Two new polls out today both show tightening, of either two or three points in the last two weeks, in the Washington Senate race. This race has become increasingly pivotal in the last few weeks as well... quite literally, in that Nate Silver calls it the Senate's entire pivot point for control -- where, in the simulations he runs where the GOP gets a 10-seat pickup, Washington is most frequently the last race across the line. (Of course, it's worth considering that as West Virginia seems to be getting better for Joe Manchin, there are increasing chances that Dems could lose Washington and keep the majority regardless of the Washington outcome, which is why overall odds of keeping the Senate are still hovering near 90%.)
What the closing of the gap means is quite debatable, though, depending on what method you use. For the Univ. of Washington, it's still a Murray victory, as she's already over 50 (at a point when, presumably, most people have sent in their ballots); her 8-point lead is down to 6. (They also find the reverse-enthusiasm-gap that seems unique in Washington, finding only a 4-pt edge among RVs.)
For SurveyUSA, it drops her into a tie, though. There are a couple odd things with the SurveyUSA poll, though; first, it's strange that undecideds would shoot up in the closing stages of the race, particularly since the state SoS office reports that a majority of ballots have been sent in. Maybe those who haven't sent ballots yet are still trying to decide; it's hard to gauge, SUSA doesn't include the vote breakdown among people who have already voted, which is an odd choice since they've done that in some other races, and it's even more relevant in the (almost) all-mail-in Washington. Also (h/t to Taniel for pointing this out), there's a steep dropoff in the Dem/GOP makeup of this sample from the last sample from two weeks ago: 33D-29R today, versus 36D-27R before. There's no party registration in Washington so this is just self-identification, but it's an abrupt switch.
One other consideration is the cellphone user gap, which has seemed particularly pronounced in Washington of all states (as seen by the wide split between live-calling Elway, UW, and CNN/Time, vs. auto-dialing SurveyUSA, Rasmussen, and PPP). I'm not a fan of mindlessly applying corrective formulas to poll data, but Nate's most recent post on the "house effects" generated by the different categories of pollsters may be instructive here: all robocallers have an R+2.0 lean, while live polls have a D+0.7 lean (although that may have to do simply with the sheer weight on the R-side of the spectrum brought by Rasmussen's massive volume of polling). In particular, SUSA has the most pronounced house effect this year, of R+4.0, even more than Rasmussen at R+2.1.
One major caveat, though: SurveyUSA used a live-caller overlay on this particular poll, and find that while the cellphone users they reached did tend to lean Democratic, it doesn't matter much for the final totals. They'd done this once before on a Washington poll over summer, and come to much the same conclusion. That seemed odd at the time and still does, as it would tend to contrast with recent Pew research that showed a 5-point difference between cellphone-inclusive and non-cellphone samples in the generic ballot. With that in mind, I'll leave it to you just how much special sauce you want to add to make sense of the results... or you can just average them out to 3, which is pretty close to where Murray's leaked internals (+4) from a few days ago put the race.
• AR-Sen: The Bill Halter campaign is looking for last minute phonebanking help to seal the deal. And you can do it from the comfort of your own home.
• CA-Sen, CA-Gov (pdf): The Senate GOP primary portion of the Field Poll came out over the weekend, and it's right in line with the various other pollsters finding a last-minute Carly Fiorina surge into a double-digit lead. She leads Tom Campbell and Chuck DeVore 37-22-19. (Campbell led 28-22-9 in the previous Field poll in March.) Also, it looks like Campbell's last-minute ad pitch, centered around his electability, may fall on deaf ears: 42% of primary voters think that Fiorina has the best chance of beating Barbara Boxer, while 22% think that Campbell does (and 12% think that Chuck DeVore does -- which is also about the same percentage of Californians who believe there is a 1,000 foot high pyramid in Greenland). There are also primary polls out from Republican pollster Magellan (who don't have a horse in this race), who find things even worse for Campbell: they have Fiorina leading Campbell and DeVore 54-19-16. They also give a big edge to fellow rich person Meg Whitman in the gubernatorial race; she leads Steve Poizner 64-22. The unfortunate moral of the story here: have a lot of money.
• DE-Sen: New Castle Co. Exec Chris Coons is pre-emptively getting ahead of Republican charges that he raised taxes, by, instead of hiding under the bed like conventional wisdom dictates, saying 'guilty as charged' and explaining how it helped. The county wound up with a AAA bond rating and a eight-digit surplus. Coons also previewed one of his lines of attack against Mike Castle: Castle's role in deregulating the banking sector.
• FL-Sen: As Charlie Crist rebuilds his team from scratch, he's rolling out a new media team that's heavy on the Democratic ties. Most prominently, Chuck Schumer's former chief of staff, Josh Isay, will be Crist's lead media person. Isay's firm SKD Knickerbocker may be best-known for helping out other moderate independents, like Joe Lieberman and Michael Bloomberg. One of the fires that Isay will have to put out as soon as he gets in the building, though, is what to do about the Jim Greer situation. Greer's lawyer is saying that Crist gave the initial OK on Greer's fundraising workaround which avoided usual party channels (which Greer allegedly turned into a scheme for filling his own pockets).
• IL-Sen: Rep. Mark Kirk's very, very bad week last week just seems to be spilling over into this week. There are allegations popping up that he fibbed on getting shot at in Afghanistan too, and also evidence that he made a lot of stuff up while talking off the cuff about the Somalia situation last year. Taking a page from Richard Blumenthal, late last week he finally dropped the playing offense against the charges and instead went to the Chicago Tribune's e-board to say "I'm sorry" -- but that apology comes after letting the story fester all week.
• NH-Sen: After a year and a half of having the Democratic primary to himself, there are hints that Rep. Paul Hodes might get some late-in-the-game company. Mark Connolly, the former head of the state's Securities Division who resigned to become a whistleblower in the wake of the Financial Resources Mortgage coverup (the same one that'll have Kelly Ayotte testifying before the state legislature soon), expressed some interest and said "he's angry enough to do it." (Looks like a common theme this year.) Speaking of Ayotte, it sounds like she doesn't know how to read a poll: she says she won't take drilling for oil off New Hampshire's tiny coastline "off the table."
• WA-Sen: You might remember from last week that the Univ. of Washington engaged in some methodologically weird stuff by adding an extra week's worth of samples on the end of their already-released poll and re-releasing the numbers (which were nevertheless unchanged, at Patty Murray 44, Dino Rossi 40). Well, now they're re-releasing the poll yet again with even more samples, with changed toplines and with specific numbers for that tiny extra sample for the days May 24-28 (following Rossi's official announcement). The number that's getting all the press is that Rossi led Murray 42-39 in that batch, although that's only based on 221 likely voters with a margin of error of 6.6%, so its usefulness is, well, questionable. Their full numbers are now 42-40 for Murray for the entire RV sample and 46-40 for Murray for the entire LV sample (i.e. those who voted in 2006), and she leads Generic R 44-39 among RVs (and 46-41 in the May 24-28 sample), but this poll has gotten so methodologically convoluted I'm not really sure it's worth much of anything at this point.
Murray got some good news today in the form of an endorsement, and it's not from a human but a corporation: Boeing. While she's received plenty of Boeing money in the past, I'm not aware of Boeing ever having explicitly endorsed her or anyone else before (although anyone with a pulse knows that Murray has taken over for Scoop Jackson as the "Senator from Boeing"). Frankly, in the state of Washington, this is a bigger endorsement than any human politician's endorsement would be, considering the way Boeing's tendrils reach so much of the state. Finally, the field of miscellaneous Republicans kept shrinking today, as chiropractor Sean Salazar (probably the first guy to try to grab the teabagger mantle here, although he got shoved over by Clint Didier) bailed out of the race and backed Rossi.
• WI-Sen: Here's a strange vulnerability for Ron Johnson in the Wisconsin Senate race: his fixation on opposing bipartisan Wisconsin state legislation making it easier for victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue their abusers. That'll require some explanation, and I assume it'll be something other than his current explanation, that such legislation would only lead to more victims of sexual abuse by making organizations likelier to sweep it under the carpet.
• IA-Gov: After endorsing a variety of misspelled odds-and-ends last week ("Cecil Bledsoe," "Angela McGowen," and Joe Miller), Sarah Palin went with a big gun this weekend, and it was one who doesn't match her carefully cultivated teabagging/religious right image at all: establishment retread Terry Branstad in Iowa. Is she counting on getting repaid by Branstad in the 2012 caucuses, if she decides to give up the grifting lifestyle and take the huge pay cut associated with running for President? (Branstad also has the backing of Mitt Romney, who seems more of a kindred spirit for him.)
• MI-Gov: The Schwarz is not with us after all. Joe Schwarz, the moderate ex-Rep. who got bounced from MI-07 in 2006 in the GOP primary by Tim Walberg, has decided against pursuing the independent bid in the Governor's race that he'd been threatening. On the surface, the loss of a center-right indie looks like bad news for the Dems, but depending on which two candidates match up in November, Schwarz could just have easily pulled more left-of-center votes... and in all likelihood, he wasn't going to rack up more than a few percent anyway.
• NY-Gov: In their standoff with Democratic nominee Andrew Cuomo, the Working Families Party seems to have blinked first. They went ahead and nominated placeholders in the Governor, Lt. Gov, and AG slots, presumably to allow coordination with the Dem choices later. Cuomo had been leaning hard on the WFP to do so. The person most affected by this is state Sen. Eric Schneiderman, a Cuomo foe who had been considered the most likely WFP candidate for AG; instead, the WFP may wind up going with Nassau Co. DA Kathleen Rice, who's Cuomo's preferred AG for his informal "ticket."
• TX-Gov: The Greens are actually going to be on the ballot in Texas this year, for the gubernatorial race? I'm as surprised as you are, but it's less surprising when you find out who's behind it: Arizona Republican consultant Tim Mooney, who set up the petition drive to get them on the ballot (and who's also a veteran of the 2004 efforts to get Ralph Nader on as many states' ballots as possible). GOP incumbent Rick Perry faces a tough race from Dem former Houston mayor Bill White, and he can have a little breathing room if the Greens siphon off a few lefties.
• AR-01: Chad Causey has an interesting argument for Democratic runoff voters in the 1st not to vote for ex-state Sen. Tim Wooldridge: he's likely to bolt for the Republican Party at his earliest convenience. Causey's evidence for the flight risk posed by Wooldridge includes his very conservative voting record in the state legislature, starting with his pro-public hanging legislation. Wooldridge, for his part, said he'd never switch. The Wooldridge camp is also offering up an internal poll (no word on the pollster) claiming a 48-24 lead over Causey in the runoff.
• CA-19: SurveyUSA has one last poll of the race in the 19th's GOP primary, which they've polled exhaustively (and found almost exactly the same thing each time). However, this time it's a little more interesting: there seems to be some late movement to former Fresno mayor Jim Patterson, who now leads state Sen. Jeff Denham 34-30. Ex-Rep. Richard Pombo is back at 17, with Larry Westerlund at 8. On the Dem side, it's a 26-26 tie between Loraine Goodwin and Les Marsden.
• MN-06: What started out as a thorny three-way primary (when Elwyn Tinklenberg was in the race) has turned into a walk for Democratic state Sen. Tarryl Clark. Maureen Reed, a physician and former Independence Party Lt. Gov. candidate, ended her bid and endorsed Clark against Rep. Michele Bachmann. Reed had done surprisingly well at fundraising, but didn't have the institutional advantages that Clark did, especially once Clark got the DFL endorsement. Clark still has an uphill fight against Bachmann, who's insulated against likely future foot-in-mouth incidents by the district's reddish lean as well as a huge war chest.
• TN-08: A Hill piece on the possibility of another NRCC-touted candidate (in the form of Stephen Fincher) going down in flames actually has some nice dirt on all three Republicans contesting the primary in the 8th. Fincher, of course, is widely noted for his hypocrisy on attacking the federal government while receiving millions in farm subsidies, but it's also been revealed that he has voted in three Democratic primaries in the last eight years, "used virtually the same TV ad as a candidate for Alabama Agriculture Commisioner" (I have to assume it was an ad from one of the "thugs," since if he'd riiiiiiipped off Dale Peterson's ad, the whole blogosphere would already know about it by now), and perhaps most pathetically, misspelled "Tennessee" in a mailer. His challengers, Ron Kirkland and George Flinn, have their own troubles; Kirkland contributed to outgoing Democratic Rep. John Tanner in 2000 and 2004, while Flinn tried to cover up a lawsuit by a contractor who wasn't paid for remodeling work.
• AK-Sen: Sarah Palin, fresh off her triumphant endorsements of Vaughn Ward and "Angela McGowen," is now weighing in with an endorsement in her home state: she's backing Joe Miller, the Christian-right GOP primary challenger to incumbent Lisa Murkowski. What's surprising is that people are surprised today -- there's long-term bad blood between Palin and the Murkowskis (Palin, of course, beat incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski in the 2006 GOP primary, and was briefly considering a 2010 run against Lisa Murkowski in the primary), and Todd Palin (who presumably doesn't do anything without running it by the Palin family head office) had already endorsed Miller and headlined fundraisers for him.
• AR-Sen: The League of Conservation Voters is taking advantage of the oil spill in the Gulf being top-of-mind for most people today, to run a pre-runoff TV spot hitting Blanche Lincoln for her support for offshore drilling and her big campaign contributions from Big Oil.
• CA-Sen: Darkness descends over Team Campbell, with the primary one week away. Short on money and financially outgunned by Carly Fiorina, Tom Campbell has pulled the plug on TV advertising (at least for now; they say they're evaluating day-to-day what to spend on) and is relying on robocalls to drive turnout for the GOP primary. On the other hand, quixotic Democratic primary candidate Mickey Kaus is actually hitting the airwaves, and he's running an ad that very closely mirrors a now-famous 1990 ad from Paul Wellstone... which is pretty much the only thing that Kaus has in common with Wellstone (well, that and a weird hairline).
• FL-Sen: Jim Greer, the former state party chair of the aptly-acronymed RPOF, was just arrested on six felony charges: money laundering, grand theft, fraud... you know, the basic day-to-day aspects of running a political party. It'll be interesting to watch, as this case plays out, if there's any blowback to either Senate candidate: Charlie Crist, who helped put former key ally Greer into place as state party chair, or Marco Rubio, who had a taste for charging things to the state party's credit cards.
• IL-Sen: All of a sudden it seems like every time Mark Kirk plugs a leak concerning misrepresentations of his military record, another two spring up. Today, Kirk had to admit to the WaPo's Greg Sargent that his website incorrectly identifies him as "the only member of Congress to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom." Kirk actually served stateside as a Naval Reservist during the Iraq War, and he says that he's corrected the website, as what he really meant was "to serve during Operation Iraqi Freedom." Kirk also failed to correct Joe Scarborough when he said in 2003 that Kirk had "served Americans overseas in Operation Iraqi Freedom." Hmmm, that whole scenario sounds vaguely familiar... I wonder where the front page NYT story about this is?
• NV-Sen: There's that old saying about when your opponent pulls out a knife, you pull out a gun... I guess the same thing's happening in Nevada, where when Sharron Angle pulls out allegations of wrongdoing involving a campaign bus, Sue Lowden pulls out allegations of wrongdoing involving a campaign plane. Angle hitched a ride to the "Showdown in Searchlight" rally on a supporter's private plane, and while she did reimburse the owner $67 for her share of the fuel, it turns out she needs to pay more like $7,000, for the going charter rate. Meanwhile, Lowden seems to be doing some hasty but serious-sounding damage control over the issue of the "veterans tax;" this is still in the sketchy stages, but we'll follow it as it develops.
• PA-Sen: The Clinton job offer scandal continues to roil the Joe Sestak campaign, threatening to torpedo the Democratic candidate as he struggles to gain momentum after winning an upset in the primary!!! Oh, wait a second, I was confused... for a moment there, I thought I was actually a Beltway pundit. In reality, nobody gives a shit, and Sestak continues to consolidate post-primary support, as seen in a new DSCC-sponsored poll by Garin Hart Yang, which gives Sestak a 47-40 lead over GOPer Pat Toomey. Both candidates are similarly liked yet ill-defined: Sestak's favorables are 34/18, while Toomey is at 30/19.
• WA-Sen: The University of Washington pollsters who released the poll several weeks ago giving Patty Murray a 44-40 edge over Dino Rossi did something unusual. They started asking Washington residents about their feelings about the Tea Party (worth a read, on its own), but they also kept asking them about Murray/Rossi and adding those voters to the previous poll's pool. I'm not sure if that's methodologically sound or not; on the one hand, it pushes the MoE down to a very robust 2.3%, but also pads out the sample period to a terribly long 25 days. At any rate, it doesn't affect the toplines one bit: Murray still leads 44-40.
• AZ-Gov: Is there just a weird outbreak of Lying-itis breaking out among our nation's politicians (or did everyone always do this, and now thanks to the Internet you can't get away with it anymore)? Now, it's Jan Brewer's turn: during the fight over Arizona's immigration law, she somehow tried to weave in her father's death "fighting the Nazi regime in Germany" in discussing the personal attacks against her. There's one small problem: her father was a civilian supervisor of a munitions depot during the war, and died of lung disease in 1955. Meanwhile, back in reality, one of Brewer's GOP primary rivals, former state party chair John Munger, has decided to drop out after getting little traction in the primary. He cited fundraising issues in his decision.
• FL-Gov: Did Rick Scott think that people were just not going to notice that whole Medicare fraud thing? Having gotten stung by outside advertising hitting him on the Columbia/HCA fraud and the $1.7 billion in fines associated with it, he's launching a defensive TV spot and website dedicated to telling his side of the story. Meanwhile, Dems might be sailing into a clusterf@ck of their very own: Bud Chiles (the son of popular Democratic ex-Gov. Lawton Chiles) is still looking into a gubernatorial run... and now seemingly considering doing it as an independent. An independent who soaks up mostly Democratic votes would pretty much be curtains for Alex Sink's chances at winning.
• GA-Gov: Ex-Gov. Roy Barnes got a couple endorsements that should help him with the African-American vote, as he faces African-American AG Thurbert Baker in the Dem primary. Two prominent former Atlanta mayors, Andrew Young and Shirley Franklin, backed Barnes.
• ME-Gov: The most overlooked gubernatorial race in the country has its primaries next week, and it seems like even Mainers have no idea what's going on. Pan Atlantic SMS polled the primary, but found 62% of Dems and 47% of GOPers undecided. On the Dem side, state Sen. president Libby Mitchell is at 13, with ex-AG Steve Rowe at 12, Rosa Scarcelli at 7, and Patrick McGowan at 6. On the Republican side, Les Otten is at 17, Paul LePage at 10, Peter Mills at 8, Steve Abbott at 8, Bill Beardsley at 4, Bruce Poliquin at 3, and Matt Jacobson at 2. Given the poll's MoE of 5.7%, all we know is that pretty much any of these candidates could be the nominees. Otten just got an endorsement from one of the few Republicans who isn't running: from state Sen. majority leader Kevin Raye.
• AR-01: In northeast Arkansas, I don't think endorsements come any bigger than this. Bill Clinton weighed in on Chad Causey's behalf, in the Democratic primary runoff against the more conservative Tim Wooldridge.
• CA-42: How about I just start reporting on the politicians who haven't fudged their war records? Now it's the turn for Rep. Gary Miller (who faces a potentially competitive teabagger primary next week). A number of bios, including his California Assembly bio, have said he served in the Army in 1967 and 1968. A news story linked from Miller's current official website said that he "served his country during the Vietnam War." Turns out he spent seven weeks in boot camp in 1967, at which point he was discharged for medical reasons.
• MS-01: Newly crowned GOP nominee in the 1st Alan Nunnelee gets today's hyperbole-in-action award. On Saturday, he told a local Rotary Club gathering that what's going on in Washington is worse than 9/11, because "What I see in Washington over the last 16 months is a more dangerous attack because it's an attack on our freedom that's coming from the inside."
• NC-08: Another day, another freakout from Tim d'Annunzio. His latest antics involve dropping out of a scheduled debate against GOP runoff opponent Harold Johnson, because of, as per d'Annunzio's usual modus operandi, "the collaboration between the Harold Johnson campaign and the news media to use partial truth, innuendo and accusations to unfairly smear me."
• PA-10: Best wishes for a quick recovery to the GOP candidate in the 10th, Tom Marino. He's in stable condition after being involved in a late-night head-on collision while driving back from a county GOP meeting last night.
• NY-St. Sen.: One state legislature where it's going to be tough for the GOP to make up much ground is the New York Senate, where they're now having to defend their fourth open seat (out of 30 total) this cycle. George Winner, who's been in the Senate since 2004 (making him a veritable youngster by NYS Senate GOP standards), is calling it quits. His Southern Tier district centered on Elmira has a 74K to 60K GOP registration advantage, but Obama won SD-53 by a 51-47 margin.