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 CottonSenate approves border bill that prevents shutdown 'Morning Joe' host quizzes Howard Schultz on price of a box of Cheerios Huawei charges escalate Trump fight with China MORE (R-Ark.) is running, or with a crowd of bloodhounds, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBill Kristol resurfaces video of Pence calling Obama executive action on immigration a 'profound mistake' Winners and losers in the border security deal House passes border deal, setting up Trump to declare emergency 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 LandrieuLobbying world Former New Orleans mayor: It's not my 'intention' to run for president Dems grasp for way to stop Trump's Supreme Court pick MORE (D-La.) than fellow Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

N.C.-SEN (HAGAN): Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMark Kelly's campaign raises over M in days after launching Senate bid The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers wait for Trump's next move on border deal Mark Kelly launches Senate bid in Arizona MORE (R-Ariz.) blasted Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganNC state senator meets with DSCC as Dems eye challenge to Tillis GOP, Dems locked in fight over North Carolina fraud probe 2020 Dems compete for top campaign operatives 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 ClintonO’Rourke heading to Wisconsin amid 2020 speculation The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears Exclusive: Biden almost certain to enter 2020 race 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 WarrenWarren's 'ultra wealth' tax is misleading Hillicon Valley: New York says goodbye to Amazon's HQ2 | AOC reacts: 'Anything is possible' | FTC pushes for record Facebook fine | Cyber threats to utilities on the rise O’Rourke heading to Wisconsin amid 2020 speculation 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 PaulGOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Senate approves border bill that prevents shutdown Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general MORE (R-Ky.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration A year since Parkland: we have a solution Push for paid family leave heats up ahead of 2020 MORE (R-Fla.) in the final week of his challenge to Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants Bipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia Dems seeking path to Senate majority zero-in on Sun Belt MORE (D-N.H.).

AK-SEN (BEGICH): Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichLobbying world Dem governors on 2020: Opposing Trump not enough Dem Begich concedes Alaska governor race to Republican Dunleavy 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 CruzO’Rourke heading to Wisconsin amid 2020 speculation Senate approves border bill that prevents shutdown For 2020, Democrats are lookin’ for somebody to love 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 MerkleyThe border deal: What made it in, what got left out Lawmakers introduce bill to fund government, prevent shutdown Dems wary of killing off filibuster 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 RobertsGOP senators offer praise for Klobuchar: 'She’s the whole package' The Hill's Morning Report - House Dems prepare to swamp Trump with investigations The Hill's Morning Report — Will Ralph Northam survive? 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 TrumpBill Kristol resurfaces video of Pence calling Obama executive action on immigration a 'profound mistake' ACLU says planned national emergency declaration is 'clear abuse of presidential power' O'Rourke says he'd 'absolutely' take down border wall near El Paso if he could 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 GrassleySenate approves border bill that prevents shutdown Grassley raises voice after McConnell interrupts Senate speech Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general 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 GardnerBipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia Dems seeking path to Senate majority zero-in on Sun Belt Lawmakers eager for 5G breakthrough 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 UdallGardner gets latest Democratic challenge from former state senator Setting the record straight about No Labels Trump calls Kavanaugh accusations ‘totally political’ 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 RyanRubio discovers Native American heritage through TV show Feminine hygiene products to be available to House lawmakers using congressional funds Former Ryan aide moves to K street 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.)