Want the scoop on hot races around the country? Get the digest emailed to you each weekday morning. Sign up here
• MT-Sen: Democrats pulled a major rabbit out of their recruitment hat with Lt. Gov. John Walsh's announcement on Thursday that he'd run for Montana's open Senate seat next year. Just about every top tier Dem had opted against a bid, leaving the party with few options, but the DSCC kept courting Walsh amidst these setbacks, and now they've got their man.
Walsh brings some big positives to the race. He was adjutant general of the Montana National Guard and commanded a combat battalion in Iraq (which he discusses in his welcome video), earning a bronze star. It's a great bio, and it also means he doesn't have a long voting record (like, say, retiring Sen. Max Baucus) his opponents can use against him. On the other hand, Walsh has never run for office on his own before—he was narrowly elected lieutenant governor on a ticket with now-Gov. Steve Bullock last year—so he'll get tested this time in a way he hasn't been before.
Republicans still lack a candidate, though most observers seem to expect that freshman Rep. Steve Daines will get in, and Democrats have ramped up their attacks on him while also recruiting a credible candidate for his House seat. However, most folks also thought that ex-Gov. Brian Schweitzer would definitely run for the Democrats, so we'll see. Whether or not Daines enters, this will be a challenging hold for Team Blue just thanks to Montana's Republican-leaning demographics, but Walsh gives Democrats a real chance of keeping this seat.
: Mike Rounds
(R): $600,000 raised
• MA-Gov: Juliette Kayyem (D): $88,000 raised (Sept.), $220,000 cash-on-hand
• LA-05: Jay Morris (R): $271,000 raised (plus $296,000 personal loan), $188,000 cash-on-hand
• NY-01: George Demos (R): $0 raised (plus $1,000,000 personal loan), $1,000,000 cash-on-hand (that is definitely one of the strangest fundraising summaries I've ever written up)
Also note that fundraising reports in the MA-05 Democratic primary were due at midnight on Thursday night (assuming no one takes advantage of the government shutdown to avoid filing). We'll have a full roundup of those numbers in the next Digest.
• FL-Sen: PPP has some very early numbers on the 2016 Senate race in Florida, finding GOP Sen. Marco Rubio with small leads over two potential Democratic opponents. He'd lead former state CFO Alex Sink 45-42 and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz 46-43, though neither strike me as likely Senate candidates. If ex-Rep. Allen West were to emerge as the Republican nominee, Sink and West would beat him 44-38 and 44-40 respectively.
A little more immediately, Florida Democrats have a healthy 48-42 lead on the generic congressional ballot heading into next year. Given the state's Republican gerrymander, there aren't a lot of targets, though Dems are making a play for FL-02, where Gwen Graham is challenging Rep. Steve Southerland. They could also try going after Rep. Daniel Webster again in FL-10, and Rep. Bill Young's FL-13 would be competitive if he retires. But that 6-point edge is definitely good news for Democratic Reps. Patrick Murphy and Joe Garcia, who will face tough re-election campaigns.
• TX-Gov: As expected, Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, who became a national progressive icon with her filibuster earlier this year of a Republican measure to restrict abortion access, formally announced her campaign for governor of Texas at a rally on Thursday evening. Davis will likely face state Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is the favorite for the GOP nomination following Gov. Rick Perry's decision not to run for re-election. Given Texas' decided Republican lean, Davis will have a very tough fight on her hands, but she's the strongest possible Democratic recruit and gives her party a chance where it had none before.
• VA-Gov: Terry McAuliffe's newest ad tries to link Ken Cuccinelli to the federal government shutdown instigated by his fellow Republicans in Washington, D.C.—a potent issue in Virginia, given the large number of furloughed government workers. The spot features a TV talking head who explains that Cuccinelli "is supposed to campaign at some point with Ted Cruz" who is "seen as an architect of what's happening in the House," then finishes with a clip of Cuccinelli himself saying "I'd have gone right over the brink" with regard to fight in the legislature over a tax increase in 2004.
• AZ-01: State House Speaker Andy Tobin, who first said he was looking at a bid for Congress just a couple of weeks ago, made it official on Thursday. Tobin joins two other Republicans looking to unseat Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, state Rep. Adam Kwasman and wealthy rancher Gary Kiehne.
• MO-08: Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who had been considering a primary challenge to Rep. Jason Smith, is moving ahead and forming an exploratory committee. Kinder, as you'll recall, was snubbed by local GOP officials, who tapped Smith to run in the special election earlier this year triggered by Jo Ann Emerson's resignation.
One intriguing side-note is that if Kinder is successful, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon would potentially be able to appoint a Democrat to replace him (the law's a bit unclear). That's a possibility Smith immediately cited upon hearing the news, saying that Kinder has often spoken about "the importance of party unity." Smith seems a little shell-shocked, calling Kinder "a friend" and saying "Friends just don't run against friends." The fear makes sense, though: In a primary, as opposed to a proverbial back room, he might just get rocked by the better-known lieutenant governor.
• NC-03: Rep. Walter Jones is one of the oddest ducks in a GOP caucus full of strange waterfowl, but not for the usual reasons. For a very long time, he's been an outspoken apostate when it comes to certain conservative dogmas, particularly with regard to foreign policy. (Jones led the embarrassing drive to get the House cafeteria to rename french fries "freedom fries," but later became a major critic of the Iraq War.) As you'd expect, Jones has earned the enmity of many fellow party members, and three consecutive primary challenges, too, but all have fallen short.
Now Jones has landed a fourth straight primary opponent, former George W. Bush aide and political consultant Taylor Griffin. Griffin seems like he might be better connected than most of the other Republicans who've gone up against Jones in the past, but he's never run for office before and has a lot to prove. And for all his public dissents from the party line, Jones seems to have found a workable modus vivendi with his constituents, winning his last two primaries with 77 and 69 percent of the vote, after a 59-41 near-scare in 2008.
• PA-09: Last week, we posited that the primary challenge to Republican Rep. Bill Shuster—an old-school appropriator known for his love of highways—might be one of this cycle's most viable threats to a House GOPer from the right. However, if a new poll from Republican firm Harper Polling is correct, there's not much for the incumbent to worry about, at least for now. Shuster leads his two tea-flavored opponents, Art Halvorson and Travis Schooley, 63-11-5. If anything, familiarity seems to trump ideology here: Although 57 percent of the respondents described themselves as tea partiers, Shuster still has 60/24 favorables among them (better, in fact, than his 54/26 faves among the whole sample). (David Jarman)
• Boston Mayor: As the race to become the new mayor-for-life of Boston enters its final month, we have our first general election poll. The survey, conducted by Anderson Robbins on behalf of city Councilor John Connolly, shows Connolly leading fellow Democrat and state Rep. Marty Walsh 44-32, with 22 percent undecided. It's a very good bet we'll have soon have some independent surveys to confirm whether or not Connolly really is the front-runner. (Darth Jeff)
• Brooklyn DA: Ah, a scumbag to the last. Despite repeatedly saying he would not "actively campaign" on the Republican and Conservative Party lines his historic defeat in last month's Democratic primary, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has done an about-face and will re-launch his re-election effort against Democrat Kenneth Thompson, the man who beat him. Has the corrupt Hynes seen polling that actually shows him with a chance? Or is he just a bitter old pol who can't let go? It sure feels like the latter. With Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio, a Brooklyn native, absolutely wrecking shop at the top of the ticket, it's hard to imagine Hynes getting a lot of crossover votes. I guess we'll just have to kick him to the curb one more time.
• IA State Senate: A long-running investigation by the Iowa legislature into state Sen. Kent Sorenson's involvement with Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign has ended with a bang. Following the release of a 566-page report that concluded there was "probable cause" Sorenson violated Senate ethics rules by taking money from a Bachmann PAC, and that he may have committed a felony by denying he received such payments, Sorenson resigned his post. State and local prosecutors say they're looking into the possibility of criminal charges.
Sorenson's resignation will trigger a special election, and according to Bleeding Heartland, Gov. Terry Branstad has five days to schedule one. Whoever wins will be up for re-election next year as well. Given how toxic Sorenson had become, Democrats may have been better off facing him than someone new. But the race to replace him could be competitive, though, since according to Daily Kos Elections' calculations, Sorenson's 13th District went narrowly for Mitt Romney, 51-47.
• NYC Mayor: Greetings, comrades! Due to an unprecedented increase in output from our communal farms and state-run factories, I am pleased to report that General Secretary Bill de Blasiovich has improved his standing in the latest report from the People's University of Quinnipiac and now leads capitalist imperialist revanchist stooge Joe Lhota 71-21. That is up from 66-25 two weeks ago! We shall continue to dominate our bourgeoisie counter-revolutionary oppressors until it is 100 to zero! In solidarity—Comrade Nir, Supreme Soviet.
P.S. Both de Blasio and Lhota are out with their first ads of the general election. De Blasio's features an uplifting clip of him speaking at his victory party the night of the primary. Lhota's, heh, well, you should check it out—it amused me, anyway. The narrator explains how the two candidates supposedly have identical views on abortion, same-sex marriage, and marijuana decriminalization, but "the difference" is that "de Blasio wants to raise taxes and supports reckless government spending." No mention of the next glorious five-year plan, though.
• Republicans: There have been several scientific studies in recent years chalking up differences between liberals and conservatives to, at least in part, differences in brain chemistry. In short, conservatives tend to have more fear-driven personalities and more binary responses to perceived threats. Knowing that such a correlation exists in laboratory settings is helpful, but how does that relate to today's political reality?
Democracy Corps (via Greenberg Quinlan Rosner) has released some fascinating new qualitative research that offers a deep dive into the Republican brain. While they don't explicitly draw the link to the more rigorous studies on conservatism and fear, much of what they elicited via focus group is, in a word, about fear... fear of the Other, fear of losing the privilege that they've previously taken for granted, fear of losing ground. (If nothing else, check out the word cloud on page 1 of the memo.)
Understand that the base thinks they are losing politically and losing control of the country—and their starting reaction is "worried," "discouraged," "scared," and "concerned" about the direction of the country—and a little powerless to change course. They think Obama has imposed his agenda, while Republicans in DC let him get away with it.
Understanding this mindset is crucial to understanding how we've gotten to the situation we're in, with the shutdown over the ACA and the debt limit stalemate. Much as the Republican leadership has painted itself into its own policy corner, the base that's driving them feels equally cornered. They've connected dots between accelerating demographic change and what they believe are increased government benefits for persons unlike them. Obamacare therefore becomes, for them, the crux of the existential threat to the country they know, and has to be stopped at literally any cost.
Republicans shutdown the government to defund or delay Obamacare. This goes to the heart of Republican base thinking about the essential political battle. They think they face a victorious Democratic Party that is intent on expanding government to increase dependency and therefore electoral support. It starts with food stamps and unemployment benefits; expands further if you legalize the illegals; but insuring the uninsured dramatically grows those dependent on government. They believe this is an electoral strategy—not just a political ideology or economic philosophy. If Obamacare happens, the Republican Party may be lost, in their view.
And while few explicitly talk about Obama in racial terms, the base supporters are very conscious of being white in a country with growing minorities. Their party is losing to a Democratic Party of big government whose goal is to expand programs that mainly benefit minorities. Race remains very much alive in the politics of the Republican Party.
There's a lot of nuance to the study that can't be easily summarized; for instance, it broke its focus groups (performed in Roanoke and Colorado Springs) into party's three legs: the evangelicals, the Tea Partiers, and the "moderates," and it delves into what exactly it is that each of these groups fears. But it's fascinating to see the GOP base's deep motivations articulated by the participants—and in an unguarded fashion, rather than, say, typical comment-section bluster—and well worth the full read. (David Jarman)
• Shutdown: Nate Cohn takes a look at the ideologies and district demographics of the Republicans who've gone on record saying they'd support a "clean" continuing resolution to re-open the federal government. As you'd expect, most sit in swingy districts, and most are toward the more moderate end of the GOP caucus (though as always, that doesn't mean they're actually "moderates").
Since Cohn's post, the Huffington Post's Jennifer Bendery has added several more Republicans to her whip count. Of the 21 on her list as of Thursday afternoon, I see that only six belong to the ultra-conservative Republican Study Committee, which was once a fringe organization but now boasts 75 percent of the GOP caucus as members. And three of the RSC members who are now (partially) dissenting from the party line are from federal worker-heavy Virginia.