Tennessee poll: Bredesen 45%, Blackburn 35%

A new poll via Middle Tennessee University – which meets NBC’s methodological standards – shows Democrat Phil Bredesen leading Republican Marsha Blackburn by 10 points, 45 percent to 35 percent, in Tennessee’s Senate race.

The poll finds Bredesen, the state’s former governor, getting support from 20 percent of Republicans. It also has Trump’s job-approval rating in the state at 50 percent, while outgoing Sen. Bob Corker’s approval rating is at 41 percent; Sen. Lamar Alexander is at 39 percent.

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Carrie Dann

Special elections have cost the parties more than $48.5 million

Major national Republican and Democratic party groups have spent at least $48.5 million on seven special elections since last April, an NBC News analysis of FEC records finds. 

The lion's share of that spending — which includes independent and coordinated expenditures for each of the races — came from Republicans, with a total of $37 million spent in total by the Republican National Committee, the NRCC, the NRSC and the two major super PACs affiliated with the House and Senate GOP (the Congressional Leadership Fund and the Senate Leadership Fund) .

Combined, those Republican groups spent over $20 million on two races alone: the Georgia election last June to replace now-former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and the Pennsylvania election to fill GOP Rep. Tim Murphy’s seat after he resigned amid scandal. Republicans narrowly won the former but lost the latter in a major upset when Democrat Conor Lamb prevailed in the GOP-friendly district.

Republicans won Tuesday’s special election in Arizona but dramatically underperformed past from GOP presidential results in the district. GOP party groups invested nearly a million dollars in ads and other expenditures in that race, while national Democratic groups did not get involved. 

Democratic Party groups — including the Democratic National Committee, the DCCC, the DSCC and the House Majority PAC — spent only about $11.5 million on independent expenditures and coordinated campaign expenditures in the same seven races.  That tally also includes a group called Highway 31, a super PAC largely funded by the campaign arm of Senate Democrats which spent over $4.2 million on Democrat Doug Jones’s victory in the Alabama Senate race.

It’s worth noting that the tallies of these expenditures — which include funding for spending on television and radio ads, mail and phone banking — don’t capture the full amount of party investment in each race, since both parties also support candidates financially in other ways not captured by the FEC records, such as transfers to state parties, polling and field staff. 

The DCCC, for example, has transferred well over $1 million to the individual state Democratic parties in the states where the contested special elections were held.

Expenditures for seven special elections since last April.
Vaughn Hillyard

Greg Abbott wants Blake Farenthold to pay for the special election to replace him

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott says that former U.S. GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold should cover the cost of the special election on June 30 to fill his seat.

Abbott says the $84,000 in taxpayer money that Farenthold used to settle a sexual harassment claim has not been paid back, and he should, therefore, be responsible for covering the cost of the election two months from now (plus a possible runoff in September).

More, from the letter from Abbott to Farenthold. 

"While you have publicly offered to reimburse the $84,000 in taxpayer funds you wrongly used to settle a sexual harassment claim, there is no legal recourse requiring you to give that money back to Congress.

I am urging you to give those funds back to the counties in your district to cover the costs of the June 30, 2018, special election. This seat must be filled, and the counties and taxpayers in the 27th Congressional District should not again pay the price for your actions.”

Tipirneni concedes in AZ-8

After saying last night that the race was "too close to call," Arizona Democrat Hiral Tipirneni has conceded to Republican Debbie Lesko in the House special election race. 

But she's already eyeing a rematch. 

"Now that nearly all of the votes have been counted, we know that the special election goes to our opponent. I congratulate Debbie Lesko on a hard-fought campaign, and wish her good luck in Congress," she said in a statement. "Our communities have shown the courage to demand more of Washington and more of our representatives. Now, on to November!"

Lesko won by only about a six-point margin, compared to margins of over 20 points in the district for Donald Trump and Mitt Romney in the last two presidential elections. 

Carrie Dann

Poll shows close race in TN-SEN

The race to replace Bob Corker is looking mighty close. 

Another new poll — this one from Mason-Dixon — shows former Democratic governor Phil Bredesen with a narrow lead over Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, 46 percent to 43 percent. Eleven percent of voters are undecided. 

That result, within the poll's margin of error, is particularly noteworthy in a state that voted for Trump by a 26-point margin and hasn't sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1990.

The poll finds that Bredesen, who was a popular centrist as governor, has about the same name recognition as Blackburn but a better favorability rating (43 percent positive/ 18 percent negative compared to her 35 percent positive/ 26 percent negative.) 

He's currently leading among independents (49 percent to 35 percent) and picking off about one-in-10 Republicans. 

The telephone poll of 625 registered voters was conducted April 17 through April 19.

Heitkamp up with first ad of 2018

When you come from a big family, your siblings sometimes join forces to poke fun at you. 

And if you're a United States senator, sometimes they do it in a campaign ad. 

Heidi Heitkamp is up with her first campaign ad of 2018 in a spot that features her siblings good-naturedly ribbing about her unusual methods of completing her designated chore as a kid (laundry) as well as her being "so good, it was almost annoying." 

Here's the ad, which is running statewide and online. 

Hoping to provoke Trump, Democratic candidate runs "Apprentice" ad on POTUS' favorite TV show

Damon Martinez was one of the 46 U.S. Attorneys fired by President Donald Trump early last year. Now he’s running for Congress and eager to provoke another confrontation with the president, running an ad on the president's favorite TV show featuring footage from "The Apprentice."

The New Mexico Democrat is running for an Albuquerque-area congressional seat. But this week, his ad will air in Washington, D.C. on Fox News' "Fox & Friends," a show Trump is known to watch often, as well on broadcast networks back home.

The ad dramatizes Martinez' firing as if it were an episode of the NBC reality show Trump once hosted, complete with a mock-up of the show's famous boardroom and an old clip from the show of Trump telling Martinez, "you're fired."

Martinez is running in a crowded primary in the Democratic-leaning 1st Congressional District, which Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., vacated to run for governor.

The unconventional ad strategy — most congressional candidates don't pay to run ads thousands of miles from their district's voters — seems intended to provoke a response and help Martinez standout with base voters ahead of the June 5 primary.


Andrew Rafferty

Romney taunts NBA star while cheering on Utah Jazz

Utah Senate candidate and noted "sport" enthusiast Mitt Romney was spotted gleefully taunting Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook during Monday's playoff game in Salt Lake. 

The 2012 GOP presidential nominee, sporting a custom Utah Jazz jersey with his name on the back over a collared shirt, jeered Westbrook from his near court-side seats as the All-Star guard made his way to the bench after picking up his fourth foul in the first half. 

Romney had a lot to cheer for as the Jazz won to take a 3-1 lead in the series. Westbrook, however, did not end up fouling out of the game. 

The former Massachusetts governor wasn't cheering quite over the weekend when he failed to capture the Utah GOP's Senate nomination at a convention. He will compete in a June primary against Utah state representative Mike Kennedy in the race to fill the seat of outgoing Sen. Orrin Hatch. Romney is still a heavy favorite to win the seat. 

A bipartisan ticket in FL-GOV?

Here's something that could shake up the field in Florida’s governor’s race and show us if voters are really so dissatisfied with partisanship that they’re willing to go for a bipartisan option: 

From the Tampa Bay Times--

Former Congressmen Patrick Murphy and David Jolly are exploring a bipartisan run for governor, a surprise move that hinges on polling Democrat Murphy has commissioned this week.

Murphy would run for the Democratic nomination as Jolly, a moderate Republican and prominent anti-Trump voice on cable news, would have no chance of winning a GOP primary.

The men have become friends over the past year as they've gone across the country on a town-hall style tour about gridlock and dysfunction in Washington.

Murphy, 35, lost a Senate race to Marco Rubio in 2016. Jolly, 45, lost his re-election bid the same year against Charlie Crist.

Democratic hopeful Andrew Gillum’s campaign responded to the “trial balloon” Tuesday morning: "We welcome anyone who wants to talk about Florida’s future. The contrast in vision and background between the three millionaires running against Andrew Gillum couldn’t be more clear.”

And here's Chris King campaign spokesman Avery Jaffe: "After five straight gubernatorial losses and eight years of Rick Scott, Florida Democrats deserve a fresh start and new leadership. If they join the race, we look forward to learning more about how the two former congressmen plan to do that not only in style, but also in substance."

Andrew Rafferty

Red state Dems breaking for Pompeo

Red state Democrats are breaking for President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state.

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, each up for re-election this November in states won by Trump, are the first three Democrats to announce support for CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s nomination. Their yes votes seemingly clear the path for his confirmation. 

Ten Democratic senators will be on the ballot this fall in red states. The other seven have yet to announce where they come down on what is a political dilemma for these senators. As First Read wrote last week: “Do they vote FOR his vote confirmation, risking alienating base Democrats they’ll need even in these red states? Or do they vote AGAINST him, and risk seeming like a partisan engaging in obstruction when they’re trying to tout their bipartisan credentials?”

Heitkamp was the first Democrat to announce her support for Pompeo last week, with Manchin and Donnelly pledging support on Monday.


Teacher pay mixes things up in AZ-GOV

It's a tricky time to be Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. 

Ducey, a Republican who is up for reelection, has drawn a primary challenger over his handling of teacher pay as educators in the state are planning a massive walkout protest. 

Former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett announced over the weekend that he will challenge Ducey after his "panic and flip-flopping" over the teacher pay issue. 

Ducey announced a plan last week to give teachers a 20 percent pay raise by 2020, a proposal that has been met with resistance from GOP lawmakers who are skeptical that the state will have the money to pay for the plan. 

Here's more on Bennett's challenge, from the Arizona Republic.