little accountability for private pollsters these days, particularly in the Republican world. That makes it very hard to trust the data we do have access to, and in turn that makes it hard to get an accurate read on a contest like this. Yes, it would be nice if Democrats would also share some polling, and we can make some guesses about what it means that they haven't. But it's even more important now than ever to avoid drawing firm conclusions about where a race stands when you're only hearing from one side—and a side not known for accuracy at that.
P.S. Here's a great catch by Talk Business: Tom Cotton's own polling memo revealed that he first polled the race back in February of last year—in other words, scarcely one month after he was sworn into the House as a freshman! For a guy who already has a reputation as overly ambitious, this was a foolish thing to reveal.
• IA-Sen: Quinnipiac's new Iowa poll shows little change in the Senate race, despite Republican Joni Ernst's outsize primary win. Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley leads her 44-40; he was up 44-38 in December. (A weird March outlier had Braley on top 42-29.) A couple of Republican polls, as well as one from Loras College's brand-new polling arm, taken right after the primary showed Ernst leading, but Quinnipiac obviously disagrees.
• CO-, MN-Gov: Democratic incumbents in both Colorado (John Hickenlooper) and Minnesota (Mark Dayton) are maintaining wide fundraising advantages on all their GOP rivals, according to new fundraising reports. Colorado Republicans will pick a nominee next week, though, so donors may start to rally around the winner soon. In Minnesota, however, the primary isn't until Aug. 12.
• KY-Gov: In another big break for state Attorney General Jack Conway, Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen announced on Wednesday that he won't run for governor next year and will instead seek re-election. Conway, who is term-limited, had already launched a gubernatorial bid, and he would have been an imposing force for Edelen to contend with in the Democratic primary. Another top option, former Auditor Crit Luallen, also stepped aside shortly before Conway got in, so unless House Speaker Greg Stumbo or former Lt. Governor Daniel Mongiardo gets in (which doesn't seem likely), Conway should have a clear shot at the Democratic nomination.
Republicans, meanwhile, are likely to have a contested primary between former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner (who's already announced) and state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer (who hasn't), with other possible entrants as well.
• NE-Gov: Is it just me, or does it seem like Libertarians have been doing particularly well in a lot of recent polling? I don't have statistics to back this up just yet, but if my sense of things is accurate, here's another survey where a third-party candidate is making a big impact. It's a PPP internal for Democrat Chuck Hassebrook, who is running in Nebraska's open gubernatorial race against Republican Pete Ricketts. Ricketts is the clear favorite thanks to the Cornhusker State's dark red lean, but Hassebrook only trails him by a 42-38 margin, thanks in part to Libertarian Mark Elworth taking an outsized 8 percent of the vote.
Elworth, though, is unlikely to score quite so high on Election Day, but unfortunately we don't know which way his supporters lean. What we do know, though, is that the undecideds are heavily Republican, by a
68-25 58-22 margin. Props to Hassebrook for actually publishing the crosstabs, but these numbers mean he has a hell of a task ahead of him in winning over these voters. This is also the first reputable poll of the general election, so we'll see if Ricketts (who performed disastrously when he ran for Senate in 2006) answers with one of his own.
• OK-Sen-B: Republican Rep. James Lankford plays up retiring Sen. Tom Coburn's non-endorsement in the race; Coburn recently complained about the attack ads leveled at Lankford but didn't give him his formal support. Amusingly, T.W. Shannon surrogate J.C. Watts says he agrees, even though these third-party ads are, of course, designed to help Shannon.
• AZ-Gov: GOP state Treasurer Doug Ducey touts his record running the ice cream chain Cold Stone Creamery. I do like their ice cream, but the company was in the midst closing lots of stores around the time Ducey sold the company.
• FL-Gov: Rick Scott deploys young people to accuse Charlie Crist of hiking the cost of college while he was governor. They then praise Scott for supposedly lowering the cost of higher education. The size of the buy is about $2 million, bringing Scott's total ad spending to $16 million so far.
• MI-11: The Freedom's Defense Fund (an arm of the ultra-sketchball Base Connect, f/k/a BMW Direct) attacks Republican Dave Trott as a "dream killer" who's foreclosed on tens of thousands of homes and made over $200 million in doing so.
• WV-03: In a minute-long ad from Americans for Prosperity, the wife of a miner who's been repeatedly laid off accuses Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall of being a willing foot soldier for Barack Obama in the alleged "War on Coal." The size of the buy is reportedly $400,000, for both TV and online.
• House: With Eric Cantor on his way out, Republicans are about to lose their only non-Christian member in Congress. However, a few other Jewish Republicans are running for the House year, and the Forward's Nathan Guttman takes stock of the field. The most prominent among them is state Sen. Lee Zeldin, who is trying to topple Rep. Tim Bishop in NY-01, but first he must get past attorney George Demos in the primary. There's also state Rep. Adam Kwasman, who faces an even more difficult nomination fight in AZ-01 for the right to take on Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. (Not on Guttman's list is Mark Greenberg, who is making a third attempt at CT-05.)
After that, though, there ain't much—just a few longshots running in open blue districts, like Elan Carr (CA-33), Bruce Blakeman (NY-04), and Micah Edmonds (VA-08). That's no surprise, though, given that Jews still overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party.
• Primaries: Every cycle, it seems, there's talk of a supposed "rise in anti-incumbent sentiment," even though members of Congress seldom lose renomination and only two have actually lost in primaries so far this year. However, a new chart from Aaron Blake indicates that the share of House and Senate incumbents taking less than 60 percent in their primaries this year is at a recent high, at about 5 percent of all races. Similarly, a University of Minnesota study shows that four senators (John Cornyn, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and Thad Cochran) have already set records for the lowest primary vote share by a sitting Republican senator in their respective states. Maybe it means something, maybe it doesn't, but I don't think I'd like to be a Republican on Capitol Hill right about now.