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• HI-Sen, -Gov: An amazing political season in Hawaii culminated in an extraordinary set of Democratic primaries on Saturday night, with results—or, for the moment, a lack thereof—that will have election observers talking for quite some time. In the governor's race, state Sen. David Ige, who began the race utterly unknown and was outspent 10-to-1, demolished Gov. Neil Abercrombie in an amazing 67-31 landslide, rendering the incumbent just the fourth elected governor in the last decade to lose a primary. In fact, Abercrombie's 36-point drubbing even exceeded Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski's humiliating loss to none other than Sarah Palin in 2006, an ignominious record indeed.
Despite the size of his loss, though, it's extremely hard to say what exactly caused Abercrombie to fall so far: Hawaii's economy has been strong, and he's never been accused of corruption. As community member Skaje put it, "his problems have a boring basis," including a polarizing governing style, fights with the legislature over the budget, and disputes with unions, some of whom decided to endorse Ige. Abercrombie began his tenure with mediocre approval ratings and never really tried to shore up his own image. Ige was able to capitalize on that broad but hard-to-define discontent, in a dramatic blowout.
The fight for the Senate, however, wound up the exact opposite. Head below the fold to learn where things stand there.
Polling had generally showed Sen. Brian Schatz leading his challenger, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, but because this is Hawaii, the numbers went haywire right at the very end. That made it very hard to predict what might happen, though the early results showed Schatz trailing narrowly. But in the wee hours, Schatz pulled ahead by a slim 1,635-vote margin—or just 7 tenths of a percent
To make things even more tense, voters in two precincts in the Puna district on the island of Hawaii (known as "the Big Island") were unable to cast ballots because roads became impassable after Tropical Storm Iselle struck on Friday. They'll have three more weeks to mail in their ballots, creating an extraordinary situation where campaigning may continue on past Election Day.
But despite the closeness of the results, the numbers look exceedingly grim for Hanabusa. There are only around 8,255 registered voters in the two missing Puna precincts, and even if every single one of them cast ballots, they'd have to go 60-40 for Hanabusa for her to squeak out a lead. That math is obviously absurd, considering that overall turnout on the Big Island was just 38 percent, and only around 32 percent of registered voters there participated in the Democratic primary for Senate.
Even if you imagine some frenzied get-out-the-vote effort that could somehow dramatically increase the participation rate, at least 1,500 voters probably already managed to vote early in the afflicted half of Puna, either by mail or at walk-up polling sites. That leaves maybe 6,700 voters still eligible. So even with, say, 60 percent turnout among that remaining segment, Hanabusa would need a 70-30 win. But she carried her single best precinct on the Big Island by 64-36, and in any event, the two other Puna precincts that were able to record votes went for Schatz 53-43. Unless there's some missing stash of votes out there, there's pretty much no way Hanabusa can pull this off.
Whoever wins the Senate nomination, though, will cruise in the November general election—but that's not so in the race for governor. Ige will face former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, who fell to Abercrombie in 2010 by 17 points, as well as former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, a conservative Democrat-turned-independent who was also beaten by Abercrombie last time around (albeit in the primary). Thanks to Hannemann peeling away 15 percent of the vote, a recent Ward Research poll showed Aiona out in front of Ige 41-34.
However, that same poll predicted Hanabusa would win by 8, and found Ige ahead by "only" 18 points, half his winning margin. Meanwhile, Merriman River, the only other firm with a recent poll, had Schatz up 8 and Ige up 10, so once again, Hawaii polling shows that it's not to be trusted. And if anything, Democrats may have caught a lucky break with Ige that hasn't yet shown up in the polls, given that he emerged quite popular after avoiding a contentious primary and lacks Abercrombie's negatives. Hannemann will still make life difficult, but demographics are in Ige's favor. As for any lingering name recognition gap, Ige may not have been universally known in Hawaii before this weekend, but you can bet he is now.
We're changing ratings on six races this week: two Senate, three gubernatorial, and one House. Five are in the GOP's favor and one is in the Democrats' direction. As always, you can find our complete race ratings in chart form: Senate | Gubernatorial | House.
• MT-Sen (Lean R to Likely R): In the wake of Democratic Sen. John Walsh's plagiarism scandal, we were already preparing to move this race to Likely R. With Walsh dropping out, Democrats will have the chance to select an alternative who lacks his baggage. But that candidate will have just 90 days to put together a complete campaign in a red state that had already been looking unfriendly to Democrats even before the plagiarism story hit. Rep. Steve Daines is now the heavy favorite to pick this seat up for the Republicans.
• IA-Sen (Lean D to Tossup): Republican Joni Ernst saw a quick bounce in the polls after her unexpectedly dominant GOP primary win in June, but it never actually faded, and now she and Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley are locked in a dead heat. Ernst has her own problems (including some seriously extremist views), but Braley hasn't yet succeeded in making them the centerpiece of the campaign. Instead, his own gaffes and errors have been dogging him and making Democrats nervous. Iowa's light blue tilt probably gives him a slight edge in the end, but this race has become very competitive.
• CT-Gov (Lean D to Tossup): It's felt like Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy has been in trouble for a long time, but the paucity of polling in Connecticut made us reluctant to pull the trigger on "Tossup." But now we have a bit more data, including a Democratic internal that had the race tied at 46. What's more, Malloy risks losing votes on his left flank to Democrat-turned-independent Jonathan Pelto, a former state legislator who's trying to capitalize on anger among union members toward Malloy. Wealthy Republican frontrunner Tom Foley also has a lot of money at his disposal, Malloy is definitely in peril.
• IL-Gov (Tossup to Lean R): If Connecticut is looking dicey for Democrats, Illinois is looking downright terrifying. The polling has just been awful for Gov. Pat Quinn, who just released an internal showing him taking just 38 percent of the vote. To leak a private poll with such fugly numbers shows just how rough the public data is. Republican Bruce Rauner could still screw things up: He's an extremely out-of-touch one-percenter who's been busy tripping over himself trying to explain why part of his vast fortune is stashed in the Cayman Islands, so he could certainly prove to be his own worst enemy. But Quinn will need a lot of help from Rauner in order to survive—and that's the kind of help you just can't count on.
• WI-Gov (Lean R to Tossup): Democrat Mary Burke has convinced us: She's for real, and so is this race. When the cycle began, Wisconsin Democrats seemed dispirited after the failure of the 2012 recall, and no prominent contenders stepped forward to challenge Republican Gov. Scott Walker. But Burke accepted the challenge and has proven herself a serious campaigner. She also faces a different electorate this time—one where voters who dislike Walker but were squicked out by the recall process will now be free to vote their conscience. The RGA just announced a large ad reservation, and despite Walker's big fundraising advantage, the polls are showing a very tight race. Walker may have a small edge, but this is a serious fight.
• IL-12 (Likely D to Lean D): Earlier in the cycle, we felt that Republican state Rep. Mike Bost, a dude with serious anger management issues, wasn't looking like a serious candidate, leading us to flip this race from Lean D to Likely D. We're taking that back now, because Bost seems to have gotten his shit together and even outraised Democratic Rep. Bill Enyart last quarter. What's more, deeply unpopular Gov. Pat Quinn (see above) threatens to be a major anvil around the necks of downballot Democrats. If anything, this race is liable to become more competitive as we get closer to Election Day, not less so.
• AK-Sen: Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski's been pretty unhappy for some time with her home state's junior senator, Democrat Mark Begich, over Begich's attempts to link the two lawmakers together. Now Murkowski has asked Begich to stop airing an ad in which a local aviation executive says Alaskans should not "break up" the "team" of Murkowski and Begich.
Of course, Begich can keep running the spot if he likes, and no TV station can be forced to take it down (pursuant to federal law), but Murkowski's obviously trying to pressure Begich via the press. Begich has to hope voters aren't paying much attention to this spat, but if Murkowski escalates from lawyer letters to actual public statements, then his efforts to tie himself to Murkowski could backfire.
• CO-Sen: After repeatedly getting bloodied and battered over all their full-of-shit anti-Obamacare ads, it seems like Americans for Prosperity pulled back a bit, running TV spots that were a lot vaguer, or on different topics altogether. But now Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS is taking up the mantle, spewing b.s. in a new ad attacking Democratic Sen. Mark Udall. You should really read KDVR's full takedown, because the whole thing is just a load of crap, and the ad's narrator, Richelle McKim, is a real piece of work.
But the short version is that McKim does her best to make it sound as though she had to return to work because her family couldn't afford health insurance when her husband tried to start a new small business. None of this is remotely true. McKim's been continuously employed since at least 2008—before Barack Obama was even elected—and in a new interview, she admitted, "It wasn't the Affordable Care Act. It was just a financial burden, having a single income for so long."
But McKim's angry now because the ACA requires her to have insurance, saying: "It's alarming that when we have illegals here, they can still choose if they want health care, but we as citizens no longer have that choice." Lovely, right? The best part is that insurance was expensive for McKim's husband because he had high blood pressure—exactly the kind of pre-existing condition insurers are no longer able to discriminate against.
In any event, McKim's now covered under her employer's plan (and her husband can be, too), so the ACA shouldn't even matter to her. She just wants to take it away from the people who do benefit from it. Real nice.
• IA-Sen: A few weeks ago, American Crossroads attacked Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley over a dispute where he allegedly threatened to sue a neighbor after some chickens entered his vacation property. We now have further details of the incident, and picayune as it may seem, they don't sound good.
A woman named Pauline Hampton, who lives near the Braleys' vacation home, describes how she first learned that one of her chickens crossed into the Braleys' yard when she went to their home to offer them eggs. Braley's wife Carolyn allegedly told her, "We aren't going to accept your eggs—and we have filed a formal complaint against you." Braley denies that he threatened to sue Hampton. Braley may have good reason to be angry: The chickens apparently left droppings on his yard. Still, his neighbors seem to agree he did not handle the matter well.
Braley's Republican opponent, Joni Ernst, is of course wasting no time hitting Braley over this, portraying him as a litigious trial lawyer, in contrast to her "Iowa nice" persona. We'll see if this goes anywhere, but Republicans have already spent some money trying to foment this narrative in the past, using a now-infamous clip of Braley dismissively calling Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley a "farmer from Iowa" in TV ads. (Jeff Singer)
• KY-Sen: Haw-haw! As Barb Morrill puts, GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell's pretty much deployed just two strategies as he seeks re-election: "Trying to convince voters that Alison Lundergan Grimes is a black man from Kenya and accusing her of being a foot soldier in the so-called 'war on coal.' " Only door number two just became seriously, seriously awkward:
McConnell's wife, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, sits on the board of directors of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has plunged $50 million into the Sierra Club's "Beyond Coal" initiative, an advocacy effort with the expressed goal of killing the coal industry.
In 2011, Bloomberg Philanthropies teamed up with the Sierra Club to target coal plants for closure in an effort to "end our nation's reliance on dirty coal, plant-by-plant, community-by-community, and state-by-state," according to Bloomberg Philanthropies' website ... The organization boasts that it has "prevented 150 coal plants from being built," and has taken direct action against 16 plants in McConnell's home state of Kentucky, arguing that coal production is a health hazard and is harmful to the environment.
Of course, someone might be tempted to point out that Chao, of course, isn't the one running for Senate. But she's been very active in her husband's campaign, and even narrated a brand new TV ad
attacking Grimes and making bogus claims that McConnell supports the Violence Against Women Act, even though he voted against it. Well, Chao's proven herself pretty adept at spewing b.s. Guess she'll need to keep at it.
• CT-Gov: State Senate Republican Leader John McKinney has one more spot ahead of Tuesday's primary, and he goes straight for the jugular against former ambassador Tom Foley, the GOP frontrunner. The spot seizes on Foley's recent press conference from hell, repeatedly playing a clip of Foley blaming workers at a soon-to-be-closed paper goods plant for their job losses, repeatedly saying, "You have failed." The narrator then chimes in, "No, Tom, you failed."
If Foley wins the Republican nomination Tuesday, as expected, look for Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy's team to pick up right where McKinney left off. But if McKinney pulls off an upset, I really hopes he takes a page from Darth Vader and declares in his victory speech, "You have failed me for the last time, Ambassador."
P.S. Here's a new poll from Gravis Marketing: Tom Foley (R): 46, Dan Malloy (D-inc): 38; John McKinney (R): 45, Malloy: 38. (Jeff Singer & David Nir)
• IL-Gov: Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has been staring at a series of ugly poll numbers recently, but his camp is finally pushing back. A late July survey from the Mellman Group gives Republican businessman Bruce Rauner a tiny 39-38 advantage, with 23 percent undecided.
Mark Mellman has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best pollsters in the businesses: He has produced accurate numbers for his Democratic clients in hard-to-poll races like the 2010 Nevada Senate race and the 2012 Senate contest in North Dakota. So while any publicly released internal poll should be viewed with some skepticism, Mellman's numbers should be taken much more seriously than those from the legion of terrible Republican pollsters we often hear from.
Even so, it's not incredibly encouraging that the best poll the Quinn campaign could release still shows their man down—and mired in the high 30s. Note that this poll was conducted before news of Rauner's offshore accounts in the Cayman Island became public, so any effect that story may have had wouldn't be accounted for in this survey. (Jeff Singer)
• TX-Gov: Rasmussen: Greg Abbott (R): 48, Wendy Davis (D): 40 (March: 53-41 Abbott).
• HI-01: State Rep. Mark Takai made a late surge from second place to win the crowded Democratic primary to succeed Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in decisive fashion on Saturday night. Takai beat state Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, who had long been the frontrunner, by a 44-28 margin, while Honolulu City Councilor Stanley Chang was a distant third in the seven-candidate field with 10 percent. Takai will face Republican ex-Rep. Charles Djou in the fall.
• WA-01: NRCC-approved candidate Pedro Celis finally pushed ahead of absolute Some Dude Robert Sutherland in late vote-counting at the end of last week, sneaking ahead of his fellow Republican by less than a percentage point. Celis declared victory on Friday, but it certainly wasn't an inspiring finish given his huge financial advantage: He managed just 16.4 percent to 15.6 for the penniless Sutherland, while Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene took nearly 51 percent in the top-two primary. DelBene remains the overwhelming favorite.
• Primaries: Here's our recap of Thursday night's primary action in Tennessee, with Daily Kos Elections' race ratings appended at the end of each summary:
• TN-Sen (R)
: In the second "veteran GOP incumbent posts weak-ass win over weak-ass challenger" scenario to unfold last week, Sen. Lamar! Alexander fended off state Rep. Joe Carr by a 50-41 margin Thursday night. That follows Sen. Pat Roberts' soft victory in Kansas on Tuesday, but with slightly better candidates and/or smarter strategic thinking, tea partiers could have claimed two scalps in one week. Don't worry, guys: You'll get another chance in SIX YEARS. (Safe R)
• TN-03 (R): Rep. Chuck Fleischmann barely survived a second challenge from Weston Wamp, the son of ex-Rep. Zach Wamp who finished third in the 2012 primary. This time, the race was a whole lot closer, with Fleischmann prevailing by a 51-49 margin. Wamp took a very different approach, reaching out to Democratic voters by portraying himself as a centrist (Tennessee has open primaries). It almost worked.
And had Wamp not secretly recorded a conversation with last cycle's runner up, Scottie Mayfield, in which he attempted to browbeat Mayfield into remaining neutral, he might have succeeded. (The ugly moment was later turned into a campaign ad.) Classy to the end, when Wamp called Fleischmann to concede, he accused the incumbent of deceiving voters, then hung up. Like father, like son. (Safe R)
• TN-04 (R): Left for dead by his own party and just about every political observer after his salacious "push mistress who was a patient to get an abortion" scandal, Rep. Scott DesJarlais staged an amazing comeback and is now clinging to (political) life, leading state Sen. Jim Tracy by just 35 votes out of over 77,000 cast. Suffice it to say, it'll be a while before we know who actually won here, but the fact that DesJarlais even has this much of a chance is a remarkable testament to the ability of Republican primary voters to forgive even the most offensive behavior. (Safe R)
• TN-09 (D): Rep. Steve Cohen, a white man representing a majority-black district, had faced primary challenges from African-American opponents every cycle he's been in office, and he's always turned them back by an 80-20 margin. This year, though, he faced a more vigorous candidate in attorney Ricky Wilkins, and Cohen also found himself in the papers more than once for some odd (and revealing) tweets. Cohen still won by a 66-33 margin, but Wilkins' performance will likely only mean more challenges in the future. (Safe D)
• And in a rare piece of good news for Tennessee Democrats, three Democratic justices on the state Supreme Court all handily turned back efforts by conservatives to deny them another term on the bench. Tennessee is the only state in the nation where the Supreme Court appoints the state's attorney general, and Republicans would have taken control of the court with just a single victory, so this was a particularly big win for Democrats.
Ads & Independent Expenditures (Jeff Singer):
• CO-Sen: AFSCME spends $402,000 hitting Republican Rep. Cory Gardner. The ad, titled "What's the Deal," isn't online yet and it presumably does not star Jerry Seinfeld.
• GA-Sen: The American Chemistry Council distillates out $720,000 worth of praise for both Republican nominee David Perdue and would-be Senate colleague Johnny Isakson.
• IA-Sen: The NRSC reserves $1.9 million in airtime from the end of August to the election.
• NC-Sen: Concerned Veterans for America goes up with a "seven figure buy", blaming Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan for not doing enough about the problems at the VA. We also have a size-of-the-buy for a recent EMILY's List ad hitting Republican rival Thom Tillis, which comes to $500,000.
• NH-Sen: Senate Majority PAC goes after Republican Scott Brown over his time as a senior advisor for a shady company. The group, Global Digital Solutions, was described by the Boston Globe as having "no revenue, no products, no trademarks, no patents, and only a 'virtual office' space in West Palm Beach."
• AZ-Gov: Republican state Treasurer Doug Ducey touts his performance as CEO of Cold Stone Creamery. Disappointingly, the spot does not end with any Cold Stone employees erupting into song after Ducey tips them.
• FL-Gov: NextGen Climate Action has two new spots (here and here), tying Republican Gov. Rick Scott to big energy committees and polluters.
• RI-Gov: Former Obama Administration official Clay Pell positions himself as above the fray, decrying negative attacks. Pell's Democratic primary rivals, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Treasurer Gina Raimondo, have largely been training their fire on one another, but Taveras recently ran a negative ad against Pell.
• TX-Gov: Republican Greg Abbott's Spanish-language spot features his mother-in-law praising him. Meanwhile, Democratic rival Wendy Davis is out with her first ad, a minute-long spot. The narrator describes how a woman was raped by a salesman and proceeded to sue her attacker's company for not performing the background check that would have revealed he was already a sexual predictor. The case went to the state Supreme Court, where Abbot was the only justice to side against the woman.
• AR-02: Republican French Hill preemptively pushes back on attacks that he's an out-of-touch rich guy, claiming he saves money by driving his very old car, "Old Blue." Surprise: The Huffington Post quickly found out that despite the frugal image Hill presents, he and his wife also own three much newer cars.
• AZ-01: Republican rancher Gary Kiehne emphasizes border security.
• AZ-07: A group called Revitalize Arizona portrays Democratic state Rep. Ruben Gallego as a defender of women's rights. The spot is airing for $70,000: The group is mainly funded by unions.
• MN-08: House Majority PAC once again hits Republican Stewart Mills as an out-of-touch rich guy. AFSCME, which allied with House Majority PAC in a recent buy against Mills, spends another $84,000 against him, likely in support of this ad or another joint effort.