OVERNIGHT CAMPAIGN: GOP sets its fantasy Senate lineup

Establishment Republicans got every Senate candidate they wanted to win this primary election cycle. Now, it’s time to see if their "fantasy lineup" can perform. 

Former Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan’s (R) Tuesday win over Tea Party candidate Joe Miller (R) and Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) marks the last big Senate primary action of 2014, and in race after race, Republicans backed by the establishment won their races.

Now, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, American Crossroads, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other key cogs of the GOP establishment will be judged by how those candidates perform this fall.

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Some candidates have performed better than others. While Republicans are thrilled with Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R), Democrats argue that they’re in a better position in Alaska, Arkansas and North Carolina than many observers thought they’d be at this point, partly because of missteps by the GOP candidates.

But Republicans avoided any fatally flawed embarrassments like Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) in 2012, or Nevada’s Sharron Angle, Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell and Colorado’s Ken Buck in 2010. 

Instead, it has been Democratic recruitment failures in Montana and South Dakota that have put those races solidly in the Republican column. And in Iowa, Rep. Bruce Braley’s (D) gaffes have given his party unnecessary headaches that could cost the race. 

With Republicans largely avoiding those missteps, they are now a good position to make a run at Senate control this fall with a far different slate of candidates than they’ve had the previous two cycles. Whether they can do so is completely within their hands now.

 

SENATE SHOWDOWN

AK-SEN (BEGICH): The super-PAC backing Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) released its first attack ad of the general election, ripping GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan less than 24 hours after his primary victory for his roots outside Alaska and his support for a controversial local mining project that some critics say could hurt commercial fishing.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund also launched an ad highlighting Sullivan's opposition to abortion, government funding for Planned Parenthood and ObamaCare's birth control coverage mandate. 

KY-SEN (MCCONNELL): Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, traded jabs at the Kentucky Farm Bureau forum on Wednesday. Grimes hammered McConnell for his absences from the Agriculture Committee in favor of other events, while McConnell tied Grimes to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Grimes continued to face scrutiny over her use of a bus leased from her father’s company, which told one local Kentucky outlet that it doesn’t provide transportation rentals. Another company told the AP that her campaign’s payment for the bus was a “sweetheart deal.”

AR-SEN (PRYOR): Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is touting his vote for ObamaCare in a new campaign ad, one of the few times this cycle in which a red-state Democrat has promoted his support for the controversial law. The ad features Pryor with his father, popular former Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.), talking about the family's experiences when Mark got cancer.

IA-SEN (OPEN): Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) told CNBC she supports reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, breaking with conservatives who want to shutter it.

NC-SEN (HAGAN): Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) leads North Carolina Speaker Thom Tillis (R) 45 percent to 43 percent, with Libertarian Party candidate Sean Haugh at 5 percent in a new live-caller poll from USA Today and Suffolk University.

HI-SEN (SCHATZ): Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) conceded her primary to Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), deciding not to contest election results from Friday that found Schatz up by 1,769 votes despite complaints about how the election was run.

NH-SEN (SHAHEEN): New Hampshire Republicans are attacking Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) for holding a September fundraiser with a “fat cat lobbyist” in Washington. 

Meanwhile, Shaheen toured the state with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

MT-SEN (OPEN): Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) has a 20-point lead over newly named Democratic nominee Amanda Curtis, according to a new automated poll from the conservative Rasmussen Reports, the first public survey of the matchup. National Democrats have written off the race.

 

BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

CA-10 (DENHAM): Beekeeper Michael Eggman (D) is out with his first ad, a biographical spot that also hits Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) for getting paid during the government shutdown.

NY-23 (REED): Rep. Tom Reed (R) accused his Democratic opponent, state Rep. Martha Robertson, of “specifically exploit[ing] an actual condition that millions of Americans struggle with every day” by using images of him in her ads he says were taken before he had gastric bypass surgery and lost 110 pounds.

IA-3 (OPEN): Former Iowa state Sen. Staci Appel (D) touts her ability to work across the aisle in her first ad.

AZ-01 (KIRKPATRICK): A new poll shows Arizona Speaker Andy Tobin locked in a statistical tie with state Rep. Adam Kwasman, while rancher Andy Kiehne comes in a close third. The Chamber of Commerce is investing “hundreds of thousands” in advertising boosting Tobin in the final week of their primary fight for the chance to take on endangered Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. Tobin on Wednesday issued a pledge to back whomever becomes the eventual nominee, and a call for unity within the party.

MI-1 (BENISHEK): Democrat Jerry Cannon touts his time in the military and as a sheriff in his first ad.

VA-2 (RIGELL): Democrat Suzanne Patrick touts her military service in her first ad. 

NE-2 (TERRY): Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) trails Democrat Bruce Ashford 46 percent to 45 percent in an internal poll from Ashford’s campaign. 

NY-11 (GRIMM): Democrat Domenic Recchia touts his local connections — in both Brooklyn and Staten Island — in his first ad.

NJ-03 (OPEN): The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee changed an ad attacking Republican Tom MacArthur after MacArthur’s attorney protested on-screen text on the ad that suggested MacArthur was "accused of cheating disaster victims."

 

2016 WATCH

RYAN: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) dodged questions about his 2016 plans Wednesday but said he would be a big backer of Mitt Romney if he were to make another run for the White House.

“I’d drive his bus if he asked me to,” Ryan, who ran alongside Romney for vice president in 2012, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. Ryan said that he believed that a lot of voters now had “buyer's remorse” about giving Obama a second term.

PERRY: Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges that he abused his power. Perry entered the plea in a “waiver of arraignment” filed in a Travis County Court on Tuesday, the same day he turned himself in for booking at the local jail, where he had his mug shot and fingerprints taken.

Perry will speak Thursday at The Heritage Foundation in a speech titled, “The Border Crisis and the New Politics of Immigration.”

CLINTON: AFL-CIO Political Director Mike Podhorzer told reporters Wednesday the union is still withholding judgment on Hillary Clinton’s potential run for president. “People want to see where she’ll be on working family issues, if she decides to run,” he said.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I wasn't dancing with Bon Jovi. Actually, I was dancing with Jamie Foxx. So, if you're going to be cute we should get the story right.” — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) sparring with a woman at a local town hall