● NV-04, PA-Sen: A new trend? While Bernie Sanders has lagged far behind Hillary Clinton in endorsements from Democratic politicians, at least a couple of office-seekers running in contested primaries have thrown their support behind the Vermont senator recently—perhaps in an effort to boost their own campaigns. The newest such endorsement comes from former Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, and it's fairly surprising, seeing as she ran for lieutenant governor last cycle with backing from no less a figure than Harry Reid. But as Jon Ralston notes, Flores has been "snubbed" by the establishment this time around (Reid's endorsed state Sen. Ruben Kihuen in the Democratic primary for the 4th Congressional District), so this might actually be a smart way for her to harness her campaign to the intense grassroots enthusiasm powering the Sanders movement.
Flores' move comes not long after Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, who's making a bid for Senate in Pennsylvania, also joined Team Bernie. Unlike Flores, Fetterman is a true outsider, and his affinity for Sanders comes across as more genuine. But what Fetterman and Flores have in common is that they're both running in multi-way primaries where they need only a plurality to win. So even if Sanders isn't capable of capturing the support of a majority of the Democratic Party (national polls have him getting around a third of the vote), if his backers unite behind a single downballot candidate in races like these, that could make all the difference.
● FL-Sen: Patrick Murphy (D): $1.46 million raised, $4.3 million cash-on-hand; Ron DeSantis (R): $772,000 raised, $2.5 million cash-on-hand
● IL-10: Bob Dold! (R): $460,000 raised, $1.5 million cash-on-hand
● KS-01: Alan LaPolice (R): $375 raised (not in thousands), $10,000 cash-on-hand ; Roger Marshall (R): $112,000 raised, $341,000 cash-on-hand
● ME-02: Joe Baldacci (D): $68,000 raised, $76,000 cash-on-hand
● NJ-05: Josh Gottheimer (D): $375,000 raised, $1.25 million cash-on-hand
● CO-Sen: In a sign that freshman state Rep. Jon Keyser isn't scaring anyone out of the GOP primary (despite his disputed claim that he's the NRSC's preferred candidate), businessman Jerry Natividad says he's "probably" going to run for Senate, too. Natividad seems reasonably prominent in Latino Republican circles, serving on Mitt Romney's Hispanic leadership team in 2012 (when he carried just 27 percent of Hispanics nationwide). However, Natividad may have sealed his doom even before officially getting in this very crowded race: He referred to himself as a "moderate." Ruh-roh!
● FL-Sen: This is amazing. While Republican Rep. David Jolly has led in several primary polls, he just announced that he'll stop personally fundraising for his campaign for Florida's open Senate seat. Instead, Jolly says he'll rely on his staff to haul in the dough, and on his new super PAC to run ads for him. Jolly's arguing that members of Congress need to focus on national security instead of fundraising, going so far as to introduce a stunty piece of legislation that would prohibit members from personally seeking donations—a bill that would never pass in the first place (and would probably be unconstitutional anyway).
While Jolly's hoping that he can portray himself as the only candidate in the race who is more focused on the threat of ISIS than on his political ambitions, Jolly's grandstanding is not likely to be effective—in fact, it's almost certainly bound to hurt him.
To begin with, it's hard to see primary voters getting jazzed up about a campaign finance issue, even if it's linked to national security. Yes, if you ask voters, they'll probably almost unanimously agree that members of Congress should focus on thwarting terrorism instead of raising money. But as we've seen time and again, there aren't that many people who care enough to change their vote over something like this. Jolly may genuinely thinks he's doing the right thing, but he's essentially martyring himself for a cause that few voters believe in.
Odds are, though, that this is just a cynical move designed to distract from another poor fundraising quarter. Jolly rather notably hasn't released his totals for the final three months of 2015 yet, but in the third quarter of last year, he only brought in $378,000—just half of what his top GOP rival raised and barely a quarter of what the leading Democrat, Rep. Patrick Murphy, managed to haul in. If his fundraising was really going gangbusters, would he really yank himself off the court like this?
Yet in doing so, Jolly is seriously undermining his campaign. A good staff is essential for bringing in money, but the candidate actually needs to do the grueling work of asking donors for money. This isn't something you can outsource: No one can do a better job convincing donors to give money to David Jolly than David Jolly. The problem, in all likelihood, is that he just wasn't doing a very good job of it to begin with.
But if he wants to be a senator, he just doesn't have much of a choice. Very wealthy candidates can afford to avoid long hours dialing for dollars, but Jolly isn't rich enough to cover his campaign's expenses by himself. You occasionally see presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders who can raise vast sums without needing to cold-call big donors, but those are rare cases. It's hard to inspire that kind of unsolicited loyalty outside a high-profile presidential race with built-in grassroots appeal.
Super PACs are nice to have in your corner, but there's only so much they can do. As The National Journal's Andrea Drusch reminds us, super PACs need to spend far more money than campaigns to purchase ad time because FCC regulations give candidates—but not outside groups—discounted rates on TV and radio. Super PACs also can't pay campaign staff salaries, and of course, they are barred from coordinating with campaigns (though there are ways to get around these rules). While it seems that virtually every credible Senate candidate needs to have a super PAC these days, they aren't a substitute for a well-financed campaign.
Jolly is essentially trying to fulfill the personal fantasy of pretty much every candidate in America. To put it bluntly, fundraising sucks. It's tedious, it's often humiliating, and successful candidates need to do it for hours each day. To get a sense of how brutal it is, check out this series of tweets from reporter Ryan Lizza, who once overheard an unnamed freshman Democratic House member in a tough district dialing for dollars. Lizza summed it up: "Making fundraising calls is a lot like reporting: Nobody takes your calls. Ratio of messages left to people contacted so far is about 10:1."
If candidates could just completely hand off this onerous task to their staff and still win, you can bet they all would in a heart beat. But that's just not how campaigns work, especially in a massive state like Florida. Running in a difficult race while refusing to fundraise is kind of like trying to get drafted by an NBA team while refusing to exercise. You may have a passion for the game and you may understand all the strategic plays, but if you don't work out, you're not going to get very far. Jolly may believe in what he's doing, and he may have a less stressful campaign than any of his opponents. But he's unlikely to make it to the Senate.
● MD-Sen: Verrry interesting. Despite owning a huge financial advantage and spending lots of money to run TV ads, a new poll from Gonzales Research finds that Rep. Chris Van Hollen has only a 38-36 lead on fellow Rep. Donna Edwards in the Democratic primary. That's quite a different picture from the last public poll of the race (from OpinionWorks back in November), which had Van Hollen ahead 45-31.
You can't directly compare two polls taken by two different pollsters using two different questionnaire and two different methodologies, so you'd be on shaky ground trying to draw a trendline from one to the other and thus concluding that Van Hollen's lead has shrunk. We just can't say for sure. But we do know that EMILY's List went on the air for Edwards in a big way since that previous poll, perhaps counteracting Van Hollen's efforts.
Even if that's so, however, Van Hollen can continue pounding the airwaves on his own while Edwards would need further outside help to keep up. There's been no word as to whether EMILY will re-up here, but the primary's in just three months, and any window of opportunity will start closing soon.
● FL-18: While GOP state Rep. Gayle Harrell was initially mentioned as a possible candidate for this open seat, she never made any moves to run. Harrell endorsed Rebecca Negron this week, so we can finally take her name out of contention once and for all.
● IL-10: We often talk about "the establishment" doing this or "the establishment" doing that, but it's always important to remember that the so-called establishment is, like Soylent Green, made of people—and people often disagree with one another. And so they are in Illinois' 10th Congressional District, where Sen. Dick Durbin has now endorsed Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, just a day after Nancy Pelosi gave her backing to Rotering's Democratic primary rival, ex-Rep. Brad Schneider.
While Pelosi's support sends a strong signal to national donors, Durbin, the number-two ranking Democrat in the Senate, is invariably described as "powerful" when discussing Illinois politics. Among other things, he's widely credited as a driving force behind Rep. Tammy Duckworth's ascension, and he's the guy you want on your side if you're seeking office in the Land of Lincoln. No one knows for sure what fomented this intra-establishment split, but Greg Hinz speculates that the Iran nuclear deal is at its heart: Durbin was a key figure in ensuring Senate support for the agreement, while Schneider had the chutzpah to oppose it (Rotering was in favor).
In any event, Rotering is already out with a TV ad (her first of the election) that touts Durbin's endorsement, albeit only in some on-screen text at the end. The bulk of the ad is classic intro/table-setting material: Rotering says that as mayor, she "took on the NRA, passing one of the only local assault weapons bans in the nation." There's no word on the size of the buy—Chicago is a very expensive place to advertise—though Hinz says it's only up on cable.
● NY-03: On Tuesday, former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi announced that he had formed an exploratory committee for this open Long Island swing seat. Suozzi, a Democrat, says that he'll be thinking about whether or not to get in over the next month or two, though he'll also be raising money during this time. About half of this district is in Nassau County, so Suozzi would start out with some name recognition.
Suozzi was once a very influential figure in Empire State Politics. In 2001, he became the first Democrat to win the county executive post, and he decisively won a second term four years later. But since then, very little has gone right for him politically. Suozzi ran against Elliot Spitzer in the 2006 gubernatorial primary and got crushed 82-18, and he lost Nassau 59-41. In 2009, Suozzi lost re-election to Republican Ed Mangano by 386 votes in a complete and utter shocker. Suozzi had $1 million left in his warchest after that campaign, so he clearly didn't take Mangano seriously.
The state seized control of Nassau's finances in 2011 and when Suozzi kicked off his comeback attempt against Mangano two years later, he initially looked like the man to beat. However, Suozzi lost by a brutal 59-41 margin, demonstrating that his popularity hadn't recovered at all. Maybe a little more time and presidential year turnout will give Suozzi a better shot in November if he gets the Democratic nod, but Team Blue doesn't get much room for error in this 51-48 Obama seat.
And there's no guarantee that Suozzi will be Team Blue's pick if he runs. Two Democrats, Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern and North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, are in, while lobbyist and self-described "Andrew Cuomo Democrat" Brad Gerstman has formed an exploratory committee. While the district's Nassau residents outnumber Suffolk's denizens 50-33 (the remaining 19 percent live in Queens), Suozzi, Kaplan, and Gerstman all hail from Nassau. The field is still shaping up but if a crowd of Nassau politicians get in, it could give a Suffolk politician like Stern a leg up.
And given Suozzi's poor electoral record, he may have a tough time emerging from the primary even if geography doesn't turn out to be a deciding factor. Way back in 2006 when Suozzi launched his quixotic campaign against Spitzer, David Nir described Suozzi as "manifestly impatient, to the point that it's very dangerous to his own dreams." It would seem that when it comes to Suozzi, the only thing that's changed since then is that this time, he has a whole lot less to lose.
P.S: GOP pollster Harper Polling is out with a new survey giving a generic Republican a 4-point edge over a generic Democrat. While we can quibble with the numbers, there's little doubt that the general election will start out close here.
● PA-02: Rep. Chaka Fattah is running for re-election while under indictment, but we can't count him out in this safely blue Philadelphia seat. Fattah faces four primary opponents and if they split the anti-Fattah vote enough, the congressman can secure renomination with just a plurality. However, state Rep. Dwight Evans is arguing that that's not about to happen. Evans is out with a primary poll from PPP that gives him a strong 37-21 lead against Fattah; Lower Merion Township Commissioner Brian Gordon, state Rep. Brian Sims, and ward leader Dan Muroff take 8, 6, and 3 respectively.
Besides Fattah, Evans is the only African American running in this predominantly black seat. PPP gives him a strong 46-27 lead over Fattah with black primary voters, and even has him up 23-13 over Gordon with whites. This is just one survey, and you should always be skeptical of internal campaign polls. However, Evans is well-funded and he's close to Gov. Tom Wolf and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney so if anyone's positioned to beat Fattah, it's probably him. Normally, we'd add that if Fattah has better numbers, he should release them. However, Fattah had less than $1,000 in the bank as of the end of September, so he's probably not commissioning many polls these days.
● VA-02: While GOP Del. Chris Stolle was mentioned as a possible contender for this open swing seat, he told conservative radio host John Fredericks that he won't go for it. Fellow Del. Scott Taylor is the only credible Republican campaigning here at the moment, though Rep. Randy Forbes hasn't ruled out running for this seat now that redistricting has made his district safely blue. There are a number of other Hampton Roads Republicans who could also jump in.
● VA-05: While Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore made some noises about running for this open seat as a Democrat, he announced on Tuesday that he won't go for it.
Haymore was probably the only Democrat, aside from former Rep. Tom Perriello, who could have made the general election interesting in this open Romney 54-46 seat. Albemarle County Supervisor Jane Dittmar and Ericke Cage, a former Perriello aide, are running, but they'll need a lot to go right to have a shot here. Perriello himself is serving as the State Department Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and he hasn't signaled any interest in a comeback. On the GOP side, state Sen. Tom Garrett faces a couple of tea party-flavored foes.
● Milwaukee, WI Mayor: Mayor Tom Barrett faces two aldermen this year, but his warchest utterly dwarfs both of theirs. Barrett ended 2015 with $810,000 in the bank; while Ald. Bob Donovan kicked off his campaign in 2014, he only has $27,000 on hand, not much better than Ald. Joe Davis' $25,000. All the candidates will compete in a Feb. 16 non-partisan primary and the top two vote-getters will advance to the April 5 general.
● Demographics: In a new piece for Daily Kos Elections, David Beard challenges John Judis' claims that there are a number of demographic trends that portend trouble for Democrats, finding the evidence lacking in each case. Judis' concerns focus on working-class whites, college graduates, and seniors, but as Beard demonstrates, each of these groups either isn't growing in size or hasn't shown discernible movement toward the GOP. While Democrats most certainly still face serious problems when it comes to midterm turnout, Beard carefully shows how presidential demographics continue favor the party—and once again concludes that no, Democrats are not "doomed." Click through for the full story.
● Demographics: 2014 has been in the history books for a while, but Pew Research takes a deeper look at Latino turnout that year. And while you probably had a sense that it was bad, it's surprising just how bad it was: Among eligible Latino voters, turnout was at a historic low for a midterm election, at only 27.0 percent. This is quite a bit worse than the already low 31.2 percent in 2010.
It may seem like Democratic efforts to turn out Latinos failed even more than usual (and that may still be the case), but there may be a more innocuous explanation: It may have a lot to do with California, where a disproportionate number of the nation's Latinos live. While 2010 had a competitive gubernatorial and Senate race, the gubernatorial contest was a cakewalk last cycle, so turnout was down across the boards. That turned a number of House races in districts that are pretty comfortable in presidential years into de facto orphan races. In fact, it's pretty surprising that the Dems didn't lose any of their California incumbents that year, many of whom got a good scare.
● President-by-LD: Our ongoing project to calculate statewide election results according to congressional and legislative districts returns to Colorado for a look at the 2014 elections. This new data set joins our earlier calculations for the 2012 presidential and Senate elections, which you can find on our master list covering every state.
There's a lot of interesting information about both chambers, and Jeff Singer summarizes some of the key findings in a new post. The Colorado Senate will be perhaps the most competitive state legislative chamber in the nation this year. Democrats control the governorship and have a small edge in the state House and if they can net just one seat in the Senate, they'll retake control of the state government. Half the Senate will be up next year, and there are two key seats to watch.
The GOP-held SD-19 backed Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who lost re-election to Cory Gardner 48-46 in 2014, by a slim 0.50 margin. The suburban Denver district voted for Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who held off Bob Beauprez 49-46 to win a second term last cycle, by a stronger 50-45 margin. Obama carried this district 52-45 in 2012, a little better than Hickenlooper's margin.
There is one Democratic-held Senate seat that backed both Gardner and Beauprez. The good news for Democrats is that Obama carried SD-25, which is also located in metro Denver, by a strong 55-42 margin, and presidential turnout should give Team Blue a shot in the arm as they try holding on here next year. See our post for a whole lot more.
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.