After the longest and one of the more negative midterm campaigns on record, strategists are trying to leave voters with a slightly less terrible taste in their mouths.

A number of candidates released ads this week highlighting their softer sides, delivering closing messages filled with hope, promises and, in more than a few cases, puppies.

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That doesn’t mean everything’s sunny on the air — campaign committees and outside groups continue to pound negative messages heading into Election Day. 

But the candidates themselves are looking to find a way to cut through the noise after months of negative ads — and a spot with the family dog, like Rep. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonGOP senator says he suggested Greenland purchase to Trump, met with Danish ambassador It's time to empower military families with education freedom Cotton warns China: Crackdown on Hong Kong would be 'grave miscalculation' MORE (R-Ark.) is running, or with a crowd of bloodhounds, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democratic field narrows with Inslee exit McConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster MORE (R-Ky.) has up — could help close the deal with voters who’ve been putting their TVs on mute during commercial breaks.

 

SENATE SHOWDOWN

LA-SEN (LANDRIEU): Senate Conservatives Fund President Ken Cuccinelli said in an interview with The Hill that Republican Rob Maness is the better choice to defeat Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCongress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ Lobbying world MORE (D-La.) than fellow Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

N.C.-SEN (HAGAN): Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death Anti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid McCain's family, McCain Institute to promote #ActsOfCivility in marking first anniversary of senator's death MORE (R-Ariz.) blasted Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganTillis trails Democratic challenger by 7 points in North Carolina poll North Carolina businessman will challenge Tillis in GOP primary Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 MORE (D-N.C.) on the North Carolina campaign trail, saying she skipped meetings of the Senate Armed Services Committee while Islamic militants executed two U.S. citizens.

IA-SEN (OPEN): Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday endorsed Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst, arguing the upper chamber could use someone with the Republican's Army National Guard experience.

Former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces DHS cyber agency to prioritize election security, Chinese threats ABC chose a debate moderator who hates Trump MORE stumped with 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) on Wednesday, and called Ernst’s refusal to meet with editorial boards of state papers “disqualifying.”

KY-SEN (MCCONNELL): Alison Lundergan Grimes released a new Web video in which University of Kentucky championship-winning coach Joe B. Hall endorses her. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) campaign pointed to the fact that the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers bussed in supporters from out of state for a campaign event with Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Keystone XL Pipeline gets nod from Nebraska Supreme Court MORE (D-Mass.) as evidence she’s “in bad shape” heading into Election Day.

GA-SEN (OPEN): Former Dollar General CEO David Perdue’s business record was supposed to be his ticket to the Senate. Now it’s becoming the Republican’s undoing

N.H.-SEN (OPEN): New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown is getting help from Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGraham promises ObamaCare repeal if Trump, Republicans win in 2020 Conservatives buck Trump over worries of 'socialist' drug pricing Rand Paul to 'limit' August activities due to health MORE (R-Ky.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads What the gun safety debate says about Washington Trump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China MORE (R-Fla.) in the final week of his challenge to Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSunday shows - Recession fears dominate Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Lewandowski says he's 'happy' to testify before House panel MORE (D-N.H.).

AK-SEN (BEGICH): Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world MORE (D-Alaska) and former Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan (R) traded jabs in a Tuesday forum over President Obama and energy. They’ll meet again tonight. Former White House nominee Mitt Romney (R) and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzIs this any way for NASA to build a lunar lander? GOP strategist predicts Biden will win nomination, cites fundraising strength 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 MORE (R-Texas) will stump with Sullivan between now and Election Day.

 

BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

NRCC: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has given the National Republican Congressional Committee $500,000 in the closing days of the midterms.

LA-5 (MCALLISTER): Louisiana Republican congressional candidate Zach Dasher has picked up another big-name endorsement this week, the latest support coming from firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

TX-23 (GALLEGO): Democratic freshman Rep. Pete GallegoPete Pena GallegoGOP candidate scores upset win in Texas state Senate runoff Koch group launches digital ads in tight Texas House race Iraq War vet wins Texas Dem runoff MORE and GOP challenger Will Hurd will be the only two Texans sweating their state’s congressional elections next week. 

LA-6 (OPEN): Former Rep. Edwin Edwards (R-La.) has a strong chance to reach the runoff in the race to replace Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who is running for Senate. 

FL-2 (SOUTHERLAND): Former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) will campaign with Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) as he seeks to stave off a challenge from Democrat Gwen Graham. 

CO-6 (COFFMAN): The Tea Party Express endorsed Rep. Mike Coffman (R) for reelection.

NV-4 (HORSFORD)/CA-24 (CAPPS): The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is planning to spend $360,000 on TV ads defending Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) in his Democratic-leaning suburban Las Vegas district, a response to a recent big ad buy from the GOP-aligned Crossroads GPS. The ads are the first for Horsford from the DCCC, which also launched its first ads protecting Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.).

MN-8 (NOLAN): National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) will stump with businessman Stewart Mills (R) on Friday. Mills is challenging Rep. Rick Nolan (R-Minn.).

 

AD WATCH

NH-SEN (SHAHEEN): Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) launched a Web video featuring two New Hampshire residents slamming Republican Scott Brown for sitting on the board of a company that outsourced jobs and chiding him for leaving New Hampshire workers behind.  

IA-SEN (OPEN): Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst’s (R) final ad paints the U.S. as being at a “crossroads” and says Americans need to “take a new way, the Iowa way.”

OR-SEN (MERKLEY): American Future Fund released an ad that suggests Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocratic senator and top Trump immigration official argue over asylum claims on Twitter Senate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility Senate Dem seeks answers from DHS on reports of pregnant asylum seekers sent back to Mexico MORE (D-Ore.) hasn’t accomplished much during his time in office.

SD-SEN (OPEN): A Republican rancher says Republican Mike Rounds “has consistently prioritized the interests of big money over we the people of South Dakota” and that he can’t vote for Rounds in MAYDAY PAC’s latest ad.

KS-SEN (ROBERTS): Independent Greg Orman touts his newspaper endorsements and his independence in a new ad. Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Kobach says he's more prepared for 'propaganda' in Senate campaign Pompeo: Senate run 'off the table' MORE (R-Kan.) characterizes Orman as dishonest on his policy positions and his business background and calls him a “risky choice” and “downright embarrassing” in one radio ad, and hits him on abortion in another.

MI-SEN (OPEN): Rep. Gary Peters’s (D-Mich.) final ad celebrates “heroic” middle-class women.

AR-SEN (PRYOR): Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) decries negative attack ads against him and features his wife and her dog in his final ad.

NY-18 (MALONEY): Former Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.) who is looking to unseat a gay member of Congress, is touting the support of her gay son in a new ad.

NY-1 (BISHOP): Businessman Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE recorded a robo-call for Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), who is running against Democrat Rep. Tim BishopTimothy (Tim) Howard BishopDem candidate 'struck by the parallels' between Trump's rise and Hitler's Dems separated by 29 votes in NY House primary Flint residents hire first K Street firm MORE

IA-3 (OPEN): Barbara Grassley, wife of Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces White House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord MORE (R-Iowa), records a radio spot for David Young (R-Iowa) in his House run. 

DCCC: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aired two new ads to protect Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) and help state Sen. Brad Ashford (D-Neb.) against Rep. Lee Terry (R).

 

OUTSIDE GROUPS: 

NARAL Pro-Choice America and its Colorado arm are launching radio, television and digital ads telling viewers that "if Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democratic field narrows with Inslee exit Inslee seeking third term as governor after ending presidential bid MORE gets his way, you better stock up on condoms."

The Chamber of Commerce released its final bevy of ads of the cycle.

Two spots feature Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) touting Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) and former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in New Hampshire, while another features former White House nominee Mitt Romney (R) touting North Carolina Speaker Thom Tillis (R). Others advocate for Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Reps. John Barrow (D-Ga.) and Scott Peters (D-Calif.), and attack Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.).

 

POLL POSITION

IA-SEN (OPEN): Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) leads Rep. Bruce Braley (D) by a margin of 49 percent to 45 percent in a Quinnipiac University poll, slightly outside the survey's margin of error, plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Braley has a narrow 46 percent to 45 percent lead in a new internal poll conducted for his campaign by Garin-Hart-Yang.

CO-SEN (UDALL): Colorado pollster Kevin Ingham conducted a survey that over-sampled Hispanic voters and polled them in both English and Spanish, and then weighted them equally to other demographic groups. It found Sen. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallPoll: Trump trails three Democrats by 10 points in Colorado The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down MORE (D-Colo.) running neck-and-neck with Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), 45 percent to 44 percent.

AK-SEN (BEGICH): Former Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan (R) leads Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) 42 percent to 38 percent in an internal poll conducted for his campaign and shared with The Hill.

GA-SEN (OPEN): A new Monmouth University poll finds businessman David Perdue (R) leading former charity executive Michelle Nunn (D) 49 percent to 41 percent. Most other recent polling has found a margin-of-error race.

KS-SEN (ROBERTS): A new SurveyUSA poll gives Independent Greg Orman a slight lead over incumbent Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) by a margin of 44 percent to 42 percent.

NC-SEN (HAGAN): Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and North Carolina Speaker Thom Tillis (R) are deadlocked at 44 percent apiece, according to an internal poll from Tillis’s campaign.

MI-6 (UPTON): Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) leads Democrat Paul Clements 47 percent to 43 percent in a poll conducted for Clements’s campaign.

 

2016 RUMBLINGS

BUSH: Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) candidly spoke about his potential presidential bid Wednesday during a trip to Nashville, saying that he’s “not really freaking out about this decision.” 

Bush said Obama had been “incompetent” with his handling of Ebola.

PAUL: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) confirmed to The Washington Post that he’ll meet with advisers after the midterms, but said that it’s not a kick-off to a presidential campaign. 

PERRY: Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) made much fanfare of his gracious welcome for a nurse returning to Texas from treating Ebola patients in West Africa, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) continues to take flak for his quarantine of another returning nurse in New Jersey.

WALKER: Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Soaring deficits could put Trump in a corner if there's a recession Paul Ryan moving family to Washington MORE (R-Wis.) applauded Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) economic record while stumping for Walker on Wednesday.

Walker has a 7-point lead over Democrat Mary Burke in a new poll.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY 

“Vote Lee Terry guys, greatest Republican ever.”  

—Nikko Jenkins, a convicted murderer whose crimes have been evoked by the National Republican Congressional Committee to protect Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.)