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Leading Off:

NE-Sen: If Republican-affiliated pollster We Ask America's new numbers are right, we're in for a remarkable upset in the Nebraska Senate GOP primary. AG Jon Bruning, who pretty much led this race wire-to-wire, all of a sudden finds himself in second place to state Sen. Deb Fischer, 39-34 (Treasurer Don Stenberg's faded to 18). That's an almost hard-to-believe turnaround from WAA's poll just a week ago, which had Bruning up 42-26 over Fischer, with Stenberg at 23—a monster 21-point shift. Note, though, that the poll was in the field for just one day (Mother's Day—a Sunday, of course), and once again, WAA didn't allow respondents to say they were "undecided," which is a discouraged practice.

But if there's any possible explanation for this, it's that zillionaire Joe Ricketts (whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, who's a founder of brokerage TD Ameritrade, and who's also the dad of failed 2006 GOP Senate nominee Pete Ricketts) dumped $200K on to the airwaves at the last minute. Ricketts' group, called "Ending Spending," has two spots out, one trying to knock down Bruning and the other aiming to buff up Fischer.

Ricketts also paid for a poll of his own, from right-wing pollster Wenzel Strategies. The numbers aren't quite as favorable for Fischer as WAA's, though Wenzel did offer respondents the option to say they were "undecided." Like WAA's survey, it was also a Sunday-only affair. In any event, they find Bruning with a narrow 38-35 lead over Fischer, with Stenberg relegated to obscurity at just 16%. Jair Herbstman (aka jmartin4s) reminds me that Wenzel also conducted a poll of NE-Sen back in February for a pro-Bruning group and found Bruning at 48, Stenberg at 19, and Fischer at 10. Ouch!

Senate:

CT-Sen: I had long expected that Rep. Chris Murphy would do quite well at the statewide Democratic convention, but he seriously kicked some ass this past weekend. Murphy won 76% of the delegates' votes, compared to 24% for his rival, ex-SoS Susan Bysiewicz. Because Bysiewicz cleared 15%, that means her name will automatically appear on the August primary ballot (otherwise, she'd have had to petition her way on), and she's previously said she plans to forge ahead regardless of the convention results, despite pressure to reconsider.

But Murphy's huge win means he's the party's official endorsee, and he also gets the top ballot line for the primary. He also has all the momentum in the race, and his establishment support is firmer than ever. I always prefer primaries to conventions, but given these recent developments, combined with all the polling we've seen to date, I really just don't see how Bysiewicz has a hope here.

IN-Sen: It looks like we have a real race on our hands: A new poll from Global Strategy Group for Dem Rep. Joe Donnelly has his race with newly-crowned GOP nominee Richard Mourdock all tied at 40 apiece. Donnelly's PDF is worth checking out, since it's not written up as a typical, anodyne polling memo but appears to contain actual questions from the original poll instrument and therefore is a lot more detailed than usual. You'll see, for instance, that Mourdock's favorability rating is a mediocre 36-37—and that his negatives have steadily marched upward in lockstep with his positives. Meanwhile, Donnelly's at 28-12—brighter numbers, and he has room to grow.

GSG also polled this race back in March, but the trendlines aren't perfectly comparable. Back then, they included libertarian Andrew Horning, who took a very high 8%, helping to put Donnelly up 34-28 over Mourdock. In these new head-to-heads that were just released, Horning wasn't mentioned.

MO-Sen: The Dem-aligned super PAC known as Majority PAC is out with a poll of the Missouri Senate race, conducted by the Mellman Group. McCaskill of course has the lead over all comers (otherwise Majority PAC wouldn't be releasing it): 45-36 over Sarah Steelman, 46-38 over John Brunner, and 44-39 over Todd Akin. That's similar to most of the other polling we've seen of this contest: McCaskill on top but under 50%.

NY-Sen (PDF): The numbers in this new Siena poll of both the GOP primary and the general election in the New York Senate race are simply too boring for me to write up.

WI-Sen: Wisconsin Republicans failed to give any Senate candidates the party's official endorsement at their convention this weekend, with no one clearing the necessary 60% threshold. It's not clear that getting this atta-boy would have meant a whole lot anyway, though, since the guy who wound up with the highest vote share, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, is also the least likely to win the primary, according to polling. For what it's worth, in the final round, Fitzgerald beat ex-Rep. Mark Neumann 51.5% to 48.5%. Ex-Gov. Tommy Thompson, unloved by movement conservatives, got bounced in the second round after tallying just 18%, and wealthy businessman Eric Hovde exited after the first round with a mere 16% showing.

Gubernatorial:

AR-Gov: Contrary to many expectations, Democratic Rep. Mike Ross just announced that he will not, in fact, run to succeed Mike Beebe as governor in 2014. Ross cites his appreciation of the relaxed pace of life that he's enjoyed after announcing his retirement from Congress last year as a major factor influencing his decision. In his statement, Ross says that he will join "Little Rock-based Southwest Power Pool as its senior vice president for government affairs and public relations." The news leaves current state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel as the likeliest Democratic candidate for the office. (James L)

WI-Gov: Republican pollster We Ask America had another survey in the field over the weekend, along with their NE-Sen poll (see above), this one in Wisconsin. They find GOP Gov. Scott Walker up 52-43 over Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, but there are a number of red flags. First, like that Nebraska poll, this was a single-day sample taken on Mother's Day—not a methodologically auspicious way to gather data. Second, WAA doesn't offer any cross-tabs, so there's no way to peek under the hood and really see what's going on.

But third, and perhaps most importantly, We Ask America is the polling arm of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, as spiderdem detailed in this 2010 post at the Swing State Project. The IMA is a hardcore anti-union, anti-tax right-wing group, but WAA tries to hide its affiliation, merely calling itself "a division of Xpress Professional Service" on its website. But Xpress itself is a subsidiary of the IMA. If WAA were more up-front about its ties, that'd be one thing. But they've played this shell game for years.

Anyhow, their writeup also claims that "Wisconsin’s loopy election laws make it comparatively easy to recall a governor"—an utterly eye-rolling bit of editorializing that also happens to be wrong. Fortunately, Daily Kos will be releasing new (and entirely transparent) recall polling on Tuesday, so you'll want to wait for that.

Meanwhile, a nameless "top Wisconsin Democratic Party official" groused to The Washington Post's Greg Sargent about the supposed "lack of support from the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Governors Association" for the effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker. This was obviously an attempt to goad a response from national Democrats, but so far the only comment on the record is from Wisconsin Dem chair Mike Tate, who sought to clarify that his organization has "received absolute support" from the DGA and are "in conversation" with the DNC. Hard to know whether this whole thing was calculated or if someone wildcatted.

House:

AZ-04: I'm not sure why they'd bother making shit up at this point, but state Sen. Ron Gould's campaign is claiming that they just polled the GOP primary last week and found their former rival, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, in third place—a rather different position than the first-place showing Babeu saw in his own internal back in January. If Babeu was seeing the same things in his own polling, that would help explain why he just dropped out of the race. Gould's being cagey about the rest of their survey, though, refusing to release any real details; his spokesman is only saying that Gould is "within single digits" of Rep. Paul Gosar.

CA-07: This story looks like a very serious black eye for California Republicans—and for GOP Rep. Dan Lungren in particular:

The owner and an employee of a company accused of fraudulent voter registration drives in Sacramento County have been convicted of crimes of deception in the past.

The owner of Momentum Political Services, Monica Harris, has an extensive criminal history, including a prison sentence for stealing from a family she befriended and buying a van with funds stolen from a youth agency, court records show. Two of her victims called Harris a "professional con artist." [...]

Jill LaVine, Sacramento County's registrar of voters, has turned over evidence of what she called registration fraud to the California Secretary of State's Office. She said that at least one-fourth of the 31,000 registration cards submitted by Harris and her circulators since September have been rejected for inaccuracies.

Momentum Political Services was hired by the Republican Party of Sacramento County to conduct voter registration drives. LaVine said her office found numerous examples of people of having their political party affiliation switched to Republican against their wishes.

I do so love it when the party that constantly bleats phony cries of "VOTER FRAUD!!!" is actually guilty of it themselves. In any event, as the article notes, one of Harris's recent assignments was to register voters on behalf of Rep. Lungren, who is locked in an intense fight for his political life with physician Ami Bera. As one Democratic consultant said, it was "political malpractice" not to vet Harris before hiring her, and now Lungren has a well-nigh unfixable problem on his hands, since local voter registration records are now tainted on account of work done to benefit him. He smashed a bunch of eggs on the ground and how has to figure out how to make an omelet. Good luck.

CA-52: We missed this when it first came out, but we'll always sweep out the crumbs from old polls whenever we find them. Late last month, Democrat Lori Saldana released an internal from Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates showing GOP Rep. Brian Bilbray with 32%, while, importantly, she was in second with 18% and her Democratic rival, Scott Peters, was at 10%. Saldana and Peters are both vying for that second spot in the June top-two primary, but with 43% undecided, even Saldana's own poll suggests it's still anyone's game.

LA-03: Looks like GOP Rep. Jeff Landry is in some hot water for the exact same thing his Florida colleague, Connie Mack, just got busted for: using government money to target voters who don't live in his district. Franking rules require that lawmakers only spend taxpayer dollars on communications with actual constituents, but Landry blew $30K on radio ads to promote meetings outside of the soon-to-be-extinguished old version of Louisiana's 3rd Congressional District—but within the new 3rd, where (after a year of dragging his feet) Landry finally just said he's seek re-election. That sets him up on a long, long-awaited intra-party matchup with fellow Republican Rep. Charles Boustany and should be an interesting establish vs. tea party battle.

MN-08: GOP freshman Chip Cravaack certainly accomplished something over the weekend: He made sure media outlets would roll their eyes if he ever promised a "major announcement" again. After making exactly that claim on Friday, Cravaack's big declaration on Saturday was that he would... retire? Run for Senate? Nothing so picayune! Why, Cravaack is going to do no less than "seek to end federal authority over some outdoors activities on Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake." I wonder if these activities include fake-wolf hunting. What a schmuck.

NJ-10: The Communications Workers of America, a statewide union that reportedly represents "70,000 working families in New Jersey," just came out for Newark city councilor Ron Rice in the Democratic primary.

NV-03: Oof. In case you missed it, state Assembly Speaker John Oceguera (D) is just coming off a rather brutal week in local media coverage, stemming mainly from what sounds like a set of extremely unimpressive appearances on a pair of local political TV shows (Jon Ralston's "Face to Face" and a competitor, "The Agenda"). Ralston himself summarizes Oceguera's appearance on "Face to Face" last week as "arguably one of the worst, most vacuous performances" in the program's history, citing Oceguera's refusal to give meaningful positions on issues such as the Affordable Care Act and the 2009 stimulus package. Needless to say, Oceguera will have to seriously tune up his media skills for his general election campaign against frosh GOP Rep. Joe Heck. (James L)

WA-01: The special election to fill out the final part of ex-Rep. Jay Inslee's term has become quite the odd duck indeed. If you've followed this strange saga, you know that Inslee, who is running for governor, timed his resignation so that the special would be held the same day as the November general election. This kind of double election happens on occasion, but what's weird here is that the special would be held under the old district lines while the general would use the new map that the legislature adopted earlier this year. So the potential for confusion is high, and it seems like none of the candidates who were already running to succeed Inslee are especially interested in waging an extra battle to fill out a one-month stub term, particularly since a majority of the new 1st covers different territory than the old 1st.

But local Democrats have managed to recruit someone to run who isn't involved in the regular election: Snohomish County Councilman Brian Sullivan, who says it's his "lifetime dream to serve in Congress, albeit even for a month." Party officials are hoping to dissuade any of the five candidates running for the full term from getting into the special (unappealing as it may be) so that their focus remains on beating GOPer John Koster, who also doesn't look likely to waste his time on the special. As yet, no Republicans have declared for the special election.

WA-06: While Republicans failed to land anyone of stature in the open-seat race to replace retiring Dem Rep. Norm Dicks, they did manage to recruit wealthy businessman Bill Driscoll, who works in the "forest products industry." (I'm guess that means paper-making, but possibly also armored bear-fighting suits.) And Driscoll, who got into the race at the very end of April, promised to immediately seed his campaign with half a million of his own money.

The consensus Democratic candidate, state Sen. Derek Kilmer, raised a boatload in a very compressed first quarter and he looks to be in a strong position in this decidedly blue district. But out of an abundance of caution, we're putting this race on the big board as Likely D, just thanks to Driscoll's hefty cash infusion.

Other Races:

Portland Mayor: One of Tuesday night's main electoral events is the Portland, Oregon mayoral primary. City councilor Charlie Hales and state Rep. Jefferson Smith are in the top 2 slots, poised to advance to the general, leaving businesswoman Eileen Brady the odd person out, according to the newest poll. The poll from DHM Research—which seems to be the new name that top-notch local pollster Tim Hibbitts is operating under—finds Hales at 32, Smith at 24, and Brady at 16. (David Jarman)

San Diego Mayor: Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher may have gotten himself a temporary bump in the polls with his showy decision to ditch the Republican party and become an independent as a way of standing out from the pack in San Diego's mayoral race, but that glow seems to have faded a bit according to SurveyUSA's newest poll of the race. Republican city councilor Carl DeMaio is still in the lead at 31, but Fletcher is now tied with Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Filner at 21. San Diego county DA Bonnie Dumanis rounds out the field at 13. That's a drop of five points for Fletcher from SUSA's poll one month ago. The top two advance to the November general; the primary's coming up fast, on June 5. (David Jarman)

Ad Watch:

IN-Sen: Some random new GOP super PAC called USA Super PAC is putting out radio ads which feature a lousy Obama impersonator "thanking" Dem Rep. Joe Donnelly for being such a loyal rubber stamp. Size of the buy: $25K.

MT-Sen: In a minute-long spot, Dem Sen. Jon Tester and his wife Sharla talk about their upbringing in Montana and their values: "protecting Social Security and Medicare," "protecting our way of life" (cue people holding shotguns), etc. Size of the buy: $60K.

ND-Sen: Democrat Heidi Heitkamp praises her state as an "energy leader" and mentions her service as "a director of the Great Plains Synfuels Plant," saying the state needs "more innovation like this" (gestures to gigantic plant in background).

NE-Sen: The "Ending Spending Action Fund" goes harsh negative on Republican AG Jon Bruning in one spot, attacking him as a self-dealer, and then tries to go positive in a less successful spot that aims to burnish Deb Fischer, Bruning's chief rival in the GOP primary. Size of the buy: $199K.

TX-Sen: The Texas Conservatives Fund tries to mock the notion that Republican Ted Cruz is a conservative. One very dumb attack: They say "his law firm contributed over $200,000 to elect Barack Obama"—referring, of course, to donations made by individual employees, which in 2008 would have included me! Meanwhile, in a separate spot, the Conservative Renewal PAC touts Republican David Dewhurst for promoting "lower taxes" and "less government." See our IE roundup for details on the size of the buys.

NV-04: Businessman Dan Schwartz mostly attacks fellow Republican Danny Tarkanian and then offers a few positive notes about himself. (Who is Dan Schwartz? Some guy who loaned his campaign a quarter mil.)

Independent Expenditures:

NE-Sen: As mentioned above, Ending Spending Action Fund, a PAC setup by moneybags Joe Ricketts, filed a $200K expenditure report on ad buys backing late-charging Republican Deb Fischer and torching the former front-runner, Jon Bruning. Bruning isn't seeing much in the way of late money on his behalf, with only $20K in radio ads filed over the weekend by something called the Trust In Small Business PAC. Meanwhile, the Senate Conservatives Fund is keeping hope alive with $25K in GOTV calls targeting the state's far-right base on behalf of Don Stenberg.

TX-Sen: Ka-boom. The David Dewhurst-aligned Texas Conservatives Fund has shelled out a cool $1 million for a TV buy targeting Ted "Calgary" Cruz in the Republican primary. Meanwhile, another Dewhurst shell org, the Conservative Renewal PAC, has filed another $113K buy on cable ads boosting Dewhurst. (Both ads are available for viewing in our roundup above.)

TX-04: Hah! I truly didn't expect the nihilists at the Campaign for Primary Accountability to shell out cash against the likes of crusty GOP Rep. Ralph Hall, given the fact that his primary opposition appears to be extremely weak, but the group forked over $10K over the weekend for online ads against Hall. That's pretty small ball stuff, all things considered, but it'll be interesting to see if there will be more where that came from.

TX-25: Conservatives Acting Together PAC (CATPAC!) is spending $98K on radio ads in support of former Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams in his primary against former Secretary of State Roger Williams.

(James L)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue May 15, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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