• KS-Gov, -Sen: How do you go from a landslide victory to fighting for your political life in a state that heavily favors your party? Ask Kansas's Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. Brownback easily won his seat in 2010, and used his victory as a mandate to turn his state into a petri dish for a right-wing freakonomics experiment. Brownback cut taxes without any real idea on how to make up for the lost revenue, and now Kansans are feeling the effects of his brutal budget cutbacks.
Several recent polls have shown Brownback struggling against state House Democratic Leader Paul Davis, and PPP gives the governor more bad news: They find Davis up 39-37, with Libertarian Keen Umbehr at 9. This is better for Brownback than some recent SurveyUSA surveys have shown, but not at all good. Umbehr is probably going to have a hard time staying at 9 percent, and if he loses support, Davis should benefit, because in just a two person race, Davis leads 44-39. Brownback is horrifically unpopular, sporting a 34-55 job approval rating. Davis isn't too well known, but he's above water with a 32-26 favorable rating.
There has always been a real possibility that Kansas's deep red hue could save Brownback. The governor and his allies at the RGA are doing everything they can to link Davis to President Obama. If they're successful, this could save Brownback because Obama sports an even worse 33-59 approval rating in the state. Still, it's clear that Brownback is in for a very tough campaign and Daily Kos Elections is changing our race rating from Lean Republican to Tossup.
Head below the fold for a look at the even weirder U.S. Senate race in Kansas.
Fellow Republican Sen. Pat Roberts is in better shape, but still not doing well. Roberts got some very bad headlines earlier this year when we found out he barely spent any time in Kansas and had no real residence in the state (unless you count a friend's La-Z-Boy). Roberts beat his tea partying primary challenger Milton Wolf by a pathetic 48-41 spread and Roberts probably would have lost if it weren't for Wolf's considerable flaws.
Roberts is favored for re-election, but is not out of the woods. PPP finds him leading Democrat Chad Taylor 32-25, with independent Greg Orman taking a massive 23 percent. Orman isn't your typical random independent. He's raised far more money than Taylor and has been able to run ads. Orman is actually better liked than Taylor, sporting a 24-12 favorable to the Democrat's 15-14. Roberts for his part posts a poor 27-44 job approval.
This strange three-way race may be what saves Roberts in the end. If Taylor were Roberts' only foe, the senator would lead by a small 43-39 margin. And if it were just an Orman-Roberts match-up, Orman would lead Roberts by a stunning 43-33. You have to wonder if prominent Democrats seeing these numbers and looking at Taylor's poor fundraising may try to encourage him to drop out and give Orman a clear shot. Of course it's unclear who Orman would caucus with if he made it to Washington. Orman is a former Democrat but his views don't seem to fit in neatly with either party. In any case, he'd probably be a clear improvement over the very conservative Roberts.
Kansas has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1932 and Roberts probably still has a leg up no matter what happens. However, with things so unpredictable here, we can't rule out the possibility that Roberts may lose after all. Therefore, we are moving our rating from Safe Republican to Likely Republican. (Jeff Singer)
• GA-Sen, -Gov: SurveyUSA's latest Georgia poll is a serious bummer for Democrats. On the Senate side, Republican David Perdue leads Democrat Michelle Nunn by a daunting 50-41, up from a 43-38 margin back in early June. Since the late July runoff, Perdue seems to have consolidated GOP support and has led in all but one poll. These latest numbers are his best to date, but they aren't far out of line with the other available data.
The picture in the governor's race isn't much different. Republican Gov. Nathan Deal has a 48-39 advantage on Democrat Jason Carter, up from 44-38 last time. Deal, however, has generally found himself in the low-to-mid-40s, so this poll is actually one of the most optimistic for him in some time. Unlike Perdue, he didn't have to deal with a serious intra-party fight, and of course, he's the incumbent. So Deal's numbers were unlikely to rally after the primary, and for the most part, they hadn't, offering Democrats some hope. If they're finally starting to rebound now, though, that's a real problem for Carter.
• MI-Sen: Who knew that "Terri Lynn Land" was actually an anagram of "Willard Mitt Romney"? Like her more-famous fellow Michigander, Land hails from a very wealthy family. And just like Mitt, it turns out that she also pays well below her fair share in taxes. In fact, she makes Romney's accountants look like chumps. It turns out that Rep. Gary Peters, Land's Democratic opponent in Michigan's Senate race, paid an effective federal income tax rate of 18 to 19 percent over the last three years, and even Romney paid 13 percent. Land, however, paid less than 3 percent!
You see, Land's husband, Dan Hibma, is Mr. Megabucks. But obviously Land doesn't want to look quite as out-of-touch as Romney always did, so she's filed her taxes separately in recent years—hence the suspiciously low income. However, as a candidate for federal office, she's still required to disclose all her assets, including property held together with her spouse, something she rather pointedly failed to do. (It was "inadvertent," her campaign said. Oh, undoubtedly!)
What made this non-disclosure so glaring is, of course, that series of checks adding up to $3 million that she's written to herself. Nowhere in her financial reports did Land indicate she had control of any bank accounts or other assets that would allow her to spend so freely. She did eventually amend her disclosures to include a fat checking account shared with her husband, but that just raised the question of where those funds came from in the first place: Candidates can spend joint assets without limit, but one spouse can't simply funnel money to another for use on a campaign.
And these latest revelations about Land's tax rates only heighten her contradictions further. As congressional scholar Norm Ornstein put it, Land is trying to sell an image that she's "salt of the earth" while at the same time pouring big bucks of unknown provenance into her own campaign coffers. But paying an ultra-low tax rate only calls more unwanted attention to Land's too-modest income and incomplete disclosures about her wealth.
All the negative news stories in the world, though, don't change the fact that Land is still more than capable of outspending Peters, no matter what kind of games she's playing with her finances.
• NC-Sen: PPP's newest North Carolina poll once again finds Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan edging Republican Thom Tillis, this time by a 42-38 margin, with Libertarian Sean Haugh continuing to take an outsize 8 percent of the vote. With Haugh's supporters re-allocated to the major-party candidates (they prefer Tillis 61-19), Hagan still clings to a 43-42 lead. Last month, Hagan had a considerably wider 41-34 advantage, but you had to expect at least some Republicans to come home to Tillis, and that's exactly what's happened.
While Hagan's advantage has been tiny, as Tom Jensen points out, this is the sixth month in a row where she's led Tillis in PPP's polling, and she's tended to come out on top in most other polling as well. Given the massive assault from the Kochs that Hagan already stared down, you've got to wonder if Republicans have any way of harming her further.
• SD-Sen: Republican ex-Gov. Mike Rounds just released an internal from Public Opinion Strategies, undoubtedly in response to a PPP poll that Democrat Rick Weiland put out on Friday. Rounds' survey finds him with a wide 49-25 lead on Weiland, with the relatively moderate Larry Pressler at 15 and the conservative true believer Gordon Howie at 4. (Pressler and Howie are both Republicans running as independents.) Aside from that kinda-whacky YouGov poll, this is Rounds' best performance to date and is a stark contrast to the 39-31 lead PPP just gave him.
• NH-Gov: Freshman Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan has always had wide leads on the various Republican third-stringers who've lined up to challenge her—often 20 point, 30 points, or more, and never less than double digits. So when the RGA shows up waving around a new poll from National Research showing Hassan up just 42-37 on businessman Walt Havenstein, you should be skeptical.
Indeed, the polling memo acknowledges that Hassan's job approval rating stands at a pretty solid 53-39, which means that some 11 percent of the electorate supposedly like the job she's doing but won't cast a vote for her. That's tough to swallow. What's more, the RGA only released numbers on Havenstein and not conservative activist Andrew Hemingway or the other two Some Dudes in the race. It's not hard to imagine that the RGA is trying to sell Havenstein as the most electable in a general election because they're concerned about his ability to seal the deal in the GOP primary, which is just a few weeks away on Sept. 9.
• OH-Gov: Things sound pretty rough for Democrat Ed FitzGerald, who's reportedly losing many of his top staffers and consultants, including his campaign manager and communications director, just seven weeks before the start of early voting in Ohio. These departures, though, are just outward symptoms of severe ongoing problems.
For one, FitzGerald has a serious lack of campaign cash that may keep him off the air after Labor Day. For another, FitzGerald's public image has taken a serious hit after recent revelations that he went a decade without a valid driver's license but drove vehicles paid for by taxpayers during that time. Making matters worse, he repeatedly punished his own employees for the exact same offense.
The Republican Governors Association is pouncing on this serious lapse in judgment with a new ad that features clips of TV news anchors discussing the story, as well as man-on-the-street interviews from those same news reports with folks who pronounce the whole episode "shady." The spot also references the fact that FitzGerald's campaign was anything but forthcoming about the whole affair. With his communications staff heading for the exits, answering those questions won't get any easier.
• DSCC: Like their colleagues in the House, Senate Democrats outraised their Republican counterparts in July, with the DSCC taking in $7.7 million to $5.5 for the NRSC. Democrats also have $32 million left for the stretch run while the GOP has $26.6 million.
Ads & Independent Expenditures (Jeff Singer):
• AR-Sen: The battle over which candidate is the one who hates sick children continues. The DSCC spent several million dollars a few weeks ago accusing Republican Rep. Tom Cotton of voting against funding a children's hospital. Cotton responded, saying that he voted for the funding and that Pryor was the one who voted against it. Now the DSCC is back up on the air, stating that there was only one vote on the hospital funding and Cotton not only voted against it, he's lying. Patriot Majority also is spending $202,000 against Cotton.
• GA-Sen: Democrat Michelle Nunn takes a page from the Obama playbook and portrays Republican rival David Perdue as someone who got rich off other people's misery. The spot features residents of the small town of Kannapolis describing how Perdue took over Pillowtex, a major source of local jobs. In less than a year, the Pillowtex factory closed and Perdue left with millions, while thousands in Kannapolis lost their jobs.
• KY-Sen: The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition has two spots out (here and here). The first ad ties Democrat Alison Grimes to Obama and to interests described as "anti-coal." The second praises Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell for working to get rid of the estate tax (which the narrator, like pretty much every Republican, calls the "death tax").
• MN-Sen: Republican Mike McFadden has an interesting approach to the usual "My opponent votes with the president" trope. The spot portrays Democratic Sen. Al Franken as driving a car with a boat attached while repeatedly hitting things, with the narrator describing Franken's voting record. It's a lot more creative and memorable than the usual fare.
• Crossroads: Crossroads GPS goes after several Democrats, each with a unique spot. For Arkansas, the group hits Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor on Social Security and Medicare. In Colorado, Crossroads goes after Democratic Sen. Mark Udall on Obamacare. In Iowa, the organization spends $412,000 hitting Rep. Bruce Braley for missing votes on the Veterans' Affairs Committee.
Crossroads also goes after two California House Democrats it previously announced it would target. CA-07 Rep. Ami Bera is attacked over Obamacare, while CA-52 Rep. Scott Peters is criticized on taxes and spending.
• AZ-Gov: Two Republican primary contenders each have another spot a week away from the Aug. 26 primary. Treasurer Doug Ducey is praised by former Sen. Jon Kyl and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Meanwhile, an ad for former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith features Gov. Jan Brewer endorsing him.
• FL-Gov: Holy crap, a positive ad?! Republican Gov. Rick Scott features veterans praising his military background, with the governor popping in to talk about his work to help both active-duty soldiers and state veterans.
• MA-Gov: Democrat Don Berwick stresses his accomplishments as a physician and efforts to combat medical errors. In the middle of the spot, the narrator describes how Berwick's work to reduce such errors saved over 100,000 lives. Way to bury the lede there.
• OH-Gov: Republican Gov. John Kasich's spot features a police officer describing Kasich as a tough, but effective. Interestingly, the officer says that when Kasich came into office he upset many working people, including him, but listened to his critics. Seems like a reference to the 2011 SB-05 debacle, and Kasich's subsequent recovery.
• NY-19: Democrat Sean Eldridge is going on the air with his first two spots (here and here). Both are positive, stressing Eldridge's love for the Hudson Valley and subtly pushing back on attempts to portray him as a carpetbagger. Eldridge lays out his agenda in both, emphasizing getting special interest money out of politics.
• NY-23: Republican Rep. Tom Reed portrays Democratic foe Martha Robertson as a crazy liberal, with a very strange cartoon of Robertson driving around in a VW bus as trippy imagery kaleidoscopes in the background and the narrator sarcastically offers what's supposed to be some groovy slang. And here I thought in this day and age the only person who hated hippies this much was Eric Cartman!