CAMPAIGN OVERNIGHT: Overtime optics

For those of you who thought we’d know this week whether embattled Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) and appointed Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) were headed back to Congress, think again. 

Recount is a scary word for strategists, candidates and journalists alike. You’ve spent months preparing for the moment, and to know the results are still in limbo is excruciating. 

Both still-undecided contests have different dynamics. In Tennessee, the momentum at the end seemed to be with challenger Jim Tracy but warnings that DesJarlais, tarred by an abortion scandal, would do better than expected were prescient. They’re narrowly separated by just 35 votes, with provisionals and possibly other absentees outstanding. Tracy’s campaign says that won’t change the total drastically, but both sides are meeting with their legal teams. Tennessee’s recount law is murky and broad, so it looks like a challenge from whoever is down once the count is certified is all but certain. 

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Hawaii is an entirely different scenario, though. It’s not a matter of a recount needed to solidify Schatz’s 1,635-vote lead over Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D). With Hurricane Iselle damaging two polling places that have 8,255 registered voters between them, now both candidates will turn their attention to campaigning to those voters on the Big Island. It’s a modern-day version of “Swing Vote,” the maligned Kevin Costner movie where the fate of the presidential election hangs on one man’s vote. Based on early voting numbers, Schatz has the edge there too, but imagine if in every election you were confident what area winning hinged on.

The good news for both Republicans and Democrats: the outcomes in both contests won’t have a bearing on the November races, save for their respective parties. But it does keep the intrigue in two nasty races going a little longer. 

 

SENATE SHOWDOWN

AK-SEN (BEGICH): A super-PAC backing Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) is attacking both GOP Senate front-runner Dan Sullivan (R) and Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) in a new ad. The spot from Put Alaska First rips Sullivan for trying to "give government more power over our land and water," and attacks Treadwell for helping to create "a company that helped the government spy on people." But the Democratic group’s attacks could have an added benefit of boosting 2010 Senate nominee Joe Miller in the primary, whom they’d love to run against or for him to run as a libertarian and split the GOP vote. 

GA-SEN (OPEN): In a speech over the weekend at the Georgia Democratic convention, Senate nominee Michelle Nunn went hard-charging against GOP rival David Perdue, hitting his business record. 

Meanwhile, Perdue has hired Megan Whittemore, press secretary for former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), to serve as his communications director for the campaign. 

NH-SEN (SHAHEEN): Scott Brown's campaign released a new 15-second TV ad highlighting Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's (D-N.H.) immigration votes. "It is time for us to secure the border and enforce the law," Brown says in the ad.

MT-SEN (OPEN): Montana state Rep. Franke Wilmer (D) has decided not to run for Sen. John Walsh's (D-Mont.) seat, announcing on Facebook she was taking her "hat out of the ring" and will remain a state Senate candidate instead. Democrats will pick their nominee at a convention next Saturday in Helena. Whoever is picked will be a heavy underdog to Rep. Steve Daines (R).

OR-SEN (MERKLEY): Monica Wehby’s campaign posted video online Monday of former Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) supporters angry about being barred from a campaign event.

HI-SEN (SCHATZ): Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) faces some tough math in order to make up the 1,635-vote lead Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii) holds after Saturday's primary. Two precincts have yet to complete voting due to Hurricane Iselle and have 8,255 registered voters between them. They are required to finish voting by mail ballot within 21 days. Schatz led Hanabusa in early voting in those two precincts, according to Hawaii News Now.

NC-SEN (HAGAN): Republican Thom Tillis said Monday that last year's government shutdown was "well intentioned" but "you've got to fund government operations." That compares to his statement during the ObamaCare fight that "we must use every tool available to us, including this CR (continuing resolution) fight." Tillis is running against Sen. Kay Hagan.

WV-SEN (OPEN): Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney (R) is heading to West Virginia to stump for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the front-runner in her Senate race, where she's favored to flip the seat of retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D). On Aug. 19 he'll also help Republican candidates former Maryland GOP Chairman Alex Mooney, running for Capito's open seat, and state Sen. Evan Jenkins, running to unseat vulnerable Rep. Nick Rahall (D). 

Democratic candidate Natalie Tennant accused Capito of spurning the coal industry by bringing in Romney, digging up a Democratic talking point from the 2012 presidential campaign reminding voters that in 2003 Romney said a coal plant in Massachusetts “kills people.”

 

BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

CA-17 (HONDA): Supporters of former Obama administration official Ro Khanna have formed a super-PAC to boost his bid against Rep. Mike Honda (D). 

CA-52 (PETERS): Republican Carl DeMaio’s campaign released a 30-second ad accusing Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) of setting up a “government pension scheme” allowing some city officials to retire as millionaires.

FL-18 (MURPHY): Freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) released his first TV ad, saying he’s kept his promise to be a bipartisan, independent legislator in Congress. 

FL-26 (GARCIA): Former 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is throwing his support behind Carlos Curbelo (R) to win his primary and take on Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) this fall. 

Scandal-plagued former Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) has also been making robo-calls in the district, raising the question of whether he's truly dropped his House campaign.

WA-01 (DELBENE): Republican Pedro Celis declared victory over rival Robert Sutherland to face off against Democrat Rep. Suzan DelBene in November.

 

2016 WATCH

SANDERS: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he's not sure if former Secretary of State and potential 2016 contender Hillary Clinton would be a good president. "What is her agenda? I don't know. You don't know. She hasn't said," Sanders told Yahoo News.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY 

“He has great name recognition! Charisma! Brains! ... We need The Dude to be Montana’s next U.S. Senator!” — Change.org petition creator Lizbeth Pratt urging Jeff Bridges, known for playing Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski in 1998’s “The Big Lebowski,” to run for Montana’s open Senate seat

This post was updated at 9:45 p.m.

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