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• Fundraising: Daily Kos Elections is once again pleased to bring you our quarterly House fundraising roundup. Our latest list features 234 candidates running in 115 different districts. With Democrats feeling increasingly chuffed about their chances in the House next year, now's the time to dig deep into the numbers to see where the party's biggest opportunities—and vulnerabilities—are.
• KY-Sen: Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes just announcing that she raised an exceptional $2.5 million in her first fundraising quarter, but the GOP is trying to claim she fell far short of expectations. Fortunately, the Louisville Courier-Journal having none of it:
Republicans dismissed the idea, calling her fundraising "underwhelming," saying the Grimes campaign had set a goal of $7 million—a claim for which Republicans could offer no proof.
Seven million! Grimes' haul was nothing short of stellar, and she beat McConnell's $2.3 million take this quarter. But of course the likes of Brad Dayspring are trying to poormouth these numbers, though I guess they can delude themselves however they like. Back in reality, a Grimes spokesman says he believes it's the most a Democratic candidate has ever raised in a single quarter in Kentucky, and that it's the first time McConnell's ever been outraised. Try contradicting that.
There are also some other great gems from this piece, like the fact that McConnell has spent $16,000 on hotels in New York City (cue Pace Picante), and "at least $350,000 in food and catering bills in 20 states and the Virgin Islands." The Virgin Islands!
• MS-Sen: Longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran has yet to announce whether or not he'll seek a seventh term, but one ambitious primary opponent is running come hell or high water. State Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Republican who is allied with the local tea party, is set to announce his candidacy Thursday. McDaniel may have some backup from the Club for Growth, which has indicated that it has Cochran in its sights due to the many federal dollars he has brought home. However, McDaniel will still face a very uphill battle if he ends up facing the popular incumbent. (Darth Jeff)
• NC-Sen: Tea partying physician Greg Brannon hasn't attracted much attention in his run for the Republican nomination against Kay Hagan, but he just scored one potentially important endorsement. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who like Brannon was once the insurgent candidate left for dead, is supporting his fellow doctor. Brannon has to hope Paul will bring some of those (in)famous Paulist money bombs with him: He raised a pretty flimsy $155,000 in the latest quarter. (Darth Jeff)
• NJ-Sen: As expected, Newark Mayor Cory Booker won Wednesday's special election to fill the seat once held by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, defeating Republican Steve Lonegan. As we put the Digest to bed, Booker was up 55-43 with 78 percent of precincts reporting, right in line with most polls. Booker's victory will restore the Democratic majority in the Senate to 55 seats, since he'll replace appointed Republican Sen. Jeff Chiesa as soon he's sworn in.
• SD-Sen: On first read, Public Policy Polling's new look at the South Dakota Senate race gives some reasons for optimism in what most observers would consider to be the Dems' likeliest loss in the Senate next year. Ex-Gov. Mike Rounds leads probable Democratic nominee Rick Weiland 40-34, and Rounds is much less popular than he was in PPP's March poll, down to 42/40 favorable from a previous 51/34. (Weiland wasn't tested in the March poll, but Rounds led Stephanie Herseth Sandlin—who has since declined—by a similar margin, 49-44.)
There are a few caution flags, though: For starters, this isn't a sua sponte poll from PPP, but rather one on behalf of "People for Weiland." And that 6 percent margin is no doubt affected by the 11 percent that the Libertarian candidate, Kurt Evans is receiving. PPP does point out that the Libertarian racked up 7 percent in the Montana Senate race last year, so while 11 is probably out of the question, maybe something around 7 is possible, if the Dems take a page from their Montana playbook and have affiliate groups run ads touting the Libertarian.
Finally, despite how red South Dakota is, 34 percent is around where the Democratic floor is; in other words, it's where Generic D starts out, just by virtue of showing up. Other than, of course, the time Sen John Thune got 100 percent against nobody in 2008, no Democrat has done significantly worse than that in a major race in South Dakota. The lowest-water mark for any Dem in a Senate or gubernatorial race in the last 25 years was somebody named Bernie Hunhoff, who got 33 percent as Bill Janklow was earning his fourth term as governor in 1998. (David Jarman)
• Senate: Public Policy Polling reeled off six polls in six different Senate races on Wednesday, on behalf of Americans United for Change. The results are generally favorable to the Democrats; they tie in one race (Georgia) and lead in all the rest, although the Arkansas numbers aren't exactly confidence-inspiring, with incumbent Mark Pryor still only at 44. There's a named Democrat in each of the six races, but three of the races involve "Generic Republican" (in cases where there's a pile of candidates in the GOP primaries).
Arkansas: Mark Pryor (D-inc) 44, Tom Cotton (R) 41
Georgia: Michelle Nunn (D) 42, Generic Republican 42
Iowa: Bruce Braley (D) 45, Generic Republican 41
Louisiana: Mary Landrieu (D-inc) 48, Bill Cassidy (R) 41
Michigan: Gary Peters (D) 43, Terri Lynn Land (R) 36
North Carolina: Kay Hagan (D-inc) 47, Generic Republican 42
These are, at their core, message-testing polls though, and they also gauged the responses after informing respondents either that the Democrat had opposed the shutdown or the Republican had supported the shutdown. As with PPP's round of House polls for MoveOn, the results usually move perceptibly in the Dem direction afterwards... though not at all in Arkansas. There was also perhaps less of a shift, on average, than in the House polls, probably because senators tend to be more of a known quantity than representatives. Here are the informed ballot versions:
Arkansas: Mark Pryor (D-inc) 45, Tom Cotton (R) 42 (old margin 3, new margin 3, change 0)
Georgia : Michelle Nunn (D) 48, Generic R 42 (old margin 0, new margin 6, change +6)
Iowa: Bruce Braley (D) 46, Generic R 39 (old margin 4, new margin 7, change +3)
Louisiana: Mary Landrieu (D-inc) 52, Bill Cassidy (R) 42 (old margin 7, new margin 10, change +3)
Michigan: Gary Peters (D) 50, Terri Lynn Land (R) 36 (old margin 7, new margin 14, change +7)
North Carolina: Kay Hagan (D-inc) 49, Generic R 41 (old margin 5, new margin 8, change +3)
Three other more troublesome seats (Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia) aren't covered, and neither are one other tough defense (Alaska) and the other Dem pickup opportunity (Kentucky), though PPP did conduct a separate poll of South Dakota. And they did cover more than half of the Senate battlefield, finding that regardless of what happens in those other states, the GOP isn't in position to pick up the six seats that would flip the Senate, even before accounting for the damage the shutdown will do to their brand. (David Jarman)
• AK-Gov: Things are at least somewhat clearer on the Democratic side of the Alaska gubernatorial race: state Sen. Hollis French, who had previously floated his name for the top job, has decided to run for the Lt. Governor slot instead. French gave his backing for the gubernatorial slot to Byron Mallott (a former mayor of Juneau, but more prominently, a former head of the Alaska Permanent Fund), who had committed to running last month and officially kicked his campaign off on Wednesday. Things aren't completely settled yet, though; state Sen. Bill Wielechowski has been exploring the gubernatorial race and hasn't said yes or no yet. (David Jarman)
• FL-Gov: Usually you don't leak an internal poll that has your preferred candidate losing—especially when it's the incumbent—but there may be some method to the Florida Chamber of Commerce's madness here. They're trying to build on the perception that Gov. Rick Scott is "closing the gap" in his likely 2014 match with ex-Gov. Charlie Crist, following a surprisingly close result from University of North Florida last week. That survey gave Crist a 4-point lead, unlike most of the previous polls of this matchup, which have had Crist up in the low teens. And now the local Chamber follows that with a poll from Cherry Communications showing Crist leading Scott 46-41 (or, if you prefer, Scott leading state Sen. Nan Rich 40-29). (David Jarman)
• MA-Gov: It looks like the crowded field for Democratic nomination won't be getting much bigger. Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, one of the few candidates left mulling a run, has announced he isn't getting in the race. (Darth Jeff)
• MD-Gov: Delegate Heather Mizeur has picked up an unusual endorsement from an unusual guy. Mizeur, who is facing Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler in the race for the Democratic nomination, announced the support of six past and present Eastern Shore officeholders and one of them is Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest. Gilchrest served in the House until 2009 and was frequently a thorn in the Bush administration's side, serving as one of most vocal Republican opponents of the Iraq War in his final term. Gilchrest has backed Democrats before, though, so while his endorsement of Mizeur is still attention grabbing, it isn't completely unprecedented. (Darth Jeff)
• NM-Gov: It's been a long time (not since April, when he said he was "considering") that we heard a peep from state Sen. Howie Morales about the New Mexico gubernatorial race, but now suddenly he's jumping in. The youngish Morales has represented the rural southwestern part of the state since 2008, and he probably starts at a major name-rec disadvantage against AG Gary King in the fight for the Dem nod. But maybe King's surprisingly weak fundraising numbers are giving Morales some incentive to try. (David Jarman)
• RI-Gov: The race for the Democratic nomination in the Ocean State has long looked like a two-way fight between Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and state Treasurer Gina Raimondo (though neither has actually entered). But here's an interesting new name considering the race. Clay Pell, an Obama administration Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Foreign Language Education, is reportedly looking at this more powerful position with a much shorter title.
Pell would likely start out with little name recognition but he has a valuable last name: He is the grandson of the late Democratic Senator Claiborne Pell (whom Pell grants are named for), as well as the husband of Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan. (Darth Jeff)
• AL-01: Even though tea partying businessman Dean Young has loudly touted his support of the NRA in the GOP runoff, the NRA is giving its support to ex-state Sen. Bradley Byrne, citing his voting record in the legislature. Also this week, state Rep. Chad Fincher, the third-place finisher in the primary, endorsed Byrne as well. The runoff is Nov. 5.
• FL-13: A new survey from St. Pete Polls brings some very good news for former state Chief Financial Officer and 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink as she considers the race. Sink easily defeats 2012 nominee Jessica Ehrlich 63 to 20 in the Democratic primary and has little trouble beating former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker 51 to 34 in a general election in this swing seat. A hypothetical Ehrlich-Baker race would start out far closer: Baker leads 35 to 31. Baker, the clear pick for Republican primary voters, has not declared his intentions, though Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times sees him as unlikely to run here. (Darth Jeff)
• ID-02: Attorney Bryan Smith's quest to unseat Republican incumbent Mike Simpson in the primary is picking up some new support, as he just earned the endorsements of four state legislators. However, it would be a mistake to view this as a sign that Republican power brokers are beginning to side with Smith against the veteran Simpson: Two of those endorsements come from legislators who are described as "anti-establishment." (Darth Jeff)
• KS-02: Margie Wakefield, the Douglas County Democratic Party chair and a former Congressional aide, has released an Anzalone Liszt Grove internal poll arguing that she has a path to victory against Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins. The poll initially has Jenkins up 49 to 39, but gives Jenkins a slightly negative job approval rating at 44 to 46. Once the equivalent of "one television ad's worth of information from each campaign" is read, Wakefield's deficit is cut to 49-43. While Wakefield managed to raise $110,000 this quarter, this central Kanas district remains a very tough lift for Wakefield or any Democrat, seeing as Romney won 55-42. (Darth Jeff)
• MA-05: State Sen. Katherine Clark won the special Democratic primary on Tuesday to replace now-Sen. Ed Markey, who himself was elected in a special election in June. Clark received 32 percent of the vote, outpolling Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, who received 22 percent. State Rep. Carl Sciortino and state Sens. Will Brownsberger and Karen Spilka followed, in that order, with 16 percent, 15 percent, and 13 percent respectively.
Each candidate did well among his/her own constituents: Clark did particularly well in the four towns north of Boston overlapping her state Senate district, polling 67 percent of the vote there (including a 79 percent showing in her hometown of Melrose). Spilka also polled 67 percent among her constituents (getting 85 percent in her hometown of Ashland), but her four overlapping towns were ultimately a smaller part of the electorate.
Koutoujian received 74 percent in his hometown of Waltham, while Brownsberger pulled in 66 percent in his hometown of Belmont. Sciortino did win his hometown of Medford (with 47 percent), but was also buoyed by strong second-place showings in many areas, including Cambridge. You can get a sense of how things played out in this town-by-town map we created showing each candidate's performance (and that of the second-place finisher in the inset):
Clark goes on to face nominal Republican opposition in the special general on December 10th, and is heavily favored in strongly heavily Democratic district: MA-05 gave Markey 65 percent in the 2013 Senate special and went 65-32 for President Obama and 59-41 Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2012. A Clark victory in December would set up the third (!) in a string of special elections (for her own seat), first triggered by President Obama's appointment of then-Sen. John Kerry as secretary of state. (jeffmd)
• MI-11: The good news: Democrats may have a credible candidate against accidental Congressman Kerry Bentivolio. Jocelyn Benson, the interim head of Wayne State University Law School and the party's 2010 nominee for secretary of state, told attendees at a House Democratic Caucus meeting that she's considering a run in the 11th. Romney won this district 52-47, but given Bentivolio's long history of odd behavior and poor fundraising, he could be very vulnerable to defeat in the general election.
The bad news: Bentivolio's far from guaranteed to be the Republican nominee. While he recently picked up some support from five state party vice-chairmen and one of the state's Republican National Committeemen, his primary opponent Dave Trott has something that's probably a lot more valuable: a shit-ton of money. Aided by a $208,000 personal donation, Trott out-raised Bentivolio in the third quarter by an insane $648,000 to $59,000, a ratio of almost eleven to one. A Trott-Benson race could very well be competitive but Democratic hopes for a Bentivolio primary victory are looking less and less likely. (Darth Jeff)
• FL State House: On Tuesday night, Democrats scored a big win in central Florida, picking up a GOP-held seat in a special election for the state House. Democrat Amanda Murphy scored a narrow 51-49 win over Republican Bill Gunter in the 36th House District, even though she was heavily outraised. What's more, the state Republican Party spent over $250,000 to hold this seat (far more than the Dems did), but couldn't keep it in their column.
Murphy benefitted from an unusual cross-party endorsement from Republican ex-Rep. Mike Fasano, whose appointment to a county-wide post prompted this special election in the first place, and who was furious at a misleading attempt by Gunter allies to make it seem as though he'd endorsed him. This was also the first partisan election in the country following the federal government shutdown; while it's not certain whether that played a role, it couldn't have helped Republicans.
Democrats are now up to 45 seats in the House, though they remain in a big hole, with the GOP still controlling 75. But another positive sign for Democrats is that Barack Obama carried this seat 52-47 last year, so despite running in an October special in an odd-numbered year, Murphy was barely off the president's pace. It'll be a long slog back to the majority, but Murphy gives her party a good place to start.