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Leading Off:

WV-Sen, WV-Gov: Holy smokes! Okay, I mean, I know they love Sen. Joe Manchin down in West by-God Virginia, but these poll numbers are berserk. A new survey from R.L. Repass & Partners on behalf of the Charleston Daily Mail finds Manchin up over Republican John Raese (the guy he beat in 2010) by a beyond-comical 74-22! Meanwhile, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is also crushing his own rematch-seeking Republican opponent, Bill Maloney, by a hefty 60-32 spread. And while numbers this extreme have to make you wonder a bit, here's one sign that this poll may in fact be well-grounded: Mitt Romney is cruising over Barack Obama, 54-37. The willingness of Mountain Staters to split their tickets between federal Republicans and local Democrats has long been a pretty remarkable phenomenon, but seldom has it been as stark as this.

Race Ratings:

UT-Gov: We're moving the Utah gubernatorial race from "Races to Watch" to "Safe R" because incumbent Gov. Gary Herbert handily warded off a nomination challenge at the state's recent Republican convention. While Democrats have actually put together an interesting ticket this year, it'll take quite a lot before we view Herbert as facing a genuine fight in the general election.


AZ-Sen: Rep. Trent Franks, who was widely expected to run for Senate in Arizona himself, has showed up as a "special guest" on an invitation to a fundraiser for Wil Cardon, the self-funding businessman who is trying (and mostly failing) to wrest the GOP nomination away from Franks' fellow member of Congress, Jeff Flake. Franks is so far refusing to say whether this constitutes an official endorsement of Cardon, but it's an interesting sign, since if Cardon's to have any hope here, it'll be by exploiting far-right dissatisfaction with Flake, an occasional apostate. Franks is generally more acceptable to the Tea Party set, so his imprimatur—and his network—could go a long ways toward helping Cardon.

CT-Sen: At long last, state Rep. William Tong is dropping out of the Democratic Senate primary, and he's endorsing front-runner Chris Murphy. So is another, much bigger name: Gov. Dan Malloy, along with Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman. Ex-SoS Susan Bysiewicz is still pledging to stay in the race, but with the final establishment wagons circling around Murphy, it's harder than ever to see her having any hope.

IN-Sen: Roll Call's Shira Toeplitz has another one of those pieces she's so good at, taking stock of the broader political picture in a high-intensity race with lots of stakeholders invested in the outcome. Here, she turns her attention to the waning days of Dick Lugar's campaign, one which most of the political world has already assumed is soon to be interred in the GOP primary by Richard Mourdock. There's nothing newsy in Toeplitz's report, but she gives a good overview of the all the unforced errors and self-inflicted wounds that have brought Lugar to this point, and also rounds out Mourdock's profile a bit. It's just a devastating portrait of a rudderless effort on the incumbent's part.

Meanwhile, there is a little bit of news to report. Lugar has a new negative ad attacking Mourdock on some familiar themes (his management of the state Treasurer's office) and some new ones (that weird email database misuse allegation). But I find the spot to be too cacophonous and scattered to be effective. Lugar also refused to say whether he'd back Mourdock if Mourdock wins the primary—though Mourdock had no trouble saying he'd support Lugar. It's a bad question to have to deal with if you're Lugar, with no good answers either way, but to me, the fact that he's being asked at all shows what rough shape he's in.

KY-Sen: Roll Call's Joshua Miller takes a detailed look at the 2014 Senate race in Kentucky, where it seems Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell both has a big target painted on his back—and that he might nevertheless escape a major challenge, from the left or the right. The most plausible teabagger who could take him on, businessman Phil Moffett, says he'll do no such thing. (You'll recall that Moffett outperformed expectations against establishment pick David Williams in the 2011 gubernatorial primary, losing 48-38.)

Miller also canvasses several possible Democratic contenders, including former Auditor Crit Luallen, current Auditor Adam Edelen, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, and state Sen. Dennis Parrett. No one's ruling anything out, but no one's sounding that excited either, especially since both Grimes and Edelen only won office last year... and McConnell already has $5 mil in the bank. But the race is almost three years off, and a lot can change between then and now. In particular, if Republicans fail to take back the Senate this fall, I think GOP dissatisfaction with McConnell could grow pretty intense. We'll see.

MT-Sen, MT-AL: PPP's previous three looks at Montana's Senate race all gave 2-pt leads to Denny Rehberg, but now they find vulnerable incumbent Dem Jon Tester up by 5. Also, we get our first real intel on the open-seat House race here: likely GOP nominee Steve Daines leads several Dems, but not by insurmountable margins. Click the link for our full writeup. (David Jarman)

NM-Sen: Auditor Hector Balderas, the decided underdog to Rep. Martin Heinrich in the Democratic primary, is out with his first ad, a positive biographical spot in which the narrator says, "Most Senators don’t... grow up on food stamps, or become the first person from their village to earn a law degree." The rest of the ad focuses on Balderas's support for education. A pretty decent spot, though of course there's no word on the size of the buy. You can watch it at the link or below:

NV-Sen: Rasmussen: Shelley Berkley (D): 40 (40), Dean Heller (R-inc): 51 (47)

OH-Sen: Republican Treasurer Josh Mandel is dumping another half mil on to the airwaves, going up with a new ad that hits the same theme as his first one: his military service. Mandel is obviously trying to pump up his name recognition, but I also wonder if he's trying to inoculate himself against charges of inexperience. You can watch at the link or below:


WI-Gov: Man alive! GOP Gov. Scott Walker has raised $13.2 million since January and still has $4.9 million in the bank—meaning he's pulled in an extraordinary $25 mil since January of 2011. The figures for the various Democrats hoping to unseat him in the recall are much, much smaller: Tom Barrett raised $832K (albeit in just one month) and has $475K on hand, while Kathleen Falk took in $977K and has just $118K in the bank. (The other two Democrats, Doug La Follette and Kathleen Vinehout, raised far less.) I guess the good news is that despite Walker's massive spending spree, Democrats still have a shot at this thing.

On the Democratic side, I really liked this piece by Steve Kornacki in Salon, where he delves deep into the backstory of the two leading Democratic contenders in the gubernatorial recall, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett and former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. In particular, he takes a close look at Falk's failed 2006 run for attorney general, a year when every other Democrat on the statewide ticket won, and some of the bad feelings that race engendered. Kornacki also examines Barrett's 2010 gubernatorial bid and his profile in general.

Meanwhile, Barrett is out with a new ad slamming Scott Walker for failing in his promise to bring 250,000 jobs to Wisconsin, using Walker's own words. The second half is all about Barrett's own job growth plans, but personally, I think the first part is more effective, especially since the state actually lost jobs (as Barrett notes), so I'd run a version of this ad that's all negative.

The labor-backed outside group Wisconsin for Falk is also out with some new ads of their own, including one thirty-second spot saying that Falk's been wrongly "counted out" several times in her career and arguing that an unspecified "they" are "hoping she won't win the fight to restore your rights." They also have several other 15-second ads which are shortened versions of this new spot and an earlier one titled "Passionate."


AL-06: I'll bet Spencer Bachus wishes he'd gotten this news before his primary: The House Ethics Committee just voted unanimously to clear him of allegations that he'd engaged in insider trading based on confidential information he'd learned as a member of Congress. These charges formed the basis of attack ads by the Campaign for Primary Accountability, but Bachus handily turned aside a challenge from state Sen. Scott Beason, winning 59-27 in the March primary.

AZ-04, KY-04, PA-12: The Club for Growth just handed out three endorsements on Tuesday, to state Sen. Ron Gould in AZ-04, Lewis County Judge-Executive Thomas Massie in KY-04, and 2010 nominee Keith Rothfus in PA-12. Unfortunately, none of these are seats where the CfG might give us an assist by helping to nominate a less-electable extremist: AZ-04 and KY-04 are both safe Republican districts, and the primary has already passed in PA-12 (where Rothfus had been the only contender anyway).

CA-30: Betty White's late-career renaissance has now carried over to the political realm, where she (and fellow "Hot in Cleveland" co-star Wendie Malick) have just recorded an ad on behalf of Dem Rep. Howard Berman, touting his support for "the humane treatment of all animals" and his efforts to increase the size of local police forces. (You can watch the spot at the link.) Meanwhile, a super PAC with the unwieldy name of "the Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman" is also reportedly going up with a huge $500K cable buy on behalf of Berman. We haven't seen copies of their ads yet, though.

CA-52: Rep. Bob Filner, who represents CA-51 but is running for San Diego mayor, has endorsed port commissioner Scott Peters in the neighboring 52nd, home to GOP Rep. Brian Bilbray. Peters is vying with former Assemblywoman Lori Saldana for the Democratic nomination, and apparently, Saldana has some (unpleasant) history with Filner, with her campaign sneering that "This is one failing campaign trying to prop up another failing campaign." (Peters has outraised Saldana by more than 2-to-1.) I guess extreme churlishness is one way to make sure you get quoted in the papers. Ragging on the only Democrat running in the mayoral race (a difficult contest, no less) is pretty uncool.

FL-24: Whoa! The president is endorsing businessman Rudy Moise, challenger to Rep. Frederica Wilson? Oh wait—it's the president of Haiti. Believe it or not, in a recent local radio interview on a Creole-language station, Haitian President Michel Martelly said that Haitian-Americans should support Moise, whom Wilson defeated (among many others) in the 2010 Democratic primary. (As the Miami Herald explains, "Moise was among four Haitian-Americans vying for the seat, and the split in the Haitian vote helped propel Wilson, an African-American, to victory" last cycle.)

Martelly's comments drew an angry response from Wilson, who decried his attempt to "divide my Congressional district" and also wondered why Martelly would be spending time worrying about American politics when his own country is in such dire straits. While I wouldn't have rated Moise's chances very highly to begin with, Martelly's attempt at interference seems like the kind of move that's more likely to backfire than it is to help. But this is actually a pretty interesting story overall, and I'd encourage you to read the Herald article in full if you'd like to know more about the international politics involved here.

FL-26: As expected, Democrat Joe Garcia just entered the race against GOP freshman David Rivera on Tuesday. (In the previous digest, we mentioned that he'd been calling supporters to let them know he'd be running.) There's a welcome video up at his website.

Meanwhile, Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald suggests that national Republicans may be dragging the ethically embattled Rivera out from under the bus. NRCC chair Pete Sessions is holding a fundraiser for Rivera in DC next month, a far cry from last July, when, alone among Florida's 19 Republican members of Congress, Rivera was left off an invitation for a high-dollar mega-event. (The GOP later claimed it was a "typo.")

And last year, almost from the moment Rivera was sworn in, political observers expected a stronger Republican office-holder to challenge him in the primary, but that never seemed to materialize. However, Caputo takes note of businessman Doug Walker, who recently filed with the FEC and has said he could seed his campaign with $1 to $2 million, which could instantly make the primary worth watching.

GA-10: Early last fall, we mentioned that former Rep. Mac Collins was looking at a possible comeback, via a primary challenge to fellow GOP Rep. Paul Broun. Well, Collins has been awfully quiet ever since, despite saying he'd decide by the end of October—but someone's antennae are definitely quivering. The Club for Growth, big fans of Broun's, just issued a warning to Collins, saying they "strongly support" Broun's campaign and will "work hard for his re-election" should Collins get in. Collins has very little time left: Georgia's primary is on July 31, and the filing deadline is May 25. But Broun doesn't have much cash-on-hand (just $275K), so Collins could still potentially make a race of this.

IL-08: Oh, Joe. GOP Rep. Joe Walsh's latest, from a town hall over the weekend:

He was a historic figure. He’s our first African-American president. The country voted for him because of that. It made us feel good about himself. I’ve said it before, it helped that John McCain was about 142 years old. It helped that the economy was tanking. A lot of these things helped. But he never would have gotten there without his historic nature.
IN-05: Either the Campaign for Primary Accountability is just becoming weirder, or the wolves behind it are throwing off their sheep-suits. The CPA, dedicated to ousting incumbents of either party says they plan to help ex-Rep. David McIntosh win his primary next week in Indiana's open 5th Congressional District. The CPA has often been attacked as a front group operating on behalf of a bunch of Republican Texas oil zillionaires, and McIntosh is a hardcore Club for Growth endorsee, so this has to make you wonder whether the CPA is showing its true ideological stripes, since there isn't any current office-holder for them to dethrone here.

Of course, the CPA is claiming an entirely different motivation, arguing that McIntosh's entry into the race helped push GOP Rep. Dan Burton to the exits, and saying they want to send a message that "strong candidates and serious citizens everywhere" should "challenge entrenched incumbents." Burton was going to face a stiff primary fight regardless of whether McIntosh entered the race, so the first part of the CPA's argument is already sketchy. But the idea that McIntosh is just some upright citizen-candidate sticking it to the man is ridiculous. He himself is a former member of Congress! And like I said, he's been backed by the Club for Growth, so he hardly lacks resources. The only message I see here is that if you're an ex-Rep. who leads the field in fundraising and has major support from heavyweight outside groups, the CPA will get your back with one week left to go in the primary.

In other IN-05 news, the American Society of Anesthesiologists is throwing down another chunk of change on behalf of John McGoff, spending $44K on mailers, which comes on top of some $31K they previously spent on radio ads. McGoff could use the help, since he's raised very little and trails the frontrunners considerably in overall spending. (Oh, and why are the anesthesiologists helping McGoff in particular? I'm guessing it's because he's an emergency room physician, and you know how those doctors stick together!)

KY-06: Obviously Ben Chandler would like you to conclude that Andy Barr's new poll is a bunch of junk, since he just dusted off this late March internal from the Mellman Group which shows rather different results. Chandler's own poll shows him beating his Republican opponent by a healthy 54-30 margin, versus the narrower 49-42 lead he sported in Barr's survey. The memo also has Obama beating Romney 47-42, which strikes me as fairly plausible, seeing as the president took 45% here in 2008. I don't expect Obama to win here, but Romney's relatively low share (McCain got 54%) may have to do with the fact this poll was taken while the presidential primary was still ongoing; in other polling since then, Romney has consolidated GOP support and seen his numbers rise.

Oh, one other item of note that we failed to mention in the previous digest: Barr's internal is positively ancient by comparison to Chandler's, seeing as it was in the field in the second half of February. We should have caught that sooner (h/t to Steven Shepard for the catch), but in any event, releasing polls that are ten weeks old is really sketch.

MO-01: A very big endorsement for Rep. Lacy Clay as he faces a member-vs.-member fight with fellow Rep. Russ Carnahan in the Democratic primary: Gov. Jay Nixon, the most powerful and popular Democrat in the state, is weighing in on Clay's behalf. The establishment definitely seems to be rallying around Clay, despite Carnahan's famous family name (his father was once governor): St. Louis mayor Francis Slay previously endorsed him, as did the Missouri AFL-CIO.

NC-08: The American Dental Association is spending on behalf of one of its own: dentist Scott Keadle, whom they're backing with $20K worth of mailers in the GOP primary. Keadle's fundraising's been pretty soft, but he did loan his campaign $180K last quarter.

NM-01: Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham just picked up her third labor endorsement, from the local branch of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

NY-11: GOP Rep. Mike Grimm has officially been kicked off the Independence Party's ballot line for failure to file an adequate number of signatures, something that seemed like it might be in the cards a couple of weeks ago when this issue first came up. It doesn't sound like Grimm's campaign will bother contesting the decision, since they didn't even show up at the Board of Elections on Tuesday when this ruling was handed down. The Independence Party accounted for about 3% of all votes cast in 2010, when Dem Rep. Mike McMahon had the line, so in a close race, this could be a difference-maker. (Grimm will face Democrat Mark Murphy in November.)

NY-18: I'm not surprised at all that establishment Democrats like the cut of Sean Maloney's jib, but I am a little surprised they're saying so out loud. New York Democratic Party chair Jay Jacobs just had some kind words to say about Maloney, a recent entrant in the race against GOP freshman Nan Hayworth, calling him a "great candidate." Maloney far outraised the rest of the field in the first quarter and is politically well-connected, which makes him appealing to the powers-that-be. But some local Dems (including several candidates who were in the race before Maloney got in) have hurled brickbats at Maloney for not living in the district.

Other Races:

NC Amendment 1: Some depressing numbers from PPP about North Carolina's Amendment 1, a measure which would ban both gay marriage and civil unions that's going before voters next week. PPP finds 55% in favor and 41% opposed, but as Tom Jensen has relentlessly pointed out, many voters are misinformed and think the amendment would only ban same-sex marriage but not other forms of legal recognition. When respondents are informed about what the law would actually do, it fails 46-38. It seems like pro-marriage equality groups failed to properly educate voters about this one—the splash screen on the website of Freedom to Marry doesn't even list NC in its five "battleground states," for instance.

Grab Bag:

Polltopia: Please vote for Iowa this week in PPP's "where should we poll" poll. Though there are no Senate or gubernatorial races this year in Iowa, there hasn't been a legit poll of the state since mid-February, when Selzer found Obama trailing all Republicans except Newt Gingrich, so it's high-time to double-check their work. If you'd like to help make an Iowa poll happen, in addition to voting, you can re-tweet this tweet.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed May 02, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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