CAMPAIGN OVERNIGHT: Graham, Cantor show it pays to stay in shape

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) are likely to win their primaries Tuesday, the latest proof that it's hard to beat an incumbent who's not asleep at the switch.

Both started early to beef up local connections, raised huge sums and didn’t let up against weak challengers. Graham has blanketed the state in ads touting his conservative stances, while Cantor has eviscerated his Tea Party opponent with attack ads.

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Their hard work and early efforts stand in contrast to others who've faltered. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) dithered before deciding to run for reelection, and Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) was caught by surprise by a well-funded challenger.

The contrasts show how important basic campaign execution can be. Those incumbents who head home early, court party activists, raise huge sums and beat up on their opponents tend to win. The ones caught napping often don’t.

 

SENATE SHOWDOWN

IA-SEN (OPEN): Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) leads Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) by 49 percent to 44 percent in a new survey conducted by GOP pollster Vox Populi.

Ernst’s husband called Hillary Clinton a “hag” in a Facebook post from last year.

AR-SEN (PRYOR): The Arkansas Democratic Party launched an ad attacking Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) for his votes against natural disaster recovery. The state was recently ravaged by tornadoes and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) has made Cotton’s votes an issue.

MT-SEN (WALSH): Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) launched an ad saying Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) “mismanaged” taxpayer money.

KY-SEN (MCCONNELL): Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes (Ky.) had "strong words" for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the administration's new rules limiting carbon pollution during her fundraiser with Reid last week, according to her campaign. Grimes’s campaign said she made those comments during a private conversation with Reid, but an anonymous source tells Politico that Grimes couldn’t have had a private meeting with him as he came late and left early. Politico obtained a recording of Grimes’s speech at the fundraiser that reveals she made no mention of coal.

CO-SEN (UDALL): Rep. Cory Gardner (R) emphasizes his small-town roots and family in his first ad of the Colorado Senate race, which features his 10-year-old daughter, Alyson, sitting on the back of a truck in Gardner’s hometown of Yuma and chatting with her dad. “In a place like this, you learn to get along,” Gardner says in the ad.

OR-SEN (MERKLEY): Sen. Jeff Merkley (R-Ore.) is going negative in a new ad, tying Republican opponent Monica Wehby to the national GOP.

MS-SEN (COCHRAN): Two new surveys show challenger Chris McDaniel leading Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) in the Mississippi Senate primary runoff. In one, McDaniel holds a 3-point lead; in the other, he’s up by 6 points. He also received former Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-Texas) endorsement on Monday.

Meanwhile, Mississippi Conservatives PAC, a group supporting Cochran and backed by former Gov. Haley Barbour (R), plans to hammer McDaniel over his opposition to the Department of Education.

GA-SEN (OPEN): Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) is returning $80,000 in donations from employees of companies linked to a felon.

 

BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

WV-03 (RAHALL): Rep. Nick Rahall’s (D) GOP challenger, state Sen. Evan Jenkins, in a new ad touts his work securing healthcare for the child of a constituent denied a treatment because of a preexisting condition.

LA-05 (MCALLISTER): Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) was franker than most lawmakers when he admitted last week he expected to receive a campaign contribution after he voted against a bill.

NH-2 (KUSTER): Former state Rep. Jim Lawrence (R) will become the first African-American to run for Congress in New Hampshire when he files Wednesday to enter the GOP primary for Rep. Anne Kuster’s (D) seat. He’ll face two other Republicans already in the race, state Rep. Marilinda Garcia and former state Sen. Gary Lambert.

VA-8 (OPEN): Former Virginia Lt. Gov. Don Beyer (D) is favored to win his Tuesday primary to replace retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). The big question is why he wants the seat in the first place.

 

2016 WATCH

CLINTON: Hillary Clinton gave an autographed copy of her new book, Hard Choices, to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee to raffle off, her first support to Senate Democrats this election cycle. DSCC Executive Director Guy Cecil is close to the Clintons.

In an interview with ABC that will air Monday night, Clinton defended her handling of the 2012 Benghazi attack, saying that she gave “very direct instructions” on handling the attack. She also said that the GOP criticism of her on Benghazi had made her more likely to run for president.

Republicans were aggressive in hitting Clinton on the eve of the launch of her book tour, launching a research document titled “Bad Choices” to push back on her memoir, and pointing to a comment she made in the ABC interview that it was hard for the Clintons to afford “houses” as her first gaffe of her presidential campaign.

And a new poll shows a majority of Democrats don’t want her to run unopposed in 2016.

CHRISTIE: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Monday assertions that his style would not play in other regions around the country are "all garbage." Meanwhile, five more unions are suing Christie over cuts to the state’s pension plan. Christie’s chief of staff, Kevin O’Dowd, told a legislative panel investigating lane closures on the George Washington Bridge that he had no knowledge of the closures.

BOLTON: Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton will back Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) for his first endorsements of the cycle, according to a release obtained first by The Hill. The endorsements come as Bolton is working to raise his profile as he considers a 2016 presidential bid.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"The people of Germany in a free election selected the Nazi Party because they made great promises that appealed to them because they were desperate and destitute. And why is that? Because Germany was bankrupt.” — Outgoing Indiana state Treasurer (and 2012 Senate nominee) Richard Mourdock (R) on the country’s direction