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HI-Sen: On Saturday, Hawaii conducted its primary election and appointed-Sen. Brian Schatz currently holds a 1,635 vote lead over Democratic primary rival Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. Due to damage from Tropical Storm Iselle, two precincts in Hawaii County (the Big Island) with about 8,255 registered voters between them did not get to vote on Saturday, but will get the chance to sometime in the next three weeks. Many votes have already been cast as early votes in these two precincts (4-01 and 4-02) but have not yet been added into the statewide totals. Hawaii News Now estimates that if these precincts cast early votes in a similar propitiation to the rest of the state, 1,500 voters in these two precincts have already voted.

With Schatz clinging to such a small lead and with enough potential voters in play to give Hanabusa a win, it appears at first glance that this race is still very much in the air. However, Hanabusa faces very daunting odds if she wants to net the 1,636 votes she needs to prevail. Hanabusa would need the early votes to have broken heavily for her; She'll also need very high turnout among the pool of 6,755 or so eligible voters, and for them to also overwhelmingly support her. It's pretty likely that given how close this race is, turnout in these two precincts will spike when the votes are cast. However, it's a lot harder to see them going for Hanabusa in the proportions she needs. Across Hawaii County, Schatz edged Hanabusa 49-48 percent. In the four inhabited precincts that border 4-01 and 4-02, Schatz won a combined 52-45 percent.

For Hanabusa to win, she can't just hope that turnout increases a bit and that she does better in those two precincts than she did in their neighbors. If all 8,255 eligible voters cast ballots in the Democratic Senate primary (which of course isn't going to happen) and if Hanabusa won them 59-41, she would still lose by 150 votes. In a more realistic scenario Hanabusa would need to do better among a smaller pool of voters, but it's still very difficult to imagine her getting the disproportionate amount of votes she needs even with presidential-level turnout. Schatz and Hanabusa will almost certainly keep campaigning here until the very end but barring a major vote tabulation error, it's incredibly difficult to see Hanabusa make up the ground she needs from these two precincts. (Jeff Singer)

8:27 AM PT (Jeff Singer): Primaries: Tuesday brings us primaries in Connecticut, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (and our fourth primary night in the last eight days) and we have our preview here. The GOP will decide their nominees in the Connecticut and Minnesota gubernatorial races, there will be open GOP races in MN-06 and WI-06, and Wisconsin Democrats will pick their candidate for the very competitive state attorney general's race.  

9:35 AM PT: IL-Gov: We Ask America: Bruce Rauner (R) 51, Pat Quinn (D-inc): 38 (July: 47-33 Rauner); Gravis Marketing: Rauner 48, Quinn 40.

9:42 AM PT: VA State Senate: Blargh. Virginia state Rep. Rosalyn Dance—one of two Democratic legislators who threatened to help the GOP pass its outrageous (and subsequently torpedoed) re-redistricting scheme last year—won a party caucus for a vacant state Senate seat on Saturday night. In a real insult, the seat she'll take over belonged to Henry Marsh, the civil rights veteran whose temporary absence from Richmond to attend Obama's inauguration allowed Republicans to ram through their redistricting plan in the first place. It looks like several candidates from Richmond split the vote, allowing Dance, who is from Petersburg, to win a plurality. Sucky.

9:44 AM PT: KS-Sen: Rasmussen: Pat Roberts (R-inc): 44, Chad Taylor (D): 44 (April: 50-32 Roberts). Rasmussen, which typically does not poll third parties, failed to include wealthy independent Greg Orman, who has already been advertising on TV.

10:03 AM PT: MT-AL: Montana Democrats must feel there's some hidden dirt on former state Sen. Ryan Zinke, because they keep pressing for further disclosures of his personnel records from his time as a Navy SEAL. But so far, it's been a total debacle, because the information Zinke's released so far has just given him a chance to tout his extensive decorations (including two Bronze Stars), the injuries he suffered that forced him to retire, and his stellar evaluations ("Ranks at the top of any list," "Select for command now!" etc.)

Ridiculously, Democrats are harping on the fact that the Navy once required Zinke to pay back $211 for airfare to visit Montana to scout out SEAL training sites. Zinke's smartly turned that one around, too, saying, "I probably shouldn't have pressed Montana so much, but I'm from Montana so I felt pretty strongly about it." Democrats seem to think there's more out there, but it sounds like Zinke had an exceptional military career, and this fishing expedition has already backfired.

12:30 PM PT: FL Redistricting: We've already discussed how minor the GOP's proposed corrections to Florida's congressional lines are, but this excellent interactive map from the Orlando Sentinel illustrates just how small the differences are better than mere words can.

12:46 PM PT: AK-Sen: A new Moore Information poll of the Republican Senate primary for Dan Sullivan finds, contra other recent surveys, that Sullivan has surged into a 42-25 lead on Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, with Joe Miller at 17. Just a week earlier, Moore had Sullivan up 35-27, very similar to PPP's 35-29 edge for Sullivan, and also supported by some other polls as well. Obviously Sullivan wants to push back against the idea that the race is tightening, but let's see if anyone else confirms.

At least one other data point suggests the opposite. Put Alaska First, the pro-Democratic super PAC that's been supporting Sen. Mark Begich's re-election effort, is airing a new ad (backed by a $250,000 buy) that goes after both Sullivan and Treadwell. The spot reiterates earlier attacks that Sullivan "tried to give government more power over our land and water," then hits Treadwell on decidedly libertarian themes, accusing him of creating a company "that helped the government spy on people" and launching "another company that pushed a national ID card."

There's a lot of ways you can interpret this effort: PAF could be trying to prop up Treadwell by making it look like Democrats think he's worth taking seriously; they could be trying to knock both him and Sullivan down in a longshot effort to prop up Miller; or they could be trying to soften up both Treadwell and Sullivan, since they aren't sure who the nominee will be but want to drive up his negatives as soon as possible regardless of who it is. It's possible PAF thinks Treadwell has no hope and is just playing head games, but since they're spending real money to tar him, it's possible he still has a shot, regardless of what Sullivan's polling says.

12:57 PM PT (David Jarman): AL St. Senate: This long read from the New Republic's Jason Zengerle isn't newsy, but it's the most worthwhile thing you'll read today. It examines the conundrum of how African-American political power in the Deep South is at its lowest ebb in decades even though the number of African-American elected officials is near an all-time high; it weaves together the role of the Voting Rights Act and gerrymandering, the historical shift of white Southerners from the Democrats to the Republicans, and the personal story of one Dem legislator in Alabama trying to hold the line.

1:06 PM PT (David Jarman): Polltopia: The Upshot's Josh Katz deftly deconstructs an oft-repeated complaint, that Alaska is a particularly difficult state to poll; while it's above average in terms of its problems, there are other states that have had greater average pollster-added error in the last few decades of Senate polling, and you certainly don't hear many people complaining about how difficult Maine, for instance, is to poll. (Notably, Hawaii isn't on his list, though, speaking of other states currently in the news for being allegedly difficult to poll...)

Moreover, there's nothing unusual about Alaska's demographics that should cause it to be more difficult to poll. Alaska's problems that pollsters actually cite as making it difficult to poll, like transient residents often moving in or out of the state, or a diverse population with certain subpopulations likely to be cellphone-only or internet-only, are endemic everywhere.

2:15 PM PT (Jeff Singer): Ads & Independent Expenditures:

AR-Sen: Republican Rep. Tom Cotton defends himself from a recent Democratic ad that accused him of voting against funding a children's hospital. The narrator instead accuses Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor of being the one who voted to cut the hospital budget.  

CO-Sen: Fair Share Action ties Republican Rep. Cory Gardner to the Koch Brothers. The group is funded by wealthy Democratic activist Tim Gill, and the spot has $300,000 behind it.  

KY-Sen: Senate Majority PAC spends $276,000 against Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell.

MI-Sen: Republican Terri Lynn Land once again accuses Democratic Rep. Gary Peters of being a flip-flopper when it comes to border security. The spot is very similar to a different Land ad from last week.

MT-Sen: Despite some recent major Democratic setbacks in this contest, one group isn't giving this race up. Vote Vets is spending $295,000 against Republican Rep. Steve Daines.  (Update: This is an old expenditure from June)

NH-Sen: Former Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown has a 15-second spot hitting Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen on border security. Luckily for Brown, the ad's short enough that he doesn't need to get around to saying what he did in the Senate to deal with the issue.

NC-Sen: Senate Majority PAC spends $265,000 against Republican Thom Tillis.

AZ-Gov: Republican Corporate executive Christine Jones highlights her background and independence from special interests, stating that "No special interests paid for this ad. I did, with money I earned myself. It's my pledge to be nobody's governor but yours." Wealthy candidates often say something like this to argue that they won't be financially beholden to any outside groups, but it's still pretty unusual for someone to put it quite this way.

FL-Gov: The Republican Party of Florida accuses Democrat Charlie Crist of being a hypocrite when it comes to polluters. Crist in turn goes after Republican Gov. Rick Scott on the Medicare fraud lawsuit that hit his old company, featuring clips of Scott at the hearing evading questions.  

IL-Gov: Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn hits Republican Bruce Rauner over recent revelations that Rauner stashed money in the Cayman Islands to avoid taxes. The ad is basically an adaptation of Obama's 2012 "Firms" ad against Mitt Romney, with this one featuring headlines about Rauner's dealings in place of any narration, and with a clip of Rauner declaring "I love this state" constantly on repeat.

MA-Gov: Democratic Treasurer Steve Grossman calls for universal pre-kindergarden. The campaign in spending $250,000 on the spot. Democratic primary frontrunner Attorney General Martha Coakley is also scheduled to go one the air with her first ad this week, spending $56,000 on it.

SC-Gov: Republican-turned-independent Tom Ervin is up one the air with two spots (here and here). The first ad has Ervin call for various economic fixes, including raising the minimum wage and eliminating the personal income tax. The second commercial is narrated by Ervin's wife and describes how he paid for a World War II veteran's funeral after the VA wouldn't. There's no word on the size of the buy for either spot, but Erwin has spent a reported $1.4 million of his own money so far.  

FL-18: Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy is out with his first spot stressing his independence from party politics.

 

2:19 PM PT: UT-04: Hrm. A new poll from Dan Jones & Associates and the Cicero Group, conducted on behalf of UtahPolicy.com and, oddly enough, Zions Bank, finds Republican Mia Love with a deeply unimpressive 44-32 lead on Democrat Doug Owens. Love, who biffed what should have been a sure thing against Rep. Jim Matheson in 2012, should presumably have a much easier time of things now that Matheson's retiring, especially since Mitt Romney carried this district by a 67-30 margin. Indeed, in a hypothetical rematch with Matheson, loves trails 45-39.

A recent Owens internal also wasn't gangbusters for Love, though she sported a healthier 50-41 lead. But perhaps this is a rare seat where Democrats are better off in a non-presidential year, especially since Utah claimed Romney as a native son. By way of contrast, John McCain only won the 4th by a much smaller 56-41 spread—still very inhospitable numbers, but much less daunting than what Romney put up.

It's still exceedingly hard to imagine Owens holding this seat for Democrats, but Love was roundly criticized by members of her own party for running a "disorganized, amateurish campaign," so if she hasn't learned her lessons, perhaps she might snatch defeat from the jaws of victory once again. It's also tempting to imagine a "what-if" scenario where Matheson had decided to run again, but alas, we can only wonder.

2:37 PM PT: AZ-07: In Arizona's 7th District, Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox already turned the Democratic primary ugly back in June, and now she's escalated to plug-ugly. In a new mailer featuring a prominent likeness of Trayvon Martin, Wilcox accuses state Rep. Ruben Gallego of making similar tragedies more likely by voting for a bill that expanded "stand-your-ground" laws in Arizona. The flyer also cites Gallego's "B+" rating from the NRA.

It's probably not the sort of move a campaign that's ahead in the polls would make, and indeed, Wilcox has trailed in all three publicly released surveys of the race (two of which were Gallego internals). But Gallego's also going on the attack with his own mailers, accusing of owing $50,000 in unpaid taxes while arranging sweetheart deals for herself through her role in county government. With just two weeks left to go before Election Day, things are only likely to get messier here.

3:17 PM PT: CO-Sen: Most Republican ads featuring alleged tales of woe about Obamacare have come from third-party groups, but in his latest television spot, GOP Rep. Cory Gardner narrates his own sob story:

When Mark Udall voted for Obamacare, he promised us if we liked our health care plan, we could keep it. Well you know how that worked out.

I got a letter saying my family's plan was cancelled. 335,000 Coloradans had their plans cancelled too. Thousands of families saw their healthcare premiums rise. More cancellations are on the way. You might have one of those letters in your mailbox right now.

I'm Cory Gardner. I approved this message. Let's shake up the Senate.

And as with those ads from Americans for Prosperity or American Crossroads, there's plenty to pick apart here. Gardner's been claiming his insurance plan got cancelled for quite some time, and in the past, he repeatedly said that his premiums had more than doubled. But Gardner never offered any evidence for that assertion, even though KDVR asked him for it five times, and it seems like he's dropped it now.

As for those allegedly cancelled plans, 92 percent of policy-holders were allowed to keep them. What's more, according to Gallup, the number of Coloradans who were uninsured fell by more than a third between 2013 and 2014—the fifth-largest drop in the nation. And premiums are set to increase just 3.6 percent in Colorado, compared to an average of 7.6 percent a year between 1991 and 2009. So the statistics Gardner's citing may sound scary, but they lack resonance.

Finally, you might be wondering how it was that Gardner was even in a position to have his own insurance plan cancelled in the first place. Yes, members of Congress are now required to purchase insurance on the exchanges, but this cancellation happened last year, before the law went into effect. It turns out that Gardner voluntarily chose to decline congressional coverage and bought his own insurance in its place—an extremely expensive decision that's comparable to turning down a bus pass from your employer and leasing a BMW instead.

As one healthcare expert put it, most people "don't have the resources" to do something like that (nor would they want to), so even if Gardner's story is accurate, it's "not the norm." You might almost imagine that Gardner did all this to make an asinine political point, one he's now trying to capitalize on. But what politician would ever do a thing like that?


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