The battle for the Senate is shifting fully into opposition research season after Georgia's Tuesday primary decided one of the final marquee Senate matchups.
Campaigns across the country are beginning to crack their research books to leak embarrassing and incriminating stories about their opponents, seeking to disqualify them as the general election season heats up.
On Wednesday alone, the New York Times reported that Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) plagiarized much of his 2007 master’s thesis, Michigan papers continued their coverage of questions surrounding Michigan Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land’s (R) financial disclosures (which are missing any record of a joint account with her husband, which she’s said is being used to pump millions of their money into the race), and Iowa Republicans continued to make hay out of Rep. Bruce Braley’s (D-Iowa) poor attendance record at Veterans Affairs Committee hearings.
Opposition research dumps, always a key facet of campaigns, have become even more important with shrinking newsrooms and burgeoning outside groups such as American Bridge on the left and, this cycle, the GOP’s response with America Rising. At the same time, what used to be “October surprises” are now coming earlier as campaigns and super-PACs spend on early TV and candidates look to damage each other in the spring and summer.
Expect to see many more stories in the coming weeks as campaigns look to plant the stories they want to feature in coming attack ads.
MT-SEN (WALSH): Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) is under fire for questions of plagiarism. A New York Times report out Wednesday finds that the senator copied at least a quarter of his thesis written while he was at the United States Army War College from other authors without attributing the information to them. When presented with multiple examples of passages in his paper copied directly from other sources, Walsh told The Times on Tuesday that he “didn’t do anything intentional.”
GA-SEN (OPEN): David Perdue (R) won his Senate primary Tuesday night, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee responded with a video that featuring a slew of negative comments from Perdue’s primary opponents to paint the businessman as an out-of-touch elitist.
CO-SEN (UDALL): Crossroads GPS slammed Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) with a new ad Tuesday, hitting him for supporting the carbon tax and opposing the Keystone XL pipeline. The spot urges voters to tell Udall “to support job-creating energy solutions like Keystone and to stop the squeeze on Colorado’s middle class.” Backed by a $460,000 buy, the ad will run in Denver and Colorado Springs.
MI-SEN (OPEN): Republican candidate Terri Lynn Land released a new ad attacking her opponent Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) as a “roadblock to Michigan’s potential” who has voted to create jobs overseas. Peters's campaign fired back, questioning the source of the nearly $3 million personal contribution she’s made to her campaign and urged her to stop spending campaign cash until these questions are answered.
NC-SEN (HAGAN): A new ad out by Patriot Majority USA links North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis to the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, charging that they treat Tillis “like he’s one of the family.” The spot, backed by a $1.1 million buy, accuses Tillis of supporting tax breaks for the wealthy while freezing teachers’ salaries and raising costs for North Carolina seniors.
KY-SEN (MCCONNELL): Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) released a new ad Wednesday featuring Chip Edwards, the president of an aluminum company in Louisville, touting McConnell’s work fighting Chinese trade practices that threatened the plant. “Without Mitch McConnell, these 400 good manufacturing jobs in Louisville would not have been saved. Mitch never forgets who he’s working for,” Edwards says in the ad.
IA-SEN (OPEN): Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) missed three quarters of Veterans’ Affairs Committee meetings over the two-year period he was a member, sparking Republican criticism that he has shown little concern for the conditions of veterans’ health care. With the VA wrapped up in scandal, this attendance record could bear bad news for Braley on the campaign trail.
VA-SEN (WARNER): A new poll from Roanoke College shows Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) ahead of Republican challenger Ed Gillespie (R) by a wide margin, leading the former Republican National Committee chairman by 47 to 22 percent.
KS-SEN (ROBERTS): The Kansas Board of Healing Arts, the organization that licenses health care providers and enforces medical laws in the state, has launched an official investigation into the X-rays Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R-Kan.) primary challenger, Milton Wolf, posted along with off-color commentary on his Facebook page, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. Wolf’s campaign manager said that “any investigation into these politically motivated charges will result in a finding that Dr. Wolf never violated patient privacy and that he remains a doctor in good standing,” but it provided Roberts’ campaign the opportunity to slam Wolf as “dangerous” just two weeks out from the primary.
LA-SEN (LANDRIEU): Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) debuted a new ad Wednesday charging Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) raided Medicare to pay for ObamaCare, while touting his own efforts to repeal the law and to protect Medicare and Social Security. The spot features Cassidy in his white doctor’s coat as he tells Louisiana voters, “I’m with you.”
TN-SEN (ALEXANDER): Conservative talk-radio host Laura Ingraham likened Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to an “old sweater” at a rally for his primary challenger, Joe Carr, on Tuesday night. “He was really comfortable and sharp looking at one point, but now it just takes up room in your drawer,” she said of Alexander to the roughly 500 people at the Nashville event.
Sarah Palin also endorsed Carr on Wednesday, calling him the “new voice Tennessee needs” in the Senate in a Facebook post. She thanked Alexander “for the respect and integrity you’ve shown” during his tenure in Washington, but said that “the time has come for new leaders who are willing to stand up to the political establishments and the Obama administration and say, ‘no mas!’” She also said his votes for “amnesty, cash for clunkers, bailouts” and other issues had “marred” Alexander’s record.
MS-SEN (COCHRAN): Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-Miss.) primary challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel finished the primary with $386,000 still in the bank, according to his second quarter fundraising report filed with the Federal Election Commission. And McDaniel’s campaign is still raising money, all of it going toward his legal fund as he prepares for a possible challenge to the runoff election results.
NH-SEN (SHAHEEN): A survey of likely voters out Wednesday from the conservative Magellan Strategies finds Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) leading former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R), by 5 percentage points. The poll shows Shaheen ahead of Brown by 46 to 41 percent with 13 percent undecided, and indicates that Brown could pick up the support of some undecided voters, 53 percent of which have not yet formed an opinion of him.
GET OUT THE VOTE: The Republican Party is trying to capture more voters by using the Internet. The GOP launched an online initiative Wednesday, a new Register.gop website that the party hopes will increase the number of people registering to vote and support Republican candidates.
The National Rifle Association launched its own push to increase voter turnout Wednesday, releasing a 30-second video ad featuring a father revealing to his son a box that appears to have a handgun in it. The father tells his son that he has what’s inside the box because “it’s important I protect our family. And our rights.” At the close of the ad, the father reveals a voter registration card to his son. The spot is part of the NRA’s larger “Trigger the Vote” campaign, aimed at motivating gun-rights advocates to vote.
BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE
HI-1 (OPEN): VoteVets.org and its Vote Vets Action Fund will take to the air next week in support of state Rep. Mark Takai (D), one of seven candidates seeking the Democratic nomination. The positive spot touts Takai’s own military service and praises Takai for continuing “that tradition of service” in office by working to help veterans get the care they need.
IA-2 (LOEBSACK): Sen. Paul Rand (R-Ky.) will attend a fundraiser for Republican candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) while in Iowa at the beginning of August, her campaign announced Tuesday.
PA-6 (OPEN): An internal poll from Democratic candidate Manan Trivedi shows him trailing his Republican challenger Ryan Costello by 5 percentage points. The survey, conducted by Lake Research Partners for Trivedi’s campaign, finds Costello leading Trivedi by 35 to 30 percent with 35 percent of voters undecided.
It is a slight decline in support for Trivedi from a January poll, but the survey found that when voters were read positive messages about both candidates, the two were dead even, polling at 38 percent.
MI-08 (ROGERS): Former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R) leads state Rep. Tom McMillin (R) by 12 points, 45-33 percent, in a new survey of the GOP primary to replace retiring Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.). When voters are told Rogers has endorsed Bishop, his lead expands to 20 percent.
PAUL: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is heading back to South Carolina to fundraise for Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), an influential Tea Party leader in the early primary state, and will swing by a fundraiser for an Iowa House candidate while there later this month.
CHRISTIE: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) stood by previous comments that Colorado’s legalization of marijuana was harmful to the state’s quality of life during a trip to the state to campaign for GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez. “I meant what I said,” Christie said. “I don’t agree on that one – that’s all…We’ve got to stop in public life worrying about making everybody happy. We’re not going to agree all the time.”
CORKER: Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) didn't rule out a White House run, saying on MSNBC that he’s “never looked at myself as being that person” but adding “who knows what happens down the road?”
BACHMANN: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) may be weighing another presidential run, she indicated to Real Clear Politics on Tuesday. When asked a question about the possibility of a GOP woman seeking the nomination, Bachmann said “there’s a chance” she could run.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“If support for traditional marriage is bigotry, then Barack Obama was a bigot until just before the 2012 election.” — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)