● FL-Sen: When Republican efforts to pressure Marco Rubio into running for a second term began to heat up about a week ago, we cataloged all the reasons why he might (or ought to) be deaf to those entreaties. But the biggest of all is that despite all the people whispering in Rubio's ear that he's the strongest candidate the GOP has to offer, he could still very well lose—and shatter any presidential ambitions he may yet harbor.
And now we have some new evidence that backs up this notion, in the form of a poll from Public Policy Polling that finds Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy edging out Rubio by a 44-43 margin. The last time PPP tested this matchup came back in September, when Rubio led 46-40. But since then, Rubio's approval rating has collapsed, sinking from an already mediocre 41-44 to an abysmal 32-54, making him one of the least popular senators in the nation. Just 39 percent of voters say they want him to run for re-election, compared to 51 percent who don't. A craptacular presidential bid will do that to you.
What makes Rubio's showing even more troubling for him—aside from the fact that he's in the low 40s, a place no incumbent ever wants to be—is that Murphy's still largely unknown, with just a 20-18 favorability rating. Murphy's Democratic primary rival, fellow Rep. Alan Grayson, is better known, but he's less popular, sporting 22-26 favorables. Perhaps as a consequence, Grayson performs considerably less well in a head-to-head matchup, losing to Rubio 43-38.
The same pattern repeats itself when the two Democrats are pitted against the Republicans who are actually running. Murphy leads wealthy businessman Carlos Beruff 43-31 and Rep. David Jolly 44-29. Grayson, by contrast, is up 41-32 on Beruff and just 40-33 on Jolly. (PPP did not test the other three notable GOP candidates, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Rep. Ron DeSantis, and businessman Todd Wilcox.)
Facing numbers like these, Rubio's going to have to think long and hard whether he wants to put his future political career at risk. But not too long, though: As Rubio has delighted in reminding us, the filing deadline is June 24. Will he do a solid for his party? Or will he continue to look out for number one? Knowing Rubio, the GOP shouldn't expect him to suddenly turn into a team player.
● IL-Sen: Shot:
Conservative groups show no interest in saving Mark Kirk
Mark Kirk withdraws support for Trump
● NH-Sen: Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte goes positive in her new spot, which features several people praising her for looking out for her constituents and her state. The most notable part comes at the end when Dean Kamen, the creator of the Segway, appears and calls Ayotte "an independent leader fighting for New Hampshire." (Kamen is only identified as an "Entrepreneur & Inventor" in the ad.)
● WI-Sen: In 2010, Republican Ron Johnson portrayed his successful campaign against Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold as a battle between a business outsider and a longtime politician. Johnson's hoping to recapture that magic in his rematch with Feingold even though, you know, Johnson's now served almost six years in the Senate. Johnson's first ad tries to turn back the clock and pretend that Johnson is still the political neophyte on a mission to bring a common-sense business perspective.
The spot features Johnson in a warehouse of the company he once ran, saying that while "some companies export jobs, we export our products. Been doing it for decades, helping to create more Wisconsin jobs." Johnson goes on to say, "Career politicians manufacture hogwash. I manufacture plastic," and concludes by telling the viewer, "If you think it's time for Washington to start facing reality, I sure could use your support." Johnson really seems to be gambling on people actually forgetting that he, rather than Feingold, is the incumbent this time! In fact, Johnson's spot is almost exactly this 2010 article from The Onion come to life.
● MO-Gov: A mysterious group called LG PAC, which only says that it supports "strong conservatives who have a proven track record and accomplishments in government," is out with a spot aimed at wealthy Republican John Brunner. The spot is not online, but the National Journal says that it hits Brunner, one of four Republicans competing in the August primary, for not paying his taxes on time. The commercial is reportedly "getting heavy play in Kansas City," and Brunner's campaign claims it's airing statewide "to the tune of nearly $1 million." Don't expect LG PAC to be very forthcoming about the size of the buy or about anything else, though: When the Kansas City Star called the phone number the group gave to the FEC, the person on the other end just said, "You've got the wrong number," then hung up.
Brunner didn't waste much time going up with a TV spot in response. The narrator bemoans the "[n]ameless, faceless, special interest insiders" who "are attacking John Brunner with flat-out lies because he's the only candidate who can't be bought." The rest of the ad praises Brunner's business record. There is no word on the size of the buy.
Meanwhile, retired Navy SEAL Eric Greitens, one of Brunner's primary rivals, recently launched a memorable commercial that featured gunfire and an explosion. Greitens' team says that the ad is a "substantial six figure statewide" buy. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder recently went up with his own ad, backed by just $30,000 so far, while ex-state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway has yet to take to the air. The GOP nominee will face Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster, who has also not begun advertising yet.
● PR-Gov: There may not be a worse elected office anywhere in the United States right now than governor of Puerto Rico. The commonwealth is dealing with a massive debt crisis, and unsurprisingly, incumbent Gov. Alejandro García Padilla decided not to seek a second four-year term in the face of horrific approval ratings. But several brave souls decided to run for the post, and there was a bit of surprise in Sunday's primary for the nomination of the New Progressive Party (PNP), which supports statehood for the island.
Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico's non-voting member of Congress (and also the party's president), unexpectedly lost the PNP primary to Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, the son of a former governor, by a 51-49 margin. Pierluisi has been facing questions about his fundraising, but his support for the controversial debt relief bill, known as PROMESA, is almost certainly what led to his defeat.
As NBC explains, PROMESA, which was largely drafted by Republicans, would create a special board that would take over the territory's finances, a move that opponents say would undermine Puerto Rico's sovereignty. Pierluisi supported the bill, which could come up for a vote in the House as early as Thursday, calling it the best option available. But Rosselló opposes PROMESA as it's currently written, arguing that it needs to include a provision that would allow Puerto Rico to become a U.S. state if the island's voters call for it.
Rosselló will face ex-Secretary of State David Bernier, who belongs to García Padilla's Popular Democratic Party (PPD), which wants to preserve Puerto Rico's commonwealth status. (Interestingly, both Rosselló and Bernier are also members of the Democratic Party, but mainland partisan affiliations mean little in local Puerto Rico elections.) Bernier, who did not face a primary, also opposes PROMESA—as did García Padilla, for all the good it did him. Bernier has even threatened to sue to block the measure, arguing that it would put an unelected group in charge of the island's finances. Several minor candidates who also oppose PROMESA will be on the November general election ballot, but Rosselló and Bernier look like the clear frontrunners.
● UT-Gov: Republican Gov. Gary Herbert is the overwhelming favorite in his June 28 primary with businessman Jonathan Johnson, but he's wisely continuing to air ads just in case. Herbert continues to go positive as he promotes the state's economy and calls for "making education in Utah the best in the nation."
● VT-Gov: The Vermont State Labor Council AFL-CIO has taken sides in the three-way August Democratic primary, and their executive council has thrown its backing behind ex-state Sen. Matt Dunne. Meanwhile, ex-state Sen. Peter Galbraith appears poised to win the backing of the Vermont State Employees Association, which is one of the state's largest labor groups. Ex-state Transportation Secretary Sue Minter rounds out the Democratic field here.
● MI-06, NY-24: Bernie Sanders, whose previous emails on behalf of favored downballot candidates has brought in game-changing sums of money, issued two new House endorsements on Tuesday. One comes in Michigan's 6th Congressional District, where political science professor Paul Clements is taking a second run at veteran GOP Rep. Fred Upton. Last cycle, Clements lost 56-40 amid the GOP wave, and his repeat effort hasn't caught the attention of national Democrats. He also faces a major cash-on-hand gap, as Upton, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has $1.3 million in the bank while Clements has just $310,000. However, Mitt Romney only won this seat 50-49, so if Donald Trump makes the election go (even more) haywire, it's not inconceivable that Upton could wind up a victim.
Sanders' other endorsee is also a college professor, Eric Kingson, who is running in New York's 24th Congressional District. However, Kingson faces a primary later this month against two other better-equipped Democrats, former congressional aide Colleen Deacon and attorney Steve Williams. Both have more money than Kingson (though that might be about to change), and Deacon also has the support of the DCCC and New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, her old boss. The trio is vying to take on freshman GOP Rep. John Katko in a seat that went for Barack Obama by a 57-41 margin.
● NY-01: Good one, Lee Zeldin:
"You can easily argue that the president of the United States is a racist with his policies and his rhetoric."
Check out video of the freshman GOP congressman's appearance on CNN where he uttered the remarks above—it's as painful as a TV news interview ever gets. Both of Zeldin's would-be Democratic rivals, venture capitalist Dave Calone and former Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, immediately slammed him, prompting Zeldin to cough up a classic no-pology: "I apologize to anyone who interpreted my comments as calling the President a racist."
Mmhmm. But what's disturbing is that Zeldin's tortured efforts to defend Donald Trump might not be a gaffe at all. Back in April, Zeldin claimed that his internal polls showed Trump beating Hillary Clinton "in a blowout" in New York's 1st Congressional District, even though Barack Obama narrowly won it four years ago. Who knows if that claim is true, or whether, if it is true, it would still hold in the fall, but it's certainly possible. And Zeldin, at least, is publicly behaving as though it is and it will.
Trump might be an anvil around the GOP's neck in many places, but his impact won't be felt uniformly, and he could even boost Republicans in certain locales. And that's a distressing thought indeed.
● NY-22: Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney is up with a negative TV spot aimed at businessman Steve Wells, one of her two rivals in the June 28 GOP primary. The narrator accuses Wells' firm of giving a donation to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, followed by audio of Wells saying, "Our company gave a donation … I think it was ten thousand …." The second half of the spot portrays Tenney as an ardent Cuomo opponent. Ex-Broome County Legislator George Phillips is also seeking the GOP nod. The winner will face Democrat Kim Myers, a Broome County legislator, and wealthy independent Martin Babinec in a seat that Romney narrowly carried.
● IA State Senate: The Democrats' 26 to 24 majority in the Iowa state Senate is the only thing standing between the GOP and complete control of the state government, and Team Red will make another effort to flip the chamber this fall. However, their task got a little tougher on Tuesday when state Sen. David Johnson announced that he was switching his party registration from Republican to "no party" over "the racist remarks and judicial jihad" coming from Donald Trump. Johnson, who is not up for re-election until 2018, says he has not decided if he'll remain a member of the GOP caucus.
Johnson made it clear he would not back Hillary Clinton and says that "[i]f there is a profound split" within his party, he'll "gladly re-join Republicans who are dedicated to equality and justice for all, and let Mr. Trump lead his supporters over the cliff." Johnson's seat backed Romney 63-36, so it'll probably be represented by a member of the GOP caucus by 2019 at the latest. Still, Iowa Democrats won't complain if Johnson holds out for a while and makes it tougher for Team Red to capture a majority in the Senate this year.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and Stephen Wolf.