Want the scoop on hot races around the country? Get the digest emailed to you each weekday morning. Sign up here
8:57 AM PT: MI-01: Democrats have landed a top recruit in northern Michigan, where Retired Army Maj. Gen. Jerry Cannon just announced that he'll challenge GOP Rep. Dan Benishek next year. While this district moved away from Democrats on the presidential level in 2012, Benishek only narrowly survived, beating former state Rep. Gary McDowell by less than 1 percent. Cannon has a lengthy military record that should play well here, with service in Vietnam, Iraq, the Michigan National Guard, and Guantanamo Bay (as commander of the Joint Detention Operations Group).
He's also held elective office, serving as Kalkaska County Sheriff for many years. Kalkaska's quite small, though, so running for Congress will be an entirely different story. And the county is not in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, an area with a strong regional identity that functions as the district's center of gravity. Still, if Cannon can raise money and acquit himself well on the campaign trail, Benishek will once again have a serious race on his hands.
10:18 AM PT: GA-Sen: PPP is out with the first poll of the Georgia Senate contest since nonprofit executive Michelle Nunn announced her entry last month, and the numbers offer Democrats reason to be cautiously optimistic about their pickup chances in this blue-trending state. Nunn sports a 20-19 favorability rating out the gate, which is not bad, given the notoriously low favorables PPP typically finds for little-known candidates. Perhaps more importantly, her famous father, ex-Sen. Sam Nunn, is still well-known and well-liked, with a 56-12 favorability score—and he actually does better with Republicans than Democrats. If the younger Nunn can trade a bit on the elder's crossover appeal, that could provide a real boost for her campaign.
But the race still has quite a ways to develop, as you can see from the high numbers of undecideds in every matchup between Nunn and the various members of the GOP field. Here's how share fares against each, with the Republicans' favorables in parentheses:
• 41-41 vs. Rep. Phil Gingrey (24-27)
• 40-40 vs. ex-Dollar General CEO David Perdue (17-27)
• 40-38 vs. ex-SoS Karen Handel (21-31)
• 40-38 vs. Rep. Jack Kingston (19-22)
• 41-36 vs. Rep. Paul Broun (15-29)
• 42-36 vs. conservative activist Derrick Grayson (5-22)
• 42-35 vs. businessman Eugene Yu (4-20)
As you'd expect, all of Nunn's potential opponents are recognized by only a quarter to half the state, so everyone has a lot of room to grow. For Nunn, who consistently scores in the 40-42 range, the question, as ever, is how far? Right now, as Tom Jensen points out, Democrats are more unified than Republicans, but that'll change, especially after the GOP picks a nominee—though the primary picture is also quite unsettled:
Democrats will be rooting hard for Broun, easily the craziest and most incendiary option, to pull out a victory, but he'll need serious grassroots enthusiasm to make up for his soft fundraising. The numbers show, though, that the nomination is very much up for grabs. The best news for Nunn is that regardless of who emerges from this Republican battle royale, she'll have a full year all to herself in which she can raise money and campaign without distractions. The GOP, meanwhile, will almost certainly have to contend with a runoff that will drain the eventual winner's coffers.
Will all that—a bloody Republican primary, a respected family name, and Georgia's shifting demographics—be enough for Nunn to ride to an upset? With so few Senate pickup opportunities this cycle, Democrats have to try. And PPP's initial data, at least, suggest that a win is indeed possible.
11:21 AM PT: Radio: On Friday evening, radio host (and one-time congressional candidate) Tony Trupiano had me on his Detroit-based show to discuss Michigan's open seat Senate race, and what Rep. Dave Camp's newfound interest in running means for the GOP. We also got to talking a bit about Gov. Rick Snyder and his re-election bid as well. To listen to the segment, click here.
11:37 AM PT: AL-01: Filing is closed for this fall's special election to replace ex-Rep. Jo Bonner, who just resigned to take a job with the University of Alabama. Nine Republicans and two Democrats submitted paperwork to run, though in this dark red district, the GOP primary is where the action is. The leading Republican candidates include ex-state Sen. Bradley Byrne, state Rep. Chad Fincher, RNC official Wells Griffith, and perhaps businessman Dean Young, who challenged Bonner in the primary last year.
The highest-profile Democrat whose name came up as a possible contender, former U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, is not running. Instead, the nominee will likely be businessman Burton LeFlore, who took 7 percent of the vote running as an independent in a state House special election earlier this year. The primary is on Sept. 24, with a runoff on Nov. 5 if necessary. If there is a runoff (which seems likely, given the crowded GOP field), the general election will take place on Dec. 17; if not, then it will happen on Nov. 5.
12:01 PM PT: KY-Gov: Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson announced on Tuesday that he will not run for governor in 2015, when the current incumbent, Steve Beshear, will be term-limited. Democrats still have many big-name potential contenders, though, including Auditor Adam Edelen, former Auditor Crit Luallen, state Attorney General Jack Conway, and former Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo. It's the GOP whose bench is a little thin. Ryan Alessi mentions Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, unsuccessful Louisville mayoral candidate Hal Heiner, and Phil Moffett, who lost the Republican gubernatorial nomination to David Williams 48-38 in 2011.
1:02 PM PT: AR-Sen: Sen. Mark Pryor is already out with his first TV ad attacking his likely GOP opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton, though it's backed by just a $45,000 buy and is only scheduled to run for two days.
It's a ponderous, minute-long spot that takes a long time to get started and yet still manages to cram in an absurd number of different complaints about Cotton's voting record. He voted against the farm bill, cutting student loan rates, the Violence Against Women Act, and equal pay for equal work. Meanwhile, he also supports the Ryan plan, privatizing Social Security, and letting "insurance companies deny coverage for pre-existing conditions," which is probably a way for Pryor to defend his vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act. I really don't think these kinds of kitchen sink ads are especially effective, though.
Meanwhile, Republican pollster Harper Polling has conducted a new survey of the race for the website Conservative Intelligence Briefing. Cotton leads Pryor 43-41.
1:15 PM PT: OH-06: State Sen. Lou Gentile, who had been considering a Congressional bid, has ultimately decided not to run, smoothing the way for ex-state Rep. Jennifer Garrison to take on GOP Rep. Bill Johnson next year. However, Gentile he didn't immediately endorse Garrison, saying it was "premature" to do so, though he did call her a "good candidate." Gentile added that he "will strongly be supporting a Democrat in the district," so does he imagine someone else might get in? That seems unlikely, since the only other major contender, Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti, has already endorsed Garrison, so it's hard to say what Gentile might be thinking.
1:20 PM PT: IA-04: First we had New York Rep. Peter King goofing around in New Hampshire, and now we've also got Rep. Steve King (both jerks, but otherwise no relation) heading to South Carolina to play the "I can pretend to be a Republican presidential candidate, too!" game. I figure these guys just have to be playing with us and/or trying to raise their profiles a bit, but if either gains some traction, perhaps they won't seek re-election... in 2016.
2:01 PM PT: MI-Sen: It turns out that ex-SoS Terri Lynn Land is a lot richer than anyone realized. She just filed financial disclosure forms that say she and her husband own assets totaling at least $34 million, enough to self-fund a good chunk of her Senate campaign. Previously, Land had only ever run for state office, so she'd never made this kind of information publicly available. This time, though, it might be to her benefit to tout her wealth, since it could deter Rep. Dave Camp from entering the GOP primary, which she currently has all to herself.
2:32 PM PT: MN-08: Great. We've entered the silly season of party committees running small-dollar TV buys in districts they want to sell as competitive heading into next year's elections, something we saw a lot of last cycle. Mostly these ad runs are designed to garner a bit of press attention, and sometimes they involve embarrassingly small expenditures, even as low as just a few hundred bucks. (Nathan Gonzales aptly dubbed them "video press releases.") The NRCC, though, is kicking us off with a slightly larger-than-usual $25,000 buy targeting freshman Rep. Rick Nolan.
The spot attacks Nolan for being one of only four members of the House to vote against a bill funding various programs for veterans. Nolan's campaign defended his vote
by saying the bill "shamefully underfunds" those programs, but there's a reason why lawmakers don't usually like to vote against appropriations for veterans, no matter how poorly conceived—namely, because it'll be used against you in attack ads just like this. And when you're on the skinny side of a 421-4 vote, odds are, the politics are against you, even if you're right on the policy.
2:50 PM PT: LA-05: Ah, wonderful. Turncoat Rep. Rodney Alexander, whose surprise switch to the GOP 30 minutes before the filing deadline in 2004 prevented Democrats from running a candidate to oppose him, just announced that he'll retire next year. Alexander had been heavily courted by Republicans, but he issued a statement earlier that year saying he'd stay put, making his deceit doubly shameful. Alas, at 61-38 Romney, this district no longer offers Democrats a payback opportunity, but hey, at least Alexander will soon be gone.
3:03 PM PT: NY-21: We hadn't heard her name before, but former George W. Bush aide Elise Stefanik just announced that she's launching a challenge to Dem Rep. Bill Owens next year. New York's 21st is a very swingy district that Republicans would love to take back, but Owens somehow keeps eking out narrow wins. Stefanik seems to have some connections to former Bushies, but she can't have been especially senior in her White House days, seeing as she's only 29 now, and counting on my fingers, she couldn't have been much older than about 24.
3:05 PM PT: CO Recall: Like fellow recall target John Morse, Democratic state Sen. Angela Giron is also on the air. Her first TV spot touts her work with children while also dinging "extreme groups from Denver" for forcing a recall, "even though Giron is already on the ballot a year from now."
3:15 PM PT: TN-Gov: Former Tennessee Regulatory Authority director Sara Kyle, who's also the wife of state Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, says she's considering a run for governor against Republican incumbent Bill Haslam. Kyle has actually held statewide office before, winning a spot on the Public Service Commission in 1994. That also makes her the last Democrat, aside from ex-Gov. Phil Bredesen, to win a statewide race in Tennessee.
3:22 PM PT: KY-Sen: Sen. Mitch McConnell is already out with his second ad attacking GOP primary rival Matt Bevin. The narrator once again calls him "Bailout Bevin," but the spot is devoted to slamming Bevin for various tax liens, including one on his "million-dollar home... in Maine." (Dun dun dun!) McConnell looks like he's following a "define your opponent before he can define himself" strategy.