Democrat Martha Coakley
• MA-Gov: On Thursday, SocialSphere released the latest in their series of tracking polls for the Boston Globe, and Democrats got a headline they hoped they'd never see again: Martha Coakley is losing. SocialSphere finds Republican Charlie Baker leading Coakley 40-38 in the gubernatorial contest, a five-point swing in Team Red's direction from a week before.
Coakley had lost a 2010 Senate special election to Republican Scott Brown and there have been real fears that she was too weak to defeat Baker, and this new poll seems to verify them. A recent Rasmussen poll also shows the race deadlocked at 42-42. Rasmussen has a well-deserved reputation for being an erratic (or just downright awful) pollster, but they seem to confirm that we are in for a close contest. While Massachusetts is a very blue state it has been willing to elect Republican governors, so it's far from unreasonable to imagine Baker winning.
But wait! Only a few days ago, MassInc, on behalf of WBUR, released very different results. They find Coakley up 46-36, indicating that this is her race to lose. A week before, while SocialSphere was showing Coakley up by three points, MassInc found her leading by nine. It's hard to say which pollster is closer to the truth right now, but it's clear they are seeing very different types of electorates. One telling statistic: SocialSphere gives Coakley a weak 46-44 favorable rating while MassInc sees her at 51-30. There is more of a consensus when it came to Baker. SocialSphere gives him a healthy 51-24 rating, compared to MassInc's 42-24.
However, on Friday a different MassInc poll cast Coakley's lead into doubt. The group surveyed the 6th Congressional district, which includes Salem, Newburyport, and Lynn in the northeastern corner of the state. They find Baker leading 47-34 in the district, a troubling sign for Coakley. In 2012 Scott Brown beat Elizabeth Warren 54-46 in this district as he was losing 54-46 statewide: It's pretty much impossible to believe that Baker can be winning this seat by 13 points at the same time he's losing by 10 points statewide. MassInc has Democrat Seth Moulton leading his Republican rival by a realistic 47-39 margin in the district (see our MA-06 item), so it doesn't look like this poll dramatically oversampled Republicans.
So is Coakley easily winning, or is she in for a real fight against Baker? Unfortunately, we just don't know right now. Republicans are certainly acting like they have a chance here though. The GOP has invested millions in CommonWealth Future PAC, a group that has been running a series of pro-Baker and anti-Coakley ads. National Democrats so far haven't spent any serious money into this very expensive state, which may indicate that they think Coakley's doing fine.
Right now there's a lot of uncertainty about where this race stands and these recent polls don't make things any clearer. Assuming the polls don't start to converge, the biggest thing to watch in the next few weeks is whether Republicans continue to invest here and if Democrats continue to hold their fire. If Team Blue is willing to commit resources here, that will be the surest sign that we have a real race on our hands.
• AK-Sen: Democratic Sen. Mark Begich has trailed in several recent polls, and on Thursday pollster Marc Hellenthal gave him another deficit. Hellenthal finds Republican Dan Sullivan leading 46-42, with Libertarian Mark Fish taking 7. Weirdly this poll was in the field Sept. 12-24, which is quite a long time: Hellenthal apparently only surveyed 400 voters during that period.
We only have one poll from Hellenthal in our pollster database. In late October of 2010 he found Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign beating Republican nominee Joe Miller 44-29, with Democrat Scott McAdams taking 23. Murkowski ended up winning by a much closer 39-35, with McAdams still at 23. To be fair, a lot of pollsters got this race wrong in one direction or the other.
• AR-Sen: Rasmussen: Tom Cotton (R) 47, Mark Pryor (D-inc) 40 (August Pryor 44-43).
• KS-Sen: It's been almost two months after the Republican primary ended, and tea partier Milton Wolf still refuses to throw his support behind Sen. Pat Roberts'. On Thursday, rumors broke that Wolf was even planning to meet with independent Greg Orman about a possible endorsement. However, whatever negotiations were underway appear to have ended: On Friday, Wolf tweeted that he wouldn't be backing anyone.
• OR-Sen, Gov: Polls in Alaska and Colorado may have taken a wrong turn in the last few weeks, but here's one western state that, much as it did in 2010, seems pretty immune to national trends. SurveyUSA's latest poll, on behalf of KATU-TV, has double-digit leads for both Democratic incumbents. Jeff Merkley leads GOP challenger Monica Wehby by 20 points, 52-32, despite continued half-hearted attempts by GOP outside groups to get this race on the map; that's barely changed from SUSA's early August poll, which had it at 52-33.
Gubernatorial challenger Dennis Richardson is more conservative than Wehby but also less prone to allegedly stalking people; he trails Dem incumbent John Kitzhaber by a slightly closer 50-38 (again, barely changed from 48-36 in August). The only close race on the horizon in Oregon is Measure 91, for the legalization of recreational marijuana. This is passing 44-40; that might seem a low margin based on popular perceptions of Oregon, but bear in mind that a marijuana legalization measure did fail in Oregon in 2012 (though that one was poorly funded and even more poorly organized). Measure 92, to require labeling of genetically modified food, is passing more easily, 53-21 (although bear in mind that in neighboring Washington in 2012, a similar measure was passing easily in the polls until late in the game, when an anti-label ad blitz changed the trajectory).
• VA-Sen: Recent PPP surveys have brought bad news for Democratic Sens. Mark Begich, Mark Pryor, and Mark Udall, but there was one last Mark to check in on. Luckily, they find much better news for Sen. Mark Warner in the Old Dominion. Warner leads Republican Ed Gillespie 48-35, about the same margin PPP found in April. A recent Qunnipiac Poll found Warner up 48-39. PPP gives Warner a 49-40 approval rating, a lot smaller than you'd expect from the guy who, aside from former Republican Sen. John Warner, is probably the commonwealth's most popular living politician. However, Gillespie isn't exactly Mr. Popularity himself, sporting a 29-37 favorable rating. Qunnipiac found both men much better-liked than PPP did.
A few years ago, Republicans dreamed that then-Gov. Bob McDonnell would challenge Warner and give the senator a real fight. However, real life intervened: McDonnell's final year as governor was overshadowed by a corruption investigation, and he was recently found guilty in court. Throughout it all, McDonnell was able to stay remarkably popular but according to PPP those days are long over. Post-conviction, McDonnell posts a 23-47 favorable rating. While a few politicians have been able to wage serious campaigns after leaving prison (Buddy Cianci in Rhode Island for instance) it does not look like McDonnell will be one of them.
• NM-Gov: Rasmussen: Susana Martinez (R-Inc) 53, Gary King (D) 37 (July 43-43 tie).
• NY-Gov: Siena checks in with their home state and finds Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo leading Republican Rob Astorino 56-27, with Green Howie Hawkins at 7.
More interestingly, Siena finds Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman leading Republican John Cahill 50-34. Republicans had some early hopes that Cahill, who served as chief of staff to former Republican Gov. George Pataki, could beat the fairly anonymous Schneiderman. However, it looks like the incumbent and frequent Cuomo rival will be fine. Siena also has Democratic Comptroller Tom DiNapoli up 56-27.
• PA-Gov: Seems like every small private college in Pennsylvania has to have its own polling operation now (and, perhaps following the lead of Franklin & Marshall, one that doesn't believe in pushing its leaners very hard). Mercyhurst University is the latest entrant to the scene, and their first poll of this cycle finds Democrat Tom Wolf leading GOP incumbent Tom Corbett 43-28. The margin is pretty typical (the average margin in the 6 previous PA-Gov polls released in September, including two from GOP pollsters, is 16), but the topline numbers for both candidates are oddly low for this stage in the game.
• AR-02: Democrats are mostly on the defensive in Arkansas, but they may have the chance to retake the open Little Rock-area 2nd District. A new poll from Global Strategy Group for Democrat Patrick Henry Hayes finds him leading Republican French Hill 44-41. Romney won this seat 55-43 but both parties have been spending real money here. Hayes started out the race with some good name recognition from his time as mayor of North Little Rock, and he has been raising money well. We recently took a look at GSG's track record and found that they were one of the more accurate partisan pollsters.
GSG also asked about the U.S. Senate contest in this district, and found Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor leading Republican Tom Cotton 51-42 here. In 2012 this seat was about 12 points to the left of the state as a whole, so a 9-point lead for Pryor may not be enough to win statewide. However, it's unlikely that there will be a uniform swing from Obama to Pryor, and he may be able to make up ground in other parts of the state.
• CA-52, MA-06, OR-Sen: As Laura Clawson described (and as BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner first reported), a gaggle of social conservative groups are working to actively sabotage three potential Republican pickups. The National Organization for Marriage, Family Research Council, and CitizenLink are all urging voters to refrain from casting votes for Carl DeMaio, Richard Tisei, and Monica Wehby, in CA-52, MA-06, and OR-Sen respectively, for their gay rights and abortion positions. OR-Sen is pretty much a lost cause for the GOP anyway, and MA-06 is looking much less competitive since the primary, but this could still potentially be a difference-maker in a close CA-52 race.
If you look a little deeper, this isn't so much about what the candidates believe as who they actually are, though, which makes NOM's actions a little more transparent. Tisei and DeMaio, of course, are the only two openly gay Republican candidates running in competitive federal races this year; while Wehby is straight, she is, it's worth noting, a single mother (she also ran a spot explicitly in support of same-sex marriage). At any rate, it's nice to see that the Democrats don't have a monopoly on special interest groups who have no understanding of how majoritarian politics work in terms of getting your agenda passed (though this isn't even anything like unions or environmental groups giving token endorsements to moderate Republicans ... this is even dumber, more like if Planned Parenthood had urged people to punish Bob Casey for being personally pro-life in 2006 by sitting out the election where he was running against Rick Santorum!).
• MA-06: On behalf of WBUR, MassInc takes a look at this Salem-area seat and finds Democrat Seth Moulton leading Republican Richard Tisei 47-39. Two recent Democratic polls also showed Moulton easily winning.
Tisei came close to taking this Obama 55-44 seat in 2012, and Republicans hoped that he could once again put this race on the map. However, Tisei was planning to face Rep. John Tierney again, who nearly lost last time due to his wife's scandal. After Moulton beat Tierney in the mid-September primary this race looked a lot less tempting for the GOP, and this poll only confirms that impression. So far neither party has invested much here, and it looks very possible the Republicans will triage this contest in favor of better opportunities.
• ND-AL: Here's something we didn't expect to write: A new poll shows freshman Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer losing in North Dakota. On behalf of Democratic state Sen. George Sinner, the Mellman Group surveys this race and finds Sinner leading 40-38.
Cramer defeated a credible Democratic opponent in 2012 by 13 points even as Democrat Heidi Heitkamp was winning the Senate race, and he hasn't been on many target lists. While North Dakota has been willing to elect plenty of Democrats to Congress (for decades it had an all-Democratic delegation), it is still a conservative state, and Cramer doesn't appear to have done anything to alienate Republican voters.
However, Sinner is a credible candidate. For one thing, he's the son and namesake of former Gov. George Sinner, who served from 1985 to 1992. Sinner also won his state Senate seat 52-48 in 2012 as Romney was carrying it 52-46, indicating he has some crossover appeal. Sinner's fundraising has been good, with him out-raising Cramer in the last quarter.
Any internal poll needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but the Mellman Group has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the better pollsters out there. Mark Mellman was Heitkamp's pollster during the 2012 race and he saw a path to victory for her at a time when she looked like a real longshot. Mellman also was one of the very few pollsters to find Harry Reid winning in Nevada in 2010.
So far, neither national party nor any outside groups have invested any real money in North Dakota, indicating that both sides think that Cramer isn't in any danger. However, the Peace Garden State is not a particularly expensive place to advertise in, and it's a good bet that someone will go on the air here if they think Sinner has a chance. We'll definitely be taking a look here to see if Cramer releases any polls to indicate that he's safe or more importantly, if anyone starts to invest in this race.
• NY-18: Sean Patrick Maloney got two weird pieces of good news from the Republican side of the aisle on Friday: a poll from GOP-friendly pollster Gravis Marketing (on behalf of Human Events) found Maloney leading Republican ex-Rep. Nan Hayworth 46-40 in their rematch, and Maloney got an endorsement from what could have been a potential Republican opponent: retiring State Sen. Greg Ball.
I'd waggishly say that Maloney benefited from the Greg Ball Bump, but the timing obviously indicates the poll was in the field beforehand. Oddly, it's not even Gravis's first poll of the race; they found Hayworth leading 44-40 in July; instead, this poll is largely in line with Siena's poll last week of the race, which had Maloney leading 50-42. The Ball endorsement makes more sense when you consider that Ball and Hayworth have often been at odds in the past, and that the mercurially populist Ball (usually right-wing, sometimes moderate) tends to do whatever the local GOP establishment (of which Hayworth is a member) doesn't want.
• PA State Senate: Despite Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's horrific unpopularity, his party has a very good chance to hold their state Senate majorities. To win the chamber in 2014, Democrats need to not only hold two vulnerable seats, they'll also need to pick up three Republican districts (see our analysis for more). One of the Democrats' must-win seats is SD-40, a newly created Romney 50-49 district that includes much of the Lehigh valley.
The Republican group Harper Polling brings some very bad news for Team Blue here: They give Republican Mario Scavello a big 51-34 lead over Democrat Mark Aurand. Harper has Democrat Tom Wolf beating Corbett 49-40 in this district, which seems a little low given how badly Corbett is losing in most statewide polls, but not enough to explain Aurand's huge deficit. Hopefully Team Blue has some better numbers to show us, since there's really no reasonable path to a Senate majority this year without SD-40.
• Twitter: If you've been watching this year's primary results with us, either at our liveblogs or on our Twitter feed, you've probably seen us cite Ace of Spades HQ Decision Desk, aka AoSHQDD. On election nights it's frequently hard to get one single set of accurate data as the results come in: The Associated Press and various state election sites often have fewer votes than many of the county sites, creating a lot of confusion. AoSHQDD has been an awesome resource in helping us and fellow election-watchers sort through all of this: They've been contacting each county's board of elections and creating one single set of up-to-date results. They've also done a great job at accurately calling the winners, sometimes hours before the AP or local media.
AoSHQDD is the subject of a new BuzzFeed profile, which also features Daily Kos Elections' chief David Nir. Like DKE they do have a political preference (in this case they're on the conservative end of the spectrum) but like us they've worked hard to offer clear-eyed election reporting. We're definitely looking forward to following along with them this November and on election nights to come.
Ads & Independent Expenditures:
• AK-Sen: Crossroads GPS continues a recent Republican campaign to go after Democratic Sen. Mark Begich's tenure as mayor of Anchorage. Like previous pro-GOP ads, they accuse Begich of covering up how bad the city's finances were, and then leaving for Washington as things went south.
Meanwhile, while Begich couldn't get the endorsement of the NRA, he does have the NAR helping him. The National Association of Realtors spends another $611,000 on his behalf: As we've noted in the past, the NAR is one of the very few organizations that spends big for both parties.
• CO-Sen: Republican Cory Gardner hits Democratic Sen. Mark Udall's energy record.
• GA-Sen: The pro-Democratic group Georgians Together hits Republican David Perdue on wage discrimination.
Also for Team Blue, Democrat Michelle Nunn directly pushes back on a Perdue ad that tied her to terrorism, calling it shameful and a lie.
• IA-Sen: The DSCC ties Republican Joni Ernst to unpopular special interests.
• KS-Sen: The National Rifle Association has reserved $100,000 to help Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, and this is one group that's definitely capable of spending a lot more if need be. The American Chemistry Council also forks over $165,000 to aid Roberts.
• KY-Sen: Crossroads GPS spends another $163,000 for the GOP, while We Are Kentucky spends $100,000 for the Democrats.
• MI-Sen: The vaguely named B-Pac spends $290,000 against Democrat Gary Peters.
• NC-Sen: The DSCC continues to hit Republican Thom Tillis on Medicare cuts.
• VA-Sen: Virginia Progress resumes their offensive against Republican Ed Gillespie, spending $390,000 here.
• John Bolton SuperPAC: As he once again quietly flirts with the idea of running for president, former UN Ambassador John Bolton's group has new expenditures for GOP candidates in the Senate races in Arkansas, North Carolina, and New Hampshire.
• NRA: Various pro-GOP expenditures.
• NRSC: Various pro-GOP expenditures.
• Senate Majority PAC: Various pro-Democratic expenditures.
• CT-Gov: Connecticut Forward continues to portray Republican Tom Foley as a heartless rich guy.
• GA-Gov: Democrat Jason Carter hits Republican Gov. Nathan Deal over the state of the economy.
• MA-Gov: Republican Charlie Baker continues to stress his moderate credentials.
• MD-Gov: Republican Larry Hogan's spot features his daughter pushing back on Democratic ads portraying him as anti-women.
• MI-Gov: Republican Gov. Rick Snyder pushes back on Democratic ads accusing him of cutting education.
• CA-31: The Credit Union National Association spends $150,000 for Democrat Pete Aguilar.
• CA-52: Republican Carl DeMaio portrays himself as a consensus builder while accusing Democratic Rep. Scott Peters of being slippery. The DCCC also goes negative, hitting DeMaio on student loans.
• FL-02: The Environmental Defense Action Fund spends $137,000 against Republican Rep. Steve Southerland.
• FL-26: The NRCC has just reserved another $1.2 million here, bringing their total spending to $2.6 million for this Miami-area seat. The groups' new ad hits Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia over a corruption scandal that ensnared his chief-of-staff. Republican Carlos Curbelo also narrates a Spanish-language spot.
• GA-12: The NRCC continues to link Democratic Rep. John Barrow to national Democrats.
• KS-03: Well, this may be the ad of the year. Former Democratic state Sen. Kelly Kultala is taking on Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder in this Kansas City-area seat, and taking advantage of an incident Yoder hoped voters would forget.
Back in 2012 Yoder made news for swimming naked in the Sea of Galilee, an area that many Christians consider to be holy. Since Democrats didn't challenge Yoder that year he didn't have any problem winning re-election, but Kultala is hoping this time around will be different. Her spot references Yoder's adventure while featuring a pool full of naked people criticizing his voting record (all the actors' private parts are blurred out, so this ad is in fact safe for work).
Until now, this race hasn't been getting much attention. Romney won this district 54-44, making it the most Democratic district in the state. With Yoder's fellow Republicans, Gov. Sam Brownback and Sen. Pat Roberts, in real danger of losing re-election, this seat could very well be worth keeping an eye on. However, while Kultala is a credible candidate, she has struggled to raise money, and neither party has spent much here. We'll see if this kind of spot can help her get on the radar.
• NY-21: New York 2014 spends $110,000 against Democrat Aaron Woolf. Perhaps more interestingly, the name "New York 2014" was actually available for this group to use.
• NY-23: Democrat Martha Robertson hits Republican Rep. Tom Reed on Medicare and Social Security.
• House Majority PAC: Various pro-Democratic expenditures.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, with additional contributions from Jeff Singer, David Jarman, and Steve Singiser.