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• LA-Sen, NC-Sen: On Monday, PPP released data showing that five senators who voted against expanding background checks had apparently hurt their job approval ratings and made voters less inclined to vote for them. Now the firm has continued that polling in two more states, offering interesting contrasts:
Likely to Vote
|Mary Landrieu (D)
|David Vitter (R)
|Kay Hagan (D)
|Richard Burr (R)
Both North Carolina and particularly Louisiana are red-leaning, and they each have a Democratic senator up for re-election next year who voted in favor of enhanced background checks. They also both have a Republican senator who voted against. Outdated conventional wisdom says that both Landrieu and Hagan took a major risk in supporting background checks, but it actually looks like they may have helped themselves: Landrieu's approvals have jumped, while a majority say Hagan's vote makes them more
like to voter for her. Meanwhile, their GOP counterparts have, like "no" voters elsewhere, put themselves in rougher shape electorally, especially Burr.
Undoubtedly the NRA will try to blur all distinctions and paint senators like Hagan and Landrieu as jackbooted gun-grabbers—but they were going to do that anyway. Now, instead, supporters of expanded background checks will be able to say that they stood up for a popular, common-sense measure, and if they play their cards right, it'll be their opponents who wind up on the defensive.
• AZ-Sen: Why hasn't Jeff Flake shut up yet? After PPP determined that the Arizona Republican was the most unpopular senator in the country, Flake lashed back, claiming that the "only accurate poll they'll do is the one the week before the election." That was simply wrong. Then he backed off, saying that he was probably "somewhere just below pond scum" and that he'd "assume that my poll numbers have indeed taken a southerly turn since my vote against the Manchin-Toomey background check proposal." That was just sad.
Now he's turned conspiracist:
"There was a famous PPP poll just a couple of days ago that—the five Republicans who voted against this, you know, supposedly our poll number have dropped dramatically," Flake said on KJZZ radio in Arizona. "And I've no doubt they have because of the way the poll is structured."
Flake explained: "It said, I believe, 'Do you believe that Jeff Flake voted against background checks?' Now somebody who got that poll could just as easily assume that I voted to repeal current background checks. And so background checks are popular, but I believe that people recognize that universal background checks, that's a little more difficult thing to define."
Actually, keep yapping, big boy. The more you open your mouth, the better you're making it. I promise.
• GA-Sen, GA-01: As expected, Rep. Jack Kingston officially joined Georgia's GOP Senate primary on Wednesday, but his messaging sure sounds a bit muddled. On the one hand, he says he'll "yield no ground to any of my opponents as to who is the most conservative," but on the other, he says he hails "from an area that's not necessarily Republican" and that he therefore "can work with the other party and do that without selling out our philosophy." I really don't think Republican primary voters care about bipartisanship. In fact, I'm quite sure they hate it, so I'm really not sure what Kingston is trying to do here.
One thing to note about the seat Kingston is leaving open, GA-01, is that it's actually the least-red district held by a Republican in Georgia, and by a pretty wide margin. But it's still quite Republican, having gone for Mitt Romney by a 56-43 margin. That makes it pretty similar to GA-12, which is held by conservative Democrat John Barrow. So could a similar Blue Dog type be competitive in the 1st? It would be a real stretch, since Barrow is a special case, particularly because he's an incumbent, and Democrats had zero success in winning districts like this in 2012. But I suppose you could keep one eye on this seat, just in case something unlikely happens.
• HI-Sen: Rep. Colleen Hanabusa has finally broken her long silence and confirmed that she will indeed challenge Sen. Brian Schatz in next year's Democratic primary. I've been eager for this moment because I've been curious to see what sort of public rationale she'd offer for her candidacy—what kind of differences she'd cite between herself and Schatz. In an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, she didn't say a whole lot, but she did note that while she and Schatz both entered the legislature in the same year, 1998, she ultimately rose to the state Senate's top leadership ranks. Schatz took a different path, leaving the state House to unsuccessfully run for Congress in 2006 (in a race Hanabusa also lost) before becoming chair of the state Democratic Party and then lieutenant governor.
• IA-Sen: Time for Iowa Republicans to move on to Plan E: State Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey says he, too, won't run for Senate. Meanwhile, the unwanted Plan B—Rep. Steve King—is still undecided and said in an interview this week that he's "embarrassed" he hasn't made up his mind yet. King actually comes off sounding remarkably pathetic:
He said he never expected to still be undecided in May. "Things are stacking up on me so fast, I hardly have time to deal with the issue," the Kiron Republican said. He cited events pending in Congress, especially the farm bill and the immigration issue.
"I've just been pinned down doing my job, believe it or not," he said. "It just keeps me busy representing people in Congress."
A reporter asked if he'd have time to run for Senate, if he's too busy to decide whether to run. "It's a management issue," King said.
That's just really sad-sack. But the longer King waits, the harder it will be for anyone else to jump in and have enough time to run a credible race against Dem Rep. Bruce Braley, who starts off with the advantage. So I have no complaints.
• MT-Sen: EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock says she's waiting to see how everything "plays out" before deciding whether to seek the Democratic nomination for Senate in her home state of Montana, though she adds that her "inclination" is to stick with her current job. Like everyone else, Schriock wants to see what ex-Gov. Brian Schweitzer does; he'd be the prohibitive favorite in any Democratic primary and would almost certainly clear the field if he runs. Of note, Schriock managed Jon Tester's winning Senate campaign here in 2006.
Schweitzer, by the way, just won that proxy battle to get elected to the board of Stillwater Mining Co., whose foreign expansion plans he believes are putting Montana mining jobs at risk. Previously, Schweitzer said he would wait until after the vote to make a decision on the Senate race, so while he'll have his hands full dealing with Stillwater, he's over his biggest hurdle and can now focus on politics—the electoral kind, not the shareholder kind.
• AK-Gov: Republican Gov. Sean Parnell will reportedly announce his 2014 plans on Friday, and he could conceivably go in a number of different directions. Simplest would be seeking re-election as governor, though he could also run against Democratic Sen. Mark Begich. Another possibility would be to challenge Rep. Don Young in the GOP primary, something he did once before in 2008, when he came just 304 votes shy of unseating the incumbent. We'll know soon enough.
• CA-52: I've been unsure what to make of this new Tarrance Group poll for the NRCC, pitting potential candidate Carl DeMaio against freshman Democratic Rep. Scott Peters. The survey puts DeMaio, a former city councilor who unsuccessfully ran for mayor of San Diego last year, ahead by a somewhat implausible 49-39 margin, but I just can't tell if it's an informed ballot or not. The head-to-heads are listed in the memo's third bullet point, only after a discussion about how DeMaio allegedly is "not viewed as a political extremist among the electorate as a whole."
The memo also described the matchup as a "trial ballot test," a phrase that only Tarrance ever uses. The rest of the memo is heavily focused on testing the message that DeMaio is a "new generation Republican," mostly having to do with the fact that he's gay and supposedly wants to "focus on fixing the nation's finances." Requests for further information from Tarrance have not been answered, so I guess we'll be left wondering until we see another poll from a different source. But certainly Peters has to hope that these toplines don't reflect an initial ballot test.
• MI-14: Abby Livingston adds a few more possible names to the long list of potential candidates who might try to succeed Rep. Gary Peters in his safely blue 14th Congressional District. New to us are state Rep. Rudy Hobbs and state Sen. Vincent Gregory. She also has a quote from state Sen. Glenn Anderson, who ran in the MI-13 primary last year and says he will "probably look at everything." Meanwhile, an unnamed "Democratic operative" says it's "almost a certainty" that ex-Rep. Hansen Clarke, who was defeated by Peters in 2012, will also run.
• SC-01: Conservative blog Red Racing Horses has conducted an automated poll of the South Carolina special election with PMI, Inc. and has found a much closer race than PPP, with Republican Mark Sanford and Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch tied at 46. PPP had Colbert Busch up 9, but they also saw an electorate that voted for Mitt Romney by just 5 points, compared to the 18 he actually won by. RRH, by contrast, has a +13 Romney sample.
However, RRH did not ask respondents for their age and only weighted the poll by race. Typically, one weights by age, race, and gender, otherwise you're likely to wind up with a pool that is whiter, more female, and older than the actual electorate. (For whatever reason, older white women tend to like answering polls more than other demographic groups.) With a sample that's 60-40 women (versus PPP's 56-44), that probably tilts in Colbert Busch's favor, since she holds a small edge among women voters. But without any age data whatsoever, it's only reasonable to assume that the poll overall is too old, which would favor Sanford. PPP will have new data Monday, so that will offer a good sanity check.
Meanwhile, the Dem-aligned House Majority PAC just bought another $113,000 in television ad time for the stretch run ahead of Tuesday's election. That brings their total spending on the airwaves to $281,000, with another $77,000 on direct mail and $10,000 on online advertising. Overall, Democratic groups, led by the DCCC with $458,000, have spent $931,000 on this race while Republican organizations have pitched in under $21,000, though a conservative group called Independent Women's Voice reportedly just placed a $65,000 television buy on behalf of Sanford for the final weekend.
And there's one other last-minute endorsement for Sanford, from state Sen. Larry Grooms, who finished third in the GOP primary. However, Sarah Mimms notes that Grooms was trying to ward off an attempted write-in campaign; obviously, he wouldn't want to be the guy who narrowly denied Mark Sanford a victory because a hundred disaffected voters penciled Grooms's name in on their ballots.
Sanford also has a new TV ad out, a boring and empty spot in which he complains that "Nancy Pelosi and allies have spent more than a million dollars to defeat me." Oddly, he then says that the campaign is about "two different visions of how we restore American and rein in Washington spending," which means he's crediting Colbert Busch for possessing a vision for reining in spending, something I'm sure she'd gladly take credit for.