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John McCain's $21 million campaign

1. Sen. John McCain has raised and spent better than $21 million in advance of tomorrow's primary fight against former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, a massive amount of money that has helped to ensure that the Arizona Republican will win easily.

McCain's eye-popping spending -- putting aside self-funders he has spent the most money of any Senate candidate this cycle --is the most obvious evidence of the threat that the 2008 Republican presidential nominee perceived in Hayworth -- a six term Congressman who lost a re-election bid in 2006.

McCain spent millions (and millions) on television ads aimed at blocking Hayworth from becoming a national symbol of the conservative cleansing that many within the party believed to be necessary. (See Bennett, Bob.)

The ads, which were cutting in the extreme, portrayed Hayworth as something well short of the conservative legislator he was casting himself as on the campaign trail; after leaving Congress, Hayworth had appeared in an infomercial proclaiming that there was free money to be taken from the federal government. (The commercial detailing Hayworth's involvement in the get rich scheme hammered Hayworth as a huckster".)

Even as he was tearing Hayworth down, McCain was working to shore up his credentials with the conservative base. As the Post's Dan Balz reports this morning in a must-read piece on the race, McCain reached out to the Club for Growth, a powerful conservative group that has shown a penchant for GOP primary wins, to try to keep them on the sidelines. Writes Balz: "[McCain] argued that, under Obama, government spending was now the big issue, and said that on that issue he had a solid conservative record compatible with theirs."

The result of McCain's efforts? A massive lead in a poll conducted last month and a re-affirmation that candidates -- and the campaigns they run -- still matter. And, McCain's campaign has been, without question, one of the best of the cycle.

2. Florida saw some of its most rough-and-tumble campaigning over the weekend as candidates in the Senate and gubernatorial races called in national surrogates, invoked religion and traded charges of dishonesty ahead of tomorrow's primaries.

In the Republican gubernatorial primary, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) stumped on behalf of state Attorney General Bill McCollum.

The two attended a church service together Sunday morning, after which McCollum charged that his opponent, wealthy businessman Rick Scott, had lied about his record and was trying to buy the election.

Scott, meanwhile, took some shots at McCollum at a church event of his own.

Speaking through a translator to a Spanish-speaking audience, Scott charged that McCollum was being untruthful about his stance on the Arizona immigration law.

"My opponent came here two or three weeks ago and was very disrespectful," Scott told the crowd. "He was not honest with your leadership about his beliefs."

In the Senate race, the National Jewish Democratic Council denounced a mailer circulated by billionaire real estate developer Jeff Greene's (D) camp claiming that Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) is weak in his support of Israel.

"The fact is that Meek's support for Israel and his excellent record on this issue is beyond question," the group said in a statement.

Recent polling has shown both races to be somewhat unpredictable -- Meek and McCollum have opened up leads in the latest polls, but the large number of undecided voters coupled with the anti-incumbent sentiment coursing through the nation at large means that neither race is a done deal.

3. Former Rep. Neil Abercrombie has taken a 49 percent to 44 percent lead over former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann in the Hawaii Democratic primary for governor, according to a new independent poll.

Abercrombie's lead comes as his former colleague in Congress, ex-Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) announced he was supporting Abercrombie over Hannemann.

The poll was conducted for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. It follows other polls that have shown Abercrombie with a similarly small lead.

Hannemann has the backing of most business and labor groups and has far outraised Abercrombie, meaning the former Congressman will likely be heavily outspent between now and the Sept. 18 primary.

Case's endorsement could help Abercrombie among centrists and in the state's 2nd Congressional district, where Abercrombie isn't as well known. (He held the state's 1st district from 1990 until earlier this year when he resigned to run for governor. Republican Rep. Charles Djou won the special election.) Case took sharp aim at Hannemann, calling him part of the state's political machine and "the most dangerous politician in a generation."

"While professing unity, he's practiced the politics of division, exploiting rather than healing differences of race, origin and economic status," Case wrote in making the Abercrombie endorsement. "He has governed by fear and intimidation, rewarding compliance and punishing disagreement."

Case also had praise for Republican Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, who is unopposed on the GOP primary.

4. Former Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio) is up with a new TV ad in his challenge to Gov. Ted Strickland (D).

"Ohio in this last year found itself with a big hole in the budget. You can't raise taxes in Ohio," Kasich tells a group of supporters in the ad. "We're going to get the job done for the people of the state," Kasich continues. "And we're not going to let you down."

The ad comes as Vice President Joe Biden is slated to make a trip to the state today to deliver remarks on the Administration's efforts to boost the auto industry. The event -- at which Strickland will also be in attendance -- marks the second visit by the White House to the state in the past week. (Last week, President Barack Obama held a fundraiser for Strickland).

In addition to the White House, both national party committees have made the Ohio race a top priority in this year's midterms, flooding the airwaves with TV ads. Even so, there has been little movement in the polls, with Strickland and Kasich essentially remaining neck and neck.

5. There are dueling polls in Arkansas' 1st district open seat where Democrat Chad Causey faces off against Republican Rick Crawford.

A Causey campaign poll shows Crawford at 41 percent and Causey at 40 percent in the 1st district. But a survey conducted for Talk Business showed Crawford with a 16 point -- 48 percent to 32 percent -- lead.

Crawford has received a steady stream of bad press stemming from his recently reported bankruptcy in the 1990s. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last week compared his campaign's response to the steady drip of bad news to how the Nixon White House operated during Watergate.

At the same time, Causey has a difficult task, as portions of his own poll show. President Barack Obama's approval rating in the district is just 36 percent positive and 57 percent negative. The district has gone strongly for Democrats the last two midterms, including for Sen. Mark Pryor (D) in his 2002 campaign and for a slate of Democrats in 2006.

Causey's poll was conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang Research, which is being vacated by retiring Rep. Marion Berry (D). Causey was Berry's chief of staff.

With Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake

By Chris Cillizza  | August 23, 2010; 7:53 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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