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Republican Voters Stake Daschle to Big S.D. Poll Lead

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) holds a double-digit lead over former Rep. John Thune (R), according to a poll conducted for the Democrat’s campaign.

Daschle took 55 percent to 42 percent for Thune in the survey done by Al Quinlan. It tested 506 likely voters May 11-12 with a 4.4 percent margin of error.

Daschle’s 13-point bulge is significantly wider than in past independent polls that have shown him ahead of Thune by 6 to 8 points.

Much of it is attributable to his strong performance among Republican voters — 29 percent of whom chose Daschle in the Quinlan poll. In order to win in this Republican-leaning state, Daschle must win a substantial portion of the GOP vote — perhaps as much as one-fifth.

To this point, Daschle and Thune have conducted drastically different campaigns.

Daschle has been on television almost continually since last summer with ads touting his accomplishments for the state.

As a result, Daschle is thought of favorably by 58 percent of those tested with just 31 percent seeing him unfavorably.

Thune has not yet run any television commercials since officially entering the race in early January.
— Chris Cillizza

Metzl Takes Cleaver to Ex-Mayor in TV Spot

Former Council on Foreign Relations fellow Jamie Metzl launched the first ad of the campaign as he seeks the Democratic nomination in the open 5th district.

The radio spot directly takes on former Kansas City Mayor Emanuel Cleaver (D), the heavy favorite to replace retiring Rep. Karen McCarthy (D).

With a stopwatch ticking in the background, a narrator details Cleaver’s apparent refusal to debate Metzl, his unwillingness to release his financial records, and the back taxes that Cleaver owed on a car wash business he owned.

“What’s Cleaver hiding?” asks the narrator. “With all the mess in Washington can’t we do better than the same old politics as usual?”

Metzl has run an extremely aggressive campaign, especially on the fundraising front.

At the end of March he had $485,000 in the bank; Cleaver showed $267,000 on hand.

The winner of the Aug. 3 primary will be a heavy favorite in the general election in this strongly Democratic district.

— C.C.

Gray Area: Ex-Bush Aide Dislikes Martinez’s Past

Former White House chief counsel C. Boyden Gray swapped candidates in the GOP Senate primary Monday, pulling his support from former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez and throwing it to former Rep. Bill McCollum.

Gray said he changed his preference after learning about Martinez’s past service as president of the Florida Academy of Trial Lawyers, his opposition to tort reform and campaign contributions he previously made to Democrats.

“While I think Mel is a fine person, I fundamentally disagree with his position on tort reform, and fear his candidacy would hamper our ability to present a unified message on this critical issue,” Gray wrote in a letter to Republicans.

He went on to describe McCollum as “a common sense mainstream conservative.”

Gray, who hosted a D.C. fundraiser for Martinez earlier this year, served as counsel to former President George H.W. Bush.

McCollum also picked up the endorsements of GOP Sens. Mike DeWine (Ohio), John Sununu (N.H.) and Larry Craig (Idaho).

Martinez, who entered the race at the urging of White House officials, held a fundraiser in Washington hosted by the entire Senate GOP leadership earlier this year.

The multicandidate Republican Senate primary appears to be coming down to a battle between McCollum, who was the GOP Senate nominee in 2000, and the former HUD secretary.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Sandlin Trails Ex-Judge in District GOP Drew

Rep. Max Sandlin (D) trails former judge Louie Gohmert (R) in a hypothetical general election matchup in the East Texas 1st district in a new poll conducted for the Republican’s campaign.

Gohmert took 44 percent of the vote to 41 percent for Sandlin in the Baselice & Associates survey, which was in the field on May 5 and 6 testing 303 registered voters.

In Michael Baselice’s polling memo, he notes that the district clearly favors Republicans.

President Bush led Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry 63 percent to 29 percent in the presidential race; a generic House Republican candidate received 53 percent compared to just 34 percent for a generic Democrat.

“Once Louie Gohmert communicates his candidacy to more of the general electorate, his ballot scores will increase and be more reflective of this district’s strong Republican leaning nature,” Baselice concludes.

Gohmert won an April 13 runoff against 2002 4th district nominee John Graves to win the chance to take on Sandlin.

Privately, Democrats acknowledge that this seat will be the most difficult to hold out of their five endangered incumbents in the Lone Star State.

Sandlin has represented just half of the constituents in the new seat and Gohmert’s political base is in Smith County, one of the Republican strongholds in the 1st.
— C.C.

GOP Dignitaries Help Boost Humphreys’ ID

Former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys (R) began running television ads this week in his effort to boost his statewide name recognition before the July 27 primary.

The 30-second ad features Sens. Don Nickles and James Inhofe as well as former Rep. J.C. Watts introducing Humphreys to viewers. Humphreys is running to replace Nickles, who is retiring after 24 years in the Senate.

“I’ve known Kirk Humphreys for a long time. He’s a proven leader, outstanding businessman, great family man,” Nickles says in the ad.

“We need Kirk’s work ethic, we need his values, we need his team building, we need his conservative voice in the United States Senate for such a time as this.”

Humphreys faces former Rep. Tom Coburn and state Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony in the Republican primary.

Early polling has shown Coburn leading the primary field and virtually tied with presumed Democratic nominee Rep. Brad Carson (D).
— L.W.W.

Matheson Leads Both GOPers in Media Poll

Former state Rep. John Swallow held a substantial lead over businessman Tim Bridgewater in their rerun of the 2002 Republican primary in the 2nd Congressional district, a new independent poll found.

But Swallow trailed Rep. Jim Matheson (D) in a hypothetical rematch of their 2002 general election campaign, the poll, conducted for the Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV concluded. Matheson held an equally substantial lead in a trial heat with Bridgewater.

The poll of 308 2nd district residents conducted May 10-13 by Dan Jones & Associates showed Swallow with a 33 percent to 14 percent primary lead over Bridgewater in the primary. The poll had a 5.5 percent margin of error.

Bridgewater led Swallow in last week’s Republican convention, but that was also the case in 2002, when Swallow went on to defeat Bridgewater in the GOP primary. This year’s primary will be held on June 22.

Meanwhile, Matheson, who defeated Swallow by just 1,600 votes, had a commanding lead over both Republicans in the new poll, despite the GOP strength in the district and state. Matheson led Swallow 55 percent to 29 percent, and he topped Bridgewater 58 percent to 24 percent.
— Josh Kurtz

Finch Migrates From Democratic Primary

Businessman Robert Finch (D) dropped his 12th district primary bid Friday, two weeks after filing in the race against freshman Rep. Max Burns (R).

Finch had been the only black candidate in the contest and his last minute entrance had irked party strategists. Although he was viewed as a long-shot candidate, strategists believed he could have made it into a runoff and endangered the party’s ability to produce a strong nominee.

In an e-mail Friday, Finch said he was withdrawing “for the good of the party.”

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner John Barrow (D) is favored to win the Democratic nomination and face Burns in November.

Also seeking the party’s nod are former state Sen. Doug Haines, attorney Tony Center and legislative advocate Caine Cortellino.
— L.W.W.

Challenger Buzzes Out of Conyers Primary

It looks like House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers (D) will cruise to a 21st term after all.

Just 72 hours after he filed paperwork to challenge Conyers in the August Democratic primary, state Sen. Buzz Thomas (D) on Friday withdrew his candidacy.

The 35-year-old state lawmaker, who has said very little publicly as he weighed a challenge to the veteran Congressman, told the Detroit Free Press on Friday that he filed papers to run because he believed there was a chance that Conyers might not seek re-election.

Thomas, who defeated Conyers’ wife to win the Senate seat in 2002, suggested he may run for Congress in 2006 and gently criticized Conyers for not doing enough to empower his constituents economically.

“I think it’s one thing to be a constant critic of (President) Bush and Republicans, and it’s another to offer alternatives,” he said.

Conyers, who turned 75 on Sunday, now faces no primary opponent and only token opposition in the general election.
— J.K.

GOP Senate Candidate Taking It to the Streets

As Empire State Republicans prepare to meet at their nominating convention in Syracuse this week, chances are they’ll see Senate candidate Michael Benjamin protesting in the streets, rather than inside the Sheraton University Hotel.

Benjamin, a former Wall Street trader, has launched a full-scale assault against state Republican leaders — whom, he claims, have shut him out of the nominating process. GOP leaders have anointed state Assemblyman Howard Mills III as their preferred Senate nominee, and he is expected to get the party’s formal designation tomorrow.

Mills went up with his first two TV ads of the campaign on Monday. Produced by Chris Motola, they are airing in New York City, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, Albany and Binghampton.

Benjamin has vowed to challenge Mills in the Sept. 14 Republican primary.

Whoever wins the GOP nomination will be the overwhelming underdog against freshman Sen. Charles Schumer (D). Schumer is expected to win the state Democratic Party’s formal designation on Tuesday, though he could still face a token primary challenge.
— J.K.

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