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Leading Off:

FL-26: The Miami Herald reports that both the FBI and the Miami-Dade police are now investigating the campaign of "Democrat" Justin Lamar Sternad, whose fake candidacy—unsuccessfully aimed at hurting real Democrat Joe Garcia—was almost certainly propped up by corrupt GOP freshman David Rivera. Rivera of course denies everything and alleges a massive conspiracy between the vendors who did work for the penniless Sternad, the Herald, and Garcia. Most mind-blowing is this:

Rivera—who denies ever knowing Sternad—also produced a copy of a new campaign report for Sternad that purported to show, for the first time, that the Democrat's campaign had paid Rapid Mail. Earlier in the day, a reporter for América Tevé said the congressman called her and told her to go to see Sternad's lawyer, where she would get a scoop on the new campaign report. The lawyer never gave it to her.

Rivera didn't explain how he got the report and Federal Elections Commission officials told The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald on Wednesday that the document had not been received yet by the FEC.

I'm not even sure Encyclopedia Brown ever busted Bugs Meany for being this stupid.

P.S. If Rivera winds up getting nailed and the GOP wanted to replace him... well, it looks like they can't. As it so happens, Florida's elections board just certified the results of last week's primary on Thursday morning, and if you remember the Mark Foley race from 2006, you may recall that his name had to stay on the ballot because the whole congressional page scandal only came to light after Foley's own primary results were rendered official. So Republicans may well be stuck with Rivera.

Senate:

FL-, OH-, WI-Sen: Quinnipiac's out with another troika of swing state polls, and all three states also have Senate races. Here's what we've got, with trendlines in parens and Democrats listed first in all cases:

FL: Nelson 50, Mack 41 (47-40); Obama +3 (+6)

OH: Brown 48, Mandel 41 (51-39); Obama +6 (+6)

WI: Baldwin 44, Thompson 50 (47-47); Obama +2 (+6)

Meanwhile, the University of Cincinnati is also out with their first poll (PDF) of the Ohio Senate contest, and they find a much tighter race, with Brown up just 48-47 over Mandel, while Obama leads Romney 49-46. And a firm called Gravis Marketing has another Florida survey, too, with Nelson on top 46-39 and Romney +3 over the president. (Note that this poll was in the field for just one day, and oddly, Gravis's memo says it was conducted on a Monday afternoon. That's an awfully weird time to field a poll, given that most people aren't home then.)

MA-Sen: Seriously?

"Gail and I were laying in bed last night and talking a little bit, as we do every night," he said, "and I said: 'Honey, can you imagine? Here I am, Scott Brown from Wrentham, and I've got a truck that's got 238,000 miles on it and, you know, something like this comes up and I'm the first guy in the country to even bring it up and tell the guy to step down,' " Mr. Brown said.

He said his denunciation of Mr. Akin's comments was "really kind of amazing, kind of eye-opening" and "led to other senators and other people and other groups to say, you know what, that conversation has no place in the public discourse."

Well, this is the guy who's conducted secret meetings with kings and queens, after all. Love how he managed to work in his truck, too.

MI-Sen: On behalf of a trio of Detroit-area media outfits, the Glengariff Group recently conducted a poll of Michigan. They find Dem Sen. Debbie Stabenow beating ex-Rep. Pete Hoesktra 48-40, while Obama tops Romney 48-42. (By the way, am I the only one who thinks of the seminal David Mamet play whenever these guys have a new survey out? "Polling is for closers!")

MO-Sen: Rasmussen: Claire McCaskill (D-inc): 48 (44), Todd Akin (R): 38 (47).

MT-Sen: GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg has a new ad attacking Dem Sen. Jon Tester, trying to tie him to Obama by repeatedly featuring a quote of Tester saying "Barack brings the kind of vision for this country that we need." I'll just point out that, for no particular reason, the ad mimics a computer desktop—a crappy Windows desktop, complete with a window featuring a word processor that looks like it's straight out of 1995. I guess that's Microsoft—and the Republicans—for you: always living in the past.

NM-Sen: Another positive spot from Dem Rep. Martin Heinrich, mostly on generic stuff (cut taxes for middle class, make millionaires pay their fair share, etc.). It feels to me, judging by the advertising, that Heinrich's run a much more positive campaign than that of his opponent, GOP ex-Rep. Heather Wilson. That, combined with his small-to-medium lead in the polls, seems to reinforce the notion that Heinrich is the frontrunner.

NM-Sen: Rasmussen: Martin Heinrich (D): 48 (46), Heather Wilson (R): 41 (42).

NV-Sen: The poll-a-palooza continues: SurveyUSA has released the Senate component of that Nevada poll that got a lot of attention a day earlier for its presidential numbers. This portion has Republican Sen. Dean Heller staked to a five-point edge (44-39) over Democrat Shelley Berkley. However, the big caveat to this SUSA offering, as I noted in Wednesday night's Polling Wrap, is that the pollster seems to have found every conservative Latino in the state for their sample. In a state where in 2010 Harry Reid carried Hispanics with 69 percent of the vote, SUSA has Heller leading Berkley with that critical voting bloc. And by double digits, no less!

There is, however, one issue of genuine concern for Democrats: Nearly three-fifths of voters knew of the House Ethics investigation of Berkley, and 42 percent said it made them less likely to vote for her. Perhaps that might be because many of those voters don't know what the investigation is about (regular readers of the digest know the "charges" are pretty damned weak), but just saying the words "ethics investigation" is going to inherently carry a negative connotation for voters. (Steve Singiser)

VA-Sen: Nothing ever seems to change significantly in the Virginia Senate race, to the extent that PPP seems to have given up on trying to find interesting things to say about it. At any rate, their newest look at the matchup between Dem ex-Gov. Tim Kaine and GOP ex-Sen. George Allen finds a 46-46 tie between them. That's a slight boost for Allen, as Kaine led 46-44 last month. It's worth noting that outgoing Sen. Jim Webb would probably be in a similarly close race if he'd decided to stand for re-election; he's at a middling 37/37 approval. (David Jarman)

Gubernatorial:

MO-Gov: PPP's one-night poll on Monday also included questions on several other key races in the state. In the gubernatorial contest, Dem Gov. Jay Nixon leads Dave Spence 46-37, not too different from his previous 45-34 mark in May. Meanwhile, in the lieutenant governor's race, LG Peter Kinder is ahead of Democratic challenger Susan Montee 45-38, and for attorney general, Dem AG Chris Koster barely edges Ed Martin 41-39. Romney, by the way, beats Obama 52-42.

MT-Gov: The RGA hits Democrats Steve Bullock on a theme that Republicans have used before: his refusal, in his capacity as state AG, to join the multi-state lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. I thought Bullock's earlier pushback against this charge was really weak and technical, so I hope he's figured out something sharper this time. At least he can now say he didn't want to waste state funds on an unsuccessful suit.

NH-Gov: Pre-primary fundraising reports were just filed in the New Hampshire gubernatorial race. On the GOP side, front-runner Ovide Lamontagne has raised $1.2 million since the start of the campaign and has $718K left in the bank, while Kevin Smith took in $342K and has $101K on-hand. For Democrats, Maggie Hassan raised $930K but has spent a lot, leaving her with just $101K left; her rival, Jackie Cilley, took in a much smaller $269K and has only $52K in her warchest. Interestingly, despite the huge spending disparity, Hassan only led Cilley six points in PPP's recent poll of the primary.

VT-Gov: Castleton State College's new poll of the Vermont gubernatorial contest (an easy one to forget about) is all but identical to its prior survey, from May. They find Dem Gov. Peter Shumlin smooshing former state Sen. Randy Brock by a 60-26 margin; last time, Shumlin led 60-27. When we first launched our 2012 governors race ratings, we slotted the Green Mountain State in at "Likely D" out of an abundance of caution—the only poll we had at the time was a PPP survey which featured Shumlin at 51%. He's also in his first (two-year) term and won very narrowly in 2010, so we thought we'd play it safe. But it looks like there's really just no way Brock will be competitive, so we're moving the race to Safe D.

House:

AZ-06: The dreaded Ophthalmologists have come in with a spot of last-minute help for GOP Rep. Dave Schweikert, spending $18K on mail on his behalf just ahead of Tuesday's primary.

FL-18: Democrat Patrick Murphy has a bunch of kids recite some of Allen West's most infamous remarks verbatim as though they were schoolyard taunts—which is pretty much exactly what they are. Says Murphy: "Bullying and name-calling has no place in the playground—or in Congress," and one of his little helpers tells West: "You need a time out!" That's a good start, but I vote for expulsion.

MI-01: The DCCC is out with a second ad targeting GOP freshman Dan Benishek, hitting the same theme as the first, Medicare. The buy is for a reported $51K.

NC-02: Here's a poll from an off-the-radar district, North Carolina's 2nd, home to GOP freshman Renee Ellmers. Ellmers was one of the most unexpected pieces of flotsam washed in with 2010's red tide, but her fellow Republicans made sure to shore her up in redistricting, and the one guy who seemed like he could give her a stiff challenge—ex-Rep. Bob Etheridge, the man she beat last cycle—opted for a pointless gubernatorial bid instead. Instead, Democrats wound up with Iraq vet Steve Wilkins, who hasn't raised any money. But Wilkins did find enough cash to pay for PPP to go into the field, and they found Ellmers leading 44-28, since Wilkins of course is entirely unknown. Ellmers sports a pretty mediocre 29-26 job approval rating and re-elects of 32%. All that said, it's pretty hard to imagine this race becoming a priority for national Democrats.

NC-08: Dem Rep. Larry Kissell's dropped a new internal, from his usual pollster, Anzalone Liszt. He currently holds a somewhat underwhelming 43-39 lead over former congressional aide Richard Hudson, which is actually a good bit tighter than the 46-36 edge Kissell sported back in March. Given that most of the undecided voters in this now-rather-red district are likely GOP-leaning, 43% is kind of a concerning place to be. But Anzalone's memo repeats a point made when the prior poll came out, noting that because "only a narrow majority of the current district (55%) was represented by Kissell under the previous lines, he has more expansion potential than most incumbents would in a traditional election year." And Kissell has spent little on paid media. Still, this is going to be a very hard race.

NE-02: This is highly unusual, to say the least. Democrat John Ewing, waging an uphill battle against GOP Rep. Lee Terry, is touting a new internal poll he commissioned from, of all firms, We Ask America. I don't think I realized that WAA did work for hire, but the odd part, of course, is that they're a right-wing firm that's a subsidiary of the conservative Illinois Manufacturers' Association. On top of that, Ewing apparently leaked the results to Watchdog.org, a conservative media network. Anyhow, if you can get past all that, the numbers are surprisingly good for the challenger, finding him trailing Terry 46-40. Obama also trails Romney in the district 47-43, which is decently plausible, seeing as Obama famously beat McCain here 50-49.

NY-01: Even though he's already under assault on the airwaves by Dem Rep. Tim Bishop, Republican Randy Altschuler has decided to go positive with his first ad. Altschuler comes off as painfully stiff, which is probably why it's mostly narrated by his wife, who tries to paint him as a "self-made businessman."

NY-25: I like veteran Dem Rep. Louise Slaughter's new ad (her first of the cycle), which features footage of her speaking at a really earlier this month on the subject of fair trade and companies which send jobs overseas. Considering that she's 83 and just suffered a debilitating leg injury this past spring, I think she looks awesome and full of energy, especially since this ad wasn't filmed in a studio with perfect lighting and makeup and multiple takes. And of course, I love her wonderful Kentucky drawl, which you just never expect to hear out of a politician from upstate New York.

PA-06: This is definitely some amazing chutzpah: GOP Rep. Jim Gerlach is trying to brand his Democratic opponent, physician Manan Trivedi, as some kind of carpetbagger because—get this—Trivedi's home got moved out of the redrawn 6th District by Gerlach's fellow Republicans during redistricting! Indeed, Trivedi lived in the 6th when he first challenged Gerlach last cycle, then was conveniently moved just two miles outside the new lines in an obviously deliberate gimmick by the GOP. But of course Gerlach is acting like Trivedi's some kind of Dennis Kucinich running for Congress in Washington. Trivedi's camp is also incensed that Gerlach claimed the district is "foreign" to him; Trivedi, who is Indian-American, branded that phrase as racially coded rhetoric.

PA-12: The size of the buy on that new House Majority PAC ad attacking Republican Keith Rothfus: $98K.

TX-14: Ex-Rep. Nick Lampson's campaign has decided to trot out an old internal poll Anzalone Liszt conducted for them all the way back in May, before Texas even conducted is primaries. I'm guessing they sat on the numbers for as long as they did to avoid giving GOP primary voters a reason to vote against state Rep. Randy Weber, seeing as Lampson leads him by a 44-40 margin. Lampson also sports a 45-19 favorability rating thanks to his earlier service in Congress. Still, it will be a difficult climb to 50%+1 given that the district sits in what the memo itself acknowledges is the "expensive Houston media market."

Other Races:

VT-AG: Vermont's one of the few states left with primaries still outstanding, and the most competitive race you'll see this year in the solidly-blue state isn't in November but the Democratic AG primary. Long-time incumbent Bill Sorrell is facing a challenge from up-and-comer T.J. Donovan, the State's Attorney in Chittenden Co., Vermont's largest county. It seems to be a generational challenge more than an ideological one, but Sorrell seems to be surviving for now, leading 44-24 in the same Castleton poll that just hit VT-Gov. (One caveat: The MoE on the Dem primary portion is an outrageous 7%.) (David Jarman)

Grab Bag:

Arizona: A ballot measure that would move Arizona to a top-two primary system (like the one used in California and Washington) just got dinged by election officials because organizers failed to submit enough signatures. Supporters say they plan to sue to overturn the ruling.

Crossroads: Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS (hey, they're a charity, so remember them at Christmastime) is firing off a new $4.2 million salvo of campaign ads, targeting Democrats in four states: Florida (Bill Nelson, on Medicare), Montana (Jon Tester, on the debt), New Mexico (Martin Heinrich, on spending), and Ohio (Sherrod Brown, on healthcare and taxes). You can find all of the ads at the link, and here's a fact-check (PDF) from Tester.

Nevada: Well, whaddya know. Back in June, we mentioned a new lawsuit filed by Republicans seeking to eliminate the state's unusual "none of these candidates" option on the ballot. This choice (also known as "none of the above" or just "NOTA") was, by law, nothing more than a protest vote—even if NOTA wins a plurality or majority, those votes are simply discarded and the candidate with the next-highest total is declared the winner. Republicans sued, arguing that throwing out these votes constituted disenfranchisement.

Now a federal judge has agreed with the GOP, striking down NOTA for all elections in the state. Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat, says he will pursue an immediate appeal. For reasons that aren't quite clear (or at least, haven't been demonstrated in any empirical fashion), Republicans seem convinced that NOTA is more likely to hurt them than it is Democrats. Perhaps Nevada's home to a small group of cranky, conservative-leaning voters who can't resist the allure of pulling the NOTA lever but would instead vote Republican if denied that choice?

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by These Green Mountains and Daily Kos.

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