What Did Campaigns Advertise About This Primary Season?

I realize this makes me sound dorkier than I already am, but here it goes: I like watching campaign ads. Not for their artistic flair or that dulcet tones of that voice-over guy. I like them because they tell us how candidates and campaigns see the political environment and how they plan to navigate it.

Thanks to the work of the diligent Cook Political Report summer interns, Jacob Link and Torie Bolger, and data from CMAG Kantar Media, we have mapped out the messages the candidates and campaigns have been delivering to voters between January and July of this year. 

Pawlenty’s Loss Moves Race to Lean Democratic

The biggest surprise of the August 14 primary was former Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s defeat in the Republican nominating contest, which he lost to Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, 53 percent to 44 percent. While the primary season has produced plenty of examples that President Trump and his followers have taken over the Republican Party, none has been quite as poignant as Pawlenty’s loss given that he has won his share of GOP primaries and was elected Governor twice.

House: Three More GOP Seats Join the Toss Up Column

For Republicans, the 2018 House playing field is a lot like a game of Whack-a-Mole: everywhere they turn, new problems keep popping up in surprising places. In January, we rated 20 GOP-held seats as Toss Ups or worse, including three leaning towards Democrats. With today's changes, we now rate 37 GOP-held seats as Toss Ups or worse, including ten leaning towards Democrats.

Kobach Primary Victory Moves Race to Toss Up

A week after the polls closed, Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded the primary to Secretary of State Kris Kobach. While Kobach’s lead over Colyer dwindled to less than 100 votes two days after the primary, Kobach pulled ahead once county officials started counting provisional ballots. By the end of the day on August 14, Kobach’s lead had expanded to 345 votes. But, Kobach’s victory isn’t necessarily good news as most GOP strategists consider him to be a flawed nominee. As a result, the race moves to the Toss Up.

Oregon Governor Moves to Lean Democratic

Democratic Gov. Kate Brown faced voters in 2016 for the right to serve the remainder of John Kitzhaber’s term. Kitzhaber resigned in 2015 in the wake of several controversies. Brown didn’t do as well as a Democrat might be expected to do in a presidential year, taking just over 50 percent. She is now running for a full four-year term in November and this race may be more difficult than her 2016 race.

House: Rating Changes in Five GOP-Held Seats

Republican Troy Balderson's razor-thin apparent victory over Democrat Danny O'Connor in yesterday's special election in Ohio's 12th CD comes as a big relief to Republicans, including neighboring NRCC Chair Steve Stivers and the Congressional Leadership Fund, which spent $3.1 million to defend the seat. But the outcome doesn't alter Democrats' status as substantial favorites to win House control in November.

O’Rourke Puts Race into Lean Republican Column

This race in a state that isn’t usually competitive for Democrats in statewide races has generated an unusual amount of attention. Most of it is thanks to U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic nominee, who is running an unconventional yet successful campaign that has piqued the interest of Democrats around the country. Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz also gets some of the credit as a conservative lightning rod. The result is a closer than expected contest that moves to the Lean Republican column.

Kemp Victory Puts Contest Into the Lean Republican Column

Yesterday’s Republican run-off in Georgia’s gubernatorial contest is as good an example as there is as to why parties hate run-offs. They are risky propositions that can produce results that change the trajectory of a general election. Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s nomination has made the general election much more difficult for Republicans and moves the race to the Lean Republican column.

PA-17: Rothfus vs. Lamb Clash Moves From Toss Up to Lean Democratic

In February, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court set up an epic clash when its new map paired two incumbents in the Pittsburgh suburbs in the new 17th CD. But a Monmouth University poll shows newly elected Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb leading three-term GOP Rep. Keith Rothfus 51 percent to 39 percent. It corroborates data parties have seen privately, and we're moving our rating from Toss Up to Lean Democratic.

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