• AR-Sen: Well, this is different: A vulnerable red state Democrat is running an ad in support of Obamacare! Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor's spot is running for a "six figure buy" and features his father, former Gov. and Sen. David Pryor. The elder Pryor describes how Mark almost died of cancer: While he pulled through, the family ran into problems after the insurance company didn't want to pay for the life-saving procedure. Sen. Pryor then declares, "No one should be fighting an insurance company while you're fighting for your life. That's why I helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick, or deny coverage for preexisting conditions." While the ad doesn't say that this law is Obamacare, Pryor is clearly taking the most popular parts of the bill and running on them.
Pryor's spot comes at an interesting time in the campaign season. A piece in Bloomberg describes something we've been seeing in our ad roundups: Republicans are using Obamacare far less in their campaign commercials than they were a few months ago. Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg View helps explain why. Healthcare as a campaign issue is becoming far less important to voters, likely as memories of the Obamacare launch fade.
Bernstein also describes how Republicans are in a more awkward position when it comes to the law than they used to be. In 2010 and 2012 before the major parts of the program kicked in, it was easy for Team Red to call for its full repeal. However, it's becoming clear to voters and to Republican politicians that Obamacare is here to stay. While the GOP may hit Democrats for voting for it in the first place and attack some of the more unpopular aspects of the bill, they can't convincingly argue that they'll just repeal the program and be done with it. Republicans in tough races are having to take more nuanced positions: As Bernstein puts it, "they still almost all say they support repeal, but they weasel around the idea that various ACA programs and benefits will be included in that supposed repeal."
By no means is Obamacare dead as an issue. In just the last few days Crossroads GPS ran ads against Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado and CA-07 Rep. Ami Bera completely focused on Obamacare. Pryor's Republican rival Rep. Tom Cotton has also been hitting him on the bill. Still, it's becoming apparent that this cycle will not be a straight up referendum on Obamacare that some people may have predicted just a few months ago. Ads like Pryor's are also a sign that while red state Democrats may still be unwilling to outright express support for the program, they are finding ways to turn it into a positive. (Jeff Singer)
• AK-Sen: Once again, the polls were really, really wrong in Alaska—and in a way that may have hurt Democratic Sen. Mark Begich's chances of keeping his crucial Senate seat. Pollsters did indeed correctly predict that Dan Sullivan, the former head of the state's Department of Natural Resources, would win the Republican nomination on Tuesday night, which he captured with 40 percent of the vote.
But in a huge shocker, tea partier Joe Miller, whose destructive 2010 Senate bid tore open a deep fissure in the GOP, finished in second with 32 percent of the vote. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who'd long appeared to be the only serious threat to Sullivan, brought up the rear with 25. The polling data, however, had it exactly backwards. Miller never once so much as grazed second place all year, and a final poll from Sullivan's own pollster, Moore Information, put him 25 points ahead of Miller! So the question is, was private Democratic polling similarly awry?
Perhaps Miller never had any shot of stopping Sullivan, but no one ever tried to help him. Democrats ran a few ads that seemed aimed at boosting Treadwell's profile, but surely it would have been worth attempting a Claire McCaskill-style ratfuck painting Sullivan and Treadwell as insufficiently purist while portraying Miller as the one true believer. As an added benefit, this would have been true!
And it seems like a real missed opportunity, because Miller's performance against Begich in the polling averages was much worse than his two opponents'. But that's all "what if" territory now. Begich, at least, expected Sullivan all along, given that he was the choice of the Republican establishment. And Sullivan certainly has his own weaknesses, particularly his thin ties to Alaska, a state that takes citizenship very seriously. This was always going to be one of the most difficult holds for Democrats, though, and nothing about that changed on Tuesday night.
• HI-Sen: After a very long primary campaign that required an incredibly unusual overtime period, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa has finally conceded the Democratic nomination to Sen. Brian Schatz. After an initial round of voting, Schatz managed a narrow 1,635-vote lead, but thanks to storm damage that shuttered two polling locations, officials conducted a special election in the affected region a week later. The outcome didn't change, though, and Schatz wound up 1,769 votes ahead of Hanabusa, out of more than 230,000 cast.
While it's too facile to say that the election came down to a question of race, a very cool set of interactive maps from community member Xenocrypt shows that race does indeed explain some of the results. There was a clear correlation between how non-white an area was and how well Hanabusa did, which you can see in the linked scatterplot. But it wasn't simply a matter of Japanese Americans voting for Hanabusa: Her best performances came in regions that were heavily Native.
All in all, it was a fascinating contest, not least because the polling was (as always) so wildly wrong. And perhaps we'll get to do it all again next cycle: The winner of this election will only fill out the final two years of the late Sen. Dan Inouye's term, so Schatz, who will be the overwhelming favorite in November, will have to run again in 2016. Of course, he'll be more entrenched by that time, but this is Hawaii, so you never know what might happen.
• NC-Sen: Don't paint it red just yet: Suffolk University's first North Carolina poll of the cycle finds Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan with a narrow 45-43 lead on Republican Thom Tillis, with Libertarian Sean Haugh at 5. That's right in line with other recent polls (including a new one from PPP), which have tended to show a tight race but Hagan ahead.
• AZ-Gov: A new poll from Remington Research finds state Treasurer Doug Ducey leading the way in next week's GOP primary for governor in Arizona. Ducey takes 33 percent while former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith is at 22 and attorney Christine Jones sits in third with 18. That's very similar to a new Magellan poll that had Ducey at 31, Smith at 23, and Jones at 16. (Remington says the their poll was conducted independently and paid for by themselves, though in terms of partisan affiliation, they did do some work for the conservative Now or Never PAC in Kansas earlier this cycle.)
• IL-Gov: A new survey from Democratic pollster Garin-Hart-Yang finds that Illinois' race for governor has tightened a bit, with Republican Bruce Rauner now edging Gov. Pat Quinn 44-41. According to Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business, GHY had Rauner up 46-40 in May and 49-39 in April, though there seems to be no record of those numbers being made public at the time.
And perhaps that's because of the source. This poll wasn't conducted for Quinn or an allied group. Rather, it was paid for by Sen. Dick Durbin, who presumably released the gubernatorial toplines as a bit of a favor to his ticket-mate. But Durbin didn't share any information on his own race with Republican Jim Oberweis, perhaps because he didn't like his own margins, or perhaps, as Hinz speculates, because he's winning in a blowout but doesn't want anyone to take him for granted.
Either way, it's an unusual data pipeline, and the results suggest that perhaps Democratic attacks on Rauner as a Romney-esque vulture capitalist have actually been working. But Quinn's numbers haven't improved at all, and his situation remains very precarious.
• OK-Gov: Now this is kind of interesting. GOP Gov. Mary Fallin has recently seen some surprisingly weak poll numbers, and now her fundraising's looking soft, too: Between June 25 and Aug. 14, Fallin's unheralded Democratic challenger, state Rep. Joe Dorman, managed to outraise her, $267,000 to $240,000. Fallin still has far more cash-on-hand, $1.1 million to $142,000, but she's outspent Dorman more than 3-to-1 in a race that ought to be a dead lock for the GOP yet somehow isn't quite looking that way.
Dorman's also released his first ad of the campaign, and he goes right at one of Fallin's sorest spots: education. Dorman narrates the ad and bluntly says that Fallin has "flip-flopped and failed on education," while showing a still photo of a large demonstration at the state capital with the caption, "30,000 Oklahomans protest Fallin's policies." The "flip-flop" refers to Fallin's about-face on Common Core, which she strongly supported before signing a bill to repeal the standards earlier this year. Fallin's insufficient hostility to the program angered conservatives, and Dorman is no doubt trying to stir up those feelings—a smart move, because he'll need plenty of GOP votes to have a prayer.
• RI-Gov: Those millions in self-funding seem to have finally paid off for attorney Clay Pell, who now finds himself in a close three-way fight in Rhode Island's Democratic primary for governor, according to a new Fleming & Associates poll. Pell's surge also seems to have benefited state Treasurer Gina Raimondo, who's edged into a 32-27 lead over Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, with Pell close behind at 25. Back in May, Taveras had a narrow 33-29 advantage over Raimondo, with Pell far behind at 12.
We don't have any confirmatory polling, but Taveras apparently saw this coming, since he recently started airing an ad attacking not just Raimondo (as a Wall Street tool) but also hitting Pell (as inexperienced). Pell's stayed positive so far, but Raimondo has gone after Taveras with a Republican-esque spot accusing him of hiking taxes.
The real problem for Taveras, who wants to be seen as the true progressive option, is that both of his opponents are badly outspending him. That makes it much harder for him to change perceptions of the race with the Sept. 9 primary now just a few weeks away.
• AZ-01: Andy Tobin was supposed to be one of the top Republican House recruits this cycle. As the speaker of Arizona's state House, he had a prominent position from which to launch a campaign against Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, one of the most vulnerable Democrats in Congress thanks to the fact that her district voted for Mitt Romney by a 50-48 margin.
But he's long struggled just to keep his head above water in the GOP primary, despite the fact that one of his opponents is a first-time candidate who claimed that Democrats perpetrated "99 percent" of mass shootings and the other is a freshman legislator who thought that a bus of YMCA campers that drove alongside an anti-immigration protest was actually full of undocumented child immigrants.
Yet both of those contenders—wealthy rancher Gary Kiehne and state Rep. Adam Kwasman—have been on the air for some time, while Tobin, whose fundraising has been lousy, amazingly didn't have any ads on TV until this week. Actually, Tobin still isn't running any ads of his own. Rather, he's relying on some very generic spots from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a super PAC called Preserve America's Future (which is spending just $25,000). The primary is Tuesday!
Tobin may still somehow pull it off, though, if a new independent poll from Remington Research is on the mark. Tobin barely edges Kwasman, 30-29, with Kiehne at 21, so he's not out of it, but that's hardly the kind of place a one-time frontrunner wants to find himself in. We also don't have any other polling here, so it's very possible that the race has been breaking against Tobin for a while now. If so, then this may just be a high-water mark for him, something that would make Democrats quite happy indeed.
• NE-02: A new DCCC robopoll finds Democratic state Sen. Brad Ashford edging GOP Rep. Lee Terry 46-45—very similar, margin-wise, to a June internal for Ashford from Global Strategy Group that pegged the race at a 41-all tie. More importantly, Terry's camp isn't disputing the numbers, saying:
"What this poll proves is what we have said all along, that it's a close, tough race."That's a serious attitude adjustment from last fall, though, when an earlier DCCC poll also found Terry in bad shape, trailing a different Democrat 44-42. That survey was conducted during the federal government shutdown fomented by the GOP (when Terry infamously insisted he'd keep collecting his paycheck no matter what), so Terry's camp decided to call bullshit on the numbers:
"They polled at the lowest possible point for House Republicans and for Congressman Terry. Any pollster worth their weight in salt will tell you that is the worst possible time to get accurate data."Well, the shutdown has long since faded as a campaign trail issue, but Lee Terry's numbers haven't recovered. Indeed, his team is now trying to retcon the whole race, claiming they "said all along" that it would be a "close, tough" contest. Nice try, folks. You guys said there was no way it was close, and you probably think Greedo shot first, too.
• Chicago Mayor: Mayor Rahm Emanuel may have caught a break when Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle decided not to challenge him, but Rahm is still very much in danger in next February's race. An APC Research survey for the Chicago Tribune is also out. They find Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis leading Rahm, a fellow Democrat, 43-39 in a one-on-one matchup. Other polls have shown Rahm in real danger against Lewis. In Chicago all candidates run on one ballot in a nonpartisan race: If no one takes a majority of the vote, the top-two contenders advance to a runoff.
And it looks like Lewis' hypothetical challenge may be getting a little less hypothetical: On Tuesday, she filed to set up a campaign committee. Lewis says she is seriously considering but hasn't made up her mind. However, with Rahm sitting on a massive warchest, she'll want to start raising money early.
We also have a second poll, albeit an odd one. Apparently not only does the Chicago Republican Party exist, they actually have enough money to pay for a poll. A new survey from Odgen & Fry (which we've never heard of, and have no record of in any of our pollster databases) has Rahm leading Lewis 34-21: The part the GOP is hyping is that "Qualified Republican" comes in third with 14 percent.
Chicago hasn't had a Republican mayor since William Hale Thompson lost re-election in 1931. At the moment the Chicago Republican bench is pretty much state Rep. Michael McAuliffe, who represents Norwood Park and some of the suburbs. Rahm Emanuel may have a lot to worry about as he gears up for re-election, but not from the Republicans. (Jeff Singer)
• Special Elections: Johnny Longtorso recaps Tuesday night's elections in the Old Dominion:
Virginia SD-38: Yep, turns out the Dems wasted a lot of money on this one. Republicans picked up this dark red seat, solidifying their majority in the state Senate. Ben Chafin defeated Democrat Mike Hymes by a 59-32 margin, while independent Rick Mullins pulled in 9 percent of the vote and carried his home county of Dickenson.Grab Bag:
Virginia HD-48: This was an easy hold for Democrats; Rip Sullivan defeated Republican David Foster by a 62-38 margin.
Virginia HD-90: No surprises here as Democrat Joe Lindsey trounced Republican Marcus Calabrese by a 81-19 margin.
• Swing voters: A new poli sci academic study (by four authors, the most familiar name being Andrew Gelman) that came out Wednesday is a big deal, in two separate ways. One, it's one of the most potent nails in the coffin of the already-dwindling idea of elections being decided by conflicted swing voters who change their minds in response to Game Change!(tm) events. The fluctuations in topline numbers in public polls instead is largely an artifact of fluctuations in whose willing to respond to a poll at a particular moment:
We find that reported swings in public opinion polls are generally not due to actual shifts in vote intention, but rather are the result of temporary periods of relatively low response rates by supporters of the reportedly slumping candidate. After correcting for this bias, we show there were nearly constant levels of support for the candidates during what appeared, based on traditional polling, to be the most volatile stretches of the campaign.Now, this isn't entirely a bolt out of the blue; truly good pollsters—like the internal polling team for the 2012 Obama campaign, which saw through the bump in public polls that Mitt Romney got after the first debate—already seem to know this. Hopefully, though, this knowledge will trickle down to the class of reporters who are always looking to get a jump on breathlessly reporting the next Game Change!(tm)
The other interesting aspect is that this is the first major study that I've seen that draws on data drawn from polling data collected via Xbox Live, an idea that first surfaced in 2012. This study suggests that the Xbox method can, in fact, produce vast amounts of useful data. Aaron Blake offers some thoughtful critiques of the method, though, not just in terms of the young male-skewing sample that it produces (though that can be adjusted using demographic weighting), but also the sense that there might be more swinging in downballot races where the candidates aren't as well-defined, rather than a presidential race between two utterly ubiquitous candidates. (David Jarman)
Ads & Independent Expenditures (Jeff Singer):
• AK-Sen: That didn't take long. Put Alaska First hits newly minted Republican nominee Dan Sullivan, describing him as someone who supports a mine that would hurt fishermen. The group is spending $490,000 here.
• AR-Sen: The NRSC is up with a new negative spot against Democratic Rep. Mark Pryor. Republican Rep. Tom Cotton also has two new ads (here and here) hitting Pryor on the retirement age and immigration.
• FL-Gov: We've always wondered: Has a major American political campaign ever run a campaign ad in a language other than English or Spanish? We're not sure if anyone's run a TV ad like this yet, but Republican Gov. Rick Scott has a minute-long radio ad in Creole. As the Miami Herald points out, there aren't too many Creole speaking voters in the state: The largest community is around Miami and is heavily Democratic. However, Scott certainly has the money to target this small group of persuadable voters in what is expected to be a tight race.
• RI-Gov: Say what you will about Democratic Treasurer Gina Raimondo, but her ads remain very good. Raimondo has a spot full of nostalgic snippets of Narragansett Beer commercials, before describing how she helped bring the local company back to Rhode Island and created over 1,000 jobs. She then uses it to pivot to her broader jobs plan.
On the Republican side, Ken Block calls for ending wasteful practices and spending in state government. At the end it features Block throwing state time sheets on the ground in slow motion, which doesn't look strange at all.
• AZ-01: Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick has a radio ad that is largely in Navajo. Unlike the Rick Scott Creole language radio ad (see above), Kirkpatrick herself is doing the talking here. The district has a large Navajo voting block.
• IN-02: Democrat Joe Bock is up with his first spot in what looks like a very uphill climb against Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski. Bock describes his work in crisis zones all around the world, before declaring "the crisis is here at home," and that he's ready to get to work.
• NH-01: American Unity PAC, a group funded by hedge-fund manager Paul Singer (no relation to me) to help Republican supporters of same-sex marriage, goes up for Republican Dan Innis. The spot hits both Innis' primary rival, former Rep. Frank Guinta, and Democratic incumbent Carol Shea-Porter, before portraying Innis as a better choice.
• NY-11: Democrat Domenic Recchia emphasizes his ties to both parts of the district, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Recchia represents a city council seat in Brooklyn, which is a much smaller presence in the district, and it makes sense that he's trying to establish his Staten Island bona fides. The DCCC is also out with another $106,000 against Republican Rep. Michael Grimm. One group you won't see coming to Grimm's aid anytime soon is his PAC, Grimm PAC: The committee reported raising a monster $0.01 in July.
• Center Forward: Center Forward spends a combined $738,000 in five races, and their choices are a bit unusual. They have TV spots for Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, FL-18 Rep. Patrick Murphy, IL-10 Rep. Brad Schneider, and WV-03 Rep. Nick Rahall, all Democrats in targeted races. However, they also go on the air for Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, who is expected to coast to re-election. They also are running an ad for Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, who isn't up until 2018.