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• MI-Sen: The team at HuffPo Pollster has turned their scalpels on those Harper polls for American Crossroads from last week, and they've found some serious problems. In particular, Mark Blumenthal and Ariel Edwards-Levy point out that the geographic composition of any given state's electorate tends to be remarkably stable, even comparing midterms and presidential years. So in Michigan over the last decade, for instance, the Detroit media market has never comprised less than 48.7 percent of all voters and never more than 49.8 percent—a remarkably tight band. Indeed, the same patterns hold true for every region of the state:
And this is an issue for Harper because only 35 percent of their Michigan sample consisted of Detroit voters. (They were also light on New Orleans voters for their Louisiana poll.) Harper's refusal to provide crosstabs makes it impossible to say how much of an effect this off-base sample might have affected the toplines, which had Democrat Gary Peters trailing Republican Terri Lynn Land 42-37. But had Harper's vision of the electorate existed in 2012, Barack Obama's margin would have been three points narrower.
That may not seem like a huge difference (though in a closer race, it surely would have been), but as the Pollster crew says: "[W]hen a pollster purports to represent likely voters and misses past geographic composition by a mile, it's a sign that something in their methodology is not right."
• AK-, AR-, NC-Sen: According to Politico, the pro-Dem group Patriot Majority USA will soon air ads in Arkansas and North Carolina to counter efforts by the conservative Americans for Prosperity, spending $300,000 and $500,000 respectively. Meanwhile, a super PAC called Put Alaska First will also reportedly shell out $50,000 on behalf of Democratic Sen. Mark Begich. However, none of the ads appear to be online.
• CO-Sen: A strange move, indeed: The grifty Tea Party Express has dropped $100,000 to boost the fortunes of state Sen. Owen Hill, who is not exactly a major player in Colorado's GOP Senate primary. In fact, when we last heard news of Hill, he was allegedly polling a possible challenge to fellow Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn in the 5th District. And more recently, his fourth-quarter fundraising was a very feeble $109,000. In December, a PPP poll showed him taking just 2 percent in the primary, just underscoring how deeply weird TPX's choice is.
• GA-Sen: Do Madison Project endorsements mean much? The group, sort of a kid brother to the likes of the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund, has been around a long time but has only recently started to flex its muscles under the leadership of ex-Rep. Jim Ryun. They've endorsed several conservative true believers in GOP primaries so far this cycle but have only spent around $80,000, mostly on Matt Bevin in Kentucky, so it remains to be seen how influential they'll be.
But Democrats nevertheless have to be pleased with their latest endorsement. The Madison Project is now backing Rep. Paul Broun, the leading contender for craziest Republican Senate candidate of the cycle. Sadly, Broun's, uh, iconoclasm hasn't translated into a lot of love from the heavyweight purist meddlers like the Club, but maybe his luck is finally about to turn. Michelle Nunn can only hope.
• KS-Sen: Coming on the heels of a New York Times report that showed his only home-state residence was a time-share in a La-Z-Boy, this is not a good headline for the incumbent: "Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts won't say how many days he spends in Kansas." Nor is it good politics, though of course, Roberts is screwed either way: A low number and no number both look awful.
But his staff is handling the situation particularly poorly. Conservative columnist Byron York says he asked the Roberts campaign for data on how much time the senator had actually spent in the Sunflower State. The campaign said it would provide the information, according to York, then abruptly decided to renege. A spokesperson pretty much confirmed the decision was made because the totals didn't look good, saying: "We're not going to release numbers because we're not sure that any number would be acceptable to some of these outside groups. We're worried about what the yardstick is. Who defines how much is enough days in the state?"
It's the voters who get to define that, of course, and right now, Roberts is so afraid of the truth that he's hoping he can ride the story out by stonewalling. But this is exactly what fellow Republican Sen. Dick Lugar tried last cycle, to disastrous results. Lugar sought to sidestep this very question but was hounded relentlessly until he eventually released some statistics that showed just how little time he'd spent in Indiana. He then got smashed in the primary. By refusing to come clean now, Roberts, like Lugar, is only giving more fuel to his opponents.
• KY-Sen: Oops indeed. Hedge fund CEO Matt Bevin has thoroughly enjoyed castigating Sen. Mitch McConnell for his support of TARP, aka the 2008 bank bailout—a piece of legislation that's been absolutely poisonous in GOP primaries for years. (McConnell probably wishes he hadn't called it "one of the finest moments in the history of the Senate.") But now Politico has busted Bevin for praising TARP himself in an update he sent to investors at the peak of the financial crisis. Indeed, wrote Bevin, "[m]ost of the positive developments" at stemming the panic "have been government led," including TARP, of which he said "don't call it a bailout." What a gift for McConnell.
• LA-Sen: PPP's new Louisiana poll has some pretty gloomy news for Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. She's now up just 45-44 over GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy, down from a 48-41 lead she had in October. At the same time, her job approval rating has fallen from a middling 46-43 to a dismal 37-52, and it's likely all Landrieu's wretched reward for being one of the top targets of Americans for Prosperity's ceaseless negative ad campaign over Obamacare.
If that 37 percent approval score isn't temporary, then it's very hard to see how Landrieu can survive. As it is, it's fairly remarkable that her take in the head-to-head with Cassidy is 8 points higher than her approvals. And indeed, she performs several points better against two other minor Republican candidates, beating state Rep. Paul Hollis 48-42 and Air Force vet Rob Maness 47-42.
But there's not much hope of facing either in a December runoff. In a jungle primary scenario that reflects the likely November ballot, Landrieu takes 43 percent while Cassidy sits at 25—far ahead of the little-known Hollis and Maness, who are at just 5 and 3 respectively. That means Landrieu will simply have to find a way to get back on her feet for a confrontation with Cassidy, which almost certainly will require Democrats to nuke him with negative attacks of their own, something they have not yet begun.
• MT-Sen: Former Lt. Gov. John Walsh was just sworn in as Montana's newest senator on Tuesday, replacing Max Baucus, who's headed off to China as the new U.S. ambassador. (In case you're curious, Gov. Steve Bullock appointed high school history teacher and Montana Board of Regents Chair Angela McLean to replace Walsh as lieutenant governor.) Walsh is also getting a quick greeting on the campaign trail from Karl Rove's American Crossroads, which is spending $138,000 to run an ad against him. The spot isn't available yet, but for Montana, that's a pretty sizable buy.
• SC-Sen-A: Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham's new ad nearly made me hurl—but not because of the messaging (pretty standard stuff about Obamacare and, a little more unusually, Benghazi, though this is a GOP primary, after all). Rather, it's the camera work that has me queasy. Most of the spot is filled with brief, low-quality clips of Graham that look like they were recorded off of a television screen by a drunk with an iPhone. Seriously, what the hell is up with that? Politico says that Graham is forking out $220,000 for a weeklong statewide buy on both TV and radio, but I'd be grateful if next time he could spend a little more on his production team.
• TN-Sen: Sen. Lamar Alexander has shared new internal polling from North Star Opinion Research in an attempt to demonstrate that his GOP primary challenger, state Rep. Joe Carr, hasn't gained any ground since, well, ever. Lamar!'s latest numbers have him beating Carr 62-17, unchanged from his 64-22 edge in August. These aren't the droids we're looking for. Move along, move along.
• TX-Sen: I don't want to bury the lede on the latest Steve Stockman story, so here it is, courtesy the hard-working researchers at the Texas Tribune:
That's Stockman's terrifying mug shot from his 1977 arrest for felony possession of Valium. Okay, well, people make mistakes (both with the law and with haircuts), and I wasn't even six months old when this went down, so why bring this up? Because Stockman's well-documented break with reality now appears to be total, since he's denying that this incident ever took place—even though he discussed it at length with reporters in the mid-90s—and he's now suing a super PAC for libel
for daring to mention the topic at all.
The actual Valium story is pretty funny, though. Nearly 20 years ago, a pre-dissociative Stockman claimed he'd been ordered to spend a weekend in jail for piling up an excessive number of traffic violations, but then nearly landed a much more serious sentence:
The records state that an officer "found, in doing a strip search, that Stephen Stockman had 3 Valium tablets 10mg each inside a cellophane cigarette wrapper which was tucked inside the (fly) portion of his undershorts. Subject stated that his girlfriend had given them to him to take while serving his sentence."
The girlfriend, Mr. Stockman said, "shoved them in my pants, to tell you the truth, right before I went in for the weekend," hoping to make it easier for him "to bear the weekend."
Stockman apparently was able to get the felony charge dropped in exchange for pleading to a misdemeanor and served no time for it. But poor bastard who had to strip-search him!
• IL-Gov: A new poll from the Market Shares Corporation for the Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV confirms that billionaire venture capitalist Bruce Rauner has a wide lead for the GOP gubernatorial nomination with just five weeks to go before the primary. Rauner takes 40 percent, versus 20 percent for state Sen. Bill Brady, 13 percent for state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, and 11 percent for state Sen. Kirk Dillard. And note that this poll was conducted just before a former employee of Rutherford's filed a lawsuit alleging Rutherford sexually harassed him.
Further Rutherford slippage could create an opening for Brady, the 2010 nominee, but Rauner has now led in four straight polls (from three different pollsters), ever since kicking his advertising blitz into high gear. And Brady doesn't have enough money to go up on TV, so this is now Rauner's race to lose. If he's victorious, he'll face off against Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in November.
• MO-Gov: It feels like every election cycle, the announcements start earlier and earlier (also, all these candidates need to get off my lawn). So it's not really surprising that we already have someone declaring for the Missouri governor's race, which isn't until 2016. It will, however, be an open seat, which is why Republican former U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway has now announced her campaign so far in advance. Hanaway is also a former state House speaker who waged an unsuccessful bid for Secretary of State in 2004, losing 51-46 to Robin Carnahan. (It was after that defeat George W. Bush tapped her as U.S.A.)
Hanaway definitely won't have the field to herself, though. State Auditor Tom Schweich is a good bet to run, and Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer may as well. Democrats, meanwhile, will likely coalesce around Attorney General Chris Koster, a one-time Republican legislator who has since won statewide twice as a Dem. But given how distant the election is, much can and likely will change between now and then.
• CO-03: Democrats may finally have a candidate to take on GOP Rep. Scott Tipton, who sits in a potentially winnable seat but hasn't attracted much attention so far this cycle. According to the Denver Post's Kurtis Lee, though, that will change this week, as he's reporting that Pueblo County Commissioner Buffie McFadyen, who's also a former state representative, will soon enter the race. But this certainly won't be an easy race. While the 3rd was more evenly split in 2008, it went 52-46 for Mitt Romney in 2012. Democrats only hold a tiny handful of seats that red or redder.
• FL-13, -26: The Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC is out with their first ad of the special election in Florida's 13th, attacking Republican David Jolly for lobbying on behalf of "a special interest that wanted to privatize Social Security." There's no word on the size of the buy, but HMP previously said it plans to spend $650,000 on the race.
A bit further south, HMP is also reportedly preparing to air an ad defending Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia in the 26th District, with a one-week buy for $90,000. That spot is not yet available.
• LA-06: Yet another Republican is reportedly looking at joining the slow-to-form field for Louisiana's open 6th Congressional District, autism advocate Shelley Hendrix.
• NY-07: There will probably be a new rumor about former New York City Comptroller John Liu's next political move every month, so here's the latest weird idea: a primary challenge to Democratic Rep. Nydia Velazquez. This may actually make even less sense than the idea of Liu taking on freshman Rep. Grace Meng, since Velazquez's 7th is heavily Latino (44 percent), and the district's very liberal white voters are likely to stick with her as well. At the same time, only 19 percent of the district's population is Asian, though that term covers many different national origins, so only about 14 percent are Chinese-American, like Liu.
Liu didn't exactly deny the idea, but he did scoff at it, which was pretty much how he responded to the notion of running against Meng, too. However, it's worth noting that Liu did campaign for Velazquez in 2012 when she faced a primary challenge—and for Meng as well.
• NY-21: Former Oswego Mayor John Sullivan, who had been considering a bid for New York's open 21st District, has decided against running, and he specifically took a shot at the Democratic county leaders who are trying to "designate" a nominee ahead of the primary. Several other Democrats still haven't announced their plans, though, including Assemblywoman Addie Russell, former state Sen. Darrel Aubertine, and former Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava.
• PA-06: Even though the Democratic establishment has lined up behind newcomer Michael Parrish, physician Manan Trivedi will launch a third campaign for the seat held by retiring Republican Rep. Jim Gerlach. Trivedi first ran in the impossible GOP wave of 2010, losing to Gerlach 57-43. He tried again two years later, but Gerlach's seat had been shored up in redistricting, leading to another 57-43 defeat.
Thanks to the name recognition he's built up from his prior bids, though, Trivedi could very well win the primary. He narrowly defeated a less progressive opponent in 2010, Doug Pike, and could do so again, though he's already indicated he doesn't plan to make an issue of Parrish's very recent party switch. (Of course, plans can always change.)
But if Trivedi does prevail, will he be able to bring the establishment back over to his side, or will he find himself on the outside? It's an important question, because whoever wins the Democratic nomination will need all the help he can get to defeat Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello, who has already locked up GOP support from top to bottom.