CAMPAIGN OVERNIGHT: Get the popcorn, Mississippi's still on

As the Republican establishment prepares to celebrate a near-perfect primary record after the Kansas and Tennessee Senate primaries close out this week, one fight continues to rage, in Mississippi.

There, Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-Miss.) primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, filed a formal challenge to the runoff results with the state party on Monday. McDaniel wants the results thrown out altogether, and for him to be declared the winner outright. His campaign has produced more than 250 pages of affidavits outlining alleged illegitimate votes.

But a deep dive into the evidence reveals just how dubious McDaniel’s claims are. For instance, his campaign is calling for Cochran’s campaign spokesman’s vote to be thrown out, because it says he didn’t give sufficient reason for voting absentee. The spokesman, Jordan Russell, voted absentee because — as would be expected for a top-level campaign aide — he was with Cochran on Election Day.

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McDaniel’s protracted fight continues to draw critics, and has fueled growing concerns that he’ll cause long-term damage to the state party. Just ask former Mississippi GOP Sen. Trent Lott, who said damage has already been done and there may need to be a shake-up in leadership in the state.

But at the very least, he’ll give Tea Party supporters something to rage on about — and political observers reason to grab the popcorn even as primary season comes to an end.


SENATE SHOWDOWN

GA-SEN (OPEN): The National Republican Senatorial Committee has spent $2.6 million to begin airing ads next Tuesday through mid-September, its first major ad buy of the cycle,  to help businessman David Perdue (R) in his race against former charity executive Michelle Nunn (D).

AR-SEN (COTTON): Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has a narrow 2-point lead over Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), according to a new automated survey conducted by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. In another sign of the close race: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is going on the air with a huge $3.6 million ad buy in the state. Their first ad and first independent expenditure of the cycle accuses Cotton of being the only member of Arkansas to vote against funding for the state's lone children's hospital.

AK-SEN (BEGICH): Alaska’s Senate primary seems to be tightening, with front-running candidate Dan Sullivan (R) leading Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) 35 percent to 29 percent, with 2010 Senate nominee Joe Miller (R) at 20 percent, in a new automated poll from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.

Begich leads Sullivan by 6 points and Treadwell by 5 points in the poll, though the state is difficult to accurately survey, especially by an automated poll, and other recent polling has found a closer race.

The trio of Republicans touted their social conservatism in a Monday night debate — and Begich takes them to task for it in a new ad released Tuesday.

NC-SEN (HAGAN): Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) has a 41 percent to 39 percent lead over North Carolina Assembly Speaker Thom Tillis (R) in a new poll from the conservative Civitas Institute. Most other recent polling has found Hagan with a slightly larger lead.

KY-SEN (MCCONNELL): Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) wife, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, is firing back on attacks from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in a new ad, where she calls her last ad — which hit McConnell on women’s issues — “desperate and false.”

Meanwhile, the pro-McConnell Kentucky Opportunity Coalition launched a new ad highlighting a number of local outlets and fact-checkers debunking the claims in some of Grimes’s ads. The spot says Grimes is “beholden to Obama, lying to us.”

CO-SEN (UDALL): An advocacy group is pulling petitions in support of two controversial anti-fracking ballot measures Tuesday, giving Sen. Mark Udall (D) cover on the issue, which had divided Democrats in the state.

Udall released a new ad Tuesday that again hammered Rep. Cory Gardner (R) on abortion and contraception, featuring women expressing concern over his record on women’s issues.

KS-SEN (ROBERTS): Sen. Pat Roberts’s (R-Kan.) primary challenger, radiologist Milton Wolf, believes his off-color commentary on gruesome X-rays posted to Facebook have actually helped his campaign.

LA-SEN (LANDRIEU): Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D) campaign announced she’s accepted invitations to four debates, three scheduled for October and one to be decided. Two will be held in New Orleans, friendly territory for her, while the two others will be held in Monroe and Baton Rouge.

WV-SEN (OPEN): Democrat Natalie Tennant was confronted by a voter Saturday asking why she supported President Obama’s campaigns, and seemed flustered in trying to respond. Her campaign chairman, Maj. Gen. Allen Tackett, who attempted to come to her rescue, just provided more fodder for Republican attacks when he declared that “on most of his policies, she supports him.” The Tennant campaign quickly walked his comments back, but Republicans blasted them to reporters as evidence Tennant is indeed in President Obama’s pocket.

NH-SEN (SHAHEEN): Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) launched a new campaign ad that touts her work securing an amendment to a veterans aid bill that allows New Hampshire veterans to receive healthcare services outside of VA hospitals if they live more than 20 miles away from one, as New Hampshire has no such hospital.

BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

IL-13 (DAVIS): Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is in Illinois helping fundraise for freshman Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.).

VA-10 (OPEN): Former presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will headline separate fundraisers in September for Virginia House candidate Barbara Comstock (R), who was a staffer on their campaign.


2016 WATCH

CHRISTIE: Peter Sheridan, deputy director of the New Jersey Republican Party, is the latest cohort of Gov. Chris Christie (R) to head to the Granite State. Sheridan will serve as deputy campaign manager for New Hampshire Republican gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein. Another former Christie aide, Matt Mowers, is executive director of the state party there, and Christie’s former spokesman, Colin Reed, is heading up Scott Brown’s Senate campaign in New Hampshire. The moves have all sparked speculation that Christie is laying the organizational groundwork to compete in New Hampshire if he runs for president in 2016.

O’MALLEY: Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), discussing the possibility of running for president in 2016, said he believed the country needed to make “better choices. Asked why he would want to be president, knowing he would likely face a tough race against Hillary Clinton, O’Malley said, “I love my country.”

CLINTON: Former Obama White House senior adviser David Plouffe said Monday that Hillary Clinton is "a dominant front-runner" who has a "huge, huge base in the Democratic Party” — and if she runs for president, she’d likely shut out any potential competitors for the Democratic nomination. Meanwhile, Hollywood Life is reporting Clinton has leased office space in Times Square.

PAUL: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) drew heavy criticism from Democrats after bolting from a table at a campaign stop in Iowa when an immigration reform activist confronted Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) about his comments on deporting immigrant children.


QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I don’t know whether it changed my appearance or not, but I’m pretty comfortable. I like being able to see.”

—Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), on his much-maligned eyewear