Republican Mike Rounds
• SD-Sen: Until recently, both parties believed that Republican Mike Rounds would easily take this seat. However, thanks to Rounds' overconfident campaign and lingering questions about his role in a scandal involving EB-5 visas, Rounds has looked weaker than expected against Democrat Rick Weiland and independent Larry Pressler, a former Republican senator.
On Friday, Rounds' allies at the NRSC announced they also would reserve $1 million, a huge sum for an inexpensive state like South Dakota. Rounds himself is significantly increasing his air presence, while the American Chemistry Council is also spending $250,000 on his behalf. All these moves come just after Weiland's allies began spending heavily here, with the DSCC and Larry Lessig's Mayday PAC each reserving $1 million.
It's very hard to say what might happen in this bizarre three-way contest. At the moment Pressler is polling very well, with a recent SurveyUSA poll even showing him in second place just three points behind Rounds. However, as Dreaminonempty argues in an important new essay, credible independent candidates introduce a considerable amount of error into the polls. Furthermore, we don't know what impact the DSCC and NRSC's ads will have here. Both parties see Pressler as a threat and plan to attack him, and he does not have the money to defend himself. Still, Rounds and Weiland will also take some serious blows on the air, and the well-known Pressler may be able to position himself as above the fray. But no matter how you slice it, a Rounds victory is suddenly looking a lot less likely than it once was. As a result, we're changing our race rating here from Likely Republican to Lean Republican.
However, Pressler's chances to pull off an upset may have gotten worse on Friday even before the ad blitzes began. Head over the fold to find out what happened.
No matter how many times we've seen this very familiar story before, there's always one person it matters for most: the candidate in question. So while it may feel like old news to you, the fact that Pressler has actually claimed Washington, DC, as his "principle residence" while running for Senate in South Dakota is certainly going to sting him.
In fact, by making that claim, Pressler and his wife earn a tax credit that reduces their property's value by over $70,000 before their property tax liability is computed. Nice tax break if you can get it! And Pressler easily can, since he admitted to Politico that he's lived in Washington ever since he lost his bid for re-election to the Senate in 1996, almost two decades ago. Pressler still insists he's remained a South Dakota voter, but that sure seems awkward when he's saying that Foggy Bottom is his "principle" residence.
So why doesn't Pressler own a home in what's supposedly his home state?
He said he is not "a rich man and cannot afford to buy more than one house."
Except, as Politico notes in the very next line, he's worth at least $847,000; median household net worth in the U.S. is $81,200
, so Pressler's 10 times richer than the average American. What's more, the median home price in South Dakota is $124,000
, less than a fifth of what Pressler paid for his fancy D.C. digs back in 2003 (property that's undoubtedly worth more now). Pressler also owns an apartment in Manhattan, which he purchased in 2008 for $655,000 after taking out a $200,000 mortgage. Doesn't exactly sound like he's wanting for cash.
It gets even more awkward from there. It's not quite clear where Pressler sets down his tenuous roots when he does visit South Dakota, though Politico says he "has stayed" in Humboldt, where he says he owns an "interest" in a family farm. But does he actually spend nights on the farm? Or is it too "rustic," like Dick Lugar's was? Perhaps he just rents out time in a neighbor's La-Z-Boy, like our good buddy Pat Roberts in Kansas?
Actually, Pressler admits, he rents an apartment in Sioux Falls, which he notes is close to the airport (!) and his campaign office. In other words, he has one foot out the door at all times. The next question for an enterprising reporter to ask: How many days has Pressler actually spent in South Dakota in the last two years? Whatever the answer, it won't look good.
Race Ratings: We've moved our ratings for 14 different races. Including the South Dakota Senate race (see our SD-Sen item), two contests move in the Democrats' direction, 11 move toward the GOP, while our final race is for a Republican vs. Republican general election. As always, you can check out all of our race ratings on our big board.
• AK-Sen, AR-Sen
(Tossup to Tossup/Tilt Republican): Democrats have fought bravely to hold these two incredibly difficult seats, but recent polling has been very unkind to both Marks Begich and Pryor. Our polls-only model, the Daily Kos Election Outlook
, currently gives each of them only a 20 percent chance at victory. We don't want to rely on the model too heavily, since the quality of so much polling is suspect, and things may not be quite as dire as they appear for these two Democratic incumbents. But both are now looking like underdogs.
• CO-Gov (Lean D to Tossup): Luck just doesn't seem to be with Colorado Democrats this cycle. Gov. John Hickenlooper had seemed to be faring better than his Senate counterpart, Mark Udall, and he'd certainly drawn a weaker opponent in ex-Rep. Bob Beauprez. But Beauprez has nevertheless closed the gap. Hickenlooper may pull it out thanks to his considerable fundraising advantage (and early ad reservations), but we're in tossup territory now.
• IL-Gov (Lean R to Tossup): Well, well, well. Look who's back from the dead: Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. Despite horrible approval ratings and a Republican opponent capable of spending limitless sums, Quinn's been on the rebound and the polls now show him neck and neck with Bruce Rauner. Why? Bruce Rauner. He's proven himself to be the worst kind of despisable vulture capitalist, sheltering money in the Caymans, outsourcing American jobs, and joining wine clubs with six-figure annual memberships.
When we moved this race to Lean R back in August, we said that Rauner "could still screw things up." That's exactly what he's done. Quinn's far from out of the woods, but Rauner's been running some over-the-top attack ads that suggest he still views Quinn as very much a threat. This race is turning out to be a lot more interesting than it once looked.
• SC-Gov (Lean R to Likely R): Democrat Vincent Sheheen was one of the big surprises of 2010, losing to Republican Nikki Haley in dark red South Carolina by just 4 points despite the huge GOP wave. But Sheheen needed Haley to stumble more than she has in order to close that seemingly small but nevertheless formidable gap, and it just hasn't happened. With better opportunities in other states, the DGA is largely looking elsewhere.
• IA-Gov (Likely R to Safe R): There was a brief moment earlier this year when GOP Gov. Terry Branstad, the longest-serving governor in American history, seemed to trip in the polls, thanks perhaps to some government hiring scandals he was linked to, and maybe to the fact that his tenure has just been so damn long. But whether it was real or just a blip, he's regularly polled over 50 percent for quite some time, and Democrat Jack Hatch just doesn't have any realistic shot.
• MI-08 (Lean Republican to Likely Republican): Democrats were elated when Republican Rep. Mike Rogers announced he wouldn't run again. Romney carried this Lansing area-seat 51-48, and with Rogers gone Democrats had their best shot here since he was elected. However, this contest has largely fallen off the radar. While Democrat Eric Schertzing released a poll in early September showing him down only 42-37 against Republican Mike Bishop, neither national party has spent any money here. To make matters worse, both House Majority PAC and the DCCC recently canceled the ad buys they had planned here, suggesting that they don't see this as an appealing target. This district is competitive enough that it's still worth keeping an eye on, but it doesn't look as promising for Team Blue as it once did.
• PA-06 (Lean Republican to Likely Republican): This is another light red open Republican seat that's drifted the GOP's way. Republicans got a good candidate in Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello, and national Democrats were not too enthusiastic to see 2010 and 2012 nominee Manan Trivedi make another bid. Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's implosion gave Democrats some hope that he could drag Costello down and maybe he still can. However, with both the DCCC and House Majority PAC canceling their ad reservations here, that doesn't look too likely.
• MA-09 (Safe Democratic to Likely Democratic): On Wednesday, the student-run Emerson College Polling Society released a poll showing Democratic Rep. Bill Keating losing to his little known Republican rival John Chapman 44-39. It would be easy to laugh off this poll except for a few telling signs. The Boston Globe recently reported that Keating is asking Democratic lobbying firms for help, while Republicans are looking at pouring resources in here. While Obama carried this Cape Cod area-seat 56-43, it has been willing to back Republicans down ballot. Scott Brown narrowly won this seat 51-49 against Elizabeth Warren, and Gabriel Gomez beat Ed Markey 53-46 here in the 2013 special Senate election. Keating is a tough candidate, winning a more conservative version of this district in 2010, and we expect him to prevail here. However, it's becoming clear that this contest isn't locked up for Team Blue.
• CO-03, OH-06 (Likely Republican to Safe Republican): Democrats held both these seats until the 2010 GOP wave and they had some hope that Abel Tapia and Jennifer Garrison respectively could get them back. However, neither party has spent any real money in either district and there's no sign that they will. Both seats are quite red and in a year where Democrats are on the defensive, these contests are being left by the wayside.
• NC-02 (Likely Republican to Safe Republican): This 57-41 Romney seat probably would never have gotten any attention at all if anyone other than American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken were running for the Democrats. While Aiken gives his party a candidate with built-in name recognition, he has struggled to raise money. This is also a very stubborn district: In 2012 when Democratic candidates for auditor and secretary of state were winning statewide by about 8 percent, they still fell short here. A recent SurveyUSA poll showed Aiken only trailing by 8, which gave Democrats a little hope. However, that sample also showed Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan tied in this district, which is very unrealistic given how Republican it is. If Aiken is still down 8 points in a poll that's almost certainly far too Democratic, it's safe to say he's down by a lot more in real life.
• CA-04 (Safe Republican to Safe Republican/ Likely McClintock): After winning his initial 2008 election in a nail-biter, Republican Rep. Tom McClintock had no trouble returning to Congress in this conservative Northern California seat. However, this year could be different. McClintock is locked in a general election fight with fellow Republican Art Moore, who has been appealing to the district's Democrats and independents. Romney won 58-40 here and while there aren't enough Democratic voters to elect one of their own, they could make a difference if Moore can also win enough Republicans and independents. As of the end of June Moore didn't have much money and McClintock still looks like the man to beat. However, the ardently conservative McClintock has done enough in his long career to alienate Democrats and even moderate Republicans, and an upset cannot be counted out.
• OR-Sen: Jeff Merkley (D-inc) $2.15 million raised, $1.38 million on hand
• CO-06: Andrew Romanoff (D) $1.1 million raised, $677,000 on hand; Mike Coffman (R-inc) $855,000 raised, $1.7 million on hand
• ME-02: Emily Cain (D) $670,000 raised
• AZ-Gov: On behalf of a conservative group called American Encore, The Polling Company finds Republican Doug Ducey leading Democrat Fred DuVal 46-37. There hasn't been much independent polling here but Ducey has constantly led by varying margins.
• MA-Gov: SocialSphere is out with their latest tracking poll on behalf of the Boston Globe and they find a big swing in the blue direction. Democrat Martha Coakley now leads Republican Charlie Baker 39-34, a big switch from Baker's 39-36 lead a week before.
An 8-point swing in only the space of a week is pretty hard to swallow. SocialSphere is hypothesizing that Baker is receiving some backlash over a recent ad run by his allies at Commonwealth Future PAC. The spot accuses Coakley of doing nothing as children suffered under the care of the Department of Children and Family. If the commercial did indeed backfire and hurt Baker, other polls should start showing Coakley doing better in this tight race. Given how often this state is polled, we should know very soon if Baker has taken a dive or if SocialSphere is showing a Coakley surge where there isn't one.
For the moment though, it's far from implausible to assume that SocialSphere is just wrong. In the past they have shown wild, unexplainable swings, and this could just be their latest. The fact that the group consistently shows an absurd number of undecided voters may be another sign that they don't exactly have their finger on the pulse of the electorate. This latest survey has neither candidate breaking 40 percent only a little more than three weeks before the election: Given that there are no major third-party candidates, this seems hard to believe. Of the roughly 200 polls in our pollster database published after Oct. 1, only four have both major party candidates below 40 percent, and two of those are from SocialSphere (this excludes the few races with viable independent candidates).
This is the first race where SocialSphere has released a general election poll and who knows, maybe they'll nail it. Still, with the group constantly showing wild swings and a huge pool of undecided voters, it's hard to trust them right now.
Coakley did recently get one unambiguous piece of good news though: Bill Clinton will campaign for her on Thursday on Worcester. Hillary Clinton has also already announced that she will be here sometime before Nov. 4. For his part, Baker will be receiving some fundraising help from Mitt Romney. Given how unpopular Romney was when he left office in 2007, it's no surprise that he won't be doing any public appearances for Baker.
• ME-Gov: Rasmussen: Paul LePage (R-inc) 41, Mike Michaud (D) 40, Eliot Cutler (I) 16 (Sept: Michaud 43-39-15).
• TX-Gov: This is not the type of ad you run if you're feeling good about your race. Democrat Wendy Davis is accusing Republican Greg Abbott of basically being a heartless monster, spending his legal career working against victims even after he sued for damages from his own paralyzing injuries. The spot may have worked a bit better if Davis hadn't brought Abbott's own injury into this.
• YouGov: YouGov has finally published its latest batch of gubernatorial polls, to go along with their newest round of Senate polling. As usual, there's plenty of data—and plenty of head-scratchers.
• CA-52: Plenty of political events get labeled game changers and most of the time, the game is still very much the same. This one may just be different though. Republican Carl DeMaio is running a tough race against Democratic Rep. Scott Peters in a swingy San Diego-area seat, and both parties are spending heavily to win here. However, on Friday the race was probably forever changed.
Here's what we know: DeMaio's former campaign policy director Todd Bosnich is accusing DeMaio of sexually harassing him, and he goes into some pretty gross details. One of DeMaio's former Democratic colleagues on the San Diego City Council has accused him of lewd behavior in the past. DeMaio's campaign is very much denying all this and is casting Bosnich as a criminal. They argue that Bosnich was fired from for plagiarism and behind a break-in at the campaign's headquarters. DeMaio told CNN he had documents that would show that Bosnich was lying and was behind the break-in, but CNN says they aren't convincing on their own.
It's anyone's guess what happens next here. If voters are convinced DeMaio is guilty of what Bosnich is accusing him of or are at least not sure, it will probably be very hard for DeMaio to win here. With memories of former San Diego Bob Filner's sexual harassment scandal still fresh, it's a good bet that voters aren't going to have much patience for more of this (ironically, Filner beat DeMaio in the 2012 mayor's race). However, if DeMaio can make the case that he's being lied about, he could earn enough sympathy to pull ahead in this tight race. Either way, it looks like we have a changed game.
• FL-26: We have our first independent poll of this contest, but it does not bring good news. St. Leo University finds Republican Carlos Curbelo with a small 46-42 lead over Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia in this swingy Miami-area seat. Both parties have been spending heavily here (though the GOP has a big edge in outside spending right now) and each candidate has plenty of ammunition on the other. Garcia has been hurt by a corruption scandal involving his former chief-of-staff, while Democrats are hammering Curbelo for calling Social Security a Ponzi Scheme. This district trended hard to Obama in 2012, breaking for him 53-46 after voting for McCain by about 0.40 percent in 2008, but it retains plenty of Republican loyalty downballot.
This is only one poll and St. Leo is a largely untested pollster, but Curbelo released an internal a few weeks ago showing him up 44-40, albeit from the horrifically bad McLaughlin & Associates. The DCCC is pushing back, and they've released a survey showing Garcia up 45-40. The poll was conducted Sept. 28 to Oct. 1 and it appears the DCCC was saving it for a rainy day. Unfortunately, the pollster's name was not included in the release. Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald reports that both sides privately agree that this contest is essentially a tie right now, which isn't hard to believe at all.
• MN-07: Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson has easily held his conservative rural seat, but Republicans are hoping that state Sen. Torrey Westrom can give him a serious challenge. According to SurveyUSA, Peterson is in good shape: They find him leading Westrom 50-41. Until now we've only seen internal polls. Westrom recently released a Tarrance Group survey showing Peterson up only 45-40, while Person's own internal from Global Strategy Group gave him a 53-29 lead. While SurveyUSA's numbers are closer to Westrom's, it looks pretty clear that Peterson has the edge right now.
• VA-10, CA-07: Here's further confirmation that Virginia's 10th District (the open seat left by Republican Frank Wolf's retirement) has been triaged, and that California's 7th District, where Dem freshman Ami Bera faces his first re-election test, is increasingly competitive. The NRCC made a parallel move to the DCCC's move Thursday, canceling $1 million in buys in the DC market and moving that money to the Sacramento market.
We only had tealeaves from Iowa to read for a while, but more and more states are joining the early voting fray. Here are a few noteworthy trends.
• Georgia: One question people ask about early voting statistics is whether they are just telling us about voters who are simply voting a few weeks earlier than they would have otherwise. From that perspective, I thought one of the most fascinating numbers from Elect Project's excellent round-up of early voting is this: 34.5 percent of Georgians who requested a mail ballot this year did not vote in 2010.
• Iowa: As had been the case during the last midterms, the huge Democratic edge in the first weeks of mail voting was progressively blunted by increased Republican activity. Of the 278,060 absentee ballots that have been requested, 44 percent have come from registered Democrats and 36 from registered Republicans. That is the same gap as existed on the day the universe of absentee voters reached the same size in 2010—so Democrats cannot claim an improvement over that already-disappointing year. Meanwhile, Democrats enjoy a 47 to 37 percent edge among the 119,141 voters who have already cast their ballots.
Iowa has by far the largest share of the electorate that has already cast their ballot: Those 119,141 voters represent about 11 percent of the total number in 2010. The next state that is voting the quickest is Florida (5 percent of the total 2010 electorate), followed by North Dakota, Montana and South Dakota (see below).
• Nebraska: The Omaha-based NE-02 is one of the cycle's hottest races, and the early voting statistics are among the best Democrats have seen this month. In Douglas County, about 16,000 voters have picked-up a ballot, and 65 percent have come for registered Democrats versus just 21 percent for registered Republicans. This huge advantage is not common: Douglas County Republicans actually cast more early votes during the last midterms, and Democrats barely edged them in 2012. Neighboring Sarpy County, which Mitt Romney won 63-35, is seeing a similar pattern: Here too registered Democrats enjoy a 62 percent to 25 percent lead.
• South Dakota: The Senate race here is in total flux, with questions swirling as to whether either of Republican nominee Mike Rounds' two opponents can make a move and overtake the longtime favorite. Remember that voters have already started locking in their choices in this race: There were just 7,458 as of Thursday night, but that does represent 2.3 percent of the 2010 electorate and the number should grow further by the time this race gains any clarity. Will it be enough to blunt the late momentum Rick Weiland or Larry Pressler are hoping for?
• Community: Some very cool news: Longtime Daily Kos Elections community member Chaise Rasheed, who goes by the username DrPhillips, is running for city council in Thousand Oaks, CA! Rasheed was recently profiled by the Thousand Oaks Acorn. You can find more about him and his campaign at his website.
• Polling Wrap: The latest edition of the Daily Kos Elections Polling Wrap has nearly 70 new polls added to the already gigantic pile of 2014 data, as well as an explanation (sigh...yes, again) to our friends in the media and on the right of what is, and what is not, "unskewing" of a poll. For those interested, check it out.
Ads & Independent Expenditures:
• AK-Sen The NRSC hits Democratic Sen. Mark Begich with another $119,000.
• CO-Sen: The DSCC once again goes after Republican Cory Gardner for sponsoring a personhood bill while claiming to be against it.
• IA-Sen: I have no idea if the name "B-PAC" is supposed to mean anything or if other PACs already took all the "Americans for Freedom's Liberty" type of names. In any case, they're spending $240,000 against Democrat Bruce Braley.
• KS-Sen: Ending Spending recently committed $1 million to help Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, and they're out with their first ad. Like basically every GOP-ad in this contest, they accuse independent Greg Orman of being "a liberal masquerading as an independent." Orman's allies at the Committee to Elect an Independent Senate recently aired this spot and it's running for a lot more than the original $17,000 sum: The size of the buy is $389,000.
• MI-Sen: At least one conservative group isn't giving up on Terri Lynn Land. Ending Spending has chipped in another $234,000 here.
• NC-Sen: The Republicans seem convinced that Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan's decision to skip a hearing on terrorism for a fundraiser is toxic for her. The NRSC is the latest conservative campaign to run a spot on this, accusing Hagan of lying about where she was. Crossroads GPS's ad has a similar ad, featuring a clip of Hagan admitting she missed a hearing on ISIS to raise money. For her part, Hagan hits Republican Thom Tillis over women's health and equal pay.
• NH-Sen: Ending Spending throws $127,000 at Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, while Independent Leadership for New Hampshire is also up with $362,000 against the senator.
• SD-Sen: With independent former Sen. Larry Pressler taking critical votes away from Democrat Rick Weiland, it's no surprise that Weiland's allies are working to deflate Pressler before it's too late. Every Voice Action recently announced that they were pulling a spot aimed at Republican Mike Rounds and replacing it with an anti-Pressler ad and it's now available. The commercial accuses Pressler of cutting Medicare and Social Security while he was in the Senate, while skipping a vote to restore the Social Security cuts to collect speaking fees in Las Vegas.
Weiland himself goes positive, characterizing himself as someone who will stand up for South Dakota against big money. Pressler also goes on the air, portraying himself as someone who won't be bought. Pressler's ad has a clip of the late Walter Cronkite quoting Pressler after the senator publicly turned down an illegal campaign contribution.
• NRA: Various pro-GOP expenditures.
• NRSC: Various pro-GOP expenditures.
• Senate Majority PAC: Various pro-Democratic expenditures.
• AR-Gov: Republican Asa Hutchinson pledges to stand up for Arkansas against Obama.
• FL-Gov: Democrat Charlie Crist features his running mate Annette Taddeo talking about how Crist will help women and families.
• IL-Gov: If the gubernatorial race in Illinois isn't the nation's nastiest campaign, it's at least very close. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn features a news clip where a reporter describes how Republican Bruce Rauner threatened an executive, declaring, "I will bury her... I will bankrupt her with legal fees. I don't know if she has a family or not but if she does she better think twice about this." Quinn's campaign has been working hard for months to portray Rauner as a heartless rich guy.
Rauner's own spot is the latest to invoke the specter of former Gov. turned convict Rod Blagojevich. The ad features clips of Quinn talking about how ethical his administration is, interrupted by clips of newscasters talking about scandals surrounding Quinn. The narrator concludes, "First Blagojevich, not Quinn. Can we afford four more years?" And of course, the ads are only going to get more intense in the next three weeks.
• KS-Gov: The NEA hits Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, arguing that his tax cuts have devastated schools.
• MA-Gov: Republican Charlie Baker promotes himself as someone who can make Massachusetts a leader in jobs.
• WI-Gov: NARAL pushes back on Republican Gov. Scott Walker's attempts to defend himself on abortion. The ad accuses Walker of wanting to ban all abortion and signing a law that forced some women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds.
• AR-02: Democrat Patrick Henry Hays promotes himself as someone who can combat wasteful Washington spending.
• CA-36: Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz accuses Republican Brian Nestande of trying to raise Medicare costs.
• CT-05: House Majority PAC features clips of Republican Mark Greenberg calling Social Security a failure and calling for increasing the retirement age to 70.
• FL-02: CULAC The PAC (yes, that's their real name), a group run by the National Credit Union Association, chips in $176,000 to help Republican Rep. Steve Southerland.
• FL-26: The GOP has been working hard to portray Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia as corrupt and American Unity PAC joins in with their new spot.
• GA-12: Center Forward hits Republican Rick Allen for wanting to eliminate federal college loans. Democratic Rep. John Barrow goes positive, talking about his work on energy.
• IL-12: House Majority PAC mostly goes positive for Democratic Rep. Bill Enyart, but of course they have a clip of Republican Mike Bost throwing a temper tantrum.
• MI-07: Democrat Pam Byrnes.
• NE-02: Democrat Brad Ashford.
• NJ-03: While he's running in a swingy district, the very wealthy Republican Tom MacArthur shouldn't need outside groups to come to his aid. However, only days after the American Action Network committed $1.1 million, Crossroads GPS is spending $430,000. This district is split between the very expensive New York and Philadelphia media markets and the GOP can't be happy that they need to commit money here.
• TX-23: The Congressional Leadership Fund spends $483,000 against Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego.
• WV-02: Republican Alex Mooney continues to portray Nick Casey as an Obama lackey, cramming the word "Obama" in five times in only 30-seconds in case anyone missed the point of the ad.
• 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, Steve Singiser, and Taniel.