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Democrats are blasting Rick Scott with digital ads

With GOP Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s entry today into the state’s Senate race, Democrats have released digital ads blasting the Florida governor. (Dems will have to save their TV ads for later in Florida’s expensive markets.)

One digital ad by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reminds voters of the $1.7 billion Medicare fraud settlement against Scott’s company.

Another DSCC ad calls Scott “a walking conflict of interest.”

And Senate Majority PAC, the top Dem Senate Super PAC, hits Scott for his record as governor, including education cuts and property-tax increases.

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Leah Vukmir rising in Wisconsin Senate primary poll

Wisconsin State Sen. Leah Vukmir is neck and neck with Marine veteran Kevin Nicholson in the GOP Senate primary, according to a new poll of likely voters.

Vukmir leads Nicholson by two points — 34 percent to 32 percent — in Marquette University Law School's latest poll. While that result is still well within the poll's margin of error, it shows Vukmir appears to be closing the gap with Nicholson.

Last month's Marquette poll found Vukmir down five points and the school's February poll found her behind by nine points. 

The conservative state senator has the backing of state GOP bigwigs like House Speaker Paul Ryan and former Republican National Committee chairman and former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. She also won the state party's endorsement during its spring convention. 

Nicholson has remained undeterred even as key state party figures break in Vukmir's direction. He holds the fundraising advantage so far and has sought to highlight his own conversion from an active Democrat to a staunch Republican as a way to reach out to disaffected voters of all stripes.  

Both candidates remain relatively unknown — more than 50 percent of both Republican and general election voters didn't have a favorable or unfavorable opinion on either Vukmir or Nicholson. 

The winner of the Aug. 14 primary will go onto face Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who holds an 11-point-lead over Nicholson in a hypothetical matchup and a 9-point-lead over Vukmir. 

Baldwin has a 41 percent favorability rating, slightly below the 43 percent who view her job performance unfavorably. 

Seven Senate races where the Kavanaugh nomination is an issue

Now more than a week since President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, here are seven Senate races where the nomination has become an issue in the contest.

 

Indiana

What Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., has said: “I will take the same approach as I have previously for a Supreme Court vacancy. Following the president’s announcement, I will carefully review and consider the record and qualifications of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.” 

What Republican challenger Mike Braun has said: “President Trump has chosen another outstanding justice in Brett Kavanaugh. I can immediately say without hesitation that I would support this nomination and I hope the Senate moves quickly to confirm the president's choice."

 

Florida

What Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has said: “I look forward to meeting with Judge Kavanaugh to discuss his views on several issues such as protecting women's rights, guaranteeing access to health care for those with pre-existing conditions & protecting the right to vote, just to name a few. I’ll make my decision after that,” Nelson said in his original statement via Twitter. Then, in a July 16 fundraising email, Nelson said: “If you want to stop McConnell's plans to put another right-wing extremist on the Supreme Court, gut affordable health care and dismantle Medicare, you need to give right now to make sure Democrats take back the Senate by winning in Florida.”

What Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Nelson’s challenger, has said: “I am glad President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and look forward to learning more about his record. Even though Bill Nelson pledged last week he would vote against the nominee without knowing who it was, he needs to do his job and give him a fair hearing. Unlike Nelson, I actually waited on commenting on the nominee until there was one.”

 

Missouri

What Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has said: “I look forward to thoroughly examining Judge Kavanaugh’s record in the coming weeks as the Senate considers his nomination to replace Justice Kennedy.”

What Republican challenger Josh Hawley has said: “Judge Kavanaugh is a remarkably qualified nominee for the Supreme Court. I have full confidence he will uphold the Constitution as the people wrote it, not impose his values from the bench. And that’s what the people deserve. The balance of the court turns on this nomination and I applaud the President for his thoughtfulness on this decision. Unfortunately, the deciding vote may well rest with Senator Claire McCaskill – who has been wrong on Supreme Court nominees every single time.”

 

Nevada

What Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., has said: “Judge Kavanaugh has a record of adherence to the Constitution and has demonstrated a commitment to interpreting the law – not making it. I expect the U.S. Senate to conduct a fair, thorough confirmation process, and I look forward to meeting with the nominee.”         

What Democratic challenger Jacky Rosen has said: “Based on President Trump’s own statements, it’s critical the next Supreme Court justice affirm their belief that the Constitution protects individual liberties – including reproductive rights. I have serious reservations about whether Judge Kavanaugh will meet that standard. Nevadans will be watching closely to see whether Sen. Heller will be an independent voice who will ask these tough questions, or if he will once again bend to his party leaders and rubber stamp another nominee from President Trump.”

 

North Dakota

What Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has said:  “All that changes for me is that we now have a nominee … Now I’ll get to work to thoroughly review and vet his record to provide advice and consent for filling this vacancy. … An exhaustive and fair process took place for Justice Gorsuch, who I supported, and it should and must take place again now,” she said in a statement via Twitter.

What Republican challenger Kevin Cramer has said: “He is strongly committed to the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution and holds tight to the concept of the constitutional separation of powers to ensure government accountability and protect our liberty. His temperament, academic background and past judicial experience more than qualify him to serve on the highest court in the land. I believe these characteristics and values match perfectly with the expectations of the majority of North Dakotans and for these reasons, I support his nomination and strongly encourage our North Dakota Senators to unite in support of this outstanding nominee. This is a winning pick for North Dakota and deserves our two votes.”

 

Tennessee

What Democrat Phil Bredesen has said: “An important part of a Senator's job is to approve or reject appointments the President makes to the Judiciary. In the Senate, I’ll vote for or against a nominee based solely on whether I believe them to be highly qualified and ethical —not based on partisan politics. Looking ahead: the President’s Supreme Court nominee deserves a fair and timely confirmation hearing. This is an opportunity for the Senate to get back to basics and show it can do its job.”

What Republican Marsha Blackburn has said: “Judge Brett Kavanaugh will make a fine Supreme Court Justice, and I thank President Trump for nominating a strong constitutionalist with a proven track record of upholding the rule of law. Tennesseans are frustrated by liberal activist judges and justices who too often legislate from the bench. I know they will be well served by Judge Kavanaugh.” 

 

West Virginia

What Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., has said: “I take my responsibility to advise and consent on a nominee to the Supreme Court very seriously. As I did when Merrick Garland and Neil Gorsuch were nominated, I am evaluating Judge Kavanaugh's record, legal qualifications, judicial philosophy and particularly, his views on healthcare. I encourage West Virginians to review his qualifications themselves and share their thoughts and concerns with me.”

What Republican challenger Patrick Morissey has said: “West Virginians are tired of Sen. Manchin’s spineless political calculation and pandering to liberal elites. West Virginia voters were clear in 2016 when they overwhelmingly elected President Trump by more than 40 points, and now they have an opportunity to remind Sen. Manchin to stand with our President and a highly-qualified Supreme Court nominee.” Morissey added, “What you will see over the next month, you began to see it last week, is that Joe Manchin is flopping along, straddling that fence. Joe Manchin knows that he will ultimately vote for Kavanaugh, that he is going to be in a very difficult position with Chuck Schumer and his liberal donors.”

 

Carrie Dann

NY-GOV poll: Cuomo retains wide lead over Nixon

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is maintaining his wide lead over Democratic primary challenger Cynthia Nixon, besting the progressive activist and former Sex and the City star by more than 35 points in the latest Quinnipiac poll. 

Cuomo has the support of 59 percent of registered Democrats, compared with 23 percent who back Nixon. Cuomo's lead among Democrats in New York City stands at 40 points (61 percent to 21 percent), while he leads by more than 20 points in the upstate (52 percent to 30 percent). 

The data shows Cuomo in an even stronger position than in a May survey that showed the incumbent governor leading Nixon 50 percent to 28 percent. 

Nixon's campaign disputed the poll's methodology, saying that a sample of all registered Democrats fails to account for the fact that turnout in the primary is likely to be limited to only the most engaged voters. 

In a head-to-head contest among all general election voters, the poll also shows Cuomo leading Republican candidate Marc Molinaro 57 percent to 31 percent. 

“Democratic primaries on a Thursday in September are decided by who turns out their voters. And whether you look at donors, social media engagement, or his poor book sales, there is no enthusiasm for Mr. Cuomo," spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said. 

The poll was conducted July 12-16 and has a margin of error of +/-4.1 percentage points for the full sample and +/- 6.2 percent for just registered Democrats. 

Freshman North Carolina Republican holds narrow lead in new poll

Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) is the latest House Republican to find himself in a close race, with new polling showing his Democratic opponent trailing him by just 5 points.

The survey from Civitas Institue, a conservative non-profit in North Carolina, found Budd with 40 percent of the vote to Democrat Kathy Manning’s 35 percent. Almost one-fifth of voters are undecided.

President Trump won Budd’s district in 2016 by 12 points, but the new poll found Trump’s approval rating underwater. While 44 percent of likely voters approve of his job performance, 48 percent disapprove.

But the poll also included some good news for Budd, who has a net favorability rating of 13 percent, slightly higher than Manning’s net favorability of 9 percent. A plurality of likely voters also approve of the GOP’s tax reform law, which Republicans like Budd are leaning on as they look to survive in November.  Forty-one percent say they support the law, compared to 33 percent who say they do not.

Manning has outraised Budd in each of the past three fundraising quarters and has $1.35 million banked away compared to Budd’s $780,000 in cash on hand. 

NBC News

Koch Group targets McCaskill in new ad

Americans for Prosperity, the Koch organization's chief political arm, is launching a new $1.8 million digital and television ad campaign against Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, one of the most vulnerable Democrats facing re-election this year. The ad uses criticism of McCaskill's use of a private plane for a campaign swing through the state that was touted as an RV tour to criticize her record on taxes.

"Missourians can tell the difference between an RV and a plane — and a politician who says one thing but does another," the ad says. Watch it here.

Arizona GOP lawmaker bucks colleague to back Ward in GOP Senate primary

Former Arizona State Sen. Kelli Ward has gotten her first primary endorsement from a member of Arizona’s congressional delegation for her Senate bid.

Rep. Paul Gosar’s R-Ariz., endorsement of Ward came with a rebuke of his House colleague, Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., who is leading the GOP primary field in fundraising and polling.

Gosar called McSally “likeable personally” but said she is “very inconsistent politically” and a “Never Trumper” in a statement announcing his endorsement.

“None of us can count on Martha keeping a campaign promise as she will fall for whatever the D.C. elite tells her to do at the time,” he said.

The statement echoes Ward’s push to outflank McSally from the right — she’s sought to frame McSally as insufficiently conservative for the GOP electorate while pitching herself as an outsider in the model of Trump.

McSally’s camp pushed back by framing the congresswoman as a loyal supporter of Trump in Congress.

“Rep. Gosar is a good man who cares about his constituents, but the facts are the facts,” McSally spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair said in a statement, noting that McSally has voted with Trump 97 percent of the time to Gosar’s 77 percent.

“If he voted with the President as much as Martha, we could accomplish even more for Arizonans.”

McSally has the backing of the state's former GOP Gov. Jan Brewer, an early Trump endorser. And she’s taken more conservative stances on issues like immigration recently, stances her allies have boosted as they seek to help her win the GOP nod.

Gosar is one of the more conservative lawmakers in Congress and has been a controversial voice at times. He made headlines last year for questioning whether a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. last year was “created by the left” for political gain. A counter-protester died in violence surrounding that rally.

Ward and McSally are running in the August 28 primary along with former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Carrie Dann

Kavanaugh heads into confirmation hearings with weakest public support since Harriet Miers

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will head into Senate hearings later this year with the weakest public support for his confirmation to the high court since the failed nomination of Harriet Miers in 2005. 

A new poll from the Pew Research Center finds that 41 percent of Americans say Kavanaugh should be confirmed, while 36 percent said he should not be. 

That's a lower net level of support for any nominee since Miers, whose confirmation was backed by 33 percent and opposed by 27 percent of Americans. Miers was eventually forced to withdraw from consideration amid criticism that she was not qualified to serve on the nation's highest court. 

Democrats compete for spot against Georgia’s Handel a year after historic special election

While Republicans have their congressional runoff tonight in Alabama, next week it will be the Democrats back in the spotlight in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District as Lucy McBath and Kevin Abel face off in a runoff to win the right to take on GOP Rep. Karen Handel.

The 2017 special election in that district became the center of the political world just one year ago, as well as the most expensive House race in American history.

After Democrats lost their chance to flip the once-reliably red seat, interest in the seat faded. Now, Democratic voters in the Atlanta-area district will choose their nominee for another shot to take the seat.

McBath won 36 percent of the vote in the May primary, more than any of the four Democrats running, while Abel secured the second spot in the runoff with 30.5 percent of the vote. The two were forced to a runoff when no candidate could win the majority of the vote.

The campaign is not McBath’s first time in the public eye. She’s become a prominent gun control advocate after the death of her son, Jordan Davis. Davis was shot by a man who complained about Davis and his friends playing loud music from their car. The killer was sentenced to life in prison on charges related to the shooting.

Abel, who was born in South Africa, owns his own technology consulting firm with his wife. During his campaign, he’s also touted his experience volunteering in the community, including with a non-profit that helps to resettle refugees.

Abel has raised $820,500 compared to McBath’s $313,700. But McBath had a slim, $20,000 advantage in cash on hand as of July 4.

The winner of Tuesday’s runoff will go on to face Handel, who has stockpiled $1 million away for her general election while her possible opponents battled it out.

Handel is no stranger to a tough campaign — Republicans and Democrats spent a record-breaking $45 million during her 2017 special election against Democrat Jon Ossoff, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Democrats ultimately fell short by almost 4 percentage points, a disappointing result but an improvement in a district that has long been in Republican hands. Then-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price vacated the seat to join the Trump administration but stepped down after scrutiny of his travel spending.

Since then, Democrats have built on their trend of over-performing with the kinds of affluent and educated suburban voters who call the Atlanta-area district home.

That said, Handel likely has the edge thanks both to the power of incumbency, but also the fact that Democrats won’t devote nearly as much attention or resources to the race with such a large battlefield in play. 

Vulnerable GOP lawmaker in hot water after being tricked by Sacha Baron Cohen on plan to arm toddlers

Longtime Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) is getting hammered by his Democratic opponent after he was tricked into participating in a satirical interview in which politicians supported arming young children to fight back during school shootings.

Rohrabacher made the comments on comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s new Showtime show, “Who is America,” excerpts of which were released over the weekend. The interviews with Rohrabacher and other politicians were an apparent ruse to convince the lawmakers to back arming pre-school aged children under the guise it was a popular strategy in Israel.

“Maybe having many young people trained and understanding how to defend themselves and their school might actually make us safer here,” Rohrabacher said in the interview.

A handful of other lawmakers went further to endorse the plan offered by Baron Cohen, who was pretending to be an Israeli soldier. The politicians thought they were giving an interview to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding.

Harley Rouda, Rohrabacher’s Democratic opponent, took aim at those comments in a new statement Tuesday.

"Arming children in response to an epidemic of gun violence sounds like a good idea to Dana Rohrabacher, which can only mean one thing: Dana Rohrabacher is completely out of good ideas,” he said.

"Dana can try to walk back his comments or call them fake news, but that's just a sad, cynical move.”

Rohrabacher has pushed back in a statement of his own, arguing he was only speaking “broadly” and never backed explicitly backed arming “toddlers.” He went on to pan the segment as a “sick fraud” meant to “deceive the American people for political purposes. “ 

All of this is coming as Rohrabacher faces a perilous path to reelection—a new Monmouth University poll found his race with Rouda within the margin of error.

Watch Rohrabacher’s comments here.

Mark Murray

Alabama's runoff presents odd choice for GOP voters

Tuesday’s congressional Republican runoff primary in Alabama is a choice between an incumbent Republican congresswoman — Martha Roby — who said she couldn’t support Donald Trump after the 2016 “Access Hollywood” video, and a former Democratic congressman — Bobby Bright — who once voted for Nancy Pelosi for speaker.

President Trump said he backed Roby after she failed to surpass the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff in the June 5 primary; she got 39 percent of the vote, versus Bright’s 28 percent.

“Congresswoman Martha Roby of Alabama has been a consistent and reliable vote for our Make America Great Again Agenda,” Trump tweeted last month. “She is in a Republican Primary run-off against a recent Nancy Pelosi voting Democrat. I fully endorse Martha for Alabama 2nd Congressional District!”

Despite that endorsement, Bright has aired a TV ad calling Roby a Never-Trumper. “2016 — Martha Roby made a name for herself as one of the loudest ‘Never-Trumpers’ in the country,” the Bright ad goes.

And Roby has fired back with this message: “In the Republican runoff, the choice is clear — lifelong Republican Martha Roby or Democrat Bobby Bright.”