● NC-Gov, Sen: Elon University takes a look at their home state, and they find Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper defeating GOP incumbent Pat McCrory 48-42. This race was already a must-watch contest before last month, but it took on a new level of importance when McCrory signed state House Bill 2.
The state law nullified a Charlotte city ordinance that aimed to protect LGBT citizens and allow transgender citizens to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. The new law also specifically targeted LGBT citizens for discrimination and specified that they must use bathrooms associated with the gender on their birth certificate. A number of businesses subsequently canceled planned expansions into North Carolina.
Elon's last poll gave Cooper a 42-40 edge. The 4-point swing in Cooper's favor since HB2 was signed is similar to what SurveyUSA found last week. SurveyUSA gave McCrory a 47-45 edge in March before HB2 was an election year issue, and had him trailing 47-43 a month later. It looks like HB2 was hurt McCrory at the ballot box, but it still hasn't dramatically changed the state of the contest.
Elon also gives us some Senate numbers, but those are a bit of a head scratcher. They have Republican Sen. Richard Burr leading Democrat Deborah Ross 37-33, with 19 percent saying they'll vote for "someone else," which seems way too high.
● FL-Sen, NH-Sen, OH-Sen: In addition to its sizable fall ad reservations in two states where Democrats are on defense, the DSCC has booked even larger chunks of airtime in three key Senate seats currently held by Republicans. According to CNN, the committee has reserved $10 million apiece in Florida and Ohio, and another $8 million in New Hampshire. Previously, Morning Consult reported that the DSCC had reserved $5 million in Colorado and $4 million in Nevada, numbers that CNN confirms.
● LA-Sen: While Democratic state Rep. Robert Johnson expressed interest in a Senate bid at the beginning of the year, he's decided not to go for it. Louisiana is a very conservative state and national Democrats haven't shown much interest in this seat. However, three notable Democrats are currently running here: Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, 2010 lieutenant governor nominee Caroline Fayard, and energy businessman Josh Pellerin.
● MD-Sen: We have one week left before the Democratic primary, and PPP gives Rep. Chris Van Hollen his best poll in a long time. PPP has Van Hollen leading Rep. Donna Edwards 42-33; even a Van Hollen poll from a few weeks ago only gave him a 45-40 edge.
PPP is the first pollster to release numbers since a controversial pro-Edwards ad aired last week. The Working for Us spot started with a clip of President Barack Obama tearfully recalling the children who were murdered at Sandy Hook, with the narrator then charging that Van Hollen met "with NRA lobbyists to craft a loophole that would let the NRA skirt a new campaign finance law." The White House was angry at the implication that Van Hollen had sided with the NRA over them (while Van Hollen and other House Democrats added an exemption for the NRA into a 2010 campaign finance bill, they had the Obama administration's support), and they called for the ad to be pulled. Van Hollen quickly went on the offensive and ran a commercial blaming Edwards for the Working For Us ad.
PPP hasn't released any other numbers here, so it's impossible to say right now if the controversy has helped Van Hollen open up a lead, or if PPP is just finding different numbers than other groups. OpinionWorks and Marist did release numbers just before the Working For Us spot went up, so hopefully they'll survey the field one more time and give us some useful before-and-after trendlines.
● NH-Sen: Planned Parenthood has joined the brigade of outside groups hammering Sen. Kelly Ayotte over her support for the GOP's policy of blockading any consideration of Merrick Garland to fill Antonin Scalia's vacant Supreme Court seat. PP's ad, which is backed by a reported $400,000 buy, then links the fight over Garland to abortion rights, featuring a clip of Ayotte saying, "Well, I certainly think that Roe should be overturned, but I think that has to be done at the United States Supreme Court."
According to WMUR, though, Republicans have spent far more on New Hampshire's Senate race to date. Even though it's only April, outside GOP groups have shelled out $8 million, while pro-Democratic organizations have put in "just" $2.2 million. Polls have shown a close contest, with Ayotte generally a few points ahead of Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this race a Tossup.
● PA-Sen: Pennsylvania's Democratic primary for Senate has long been extremely contentious, but it's only now, in the final week before Election Day, that the two leading campaigns have started airing attack ads aimed at one another. Katie McGinty fired the first shot, accusing Joe Sestak of "looking out for Wall Street CEOs" because he was one of just eight Democrats to vote for a bill "to allow CEOs of bailed-out banks to pay themselves unlimited bonuses."
McGinty is referring to a 2009 vote on legislation called the "Pay for Performance Act" designed to make it harder for companies receiving public bailout funds to award bonuses to their employees. That bill passed the House largely along party lines, with Sestak indeed siding against the vast majority of Democrats.
Sestak has responded with his own spot, which begins with a narrator saying, "Another day, another false ad from Katie McGinty." The narrator ultimately goes on to explain that "Sestak voted against giving back CEO bonuses to their corporations," which comes dangerously close to simply repeating McGinty's original charge. But why? Because Sestak "fought for and voted for a tougher bill to give the bonuses to taxpayers instead." That seems like the sort of rather fine distinction that's often difficult to convey to voters, and it's the kind of problem that iconoclasts who vote against bills for being insufficiently pure tend to get stuck with.
● WA-Gov: Local pollster Elway Research gives us a rare look at this race, and they have good news for Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee. They give Inslee a 48-36 lead against Republican Bill Bryant, a Port of Seattle commissioner; in January, they had Inslee up 39-30. It's been a very long time since any other pollsters have released numbers here. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Lean Democratic.
● CA-24: Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, the favorite candidate of national Democrats, is out with his second spot ahead of the June top-two primary. While Carbajal's first ad was pretty unfocused, this one is stronger and more creative. The commercial features clips of Donald Trump being an asshole before Carbajal appears and pledges to seek common ground. (Before the Trump part starts, a warning appears saying, "The following politics are rated TV MA LV" for language and violence, which is cute.)
Carbajal is battling with Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider for one of the two spots in the general election and while calling for common ground probably isn't the best way to appeal to primary voters, you can't go wrong with some good old-fashioned Trump bashing. Early voting starts in a few weeks, and Carbajal has kept his massive financial edge on Schneider. As of March 31, Carbajal held a $1 million to $242,000 cash-on-hand edge.
Republican voters in this coastal seat also have a few candidates to choose from. Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian represents about two-thirds of this district in the legislature, but his fundraising has been pretty slow. Last quarter, Achadjian managed to outraise businessman Justin Fareed $248,000 to $183,000, but Fareed maintains a $728,000 to $401,000 cash-on-hand lead. Perennial candidate Matt Kokkonen also loaned himself $211,000, and he has $198,000 in the bank. Obama carried this seat 54-43, and Daily Kos Elections rates it as Lean Democratic.
● FL-01: This week, state Sen. Greg Evers announced that he would seek this safely red open seat. Evers will face state Rep. Matt Gaetz in the late August primary. Evers represents two-thirds of this Pensacola-area seat, while Gaetz represents only about a quarter of the 1st in the other chamber. But Gaetz comes from a wealthy and well-connected family, and observers are predicting that this will not be a civil contest. James Zumwalt, a former aide to retiring Rep. Jeff Miller, is also in the mix.
● FL-04: St. Johns County Commissioner Bill McClure has confirmed that he will seek this safely red open seat. McClure didn't seek donations during his commission run, and it sounds like he plans to do the same thing again. McClure owns a health care technology company, so maybe he can self-fund instead.
McClure joins ex-Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford in the August GOP primary, but the field may get bigger before too long. While state Rep. Lake Ray hasn't declared that he's in, he has announced that he's formed an exploratory committee. However, Duval County Property Appraiser Jerry Holland confirmed on Monday that he wouldn't go for it, while ex-Jacksonville City Council President Richard Clark says he's "planning solely" to run for the state House. The filing deadline is in June.
● IL-12: Democrats had long held the area around St. Louis that makes up Illinois' 12th Congressional District, but Republican Mike Bost managed to flip the seat during the 2014 GOP wave. But while Barack Obama carried this district by a 50-48 margin, national Democrats had struggled to put this race in play. After more prominent potential recruits demurred, the only guy who stepped up was lawyer C.J. Baricevic. However, Baricevic had trouble raising cash and the DCCC showed no interest in his campaign, so it appeared that Team Blue was just going to write off this contest.
But now Baricevic's campaign has finally begun to show some signs of life. Baricevic actually outraised Bost $231,000 to $183,000 from Feb. 25 to March 31, and Bost's $867,000 to $324,000 cash-on-hand edge, while large, isn't completely overwhelming. What makes this late fundraising surge all the more surprising is that Baricevic only took in only $49,000 from Jan. 1 to Feb. 24. It's not clear what's responsible for this development (Baricevic had no primary foe in March, so officially earning his party's nomination probably didn't do it), but Democrats have to hope that he keeps eating his Wheaties.
We'll see if Baricevic can keep up the pace—and whether national Democrats come to his aid. This isn't a top-tier race yet by any means, but Baricevic is finally demonstrating that he might be able put this seat back on the map. As a result, Daily Kos Elections is changing our rating here from Safe Republican to Likely Republican.
● IN-03: The May 3 primary for this safely red Fort Wayne seat isn't far away, and Nathan Gonzales tells us that things are getting nasty and expensive here. Until recently, wealthy farmer Kip Tom had been airing just positive ads. However, Tom recently went up with a spot that bashes state Sens. Jim Banks and Liz Brown, as well as ex-Wisconsin state Sen. Pam Galloway, as "career politicians," before the narrator promotes Tom as a conservative outsider; a second spot went after just Banks, who appears to be Tom's main rival.
Banks' allies at the Club for Growth didn't waste much time hitting Tom right back. Their commercial accuses Tom of sitting on a board that donated to liberals like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and says Tom "sat on a quasi-governmental board that dolled out corporate welfare, while hiding how it actually spent tax dollars." The narrator does not mention Banks. There is no word on the size of the buy, but the Club has never been reluctant to spend big in races it cares about.
Banks himself is also out with a poll arguing he has the edge next month. The Wilson Perkins Allen Research survey, which was conducted last week, gives Banks a 28-18 lead against Tom, with Brown just behind at 14 and Galloway at 6. The candidates' quarterly finance reports also reinforce the idea that Banks and Tom are the frontrunners here. From Jan. 1 to March 31, Tom outraised Banks $300,000 to $279,000. Tom has been spending heavily, which has allowed Banks to amass a $317,000 to $98,000 cash-on-hand edge. While Tom has not done any self-funding yet, it sounds like he's more than capable of it.
By contrast, Brown and Galloway each had less than $100,000 in the bank, and it won't be easy for either woman to win if they can't air many ads in the final weeks of the contest. Former Allen County Councilor Kevin Howell entered the race late but has not filed an FEC report, so it doesn't look like he'll be much of a factor.
● IN-09: State Sen. Erin Houchin is out with her first TV spot ahead of the May GOP primary and she has one simple message: Unlike Trey Hollingsworth, she's not a fucking carpetbagger. (Houchin may not have used exactly those words.) Houchin narrates her commercial and emphasizes her Southern Indiana roots, before bashing Hollingsworth as "a Tennessee millionaire who just moved here to try and buy our seat in Congress." Houchin doesn't mention her other opponents, Attorney General Greg Zoeller and state Sen. Brett Waltz.
Hollingsworth's very expensive campaign has emerged as the big story of this primary. So far, Hollingsworth has loaned his campaign almost $1 million, and he spent $801,000 during the first three months of 2016; an allied super PAC funded by Hollingsworth's father has also been airing ads targeting Zoeller. Hollingsworth had just $118,000 in the bank at the end of March, but he's more than capable of refilling his coffers. Hollingsworth only moved to Indiana from Tennessee in September, and he started running for Congress the next month. Hollingsworth has largely avoided the media, and local Republican leaders say they've had no contact with him.
Unsurprisingly, none of the other three Republicans have anywhere near Hollingsworth's resources. In fact, Houchin was the only candidate to raise more than $100,000 during the first quarter, though her $132,000 wasn't a massive haul. As of March 31, Houchin led Zoeller $242,000 to $89,000 in cash-on-hand, with Waltz having $80,000 in the bank.
National Democrats haven't made this 57-41 Romney seat a priority, but Monroe County Councilor Shelli Yoder has been raising a decent amount of cash. Yoder took in $109,000 during the first quarter, and she has $296,000 on hand. Still, even if there's a Democratic wave, this seat will be hard to flip. In the 2012 Senate race, Republican Richard Mourdock lost 50-44 statewide, but he still narrowly carried the 9th. Yoder lost to departing Republican Rep. Todd Young 55-45 that year, so she certainly knows how tough this area is for Team Blue.
● LA-02: East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden has been talking about challenging Rep. Cedric Richmond, a fellow Democrat, for months. Holden hasn't made an announcement yet, but he has filed with the FEC to run for this safely blue seat. The two men (as well as anyone else from any party who runs) will face off on one ballot in the November jungle primary; if no one takes more than 50 percent, there will be a December runoff.
● NV-03: Wealthy perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian is up with his first TV spot ahead of the June GOP primary, and he's immediately going after establishment favorite Michael Roberson, the state Senate majority leader. The narrator accuses Roberson of supporting amnesty, "the largest tax hike in state history," and Common Core.
National Democrats would be thrilled to face the tea party-flavored Tarkanian instead of Roberson in November for this swing seat. Both candidates have enough money to hit each other for the next few months: As of March 31, Roberson held a $685,000 to $555,000 cash-on-hand edge against Tarkanian, but Tarkanian should be able to lend his campaign more cash. However, Roberson hopes (and Democrats fear) that the other minor ultra-conservative candidates will take enough votes from Tarkanian to hand Roberson a win. The good news for Tarkanian is that none of the other Republicans, including Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, have much cash between them, so they may not end up being much of a factor.
Obama narrowly carried this suburban Las Vegas seat, but it took months for Sen. Harry Reid and national Democrats to recruit a candidate. However, synagogue president Jacky Rosen's opening quarter was not exactly incredible. Rosen brought in only $170,000, though she loaned her campaign another $35,000. Attorney Jesse Sbaih, who has mostly been self-funding his campaign, holds a big $603,000 to $166,000 cash-on-hand over Rosen. Reid and Sbaih do not like each other at all: Sbaih says that Reid tried to get him to drop out because "a Muslim cannot win this race," and Reid's camp responded by saying that Sbaih is "a liar and that's why he is going to lose." Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Lean Republican.
● WV-02: National Democrats have taken an interest in Army lawyer Cory Simpson, who is hoping to unseat freshman Republican Alex Mooney in this conservative seat. Simpson is out with his first spot ahead of the May 10 primary, and the ad makes heavy use of his military background.
Simpson needs to get past ex-state Del. Mark Hunt before he can take on Mooney. Simpson outraised Hunt $115,000 to $13,000 from January to March; Simpson loaned himself another $20,000, while Hunt threw in $43,000 of his own money. However, Hunt spent most of his dough already, and Simpson leads $107,000 to $3,000 in cash-on-hand.
Mooney himself raised $148,000 during this time, and he has $377,000 on-hand. Mooney, who carpetbagged from Maryland to West Virginia to run for this seat in 2013, almost lost during last cycle's GOP wave. However, Mooney has a lot of room for error in this 60-38 Romney seat, and the carpetbagging charges may matter less now that he's the incumbent. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Likely 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.