For this week's batch of ratings adjustments, we're changing one gubernatorial race and 10 House contests. Five moves are in favor of the GOP and six in favor of Democrats.
• ND-Gov (Likely R to Safe R): North Dakota Democrats did very well recruiting for statewide races this cycle, but state Sen. Ryan Taylor didn't wind up quite as lucky as his counterparts running for House and Senate. Those races turned out to be open seats, but GOP Gov. Jack Dalrymple decided to run for another term. Dalrymple was never elected governor in the first place; he assumed office in 2010 when then-Gov. John Hoeven was elected to the Senate. Still, though, he's the incumbent in a red state, Taylor appears to be short on cash, and there's no sign the DGA has any interest in getting involved, so we're not seeing any path to victory.
• CA-39 (Likely R to Safe R): Democrat Jay Chen, a member of a local school board, a Navy veteran, and a small businessman, offers an intriguing profile for the redrawn 39th District, especially since about a quarter of the voting population is Asian. And a very early internal hinted at some promise. But this is still the tenth-reddest seat in California, and GOP Rep. Ed Royce is a pretty powerful figure in his own party and a strong fundraiser. National Democrats have shown little interest in this race, but a respectable performance by Chen should set him up well for future opportunities.
• CA-45 (Likely R to Safe R): Similarly to the above, Irvine mayor Sukhee Kang also looked like an interesting prospect for Democrats. Irvine's a pretty populous city (over 200K), and Kang would be only the second Korean-American ever elected to Congress. However, CA-45 is even redder than the 39th, and the 45th is only about 15% Asian by voting population. If demographic trends go our way, this district may prove fruitful some day. But this cycle, the DCCC and other outside groups aren't getting involved here, and GOP Rep. John Campbell looks safe. (Note that a rating of "Safe R" or "Safe D" doesn't mean we expect a blowout. It only means we don't see a path to victory.)
• CO-04 (Likely R to Safe R): State Senate President Brandon Shaffer looked like an excellent recruit to take on freshman GOP Rep. Cory Gardner... until redistricting. Colorado's new court-drawn map, held by Democrat Betsy Markey just a cycle ago, turned the 4th from a swing district to a conservative seat that went to John McCain by 15 points. Shaffer released an implausible internal poll some weeks back, but just how unconcerned is Gardner? His entire website is nothing more than a splash page. Cocky, yes. But there just doesn't seem to be any path to victory for Shaffer.
• CO-07 (Likely D to Lean D): While none of us believed Joe Coors' internal poll, money is another thing. He's got a lot of it, and Democrats (via the House Majority PAC) have jumped in here early and big to try to blunt it. While we still expect Dem Rep. Ed Perlmutter to return for the 113th Congress, we can't ignore the fact that it looks like we've got a live one here.
• FL-09 (Lean D to Likely D): Republicans hoped that Osceola County Commissioner John Quinones might sneak through the primary, but he evidently never had much of a shot, judging by the final tally. For good measure, though, Democrats helped ratfuck the contest on behalf of oddball attorney Todd Long. While ex-Rep. Alan Grayson always makes us nervous, he has huge sums of cash and, should he ever need it, can also tap his enormous personal wealth. Long, meanwhile, has less than $4,000 in the bank and national Republicans simply aren't going to bother with a joker like that.
• FL-18 (Lean R to Tossup): We started this race off as Lean R on account of Rep. Allen West's fundraising prowess and celebrity, in addition to the fact that Democrat Patrick Murphy is a young, first-time candidate. But two unanswered Democratic polls have shown the race a dead heat, and Murphy's proven to be a strong fundraiser himself. This is a very swingy district (Obama won by 3, GOP Gov. Rick Scott won by 2), with very few remaining undecided voters, and the battle lines have been drawn.
• FL-26 (Lean R to Tossup): A recruiting debacle early in the cycle turned out to have a silver lining, as Democrats were able to re-recruit Joe Garcia, probably the strongest opponent for GOP Rep. David Rivera. This race has become so competitive in large part because of Rivera's longstanding, serious ethical troubles, and he's added to his rap sheet by supporting a phony candidate in the Democratic primary whose only purpose was attack Garcia. The authorities have opened criminal probes into the matter, which loom Damoclean over Rivera's head. What's more, Garcia recently released an internal poll giving him a nine-point lead over the incumbent. Even if that spread is overly rosy, it augurs toward tossup status, especially since Rivera had no response at all.
• MA-04 (Likely D to Safe D): A young, first-time candidate with a family surname that brings out strong emotions on both sides moves into a newly-open district to run for Congress... well, under any other circumstances, you might be concerned that this fellow could potentially stumble. Hence, out of an abundance of caution, we put this race on our big board. But Joseph P. Kennedy III, who is looking to succeed Barney Frank, has proven to be an adept campaigner and a monster fundraiser. And at just 31, he could have as long a career in Congress as he likes.
• MN-08 (Lean R to Tossup): Perhaps no rating of ours has generated more controversy than this one. We long worried about candidate quality, especially since the Democratic primary got dragged out into an expensive affair. While we probably emerged with the best nominee in the form of ex-Rep. Rick Nolan, his fundraising's been weak, despite earning establishment backing from top to bottom. What's more, while Minnesota as a whole got considerably bluer from 2004 to 2008, this district stood still, which had us concerned about Obama's appeal here. But two Democratic polls last week showed Nolan just edging GOP freshman Chip Cravaack, and Cravaack's whiny response couldn't have been weaker.
• NY-04 (Likely D to Safe D): After a close-ish shave last cycle and a slightly rejiggered district that became a bit redder, we put Dem Rep. Carolyn McCarthy's seat on our list out of an abundance of caution. But her opponent, 2010 nominee Fran Becker, has raised bupkes. In a wave year for Republicans, who knows what could happen. But this is no wave year, and Becker's getting ignored.
• MO-Sen: I've been a little skeptical of the idea that pullout by the national organizations will doom Todd Akin in Missouri. I mean, leave the two major cities and you're basically in Alabama; it's a red-enough state he can say all manner of crazy crap and still stay within arm's length of 50%+1. Nevertheless, if Akin can't even afford to air his own ads, he might really be DOA. And that's exactly what's happening now, as stations across the state are now cancelling his ad buys because his campaign hasn't been, you know, paying for them. For what it's worth, the Akin camp says it's all a "scheduling mistake" and adds that the proverbial check is in the mail. Don't get prematurely happy about this, though, because it could still be the last straw that changes Akin's mind and forces him to withdraw while the window is still open. (David Jarman)
• NJ-Sen: It may seem counterintuitive, but I'm a little disappointed to see Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez posting double-digit leads in the polling of this year's New Jersey Senate race. I'd rather see it in the high single-digits, not enough to really start worrying, but enough to lure in the NRSC and get them bogged down once again in the New Jersey tar pit that always seems tantalizing but never pays off.
At any rate, we've got another NJ-Sen poll in the low-double-digits range, this time from Rutgers-Eagleton, who peg the race at 47 for Menendez and 35 for Republican challenger Joe Kyrillos. (Their previous poll was way back in February and gave Menendez a 44-22 lead over the then-unknown Kyrillos.) The strange post-script to this poll is that the field dates were Aug. 23-25, meaning they've been sitting on the data for a couple weeks now. That led the Kyrillos camp to put out a huffy-sounding press release on Friday calling the Rutgers poll "irrelevant." (David Jarman)
• WI-Sen: Ah, gay-baiting. Wondered when Wisconsin Republicans would finally get around to that. Well, wondering time is over:
The political director for U.S. Senate campaign of former Gov. Tommy Thompson highlighted his opponent's participation in a gay pride event and criticized her ability to discuss "heartland values."
Thompson, a Republican, is running against U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who if elected would become the nation's first openly gay senator. [...]
The email included a link to a video of Baldwin dancing in 2010 with the costumed disco band VO5 playing the "Wonder Woman" theme. Baldwin, wearing sunglasses, dances on stage with the band and at the end hugs the singer, who is dressed like the comic book hero Wonder Woman.
: Independent ex-Gov. Angus King's first ad touts (what else?) his independence. Weirdly, the first 15 seconds of the ad involve zooming in from outer space all the way down to King's hometown of Brunswick via Google Earth... and then he pops out from under some trees. It's like Google Maps has sprung to life!
• MO-Sen: Dem Sen. Claire McCaskill can barely conceal her glee that she wound up exactly at number 50 on the National Journal's ideology ratings for the U.S. Senate.
• ND-Sen: An elderly breast cancer survivor says she wouldn't be alive without Medicare and excoriates GOP Rep. Rick Berg for supporting the Ryan plan in this new Heidi Heitkamp spot. (Heitkamp herself has fought breast cancer.)
• OH-Sen: Dem Sen. Sherrod Brown slams Josh Mandel for his endless series of brazen lies, citing the many reporters, columnists, and fact-checkers who have repeatedly called Mandel out.
• NC-Gov: SurveyUSA is out with new numbers on behalf of the right-wing Civitas Institute, and it looks like SUSA is back to its accustomed role of providing crosstabs that absolutely no one with any credibility will ever take as plausible. The toplines show Republican Pat McCrory with a double-digit edge over Democrat Walter Dalton (55-39). Everyone has had McCrory leading, so that's not the problem (though this margin is unusually wide).
The problem with this poll is that SUSA is asking us to believe that McCrory is such a beloved figure that he is getting a third of Democratic voters, and one-third of African-American voters. Those numbers are absurd on their face, considering McCrory took all of three percent of the black vote when he first ran in 2008. (Steve Singiser)
: Dem Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin touts his fiscal leadership of West Virginia, including the state's improving credit rating and his efforts to lower taxes.
• CA-47: Our Steve Singiser so thoroughly laid waste to this poll in Thursday's Polling Wrap that I'm not sure anything more needs to be said. If you didn't see it, though, the campaign of Republican Gary DeLong in the Long Beach-based open seat is out with a poll that pushes the limits of credulity, not simply because of the toplines, which have him leading Dem Alan Lowenthal 53-44 (in a district that went 58% Obama, and where Lowenthal just released an internal poll showing him leading by 20, forcing DeLong to scramble to push back).
The real problem here is that DeLong's poll was taken way back in June 28-July 3 by Probolsky Research... and DeLong previously released a poll, also taken June 28-July 3 by Probolsky Research, that had him trailing by 3. So, either DeLong's camp took the absolutely bizarre approach of having two completely different samples in the field at the same time and then releasing the poorer results of the two—or else he went back, juiced the results somehow, re-reported them, and hoped no one would notice the dates. (David Jarman)
• IL-08: You know how the ladies are, always gabbing about shoes and suchlike—at least in Joe Walsh's world...
"Ms. Duckworth has continued to show more interest in rubbing elbows with big name party insiders, then [SIC] staying home and tackling the tough issues facing voters in the district," he said in a statement on his website. "It has become abundantly clear that at this point the only debate Ms. Duckworth is actually interested in having is which outfit she'll be wearing for her big speech."
• TN-04: Hmmm, this may be a first: a Republican in a competitive race choosing to lash himself to the Ryan budget. In response to Democratic opponent Eric Stewart's references to the "Paul Ryan/Scott DesJarlais plan for Medicare," in an op-ed for the Chattanoogan, DesJarlais just appropriates that, saying "I'm proud of my vote for the Ryan Budget and if they want to call it the Ryan/DesJarlais plan, that is just fine by me." It's worth noting that this is one of the reddest districts in the country to host a competitive House race (36% Obama), so he may figure there are enough die-hards in the district who aren't paying attention to the policy implications that he doesn't have much to lose by showing his true colors. (David Jarman)
: The conservative YG Action Fund is deploying two more ads, in addition to the MA-06 spot they released on Thursday. This one attacks retired Gen. Bill Enyart for having "little private sector experience"—I love it when Republicans degrade military service. They also try to call him a "Blagojevich appointee." The ad is backed by a hefty $541K buy
. (And incidentally, the MA-06 buy is for a massive $900K.)
• MD-06: Democrat John Delaney tries to cram a ton of points into this one 30-second spot, mostly involving pushback against attacks by GOP Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, and also dinging the incumbent's voting record on a variety of fronts.
• NC-07: Here's that other YG Action Fund spot (also for a $541K run), and it's proof once again that no matter how conservative you try to make your voting record, Republicans will find a way to hit you. In this case, even though Rep. Mike McInytre voted against the Affordable Care Act, the announcer explains that he "voted for Nancy Pelosi for House Speaker four times—that's how we got Obamacare!"
Meanwhile, Republican David Rouzer opts for the standard GOP "third-party validator" route in his own new spot, with his grandma claiming he'll protect Medicare and Social Security. I wonder if this shtick works, because we see it so much, or if it's simply the best among bad options.
• OH-06: The DCCC rounded out a busy week last week with two more ads. The first attacks GOP Rep. Bill Johnson for closing manufacturing plants and shipping jobs overseas as a business executive (see just below for the other).
• PA-12: The D-Trip's other spot attacks Republican Keith Rothfus on similar grounds (promising to protect tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas), but as PoliticsPA's Keegan Gibson points out, one claim rests on an absurdly slender reed: namely, that Rothfus, as a young attorney, once "worked for a law firm that had a 'strategic alliance' with a Chinese firm," which is supposed to explain his love of outsourcing. This is incredibly weak, and the ad doesn't need this distraction.
• WI-08: Republican Reid Ribble tours a factory floor, praising American manufacturing and touting "bipartisan" legislation he introduced to "punish China for breaking trade rules."
• WATN?: Johnny Longtorso brings us this amazing report:
Remember Hudson Hallum, the awesomely-named victor in a special election to the Arkansas House in July of last year? Well, he's one his way to another house—the jailhouse. And he did it in the classiest way possible, by buying votes through booze and food.
This is, of course, after his predecessor in the seat resigned after pleading guilty to theft charges. And interestingly, it could lead to the second Green Party legislative victory in Arkansas, as his resignation and withdrawal from the race has left the Green candidate the only one on the ballot.
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