Leading Off:• KY-Gov: Kentucky’s gubernatorial race is only a little more than three months away, but there’s been a dearth of polling here so far. But SurveyUSA comes to our rescue and finds a tight race, with Democrat Jack Conway posting a 45-42 lead against Republican Matt Bevin. SurveyUSA’s last poll from mid-May gave Conway a stronger 48-37 edge, but it’s not too surprising to see a shift now that the ugly Republican primary is over.
When independent Drew Curtis is added to the mix, Conway’s lead increases to 43-38, with Curtis taking 5. Curtis, the founder of the website Fark, leans to the left, but so far he seems to be attracting more conservatives who may just not be sold on Bevin yet. Curtis is still collecting signatures, and we should know around mid-August if he’ll make the general election ballot.
We’ve only seen one other independent poll since the May GOP primary, a late June PPP survey that gave Bevin a 38-35 edge. One important difference between the two polls is outgoing Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s approval rating: PPP gave him a good but not great 43-35 score, while SurveyUSA gives him a much better 51-33 mark. PPP usually gives elected officials lower ratings than other pollsters, so there may be nothing else to this. However, Conway will definitely benefit if more conservative voters see Beshear’s tenure as a success and are willing to pull the lever for another Democrat….
• CA-Sen: Rep. Xavier Becerra, the last notable California Democrat still considering a bid for Senate, has unsurprisingly said no. Becerra had raised very little money this year, and, more importantly, he’s the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, with good prospects for advancement. (At age 57, he could stick around long enough become speaker one day.) That leaves state Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez to duke it out on the Democratic side, though Harris has led in fundraising, endorsements, and polling. Republicans won’t be able to contest this seat in a meaningful way barring a Chicxulub-level event.
• FL-Sen, 01: This is a genuine shocker. Veteran GOP Rep. Jeff Miller, who had done just about everything there is to do in order to get ready for a statewide campaign short of a formal announcement, has decided not to run for Senate after all. Miller had amped up his fundraising and begun staffing up, but recently he promised he wouldn’t declare his plans until “after August.” We thought it was traditional gamesmanship from a pol who’d made up his mind but, for whatever reason, wasn’t yet ready to dive in, and it may well have been, because something evidently happened to alter Miller’s timetable so dramatically.
The possibilities for speculation are endless….
• IL-Sen: So no, obviously, GOP Sen. Mark Kirk isn’t going to drop his bid for re-election, despite the wishes of a top Republican donor who’s frustrated watching as Kirk continues to make stupid and offensive comments on the campaign trail. But D.C. Republicans apparently recognize that Kirk’s problem is indeed serious, though they don’t seem to be getting through to the senator. We say that because they’re evidently trying to use the papers to dislodge Kirk’s foot from his own mouth….
• IN-Sen: For just the second time this cycle, the powerful Club for Growth—which might be best thought of as the establishment wing of the tea party—has endorsed a candidate in a competitive GOP Senate primary. On Thursday, they gave their backing to Rep. Marlin Stutzman in Indiana; a few months ago, they also got behind Rep. Ron DeSantis in Florida. The Club’s move makes sense: Stutzman has long practiced their brand of politics, earning a 93 percent lifetime rating on the group’s scorecard. By contrast, gripes the Club, Stutzman’s best-funded Republican opponent, Rep. Todd Young, has an “anemic” 68 percent score.
Stutzman’s not the only one who will be pleased at this development: Democrats will be, too. Stutzman is by far the most extreme candidate in the race, and he’s the likeliest to repeat Richard Mourdock’s follies. That would give Team Blue an opening despite Indiana’s Republican propensities, but ex-Rep. Baron Hill, the only Democrat running, will have to step it up considerably on the fundraising front to be able to take advantage of such an opportunity.
• MD-Sen: While Baltimore pols—chiefly Reps. Elijah Cummings and Dutch Ruppersberger—keep waiting and waiting in the wings, Rep. Chris Van Hollen keeps snacking on their lake trout. Van Hollen’s earned a number of endorsements from prominent Baltimore County figures, and he just added his first from Baltimore city: Del. Maggie McIntosh, who chairs the state House Appropriations Committee. The Baltimore Sun describes her as one of the most powerful women in Maryland politics and suggests her decision might open the floodgates for other leaders to follow suit.
• NC-Sen: After striking out all cycle long, Democrats have finally found someone who might—just might—be interested in taking on GOP Sen. Richard Burr next year. State Rep. Duane Hall says he’s forming an exploratory committee but cautions that he’s “not running for anything” just yet. Hall does seem to understand the parameters of the race, saying that Burr can be unseated “in a year with a strong presidential candidate.” Basically, in other words, Hall would need a year like 2008, when a powerful force at the top of the ticket helped an otherwise unknown state legislator (Kay Hagan) upset an incumbent Republican senator. The odds are long, but they’re not zero, and it’s good that Hall grasps that.
• PA-Sen: It gets late early around here—and it seems to get late earlier and earlier every cycle. By that we mean that serious television ad spending has already cranked up in several key Senate races around the country, when we’re still 15 months out from Election Day. Mostly it’s been from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and it probably can’t be sustained straight through November of 2016. But here’s another big buy, also on behalf of a Republican senator, this time from the Koch-backed Concerned Veterans of America. The spot features a Navy vet (interestingly, a woman) praising Pat Toomey for his work on behalf of veterans. Politico says CVA is spending $1.5 million on the ad….