CAMPAIGN OVERNIGHT: Nebraska, West Virginia GOP primaries test Tea Party mettle

Republicans will be watching competitive primaries in Nebraska and West Virginia on Tuesday night for hints at how much firepower the Tea Party has left this cycle.

National Tea Party groups went all-in for Midland University President Ben Sasse in a four-way Senate primary in Nebraska, the outcome of which won’t affect control of the seat but will be an important test of their credibility in GOP primaries. The Senate Conservatives Fund, Club for Growth and Madison Project have all endorsed Sasse, and FreedomWorks switched its endorsement from former state Treasurer Shane Osborn to Sasse after it was reported that Osborn was receiving implicit help from allies of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

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Meanwhile, in West Virginia, a handful of those same groups that are backing Sasse — the Senate Conservatives Fund, Madison Project and Citizens United, to name a few — have weighed in on behalf of former Maryland GOP Chairman Alex Mooney in a seven-way House primary for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito’s (R) seat, which is open now that the congresswoman is running for Senate.

That’s a much closer race, with scant public polling offering a read on whether Mooney, former U.S. International Trade Commissioner Charlotte Lane or pharmacist Ken Reed has pulled ahead.

Lane is the establishment pick and seen as the strongest contender in the general against Democrat Nick Casey, but outside groups backing Mooney have poured $81,000 into the race on his behalf in the final weeks — and she significantly lagged Mooney and Reed in cash on hand at the start of May.

Both races will likely leave political watchers hanging late into the night on Tuesday and could be close. Polls in West Virginia close at 7:30 p.m. ET, while Nebraska voting ends at 9 p.m. ET. 

 

SENATE SHOWDOWN

POLLS SHOW SOUTHERN DEMS COMPETITIVE: A new series of NBC News/Marist polls show Democrats in Arkansas, Kentucky and Georgia are running even or ahead of their GOP opponents.

AK-SEN (BEGICH): The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has reserved $3.5 million in airtime in Alaska for the homestretch of Sen. Mark Begich’s (D-Alaska) election, from Labor Day through Election Day.

Begich’s most likely opponent, former Alaska Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Sullivan (R), launched a new ad touting his time in the Marines and saying “Alaska needs a fighter again, not another talker.”

GA-SEN (OPEN): Republicans mostly trained their fire on businessman David Perdue (R) in a weekend GOP debate, the latest sign of his front-runner status.

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) put out a new ad touting his work to fight military cuts.

IOWA (OPEN): Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) said she believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in an interview with the Des Moines Register. Ernst also told The Washington Post she thinks she’s the “front-runner” for the nomination, and called herself a “normal Iowan,” knocking businessman Mark Jacobs (R) for being a “very wealthy man.”

KY-SEN (MCCONNELL): Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) primary challenger, businessman Matt Bevin, features a former McConnell voter who is now backing Bevin in a new ad because, she says, “over time, he’s changed,” pointing to votes for wasteful spending and to increase the debt limit, as well as his opposition to the conservative-led strategy to defund ObamaCare.

Meanwhile, a pro-McConnell group is already looking toward the general in a new ad that hits Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes for backing President Obama's "anti-coal agenda."

KS-SEN (ROBERTS): A state elections board dismissed objections to Sen. Pat Roberts’s (R-Kan.) candidacy filed by eight residents based on the assertion that his actual state of residence is Virginia, according to The Associated Press.

NH-SEN (SHAHEEN): Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s (D-N.H.) new campaign ad features a small-business owner touting the senator’s work for companies like hers in New Hampshire. Meanwhile, a new Dartmouth College poll shows her locked in a tight race with former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, taking 39 percent support to his 36 percent support among registered voters.

CO-SEN (UDALL): A new survey conducted for the League of Conservation Voters, which is backing Colorado Sen. Mark Udall (D), shows him locked in a tight competition with Rep. Cory Gardner (R), taking 47 percent support to Gardner’s 43 percent support among registered voters.

MI-SEN (OPEN): Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) accuses former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) of evicting 170 families “all so Terri Lynn Land could flip the property and make a profit" in a new Web ad.

OR-SEN (MERKLEY): State Rep. Jason Conger picked up yet another endorsement in his Republican primary bid against pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby, from the Statesman Journal, which touts him as the “best challenger” to take on Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley in the fall. The editorial board praises his grasp of the issues, compared to Wehby, who displayed “little depth.” Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce endorsed Wehby this weekend.

WV-SEN (OPEN): Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) picked up the endorsement of the West Virginia Coal Association in both the primary and her general election contest against Democrat Natalie Tennant. The association represents most of one of the state’s biggest industries.

SD-SEN (OPEN): Former Gov. Mike Rounds, the front-runner in the four-way GOP primary to take on Democrat Rick Weiland for retiring Sen. Tim Johnson’s (D) seat this fall, picked up the endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce in his bid.

BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

VOTER ENTHUSIASM DROPS: Voter enthusiasm has dropped sharply over the last four years, according to a Gallup poll released Monday. More than half of registered voters now say they are less enthusiastic about voting compared to previous elections. Just over one-third say they are more enthusiastic.

NRCC NAMES TOP CANDIDATES: The National Republican Congressional Committee named its first 10 candidates as Young Guns, the designation for top-tier fundraising challengers.

CA-17 (HONDA): The San Jose Mercury News endorsed Democrat Ro Khanna over Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.). "He is ready for the Congress of tomorrow, while Honda is a politician of the past,” the paper writes.

Honda is out with a direct mail piece attacking Khanna of backing “the wealthiest 2 percent and corporations” over normal people. Khanna’s campaign says Honda holds the same positions as Khanna on what he attacks him for in the mailer.

CA-52 (PETERS): National Journal is accusing former San Diego City Council member Carl DeMaio (R) of plagiarizing one of their reports and claiming it as his own to attack Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.).

FL-13 (JOLLY): A report from the Tampa Bay Times indicates Democrats’ chosen pick to take on Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) this fall, independent Ed Jany, exaggerated his educational background, claiming a degree that doesn’t exist from the University of Minnesota, where he never actually finished his degree requirements, as well as a degree from Madison University, which has been described as essentially a diploma mill.

ID-2 (SIMPSON): The Club for Growth has stopped running ads attacking Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), a sign it may be giving up on Tea Party candidate Bryan Smith ahead of their May 20 primary. Simpson and Smith sparred in a debate on Sunday night.

GA-12 (BARROW): House candidate Eugene Yu (R) has loaned his campaign more money than he states he has in his personal financial disclosure.

MI-11 (BENTIVOLIO): Businessman Dave Trott (R) is out with a new ad saying he helped helped save 75 jobs at a local company.

MI-13 (CONYERS): Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) is preparing to run as a write-in candidate if he fails to qualify for the primary.

NC-02 (OPEN): Former "American Idol" star Clay Aiken's (D) primary opponent, former North Carolina Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco (D), was found dead Monday afternoon, his company confirmed to The Hill. Crisco and Aiken had been in a too-close-to-call primary, waiting on Tuesday's final canvassing results before deciding how to proceed.

NJ-03 (OPEN): Retiring Rep. Jon Runyan (R ) will endorse former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur in the GOP primary to replace him, over former U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan, in another effort by the establishment to beat back Lonegan’s candidacy, which Republicans fear could jeopardize their hold on the seat.

VA-7 (CANTOR): A close ally to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) lost his position as local party committee chairman to a Tea Party candidate. Cantor is facing his own Tea Party challenge this fall.

AZ-01, FL-18, FL-26, WA-09, WI-03: Patriot Majority USA is going up with a series of ads thanking Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.), Patrick Murphy (Fla.), Joe Garcia (Fla.), Adam Smith (Wash.) and Ron Kind (Wis.) for opposing the Tea Party.

ME-02 (OPEN): The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has added Troy Jackson, vying with LCV-backed Emily Cain for the Democratic nomination to replace Rep. Mike Michaud (D), to its “Dirty Dozen” and launched a $150,000 mail campaign against him, it said Monday.

2016 WATCH

RUBIO'S READY: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) says he’s qualified to run for president, and that if he does run he won’t simultaneously run for reelection to the Senate.

PAUL ON VOTER ID: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said the GOP’s push on voter identification laws is alienating African-Americans. Paul's office later clarified his remarks, with senior adviser Doug Stafford saying in a statement that the comments were just an extension of what Paul's said before, that the GOP should not make voter identification a defining issue.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"We were like, 'Really? They took spoons?' "

Katherine Goss, president of Lake View Cemetery, after burglars broke into former President James Garfield’s tomb and stole 13 commemorative spoons from a display case 

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