• WI-Gov: The respected Marquette University Law School poll is out with a new survey, and they find things as close as ever. Among registered voters, Republican Gov. Scott Walker has a small 48-44 lead over Democratic foe Mary Burke. However, among likely voters, it's Burke who's up, by 49-47. In Marquette's July poll, Walker led 46-45 among registered voters, with Burke up 47-46 among likely voters. Other pollsters have shown a very close race, but Marquette is the only one to show any Burke lead.
Suffice to say, it's a bit surprising that a Democrat is doing better among likely voters than registered voters, especially when conventional wisdom says that the midterm will disproportionately favor the Republicans. That said, Scott Walker is a very uniquely polarizing figure who seems to attract about as much devotion from one side as utter hatred from the other. It's not unreasonable that Democrats are enthusiastic enough about the idea of ousting Walker that the usual turnout gap could have disappeared.
Indeed, Walker sits on a 48-48 approval rating. Walker's approvals have barely budged during his tenure: In each Marquette poll since early 2012, Walker has never had an approval rating higher than 51 percent or lower than 46. The ongoing allegations about Walker's ethics don't seem to have changed anything. Most voters appear to have decided whether they love or hate Walker long ago. In 2012 Democrats ran into trouble when they tried to recall Walker from voters who didn't like the governor, but felt that a recall was a step too far. However, many of those voters don't seem to have the same qualms against voting against the governor in a regular election.
Marquette has polled exclusively in its home state and had a solid track record in 2012:
• WI-Gov: Marquette: Walker (R) 52-45; Actual: Walker (R) 53-46; error: +0While that's not a huge sample size, Marquette absolutely nailed three critical races, giving them a record any pollster would kill for. Additionally, Marquette is headed by Charles Franklin, one of the most respected names in polling.
• WI-Pres: Marquette: Obama (D) 51-43; Actual: Obama (D) 53-46; error: +1 D
• WI-Sen: Marquette: Baldwin (D) 47-43; Actual: Baldwin (D) 51-46; error: +1 R
At the beginning of the cycle it looked like Democrats were too dispirited by the failed recall to mount a serious challenge, but that has not been the case. This race is incredibly close, and it's expected to remain so. Walker has tons of money at his disposal and this race is likely to be decided by a small group of persuadable voters. Walker and his allies are going to do whatever it takes to hold this seat, and Democrats are going to need to keep working very hard here. (Jeff Singer)
• IA-Sen: A new Suffolk University poll for USA Today finds Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst tied at 40 apiece. It's Suffolk's first Iowa poll of the cycle, but it's very similar to a survey PPP released on Tuesday that put Braley up 42-41.
• ME-Sen: Despite a new internal poll showing her losing 57-33, Democracy for America has decided to spend $300,000 to air two new TV ads on behalf of Democrat Shenna Bellows. Both are very similar minute-long spots featuring a variety of actors decrying Republican Sen. Susan Collins as a politician who only cares about millionaires and billionaires.
• NH-Sen: Yoink! A Boston NBC station has pulled an ad attacking Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen off the air due to a pretty fundamental inaccuracy (or lie, depending on whether you think incompetence or maliciousness is at play here). The ad, from the conservative super PAC Ending Spending, is a convoluted, minute-long spot that tries to claim "Shaheen's wealth has surged while in public office" thanks to allegedly self-dealing votes she's taken. The problem is that Shaheen's net worth has actually dropped somewhere between half and $1 million, according to publicly available disclosure reports. Better luck next time, bozos.
• AZ-Gov: With Arizona's gubernatorial matchup now set, we already have general election numbers from PPP, which actually released a poll on primary night. PPP finds Republican Doug Ducey tied with Democrat Fred DuVal at 35 apiece, while Libertarian Barry Hess takes an exceptionally large 12 percent. (The survey was taken for Progress Now Arizona, though a different version of the memo identifies the client as the DGA.) PPP hasn't polled here since March, but the head-to-heads haven't changed: Back then, Duval was up 36-35 with Hess not tested; instead, undecideds were 31 percent of the electorate, whereas they're 18 now.
What has changed are voters' opinions of Ducey. After a terribly negative primary in which Ducey was repeatedly hit for his questionable stewardship of the ice cream chain Cold Stone Creamery, he now has a 26-41 favorability rating, compared to 11-20 earlier this year. DuVal, who had the Democratic nomination all to himself, is at 20-21, the same margin as his previous 13-14 score.
However, DuVal will have to pick up where Ducey's GOP rivals left off and keep hammering his opponent, because the undecideds lean sharply in Ducey's favor. They voted for Mitt Romney by a 55-26 margin—unsurprising, given that Arizona's simply another red state where getting over that final hump, even in an open-seat race, will be a real challenge for Democrats. Ducey's unpopularity gives DuVal an opening, but the Republican still has the edge, so we're maintaining our rating of Lean R.
• KS-Gov, Sen: A new SurveyUSA poll for KSN-TV confirms what we already knew about Kansas: Sam Brownback is in a world of hurt, and the Senate race is absolutely bonkers. Brownback trails Democrat Paul Davis 48-40, while Libertarian Keen Umbehr takes 5 percent—identical in every respect to SUSA's last poll in late July.
But here's the surest confirmation of all: Brownback himself released an internal from Cole Hargrave Snodgrass in response to this poll, and boy do his own numbers suck. Brownback has just a 43-42 edge, which almost certainly translates to, "Yep, I'm actually losing, just like all the other polls say."
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Pat Roberts has just a 37-32 lead on Democrat Chad Taylor, with wealthy independent Greg Orman at 20 and Libertarian Randall Batson at 4. That's also little changed from last time, when Roberts was ahead 38-33, but Orman's moved up from his previous 14 percent share. The penniless Taylor is unlikely to drop out, but if Orman can establish himself as the de facto choice for most Democrats—much like Joe Lieberman did vis-à-vis Republican voters in 2006—it's possible he could claw his way to a plurality victory. Have stranger things happened? I'm not so sure, but Kansas is nothing if not extremely strange this year.
• MA-Gov: Count state Treasurer Steve Grossman among those who believe that the polls are in fact tightening in Massachusetts' Democratic primary for governor. Grossman just decided to pump $200,000 of his own cash into the race with less than two weeks to go, convinced that he has a chance to catch frontrunner Martha Coakley. It's not a whole lot of money, given how expensive the state is, but it is the first time Grossman's self-funded and may be as much about sending a message to donors and power-brokers as it is about getting more ads on the air.
• MD-Gov: For the moment, Republican Larry Hogan has a cash-on-hand advantage over Democrat Anthony Brown, thanks to a $2.6 million grant he received from the state for participating in Maryland's public financing program. However, Hogan is now prohibited from raising any further funds, so Brown, who has $760,000 in the bank but has proven to be a prodigious fundraiser, will soon eclipse him. What's more, the state Democratic has $1 million on hand itself, while Republicans have just $37,000.
"I think a lot of people want to be able to walk into a grocery store," [Republican Gov. Tom] Corbett said. "Particularly, a lot of the women, want to be able to go in and buy a bottle of wine for dinner, go down buy a six pack or two six packs, buy dinner, and go home. Rather than what I just described, is at least three stops, in Pennsylvania."(David Jarman)
• AZ-01: One major race remains uncalled after Tuesday night's primary: The Republican primary to face Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in northern Arizona. As of now, state House Speaker Andy Tobin leads rancher Gary Kiehne 36-35 percent, or by 532 votes. There appears to be one unreported precinct in Coconino County, which backed Tobin 47-32.
It's unclear what Kiehne will do, but barring some major tabulation error it's hard to see Tobin's lead disappearing. National Republicans with breath a major sigh of relief once Tobin's win is official. Tobin is a weak fundraiser but he is seen as a much better candidate than Kiehne, who has gotten in trouble on the campaign trail for his comments. The NRCC is not shedding any tears for state Rep. Adam Kwasman either, who placed third with 29 percent: Kwasman managed to make national headlines in July for mistaking a bus full of YMCA campers for migrant children. Kirkpatrick is a tough candidate but national Republicans feel better about having Tobin at the helm in this 50-48 Romney district. (Jeff Singer)
• Primaries: Voters in Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, and Vermont went to the polls Tuesday night to pick nominees in a number of races critical races. There wasn't much to see in Vermont but the other three states had some action: With the exception of Arizona's 1st Congressional district (see our AZ-01 item above), we have a winner in each of these contests. Here's our recap of all the action, along with Daily Kos Elections' rating of each race's competitiveness:
In this red state Ducey will start out the favorite against Democratic state University Regent Fred DuVal, who faced no opposition in his primary. However, DuVal does have the resources to make this a real race. (Lean R)
• AZ-07 (D): Former state Rep. Ruben Gallego, whom Daily Kos endorsed in June, was the big winner in this heavily blue Phoenix district. Gallego defeated former Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox 48-37 for the right to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor. Obama won this seat 72-27, and Gallego shouldn't have any problem in November. (Safe D)
• AZ-09 (R): Air Force veteran Wendy Rogers decisively defeated former ASU and NFL player Andrew Walter 59-41. Rogers, who also ran in the 2012 primary, will start out as the underdog against freshman Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in this 51-47 Obama seat. (Lean D)
• FL-18 (R): Former state Rep. Carl Domino easily prevailed over his five primary rivals. Domino defeated former Connecticut politician Alan Schlesinger 38-24 for the right to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy. This district went for Romney 52-48, but Murphy is viewed as a very formidable opponent while Domino has been a weak fundraiser up till now. (Lean D)
• FL-26 (R): National party favorite Carlos Curbelo, a Miami-Dade School Board member, easily took the Republican nomination here. Curbelo beat his nearest opponent Ed MacDougall 47-25, with scandal-tarred former Rep. David Rivera taking fourth with only 8 percent. Curbelo will face freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia in an Obama 53-46 district that has been trending blue, but remains very competitive. (Tossup)
• OK-05 (R): Former state Sen. Steve Russell ended up beating state Corporate Commissioner Patrice Douglas without much trouble in the Republican primary runoff. Russell, who was also on the team that captured Saddam Hussein in 2003, prevailed 59-41 on Tuesday night. He shouldn't have much trouble in this 59-41 Romney seat. (Safe R) (Jeff Singer)
• Redistricting: Aaron Blake of the Washington Post makes a very smart point here on a topic that often gets overlooked when thinking about the nefarious effects of gerrymandering: not only does it have the more immediate effect of artificially increasing one party's share of House seats (or legislative seats), but it also has the more long-term effect of decreasing the other party's bench of potential statewide candidates. Ohio is the main example he cites: Ed FitzGerald was a big get for Dems in that state's gubernatorial race, because they don't have a lot of other options to draw from among their House members, in large part because there are so few of them (4, of 16) because of the swath cut through Ohio's Dem delegation by redistricting.
The same problem applies in a lot of the other swing states where the GOP managed to monopolize the redistricting process (Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, etc.). There's also one other wrinkle that's also a side-effect of gerrymandering: when Democratic voters are so heavily packed into a few very-liberal districts (like the ones in North Carolina, which are all 70% Obama or more), usually the remaining Dems elected in those districts are, ideologically, good fits for those districts but not good ideological fits for running statewide in a swing state. (David Jarman)
Ads & Independent Expenditures (Jeff Singer):
• MI-Sen: The DSCC hits Republican Terri Lynn Land, and it's a pretty great ad. The spot has a clip of Land's now-legendary "Really?" ad, with Land declaring at the end, "Because as a woman, I may know more about women than [Democratic rival] Gary Peters." The DSCC then features several women declaring no, Land's agenda actually hurts women. And of course, the clip keeps coming back.
If you haven't watched Land's original "Really" ad, you should absolutely check it out: It's one of those so-bad-it's-good ads, though it's not good in any way that actually helps Land. How bad is it? Republican pollster Frank Luntz went on Fox and called it "the worst ad of the political process," and concluded with, "that ad should be off the air." I'll bet the DSCC wishes they could just buy the rights to the Land ad and air it unedited, but their spot is pretty fun too.
• NH-Sen: Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen portrays Republican Scott Brown as deep in the pocket of big oil. We also have a size of the buy for a recent anti-Shaheen spot from Independent Leadership for New Hampshire: $136,000.
• NRSC: A bunch of new spots hitting Democrats in several key Senate races. The group is hitting Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado; Michelle Nunn in Georgia (here and here); Rep. Bruce Braley in Iowa; and Rep. Gary Peters in Michigan.
The only notable one is the Iowa ad, centered entirely around Braley's "farmer from Iowa," gaffe. The spot features a man who identifies himself as a fifth-generation Iowa and a farmer saying that Braley was insulting, before attacking Braley for being part of the Washington crowd. This is nothing at all new, but it's still notable how much the Republicans are betting that this gaffe is Braley's Macaca moment.
The ad probably would have been more effective if they didn't repeat the Republican charges at the beginning: When the narrator says "There was never a Justice Department investigation," it does help keep the negative story out there when trying to counter it. As Brad Philips of Mr. Media Training put it in a very good article about these types of "quotes of denial," "The problem is that the defensive-sounding negative word or phrase tends to linger longer in the public memory than the word 'not.'" There are much better ways to counter a negative story than repeating it and potentially allowing it to recirculate.
• NH-02: Republican state Rep. Marilinda Garcia calls for a new generation of conservative leaders. She's only spending $30,000 on it, but she's getting some help. The Club For Growth recently aired a spot attacking primary rival former Sen. Gary Lambert, and it's for a considerable $482,000. Lambert does not have the resources to respond to this kind of buy, and no outside groups are rushing in to help him. The primary is Sept. 9.
Meanwhile freshman Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster goes positive. The spot featuring a veteran describing how the congresswoman helped her get her healthcare benefits.
• DCCC: The DCCC spends between $100,000 to $233,000 per race attacking five Republicans; FL-02 Rep. Steve Southerland; GA-12 challenger Rick Allen; NJ-03 candidate Tom MacArthur; NY-11 Rep. Michael Grimm; and WV-03 challenger Evan Jenkins.