● IL-Sen: Major groups on both sides of the aisle have already spent millions on commercials in most key Senate races, and they've dumped even more into fall ad reservations. However, Real Clear Politics' James Arkin notes that there has been very little outside spending in Illinois, where Republican Sen. Mark Kirk is trying to hold his seat against Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth.
The DSCC has reserved $2 million in fall airtime time; that's not a trivial amount, but it's small compared to their investments in other states. Another Democratic group, Senate Majority PAC, has reserved a total of $25 million in several states, but notably not in Illinois. On the GOP side, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce dropped $550,000 here in July, they haven't spent anything since then even as they've been airing ads in other states. The NRSC and the Koch-aligned Freedom Partners have also passed over Illinois even as they've spent big elsewhere. The Club for Growth's head even admitted back in August that it would be tough for Kirk to win and unsurprisingly, they also haven't spent here.
Of course, few other Republicans are going to say on the record that they think Kirk is screwed (though an operative for an unnamed conservative group said that, "I think you could bring Abraham Lincoln back from the dead to try for the Senate seat and he would have trouble in 2016, or he would be a decided underdog in 2016"), nor would Democrats go around bragging that they think Duckworth has this locked up. And as Arkin points out, unlike most Senate battlegrounds, dark blue Illinois is not going to be a swing state in the presidential contest. While it makes sense for outside groups to reserve airtime now in places like Florida and Ohio, where prices will rise as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump keep buying airtime, that's very unlikely to be an issue in the Land of Lincoln. Still, it's notable that no one is currently airing any ads either. Even Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who hasn't led in a single released poll, is getting help from major outside groups now.
There has been very little public polling here, though Kirk released a poll in April that showed him trailing 43-40. It’s clear that Kirk will need a lot of things to go right that are beyond his control. It's tough enough for Republicans to win statewide in Illinois in a presidential cycle, and Trump is unlikely to make it any easier. A state judge recently scheduled a trial on allegations that Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth engaged in improper retaliation against two former employees, and Kirk is hoping that the story will give him an opening. (The case has been dismissed three times already.) Still, it's notable that Republican groups aren't running ads on the matter now. It's too early to say that even Kirk's allies have given up on him and decided to refocus elsewhere, but there's no doubt that this isn't a good omen.
● CA-Sen: We have three new polls of Tuesday's top-two Senate primary, and they all show two Democrats, state Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, easily advancing to the general election. Marist has Harris and Sanchez grabbing first and second with 37 and 19 respectively, with Republican Tom Del Beccaro all the way back at 8. The Field Poll has Harris and Sanchez at 30 and 14, with three Republicans tied for 4. Finally, USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times has Harris and Sanchez taking 28 and 20, while two Republicans are tied for third with 6. Unless literally every single released poll is very wrong, we're in for a Harris-Sanchez showdown in November.
While Harris would undoubtedly prefer to face a Republican than Sanchez in this dark blue state, she likely will have the edge in the fall. Harris has more money and internal party support than Sanchez. The congresswoman will need to overwhelmingly win conservative voters while taking at least a significant minority of Democrats to overcome Harris, and it won't be easy to strike that balance. Indeed, Field gives Harris an early 40-26 lead over Sanchez in the general; Harris wins Democrats and unaffiliated voters by double digits, and she even takes Republicans 26-25.
● IA-Sen: The first poll of Tuesday's Democratic primary for Senate in Iowa comes, oddly enough, from a Republican pollster, Remington Research. The survey finds former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, who has the endorsement of the DSCC, leading state Sen. Rob Hogg, who is backed by most of his fellow legislators, by a 41-32 margin when leaners are included. Judge, as a former statewide official, entered the race with greater name recognition, and she has also outraised and outspent Hogg. The two are hoping to take on veteran GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, though national Democrats will probably lose interest if Hogg wins the nomination.
● NH-Sen: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is out with another ad aimed at Democrat Maggie Hassan. Once again, they accuse Hassan of overtaxing her state, with the narrator accusing her of having "100 ways to make you pay."
● PA-Sen: Conservative groups have been spending heavily here to hit Democrat Katie McGinty early, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has another commercial. This one is a bit more creative than their usual offerings. It features a focus group where people are asked obvious questions like, "What would you like on your cheese stake, cheese wiz or silly string?" and "Which do you prefer on your sandwich, ham or hamster?" (Shockingly, there are no silly string hamster eaters assembled.) The guy then asks the group if they'd prefer Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, whom he characterizes as a bipartisan leader, or McGinty, a "partisan political operative who fought for higher taxes on Pennsylvania families." And surprise, surprise, Toomey wins the Pepsi Challenge. Celebratory silly string shots are on us.
● AZ-05: The Summit Consulting Group is out with the first poll of the August GOP primary for this safely red seat. They give state Senate President Andy Biggs a 24-18 lead over ex-Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley, with state Rep. Justin Olson and former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones at 8 and 6. Summit doesn't appear to be working for any of the candidates, but they're close to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is backing Biggs. Another one of Summit's clients is retiring Rep. Matt Salmon, who is also in Biggs' corner. By contrast, Stapley is an old Arpaio enemy.
● FL-04: If you only watch one campaign ad this month, make sure it's this one. Attorney Hans Tanzler, the son of a former mayor of Jacksonville, is the latest blue-blooded politician to pose as a cowboy. Tanzler channels the spirit of Wyoming Republican Malcolm Wallop, and perhaps a little of Alabama Republican Dale Peterson, in his very over-the-top first TV ad for this safely red seat.
The commercial channels old west themes, starting with a wanted poster featuring Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, as the narrator decries what national Democrats are doing. Tanzler then holsters a gun and rides a horse as the narrator says, "We need a hero. A prosecutor. A business leader and job champion. A reformer who stood up for our farmers." In the best part, Tanzler tries to sound tough, declaring "Mr. Obama, you and your gang have made a mess in Washington. And I've got one message from We The People: Get out of our town." (Obama and Reid actually will be out of office next year, so mission accomplished?) The whole thing feels more than a little ridiculous: For starters, why would a candidate in Florida embrace a Western theme? But at least it's not boring or forgettable.
● FL-27: While Obama carried this Miami-area seat 53-46, it's tough to see entrenched GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen losing anytime soon. Ros-Lehtinen has never had trouble winning re-election, and she's not been shy about distancing herself from Donald Trump in this heavily Latino district. Still, Democrats are at least fielding someone a grade or two above Some Dude. Scott Fuhrman, the head of his family's fruit juice bottling company, has entered the race, and he says he'll throw $250,000 of his own money into the campaign. Fuhrman is friends with Andrew Korge, the son of a prominent Democratic fundraiser, so he may have the connections he'll need to raise more cash.
In Fuhrman's announcement video, he readily noted that he's had some problems with the law in the past. Fuhrman noted that, "When I was younger I made some bad decisions. I drove too fast, I raced cars, and I broke the law. I put myself and other people at risk." Fuhrman has been arrested four times: The most recent and serious incident was in 2009 when he was pulled over and admitted to having two drinks, and police found a loaded handgun in the car. Fuhrman ended up paying a $1,071 fine and performing 56 hours of community service. Fuhrman is now arguing that he's changed and that unlike other politicians, he's being transparent about his past. In any case, even if voters agree that Fuhrman has learned from his mistakes, he’s very unlikely to beat Ros-Lehtinen. Still, it's always good to have someone running in case things go completely haywire.
● NY-01: EMILY's List is launching a $500,000 ad campaign for ex-Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst ahead of the June 28 Democratic primary. Their spot praises Throne-Holst as "a progressive leader who’s helped turn around our community for the better," and pledges that she'll stand up to Republicans to protect Planned Parenthood, Social Security and Medicare, and "Long Island's natural resources." Throne-Holst faces venture capitalist Dave Calone for the right to face freshman Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin in this swing seat.
● NC Redistricting: On Thursday, a three-judge panel hearing a long-running challenge to North Carolina's congressional lines rejected claims by plaintiffs that a new map drafted by Republican legislators in response to an earlier court order amounted to an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The same court had previously ruled that the GOP's original map, used in the last two election cycles, had overly relied on race; this time around, Republicans claimed that they ignored race altogether and only took political considerations into account—yielding a map that, like the prior one, is almost certain to elect 10 Republicans and just three Democrats.
But while the Supreme Court has long looked askance at partisan gerrymanders, it has never accepted a workable standard for judging such claims. On account of this, the three-judge court said it found its "hands tied" and could not rule in favor of plaintiffs, who didn't propose a standard of their own. However, said the court, its brief ruling would not "foreclose any additional challenges" to the latest Republican map. The plaintiffs have not yet said how they'll proceed, though if they appeal to the Supreme Court, it's possible they'll find a more receptive audience if their case were to be heard after a Democratic-appointed justice were to fill Antonin Scalia's vacancy.
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.