● NJ-02, 03: In just the last week, we've seen new chatter about the possibility that Donald Trump could put the House in play for Democrats, as non-partisan analysts, giddy liberals, and even some anguished Republicans have started wondering whether Trump could pull off such a remarkable feat. But while it's certainly not impossible to imagine, any such conclusions are very premature. There's still far too much we don't know—and won't know—unless and until Trump is the nominee (and of course, he may not be). Democrats have certainly bet wrong before on the effects a supposedly "unacceptable" Republican standard-bearer might have for his party.
But one thing we do know does not augur well for Democrats: Because a House takeover has seemed so remote this cycle, the party has struggled to land strong candidates in a large enough number of potentially competitive districts to even contemplate overcoming its 30-seat deficit. The prospect of a Trumpocalypse has only started to feel real quite recently, and it's somewhat late in the game to mount a serious campaign against an incumbent. What's more, filing deadlines have passed in 37 percent of the nation's 435 House districts, so even if legitimate contenders wanted to take a second look, in many cases, they couldn't.
Two GOP-held seats in southern New Jersey illustrate the problem. In the 2nd District, Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo has been entrenched for many years, but Barack Obama carried the seat by a 54-45 margin, and it's the kind of place where Democrats have to set themselves up to be able to take advantage of a potential Trump wave. But the candidate that Democrats in the district's largest county endorsed over the weekend is former Obama aide Dave Cole, who ran in 2014, raised just $55,000, and lost the primary 82-18.
Meanwhile, in the neighboring 3rd District, Democrats there are split between two bantamweights: Jim Keady, who badly lost a race for state Assembly last year, and Frederick LaVergne, who took 1.7 percent in the general election here in 2014 on the "Democratic-Republican" line. (And you thought the Jeffersonians were dead!) While this seat isn't quite as blue (Obama won it 52-47), GOP Rep. Tom MacArthur is only in his first term, when incumbents are at their most vulnerable, and Democrats actually won here in 2008.
New Jersey's filing deadline is just two weeks away, so no matter what new outrages Trump provokes in the next fortnight, the recruitment situation in the Garden State is unlikely to improve. And it's pretty much the same story everywhere else. If Trump were to truly cause a cataclysm, he might sweep in a few very unheralded Democrats on his anti-coattails, and perhaps that would be enough for a miracle. But while Republicans have every reason to feel queasy about what The Donald might mean for their future, for now, their firewall in the House of Representatives looks to be quite operational.
● FL-Sen: On Monday, ex-Sen. Bob Graham endorsed Patrick Murphy, who is competing with fellow Rep. Alan Grayson in the August Democratic primary. It's not very surprising to see Graham line up behind Murphy, who is the favorite of national Democrats. However, Graham's announcement also signals that his daughter, Rep. Gwen Graham, will not be running for the Senate this cycle. Gwen didn't rule out a bid last year after redistricting turned her seat red, but she never took any obvious steps towards running statewide in 2016. The two Grahams are close politically (Bob appeared in several ads for Gwen during her 2014 bid), and there's pretty much no way that the former senator would make this endorsement if his daughter was remotely considering jumping in.
Meanwhile, Grayson scored a useful endorsement of his own: The Communications Workers of America just gave him their backing. The CWA has 700,000 members, though it's not clear how many are in Florida. To date, however, Murphy has won the lion's share of labor backing.
● IA-Sen: Filing closed Friday for Iowa's June 7 primary, and the state has a list of candidates available here. Longtime Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley is seeking re-election and until last month, he looked completely safe. However, the GOP's Supreme Court blockade has Democrats smelling an opening. Grassley, who leads the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined with most of his caucus and announced that he will not grant anyone that President Obama nominated so much as a hearing. (Grassley has not changed his tune now that Merrick Garland has been tapped.) Grassley has always been a conservative, but he's spent decades portraying himself as a senator who looks out for his swing state constituents. Team Blue hopes that the battle for the open Supreme Court seat will give them the chance to link the senator to the rest of the unpopular Senate GOP.
State Sen. Rob Hogg has been running here for months with little fanfare. Ex-Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, who also used to serve as state secretary of agriculture, joined the race in March, and she's attracted plenty of attention from national Democrats. However, Hogg has the support of almost every Democrat in the state legislature, including state Senate President Pam Jochum and state Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, and they've made it clear that they won't be abandoning him for Judge. Ex-state legislators Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause have also been running for a while, but they have little internal support. Daily Kos Elections rates the general election as Likely Republican.
● IL-Sen: In a move that is as appalling as it is embarrassing, the Human Rights Campaign, which styles itself as the largest LGBT civil rights group in the country, has endorsed Republican Sen. Mark Kirk for re-election. This decision is both pathetic and stupid on two levels.
Most immediately, Kirk's record on gay rights is far weaker than that of his Democratic opponent, Rep. Tammy Duckworth—according to no less an authority than HRC itself. In 2013-14, Kirk earned just a 78 percent score on HRC's report card, and in 2009-10, he managed an atrocious 39 percent. (Kirk has no rating for 2011-12, presumably because he missed many votes while recovering from a stroke.) By contrast, Duckworth, who was first elected to Congress in 2012, notched a perfect 100 percent in 2013-14. In what universe does it make sense for an advocacy group to support the candidate who is unambiguously worse on their key issues?
There's also a much broader problem: If you help Mark Kirk remain in office, you're helping Mitch McConnell cling to his job as majority leader. And if the GOP retains the Senate, do you think for a second they'll allow, say, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to come up for a vote? Of course they won't. HRC isn't this dumb, but they sure are acting like it.
There's a shameful reason for this rank idiocy, though: HRC wants to preserve its "bipartisan" cred so that it can keep donations flowing from corporations and wealthy gay Republicans. That's an incredibly callow approach to politics, but one the organization has practiced for years (HRC infamously endorsed Republican Sen. Al D'Amato over Chuck Schumer in 1998). Do we seriously need to ask whether the LGBT community would be better off if HRC's coffers were flush, or if instead it would be better off if ENDA became law? Everyone knows the answer to that—everyone, that is, except HRC.
● NV-Sen: Sharron Angle, the GOP's disastrous 2010 nominee, is back for another Senate campaign in Nevada. Angle filed just before the deadline for the June 14 primary, where she'll face establishment favorite Rep. Joe Heck in a seat that both parties are fighting hard to win.
Angle's defeat came during a great year overall for her party. However, Angle botched her campaign against unpopular Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid by running a chaotic race. (Though Reid also deserves credit for taking full advantage of every opening that Angle gave him and mobilizing Democratic voters.) Among many other things, she managed to offend Latino voters numerous times. Most notably, Angle ran ads decrying undocumented immigration that featured generic pictures of Hispanics; she then told a class full of Latino students that they "look a little more Asian to me." (Steve Benen compiles some of Angle's other insane comments.)
Angle's campaign certainly isn't great news for Heck. At the very least, Angle will probably force him to expend some resources in the primary, and she may drag him to the right a bit. But Angle's odds of actually emerging as the GOP nominee again are not good. Yes, Donald Trump's decisive win in the Silver State's presidential caucus demonstrates that Nevada Republicans can accept candidates like Angle. But unlike Angle, Trump didn't lose a race he should have won to someone the GOP base hates as much as Reid. Indeed, a 2011 PPP poll found that Angle had a 31-52 favorable rating with Republicans. While numerous voters have undoubtedly forgotten about her since then (indeed, as a March Daily Beast story shows, Angle has largely faded into obscurity since her defeat), they're probably not going to like her much once they're reminded that she's the woman who handed Harry Reid another term.
Even if Republican voters are open to giving Angle a second chance, she'll need a lot of resources if she's going to run a credible campaign against Heck. Angle raised a ton of money during her race against Reid, but many (if not most) of those donors were more interested in ousting the Democratic leader than in sending Angle to Washington. Angle also relied on direct mail, which raises plenty of cash but costs a fortune to implement. Well-funded conservative groups also announced months ago that they had no interest in helping Angle throw away another race.
Still, presumptive Democratic nominee Catherine Cortez Masto, the former state attorney general, certainly isn't going to complain if Angle makes some trouble for Heck for the next few months. Daily Kos Elections rates the general election as a Tossup. For a complete list of Nevada candidates, check out the statewide, Clark County, and Washoe County lists (there is no one single official list of contenders.)
● PA-Sen: Katie McGinty is out with her third TV spot ahead of the April 26 Democratic primary. This one features several women doing their jobs, as McGinty describes how they work just as hard as their male co-workers but get paid 21 percent less. McGinty then pledges to fight for equal pay for women and protect Social Security and Medicare.
John Fetterman is also out with a new spot ahead of the primary. Fetterman speaks directly to the camera and tells the audience that he's a gun owner, but he can't understand why there's no sensible gun control. The camera then focuses on one of his firearms while Fetterman says that weapons like it should "stay out of the hands of people that could use them to hurt people."
● UT-Sen: Once upon a time, it looked like Republican Sen. Mike Lee would face a competitive primary. Powerful businessmen were still pissed at Lee for his role in the 2013 shutdown, and Jon Huntsman Sr. and prominent bank president Scott Anderson were actively searching for a candidate to challenge Lee. However, Lee wisely met with powerful Utah business interests and made peace with them, and he even got Anderson to serve as his campaign co-chair. Candidate filing closed last week and Lee only faces minor primary opposition; Democrats unsurprisingly aren't putting up much of a fight in this dark red state.
● UT-Gov: Candidate filing closed last week in Utah, and the state has a list of candidates available here. Polls show that Gov. Gary Hebert is popular with both his fellow Republicans and with the general electorate, and it's tough to see him losing. However, rich guy Jonathan Johnson is forging ahead with a primary challenge. Johnson will almost certainly need to pump plenty of his personal resources into his campaign to have a shot, but it's unclear how much he's willing to spend: As of the end of 2015, Johnson only had $42,000 on hand.
The statewide primary is June 28, but it's possible that the GOP race will be over before then. Under Utah's old electoral law, both parties held state conventions. If one candidate took more than 60 percent of the delegates, he or she won the nomination then and there; if no one cleared 60, only the top two candidates made it to the primary. The state recently changed the law to allow contenders to collect enough signatures to reach the primary ballot regardless of how the convention goes. However, Johnson is choosing not to gather petitions, so his campaign could end on the convention floor. Hebert is collecting signatures though, so if the April 23 convention goes completely haywire for him, he'll live to fight on in June.
Utah is a very red state, and Team Blue hasn't won the governorship since Scott Matheson was re-elected in 1980. However, Mike Weinholtz, who sounds like he has some money to burn, is running here, so Democrats do have a non-Some Dude candidate. Still, Weinholtz is going to have a very tough time toppling a popular GOP incumbent in a red state, and the general is probably only going to be worth watching if Johnson somehow takes the Republican nod. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Safe Republican.
● WV-Gov: Billionaire Jim Justice has had the airwaves to himself for a while, and he's out with yet another TV ad ahead of the May 10 Democratic primary. This one features various people, including several employees at the Justice-owned Greenbrier hotel, praising his jobs record. Justice himself then appears and hammers in the jobs theme some more.
● CA-07: Organized labor has been furious with Democratic Rep. Ami Bera ever since his vote last year in favor of so-called "fast-track" trade promotion authority, which would help pave the way for a 12-nation trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership that many unions vociferously oppose. Some labor groups have threatened to sit out the general election in this swing seat, but the Teamsters Joint Council 7 has gone one step further and endorsed Republican Scott Jones, who serves as Sacramento County sheriff. Last month, the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council also threw its support behind Jones, who's gone on record opposing the TPP. (Bera has yet to state a position on the deal.)
Bera is a monster fundraiser, and he pulled off a narrow win during last cycle's GOP wave, while Jones still needs to prove himself as a candidate. But labor's displeasure is extreme—a Teamsters official says he cannot remember the last time his union backed a Republican in a competitive congressional race. In a tough, closely divided seat like this, this hostility could cause Bera real trouble.
● FL-01: On Monday, state Rep. Matt Gaetz announced that he would run for this safely red open Panhandle seat. Gaetz is the son of state Sen. Don Gaetz, who originally considered running here but deferred to Matt. Don is wealthy and well-connected, so Matt should have plenty of resources at his disposal. The younger Gaetz hasn't always earned the best headlines though: Last year, he was criticized after he sent out a tweet mocking two black state senators. Gaetz may face some competition in the August primary. State Sen. Greg Evers, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, and Escambia County Supervisor of Elections David Stafford are all considering getting in.
● FL-02: On Monday, attorney Ken Sukhia told Sunshine State News that he would run for this safely red seat. Sukhia served as a U.S. attorney under George H.W. Bush, and he represented George W. Bush during the 2000 state recount. More recently, Sukhia represented Charlie Crist during his governorship (back when Crist was still a Republican), and he's reportedly still well connected: In other words, Sukhia is an insider's insider.
Sukhia is the fourth Republican to enter the contest. Physician Neal Dunn also has the backing of plenty of establishment figures, while attorney Mary Thomas and businessman Jeff Moran are the more tea party-oriented candidates. The filing deadline for the August primary is June 24, so the field still may not be set here.
● IA-01: Freshman Republican Rod Blum narrowly defeated ex-state House Speaker Pat Murphy for this 56-43 Obama eastern Iowa seat, and Murphy is seeking a rematch. However, national Democrats have consolidated behind Cedar Rapids Councilor Monica Vernon, who was the party's nominee for lieutenant governor in 2014. Murphy beat Vernon 37-24 in the 2014 primary but this time, Murphy is having problems fundraising. Still, Murphy has wasted little time reminding primary voters that Vernon was a Republican until 2009; Vernon's allies at EMILY's List also quickly went on the offensive by hitting Murphy's record on abortion.
Blum is one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress, and he's going to have a tough time holding on in a seat this blue. However, while Blum had a horrible relationship with John Boehner, Speaker Paul Ryan recently headlined a fundraiser for him, which suggests that Team Red isn't giving up here; Blum is also wealthy. Daily Kos Elections currently rates the general as a Tossup.
● IA-03: Obama carried this Des Moines-area seat 51-47, and freshman Republican David Young is a Democratic target. But Team Blue needs to sort out the June 7 primary before it can turn its attention to Young. Veteran Jim Mowrer, who ran in the neighboring 4th District last cycle, is facing businessman Mike Sherzan, who is capable of some self-funding; former state Senate candidate Desmund Adams is also in, but he's raised little money.
Young isn't an incredibly impressive candidate (as his infamous "Good Meal" ad from 2014 proves), but he has incumbency on his side. The Democratic contenders also need to prove themselves: The DCCC recently classified this seat as an "Emerging Race," which indicates that, while they think their candidates have potential, they don't see this as a top-tier race yet. Daily Kos Elections rates the general election as Lean Republican.
● IA-04: Ultra-conservative Rep. Steve King decisively turned back well-funded Democratic foes in 2012 and 2014, but he faces a credible primary challenge in this 53-45 Romney seat. King recently pissed off some local ethanol businessman by endorsing Ted Cruz, whose record on the corn-based fuel is far from solid, and they've turned to state Sen. Rick Bertrand. However, while Bertrand may be able to raise money, he won't have an easy time convincing primary voters to dump King, who has a following with the area's many social conservatives. Team Blue has pretty much written this seat off in the fall: The only Democrat to file is Kim Weaver, who has raised very little money.
● NC-02: Tea partier Greg Brannon just lost a second straight GOP primary a week ago, taking just 25 percent against Sen. Richard Burr. But thanks to ongoing redistricting litigation, North Carolina is set to hold a House-only primary on June 7 … and Brannon is going to run then, too. On Monday, he announced that he'd join the race for the redrawn 2nd District, which is now an incumbent-vs.-incumbent fight between Reps. Renee Ellmers (who only represents a sliver of the new seat) and George Holding (who represents a majority of it).
Like other conservative true believers, Brannon views Ellmers as a sellout who got "co-opted" by the "John Boehner machine." But Ellmers already had plenty of opponents ready to chew up her right flank, including businessman Jim Duncan, who's been endorsed by the Club for Growth, and 2014 challenger Frank Roche, who held Ellmers to a 59 percent showing that year. Roche, however, dropped out on Monday, citing his belief that Holding would win the primary and rid Republicans of the scourge of Ellmers.
That gives Brannon a little more breathing room, but his only real chance at victory would come if Ellmers and Holding utterly whaled on one another, and the Club decided to give up on Duncan. That's quite the bank shot, but Brannon is no stranger to hopeless efforts.
● NV-03: Republican Joe Heck is leaving behind this 50-49 Obama suburban Las Vegas seat to run for the Senate, and both parties are fighting hard to win it. The GOP establishment has consolidated behind state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson ahead of the June primary. It's very possible that Roberson, who helped pass a tax hike last year, could have lost to a more conservative challenger in a one-on-one primary. However, he has three notable tea party flavored foes: wealthy perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian; gun-obsessed Assemblywoman Michele Fiore; and former conservative think tank head Andy Matthews. Unfortunately for Team Blue, the well-funded Roberson is likely to secure a plurality and carry the red banner in the fall.
Democrats had a tough time recruiting a viable candidate. Retiring Sen. Harry Reid and the DCCC finally landed Jacky Rosen, who leads a prominent synagogue in the Las Vegas area, but she's untested as a candidate. Rosen's main primary foe is attorney Jesse Sbaih, who has been doing some self-funding. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Lean Republican.
● NV-04: Freshman Republican Cresent Hardy won this 54-44 Obama seat in a surprise, thanks in large part to weak Democratic midterm turnout. Hardy won't have an easy time holding on with a presidential electorate, and three notable Democrats are competing in June to face him. Ex-Assemblywoman Lucy Flores was the 2014 lieutenant governor nominee, and early polls show that she has the most name recognition with primary voters. However, Flores has little money or outside support, and it won't be easy for her to keep her lead once the ads start. Still, Flores is a prominent Bernie Sanders backer, and she could pull off a surprise if she consolidates votes from Sanders' supporters.
State Sen. Ruben Kihuen is a protégé of retiring Sen. Harry Reid and he has the support of Reid and most major labor groups, including the powerful Culinary Union. However, non-profit president Susie Lee has much more money available, and she has the backing of the deep-pocked group EMILY's List. Five other Democrats are running, including ex-Assemblyman Morse Arberry, who has been in legal hot water since 2011; none of them are likely to have much of an impact on this primary. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as a Tossup.
● NY-22: Businessman Martin Babinec quietly kicked off his bid as an independent for this competitive upstate seat a little while ago and he’s already secured the Independence Party’s nod, assuring him a spot on the general election ballot. While he faces very long odds in November, Babinec may have the resources to make things interesting. Babinec founded the professional employer organization TriNet and he served as its CEO and chairman: The company brings in $2 billion a year, so Babinec likely made enough cash from his tenure to self-fund a bid if he chooses to. (Update: This item originally mistakenly identified Babinec as a Republican)
● UT-04: All four of Utah's GOP House members are seeking re-election, but only freshman Mia Love is in any danger. Love narrowly lost this seat in 2012 even as Romney was carrying it 67-30, and she only beat Democrat Doug Owens 51-46 during the 2014 GOP wave. (John McCain won 56-41 here in 2008, so this area is still red even without Romney on the ballot.) Owens is running again, and the DCCC recently put him on their "Red to Blue" list for top-tier races. Owens also has raising plenty of money, while Love has continued to rely on scammy direct mail fundraising tactics that cost candidates almost as much money as they bring in: At the end of 2015, Love held a modest $781,000 to $500,000 cash-on-hand edge.
This time, Love will have incumbency on her side, which could make all the difference in a seat as conservative as this. However, Love hasn't attracted particularly good headlines during her year in Washington. Last year, Love reimbursed the treasury for travel expenses improperly billed to taxpayers, and she compounded her errors by utterly failing to offer any sort of consistent explanations for her actions.
The prospect of Donald Trump leading the GOP ticket could also spell disaster for Love. A recent statewide poll from Dan Jones and Associates found Trump actually losing 38-36 to Hillary Clinton, and getting demolished 48-37 by Bernie Sanders; both John Kasich and Ted Cruz easily carried Utah against both Democrats, so it's very unlikely that this was just a weird sample. While it's hard to see Utah going blue even with Trump on the ballot, a candidate as weak as Love would be in a lot of trouble if the GOP doesn't rack up their usual strong margins in the Beehive State. Daily Kos Elections rates the general election as Lean Republican.
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.