● IA-Sen: In the first-ever poll of Iowa's Senate race, conducted a week after former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge won the Democratic primary, PPP finds veteran GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley leading her by a less-than-dominant 48-41 margin. While we don't have any other data to directly compare these numbers to this cycle, we can take a look at Grassley's very long electoral history, and in that light, 48 percent doesn't look particularly good. In 2010, Grassley consistently polled in the 50s and even low 60s en route to a 64-34 romp. And while we don't have polling data handy from prior years, Grassley's prior re-election wins saw him take 66, 70, 68, and 70 percent of the vote, stretching from 1986 through 2004. (He really has been in office forever.)
So while a 48-41 lead might look relative comfortable for other incumbents, to see Grassley under 50 is notable. (The only poll that had him under 50 in 2010 was from the discredited firm Research 2000—and in any event, it was contemporaneous with a PPP survey that put him at 57.) All that said, though, Judge still has some massive hurdles to overcome in order to unseat the incumbent. Despite the hits he's taken for months for leading the Republican blockade of the Supreme Court as chair of the Judiciary Committee, Grassley's job approval rating is still above water at 48-41. (Judge's favorables are 34-42.) And Grassley has a long reputation as a champion for his state that even his recent elevation as commander of the GOP's partisan shock troops can't completely erase.
Grassley also has a lot more money than Judge, and so far, the big outside groups haven't signaled a major interest in getting involved in Iowa. But there's another positive for Judge in PPP's poll (which was conducted on behalf of the liberal Constitutional Responsibility Project): Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump 44-41—and Trump's favorables are a terrifying 33-64, while Clinton's look downright lovely by comparison at 42-55. Barack Obama carried Iowa by 6 points in 2012, and it certainly looks like the undecideds here should favor Clinton. Grassley's always managed to win an unusual amount of crossover voters, but can he keep that magic going in this day and age? That will be his challenge.
● PA-Sen: Sometimes, you watch an ad and need to remind yourself that, no, it's not a parody. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is out with a new spot against Democrat Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania's Senate race and once again, they accuse her of wanting to tax energy. Their last commercial on the topic relied on a hamster to make its case, but this time, they turn to America's most precious natural resource: Our children.
The camera shows several kids playing on a playground as one of the two moms comments, "I can't believe how much energy they have." The other woman warns her, "Shhh… don't say that," explaining, "Have you seen how Katie McGinty tries to tax energy?" Mom #2 then accuses McGinty of supporting energy taxes, and even Cap and Trade. Do most voters even remember what that is anymore? But the dumbest part is still to come.
Mom #1 looks back at the playground and realizes, "If Katie McGinty realizes how much energy they have, it's only a matter of time before she taxes it!" Suddenly, a black car pulls up, the door opens, and the camera shows someone wearing a high heel stepping out. "Oh no, she heard you," Mom #2 exclaims in horror. "Run, Jimmy, run!" Mom #1 cries, as Jimmy screams. Again, all of this is actually in the commercial. Go ahead and watch it if you don't believe us.
Conservative groups have been spending a ton on (mostly non-stupid) ads, but McGinty is about to get some more air support. EMILY's List has reserved $1 million, and they tell Morning Consult that their spots will start next week.
● WI-Sen: Democrat Russ Feingold is out with another spot. Feingold highlights his travel across Wisconsin and says people keep telling him "how hard it is to get ahead." He blames "a political system working overtime—for CEOs," and pledges to help create "an economy that works for everyone."
● UT-Gov: A recent SurveyUSA poll showed Gov. Gary Herbert smoking businessman Jonathan Johnson 69-24 in the June 28 GOP primary, and Johnson's reaction is… really something.
Johnson's team has released a new poll from an unidentified group that shows him down "just" 48-37. Voters are then read several negative statements about Herbert, such as, "As Governor, Gary Herbert has supported and allowed nearly $700 million of new taxes to go into law and refused on a KSL debate not to raise taxes further. Does Gov. Herbert's tax increase and refusal not to raise taxes again make you more likely or less likely to vote for him?" Afterwards, voters are asked again whom they'll support, and Herbert leads 43-42.
It's pretty depressing for Johnson that, even when voters only hear what he wants them to hear about the incumbent, he still can't pull ahead. And since Herbert has been outspending Johnson, it's not like the challenger's message is the only one that's being broadcast. The fact that Johnson's team also doesn't identify the pollster makes it even harder to take this survey seriously.
But Johnson's memo really gets creative at the end, and introduces us to an all-new form of loserspeak. They explain, "For the past few months, the Johnson for Governor campaign has been using a third party tracking service called Keyhole to track the hashtags #HireJJ and #GaryGov in order to measure momentum online." The results: From May 14 to June 13, "There were 93 unique users using the #GaryGov hashtag," but, "There were 460 unique users using the #HireJJ hashtag." Suffice to say, if your response to bad polls is to point out how many Twitter accounts are using your hashtag, you're losing, and losing badly. They may as well have just said, "The only poll that matters is @JJohnsonNow's Twitter Poll on Election Day."
Meanwhile, Herbert is out with yet another ad. Herbert promotes how he's fought the federal government on land and education. Herbert does not promote how many members of the Obama administration he's convinced to delete their accounts. Herbert also earned an endorsement from Mitt Romney on Thursday.
● CA-21: When it comes to counting votes in California, the only certainty is that there are no certainties. On election night, Fowler City Councilor Daniel Parra held a 467-vote lead on attorney Emilio Huerta for the second slot in the top-two primary, but millions of ballots still remained untallied statewide because most voters vote by mail and are permitted to postmark their ballots as late as Election Day.
Now that more (but still not all!) ballots have been tabulated, the lead has flipped, putting Huerta ahead by 797 votes as of Thursday afternoon. The race, however, appears to be over, according to the Bakersfield Californian, because there are more outstanding ballots in Kern and Tulare Counties, where Huerta has done well, than in Fresno and Kings Counties, where Parra has led, but by a smaller margin. Huerta hasn't declared victory yet, saying he's "still waiting for the final tallies," and Parra hasn't conceded, but a second reversal is even less than unlikely.
And that's good news for national Democrats, who strongly preferred Huerta, a better fundraiser with, as the son of legendary labor leader Dolores Huerta, a prominent family name. (The elder Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers, an important presence in this heavily Latino district where agriculture is king.) Emilio Huerta has a difficult task ahead of him, as GOP Rep. David Valadao has proved stubbornly difficult to dislodge. In particular, he'll need to up his fundraising game (Parra wasn't much competition). But this is definitely the sort of area where Donald Trump could prompt a serious spike in Hispanic turnout, and if he does, Valadao won't like it. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this race Likely Republican.
● FL-02: Mary Thomas, a former attorney in Gov. Rick Scott's administration, is out with her second TV spot ahead of the August GOP primary. The narrator pledges that "Thomas will tame the establishment by passing term limits, eliminating the IRS and taking away special breaks for the powerful." That's… certainly an ambitious agenda. This North Florida seat is safely red.
● FL-04: Ex-Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford is out with his first spot ahead of the August GOP primary. Rutherford sits on the steps in front of what is presumably his home, as he decries how "Washington is broken and out of touch with what each of us face here at home." (What a groundbreaking observation!) Rutherford then bemoans outsourcing and a "military weakened by Obama that puts us all at risk," before he tells the audience that they know him, and know he can take on Washington. This seat is safely red.
● IL-10: Republican Rep. Bob Dold! faces yet expensive another battle with Democrat Brad Schneider in this suburban Chicago seat. Obama won here 58-41, but there are plenty of moderate North Shore voters who pick Republicans for downballot contests. A month ago, Dold released a poll giving himself a 48-41 edge, even as Hillary Clinton defeated Trump 52-36 here. Now, Schneider is out with a Normington Petts survey that gives him a 47-43 edge over Dold, even as Clinton takes the 10th by an almost-identical 53-35 margin. The Democratic group House Majority PAC has reserved almost $1 million in fall airtime for a race Daily Kos Elections rates as a Tossup.
● KS-01, IA-01, NJ-05: The influential anti-tax group the Club for Growth is backing three Republican incumbents: Kansas' Tim Huelskamp; Iowa's Rod Blum; and New Jersey's Scott Garrett. The Club usually spends big to help their endorsed candidates.
The Club's support is probably going to matter the most for Huelskamp, who faces a credible primary challenge from physician Roger Marshall in this safely red seat. Huelskamp has a horrible relationship with both the House leadership and with local agricultural interests; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also hinted last year that they'd target him, though no one has aired TV ads against him yet. Huelskamp won his last primary just 55-45 against a weak foe, and no matter what other outside groups do this year, the Club should be a big asset to this vulnerable member if they run commercials for him. The primary is in early August.
Both Blum and Garrett could also use the Club's support in their general elections. Blum is trying to win a second term in a 56-43 Obama seat, and the NRCC still hasn't added him to their incumbent protection program. Blum has a better relationship with Speaker Paul Ryan than he did with John Boehner, so maybe the NRCC will come to his aid later. But for now, Blum will at least be happy to know that one well-funded group will help him against Democrat Monica Vernon. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Lean Democratic.
Over in New Jersey, Garrett's anti-gay views and opposition to the Export-Import Bank has led to many of his old financial services allies to abandon him for Democrat Josh Gottheimer, and the Chamber notably declined to endorse him. The 5th backed Romney 51-48, so Garrett has much more breathing room than Blum, but he's still in for an expensive fight where he'll need all the help he can get. Daily Kos Elections rates New Jersey's 5th District as Lean Republican.
● LA-03: The Trafalgar Group takes a look at the November jungle primary in this safely red seat. They give Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, who performed well in the area in the 2015 gubernatorial race, the lead with 39 percent of the vote, which is well short of the majority he would need to win without going to the December runoff. Law enforcement officer Clay Higgins, who is a local celebrity from his "Crime Stoppers" videos, takes second with 18 percent; energy executive Greg Ellison is in third with 8. A late April Angelle poll, which did not include Higgins, found Angelle taking 56 percent.
Trafalgar says this poll wasn't conducted for any candidate or group. However, there are a few caveats here. The poll was conducted from May 23 to June 7, which is a ridiculously long period. Plenty of the lesser-known candidates are well-funded, so things likely will change once the ads start. No Democrats have also jumped in yet. Team Blue is very unlikely to flip this seat, but if just one Democrat runs, he or she can probably grab one of the two runoff spots. The Louisiana filing deadline is July 22.
● NC-09: As expected, megachurch pastor Mark Harris has requested a recount of last week's GOP primary, where he now trails Rep. Robert Pittenger by just 135 votes after an official recanvass, a difference of just 0.5 percent. (Pittenger's margin was 142 on election night.) However, despite the seemingly close result, a recount is very unlikely to change the outcome barring a major (and heretofore unknown) error of some sort.
● NY-22: Wealthy businessman Matt Babinec previously got bounced from the Independence Party's ballot line for failing to submit enough signatures, but he'll still get to go before voters this fall under a party of his own creation, the Upstate Jobs Party. (In New York, you can't actually run as a "true independent"—you have to make up your own party.) Babinec's ideology isn't particularly apparent, though it's vaguely Trumpian—he says he wants to "end crony capitalism, corporate giveaways, and so-called billion-dollar top-down economic development slush funds"—so if he spends freely on the general election, his effect could be unpredictable. Democrats have united around Broome County Legislator Kim Myers to try to pick up this swing seat while Republicans have a three-way primary on June 28.
● WY-AL: Liz Cheney's brief 2013 GOP primary bid against Sen. Mike Enzi fell apart for many reasons, but the fact that she'd only just moved to Wyoming after spending most of her life in the DC area certainly didn't help things. So unsurprisingly, Cheney, a former State Department official, is using her first TV spot in her quest for this open seat to argue that Wyoming is fucking awesome.
Most of the minute-long commercial features Cheney extolling how great the people of the Cowboy State are, and how they don't want DC pushing them around. Cheney only mentions herself at the very end, saying she's running "because protecting our way of life will require a strong leader. I will be that leader." The whole thing feels like Cheney is just trying to pretend to be something she isn't (can anyone picture Cheney rising early every day to farm or going into the mines, like the Wyomingites she praises?), but it may not matter. Cheney has far more money than any of her eight GOP primary foes, and she may be impossible to stop in August if no one can emerge as her main opponent. This seat is safely red.
● Where Are They Now?: Ex-Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray won his old spot on the City Council on Tuesday by unseating Yvette Alexander, whom he had once handpicked as his successor, 60-33. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who defeated Gray 44-32 in the 2014 Democratic primary, supported Alexander. Gray quickly refused to rule out a 2018 rematch with Bowser.
Despite his double-digit defeat two years ago, there's a good chance Gray could win back the mayor's office. Gray's term was dominated by allegations that he had illegally ran a shadow campaign in his 2010 race to unseat then-Mayor Adrian Fenty; while polls showed that the city's residents were actually happy with Gray's performance as mayor, they just didn't feel they could trust him. However, federal prosecutors ended their investigation in December without charging Gray, though a contractor involved in the shadow campaign is awaiting sentencing. Bowser's allies also did poorly in Tuesday's Council races, a good sign that voters aren't content with her.
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.