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• KY-Sen: SurveyUSA's newest poll finds GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell leading Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes 47-45, but that shrinks to 41-39 when Libertarian David Patterson, who earns 7 percent, is included. In May, SUSA had Grimes edging McConnell 43-42, but back then, left-leaning independent Ed Marksberry, who has since dropped out, was also listed; he took 4, the same as Patterson. These gyrations make the trendlines tricky to follow, but it probably makes sense to focus on the matchup with Patterson, as the Libertarians sound pretty confident that he'll make the ballot. (They have until Aug. 12 to submit signatures and say they're close to their goal.)
Traditionally, Libertarian candidates have hurt Republicans more than Democrats, and Patterson's presence could be especially valuable for Grimes. The hardest task Grimes faces is getting that last chunk of right-leaning undecided voters to flip to her rather than McConnell, but with a third party in the race, she's be almost as happy if they went to Patterson instead. That would allow her to win a plurality victory, much as Jon Tester did in Montana two years ago. And in America, we don't care how you win, just that you win.
There's also a Gravis poll that has Grimes tied at 45 with McConnell (though Patterson wasn't tested here). That at least finally puts Gravis in line with other pollsters; previously, they had McConnell up 43-36.
Finally, we have a Big Dog Alert! For the second time this campaign season, Bill Clinton is visiting the Bluegrass State to help Grimes. He'll be coming to eastern Kentucky on Aug. 6 for a rally, though no further details are available as of right now. Back in February, Clinton showed up in Louisville for a big Grimes event.
• HI-Sen, -Gov: The League of Conservation Voters is launching a new paid media campaign on behalf of Sen. Brian Schatz in next week's Democratic primary—which, true to aloha form, is on a Saturday. The TV spot praises Schatz for his leadership on climate change, an issue of special importance in Hawaii, and is backed by a hefty $350,000 buy.
LCV also released some polling from PPP showing Schatz ahead of his primary opponent, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, by a healthy 49-39 margin. That's a wider lead than Schatz has seen in all but one poll, a May survey from PPP for DFA that put Schatz on top 49-34. There haven't been polls of this race, but Hanabusa hasn't led since February. Time's running out.
However, it's the gubernatorial primary numbers that really stand out. LCV isn't playing in that race, but they did ask about it and find Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie trailing state Sen. David Ige by the same spread, 49-39. That's very similar to a Civil Beat poll from early last month that gave Ige a 48-37 lead, but what's especially troubling for Abercrombie (assuming this latest poll is accurate) is that he's been spending heavily on TV in the interim.
It would still be a major upset if the incumbent goes down, but it wouldn't be a surprise—the warning signs have been there for quite a while now. And if Abercrombie falls while Schatz survives, Hanabusa is seriously going to regret picking the wrong race.
• MI-Sen: Mitchell Research: Gary Peters (D): 43, Terri Lynn Land (R): 38 (June: 45-42 Peters). HuffPo Pollster average: 44-37 Peters.
• MT-Sen: Last week, Republican pollster Gravis Marketing found the tightest results in Montana Senate's race to date, with Republican Rep. Steve Daines up just 45-41 on Democratic Sen. John Walsh, who was appointed to the post earlier this year. But immediately after that poll came out, the New York Times busted Walsh for plagiarizing his master's thesis, making an already difficult race that much more impossible.
So Gravis (again on behalf of the conservative website Human Events, a frequent client) went right back into the field and found Daines ahead by a pretty similar 45-38. The results show either that the scandal hasn't fully penetrated yet (probably); that voters don't care about it (unlikely); or that Gravis is just a sucky pollster (undeniably true, but possibly beside the point in this instance). As we always say, we can wait to see a more credible poll here, but there's almost no way one will bring good news for Walsh.
And as an aside, a lot of folks have wondered whether the Walsh plagiarism story actually matters. It does. In 2010, ex-Rep. Scott McInnis has every expectation he'd cruise against utter Some Dude Dan Maes in Colorado's Republican gubernatorial primary; an early poll gave him a 57-29 lead. But McInnis' campaign came undone after revelations that he plagiarized articles that a foundation paid him $300,000 to write. McInnis lost the primary to the pathetic Maes, who managed just 11 percent in the general election.
So no, this kind of thing is not a "wine-track" scandal of interest only to select college graduates. Many thought that of McInnis, but that was incorrect. Plagiarism is theft, and everyone understands that. And if you obtained a degree the hard and honest way, or if you never had the opportunity to pursue one yourself but wished you had, then it's very easy to resent the kind of guy who cheats to acquire one.
• NM-Sen: Rasmussen: Tom Udall (D-inc): 54, Allen Weh (R): 33.
• TN-Sen: Following a recent Triton poll for Tea Party Nation that put him up just 43-36 on primary challenger Joe Carr, Republican Sen. Lamar! Alexander (or ¡Lamar!, to his anti-immigrant critics) has now leaked his own numbers from North Star showing him with a far wider 53-21 lead. That's a touch closer than a May internal that had Alexander up 56-14, but it still puts him well outside the danger zone. The problem, though, is that we've got two warring GOP pollsters, which is two more than the number of GOP pollsters I actually trust these days.
Meanwhile, a group called Citizens 4 Ethics in Government (yes, with the numeral) is spending $275,000 on Carr's behalf. Their independent expenditure report is a bit of a hot mess, since it also mentions that they're spending $15,000 to defeat Scott DesJarlais for "Senate," even though he's most assuredly running for re-election to the House. (Actually, media reports say they're trying 2 help DesJarlais.) The primary is next week, on Aug. 7—a Thursday. If you know the reason for that unusual choice of day, please email me!
• GA-Gov: Just a week after releasing data that gave Democrat Jason Carter his biggest-ever lead on GOP Gov. Nathan Deal, Republican pollster Landmark Communications went back into the field and turned up nearly identical results. The firm still shows Carter on top, 47-40, compared to 49-41 a week ago. Carter's previous best showing came from the erratic Rasmussen, which found him ahead 48-41 in May; now Ras has him up just 45-44, but you already knew not to trust those guys.
But even putting Rasmussen aside, this has still been a tricky race to get a read on. Some polls have made it look like Deal was already at or near victory; some, like Landmark's, have indicated that Carter could win outright in November; and the rest have generally suggested that the race will head to a December runoff. That's what the HuffPo Pollster average (currently tied at 45 apiece) says, too, and that's what our money's on—for now.
• KS-Gov, -02: Here's another sign of just how much danger GOP Gov. Sam Brownback is in: His Democratic opponent, state House Minority Leader Paul Davis, has outraised him since the start of the year. Davis has taken in $1.1 million versus just $774,000 for Brownback, which seems very weak for an incumbent. Brownback still has a cash edge, $2.3 million to $1.3 million, but that total is padded by a $500,000 loan from his lieutenant governor. (I guess it's sort of like marrying rich.)
If Brownback does indeed go down, one big question is how much of an anvil he'll be for the rest of his party. Democrat Margie Wakefield, who's challenging Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins in Kansas' 2nd Congressional District, suggests that the top of the ticket is indeed causing problems for the GOP in a new poll from Anzalone Liszt Grove. Wakefield's problem, though, is that right now, it may not be enough: Brownback has a mediocre 41-53 favorability rating in the district, but Wakefield still trails Jenkins 49-42. That's tighter than October's 49-39 spread but still puts Jenkins just a hair shy of 50.
Kansas Republicans, though, can't take anything for granted this year. Brownback is toxic, and the damage he could cause is presently unknowable.
• MI-Gov: Candidates in Michigan's gubernatorial races have filed fundraising reports for the first seven (almost) months of the year, and GOP Gov. Rick Snyder holds the edge on his Democrat opponent, ex-Rep. Mark Schauer. Snyder took in $3.3 million and still has $4.7 million on hand, while Schauer raised $1.8 million and has $2.5 million in the bank. However, Schauer also qualified for $1 million in public financing (Snyder didn't accept matching funds), so the fundraising gap is much smaller than it appears.
• AZ-07: A new Lake Research internal for state Rep. Ruben Gallego shows him maintaining a lead on his chief rival in next month's Democratic primary, Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox. Gallego is up 32-24, which compares to a 38-32 Gallego advantage back in May. It's obviously unusual for both candidates' vote totals to shrink as we get closer to Election Day, but Gallego's campaign explains that the earlier poll didn't include the "full field" of candidates.
Gallego's name recognition has gone up, though, from 43-6 to 51-11. At the same time, Wilcox has suffered, falling from 48-27 to 40-30 today. Gallego says the drop came because Wilcox's attacks on him have "backfired," which is not hard to believe, given the negative media attention she earned over her embarrassing and insulting lawsuit to get Gallego kicked off the ballot—a suit she was forced to drop almost immediately.
There's still four weeks until the primary, though, and in a low-turnout affair, the state of play is apt to be volatile. But the only polling we've seen to date has come from Gallego's camp. If Wilcox wants to convince anyone she's positioned to win, she's going to have to try something other than silence.
• MA-06: A report by the Boston Globe says that Republican Richard Tisei, a former state senator, spent funds from his legislative campaign account on polling for a congressional bid ahead of his first House run in 2012—a definite no-no, since only federal funds may be spent on federal races. One expert says it's very hard to make a legal case out of such shenanigans, but it's pretty obvious what went on: Massachusetts has much higher contribution limits than the feds, and Tisei wanted to make use of those leftover dollars. Tisei's presented himself as a squeaky-clean alternative to Democratic Rep. John Tierney, whose wife served a jail sentence on tax charges, but shtick like this can only undermine the image he's selling.
• UT-04: Along with North Carolina's 7th, Utah's 4th Congressional District is one of two House seats all but guaranteed to flip to the GOP this fall, and a new internal poll from Democratic attorney Doug Owens doesn't do much to alter that picture. Owens, the son of ex-Rep. Wayne Owens, trails 2012 Republican nominee Mia Love by a 50-41 margin, according to FM3. That means Love is already winning the race, and in a district this red (it went 67-32 for Mitt Romney), the undecideds won't be much help, either.
The one positive note for Democrats here is that Love is very well-known, thanks in part to her unsuccessful previous bid, while almost three quarters of the electorate have never heard of Owens, so in theory he has room to grow. But if retiring Rep. Jim Matheson didn't think he could win this fall, then how can Owens?
• Attorneys General: In 2014, 31 states will hold elections for state attorney general. These races often get overshadowed but they are very important: Attorneys general have a good deal of impact on policy and are often prime recruits for Senate and gubernatorial races. Plenty of these contests have already turned into close, expensive battles. We take a look at each race here. (Jeff Singer)
• House: Folks looking for a 2010 analogy to this year are going to have to keep on looking. Earlier in this cycle, you'd occasionally see conservative pundits pointing out that the Democrats' share on the generic ballot was worse now than it was at the same point in 2010, ergo, #demsaredoomed. For one thing, that ignored how many exposed, GOP-leaning seats the Dems held in 2010 after the 2008 wave, compared with today's fully re-aligned House. More importantly, though, it ignored that the wheels really didn't start falling off for the blue team until mid-2010. The groundwork was there all along, of course, but it didn't start showing up in the generic ballot until the summer of 2010.
Well, we're finally at the point in the year where direct comparison to 2010 is more useful, and a new chart from Nate Cohn really underscores the differences. Comparing eight different pollsters who measured the generic congressional ballot in 2006, 2010, and 2014, the averages for July 2014 (a 1.9 percent margin in favor of the Democrats) are situated close to midpoint between where they were in July 2006 (D+10.1) and July 2010 (R+4.7). The term "neutral year" has been used a lot this cycle, but now we have the data points to show just how neutral it really is. (David Jarman)
• Polls: By now, you've likely encountered the enormous new batch of polling from the New York Times, which commissioned online pollster YouGov to survey all 50 states at once. As you might imagine, there's too much to explore in the confines of the Digest, so I strongly recommend this full-length examination from Taniel, who analyzes the toplines (which almost all favor the GOP) and picks apart a number of methodological issues with the data. (For instance, YouGov failed to include any prominent third-party candidates, even in Maine's gubernatorial race.) Internet polling still has much left to prove, and YouGov definitely hasn't settled any debates here.
• AK-Sen: Two ads from Republican contenders: former Attorney General Dan Sullivan and 2010 nominee Joe Miller.
• HI-Sen: Democratic Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.
• IA-Sen: Senate Majority PAC against Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst.
• NH-Sen: Former Republican Sen. Scott Brown blames Obama and Democratic rival Sen. Jeanne Shaheen for the border crisis. Shockingly, Brown never talks about anything he did in the Senate to secure the border.
• TN-Sen: Two ads: One from Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions for Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, and another from a primary rival, physician George Flinn.
• WV-Sen: Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant is finally on the air, with a creative first spot emphasizing coal energy that involves clever visuals of her turning off power to the White House. The size of the buy is $100,000.
• AZ-Gov: Republican corporate executive Christine Jones's spot stars Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. Babeu, who has a reputation as a hardliner on immigration, ran for Congress back in 2012 and dropped out after it emerged that he dated a man he knew was an undocumented immigrant and threatened to deport him to keep the matter quiet. Shockingly, that goes unmentioned in the ad.
• FL-Gov: The Florida Republican Party for Gov. Rick Scott and against Democrat Charlie Crist.
• MA-Gov: Mass Forward for Democratic Treasurer Steve Grossman and against Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley.
• PA-Gov: Democratic businessman Tom Wolf.
• WI-Gov: Republican Gov. Scott Walker against Democratic businesswoman Mary Burke.
• FL-02: Democrat Gwen Graham with two spots, both starring her father, former Gov. and Sen. Bob Graham.
• FL-26: Republican school board member Carlos Curbelo, starring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
• HI-01: Democratic state Senate President Donna Mercado Kim.
• KS-01: Now or Never PAC spends $104,000 against Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp in a primary that hasn't been on many people's radar. Huelskamp faces former school district superintendent Alan LaPolice on August 5.
• KS-04: The American Chemistry Council spends $165,000 for Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo.
• MI-06: Democratic professor Paul Clements runs his first ad. Clements is running against GOP Rep. Fred Upton, who faces a primary challenge of his own.
• NY-23: Republican Rep. Tom Reed against Democratic Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson.
• TN-09: Two spots from Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen, who faces a primary on August 9.
• WA-04: Former Republican state Agricultural Director Dan Newhouse.