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 CottonTom Bryant CottonRepublicans blast Pentagon policy nominee over tweets, Iran nuclear deal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Lawmakers face Capitol threat as senators line up votes for relief bill Garland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks MORE (R-Ark.) is running, or with a crowd of bloodhounds, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Klain on Harris breaking tie: 'Every time she votes, we win' How to pass legislation in the Senate without eliminating the 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 LandrieuCassidy wins reelection in Louisiana Bottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth MORE (D-La.) than fellow Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

N.C.-SEN (HAGAN): Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainFormer Trump Defense chief Esper to join McCain Institute We need an independent 1/6 commission that the whole country can have confidence in GOP targets Manchin, Sinema, Kelly on Becerra MORE (R-Ariz.) blasted Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven Hagan10 under-the-radar races to watch in November The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations Democrats awash with cash in battle for Senate 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 ClintonHillary Clinton brings up 'Freedom Fries' to mock 'cancel culture' Edie Falco to play Hillary Clinton in Clinton impeachment series White House defends Biden's 'Neanderthal thinking' remark on masks MORE stumped with Rep. Bruce BraleyBruce Lowell BraleyThe Memo: Trump attacks on Harris risk backfiring 2020 caucuses pose biggest challenge yet for Iowa's top pollster OPINION | Tax reform, not Trump-McConnell feuds, will make 2018 a win for GOP 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 WarrenPhilly city council calls on Biden to 'cancel all student loan debt' in first 100 days Hillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case Senators question Bezos, Amazon about cameras placed in delivery vans 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 PaulHouse approves George Floyd Justice in Policing Act Bipartisan group of senators introduces bill to rein in Biden's war powers House sets vote for George Floyd police reform bill MORE (R-Ky.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: YouTube to restore Trump's account | House-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference | Senators introduce legislation to create international tech partnerships Senators introduce bill creating technology partnerships to compete with China DeSantis's rising GOP profile fuels 2024 talk MORE (R-Fla.) in the final week of his challenge to Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenPro-Choice Caucus asks Biden to remove abortion fund restrictions from 2022 budget Bottom line Senators press Treasury to prioritize Tubman redesign MORE (D-N.H.).

AK-SEN (BEGICH): Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska Senate race sees cash surge in final stretch Alaska group backing independent candidate appears linked to Democrats Sullivan wins Alaska Senate GOP primary 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 CruzCrenshaw pours cold water on 2024 White House bid: 'Something will emerge' Garland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks The Hill's 12:30 Report: Washington on high alert as QAnon theory marks March 4 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 GallegoER doctor chosen to lead Hispanic Caucus 4 Texas GOP congressional primary runoffs to watch GOP candidate scores upset win in Texas state Senate 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 MerkleyJeff MerkleyHouse-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference Bipartisan bill would ban lawmakers from buying, selling stocks Pentagon prevented immediate response to mob, says Guard chief 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 RobertsLobbying world Pat Roberts joins lobbying firm weeks after Senate retirement Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes 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 TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE recorded a robo-call for Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), who is running against Democrat Rep. Tim BishopTimothy (Tim) Howard BishopOn The Trail: The political losers of 2020 Dem candidate 'struck by the parallels' between Trump's rise and Hitler's Dems separated by 29 votes in NY House primary MORE

IA-3 (OPEN): Barbara Grassley, wife of Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGarland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks National Sheriffs' Association backs Biden pick for key DOJ role Bipartisan group of senators introduces bill to rein in Biden's war powers 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 GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 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 UdallKennedy apologizes for calling Haaland a 'whack job' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Haaland courts moderates during tense confirmation hearing | GOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change | White House urges passage of House public lands package Udalls: Haaland criticism motivated 'by something other than her record' 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 RyanBoehner book jacket teases slams against Cruz, Trump CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Cruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director 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.)