• LA-Gov: It's a rare campaign ad that just stops us in our tracks and sends our jaws to the floor, but ... yeah. Just watch:
Narrator: The choice for governor couldn't be more clear. John Bel Edwards, who answered our country's call and served as a ranger in the 82nd Airborne Division. Or David Vitter, who answered a prostitute's call minutes after he skipped a vote honoring 28 soldiers who gave their lives in defense of our freedom. David Vitter chose prostitutes over patriots. Now, the choice is yours.
How do you respond to that if you're Vitter? What do you even say? That Edwards is a desperate Obama clone who will destroy Louisiana with his libruhl policies? Republicans were going to say that anyway. In fact, they already have.
The broader question is whether Edwards' decision to go nuclear over Vitter's prostitution scandal—in a way Vitter's electoral foes never have before—signals anything about the state of play in this race. Polls have shown Edwards with improbably large leads of 8 to 20 points, but this isn't ordinarily the kind of ad you run if you feel you're comfortably ahead.
Then again, this is no ordinary race. Head below the fold to learn why the tea leaves probably don’t say what conventional wisdom says they do.
For one, it's hard to envision Edwards suffering any blowback for simply telling the truth about his opponent—this is no "Aqua Buddha." So maybe he's whaling on Vitter because he simply can't trust the polls enough to know they're right. And here's something else to consider: Vitter will debate Edwards twice prior to the runoff. If Vitter thought that he had the lead, conventional wisdom says he wouldn't have agreed to any debates. But they can't both be trailing! The point here is that no one can be sure who's up and who's down, so both sides have to assume they might be the underdog. Besides, not every Democrat is congenitally incapable of throwing a punch, and Edwards, after all, was an Army ranger—he knows how to fight.
And so far, Vitter hasn't show much ability to fight back. He trotted out a retired Army colonel (who serves on the campaign) to huff, "As a veteran, I think it's disgusting that John Bel Edwards is using veterans' grave stones in a gutter political attack ad." Is that the best he's got? Edwards, meanwhile, responded to Vitter's continued attempts to link him to Barack Obama by channeling some Adlai Stevenson. Said Edwards, "If he wants to talk about associations that are made up, I will talk about associations that are real." These debates should be fun.
P.S. The DGA-backed Gumbo PAC also has a new ad, featuring various folks who say they're Republicans but can't stomach the thought of voting for Vitter in the runoff. It's a perfectly cromulent spot, but it's really hard to outshine "prostitutes over patriots."
• AR-Sen: We chuckled a bit when we saw press releases hit our inboxes the other day announcing that the DSCC was endorsing former U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge in Arkansas. For one, does Eldridge really want the imprimatur of the national Democrat [sic] Party for a Senate race in Arkansas? For another, there's no one else running—or at least, so we thought. But it turns out that former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter appears to be conducting a poll about his viability for a second Senate bid, so presumably the DSCC's move is an attempt to tell Halter to get lost.
But Halter's ignored much sterner warnings in the past. In 2010, he challenged Sen. Blanche Lincoln in the Democratic primary, a race in which the DSCC spent millions trying to stop him. (It worked: Lincoln won renomination.) However, after Halter briefly tried to return to public office last cycle with a run for governor, he abandoned his bid once the establishment rallied around ex-Rep. Mike Ross, saying he wanted to "avoid a divisive primary." So perhaps Halter's feelings about party unity changed, or perhaps he just thought Ross was less beatable than Lincoln.
Whatever the case may be, Halter has to decide very soon: Arkansas' filing deadline is Monday. He'll have to think very hard, though, about whether he wants to chase yet another booby prize. Both Lincoln and Ross got killed in their respective general elections, and Daily Kos Elections currently rates next year's Senate race as Safe Republican.
That said, the NRSC is now using public channels—i.e. sharing dour comments with CNN—to tell GOP Sen. John Boozman to step up his weak fundraising. But this probably is not any kind of signal that Boozman is genuinely threatened; rather, it's likely a preventive measure, to make sure Boozman doesn't get caught Rip van Winkling in a cycle when Republicans are playing a ton of defense. After all, it was only a few weeks ago that NRSC sources were claiming that Rand Paul looked to be in poor shape for re-election. No one's saying that now.
• FL-Sen: Republican Jeff Atwater, Florida's chief financial officer (a statewide elected position), recently teased us by saying he might reconsider his surprising decision not to run for Senate earlier this year. Apparently, though, Atwater's saying "no" a second. The statement he provided to the press is weird, though, and doesn't even contain the word "Senate" in it, preceded by a phrase like, "I will not be a candidate for." So given Atwater's flakiness, maybe he'll have to say "no" a third or fourth time, too.
• KY-Sen: After his unexpected loss last week, you had to figure that soon-to-be-former state Auditor Adam Edelen wasn't going to challenge GOP Sen. Rand Paul next year, and indeed, he just confirmed he's not running. In an interesting aside, Edelen acknowledged that his own internal polls were completely borked: He says a poll he saw (possibly someone else's—it's not entirely clear) the Friday before the election put him up 11 points on his little-known Republican challenger; Edelen lost by 4. That's a huge miss, particularly when you're paying someone to get it right.
• MO-Gov: Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's forays into politics in other states haven't met with much success, and it seems doubtful his latest effort will, either. In a really strange move, Bloomberg says he'll spend $10 million to run ads targeting four different state attorneys general who oppose Barack Obama's "Clean Power Plan."
What's so odd is that at least one of the ads—the spot targeting Missouri's Chris Koster, who is running for governor and is the only Democrat in the bunch—tries to favorably contrast Obama with Koster. "President Obama's Clean Power Plan," says the narrator, "cuts carbon emissions and creates thousands of jobs." Koster, by contrast, "is fighting Obama and clean energy." But tweak it just a bit and it almost sounds like an ad Koster himself would run, to show his independence from national Democrats! Former Sen. Mark Begich, who nearly survived an impossible re-election campaign in Alaska last year, ran ads very much along these themes, for instance.
In a way, it's almost a gift to Koster. He's undoubtedly more popular in his home state than the president is, and he also gets to point a finger at Bloomberg, the "New York City billionaire" who's coming to interfere with the Show Me State. Of course, Bloomberg has infinite resources, so maybe his polling shows him something contrary to what any reasoned analysis would suggest about this approach. But two of the other three attorneys general he's going after aren't even up for re-election until 2018 (Florida's Pam Bondi and Wisconsin's Brad Schimel), and the third is term-limited (Michigan's Bill Schuette), so his sense of targeting seems misdirected right from the start.
• ND-Gov: So far, Democrats lack a candidate for North Dakota's open gubernatorial race, but one new name says she's considering: former state Agriculture Commissioner Sarah Vogel. However, while Vogel twice won elections statewide, her last run for office was an unsuccessful bid for state Supreme Court—and that was all the way back in 1996. Democrats will have a very hard time making a serious play for this seat, though, so Vogel would still probably be a decent get, all things considered.
• AZ-01: On Friday, Democratic state Sen. Barbara McGuire, who'd been considering a bid for Congress, announced that she would instead run for re-election. That leaves former state Sen. Tom O'Halleran, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat, as Team Blue's most likely standard-bearer. It won't be easy holding down this open seat, though—one of only five districts in the country currently held by a Democrat (Ann Kirkpatrick, who's running for Senate) but won by Mitt Romney. That's why a whole bunch of Republicans are in the mix here, including Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, state House Speaker David Gowan, and businessman Gary Kiehne.
• PA-16: Republican Rep. Joe Pitts recently signaled he might retire, and on Friday, he announced that he would in fact do so. That Pitts decided to call it quits is none too surprising—he's 77 years old—but as Roll Call's Simon Pathé notes, he also pledged to serve only five terms when he was first elected in 1996. That was 10 terms ago.
Republicans will be favored to hold this seat, which went for Mitt Romney by a 52-46 margin. However, the GOP actually made this seat a touch bluer in redistricting (to help shore up adjacent districts), and under the revised lines, Obama had a narrow 50-49 edge on McCain. Under the right circumstances, therefore, it's not impossible to imagine Democrats competing here, but Republicans do have a much stronger bench.
Two top potential Republican successors for Pitts are state Sen. Lloyd Smucker and Lancaster County Commissioner Scott Martin, who actually expressed interest in running even before Pitts bailed. However, Emily Cahn reports that Martin is likely to defer to Smucker and run for Smucker's Senate seat instead. A couple of other possibilities include ex-state Rep. John Bear and businessman Chet Beiler, who got crushed in a bid for state auditor in 2008 and also lost the GOP primary for lieutenant governor in 2010.
One Democrat was already in the race before Pitts' announcement, consultant Christina Hartman, who recently announced some endorsements from a bunch of local politicians, including state Auditor Eugene DePasquale. However, Hartman only raised $45,000 last quarter and has just $36,000 on hand. But there just aren't very many Democratic office-holders in this area. One outside possibility could be state Sen. Andy Dinniman, who has considered bids in the neighboring 6th District a few times. However, Dinniman has never gone for it, and he's now in his 70s.
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.