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Daily Kos Elections August 7 primary liveblog thread #1 (August 7, 2012, 08:00 PM)

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Tonight we're liveblogging primary results in four states: Michigan (polls close at 8pm ET), Missouri (8pm), Kansas (9pm), and Washington (11pm). Our writeup of all the key federal and statewide races can be found here. For an excellent, comprehensive summary of the key state Senate races in Kansas, check out ptgkc's post.

Results: Kansas | Michigan | Missouri | Washington


5:17 PM PT: The first trickle of votes has begun to appear in Missouri.

5:21 PM PT: The MO SoS site may be just a touch ahead of the AP right now, but it reports results in a maddening way, with candidates from all parties lumped together and given a percentage of all votes cast in all primaries. We should expect that later tonight in Washington, but I have no idea why Missouri would list things this way.

5:24 PM PT: And a few votes are also now showing up in Michigan.

5:31 PM PT: I mentioned it up above in the header, but if you're interested in the Kansas GOP state Senate primaries tonight, you really need to read ptgkc's comprehensive primer on all the key races in order to properly get your bearings.

5:43 PM PT (Steve Singiser): We are finally into 5 digits in the number of votes tallied in Michigan, which means it is finally worth our while to report some statewide nums. Pete "Spenditnot" Hoekstra leads early, and by a healthy-but-not-crushing margin, over Clark Durant. With about 17,000 votes in the book, it is Hoekstra 53, Durant 32.

5:49 PM PT (Steve Singiser): Starting to get some pretty significant returns at the district level in Michigan, as well. The big one, for Democrats, at least: the write-in effort by establishment GOPers to get Nancy Cassis to replace resigning GOP Rep. Thad McCotter is failing at this point. Kerry Bentvolio, a tea party devotee, leads the combined write-in vote by a 60-40 margin. With a tea party win comes a tea party disappointment: the targeting of incumbent Fred Upton seems to be all for naught. He is crushing Jack Hoogdendyk by a two-to-one margin.

6:00 PM PT (Steve Singiser): We've now reached the five-figure threshold in Mizzou, though just barely. And the Senate primary is exactly what we thought it would be?a coin flip. Rep. Todd Akin, who had surged at the last, leads with 36 percent. Businessman and free-spender John Brunner is in second (32 percent), with Sarah Steelman in the all-important bronze medal position with 27 percent.

6:02 PM PT (Steve Singiser): Meanwhile, in the gubernatorial primaries in Missouri, it's far less competitive. Dave Spence is lapping the GOP field with 63 percent of the vote. Jay Nixon actually had a primary, which he currently is destroying with 84 percent of the vote.

6:04 PM PT (Steve Singiser): Downballot, with apparently only absentee votes counted, the incumbent-on-incumbent showdown in MO-01 is a blowout in the making. Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay is up 64-33 over Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan.

6:14 PM PT (Steve Singiser): We are starting to get to that point of the night where votes come at a decent clip in Michigan. The closest race, at present, seems to be MI-03 (D), where Steve Pestka leads Trevor Thomas by a modest margin (55-45). In MI-11 (R), teabagger Kerry Bentvolio is still mucking up the write-in hopes of the GOP's establishment choice, Nancy Cassis. He leads with 63 percent. On the Democratic side, Syed Taj leads LaRouche devotee William Roberts 60-40. Too few votes to date in Wayne County, which means we don't know anything of substance about the Democratic races in MI-13 or MI-14 just yet.

6:17 PM PT: The liveblog continues here.



Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 8/7 (August 7, 2012, 11:49 AM)

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8:53 AM PT: Primaries: Today is primary day in four states: Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington. Click the link to check out our writeups of all the key races, and post your predictions in comments.

9:11 AM PT: OH Redistricting: Great news! Ohio's Secretary of State has ruled that a measure to create a new independent redistricting commission will indeed appear on the ballot. After initially getting rejected, organizers were able to submit a second batch of signatures which put them over the top. Important: If the measure passes, then the commission will go into effect immediately! No waiting until 2022. Rather, new sets of lines for both Congress and the state legislature will get drawn for the 2014 elections. This will un-do the GOP gerrymander that may very well lead to a 12 Republican, four Democrat congressional map, even though Ohio is an evenly-divided swing state. In terms of retaking and keeping the House, it may actually be the most important issue on the ballot anywhere in the country this year.

10:18 AM PT: AZ-Init: It looks like Arizona won't be following Washington and California down the top-two rabbit hole just yet. An effort to put a measure on the ballot that would move Arizona to a top-two primary system was just derailed in the courts by a judge who ruled that the initiative failed to focus on a single issue (it also included language restricting public funding for political party activities). It sounds like supporters are planning to appeal, though.

10:25 AM PT: DLCC: Even though PPP regularly asks respondents on its state polls whether they plan to vote Democrat or Republican for their state legislature, the DLCC nevertheless decided to commission its own batch of generic ballot polls from PPP in several key states, as well as nationally. They found Democrats tied or leading in all of the polls they released:

New York: 54-38

New Mexico: 46-38

Michigan: 45-37

Minnesota: 45-40

Pennsylvania: 47-44

Ohio: 43-43

National: 46-46

10:38 AM PT: AZ-Sen: Is Wil Cardon giving up? The wealthy businessman, who has spent some $7.5 million of his own money to get his name out there, is reportedly going dark with just weeks to go before the GOP primary. Cardon's campaign denies that he's "slowing down" and insists that they're just keeping a tight lid on their strategy, but obviously, there's good reason to be very skeptical.

10:44 AM PT: AL Sup. Ct.: We wrote not long ago about how trial lawyers, one of the last bastions of Democratic support in Alabama, have started to back Republicans in judicial races because at this point, Democrats basically can't get elected statewide. Now, the AFL-CIO is doing the same, backing, of all people, the infamous Roy Moore, who looks set to make a comeback to the state supreme court this year. Berserk though he is, Moore is definitely not your typical mainstream business conservative, leading the state AFL-CIO president to say, "He's not controlled by corporate interests." Strange bedfellows indeed.

10:58 AM PT: OK-02: Former prosecutor Rob Wallace, looking to succeed Dem Rep. Dan Boren and facing a runoff against seed company owner Wayne Herriman, just got the endorsement of another Boren: David, Dan's dad, a former governor and senator. The runoff is Aug. 28.

11:07 AM PT: MT-Sen: A couple of new Montana ads. The first, from Dem Sen. Jon Tester, involves the narrator reciting a long list of issues where Tester went against his party to prove his centrist bonafides (voting against the auto bailout, voting for a GOP-backed balanced budget amendment). The buy is reportedly for $90K. Meanwhile, a new DSCC spot attacks Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, using a clip of him saying he'll "never support or take a pay raise"?then claiming that he voted to increase his own pay five times, but opposed hiking the minimum wage 10 times.

11:09 AM PT: Blargh: Those weren't DLCC polls. They just rounded up recent PPP polling. Confusing writeup.

11:25 AM PT: AZ-06: LOL! This is one of those "trust me, it's hilarious?just click" links.

12:52 PM PT (David Jarman): OR-Sen, OR-Gov: It looks like we can rule out a rematch in Oregon's 2014 Senate race, or a gubernatorial run, from the state's most prominent Republican; ex-Sen. Gordon Smith, who was beaten by Jeff Merkley in 2008, seemed to close the door on another run for office. (He says he may run for office "someday," but doesn't "know when I'll hear that call.") With Smith out and Rep. Greg Walden prepping to become the next NRCC chair (and no Republicans currently holding statewide office), Oregon state Republicans are going to have to start looking a lot further down the bench for their 2014 candidates.

1:01 PM PT (David Jarman): Demographics: Although we don't usually report on presidential polling in the Digest, today's PPP poll of North Carolina is worth some special attention because it shows just how remarkably in-migration has changed the political landscape in the Tar Heel State. While Mitt Romney leads 54-41 among voters who've lived in North Carolina for more than 30 years, Barack Obama leads 58-37 among those who's lived there less than 30 years, and 66-27 among those who've lived there less than 10 years. While this shows why North Carolina has moved into swing state status at the presidential level, it also explains smaller more localized shifts too; for instance, the Raleigh/Durham and Charlotte areas, where most of the migration seems to be targeted, have quickly moved from swingy areas to blue strongholds, more than compensating for the reddening of traditionally Democratic rural areas.

1:58 PM PT: RI-Gov: If you want a very early look at a bunch of names who might run for governor of Rhode Island in 2014, Ted Nesi's got you covered.

2:14 PM PT: WI-Sen: Wealthy businessman Eric Hovde, hopping mad over accusatory ads that companies he's connected to accepted stimulus funds, is now pushing back on the airwaves. In Hovde's new spot, the announcer says that the spot in question (run by third-party group Americans for Job Security) has been pulled by TV stations because it's "false." AJS denies that claim, saying they've tweaked their ad slightly (here's the new version), but only with regard to a separate claim about property taxes?they're standing by the stimulus charge.

Meanwhile, Senate Conservatives Action (the new super PAC that's connected to Sen. Jim DeMint) is also running a new ad praising Mark Neumann. The Tea Party Express is getting into the action as well, with $81K in expenditures on Neumann's behalf (for radio and TV), but that number shows you just what kind of a piker TPX really is. (AJS and the Club for Growth have spent $650K and $440K respectively.)

2:37 PM PT: HI-02: VoteVets is tossing in another $42K on mailers to help Tulsi Gabbard in the Democratic primary. Interestingly, these flyers also contain negative hits on Mufi Hannemann.

2:42 PM PT: IN-02: I was a little surprised when Republican Jackie Walorski's first TV ad stressed her desire to be bipartisan: After all, this is a rather red district and she didn't earn the name "Wacky Jackie" for nothing. But she's running with the theme, because it features prominently in her new ad, about her efforts to thwart identity theft. I guess she's being smart to introduce herself and occupy the center before Democrat Brendan Mullen has the chance to do so.

3:02 PM PT: NM-Sen: The NRDC is spending about $95K on two new TV ads attacking Republican Heather Wilson. Both are 15-second spots, and as you'd expect, both hit Wilson on environmental issues. The group is also tossing in $35K for online ads. In addition, Environment America reports spending $41K on calls to help Dem Rep. Martin Heinrich.

3:11 PM PT: MN-08: EMILY's List is now up with a $76K television ad buy on behalf of Democrat Tarryl Clark. Unfortunately, the spot is not available on EMILY's YouTube page. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Democratic Party (aka the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, or DFL) is jumping in with a hefty $120K to run TV ads for Rick Nolan, who was given the party's official endorsement by convention-goers earlier this year. They seem to have two spots up: one very generic positive ad, and another which stresses Nolan's local roots and his prior service in Congress. (Clark is not from the district and, you'll recall, ran in MN-06 last cycle.) I do find it strange, though, that the Democratic Party would want to spend money trying to help a favored candidate win the primary rather than saving its resources to attack Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack in the fall.


3:32 PM PT: FL-09: This is an odd development. As we've mentioned a few times, the House Majority PAC has been spending money on mailers designed to disrupt the GOP primary and convince Republicans not to tap Osceola County Commissioner John "Q" Quiñones as their nominee. That makes sense, since the GOP field includes some much weaker candidates, including attorney Todd Long, who ran in the old 8th CD both in 2008 and 2010. But in addition to throwing another $13K down on anti-Q mailers, HMP is now also placing Long in their targeting reticle. It's a small sum to start with?just $8K?but I'm pretty surprised. Unless this is some kind of head-fake, it seems awfully greedy to try to knock out both Long and Quiñones in favor of an even lesser alternative, especially with so little time left.

3:42 PM PT: NV-03: State Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, who is challenging GOP freshman Joe Heck, is out with his first TV ad of the election campaign. It's a standard introductory bio spot, though it does linger on one pretty awesome detail: Oceguera is a former firefighter who worked his way up to assistant fire chief.

3:56 PM PT: Here we go: I was looking at the wrong YouTube page. Here's EMILY's Clark ad, a very generic positive spot that, strangely, features five seconds of nothing but music playing at the end. Given how hard script-writers work to try to cram down a message into 30 seconds, voluntarily wasting a sixth of that precious time seems really weird to me.

4:29 PM PT: CT-05: EMILY's List has upgraded from mailers to television: With a week to go before the Democratic primary, they're spending $257K to air this ad, a positive spot touting a couple of newspaper endorsements for Elizabeth Esty. (Hat-tip to My Left Nutmeg for locating it.) For good measure, EMILY is throwing in another $19K on mailers.

Meanwhile, Dan Roberti, who not very long ago looked like a third wheel in this race, is now fully in the mix. Just the other day, Esty fired off an attack ad accusing Roberti of being a lobbyist; in a new spot, Roberti responds directly, insisting that Esty has him mixed up with his father, Vince, a very powerful and well-connected lobbyist. Frankly, I don't think the younger Roberti comes off very well in this ad (certainly not compared to Chris Donovan, who managed to go right at Esty in his own commercial without appearing like a jerk). And speaking of pops, the super PAC linked to his dad, New Directions for America, just dropped in another $140K on television ads for Roberti.

4:33 PM PT: Crossroads: Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS says it's going to start airing a new batch of ads in five Senate races (in MO, MT, ND, NV & VA), worth $4.2 million. The spots don't seem to be available online yet, though.

4:42 PM PT: OH-Sen: Weird: Is Josh Mandel's polling really telling the baby-faced Republican that running on his age (he's only 34) is actually an advantage? I guess it must, because his newest TV ad refers to him as a "young Marine" and specifically mentions his age in the context of his work as state Treasurer. It also throws in a lame, boring slam at Dem Sen. Sherrod Brown at the end. I'm unimpressed.



Daily Kos Elections Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington primary preview (August 7, 2012, 10:00 AM)

Voters in four states select candidates in primaries tonight: Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington. We've written up all the key races below, and we've also provided interactive, zoomable Google Maps versions of each state's new congressional map where appropriate.

Interactive map of Michigan's new congressional districts
? MI-Sen (R): Ex-Rep. Pete Hoekstra has been harried by Christian private schools entrepreneur Clark Durant, but all polling has showed him with leads ranging from very large to substantial (the smallest being 16 points). Durant got some last-minute, six-figure outside help from former Michigan GOP chair Saul Anuzis, but an upset seems hard to imagine here.

? MI-03 (D): Two Democrats are hoping to take on GOP freshman Justin Amash: former state Rep./former judge Steve Pestka and activist Trevor Thomas. Thomas has outraised Pestka, but Pestka added half a mil of his own money to his campaign coffers and his TV ads are undoubtedly in heavier rotation. Thomas, thanks in part to his work helping to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," has received the support of a lot of national progressives, including VoteVets and House Progressive Caucus chair Raul Grijalva. Pestka, meanwhile, has earned a lot of local and labor. The most recent poll was a Pestka internal from the end of June that had him 39-15, but those numbers came at the very start of the paid media phase of the campaign and the picture has likely changed since then.

? MI-06 (R): Former state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk did well to hold Rep. Fred Upton to a 57-43 win in the 2010 primary without any outside support and basically bupkes for fundraising. And if the Club for Growth had decided to play sugar daddy here this time, perhaps Hoogendyk's second challenge from the right would have succeeded. But the CfG must not have been too impressed with what they saw, since they only spent some $53K here. Meanwhile, some third-party groups (mainly the Radiologists and Optometrists) came in to help Upton with more than $200K, and the incumbent once again badly outraised the upstart. A recent independent poll gave Upton a lead of more than 30 points.

? MI-11 (D & R): If you're reading this primary preview, then you almost certainly know how we've reached this crazy point: Ex-Rep. Thad McCotter's unheard-of failure to qualify for the ballot and subsequently abandoned write-in campaign left the GOP in a real mess. The only guy actually on the ballot is Paulist reindeer farmer Kerry Bentivolio, who was enough of a gadfly to want to challenge McCotter in the primary even before his whole ballot saga unfolded. Given Bentivolio's extreme unacceptability to what passes for mainstream Republican these days, the local establishment rallied around ex-state Sen. Nancy Cassis, who is waging her own write-in bid to try to save her party from itself. Both candidates have mostly self-funded (each for about $200K), but Bentivolio has gotten a ton of outside help (over $700K in total), principally from libertarian Super PAC Liberty for All. While an ambitious EPIC-MRA attempted to poll the race (and found Cassis leading), obviously the write-in factor makes this contest all but impossible to handicap.

Democrats have a mess on their hands, too, though. Physician Syed Taj (who, like Bentivolio, entered the race when it was on nobody's radar) is the only legitimate option. That's because the other hopeful, Bill Roberts, is a nutbag LaRouchie who is fond of handing out literature that reads "Impeach Obama Now" and features a Hitler moustache on the president's face. In a just world, Roberts would be an utter non-entity. But in a race where few voters have ever even heard of the candidates, a familiar-sounding name like "Bill Roberts" might pull more votes than an unfamiliar one like "Syed Taj." Democrats, obviously, are hoping for a Taj-Bentivolio matchup.

Head below the fold for the rest of our writeups.



Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Watch out for 'Democrat' Justin Lamar Sternad in FL-26 (August 7, 2012, 08:00 AM)

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Leading Off:

? FL-26: This is a hell of a crazy story. Those of you following the FL-26 Democratic primary know that it features a showdown between businesswoman Gloria Romero Roses and 2010 nominee Joe Garcia. But there's a little-known third candidate in the race, hotel administrator Justin Lamar Sternad, and his presence is deeply questionable. Despite raising almost no money and being invisible on the campaign trail, Sternad has managed to flood the district with a ton of mailers (referring to himself as "Lamar!", like Tennessee's Alexander), one of which reads in part:

"Lamar is as American as Apple Pie. Lamar Sternad is the only Democratic candidate that was born and raised in the United states. He will advocate for English as our official language. Americans in Florida are being discriminated against by employers who hire illegal immigrants and take jobs away from our law-abiding citizens."
That's not exactly a message you'd expect to hear in a Democratic contest where a lot of Hispanic voters will cast ballots, but it may be that Lamar is letting his sheep's clothing slip a bit. As the Miami Herald points out, the same shop that produced Lamar's flyers also did nearly six figures worth of work for GOP Rep. David Rivera last cycle. Lamar's also aimed almost all of his fire in public remarks at Garcia, even going so far as to insist he would not attack Rivera until after the primary... but in the same breath castigating Garcia as a "three-time loser" while at the very same time trying to tar Garcia as the one who's "mudslinging." That's some chutzpah. And the Herald adds:
In addition to repeating Rivera's criticisms of Garcia's divorce, Sternad also appears to be misappropriating President Obama's campaign trademark "O" for his campaign. He might also be trying to persuade unaware voters that he's black, sending out two civil rights-themed mailers that depict Obama and  Martin Luther King. One mailer also features Rep. Dwight Bullard and his mother, whom he hopes to succeed, state Sen. Larcenia Bullard. They have no photos of the lilly-white Sternad, who is listing his campaign name as "Lamar Sternad" even though he goes by Justin Sternad in his business life.
All of this circumstantial evidence has led Garcia's campaign to conclude that Lamar's candidacy is "little more than another dirty trick by David Rivera," aimed at sabotaging Garcia's own bid. Given what we know of Rivera, who is as shady as they come, I'd believe it. And if true, it means that Rivera fears Garcia more than he does Roses, which I'd also believe.

Meanwhile, SEIU COPE is getting behind Garcia with a week to go before the primary, airing this new ad, backed by a $72K buy (including production costs). The spot attacks Rivera for voting for the Ryan budget to end Medicare and tries to link Garcia to President Obama, who appointed Garcia to serve in the Department of Energy in 2009.



Daily Kos Elections Polling Wrap: November gives way to August, with fresh primary polls (August 6, 2012, 08:30 PM)

For one day, at least, the attention of the community of horserace political junkies is diverted from the November elections, as four states have their primary elections on tap tomorrow night. With some first-tier contests in the queue, pollsters busied themselves this weekend with some final numbers from states like Michigan, Missouri, and Washington.

And while there are some interesting downballot primaries for the Kansas state lege (legislative primaries there are often a bloodbath, due to the GOP schism), alas, there is no polling to be had in the Sunflower State.

On to the numbers:

PRESIDENTIAL GENERAL ELECTION TRIAL HEATS:

NATIONAL (Gallup Tracking): Obama d. Romney (46-45)

NATIONAL (Rasmussen Tracking): Obama d. Romney (47-45)

INDIANA (Rasmussen): Romney d. Obama (51-35)

WASHINGTON (SurveyUSA): Obama d. Romney (54-37)

DOWNBALLOT POLLING:
HI-02--D (Merriman River Group for Civil Beat): Tulsi Gabbard 49, Mufi Hannemann 29, Esther Kia'aina 8, Bob Marx 7

HI-02--D (Ward Research for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser): Mufi Hannemann 43, Tulsi Gabbard 33, Bob Marx 8, Esther Kia'aina 7

MI-13--D (EPIC-MRA): Rep. John Conyers 57, Glenn Anderson 17, Shanelle Jackson 7, Bert Johnson 5, John Goci 4

MI-14--D (EPIC-MRA): Rep. Gary Peters 52, Rep. Hansen Clarke 33, Brenda Lawrence 7, Mary Waters 2, Bob Costello 1

MO-GOV--R (SurveyUSA): Dave Spence 42, Bill Randles 15, Fred Sauer 12, John Weiler 3

MO-SEN--R (SurveyUSA): John Brunner 35, Todd Akin 30, Sarah Steelman 25

MO-01 (SurveyUSA): Rep. Lacy Clay (D) 58, Robyn Hamlin (R) 19, Robb Cunningham (L) 6; Rep. Russ Carnahan (D) 56, Hamlin 18, Cunningham 6; Clay 58, Martin Baker (R) 18, Cunningham 7; Carnahan 56, Baker 17, Cunningham 7

MO-01--D (SurveyUSA): Rep. Lacy Clay 56, Rep. Russ Carnahan 35, Candice Britton 2

NC-GOV (Rasmussen): Pat McCrory (R) 46, Walter Dalton (D) 41

WA-GOV (SurveyUSA): Jay Inslee (D) 48, Rob McKenna (R) 45

A few thoughts, as always, await you just past the jump...



Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 8/6 (August 6, 2012, 11:00 AM)

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8:28 AM PT: MO-Sen: PPP continues its series of final-weekend GOP Senate primary polls with a survey of Missouri. They find businessman John Brunner at 35, Rep. Todd Akin at 30, and ex-state Treasurer Sarah Steelman at 25. Brunner's strength actually lies in winning over moderate and "somewhat conservative" voters?not a common recipe for winning a Republican nomination?while Akin leads with "very conservative" respondents. Tom Jensen offers a couple of interesting thoughts, both of which have some echoes with the recently TX-Sen runoff:

Despite Brunner's modest lead there are a couple of reasons to think an upset is possible on Tuesday night. One is that Akin leads Brunner 35-33 among voters who say they're "very excited" about casting their ballots on Tuesday. Brunner's overall advantage is based on a 37-31 advantage over Akin with "somewhat excited" voters and a 36-21 lead with those who say they're "not that excited." If we count only the "very" and "somewhat" excited voters Brunner's lead over Akin shrinks to only two points.

The other reason an upset seems possible is that Akin appears to have the momentum in the closing stretch. It's been more than two months since PPP last polled this race but compared to a Mason Dixon poll a week ago Akin's up 13 points while Brunner's gained only two points and Steelman's actually dropped by a couple. If that trend continues right on through election day Akin might be able to pull out a narrow victory.

PPP also has numbers for the MO-Gov, MO-LG, and MO-AG Republican contests at the link. Dave Spence looks like a lock for the gubernatorial nod, while the embarrassing Peter Kinder seems as though he'll win renomination with a plurality. And Ed Martin (whom you'll remember from various other races this cycle and last) is cruising in the AG race.

8:46 AM PT: MO-01: In the first and I'm sure last public poll of the MO-01 Democratic primary, SurveyUSA (on behalf of KSDK-TV) finds Rep. Lacy Clay handily beating fellow Rep. Russ Carnahan, 56-35. Many figured this contest would come down to a question of race, and indeed that seems to be the case/ Looking at the crosstabs, Clay is doing far better among blacks, winning them 81-12, than Carnahan is with whites (he's up just 65-23 with that group). And given that, in SUSA's view, blacks will make up 53% of the electorate vs. just 42% for whites, that's curtains for Carnahan.

8:58 AM PT: HI-02: This is pretty wild: With Hawaii's primaries coming up on Saturday (yep, Saturday?mark your calendars), Civil Beat hired Merriman River to conduct one final poll of the Democratic contest in HI-02. The numbers, if they can be believed, are pretty amazing: Honolulu city councilor Tulsi Gabbard is now beating former Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann 49-29; a couple of months ago, the same outfit found pretty much a dead heat. And prior to that, Hannemann held enormous leads of his own.

But there are reasons to remain skeptical, not least among them Merriman's shoddy track record last cycle. A week ago, a Ward Research poll put Hanneman up 43-33. And even Gabbard's own recent internal polling was nowhere near this gaudy, giving her a five-point edge. Still, I think the momentum and advantage is now with Gabbard, and as I've said before, if she pulls this off, it would be one of the biggest upsets of the cycle.

9:07 AM PT: WATN?: Uh, say what now? NRSC chair Pete Sessions just married crazy snake lady Karen Diebel? Apparently so!

9:29 AM PT: MI-13, MI-14: EPIC-MRA has a couple of last-second polls for two of Tuesday's Democratic primaries in Michigan. In MI-13, they find Rep. John Conyers crushing his nearest opponent, state Sen. Glenn Anderson, by a 57-17 margin. (It may be best to view this race as an opportunity for Conyers' challengers to position themselves for his retirement.) Meanwhile, in MI-14, they show what you'd expect: Rep. Gary Peters is beating Rep. Hansen Clarke, though his 52-33 edge is even more dominant than what I'd have anticipated.

9:34 AM PT: IL-02: I don't know that this makes Dem Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s situation any less opaque, but his wife just conducted an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times and says he's being treated for depression , not substance abuse, and repeats that he did not attempt suicide. She also describes a very unclear "collapse" on Jackson's part and says that Jackson's family has been imposing a "news blackout" on him since June 10.

10:08 AM PT: FL-26: This is a hell of a crazy story. Those of you following the FL-26 Democratic primary know that it features a showdown between businesswoman Gloria Romero Roses and 2010 nominee Joe Garcia. But there's a little-known third candidate in the race, hotel administrator Justin Lamar Sternad, and his presence is deeply questionable. Despite raising almost no money and being invisible on the campaign trail, Sternad has managed to flood the district with a ton of mailers (referring to himself as "Lamar!", like Tennessee's Alexander), one of which reads in part:

"Lamar is as American as Apple Pie. Lamar Sternad is the only Democratic candidate that was born and raised in the United states. He will advocate for English as our official language. Americans in Florida are being discriminated against by employers who hire illegal immigrants and take jobs away from our law-abiding citizens."
That's not exactly a message you'd expect to hear in a Democratic contest where a lot of Hispanic voters will cast ballots, but it may be that Lamar is letting his sheep's clothing slip a bit. As the Miami Herald points out, the same shop that produced Lamar's flyers also did nearly six figures worth of work for GOP Rep. David Rivera last cycle. Lamar's also aimed almost all of his fire in public remarks at Garcia, even going so far as to insist he would not attack Rivera until after the primary... but in the same breath castigating Garcia as a "three-time loser" while at the very same time trying to tar Garcia as the one who's "mudslinging." That's some chutzpah. And the Herald adds:
In addition to repeating Rivera's criticisms of Garcia's divorce, Sternad also appears to be misappropriating President Obama's campaign trademark "O" for his campaign. He might also be trying to persuade unaware voters that he's black, sending out two civil rights-themed mailers that depict Obama and  Martin Luther King. One mailer also features Rep. Dwight Bullard and his mother, whom he hopes to succeed, state Sen. Larcenia Bullard. They have no photos of the lilly-white Sternad, who is listing his campaign name as "Lamar Sternad" even though he goes by Justin Sternad in his business life.
All of this circumstantial evidence has led Garcia's campaign to conclude that Lamar's candidacy is "little more than another dirty trick by David Rivera," aimed at sabotaging Garcia's own bid. Given what we know of Rivera, who is as shady as they come, I'd believe it. The primary is a week from Tuesday.

10:31 AM PT (David Jarman): WA-Gov: If you were concerned that the Elway Poll several weeks ago, the first of the race to give a substantial (43-36) lead to Jay Inslee, was some sort of fluke, you can rest a little easier. SurveyUSA, the most frequent pollster of the race, finds a similar pro-Inslee trend in their newest poll (on behalf of KING-TV). The lead isn't as big (48-45, in Inslee's favor) as with Elway, but it puts Inslee even closer to the 50% mark. The big problem for Republican Rob McKenna: he's below 40% in the entire "Puget Sound area,"  a position from which a Republican simply can't win statewide; he'd need to hit 40% in King County alone, plus draw even in Pierce and Snohomish Counties.

If you're wondering what's behind this reversal of fortune in this race, a factor seems to be that the candidates finally started TV advertising, which served to remind a lot of casual but reliable Dems that there's a gubernatorial election and who their candidate is. With their intro ads behind them, they're both moving on to the inevitable 'jobs'-themed ads now, and McKenna just rolled his second ad out late last week.

10:33 AM PT: AZ-Sen: Looks like GOP Rep. Jeff Flake has some more awkward questions to answer about his past as a lobbyist. Among the many sordid entities he supported was a uranium mine in Namibia which was part-owned by none other than the government of Iran. Flake's long claimed that he didn't know about Iran's stake in the mine until 2011, and has also said that U.S. officials weren't even aware of the situation until a 2005 Reuters report, but it seems that Democrats have him busted. It turns out that the Interior Department's U.S. Geological Survey published an entry in their "Mineral Yearbook" that described Iran as a 10% owner of the venture as far back as 1994. Try again.

10:49 AM PT: Radio: In case you missed it, I was on Daily Kos Radio with David Waldman on Friday morning, talking about a bunch of different recent and upcoming races, including TX-Sen and MI-11. If you'd like to listen to my segment, you can do so here:





I was also on Kudzu Vine on Sunday night, discussing a variety of Southern races. For that, you can listen here:





11:23 AM PT (David Jarman): Census: If you pay attention to the Census's lists of the nation's most populous cities, you've probably noticed that Sun Belt cities like Phoenix, Austin, San Antonio, Jacksonville, Nashville, and Oklahoma City are some of the fastest growing. That's only part of the context, though: the Census is out with an interesting new graphic that shows that these cities aren't really becoming any more distinctly "urban" (they aren't getting any denser), because the population growth is coming through constant annexation outwards, not building up, and their density has stayed flat over the decades. There's only a handful of cities that are boxed in by suburbs and can't annex anything more, but are still growing anyway, thanks to growing upward instead of out, and those tend to be the increasingly blue strongholds in the west (Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, Denver, and despite the fact that it's not boxed in, Las Vegas).

11:35 AM PT (David Jarman): Polltopia: This New York Times article summarizing the debate over how to (and even whether to) poll cellphone-only users may not hold too many surprises for dedicated pollwatchers, but it does contain some interesting anecdotes about which pollsters use which approaches (for instance, ABC/WaPo and NBC/WSJ will terminate a call with a cellphone user if he also has a landline, while Pew, CBS/NYT, and Gallup will still continue the call and then use weighting to achieve the right cellphone/landline balance; meanwhile, Rasmussen is starting to experiment with internet-based surveys as a means of reaching younger voters to supplement their all-landline autodialing).

12:31 PM PT: WI-Sen: There's nothing like seeing an entitled ultra-1%er flail at the injustice (oh, the injustice!) being done to him. Uber-wealthy businessman Eric Hovde is now threatening legal action over new ads being run by third-party group Americans for Job Security, which say that a company tied to Hovde accepted federal stimulus money, something that makes Hovde hopping mad. Interestingly, Hovde has accused AJS of shilling for ex-Gov. Tommy Thompson, though the framing of one of the spots (since removed from YouTube) questioned Hovde's conservative credentials, which seemed like more of an appeal to potential voters for ex-Rep. Mark Neumann.

Meanwhile, the Club for Growth's expected IE report is also now available; they're spending $441K to sandblast Hovde in the final week before primary day. Combined with AJS's $650K, that's nearly $1.1 million in last-minute attack ads being dumped on the rich guy?a taste of his own free-spending medicine.

12:50 PM PT: CT-05: I'd have to call this unexpected: Elizabeth Esty is out with a new negative ad in the Democratic primary... but she's attacking Dan Roberti, not Chris Donovan, as you might have anticipated. The spot is quite harsh, going after Roberti for his work as a lobbyist and the fact that a super PAC with ties to his also-a-lobbyist dad has been spending heavily on his behalf. Meanwhile, Roberti just contributed another $200K to his own effort, bringing him to some $830K in self-funding total. Does this mean he has a chance to win? And if Roberti and Esty train their guns on each other in the final week, could that actually put Donovan, who hasn't yet gone negative so far as I'm aware, in the unlikely position of being able to "pull a Kryzan"?

12:57 PM PT: CT-Sen: Dem Sen. Richard Blumenthal sings Rep. Chris Murphy's praises in this new ad, as "the candidate who can help me break the gridlock and get results." (PPP recently found Blumenthal to be Connecticut's most popular statewide elected official.)

1:06 PM PT: I take that back: Donovan has a new spot out in which he directly takes on Esty himself, an interesting and unusual choice. Donovan notes that he served in the legislature with Esty (and "respect[s] her greatly"), but says "there are real differences between us." Donovan goes directly at Esty's now-infamous 2009 alternate budget, saying that when the state faced tough times, she "refused to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share, and instead supported a Republican-like budget that cut education and cut services for seniors." Donovan of course contrasts that with his own budget, which did carry the day and avoided big cuts.

1:19 PM PT: FL-07: Rep. Sandy Adams has a new ad out attacking her GOP primary rival, fellow Rep. John Mica, which repeatedly features a clip of President Obama saying in reference a new transportation bill: "Congressman Mica, whose leadership made this bill a reality." Mica is steamed because at the end of the spot, Adams uses a (basically inaudible) clip of Mica telling Obama "I'm your best cheerleader" after the president's 2011 State of the Union address. The problem, says Mica's campaign, is that members are prohibited from using footage of House proceedings "for any political purpose," and they want the spot removed. That's not going to happen, though (TV stations are required to air candidates' ads regardless of content), and with the House out of session, the Ethics Committee can't even offer a reprimand.

1:30 PM PT: FL-22: It's rare to see national Democrats rally around a candidate in a contested primary so openly, but rally they have. Nancy Pelosi is the latest to make a point of backing Lois Frankel over Kristin Jacobs, stumping and raising money for her in South Florida. Pelosi also held one of those "I swear it's not political" Medicare forums with Frankel as well. Meanwhile, some random new super PAC called "South Floridians for Effective Leadership" is trying to swoop in to help Jacobs at the last moment, but seeing as their first spending report details just $13K for mailers, I doubt that's going to make much of a difference.

1:43 PM PT: Meanwhile, SEIU COPE is getting behind Garcia with a week to go before the primary, airing this new ad, backed by a $72K buy (including production costs). The spot attacks Rivera for voting for the Ryan budget to end Medicare and tries to link Garcia to President Obama, who appointed Garcia to serve in the Department of Energy in 2009.

2:04 PM PT: MN-08: Another $16K on mailers from EMILY to help Dem Tarryl Clark.

2:10 PM PT: IL-08: The New Prosperity Foundation, a right-wing super PAC whose name reminds me of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, launched a round of attack ads at Illinois Democrats a little while ago?a series of TV ads which were actually backed by very little money. Their new move doesn't pack a whole lot more oomph: They're spending $29K on mailers going after Tammy Duckworth.

2:32 PM PT: Meanwhile, the Sierra Club is leaving nothing to chance and is airing $51K worth of radio ads for Tulsi. You can listen here; the spot both attacks Hanneman on environmental grounds and praises Gabbard on the same front.

2:37 PM PT: NH-Gov: Maggie Hassan just became the first Democratic gubernatorial candidate in New Hampshire to go up on TV. One spot is mostly introductory in nature and focuses on Hassan's support for education. The other is a bit more partisan: Hassan discusses her efforts to prevent insurers from dropping coverage for birth control.

2:56 PM PT: FL-18: Pro-Dem super PAC American Sunrise is spending $38K to air a new TV ad on behalf of Patrick Murphy. It's a very generic positive spot, but it may help to increase Murphy's name rec. It would help if the buy were (considerably) bigger, though.

3:00 PM PT: ND-Sen: I found this new ad from Dem Heidi Heitkamp pretty touching, I've gotta say. She tells us about a veteran named Charlie Weichel, who volunteers to drive other veterans to distant medical appointments, putting in 14-hour days three times a week. Heitkamp promises to "fight for a Heroes Health card" so that veterans "can see a doctor closer to home." She closes by dedicating the ad to "heroes like Charlie." Seriously, I must have some dust in the corner of my eye that's causing me to tear up.

3:05 PM PT: PA-Gov: Wealthy Democrat Tom Knox, who ran for governor in 2010 before dropping out and endorsing Dan Onorato, says he plans to make a statehouse bid once again in 2014. Knox would have the ability to self-fund, but his ability to appeal to voters (he's also unsuccessfully run for mayor of Philadelphia) seems like less of a sure thing.


3:29 PM PT: AZ-09: $14K more in mailers from EMILY for Kyrsten Sinema. Arizona's primary is still a few weeks off, Aug. 28.

3:34 PM PT: VA-, ND-, WI-Sen: The pro-Dem Majority PAC has re-upped their ad buys against George Allen in Virginia to the tune of $85K. There's also a strangely tiny re-up (less than $10K) against Eric Hovde & Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin. More intriguing are some production costs for a new spot hitting Rick Berg in North Dakota, so be on the lookout for that ad soon.

3:42 PM PT: VA-02: Democrat Paul Hirschbiel is out with his first ad, a positive spot in which a teacher praises him for being "instrumental in setting up early childhood education programs like this one" and says that he "gave up a career in business to help kids instead." Hirschbiel, the founder of a private equity firm, is nevertheless reportedly quite wealthy?as is the man he's trying to unseat, GOP freshman Scott Rigell, who spent a monster $2.5 million on his own race last cycle. Hirschbiel hasn't done any notable self-funding yet, though, and his fundraising has been pretty decent. And speaking of money, the Washington Post actually has the size of the buy: $70K for a week on broadcast TV.

3:51 PM PT: Ads: AFSCME and Americans United for Change are teaming up on a new $280K ad campaign targeting five Republicans on taxes: Sen. Dean Heller (NV-Sen), Rep. Denny Rehberg (MT-Sen), Rep. Jim Renacci (OH-16), Rep. Steve King (IA-04), and Rep. Dan Lungren (CA-03). The ads are all identical (just swapping in the right name), with an announcer attacking Republicans for "trying to tip the scales even more for big corporations and the richest 2 percent." There's a national spot airing on cable news channels as well; you can find all of them at the link.



Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Michigan court rules emergency manager measure to stay on ballot (August 6, 2012, 08:00 AM)

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Leading Off:

? MI-Init: In a huge and unexpected decision, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a measure aimed at repealing the states controversial new "emergency manager" law must appear on the ballot this November. Amazingly, the case centered around whether organizers had used a sufficiently large font size on their petitions! Michigan's high court is filled with notorious Republican hacks who practically live to do the bidding of their political masters, but I guess knocking the measure off the ballot proved to be a bridge too far for one of those justices, Mary Beth Kelly, who sided with the court's three Democrats to preserve it.

In addition to giving voters the chance to veto the law at the ballot box this fall, this ruling also immediately suspends the law pending the election. And if you aren't familiar with it, the emergency manager law is basically an end-run around collective bargaining rights, allowing managers to terminate such agreements in certain circumstances under the guise of helping fiscally troubled jurisdictions. A recent PPP poll found voters actually favor retaining the law by a 41-31 margin, but it can be a tricky thing to poll, since the good guys want a "no" vote (much like the SB5 fight in Ohio last year). But more importantly, neither side has really engaged on this issue yet because everyone was waiting on the outcome of this lawsuit. Now, it's game on.



Why internal polls can tell us more than we think about the 2012 elections (August 5, 2012, 07:59 PM)

Collage of pictures of John Boehner crying.
Does recent polling hint that John Boehner will be weeping come Nov. 7th?
(image created by Jed Lewison)
After 10 years of teaching Advanced Placement American Government, I feel like I might owe about 600-700 students an apology.

You see, for years, when I get to the lesson about public opinion polling, internal polling?polls sponsored by a campaign or an interested outside group?gets seriously pooh-poohed. "Don't read too much into them," I have repeatedly cautioned.

It is then that the standard caveats are eagerly offered. A campaign may conduct a dozen polls, and only release the single one that is amenable to them. Plus, you can never be sure that things like question wording and the order of questions in the survey haven't mucked up the trial heat numbers. Plus, in the worst cases, the organizations or campaigns may be less than honest about how they arrived at those lofty trial heat numbers (think: the always sketchy "push poll").

Not that any of these caveats aren't legitimate?indeed, all of them are. What's more: It is accepted practice in the political press to examine any internal poll results and offer the immediate caution that these polls should be taken "with a grain of salt."

However, the time has come for me to atone for my sins, and offer some counterpoint. A little time, plus a not-so-little database of polls (over 6,000 in all, culled from the last three election cycles), offer legitimate evidence that internal polls can tell us a heck of a lot more than we might think about the state of play in an election. Indeed, by looking at larger lessons, and not necessarily individual horse-race results, there is a fair amount of predicting value hidden amidst all those data points encrusted in grains of salt.

Three lessons in particular warrant keeping an eye on, as what has already been a pretty laudable load of data (over 1,000 polls thus far, according to my own unofficial tally) will only grow exponentially by November.

And those three lessons await you just past the jump ...



Hunt for swing voters ignores an even more valuable group of voters (August 5, 2012, 03:59 PM)

Portion of National Mail Voter Registration Form
National Mail Voter Registration Form
And so the whole shootin? match comes down to around 4 percent of the voters in six states. [...] Four percent of the presidential vote in Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado is 916,643 people. That?s it. The American president will be selected by fewer than half the number of people who paid to get into a Houston Astros home game last year. [...]
That's Democratic strategist Paul Begala writing for the Daily Beast, bemoaning the campaigns' quest for swing voters and the outrageous sums of money that will be spent on convincing those few persuadables in the few states that can tip the election. In fact, according to his math, the $2 billion that will be spent on the election?in his mind, all of which is spent purely to sway those fewer-than-one-million minds?works out to $2,181 per swing voter.

Recent polling suggests that Begala isn't exaggerating too much, though. Swing voters have always been a small segment of the population, but at first glance it seems like there are fewer and fewer of them than ever. Polling back in spring of 2012, a point in the campaign where you might reasonably expect a lot of people to still be undecided, showed the vast majority of votes already locked down. Pew found that only 7 percent were truly undecided and not leaning in one party's direction or the other, while the first day of Gallup's tracking poll this year still found Barack Obama and Mitt Romney already taking over 90 percent of each of their party bases.

While it may be interesting to speculate on why there are so few swing voters any more?certainly the sorting-out of the parties into much clearer ideological and regional camps in the last few decades (with the gradual disappearance of conservative southern Democrats and moderate northeastern Republicans) has helped clear up a lot of people's uncertainty about where they belong, while the growth in news outlets with transparent partisan agendas helps reinforce existing political leans?the more important question becomes whether it's worth spending all that money on them. While no campaign should simply pretend swing voters don't exist and ignore them, eventually you reach a point of diminishing returns when trying to reach them (a point that's got to be somewhat lower than the $2,181 per swing voter cited by Begala), especially when there are other potential sources of votes which are not only potentially more cost-effective to tap but also potentially larger.

Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist from Emory University, is one of the most prominent swing-voter skeptics; he's come out with several articles in the last few months arguing that not only are swing voters are overrated as a voting bloc but that it's a better use of Democrats' time and money to focus on unregistered voters instead. We'll look at both of those arguments, starting with the idea that there are a lot fewer swing voters than we think there are (or at least than the news media encourage us to think there are).

To make this case, Abramowitz looks at a study from the 2008 election between Barack Obama and John McCain. The study, by American National Election Studies, followed a panel of voters for more than a year to see when and how they made up their minds. In the first survey the panel took, they were forced to choose between Obama and McCain; there was no "undecided" or "other" option, but they were asked to indicate whether they were extremely sure, very sure, moderately sure, slightly sure, or not sure at all about their choice. Seventy-five percent were extremely or very sure ... but 25 percent were either moderate or slightly sure or not sure at all. That's a lot of swing voters, right?

However, very few of the voters in that second pool?who you'd think were likely to switch, since their hand had been forced in having to choose someone in the first round?wound up changing their minds. All the mind-changing was basically reversion to the norm; Obama benefited slightly, gaining only an additional percentage point in support along the way. As Abramowitz puts it:

Only 8% of respondents switched candidates between June and November. These switches basically canceled each other out: 9% of McCain supporters switched to Obama while 7% of Obama supporters switched to McCain. Ninety-two percent of respondents ended up voting for the same candidate in November that they supported in June. [...] Nine percent of voters in the swing states switched candidates between June and November compared with 7% of voters in all other states.
The people who were likeliest to switch were, simply, those persons whose initial choice was out of whack with their own party identification. Only 1 percent of Democrats who supported Obama in June wound up voting for McCain, while 4 percent of Republicans who supported McCain in June wound up voting for Obama. On the other hand, 32 percent of Democrats who supported McCain in June wound up voting for Obama, while 39 percent of Republicans who supported Obama in June wound up voting for McCain. In other words, the people who in June seemed likeliest to swing, by the end, wound up not swinging at all, but just coming home to their usual party.

Abramowitz uses the data to break the electorate down into four groups: the stayers (who didn't change between June and November), who make up 92 percent of the electorate, returning partisans (voters who initially planned to swing but reverted to their usual party) at 5 percent, and departing partisans (voters who initially planned to stay loyal but then swung to the other party) at 2 percent. That leaves truly "swinging independents" (the group that the news media would have you believe hold the nation in the balance), who accounted for a total of 1 percent of the electorate. Most self-described "independents," Abramowitz points out, started out with a preference and stuck with it, consistent with many other studies' findings that "independents" actually are partisans, just ones who don't want to get saddled with a partisan label.

Over the fold, we'll talk more about the contention that Democrats should focus less on those few swing voters and more on voter registration and mobilization.



Daily Kos Elections Polling Wrap: Polls hint at a growing House battleground (August 3, 2012, 08:00 PM)

On a quiet polling Friday, one result out of the Heartland definitely qualified as headline news. You see, few people had freshman Republican Rep. Kristi Noem high on the endangered list in South Dakota's lone House seat. And yet, if a new independent poll out of the state is to be believed, she is locked in an absolute coin toss of a race when paired with Democratic nominee Matt Varilek, a former staffer to Sen. Tim Johnson.

On a day when the rest of the polling numbers fit in the realm of "as-expected," that one was a pretty unexpected result.

On to the numbers:

PRESIDENTIAL GENERAL ELECTION TRIAL HEATS:

NATIONAL (Gallup Tracking): Obama d. Romney (47-45)

NATIONAL (Rasmussen Tracking): Romney d. Obama (47-43)

SOUTH DAKOTA (Nielson Brothers): Romney d. Obama (49-43)

DOWNBALLOT POLLING:
IN-SEN (Rasmussen): Richard Mourdock (R) 42, Joe Donnelly (D) 40

SD-AL (Nielson Brothers): Rep. Kristi Noem (R) 47, Matt Varilek (D) 46

WV-03 (Anzalone-Liszt for Rahall): Rep. Nick Rahall (D) 62, Rick Snuffer (R) 34

A few thoughts, as always, await you just past the jump ...



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