Screenshot from 2014 ad for Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman (R)
• CO-06: Ever since the most recent round of redistricting, Republican Rep. Mike Coffman has repeatedly shown he's confused about the kind of seat he represents. Rather frequently, Coffman seems to forget that he now serves a very swingy slice of suburban Denver that voted for Barack Obama twice—like the time he went full birther and declared, "I don't know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America." Good one, bro.
Here's another good one: Coffman, who faces a serious challenge from Democratic state Sen. Morgan Carroll, recently voted to defund Planned Parenthood—again, not exactly the right kind of move for this particular slice of Colorado. What makes this even better is that last year, Coffman ran an ad that featured PP's logo on-screen while a narrator claimed that Coffman "was praised for protecting women from violence." (No, PP didn't endorse him: The group issued a press release in 2013 thanking the 33 House Republicans who supported the Violence Against Women Act.)
The best part, though, is Coffman's response to getting called on this rather obvious contradiction:
"Using Planned Parenthood's expression of support is not the same thing as saying it's a good organization," said Coffman's spokeswoman Cinamon Watson in an email to 9NEWS.
Hey, yeah, candidates totally tout the backing of groups they want to destroy all the time
! The kicker here—and a great illustration of why this particular affliction is known as Coffman's Disease—is Coffman's flack declaration that her boss's "support for women on issues ranging from access to over the counter contraceptives to sexual assault demonstrates his leadership on issues important to women." Some part of Coffman's brain knows he's supposed to be "good on issues important to women" if he wants to get re-elected, but another part—the lizard part—makes him do things like vote to defund Planned Parenthood. A grave condition indeed.
• AZ-Sen: Kind of ambiguous news... for John McCain! On Tuesday, Rep. Matt Salmon finally made it absolutely clear that he would not challenge McCain in the GOP primary. Salmon was recruited by anti-establishment groups like the Club For Growth who despise McCain but don't think that the senator's only notable intra-party foe, state Sen. Kelli Ward, is strong enough to unseat him.
Salmon could have given McCain a rough time: A May PPP survey gave the incumbent just a 42-40 lead and a previously-unreleased August National Research Inc. poll for Salmon had McCain up just 30-23, with Ward at 9. But The Arizona Republic says that Salmon's family just wasn't ready for an ugly campaign, and Salmon was convinced that a tough primary would make it easier for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick to win.
The reason this may not be such great news for McCain is that Rep. David Schweikert, a friend of Salmon who is also close to tea party-flavored groups, has started making noises about running for the first time in months. Schweikert still doesn't sound ready to commit to anything, but anti-McCain groups are going to try convincing him to go for it. Schweikert would start out with most of the same advantages and allies that Salmon would have had. Schweikert may also just be the more formidable candidate: Salmon recently got some bad press after he scared elementary school students by talking about suicide bombers, so he's not the most disciplined guy in the world. But if Schweikert also sits this out, the far-right really doesn't have anyone else to rally behind besides Ward.
• CO-Sen: State Sen. Tim Neville has confirmed that he'll challenge Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet next year. Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, the favored candidate of the GOP establishment, looks likely to get in soon, and rich guy Robert Blaha also appears ready to run. Neville has a reputation as an ardent conservative and he could make trouble for Brauchler, though Blaha could take enough tea party friendly voters to cost Neville a win. At the very least, Bennet will be glad to watch his would-be Republican rivals hit each other before they can focus on him.
• MD-Sen: After spending months mulling a Senate bid, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger's campaign announced that he would seek re-election to his safely blue seat instead. Fellow Baltimore-area Rep. Elijah Cummings is expected to announce his plans in the next week, but it sounds like he's decided to stay put. Right now, suburban D.C. Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen are the only major Democratic contenders and if Cummings stays out, there almost certainly won't be anyone running from the Baltimore area.
• PA-Sen: Could John Fetterman actually shake things up in Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate primary? The two top contenders are a lone wolf ex-congressman beloved by certain activists but despised by the establishment (Joe Sestak) and a former state-level cabinet official who's best known for taking less than 8 percent of the vote in last year's gubernatorial primary (Katie McGinty). Into the race comes Fetterman, a hulking, tattooed mayor with a Harvard degree who's spent the last decade trying to revitalize his post-industrial town of 2,000, which was once ten times that size.
Fetterman cuts an unusual figure, to say the least—"unconventional" is a common description—but while he's managed to win some attention for his efforts to rebuild Braddock, it'll be a lot harder to upend both Sestak and McGinty, despite their weaknesses. However, Fetterman did just announce that he'd raised $123,000 in the two weeks since he launched his campaign. Ordinarily speaking, that's a small sum for a Senate race, but for someone so little-known, it's a notable haul for such a short period of time.
The next phase, though, will be much harder—he'll have to start raising real money, not just "good for a small-time candidate" money—and Fetterman still has a ways to go before he looks like a credible alternative. But if the Democratic electorate winds up unhappy with its main options, voters may decide to peer behind door number three.
• KY-Gov: So it looks like the beatings will indeed continue until morale improves. On Monday, we were scratching our heads bald trying to figure out why on earth the Republican Governors Association made the well-nigh insane decision to stop airing ads on behalf of Kentucky gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin, in what should be a highly winnable race for the GOP this fall. Our best theory was still a crazy one: The RGA's sick of Bevin's disastrous campaign and wants to whip him into shape—even though there's only a month left to go before Election Day.
Well, reports the National Journal's Karyn Bruggeman, that is indeed what's happened, at least according to one unnamed "one D.C.-based Republican operative with knowledge of the committee's plans." Unhappy with Bevin's poor fundraising and his extremely limited TV ad campaign (just $140,000 to date), the RGA apparently wants to put the fear of god into their candidate in the hopes that he'll somehow shape up and start kicking Democrat Jack Conway's ass right quick.
It doesn't seem to be working, though. According to Politico, Bevin has a new television buy scheduled for next week that totals just $78,000—a pittance compared to the $1 million of his own money Bevin spent to win the GOP primary. Even more bizarrely, this minimalist ad run is for just three days, and it's spread evenly around the state, meaning almost no one will see it. If this is supposed to lure the RGA back in, Bevin's nuts.
And again, time is very, very short. You sometimes see this kind of tough love earlier in a campaign, though often it's in the form of threats, not deeds. That makes this an extremely drastic and extremely late sort of intervention. The RGA supposedly says it might go back on the air for Bevin at some point, but the tells are all wrong: A committee spokesman claimed that this sort of pullback is "normal" (in the words of the AP) because there are "multiple governor's races" on the calendar right now. That's entirely untrue. The only other gubernatorial contests this year are in Louisiana and Mississippi, neither of which have required any outside Republican intervention.
So is the GOP really willing to sacrifice Bevin—and allow Democrats to retain Kentucky's governorship—just to prove a point? It would be an amazing thing to witness, and we might just be witnessing it.
• ND-Gov: On Monday, GOP Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley announced that he would not run for this open seat. Wrigley initially sounded very interested in seeking this post after Gov. Jack Dalrymple announced his retirement last month, but he drew some bad press after he admitted to having an affair. Wrigley and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem have been reportedly working out a deal to decide which of them would run, and it will be a huge surprise if Stenehjem doesn't jump in now.
• FL-02, 05, Sen: After spending millions to try and defeat Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham in 2014, the NRCC is now offering her some very unsolicited career advice. The group commissioned a survey from Harper Polling showing Graham losing 49-40 to Generic Republican in a redrawn version of her 2nd District. Florida's new congressional map has not been finalized, so Harper polled the version of FL-02 that the state House drew. The 2nd District is likely to become safely red after it loses much of Tallahassee to the nearby 5th District, so it's no surprise that Graham is down.
But Harper also took a look at a hypothetical Democratic primary in a redrawn FL-05, and found Graham losing to fellow Rep. Corrine Brown 53-29. As Politico points out, Harper's Democratic electorate was 57 percent black while the proposed district's voting age population is only 45 percent black, which could be hampering Graham (Brown is African American while Graham is white). But the NRCC also tested Graham in the U.S Senate primary in just FL-05 and found her leading with 40 percent, with actual candidates Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson taking 9 percent each.
It's pretty rare to see a House campaign committee try and meddle in a Senate race like this, but that seems to be exactly what the NRCC is doing. Graham and Murphy have relatively moderate voting records in the House, while Grayson is much more of a firebrand. Both parties agree that Murphy is the more electable candidate but if Graham runs, she could give Grayson a better chance to secure the Democratic nod. Presumably once the final congressional map is out, Graham will conduct her own polling and decide upon the best course of action. Graham says she's waiting to find out what her district will look like before she makes any 2016 plans and while she's said very little about a Senate run, she hasn't ruled it out.
• KY-01: On Tuesday, Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield announced that he would not seek a twelfth term. The House Ethics Committee has been investigating whether Whitfield improperly aided his wife's work as a lobbyist for the Humane Society Legislative Fund, and this matter almost certainly played a big role in pushing Whitfield out the door. Romney carried this western Kentucky seat 66-32, and any action is likely to be in the GOP primary.
There are plenty of Republicans who could seek this seat. Michael Pape, who serves as Whitfield's district director, wasted little time announcing that he would run to succeed his boss, but he can't count on a clear field. Indeed, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who fell just 84 votes short of winning his party's gubernatorial nomination back in May, began making noises just days before Whitfield hit the eject button. Comer said at the time that he's leaving the door open to running for something more local and he specifically didn't rule out a bid for this seat. We may not need to wait for Comer for very long: Roll Call Eli Yokley reports that Kentucky Republicans think he'll announce he's in as soon as Wednesday.
Comer won 56 percent of the vote in the 1st District in May compared to only 33 percent statewide, so he could be a formidable contender. But Comer's last bid was overshadowed by accusations from an ex-girlfriend that he had physically abused her while they were in college: Nothing was ever proven, but this story is likely to follow Comer if he runs for office again.
Yokley also tells us that five other Republicans are looking at this seat. State Sen. Max Wise is the only current elected official in the bunch, and he said nothing about his plans in a tweet thanking the congressman for his service. Businessman Robbie Rudolph served in Gov. Ernie Fletcher's cabinet, and he was his running mate during Fletcher's landslide re-election defeat in 2007. Ex-Hopkins County Attorney Todd P'Pool was Team Red's 2011 nominee for attorney general, but he lost to Democratic incumbent Jack Conway 55-45 (he may or may not also be an extra-terrestrial from the planet Vulcan). Scott Jennings served in the George W. Bush administration, and advised Sen. Mitch McConnell's super PAC during last year's Senate race. We also have another Whitfield alumnus looking at this contest, former chief of staff Cory Hicks.
• OH-08: On Tuesday, state Sen. Bill Beagle became the first major candidate to enter the race to succeed Speaker John Boehner in this safely red seat. There are a ton of other Republicans eyeing this contest, which may be what Beagle is counting on. Many potential candidates hail from Butler County, which makes up about half the district; the Journal-News reports that Beagle is counting on the Butler candidates to split the vote in the southern part of the district while he does well in other parts of the seat. One obstacle for Beagle is that his base isn't huge here: Only about half of Beagle's SD-05 is in this district and Obama carried it 53-45, so it's not chock-full of GOP primary voters.
Beagle isn't going to have the primary to himself for long. Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds has filed with the FEC, though he hasn't announced his plans yet. (Hat-Tip Politics1)
• UT-04: Freshman Republican Mia Love pulled off a surprisingly narrow 51-46 win during last year's red wave, and Democrat Doug Owens is back for a rematch. But a new poll from Dan Jones & Associates on behalf of UtahPolicy.com gives Love a 49-38 edge. That's not an incredible margin for a Republican incumbent in a seat that Romney carried 67-30, but it indicates that Love won't be easy to unseat next year. Love has been dealing with a weird story about her billing taxpayers for a trip to D.C. for the White House Correspondents' Association dinner, but Team Blue is probably going to need for this to get bigger if they want to beat her.
• VT-AG: On Monday, Democratic Attorney General Bill Sorrell announced that he would retire from the post he's held since 1997. Sorrell had a very close call in the 2012 primary, where he beat Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan only 51-49. Donovan sat out 2014, but he recently announced that he would run next year regardless of what Sorrell does. Sorrell is under investigation over alleged campaign finance violations, though he of course says that his decision has nothing to do with that matter.
• WATN?: Ex-Rep. John Boccieri has been eyeing a return to elected office ever since he lost his seat during the 2010 GOP wave, and he's finally getting his wish. On Tuesday, the State Democratic Caucus appointed Boccieri to an empty seat in the state House, and he will be sworn in on Wednesday. Boccieri has expressed interest in running for the 13th Congressional District if incumbent Tim Ryan leaves, and the majority of his new state House seat is located in OH-13. Ryan is a potential candidate for governor in 2018 so Boccieri could be running for Congress again before too long; then again, Ryan is always a potential candidate for something until he inevitably decides to stay put.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and Stephen Wolf.