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Leading Off:

WA-Gov: Two new polls, from PPP and Elway, show a razor-thin lead for Republican Rob McKenna in the Washington governor's race. Taking these and other recent polls into consideration (most of which have shown movement in Democrat Jay Inslee's direction), Daily Kos Elections is moving WA-Gov from Lean Republican to Tossup. PPP's sample also has some impressive numbers in Washington for legalizing same-sex marriage and marijuana, both of which will be on November's ballot. Click through for our full analysis. (David Jarman)

Senate:

AZ-Sen: Yowza. A new PPP poll taken for Project New America (formerly known as Project New West) shows remarkably tight numbers in both the open-seat Senate race and he presidential contest. GOP Rep. Jeff Flake is up just 43-41 over Democrat Richard Carmona, a huge shift from PPP's last survey (PDF) which had Flake leading 48-35. Similarly, Romney's edge is just 49-46; it was 50-43 in May (PDF). So what happened? Well, the sample got a bit bluer, but not by that much—it was R+15 last time, and now it's R+12. If there's really been a big shift in the Democratic direction here, I'd like to see confirmation from some further polling first.

Meanwhile, a new Super PAC called "Secure Arizona" is out with a new ad that goes for Republican Jeff Flake's jugular. First, it leads off with footage of Jeff Flake admitting that he "lied" when he pledged to only serve three terms in the House, then poses the ominous question: "What else is Jeff Flake dishonest about?" The spot alleges that Flake flip-flopped on his initial support for the Keystone XL pipeline, ultimately "siding with Obama" and Nancy Pelosi. Size of the buy, though? A miniscule $8K, which apparently buys only 30 rotations on Fox News—in other words, this is yet another glorified video press release.

And who's behind this Super PAC, anyway? Its treasurer is Kansas City, MO attorney James C. Thomas III, a Republican who served on Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's legislative redistricting panel and is also a dedicated Axis & Allies enthusiast. I guess he must be a Wil Cardon enthusiast, too. (That's Flake's self-funding primary opponent.) (James L)

FL-Sen: It looks like FreedomWorks is buying into Connie Mack's claim that the GOP must rally around him stat, primary be damned, if they're to have any hope of beating Dem Sen. Bill Nelson. That gambit might work, but it also might further alienate conservatives who are inclined to mistrust Mack—we'll have to see. But FreedomWorks is forging ahead and endorsing Mack. It's not clear whether they'll actually spend money here, though; indeed, the Tampa Bay Times suggests kinda of not really:

In addition to signaling its preference, FreedomWorks provides candidates with yard signs, door hangers and other get out the vote materials. Candidates also get put into its national phone banking system. People from Ohio, for example, could be making calls on Mack's behalf.
I think that last line may be a slight back-handed dig at where Mack's support is coming from.

HI-Sen: Who knew that having your own Oprah Winfrey-style cable station could be so cheap? I'm sure by now you've heard that Republican Senate candidate Linda Lingle has created her own TV network (LL2012! channel 110 on your Oceanic Time Warner dial!) to promote her candidacy round-the-clock among television viewers too stupid to figure out what's going on on the other 999 channels. And the price, it turns out, is just $5,000 a week. As MAD Magazine would say, cheap!

Thanks to some diligent investigative work, we've also gotten our hands on a partial prime-time programming schedule for LingleVision this week:

6:00pm: Maui City Council zoning subcommittee meeting, May 4, 1982 (Linda Lingle, chair)

7:00pm: Linda's World! visits Hawaii's wettest rainforests

7:30pm: Book Talk: "Matzoh Balls & Tax Cuts: What Being a Jewish Republican Means to Me," by Linda Lingle

8:00pm: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

9:00pm: 1998 gubernatorial debate between Linda Lingle and Ben Cayetano [closed captioned]

9:30pm: Video from that cousin's wedding that Linda really didn't want to go to but felt she had to go to because, oy gevalt, you don't want to upset your mother like that, do you?

10:00pm: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

11:00pm: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

MA-Sen: This ridiculous story exploded on to the Twitters late on Monday:
Senator Scott Brown said he will accept a debate at the ­Edward M. Kennedy Institute but only on the condition that Vicki Kennedy stay neutral in the election and that MSNBC not be included as a broadcast partner.
Yep, that's right—only if Ted Kennedy's widow keeps her mouth shut! Much hashtag goodness to be found at #scottbrowndebatedemands. Of course, Vicki Kennedy refused to play that game, so Scott Brown took his ball and went home. I guess the Kennedy Center couldn't make that whole McRib thing happen.

MI-Sen: Desperate to change the conversation to, well, just about anything else, Republican ex-Rep. Pete Hoekstra has a new radio ad in which he excoriates leakers of classified information as "traitors." Says Hoekstra: "As a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, I know a thing or two about keeping our country safe." And as former Intelligence chair, Hoekstra himself had loose lips about security issues and repeatedly got himself into trouble by sharing information he wasn't permitted to share. Michigan Democrats whipped up a quickie micro-site called "Pete 'Leak-a-Lot' Hoekstra," calling attention to, among other things, the fact that Hoekstra tweeted about his movements on a trip to Iraq, revealing his location and military practices in real time. Smart!

MO-Sen: Dem Sen. Claire McCaskill just became the latest candidate running in a swing state to throw down a big sum on fall TV advertising, before all the outside groups and presidential campaigns buy up all the available airtime. McCaskill's spending $3 million for "statewide broadcast television for the final weeks" of the election. She has $6 mil in the bank, so she can easily afford this, especially since buying time early gets you lower rates.

MT-Sen: Rasmussen Reports: Jon Tester (D-inc): 47 (43), Denny Rehberg (R): 49 (53).

ND-Sen: The DSCC is out with their second ad of the cycle against GOP Rep. Rick Berg. According to Roll Call, it's an $86K buy spread over two weeks. The visually interesting ad attacks Berg on the usual themes (e.g. tax cuts for millionaires and job-outsourcing corporations, ending Medicare as we know it, etc.) using the interface of Words With Friends (a Scrabble-like word game) to spell out Berg's name. (James L)

NE-Sen: I wouldn't be holding my breath waiting for Bob Kerrey to release a dueling internal: Republican Deb Fischer's new poll, from Public Opinion Strategies, puts her up 58-33 over the Democratic ex-senator. What I would love to see is the polling conducted earlier this year which convinced Kerrey he had a path to victory.

OH-Sen: Outside money continues to fall like rain in Ohio. First, the AFL-CIO is dropping $100K on online ads appearing on the homepages and sports pages of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Akron Beacon Journal—the ads parody the visuals of LeBron James' "Witness" ad, inviting online readers to "Witness the Mandel Investigation," referring to $105K in possibly illegal donations that the Mandel campaign received from employees of the Suarez Corporation. Next, the SEIU has upped their ad buy against Mandel by just over $200K, bringing their total tab in this race to $754K. (Presumably, this money is going to an extension of this ad buy, which targets Mandel on Social Security and Medicare, but that's not clear.) And finally, FreedomWorks is dishing out $49K on door hangers, yard signs, bumper stickers, and the like, on Mandel's behalf. (James L)

UT-Sen: The National Federation of Independent Business is spending $51K on "political advertising" on behalf of GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch. But whether that means print, radio, TV, or billboards outside of Salt Lake City Home Depots, we don't know. (James L)

WI-Sen: And of course Eric Hovde's doubled down on his bizarre insistence that the press spends too much time covering "sob stories" about people who can't get food stamps. The Hotline pressed the Wisconsin Republican on his views; Hovde not only thinks that poor Americans are being "taken care of," but also repeats his claim that they're just receiving too much damn attention:

In a Monday afternoon interview with Hotline On Call, Hovde defended his comments, saying there is a dearth of stories on food stamp fraud and fraud in the Medicare/Medicaid system. "Poverty in America is vastly different than poverty in most of the world," Hovde added. "And we have multiple safety nets and multiple programs that are taking care of people, and yet that is where the press almost always invariably goes."
Gubernatorial:

IN-Gov/WATN?: I wasn't quite sure what to file this under: Mitch Daniels, though term-limited and therefore not seeking re-election, is still Indiana's sitting governor, but what he does next with his life doesn't really affect this year's race. At the same time, it's rather unusual to see a current office-holder make plans for the future with half a year still left on his term. But there you have it: Purdue University (based in West Lafayette, IN) is reportedly slated to make Daniels its next president.

It's a somewhat remarkable turn of events for a guy who weighed a presidential bid last year and was supposedly on Mitt Romney's VP short-list. Now, instead, he's going to be out of politics. Apparently, Daniels won't quit his term early (even though Purdue's current president is stepping down soon), but since he'll want to avoid bad p.r. for his new employer, he won't be able to function as much of a partisan attack-dog this fall. That's no small thing, given the competitive races on the docket in Indiana this year.

House:

AZ-08: Congratulations to Democrat Ron Barber, who was just sworn in as the newest member of the 112th Congress! Barber, of course, won a special election last week to replace ex-Rep. Gabby Giffords, who resigned earlier this year to focus on recovering from the injuries she suffered in the infamous 2011 shooting at a public event in Tucson.

AZ-08/AZ-02: Well, that was quick. Sam Stone, the communications director for Martha McSally who just a day earlier was busted for handing a business card to a Ron Barber campaign aide containing hand-scrawled advice on how to beat McSally's fellow Republican, Jesse Kelly, in the special election, is now out of a job. Obviously the optics of having a top staffer trying to help the other side weren't particularly good for McSally, who is now hoping to beat Barber in November.

CA-02: While California's vote count from its primary (two weeks ago!) is still dragging on, at least Secretary of State Debra Bowen has provided a special page for keeping track of "close" contents. The SoS's definition of "close" is actually a bit broad—any contest where "there is less than a two percent difference between second and third place"—because some of the races on their list have already been decided, like CA-52.

But there are a few others where no second-place finisher has been called as yet, including in CA-02. (Other "close" affairs include Prop 29, CA-08, CA-21, CA-38, and about ten legislative races.) I mention CA-02 specifically because Democrat Norman Solomon, currently in third, sent out a press release on Monday arguing that he'd make up the gap between himself and Republican Dan Roberts (who is in second) as the remaining votes get counted. But jeffmd ran the numbers himself, and we're not so certain:

CA-02 is composed of six counties, three of which are fully reported per Norman Solomon's campaign (Del Norte, Mendocino, and Trinity). Solomon further claims there are 17,200 ballots outstanding in the remaining three (6,500 Humboldt; 8,700 Sonoma; 2,000 Marin). At the time of Solomon's press release, he trailed Republican Dan Roberts by about 500 votes (Democrat Jared Huffman is solidly in the first slot).

Since Solomon's press release, Humboldt has added 6,584 votes to its counted total; since this matches fairly closely the 6,500 estimated by the county previously, I'll now assume that Humboldt has finished reporting. (This is actually a favorable assumption for Solomon, who has trailed Roberts in both votes-by-mail, or "VBMs," and votes cast on Election Day, or "precinct votes" cast in Humboldt County. Any further votes from there would only serve to pad Roberts' lead—not cut into it.)

Similarly, Marin County has also updated its vote totals, which are now marked "Unofficial Final," which is as final as we'll expect them to be. With these two additions, Roberts' lead by our count stands at 676 votes, with only Sonoma County left to report.

Now, whether or not Solomon can overtake Roberts' lead can be expressed a function of three variables: 1) the number of ballots outstanding; 2) the percentage of all ballots cast for all other candidates, as well as write-ins, overvotes, and undervotes, which I'll refer to as the "field percentage"—after all just because the ballots have not yet been counted does not mean they won't contain over/undervotes; and 3) the percentage of the head-to-head vote against Roberts that Solomon will get from the uncounted ballots ("NS2P%"). The "break-even" line for Solomon can be expressed as follows:

     2 * [NS2P% - 1] * [1 - Field Percentage] * [Ballots Outstanding] - 676

If the expression is greater than zero, Solomon will overtake Roberts. Otherwise, Roberts lead will stand. With this functional form, we can input our best guesses:

     • Ballots Outstanding does not seem to be controversial. I haven't found a reason to dispute the 8,700 figure provided.

     • Field Percentage: Currently, 70.0% of ballots cast in Sonoma County have gone to one of the other candidate or a write-in. (This figure does NOT include over/undervotes, which have run upwards of almost 7% in each of the other jurisdictions.) Therefore, let's assume the field percentage is indeed 70.0%, though that is a favorable assumption to Solomon—as the field percentage increases, the number of ballots directly relevant to Solomon's head-to-head against Roberts ("relevant ballots") decreases.

With these two elements fixed, the breakeven point for the third parameter—Solomon's share of the two-person vote—can be determined; solving the equation, we find that Solomon would need 63.0% of the two-person vote in the outstanding Sonoma votes to tie Roberts. This is just on the cusp of reachability for Solomon: Looking at Marin (arguably, the most politically comparable to Sonoma), Solomon got 61.1% among two-person precinct votes and 52.2% among two-person votes overall. This is a skew of 9.0% in his favor among precinct votes compared to the county-wide average. Solomon has gotten 51.3% of Sonoma County's votes so far; applying the 9.0% precinct vote skew gets us to 60.3%, leaving him 141 votes short.

Further, remember that this is applying the favorable 70.0% field percentage. If we (conservatively) assumed an over/undervote rate of 6%, the field percentage would then become 71.8%, and from that, it follows that Solomon would then need 63.8% of the two-person vote to overtake Roberts; our 60.3% best guess would now leave him 173 votes short.

And this illustrates Solomon's fundamental challenge—there were 17,000 ballots outstanding (8,700 now), but the number of "relevant" votes was always far less. Roberts' margin looks shaky in comparison to the 8,700 ballots outstanding figure, but 60%+ of those will not be relevant to the gap between Solomon and Roberts. When the number of "relevant" votes is no more than 3,000, Roberts' 676-vote lead looks much more solid.

IL-12: It's a little hard to know exactly where things stand with the process to select a replacement for Brad Harriman because local Democrats are refusing to say who exactly has submitted applications to the committee which is responsible for choosing a new candidate. That's frankly a very strange decision, so all we've got are announcements from hopefuls themselves. And here's a new one: State Rep. John Bradley, who previously said he was "intrigued" by the prospect of running, went ahead and tossed his name into the hopper before last Friday's deadline. He joins Retired Maj. Gen. William Enyart in the "definitely under consideration" pile. One other possibility (though we don't know if he's actually applied) is former Rep. David Phelps, a conservative Democrat who was a redistricting victim a decade ago, losing to GOP Rep. John Shimkus.

In any event, ten total prospects are in the mix, and public interviews will be conducted this Saturday in the town of Chester. One of the panel's co-chairs says she expects a vote on a replacement to take place that day, after the interviews are finished.

HI-02: Former Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann is predictably pushing back against a pair of polls conducted on behalf of Honolulu Civil Beat which showed the HI-02 Democratic primary a tossup between himself and Honolulu City Council member Tulsi Gabbard. Hannemann's own poll, from QMark Research, has him up 45-27 (with Bob Marx at 9 and Esther Kiaaina at just 1)... but even those numbers are not particularly good news for him, because it shows a considerable tightening from his earlier QMark results. In August of last year, Hannemann led 66-11, and in February of this year, that had been cut to 57-15. Those are some bad trendlines, and they may well accelerate with the primary just two months away. Gabbard still has a lot of work cut out for her, but an upset doesn't look impossible anymore. Like they say about baseball, this is why they play the games!

NY-06: Let's just say that Democrat Rory Lancman's latest mailer (available at the link) is not the kind of thing a campaign that's leading in the polls would send out. Meanwhile, EMILY's List's direct mail campaign on behalf of Lancman's chief primary rival, Grace Meng, continues with another $15,000 expenditure, bringing their total-to-date investment in this race to $87K. (James L)

NY-25: Good news: Dem Rep. Louise Slaughter returned to work in Washington, DC, for the first time since she broke her left leg in April, a serious injury which still has her using a motorized scooter. Slaughter, 82, faces a serious re-election challenge from Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks.

OK-01: I have no idea why various medical PACs are lining up to support GOP Rep. John Sullivan in the primary, but lining up they are. First it was the Ophthalmologists, a PAC whose actions I have long loathed, and now the American Society of Anesthesiologists is getting in on the fun with a $19K radio ad buy on Sullivan's behalf. Not to be outdone, the Ophthalmologists doubled down with an $18K buy on... someone or something called "Other Fella." (Something tells me the eye docs might need an eye exam of their own.) Sullivan, it should be noted, is not a former ophthalmologist or anesthesiologist or medical professional of any kind—his sole career experience prior to entering politics, according to Wikipedia, was a brief stint as a realtor wherein he sealed the deal on the sale of six homes. (James L)

Grab Bag:

Dark Money: Recently I wrote about how American Action Network (a 501(c)(4) "social welfare" group, which means that it can cloak its contributors) was moving away from advertising to just being a money conduit to Republican Super PACs. Now I'm wondering if their increased interest in lying low means they've been expecting Democrats to finally starting to crack the whip on abuse of 501 status. The Obama camp just filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission demanding that Crossroads GPS, another 501(c)(4) that has also been brazen in crossing over into political advocacy, disclose the names of its donors. Of course, it's not likely that the FEC process will resolve this before the election—and it's likely to find its way into the federal courts after that—by which time Crossroads' damage will have already been done.

And 501(c)(4)s are also supposed to avoid coordination with actual campaigns, but that's always been a pretty toothless rule. Salon did some good digging and found how transparent the nexus is, in the case of the North Dakota Senate race: Crossroads GPS, which has spent $140K on ads there, uses the same Republican "communications consulting" firm, Black Rock Communications, as the Rick Berg campaign. With only three principals at Black Rock (one of whom, Carl Forti, is also Crossroads' political director), it's hard to imagine how they keep any firewalls in place between their Berg work and Crossroads work. (David Jarman)

NRCC/DCCC: The NRCC just reserved another $5.7 million in airtime in eight different media markets (covering seven notable races), bringing their total reservations to $23.9 million. That compares to $46.1 million for the DCCC. Helpfully, Aaron Blake has spreadsheets detailing exactly where and how much these reservations are for, for both parties. Relatedly, the D-Trip outraised its Republican counterpart in the month of May, $6.7 million to $6 million. The NRCC still has more cash-on-hand, though: $33.8 mil to $27.5 mil.

Polltopia: We're suggesting a vote for Connecticut this week in PPP's "where should we poll" poll, to check on those surprising Quinnipiac numbers we recently saw out of the Nutmeg State.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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