Democrats suffered the latest in a series of blows to their hopes to hold Montana’s Senate seat on Thursday, when Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) announced after days of speculation that he’ll drop his campaign against Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.).

Walsh’s decision after weeks of fallout from a plagiarism scandal likely ends any hopes the party has to hold the seat, barring a miracle recruitment coup heading into the state party’s hastily organized Aug. 16 convention.

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At the beginning of the cycle Democrats were confident Sen. Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBooker tries to find the right lane  Top Lobbyists 2017: Hired Guns GOP tries to keep spotlight on taxes amid Mueller charges MORE (D-Mont.) would help keep the seat from being competitive. Then Baucus dropped out, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) rebuffed recruiting efforts, a number of other Democrats ruled out runs and Walsh, after his struggles, dropped out at as well, leaving Daines as a near-lock to become the first Republican in a century to hold the seat and narrowing Democrats’ chances at holding the Senate.

It’s not their only open-seat recruiting failure this cycle — they failed to get in a decent candidate in South Dakota to replace retiring Sen. Tim JohnsonTim JohnsonCourt ruling could be game changer for Dems in Nevada Bank lobbyists counting down to Shelby’s exit Former GOP senator endorses Clinton after Orlando shooting MORE (D), and Rep. Bruce BraleyBruce Lowell BraleyOPINION | Tax reform, not Trump-McConnell feuds, will make 2018 a win for GOP Ten years later, House Dems reunite and look forward Trump: Ernst wanted 'more seasoning' before entertaining VP offer MORE (D-Iowa) has given national Democrats fits with his gaffes. The Democratic senators running for reelection in Republican states are fighting hard but may not all win, so if Democrats end up losing the Senate, recruiting failures early in the cycle could be their downfall.

 

SENATE SHOWDOWN

TN-SEN (ALEXANDER): Primary polls close at 8 p.m. ET. Here's your cheat sheet.

MT-SEN (WALSH): Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) announced he'll drop his campaign in the wake of a plagiarism scandal, leaving Democrats without a candidate to face Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.).

Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D), who turned down a bid for the seat last year, said shortly after Walsh's announcement that he still has no interest in running. 

AK-SEN (BEGICH): Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Week ahead: Trump expected to shrink two national monuments GOP on verge of opening Arctic refuge to drilling MORE (R-Alaska) isn't happy about Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (D-Alaska) using her in his latest campaign ad. Her lawyers sent his campaign a “cease and desist” letter Thursday demanding the “factually incorrect” ad be pulled down. 

AR-SEN (PRYOR): Sen. Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (D-Ark.) is pushing back against Rep. Tom CottonTom CottonGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Grassley offers DACA fix tied to tough enforcement measures Five things senators should ask Tom Cotton if he’s nominated to lead the CIA MORE's (R-Ark.) recent TV attacks that Pryor "voted for amnesty [and] citizenship for illegals," with an ad using Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE's (R-Ariz.) quote that "anyone who calls it amnesty is not being intellectually honest."

HI-SEN (SCHATZ): Both Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) are asking their supporters to take down yard signs and banners before Hurricane Iselle hits Hawaii late Thursday, just two days ahead of Saturday's primary and on the last day of early voting.

IA-SEN (OPEN): NextGen Climate Action Committee, a liberal environmental super-PAC, attacked state Sen. Joni Ernst for signing an anti-tax increase pledge, saying it would hurt support for renewable energy and cut Newtown jobs resulting from wind energy tax credits.

KY-SEN (McCONNELL): Former President Clinton barnstormed the Bluegrass State with Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) Wednesday, as Grimes looked to tie herself to her family friend and get some space from President Obama. 

MI-SEN (OPEN): Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land’s (R) campaign accuses Rep. Gary Peters (D) of playing “both sides” of immigration in a new ad using clips of Peters saying “immigration reform is not about more enforcement.”

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) said Thursday it is teaming up with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees for a $2.1 million turnout campaign launching in October to elect Peters, with the aim of contacting more than a million registered voters before election.

Peters's campaign is making hay out of a local report that the small business Land claims to own was actually run by her and her husband's much larger company.

CO-SEN (UDALL): Crossroads GPS launched a new ad Thursday featuring the wife of a small-business owner urging Sen. Mark UdallMark UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' MORE (D) to repeal ObamaCare. The group has repeatedly hit Udall for not supporting the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but the ad is its first attack on his support of ObamaCare.

MS-SEN (COCHRAN): The Mississippi Republican Party will not hear state Sen. Chris McDaniel's challenge to incumbent Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranObstruction of justice watch: Trump attacks the FBI America isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill MORE's primary victory because state law would not allow sufficient time to consider the evidence. McDaniel may still take the case to court, an option top Cochran backer and Republican National Committee member Henry Barbour (R) said he “deserves.”

NC-SEN (HAGAN): The conservative group Concerned Veterans for America launched a "seven-figure" ad buy on Thursday accusing Sen. Kay HaganKay HaganPolitics is purple in North Carolina Democrats can win North Carolina just like Jimmy Carter did in 1976 North Carolina will be a big battleground state in 2020 MORE (D-N.C.) of not helping North Carolina's veterans. 

SC-SEN (GRAHAM): Onetime Republican and reality TV star Thomas Ravenel is on the South Carolina ballot after the state's election commission certified he had the necessary number of signatures. The former state treasurer served 10 months in prison for federal cocaine charges.

 

BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

HOUSE DEMOCRATS: Congressional Democrats returning home to their districts ahead of this fall's midterm elections have been equipped with a 22-page economic report from top White House officials highlighting promising signs of rebound. 

The memo, obtained by The Hill, is another sign the White House is increasingly eager to draw voters' attention to the president's economic record as Democrats scramble to keep control of the Senate and fight to gain seats in the House.

FL-10 (WEBSTER): Republicans in the Florida state legislature have released new maps aimed at satisfying a court-ordered redrawing of two House districts that, if passed, could give Democrats a better shot at knocking off Rep. Dan Webster (R-Fla.).

It’s unclear whether this will be the final map or whether it’ll be in use for this election.

AR-2 (OPEN): Former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays (D) is out with his first ad touting the economic position he left the city in.

AZ-7 (OPEN): The Progressive Change Campaign Committee endorsed Ruben Gallego for Congress in Arizona's 7th Congressional District and announced poll results showing him with a 10-point lead.

AL-6 (OPEN): Democrats lost their recruit for the heavily Republican district held by retiring Rep. Spencer BachusSpencer Thomas BachusTrump bank nominee gets rough reception at confirmation hearing Overnight Finance: Breaking - GOP delays release of tax bill | Changes to 401(k)s, state and local taxes hold up bill | Trump aims to sign tax legislation by Christmas | Hensarling to retire after term | Trump to repeal arbitration rule Senators, don't put Ex-Im Bank's fossil fuel financing back in business MORE (R-Ala.).

 

2016 WATCH

PAUL: Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLexington mayor launches bid for Congress Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics Meet the Iran hawk who could be Trump's next secretary of State MORE (R-Ky.) told The New York Times Magazine Thursday that “the party can’t become the opposite of what it is” regarding gay marriage. “I don’t think we can completely flip. But can we become, to use the overused term, a bigger tent? I think we can and can agree to disagree on a lot of these issues. I think the party will evolve. It’ll either continue to lose, or it’ll become a bigger place where there’s a mixture of opinions.” 

CHRISTIE: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) will travel to Mexico Sept. 3-5 to "promote increased trade, economic growth and job creation between New Jersey and Mexico,” his office announced Thursday. It's the first time the potential 2016 candidate, who has traveled around the U.S. as the head of the Republican Governors Association, has gone abroad in his second term as governor (he went to Israel in 2012).

At home, Christie’s approval among New Jersey voters remains at a three-year low since the scandal broke in April involving bridge closures. A Quinnipiac survey released Thursday shows 49 percent of New Jersey voters approve of his job performance, while 47 percent disapprove. 

CLINTON: Former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE talked to Glamour magazine about fashion, young women running for office and the “perfectionist gene” of young women holding themselves back in their career ambitions.

PERRY: Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) kicks off a conference for the conservative website RedState in Fort Worth on Thursday evening, delivering an opening speech Friday morning. It was at a RedState conference in August 2011 that the governor announced his 2012 White House bid. Texas Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDebbie Wasserman Schultz marks 10 years as breast cancer survivor Foreign agent registration is no magical shield against Russian propaganda Let Trump be Trump and he'll sail through 2020 MORE, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will also speak, among others.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"God I love this song. And beach music. AND shagging. http://t.co/vLuYGSnzMi #pandora" – Tweet with a link to The Ember’s “I Love Beach Music” from the account of Rep. Steve Fincher (R-Tenn.) that was up for nine hours before being deleted. Communications director Elizabeth Lauten said she accidentally posted the song to Twitter when she put it on her personal Facebook.