Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman
• OH-Sen: GOP Sen. Rob Portman got a bunch of flak on Thursday, and rightly so, for saying that the public dollars that currently fund Planned Parenthood should instead go to "community health centers" that "provide the women's health needs that are legitimate"—implying, of course, that Planned Parenthood's services are not legitimate. Ridiculous, no doubt, but there's something else worth analyzing here: the fact that a Republican senator facing a difficult re-election in a swing state is nevertheless running hard on defunding Planned Parenthood.
That might seem like a surprising move, given that polls consistently show Planned Parenthood is very popular with Americans. Indeed, no fewer than five polls released in just the last week have found opposition to defunding the group ranging from 52 percent to 65 percent, while support for the idea rests between 29 and 41 percent. Yet Portman, a savvy campaigner who has always been careful to avoid looking crazy, is all for it. What gives?
The one problem with issue-based polling is that it rarely gives you a sense of how intensely people feel about a given topic. An excellent example is guns: Background checks for gun buyers are enormously popular in poll after poll, but ardent firearms enthusiasts are so hostile to any and all regulations that their zealotry has blocked congressional action on the issue, despite the fact that they represent just a small minority.
Abortion rights often play out the same way: There are many single-issue voters out there who identify as "pro-life" and for whom nothing else matters; there are few on the pro-choice side who match that level of intensity. And that, in all likelihood, is the calculus Portman is relying on—after all, he's seen all the polls that show voters preferring not to defund Planned Parenthood, and Ohio's probably not too different than the nation as a whole on this score.
But the anti-Planned Parenthood brigades are fired up with terrifying passion and will do anything they can to destroy the organization, as the mendacious video jihad by the so-called "Center for Medical Progress" has shown. Portman is hoping to stoke this rage, and at the same time, he's counting on those who like Planned Parenthood to simply not be motivated to the same degree. There's a good chance he's making the smart move politically.
This does not mean that Planned Parenthood is a loser of an issue for Democrats. Far from it. They should be completely unafraid to support and defend the group—again, it is still very well-liked and does enormously important work. But unless Portman has a very inaccurate read on his electorate, it does mean that, despite Planned Parenthood's popularity, attacking the organization is not necessarily a loser for Republicans, and it may in fact motivate the conservative base more than it turns off those in the middle.
• NV-03: Michael Roberson (R): $440,000 raised
• FL-Sen: Well, ex-Attorney General Bill McCollum is either about to announce his plans or he isn't. On Friday, Roll Call reported that McCollum would tell us in the next week if he'd enter the GOP primary, but a McCollum aide soon told them that "[t]here will be no announcement this week or next week." It's possible McCollum is just being coy: Back in May, California Democrat Loretta Sanchez denied reports that she was two days away announcing her Senate bid two days before she announced her Senate bid. Then again, Sanchez isn't exactly a politician anyone should be emulating.
• KY-Gov: Republican Matt Bevin has finally gotten around to airing his second general election ad with just a month to go before Election Day, and it feels like he's trying to stuff all the content that should have gone into his previous spots into this 30 second piece. The commercial starts off by quickly saying that Democrat Jack Conway is a politician who will say anything to get elected before breezing through Bevin's humble beginnings, business experience, goals as governor, and a dig on Obama. It's not a bad spot, it's just too many ideas tossed out at once.
• LA-Gov: The GOP pollster Triumph Campaigns has a new monthly survey out, and they continue to find Republican David Vitter and Democrat John Bel Edwards positioned to take the top two spots in the Oct. 24 jungle primary that would send them to a November runoff:
• John Bell Edwards (D): 35 (36)
• David Vitter (R): 28 (29)
• Jay Dardenne (R): 15 (11)
• Scott Angelle (R): 10 (12)
Unlike most pollsters, Triumph gives Dardenne third place instead of Angelle. However, Dardenne is 13 points behind with less than a month to go, and he just may not be able to make up enough ground for this to matter.
Most pollsters show Edwards and Vitter grabbing the two runoff spots, though a few groups show Angelle or Dardenne a little closer to denying one of them a runoff spot: A recent Clarus poll had Angelle and Dardenne 9 and 10 points behind both Vitter and Edwards, respectively. As long as Angelle and Dardenne split the bloc of Republicans who dislike Vitter, it's going to be difficult for either of them to reach the runoff.
• VA-Gov: A few days after reports first surfaced that he'd run for governor in 2017, former RNC chair Ed Gillespie confirmed that he would indeed make a bid. The path became much clearer for Gillespie after state Sen. Mark Obenshain, a political ally who lost the race for attorney general two years ago in a recount, unexpectedly demurred on the gubernatorial contest.
Gillespie shocked political observers by coming within 1 percent of unseating Democratic Sen. Mark Warner last year, after public polls showed Warner with a double-digit lead. If no other candidates enter, as looks possible, Gillespie would face a matchup with Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam.
• AZ-09: Republican pollster MBQF and PR firm Marson Media just released a survey of Arizona's 9th District (paid for by themselves), saying it shows Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema "vulnerable," but there are a couple of issues with it. For one, it pairs Sinema with former GoDaddy general counsel Christine Jones, who's only expressed vague interest in running for Congress and apparently hasn't said anything publicly since March.
For another, it doesn't actually show Sinema as particularly vulnerable. She leads Jones 46-33, which means that even in the unlikely event that Jones were to capture, say, two-thirds of all the undecideds, Sinema would still prevail by a 53-47 margin. Yes, Arizona's 9th is a swingy district—it went for Barack Obama just 51-47 in 2012—but Sinema managed to win re-election last year by a healthy 13 points despite the GOP wave. In a presidential year, Republicans should have an even tougher time unseating her.
• IA-03: Back in March, state Sen. Brad Zaun refused to rule out challenging freshman Rep. David Young in the GOP primary, but he finally said no on Thursday. Zaun was the only notable Republican making any noises about taking on Young, though the congressman can expect a competitive race in this swing seat.
• KY-01: While Western Kentucky is still willing to vote for Democrats in state-level races, it's hard to see Team Blue picking up this open Romney 66-32 seat next year. However, state Sen. Dorsey Ridley says he's close to jumping in. Ridley holds a 63-36 Romney seat, so he does have name recognition with the type of voters a Democrat would need to win over here. However, he's going need to work very hard if he's going to pull off an upset.
On the GOP side, Hickman County Attorney Jason Batts entered the race on Thursday. Batts was only elected last year and Hickman makes up less than 1 percent of the 1st District, so Batts will start out with minimal name recognition. Ex-Hopkins County Attorney Todd P'Pool, who was Team Red's 2011 nominee for attorney general, has also confirmed that he's looking at a campaign. Only about 6 percent of the district's population lives in Hopkins, so P'Pool also wouldn't begin with a large base of support. State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Michael Pape, who served as district director for retiring Rep. Ed Whitfield, are already in.
• NY-24: Colleen Deacon, who ran Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's Syracuse office, kicked off her campaign against GOP Rep. John Katko a few days ago, and Gillibrand did not waste any time getting behind her. Team Blue has had a surprisingly difficult time recruiting a candidate for this 57-41 Obama seat, but Gillibrand's support is a sign that national Democrats think that Deacon is their candidate.
• OH-08: On Friday, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones announced that he would not run to succeed departing Speaker John Boehner in this safely red seat. Jones is well-known for his hardline policies on immigration and he's always been a thorn in the side of the GOP establishment (he mulled challenging Boehner in the 2010 primary), so his decision will come as a big relief to Boehner and his allies.
• PA-08: It took a while, but it looks like the GOP finally has their first credible candidate for this open swing seat. State Rep. Scott Petri formed an exploratory committee a while ago and he's now filed a statement of candidacy with the FEC, though he hasn't made an announcement yet. So far, no other notable Republicans have made any moves to run for this suburban Philadelphia seat: Tom Manion, who badly lost here as the 2008 GOP nominee, and ex-Bucks County Commissioner Andy Warren, who has had very little electoral luck since the 1990s, are both eyeing this race, but Petri should be the clear favorite in the primary.
• Jefferson Parish, LA President: Just when it feels like Louisiana politics is becoming a little too normal, the race to run Jefferson Parish, the second-largest parish in the state, comes along. Parish Councilman Elton Lagasse faces Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni, a fellow Republican, in the Oct. 24 jungle primary in suburban New Orleans, and Lagasse is out with ads attacking Yenni's decision to legally adopt his mother's maiden name.
Yenni was born Michael Maunoir, but he took his mother's maiden name after his parents divorced in 1998, when Yenni was in his early 20s. But Yenni's critics have long argued that Yenni made his choice to take advantage of his mother's family name: His grandfather, Joe Yenni, was parish president in the 1980s, and the candidate's late uncle, Michael J. Yenni, succeeded him.
Lagasse is out with two spots about this controversy. It gets a little tricky: The first stars the widow of Michael J. Yenni (that's the uncle), who argues that her son—who is also named Michael Yenni—is the real Mike Yenni, while the guy running for office isn't. A narrator then cuts in and says that Yenni's name change was facilitated by Aaron Broussard, another former parish president who is currently in prison for corruption. Lagasse's second ad features a narrator claiming that even as a child, Michael Maunoir wanted power, and he changed his name to get it, disrespecting his family legacy. The spot also repeats the charge that Broussard helped him make the switch.
We saw a similar controversy last year in the Democratic primary for Arizona's 7th Congressional District. Now-Rep. Ruben Gallego was born Ruben Marinelarena, and he legally adopted his mother's maiden name before he started his political career. Gallego's opponent, Mary Rose Wilcox, backed an unsuccessful lawsuit that would have either thrown Gallego off the ballot or forced him to appear as Ruben Marinelarena.
Gallego had always maintained that he'd changed his name to honor his mother, who raised him and his three siblings, rather than his father, who left the family when Gallego was young. Yenni is running his own commercial with a similar pitch: Yenni speaks to the camera and tells the viewer that after the divorce, he lived with his mother and decided to take her name. Yenni then says his achievements are about him, not his last name.
Last year, Rose Wilcox's gambit only earned her a 48-36 defeat. A recent poll from JMC Analytics and Polling gave Yenni a 32-18 lead, but with a whopping 44 percent undecided. A few minor candidates are running and it's possible that no one will take a majority Oct. 24, and Jefferson Parish will need to endure another month of this.
• KY-AG: National Republicans have (at least temporarily) left gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin to fend for himself, but they're still playing in the attorney general contest. The Republican Attorneys General Association's new spot hits Democrat Andy Beshear, arguing he's taking money from special interests and "the same liberal donors who funded Barack Obama," before unsubtly adding, "Beshear equals Obama." Beshear, the son of outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear, faces GOP state Sen. Whitney Westerfield next month.
• Deaths: Ex-Rep. Don Edwards, who represented the San Jose area in the House for over 30 years (1963-1995), died on Thursday. Edwards had a strongly liberal record; he was one of the leading opponents of the Vietnam War, and registered black voters in Mississippi in 1964 while a sitting freshman. He was also one the key Judiciary Committee members during the Watergate hearings. (Despite living to the age of 100, Edwards wasn't the oldest living ex-member at the time of his death; that honor still goes to West Virginia's Ken Hechler, who just turned 101.)
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.