• HI-Sen: On Friday, Hawaii's Democratic U.S. Senate primary finally came to an end. Last Saturday Aug. 9, the state held its primary election and appointed Sen. Brian Schatz was left holding a 1,635 vote lead over Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. However, because of damage from Tropical Storm Iselle, two precincts in Hawaii County (the Big Island) in the Puna region did not open and had their election day pushed back to Friday. With 8,255 registered voters it was theoretically possible, though very unlikely, that Hanabusa could have won enough votes in these two precincts to pull off a narrow victory. Additionally, on Friday 800 ballots from Maui were discovered, having not been counted due to a technical error.
All the votes are in for this extended election and Schatz's lead actually grew by 134 votes. For Hanabusa to win, she needed massive turnout and for both precincts to overwhelmingly break for her. Neither happened: With much of Puna still recovering from the storm, turnout was a bit smaller than the county average. Furthermore, the two precincts together went for Schatz 53-45. Hanabusa netted 74 votes from the discovered Maui ballots, but it was far too little to make a difference.
Hanabusa has not ruled out challenging the results, but her options are limited. Hawaii has no automatic recount, even for close races. Hanabusa unsuccessfully attempted to delay Friday's election in court, arguing that it was held too soon after the storm for people to be notified. Hanabusa also cited other problems from the storm, stating that voters in open precincts were physically unable to get to the polls due to damage to the roads. While Hanabusa could make similar arguments again, it looks very unlikely that she could get Schatz's win overturned or get a new election called, especially when the court would not even delay Friday's vote. Indeed, in a Friday night interview, Hanabusa did not sound very enthusiastic about trying to challenge the results.
As for Schatz, he should have no problem wining the general election in November. Schatz will face former Republican state Rep. Cam Cavasso, who has fallen far short in previous bids for the seat in this heavily Democratic state. Schatz will serve out the final two years of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye's term, and will face the voters again in 2016 if he seeks a full term as expected. In any case, it looks like this long race has finally ended with a Schatz win.
• AK-Sen: With tea partier and 2010 nominee Joe Miller looking like only a long shot to win the Republican nod again on Aug. 19, some Democrats held out some vague hopes he'd make trouble with his party and run as an independent. Alas it's not to be: In a Thursday debate, Miller committed to supporting either of his primary rivals, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell or former State Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan, in the general election against Democratic Sen. Mark Begich.
• GA-Sen, Gov: Republican-friendly pollster Insider Advantage takes another look at their home state, and they find good news for Team Red. In the Senate contest, they give Republican David Perdue a 47-40 lead over Democrat Michelle Nunn, with Libertarian Amanda Swafford taking 8. This isn't too different from HuffPost Pollster's model estimate of 47-43 Perdue, which does not yet take into account this survey. There have been four other public polls released since Perdue won the Republican nomination July 22: Three give Perdue a lead, while one has Nunn up.
Insider Advantage also takes a look at the gubernatorial contest and gives Republican Gov. Nathan Deal a 43-39 lead over Democrat Jason Carter, with Libertarian Andrew Hunt at 7: This is down from the 47-40 Deal edge they found in June. This is a little larger than the 46-45 Deal lead from HuffPost Pollster's model estimate (Again, without this poll). A few recent polls have shown things tied, with a late July Landmark Communications survey even giving Carter a seven-point lead. However, there aren't too many recent polls to go off of, so we'll need to wait to see where things stand.
Insider Advantage itself does not have the greatest reputation. In his June 2010 pollster rankings, Nate Silver rated them as the second worst pollster in his database. Since then, Insider Advantage hasn't published too many polls in the month before a major election. In late October of 2010, they gave Deal a 47-41 edge in the gubernatorial race against former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes: Deal won by 53-43, four points more Republican than the survey predicted. However, they badly blew the gubernatorial race in South Carolina that year. Insider Advantage gave Republican Nikki Haley a 51-37 lead in late October, days before she won by a much more narrow 51-47. In 2012 they did not publish any general election polling anywhere near the election, though they did poll the Republican primaries extensively.
This year we've seen a few strange things from them. In the gubernatorial race they've found some wild swings that don't appear to have been caused by external events. Ultimately, we'll just need to wait for more data to see where things stand in both races. However, it's becoming very clear especially in the gubernatorial contest that what once looked like an easy GOP win has become a real fight.
And here's a surprise in both contests. Former Democratic Gov. and Sen. Zell Miller has endorsed Deal and Nunn, and recorded a commercial for the Democrat. In Miller's spot for Nunn, he extolls Nunn as a bridge builder who can work across party lines.
Miller was once a loyal Democrat, and was a prominent supporter of Bill Clinton in 1992. However over the years, Miller has shifted much farther to the right. He last backed a major Democrat in 2002, when he supported his Senate colleague Max Cleland's unsuccessful reelection effort. Since then, while Miller has still called himself a Democrat, he has exclusively endorsed Republicans. In 2004 as a sitting Democratic senator, Miller gave the keynote address at the Republican National Convention (after-which he memorably challenged MSNBC host Chris Matthews to a duel).
It doesn't appear Miller has suddenly lurched to the left again, so it's not shocking he's behind Deal. But his Nunn endorsement is very eyebrow raising. While it's possible Miller is doing it out of respect for her father, former Sen. Sam Nunn, Ed Kilgore at the Washington Monthly has an interesting theory. As governor, Miller was proud of his accomplishments with the HOPE scholarship program, and with his record of appointing women to important posts. Someone like Nunn, who ran a major non-profit, is the type of candidate Miller likely respects and wants to help. It's unclear if Miller will move any votes for Nunn, but he could help give her an opening with the type of white conservatives who have deserted the Democrats in recent cycles but may not be sold on Perdue.
• LA-Sen: For the first time in the Louisiana Senate race, Sen. Mary Landrieu now has less cash on hand than her main Republican challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy. In fact, this seems to be the first time this cycle where a Democratic incumbent has fallen behind in CoH. Their latest reports found Landrieu raising $576k in the period since June ended and Cassidy raising $629k, leaving Landrieu with $5.5 million and Cassidy with $5.6 million. (If you're wondering why there's a mid-quarter filing deadline in Louisiana, despite the fact that the "primary" in Louisiana isn't until November, it's because the FEC treats Louisiana's very late filing deadline -- Aug. 22 this year -- effectively as a primary.) (David Jarman)
• MI-Sen, Gov: Republican Terri Lynn Land's Senate campaign has not been going incredibly well recently, with her own allies privately admitting that absent a massive GOP wave, she probably isn't winning.
Land's campaign is arguing she's still in the fight, and she's released an internal from Public Opinion Strategies showing her trailing Democratic Rep. Gary Peters only 44-43. It's never a good sign when the best survey your campaign can produce still shows you down, if only narrowly. Interestingly, recent polls overall haven't been that bad for Land. The HuffPost Model Estimate for the Senate contest (which does not factor in this poll) is 46-42 Peters.
The poll also has a gubernatorial component, showing Republican Gov. Rick Snyder leading Democrat Mark Schauer 50-41, far larger than the 46-43 Snyder lead in HuffPost Model Estimate, and it also does not include this survey.
Public Opinion Strategies was a prolific pollster in 2012 after releasing very little in 2010. The only thing we have for them in 2010 is an October survey of GA-02 that gave Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop a 47-46, close to his eventual 51-49 win. Here's a look at their final 2012 polls from October on from our polling database:
• CA-24: POS: Maldonado (R) 45-44; actual: Capps (D) 55-45; error: +10 ROn average, POS favored the GOP by four points, and the median error favored the GOP by five points. On average POS underestimated the eventual winner's margin of victory (regardless of party) by six points, with the median error being five points. There were some races POS nailed, and some utter stinkers. All in all, actually one of the GOP better pollsters (though that's not saying much) but not exactly a gold standard for accuracy. We'll see if Land's numbers improve, but if the best she can come up with is a one-point deficit from a pollster that consistently favors her party, her supporters should not be filled with confidence.
• IL-17: POS: Schilling (R) 51-44; actual: Bustos (D) 53-47; error: +13 R
• KY-06: POS: Chandler (D) 49-46; actual: Barr (R) 51-47; error: +7 D
• MI-03: POS: Amash (R) 50-36; actual: Amash (R) 53-44; error: +5 R
• NE-Sen: POS: Fischer (R) 55-39; actual: Fischer (R) 58-42; error: +2 D
• NH-01: POS: Guinta (R) 51-43; actual: Shea-Porter (D) 50-46; error: +12 R
• NM-President: POS: Obama (D) 47-42; actual: Obama (D) 53-43; error: +5 R
• NM-Sen: POS: Wilson (R) 44-43; actual: Heinrich (D) 51-45; error: +7 R
• NY-19: POS: Gibson (R) 49-39; actual: Gibson (R) 53-47; error: +4 R
• NY-21: POS: Owens (D) 45-40; actual: Owens (D) 50-48; error: +3 D
• OH-06: POS: Johnson (R) 47-39; actual: Johnson (R) 53-47; error: +2 R
• OH-Sen: POS: Mandel (R) 44-43; actual: Brown (D) 51-45; error: +7 R
• PA-12: POS: Rothfus (R) 42-40; actual: Rothfus (R) 52-48; error: +2 D
• TN-04: POS: DesJarlais (R) 49-36; actual: DesJarlais (R) 56-44; error: +1 R
• VA-02: POS: Rigell (R) 54-32; actual: Rigell (R) 54-46; error: +14 R
• MT-Sen: On Saturday Aug. 16, Montana Democrats held a special convention to select a replacement nominee for appointed Sen. John Walsh, who dropped out after revelations that he plagiarized his 2007 war college thesis. State Rep. Amanda Curtis, a high-school math teacher, was chosen over rancher Dirk Adams. Some other Democrats initially expressed some interest in running here, but only Curtis and Adams submitted their names in the end.
The 34-year old Curtis, who faced poverty and tragedy growing up, is a relative newcomer to politics. She won her first election in 2012, easily taking the nomination in a Butte-area seat. Curtis was unchallenged in the general election in this district, which Obama carried 70-27. Curtis decided to retire from the state House after redistricting placed her in the same district as another Democratic incumbent. However, she'll be on the November ballot after all, albeit in an unexpected way.
Curtis has a very uphill climb here. Freshman Republican Rep. Steve Daines, who represents the entire state, was consistently leading Walsh even before the plagiarism scandal broke, and will be hard to beat in this conservative state. Curtis will be starting this race with virtually no name recognition and no money, and will need to work very quickly to raise both. If Curtis can get organized in time, she may have the chance to do well. Daines is not particularly popular, sporting a 39-40 approval rating in a July Public Policy Polling survey. Curtis is also not a member of a horrifically unpopular Congress, which could help her in a close race. However, it won't matter much if Curtis cannot get her name and message out quickly. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Republican, and Curtis definitely has a lot to prove.
National Democrats haven't spent much here since Walsh's campaign imploded: If they feel Curtis can make this a race, they'll probably want to act fast to raise her profile or attack Daines. It will also be interesting to see if Republicans and their allies decide to attack Curtis before she can respond, if they decide to boost Daines instead, or if they feel that they've already won and do nothing. We'll know soon enough if either side believes there's a contest here or not.
• SD-Sen: On behalf of Democrat Rick Weiland, PPP takes a look at this strange four-way race. They find Republican former Gov. Mike Rounds leading Weiland 39-31, with Republican-turned independent former Sen. Larry Pressler at 16, and tea partying independent former state Sen. Gordon Howie at five.
PPP has some optimistic notes for Weiland: They find Rounds' favorability actually underwater at 44-48, and Weiland on positive ground at 44-27. PPP also finds Pressler's supporters like Weiland far more than they like Rounds, giving the Democrat some room to grow. There is very little polling in this race, and what we have seen has largely left out Pressler. So far neither party nor their allies have spent any real money here, largely writing this one off as a Republican pickup. If either the DSCC or the NRSC think that Weiland has any shot, expect them both to play hard in this inexpensive state.
• AZ-Gov: Former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones has paid for most of her campaign out-of-pocket, and she's just given her campaign another $758,000 for the stretch run. If nothing else, that suggests her polling of the Republican primary still has her in a position where it makes at least some sense to keep pouring it on. (David Jarman)
• HI-Gov: At the beginning of the year, Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie was seen as the overwhelming favorite to win his primary against little-known state Sen. David Ige. However, on Aug. 9., Abercrombie lost to Ige by a massive 36 points, the largest defeat for a sitting governor in a primary in any state ever.
How Abercrombie went from easily winning his 2010 primary to getting so unceremoniously dumped, all without a scandal, is one of the biggest questions of the 2014 cycle. Daily Kos Elections community member Skaje takes a look at what happened to Abercrombie in the last four years. It would be easy to blame Abercrombie's loss on his decision to appoint Brian Schatz to the Senate, despite Sen. Daniel Inouye's dying request for Abercrombie to pick Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. However, Skaje offers a much more convincing explanation: Abercrombie managed to offend virtually every group he needed to win with. The entire explanation is fascinating and should be required reading for any incoming governor.
• KS-Gov: Whoops. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's new ad is mostly an unremarkable spot, with him telling crowds that really, things are better since he took office. But at the 21-second mark, the ad accidentally takes a turn for the awesome: In the corner there's a guy holding up a sign for Democratic rival Paul Davis.
It's not like Brownback's team had no warning about this. Davis' supporters gathered next door to where Brownback was filming the ad and help up the signs. Brownback's ad team either didn't notice this one guy slipped through, or just decided that they weren't going to get a better take of Brownback being boring than this.
• MA-Gov: Same old, same old in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race, where Democratic candidate Attorney General Martha Coakley leads GOPer Charlie Baker 40-32 in this week's Boston Globe/SocialSphere poll, down slightly from 42-31 last week. In the Democratic primary, Coakley leads Treasurer Steve Grossman 45-21 with former US Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Don Berwick breaking into the double digits for the first time, at 10. (Last week's version was 45-18-9.) (David Jarman)
• TX-Gov: Well, I bet Texas Republicans are really glad Gov. Rick Perry chose not to run for re-election this year! On Friday, Perry was indicted for a grand jury for abuse of power. The Texas Tribune explains:
After District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg pleaded guilty to drunken driving last year, Perry threatened to withhold $7.5 million in funding over two years for the integrity unit if Lehmberg did not resign.At this point there's no sign that Republican nominee Attorney General Greg Abbott is involved. Still, expect to hear Democrat Wendy Davis bring this up on the campaign trail. It's far too early to say what effect this will have on this year's race, if any. It's also possible that if voters see this indictment as politically motivated, it could help the Republican ticket. But with Davis trailing in the polls, Texas Democrats probably aren't complaining about a chance to shake up the race.
Lehmberg, a Democrat, served a jail sentence but did not resign. Perry made good on his promise and vetoed the state budget's funding line item for the unit. Though Perry has the authority to veto items in the budget, his critics said that this was done expressly for political purposes and is a crime.
• KY House: The Kentucky House of Representatives has been in Democratic hands since the early 1920s, with Team Blue holding on even as Democrats in other Appalachian Southern states saw their once formidable majorities collapse. Now, with Democrats defending a 54-46 edge, Republicans are making a major drive to finally flip the chamber. One of those Republicans is Sen. Rand Paul, who may spend as much as $3 million from his campaign treasury to help, a very hefty sum for state legislative contests.
Paul isn't entirety motivated out of party loyalty. Under current state law, Paul cannot run for president and for re-election to the Senate in 2016 at the same time. A recent PPP poll showed Paul well positioned to win re-election, and he'll want to be able to keep his seat in case his White House dreams don't come true. While the Republican-led state Senate is willing to change the law to allow Paul or anyone else to run for both offices at once, the House has been a stumbling block. Democratic Speaker Greg Stumbo memorably told Paul to fuck off, stating, "Our position is that a man who can't decide which office to run for isn't fit for either office." If Paul helps his party take control, they'll likely change the law to let Paul run for both offices at once. Kentucky requires only a simple majority of both chambers to override gubernatorial vetoes, so Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear would not be able to stop the law on his own.
Even with Paul's help, it's far from clear if this will be the Republicans' year. As we've noted before, Republicans have left 17 Democratic incumbents in Romney seats unopposed. Kentucky Democrats are also a very formidable bunch, holding most state offices even as statewide Democrats have fallen across the South. Still, there's a lot riding here, both in Kentucky and in national politics.
• Rhode Island: America's smallest state is also one of its most unique, in terms of its political ecosystem, and the NYT's Josh Barro has a very interesting examination of why that's the case. Rhode Island is notable, in part, because it has one of the lowest rates of polarization within its state legislature. That's partly because the Democratic Party is so dominant that it turns into an overly big tent, where anybody with any political aspirations, liberal or conservative, pro-business or anti-establishment, has little choice but to become a Democrat (similar to what we see in Hawaii).
But it's also partly about religion and ethnicity, in a way that used to be typical of all of New England but now is pretty much limited to just Rhode Island. In other words, the alignment wasn't so much about ideology as it was simply a case of all the WASPy mainline Protestants gravitating to the GOP, and all the Irish and Italian Catholics in the Democratic Party. The result was that sometimes (especially on social issues) many GOPers would end up to the left of many Dems.
That applied often, for instance, to Massachusetts until recently (the 1990 gubernatorial race between William Weld and John Silber being a prime example). But it still persists most of all in Little Rhody, as seen in the 2010 gubernatorial race, where ex-GOPer Lincoln Chafee ran clearly to Dem Frank Caprio's left, or in the 2013 debate over same-sex marriage, where the state legislature's Republicans were supportive and had to overcome the reluctance of the Democratic leadership. (David Jarman)
Ads & Independent Expenditures:
• AK-Sen: Alaska's Energy, America's Values tries to make former state Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan look like an awesome conservative champion. The spot first plays a clip of Ronald Reagan, then a snippet of the late Sen. Ted Stevens, before a longer speech by Sullivan. Personally, I think it makes Sullivan look small compared to Reagan and Stevens.
• KY-Sen: Senate Majority PAC spends $276,000 against Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell. On the other side of the aisle, the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition hits Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes with a total of $182,000 (here and here)
• LA-Sen: Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy once again hits Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu on Obamacare. Patriot Majority spends $411,000 against Cassidy. Their ad, "Betrayed," does not appear to be online yet. Citizens for Conservative Leadership shells out $109,000 for Cassidy.
• NRA: This deep-pocked group has made several small six-figure investments for Republican Senate candidates, chipping in for Rep. Cory Gardner in Colorado; David Perdue in Georgia; Rep. Bill Cassidy in Louisiana; Thom Tillis in North Carolina; and Ed Gillespie in Virginia. The largest of these buys is $203,000 (Gillespie), but expect a lot more where this came from before November.
• MA-Gov: Mass Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee, a group funded by the DGA, reserves $3.1 million in the weeks before the election. Republicans have already been spending million in support of likely nominee Charlie Baker, and national Democrats appear to be taking the race seriously.
• ME-Gov: Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund has committed to spending $500,000 for Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud and Democratic candidates for the legislature. Republicans flipped both legislative chambers in 2010 before Democrats got them back the next cycle.
• NE-Gov: Republican Pete Ricketts promotes his business career. I love how the narrator starts by describing him as "a dad, a businessman, and a leader, not a typical politician," which is one of the more cliched intros to a political ad.
• NY-19: The Environmental Defense Action Fund has never been afraid to support Republicans, and they're shelling out $250,000 for Republican Rep. Chris Gibson, promoting him as a responsible legislator.