CAMPAIGN OVERNIGHT: Benghazi politics cut both ways

The formation on Thursday of a special probe into the attacks on the consulate in Benghazi was always going to be political, and Republicans raising money off the newly-formed committee only ratchets up the rhetoric.

The GOP could squander their credibility if they continue to fundraise, but they’re not the only ones who see an opportunity.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is fundraising off of the investigation, despite pleas from the chairman of the committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), not to do so at the risk of politicizing the issue and hurting the GOP brand. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) isn’t calling on the NRCC to stop, however.

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But there may be some political advantage in the committee for vulnerable House Democrats, as well. Seven Democrats, all but one top Republican targets, broke with their party and voted for the bill authorizing the creation of the committee, despite charges from Democratic leadership that the probe is a political ploy.

Reps. Ron Barber and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Collin Peterson (Minn.), Patrick Murphy (Fla.), John Barrow (Ga.), Nick Rahall (W.Va.) are all facing tough reelection fights and voted for it; Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) voted for it but is retiring.

Ploy or not, the political advantage cuts both ways.


SENATE SHOWDOWN

AR-SEN (PRYOR): Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) released a new ad featuring his dad on his family farm, while the Government Integrity Fund, a conservative super-PAC, has a new ad touting his military record.

GA-SEN (OPEN): A new GOP primary poll from InsiderAdvantage finds businessman David Perdue (R ) in first place with 26 percent, with former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) at 18 percent and Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) are 17 percent, the latest survey showing the trio vying for the top two slots in the primary runoff with 12 days until the primary. Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) has 12 percent support while Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) has 11 percent support.

A new super-PAC backing Kingston launched an ad touting his economic conservatism and Sean Hannity’s compliments.

While the five slog it out, Democrat Michelle Nunn has been focused on fundraising. Her campaign announced she’d raised $840,000 in the last month, her latest huge cash haul. Nunn has raised $6.6 million since she jumped into the race.

IA-SEN (OPEN): Nearly half of businessman Mark Jacobs’s (R) campaign funds were raised in Texas, where he lived for many years before recently moving back to Iowa.

The Tea Party Patriots endorsed former radio host Sam Clovis, another candidate in the race.

KY-SEN (MCCONNELL): Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, is touting her work supporting soldiers’ access to the ballot in her first ad of the campaign. Meanwhile, it seems Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may have been successful in his effort to tamp down the influence of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which has endorsed his primary challenger but all but abandoned the candidate weeks before the primary.

LA-SEN (LANDRIEU): Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) posts her lowest level of support yet in a new poll from Louisiana-based bipartisan pollster Southerm Media & Opinion Research. It gives Landrieu just 36 percent support among likely voters to 35 percent support for Rep. Bill Cassidy (R). Retired Air Force colonel Rob Maness (R) takes 7 percent and state Rep. Paul Hollis (R) has 4 percent support. Seventeen percent are undecided.

But she's getting some help from the First Lady, who will join Landrieu at an event this weekend meeting with the spouses of veterans, in one of Michelle Obama’s first campaign trail appearances this cycle.

Meanwhile, Tea Party candidate Rob Maness released his first ad on Thursday, in which he wrestles an alligator and pledges to “stand up to the career politicians — and the alligators.”

NC-SEN (HAGAN): Senate nominee Thom Tillis (R) said in 2010 that he opposed raising North Carolina’s minimum wage. Tillis wouldn’t say whether or not he did in a Wednesday TV interview.

Tillis’s campaign released a memo attacking Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) as a hypocrite.

NE-SEN (OPEN): In the latest signal banker Sid Dinsdale is surging in the Nebraska Senate Republican primary, outside groups backing front-runner and Midland University President Ben Sasse are turning their sights on him. The Club for Growth, the Madison Project and the 60 Plus Association, all groups supporting Sasse’s bid, have launched TV and radio ads attacking Dinsdale in the past two days, less than a week out from Election Day.

OK-SEN (OPEN): A new survey conducted by NSON Opinion Strategy for the Tea Party Express shows a close race between former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon and Rep. James Lankford (R) for the Oklahoma Senate Republican nomination, with Shannon taking 32 percent support among likely GOP primary voters and lankford taking 31 percent support, and former state Sen. Randy Brogdon taking about 4 percent. In a runoff with Lankford, Shannon breaks ahead, drawing 38 percent support to Lankford’s 30 percent, while another 32 percent are undecided.

OR-SEN (MERKLEY): Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby is looking towards the general election in her newest ad, in which she appears in scrubs in an operating room and declares that "career politicians like Jeff Merkley created a $17 billion deficit, and they still refuse to admit Obamacare is a disaster." Wehby is favored to nab the GOP nomination against state Rep. Jason Conger in the primary this month.

MI-SEN (OPEN): Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) released two ads attacking Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) for opposing the Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying he does because billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer told him to.

BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

OBAMA ON THE BALLOT IN NOV.: Thirty percent of registered voters say that when they vote in the fall midterm elections, they will be voting to express opposition to President Obama, according to a recent Gallup poll.

CA-25 (OPEN): Retiring Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) endorses state Sen. Tony Strickland (R) to replace him in a new ad from Strickland.

FL-26 (GARCIA): Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said he won't back embattled former Rep. David Rivera (R) in his current bid for his old seat, saying he's staying out of the primary — despite the fact that two years ago he endorsed him and criticized those who “turn their backs on friends when things may not be going well for them.”

ID-2 (SIMPSON): The centrist Defending Main Street PAC has a new ad calling Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) a “conservative fighting for Idaho.”

IA-3 (OPEN): The Tea Party Express endorsed Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R) in his crowded primary.

MA-6 (TIERNEY): A survey of 400 likely Democratic primary voters shows Rep. John Tierney well-positioned to make it past his two primary challengers, with 60 percent support and a 67 percent approval rating.

MI-12 (CONYERS): A Detroit News columnist says Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) is an “old, befuddled man” and should retire, wondering whether he has Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Conyers may have not gathered enough signatures for the primary ballot. A local TV station says one of the signature-gatherers was a man who had outstanding arrest warrants.

WV-03 (RAHALL): Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) holds a 9-point lead over his Republican challenger, state Sen. Evan Jenkins, in a new survey of the race.

2016 WATCH

PENCE ON THE RADAR: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) say’s he’s “listening” to those telling him to run for president

RNC MOVES TO LIMIT PRIMARY DEBATES: The Republican National Committee's rules committee has passed new rules to cut into the number of presidential primary debates. Candidates who participate in unsanctioned debates won’t be allowed in sanctioned ones.

PARTY-CRASHING BIDEN FUELS 2016 CHATTER: Vice President Biden made an unannounced appearance at a gathering of hundreds of Iowans in Washington, D.C., on Thursday in a move certain to fuel speculation the vice president is readying a presidential run.

CHRISTIE RETURNS TO CAMPAIGN TRAIL: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), in his role as chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association, made his first public campaign stop with a candidate since he became snarled by scandal surrounding lane closures on the George Washington Bridge with Gov. Paul LePage of Maine on Wednesday.