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8:27 AM PT: Site News: Some incredibly exciting news here at Daily Kos Elections: We've just hired Jeff Singer (whom you used to know as Darth Jeff) to join us on a full-time basis as a Senior Elections Writer! Jeff has been involved with the site since last year, and his participation as a community member dates back much further. Among many other things, he's run election-night liveblogs, written content for the Digest, and crunched countless data for our project to calculate presidential results by legislative district for every state in the nation. Jeff will help take our already awesome elections coverage to the next level, so please join me in welcoming him aboard!

11:18 AM PT: TN-Sen: Rasmussen: Lamar! Alexander (R-inc): 47, Gordon Ball (D): 32.

12:33 PM PT: IA-02: Physician Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who's unsuccessfully tried two previous times to unseat Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack, just released an internal from the Tarrance Group showing her behind by just a 45-42 margin. Sounds dicey, right? But Tarrance also polled right around the same time last cycle for Republican John Archer, finding him down just 48-43. Loebsack wound up winning 56-43. And in September of 2010, the last time Miller-Meeks challenged Loebsack, they had the incumbent ahead just 41-40. Loebsack hung on 51-46.

So judging by recent history, Republicans in Tarrance's mirror are actually further than they appear. This was also true with their late polling in 2012, when all their numbers were skewed toward GOP candidates—by double digits in two out of three cases. Loebsack certainly can't afford to take this race for granted: Iowa's 2nd District is only light blue, at 56-43 Obama. But he's got a 3-to-1 cash edge, and this isn't a poll to get freaked out over.

12:50 PM PT: KY-Sen: In a very early look at next cycle's Senate race in Kentucky, PPP finds GOP Sen. Rand Paul in solid shape against even the toughest candidate Democrats could offer, outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear. Paul leads Beshear 50-41, and it's extremely doubtful Beshear would be interested in running in the first place. However, it's possible Paul himself might not run for re-election either, if he pursues a bid for president. That changes things: In a hypothetical open-seat scenario against Rep. Thomas Massie, Beshear starts off ahead, 45-30. Also keep in mind that this poll is trying to bootstrap a 2016 race on to a 2014 sample; the electorate will look quite different two years from now.

1:37 PM PT (David Jarman): Demographics: The New York Times' Upshot has a series of fascinating interactive graphs about where the people living in each state were born; even if it were for 2010 only, it would still be interesting, but they track the composition of every state at one-decade intervals since 1900! While it's usually pretty consistent from decade to decade, in some states, it changes dramatically, and where it does, it says a lot about how that state's culture has changed.

The states with the highest percentage of people born in the same state tend to be some of the least dynamic states: either in the Deep South, or else Rust Belt states with aging populations. Louisiana is at 79 percent, followed by Michigan at 77, Ohio at 75, Pennsylvania at 74, and Mississippi at 72. On the other hand, the ones with the lowest percentage are ones that are rapidly diversifying (and, except for Wyoming, turning blue): Nevada at 25, Florida at 36, the District of Columbia at 37, Arizona at 38, and Wyoming at 40.

It might seem a little surprising that California isn't among the lowest (it's at 55), but that's consistent with the sense that California's once-rapid growth has leveled out lately; where California leads the way is percentage of people born outside the USA, at 28. It's followed by New York at 24, New Jersey at 23, and Florida and Nevada at 21. (That's only at 17 in Texas and 15 in Arizona, which may explain why they're aren't turning as blue as rapidly as people would like them to.)

There's one other interesting category I noted: the states that have the largest percentages of people from one other particular state. Leading far and away is New Hampshire, where 25 percent of the population was born in Massachusetts (which certainly explains New Hampshire's political shift leftward in recent decades). That's followed by Nevada, where 19 percent of the population was born in California. The third place state will probably surprise you: 14 percent of the people in Oregon were born in California (though, having grown up in Oregon myself -- where resentment of Californians is nearly as legendary as New Hampshire's resentment of "Massholes" -- it certainly didn't surprise me).

The NYT's Nate Cohn seizes on this data to look at the political implications. In particular, he looks at how the rest of the South isn't diversifying as rapidly as Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina, which explains why the other states (including Texas, as I mentioned above, and Georgia) aren't as likely to follow that trio (which are the only three southern states where there's more in-migration from the northeast and west than there is from other southern states) into swing-state status soon.

1:54 PM PT (Jeff Singer): Ads & Independent Expenditures:

AR-Sen: Senate Majority PAC spends another $238,000 against Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, possibly as part of their "Children's Hospital" spot. The DSCC also puts down another $214,000 against Cotton.  

CO-Sen: A woman praises Democratic Sen. Mark Udall for helping her community rebuild after it was devastated by flooding last year.

GA-Sen: The NRSC spends $864,000 against Democrat Michelle Nunn, likely in support of this spot, which began airing this week.

MI-Sen: Ending Spending continues to fail to live up to their name, spending $666,000 against Democratic Rep. Gary Peters.

NC-Sen: American Crossroads spends $122,000 for Republican Thom Tillis.

NH-Sen: Mayday PAC, a group run by law professor Larry Lessig with the intent of fighting big money in politics with more money, had previously announced it would support former state Sen. Jim Rubens in the Sept. 9 Republican primary. The group has put down $143,000, which is unlikely to go very far on its own. With former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown looking like a lock for the GOP nomination, very few other groups have taken Rubens or his fellow primary contender, former Sen. Bob Smith, very seriously.

•  WV-Sen: Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito ties Democratic foe Natalie Tennant to national Democrats (this copy of the ad was recorded off the TV, so it's a bit hard to hear). Capito not only links Tennant to Obama, she throws in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and their coal policies. It's a bit odd that Capito threw Reid and Warren in, when Obama is a much better known and more reviled target in the state.  

OR-Sen: Republican Monica Wehby decries the national debt, declaring "Career politicians are only worried about the next election, I'm worried about the next generation." Wehby doesn't mention her opponent Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley or offer many solutions beyond calling for Congress to watch its budget like regular families do. The Koch-backed Freedom Partners attacks Merkley for Obamacare and portrays him as ineffective in Congress. For some reason, the Freedom Partners ad has a lot of blurry transitions between photos, almost like a high-end PowerPoint presentation.

HI-Gov: Republican Duke Aiona emphasizes the tough decisions he made as a judge.

MA-Gov: Commonwealth Future, a PAC almost entirely funded by the RGA, airs their second spot in support of Republican Charlie Baker. This one praises Baker for turning around Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, rescuing it from near-bankruptcy.  

FL-18: The Aug. 26 primary is fast approaching, with six unimpressive Republicans facing off to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy in this light red seat, and two of them are out with spots.

Alan Schlesinger (also known as Alan Gold), who was the 2006 Republican Senate nominee in Connecticut, has a very cheap looking ad where he portrays himself as the true conservative in the race and links former state Rep. and primary frontrunner Carl Domino to Obama and Democrat Charlie Crist. Shockingly, the narrator does not mention Schlesinger's record as mayor of Derby in the Nutmeg state. Domino ignores his primary contenders and goes straight after Murphy, while portraying himself as someone who can fix Congress.

NH-02: Former Republican state Sen. Gary Lambert puts $20,000 behind his first ad, tying primary rival state Rep. Marilinda Garcia to Obama on immigration. Most of this district is in the expensive Boston media market, so it's unlikely this spot will get seen by many people. The Club for Growth has been spending for Garcia ahead of the Sept. 9 primary, and no major groups have gotten involved for Lambert.

2:02 PM PT: RI-Gov: Between July 1 and Aug. 11, state Treasurer Gina Raimondo led the Democratic field in both fundraising and spending, taking in $186,000 while shelling out $1.4 million ahead of the Sept. 9 primary. She also has the most cash-on-hand remaining, $1.7 million. Self-funder Clay Pell spent a similar amount, $1.2 million, and has $802,000 in the bank, though presumably he can keep writing himself checks (he's already dumped in over $3 million). Providence Mayor Angel Taveras raised $112,000 but only spent $588,000, leaving him with $851,000 in his war chest. Polling has been incredibly scarce, though, so it's hard to get a proper read on where things stand.

2:03 PM PT (Jeff Singer): Crossroads: American Crossroads has reserved a total of $3.1 million for the fall, targeting five Democratic incumbents.

Rep. Ami Bera in California's 7th District will bear the biggest brunt, with $895,000 going toward his suburban Sacramento seat. Fellow California freshman Scott Peters doesn't have it much easier, with Crossroads committing $705,000 to his San Diego-based 52nd District. Brad Schneider in Illinois' 10th District will be hit with $640,000, and Bill Enyart in Illinois' 12th District has $565,000 going up against him. Nick Rahall in West Virginia's 3rd District brings up the rear, with Crossroads reserving $335,000 in a race that has already attracted its share of outside spending. None of these targets are really a surprise: Daily Kos Elections rates IL-12 and CA-07 as Lean Democratic, with the rest as tossups.

2:56 PM PT: IA-Sen: It's well past time that Democrats stop playing around and start tearing Joni Ernst apart for all the truly crazy shit she's been spewing, like the recently revealed fact that she's been running with the black helicopter crowd:

"The United Nations has imposed this upon us, and as a U.S. senator, I would say, 'No more. No more Agenda 21.' Community planning—to the effect that it is implementing eminent domain and taking away property rights away from individuals—I don't agree with that. And especially in a place such as Iowa, where we rely heavily upon our agricultural community, our rural communities. We don't want to see things like eminent domain come into play," Ernst said in response to a question about Agenda 21 at the forum.

"We don't want to see a further push with Agenda 21, where the Agenda 21 and the government telling us that these are the urban centers that you will live in; these are the ways that you will travel to other urban centers," Ernst continued. "Agenda 21 encompasses so many different aspects of our lives that it's taking away our individual liberties, our freedoms as United States citizens. So I would adamantly oppose Agenda 21. I don't believe it is responsible, not for United States citizens."

Agenda 21, if you've never heard of it, is an innocuous U.N. document that has, over the years, become a lodestone of the wingnut fever swamps. This is Michele Bachman-esque, out-of-your-freaking-gourd territory. And no, this wasn't some one-off dalliance with the kind of conspiracy-mongering that you'd find in the barracks of a backwoods militia organization. Ernst actually believes in this absurd nonsense:
"What I've seen, the implications we could have here, is moving people off of their agricultural land and consolidating them into city centers, and then telling them that you don't have property rights anymore," she told a crowd in rural Ida Grove in November 2013, in response to a general foreign policy question and in remarks first reported by the Associated Press in June.
This is just psycho crazytalk, the kind of thing that people who think "The Report from Iron Mountain" is an actual government report would say. Ernst probably believes the NAFTA Superhighway is real, too. And that communists are fluoridating the water supply to sap her of her precious bodily essences.

So you can understand why Ernst, when called out on this batshittery by Yahoo News' Meredith Shiner, decided to pretend that it's all been some kind of misunderstanding:

"I don't think that the U.N. Agenda 21 is a threat to Iowa farmers,"  Ernst said in an interview in her Urbandale campaign office.
Shah, right. As Shiner put it, "the breadth and length of her response on the topic of Agenda 21 seems to belie a deep knowledge of the conspiracy theory." She's a true believer who's only pretending to be sane. After all, she also wants to impeach the president and thinks that Iowa can go about nullifying federal laws.

So when is Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley going to take the gloves off and expose her for who she is? It seems like so often, Democratic candidates are reluctant to "go there" when confronting unhinged Republican opponents, sort of like how then-Rep. Ron Klein tried to stop Allen West in 2010 by constantly bringing up his freakin' tax liens instead of his, you know, lunacy.

But two years later, Patrick Murphy showed no such fear and went after West's record hard, pulling out a stunning upset. Harry Reid understood the same thing, too, and survived an impossibly bad 2010 by relentlessly hammering Sharron Angle at every opportunity.

Ernst has given Braley a ton of fodder, but Braley's attack ads so far have been about wasteful spending (seriously?) and the minimum wage (okay, that's a little better, at least). If he can't shred an outright nutter like Ernst over stuff like this, then what exactly is he planning to do?

3:20 PM PT: FL-02: A new poll from Pathfinder Opinion Research, on behalf of a pro-Democratic super PAC called Ocean Champions, finds Democrat Gwen Graham leading GOP Rep. Steve Southerland 45-43 in Florida's hotly contested 2nd Congressional District. According to Pathfinder, previously unreleased trendlines had Southerland up by a fairly daunting 49-39 in April, so you can view the movement as positive for Graham.

However, these numbers seem to contradict a Graham internal from Anzalone conducted in March that had her behind just 42-40. So while it's easy to believe the race is close—the NRCC just started advertising here on Southerland's behalf—it's hard to say whether it's always been that way or whether there's been actual movement toward Graham.

Either way, though, Ocean Champions is hoping for more good things for Graham: They've just launched a new ad (backed by a small $35,000 buy) featuring a fisherman on the back of a boat castigating Southerland for wanting to let "Washington bureaucrats manage local fisheries."

3:24 PM PT: HI-Sen: A state court judge has rejected Rep. Colleen Hanabusa's request that Friday's special election in two precincts that were shuttered due to Tropical Storm Iselle be delayed. Hanabusa had argued that the region was still recovering from the storm and therefore residents should have more time before a new round of voting was held, but the court did not agree. Hanabusa says she will not appeal.

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