● FL-Sen: Even though PPP had just conducted a Florida poll less than two weeks earlier, the firm went back into the field in the wake of the Orlando mass shooting to determine how gun issues might affect the race. Unusually for a public poll, PPP asked an informed ballot question after telling respondents that GOP Sen. Marco Rubio has opposed background checks for gun buyers and also opposed barring people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns (both of which are very popular with voters). On the initial ballot test, Rep. Patrick Murphy, Rubio's most likely Democratic opponent, has a 42-41 edge, indistinguishable from his 43-42 lead in PPP's prior survey. But after the gun questions, Murphy's lead balloons to 47-32.
Of course, informed ballot tests like this represent an idealized view of the world, where you get your message out flawlessly to, in this case, millions of voters while your opponent stands there tongue-tied. That's obviously not how things play out in reality, but this sort of information can nevertheless be useful. And we're very likely to hear quite a bit more about gun violence and gun safety laws as the election unfolds—a lot more than Republicans are used to hearing.
And, we should add, we still don't know whether Rubio will in fact seek re-election—or if he does, if he'll even be his party's nominee. A new survey from St. Leo University says that Rubio would lead the way in a hypothetical GOP primary with 52 percent, while all other hopefuls are in the low single digits, but the sample size is very small—under 200. And PPP finds that even among Republican voters, Rubio's job approval rating is just 44-42.
There's another consideration here as well, which is that if Rubio does get back in, the primary field is going to change a great deal. Most of the current contenders will likely bow out—indeed, Rep. David Jolly has already quit to run for re-election (see our FL-13 item below)—but one seems determined to remain, and it's exactly the one Rubio wouldn't want: wealthy businessman Carlos Beruff, who just hired Gov. Rick Scott's former chief of staff and campaign manager as a consultant for his own bid.
Beruff not only has the resources to fight Rubio to the death, he's also the most Trump-esque candidate we've seen anywhere in the nation—an image he just reinforced with a new ad in which he declares, "I don't believe in hyphenated Americans." We already saw what happens when a Beltway insider with a record of supporting immigration reform goes up against an unfiltered nativist who knows how to channel populist anger, and it wasn't pretty for Rubio. A Rubio-Beruff contest would look very much like a rematch of Rubio-Trump. Is that a battle Marco Rubio really wants to risk losing a second time?
● AK-Sen: Dan Sullivan must have woken up the day of the filing deadline and thought, "Hey! Wouldn't it be funny if Alaska had two senators who were both named Dan Sullivan?" Obviously the joke has now gotten old, though, because Dan Sullivan (the former mayor of Anchorage) has already dropped his primary challenge to GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski—just two weeks after launching it. But this silly denouement isn't all that surprising, since Sullivan only impulsively launched his campaign at the last minute and, during its short life, never hired any staff or even put up a website. At least Alaska's other senator will be happy that he gets to keep on being the only Dan Sullivan who matters.
● CO-Sen: Ted Cruz is deploying his star power among conservatives on behalf of El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, with an endorsement and a trip to Colorado Monday to stump with Glenn. But while Glenn certainly appeals to the same sort of voters as Cruz, he's running his campaign a lot more like Donald Trump. As Roll Call's Alex Roarty reports, Glenn doesn't have a single paid staffer—he relies entirely on volunteers.
That might actually be sufficient for Glenn to win the Republican nomination if he can continue to ride the same enthusiasm from Christian conservatives who powered him to his party's formal endorsement at the state GOP convention back in April. But there's simply no way on earth he could hope to win the general election with this kind of operation (his spokesperson "works as a casualty claims adjustor while fielding press calls") and this kind of money (he had just $50,000 on hand on June 8). Well, Democrats aren't going to complain.
Meanwhile, one of Glenn's primary opponents, former state Rep. Jon Keyser, is running yet another ad. This one attacks Barack Obama and Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet for wanting to close down the prison at Guantanamo Bay and bring men who "spent their lives trying to destroy America … to America"—the same kind of "high-value targets" Keyser claims to have hunted down in Iraq and Afghanistan.
● Senate: Uh, Dubya alert? Aside from a brief, 11th-hour (really, 12th-hour) appearance for Jeb earlier this year, it's been a long time since we've seen our nation's 43rd president on the campaign trail. But if there's one guy George Bush is less unpopular than these days, it's Donald Trump, and so Bush is now out there trying to save his party's fragile majority in the Senate by raising money for vulnerable incumbents. Bush has already helped out John McCain in Arizona and Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire and has plans to assist Roy Blunt (Missouri), Rob Portman (Ohio), and even Ron Johnson (Wisconsin), the most hapless of the bunch. Of course, headlining a fundraiser is one thing; it'll probably be quite a while before we see Bush actually out on the stump. But it's quite a testament to the state of the Republican Party that Bush is the guy they want around now.
● OR-Gov: Republican physician Bud Pierce, who recently won his party's nomination for governor, has released a poll showing Democratic Gov. Kate Brown with just a 39-37 edge in November's special election. There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical, though. For one, we've never heard of the pollster, Action Solutions (it shows up nowhere in our extensive tag library).
It's possible that Pierce's name recognition saw a bump thanks to last month's GOP primary, and conversely, Brown's probably less well-known than most incumbents thanks to the fact that she didn't win the governorship in her own right but rather was elevated to the post last year after Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned. But Republicans nevertheless struggled to find a challenger to Brown, thanks to a number of factors: Oregon's blue hue (even in the GOP waves of 2010 and 2014, Democrats still won the governorship); the fact that this special election is coinciding with the presidential race rather than taking place during a midterm; and Brown's perceived strengths as a candidate—she's won plaudits for her steady governance, particularly in the wake of Kitzhaber's chaotic final days.
Unfortunately, we don't have any other polls here. The only other survey testing Brown against Pierce was from April of 2015, making it all but useless. However, this Action Solutions poll does have one other strange thing to note. It gives Brown a 51-41 approval rating, which should be just fine for a Democratic incumbent (even an un-elected one) in a blue state in a presidential year. The National Journal says that Pierce posts a strong 45-28 approval rating (it's not clear if the poll itself asked about Pierce's "approval rating" or "favorable rating"). That seems incredibly high for a first-time candidate this far from Election Day, even taking a possible post-primary bump into account.
For all these reasons, we don't expect this race to be very competitive, and neither national party has signaled any disagreement with that assessment. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this race Likely Democratic.
● VA-Gov: If you're already sick of 2016 (hello, #NeverTrump Digest fans!), PPP has a poll of next year's gubernatorial race in Virginia to distract you. Guess what? The race is pretty much a tie and there are a ton of tossups. See you in 2017, Virginia!
● CA-31: Navy vet Paul Chabot may have come close to pulling off an upset against Democrat Pete Aguilar in 2014, but that didn't translate into the NRCC showing any interest in seeing a rematch this time around. In fact, the committee snubbed Chabot and endorsed Economics for Dummies author Sean Flynn, but Flynn actually managed to come in fourth in the top-two primary earlier this month while Chabot easily took the second slot, so a rematch it is.
Chabot's trying to prove the NRCC was wrong to diss him, though, by releasing a new poll from Remington Research that has him tied at 43 apiece with Aguilar. We haven't seen any other surveys here, but suffice it to say, we don't believe this is going to be a competitive race. Barack Obama won this district by a 57-40 margin in 2012, and a majority of the population here is Latino: Donald Trump territory it ain't. As we often say in situations such as these, if Chabot couldn't pull it off despite the GOP wave two years ago, how's he going to manage it now?
● CO-05: If Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn can't win renomination on June 28, he has no one to blame but himself. Lamborn faces former legislative aide Calandra Vargas, who spent just $13,000 during the pre-primary period (April 1 to June 8), and has less than $3,000 on-hand. Lamborn himself dropped just $96,000 during this time, which, while a whole lot more than Vargas, isn't a sign that he's taking this contest seriously.
However, Lamborn has struggled to win the affections of Colorado Springs Republicans in the past. Last cycle, Lamborn defeated retired Air Force General Bentley Rayburn just 53-47. A few months ago, delegates at the GOP convention favored Vargas over the incumbent 58 percent to 35; if Lamborn had won fewer than 30 percent of the delegates, he wouldn't have even advanced to the GOP primary. Of course, the primary electorate will be different than the convention; Rayburn also had run for this seat twice before and he spent much more than Vargas (even though he still didn't spend much), so his near 2014 win doesn't mean she can repeat or improve on his performance.
Still, there just seems to be something about Lamborn that a significant number of local Republicans don't like, and even a weak candidate like Vargas is worth watching. Lamborn hasn't had any scandals, and he has a reliably conservative record in this safely red seat. It may just be personal: Back in 2006, retiring Rep. Joel Hefley accused Lamborn of running the "most sleazy, dishonest campaign I've seen in a long, long time" after Lamborn defeated one of his former aides, and the bad blood never really went away. But Vargas may just be too minor to capitalize on Lamborn's problems.
● FL-13, FL-Sen: At high noon Friday, Republican Rep. David Jolly surprised absolutely no one by announcing that he would abandon his bid for Senate and instead run for re-election. Jolly had long telegraphed the move, which comes amid heightened speculation that Sen. Marco Rubio will also reverse course and seek re-election, though Rubio has only suggested he might do so in the vaguest of terms.
That didn't stop Jolly from stepping on his own announcement by going on CNN Friday morning and declaring that "Marco is saying he is getting in"—only for a spokesman to later have to admit that Jolly "has no actual knowledge of a Rubio decision." What a weird way to kick off your own campaign—but then again, Jolly's a weird dude.
Jolly had led in most polls of the GOP Senate primary, but despite being the nominal frontrunner, he was a truly terrible fundraiser. Things got so bad, in fact, that Jolly tried to make a virtue out of his failings by declaring in January that he was simply going to stop raising money altogether—and even proposed a stunty piece of legislation that would have forbidden members of Congress from personally seeking campaign contributions.
A goofy move, but then Jolly really went too far. In April, Jolly was featured in a 60 Minutes piece on the gory details of campaign fundraising. The show made very ordinary practices seem somehow sketchy, even sneaking hidden cameras into NRCC headquarters, which Jolly called "a cult-like boiler room" filled with "sweatshop phone booths."
As you might imagine, that pissed off the NRCC something fierce, leading the committee's executive director to publicly fire off a letter that accused Jolly of spreading lies—and even liked 60 Minutes' entry into the NRCC's offices to Watergate! It's extraordinarily unusual for a party committee to attack one of its own incumbents like this, but now the NRCC is stuck with Jolly and his crappy fundraising, though it's not happy about it. Said a spokesperson following Friday's news:
"The NRCC was not included in his 'deliberations' and has not had any discussions with David about him running for re-election."
You can just feel the sneer in those scare-quotes around the word "deliberations." But the question still remains, is there—despite this whole mess—any sort of upside for the GOP here?
At least one prominent Republican has gone on record saying he doesn't think so: David Jolly. Last year, when the state Supreme Court ordered changes to Florida's congressional map, Jolly declared that "virtually every person in the political sphere will tell you no Republican can win" the redrawn 13th District, which shifted from one that Barack Obama won by just 2.5 points to one he carried by almost 11.
Jolly's analysis wasn't off-base, which is why he decided to run for Senate instead. And the GOP's chances at holding the 13th grew even narrower once former Gov. Charlie Crist entered the race for the Democrats. Throughout his career, Crist has always done well in Pinellas County, which contains his base in the city of St. Petersburg. Crist carried the new version of the 13th, which is contained entirely within Pinellas, both during his 2010 run for Senate as an independent and his 2014 bid for governor as a Democrat, despite losing both races statewide.
But even before Rubio started bigfooting around the Senate race, Jolly's odds of winning his party's nomination weren't great, despite his early poll leads. As what passes for one of the more moderate members of the GOP these days (he was an early Trump critic), Jolly was always going to struggle against the conservative true believers (like Rep. Ron DeSantis) and rampaging nativists (that would be wealthy businessman Carlos Beruff) he was going up against. And of course, there's that fundraising issue: It's pretty hard to win a primary in a state as big as Florida without a lot of money.
Against this backdrop, local Republican leaders began pushing Jolly to reconsider and run for the House again, claiming they had polling showing that he "could" beat Crist, in spite of the long odds. Well, "could" is a big word, and no one ever shared those polls publicly, though a survey from St. Pete Polls did show the race tied at 44. St. Pete, however, has a pretty checkered record, so we're not taking those numbers as any kind of gospel.
That said, Jolly does have a better chance than the Republican Some Dudes currently running in the 13th, so we're moving our rating on this race from Likely Democratic to Lean Democratic. But Jolly's not in a good place, particularly with Donald Trump wreaking havoc at the top of the ticket. Crist is still favored, and it would take a hell of a lot to go right for Jolly to win—following a year in which most things have gone wrong.
● NY-01: Team Blue has an expensive June 28 primary to face freshman Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, and ex-Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst has a clear spending edge over venture capitalist Dave Calone. During the pre-primary period, Throne-Holst outspent Calone $729,000 to $576,000, and she still had a $660,000 to $501,000 cash-on-hand edge on June 8. Both candidates have been airing ads, with Calone recently hitting Throne-Holst for only joining the Democratic Party when she decided to run for this seat (she was a member of the Independence Party before), and donating to the Conservative Party in the past; the group now backs Donald Trump. Throne-Holst has the support of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, which she cited in a response ad.
Whoever emerges with the Democratic nod will quickly need to regroup against Zeldin, who has stockpiled a $1.8 million warchest. Obama narrowly took this Long Island seat in 2012, but Zeldin seems convinced that Trump will outperform Romney here. Unlike most vulnerable Republicans, Zeldin has embraced Trump; the GOP also still does well downballot on Long Island.
● NY-03: Democratic Rep. Steve Israel's decision not to seek another term in this competitive Long Island swing seat came as a huge surprise, but it didn't take long for a competitive Democratic primary to develop. Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern, who has Israel's endorsement, has narrowly outspent North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan $501,000 to $474,000 in the pre-primary period. Ex-Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi dropped $348,000 during this time, while ex-Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman brought up the rear with $220,000.
Obama only carried this seat 51-48, and the GOP has coalesced behind state Sen. Jack Martins. But while Martins has gotten the chance to concentrate on the general election early, his $323,000 warchest isn't incredible for a seat located in the expensive New York media market.
● NY-13: The Democratic primary for this safely blue seat is June 28, but only one candidate has gone up with a TV ad so far. Ex-DNC Political Director Clyde Williams, who took 10 percent of the vote in 2012, recently released his commercial, where he calls for bringing about "real change in our community."
Williams is one of several candidates competing to succeed retiring Rep. Charlie Rangel, whom Williams tried to unseat four years ago. Rangel, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie are all backing Assemblyman Keith Wright, a powerful figure in Manhattan Democratic politics. State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who came close to beating Rangel in 2012 and 2014, looks like Wright's main foe. During the pre-primary period, Wright outspent Espaillat $338,000 to $201,000, with Williams dropping $182,000 during this time.
None of the other Democrats spent more than $100,000, but some of them could still have an effect on the contest. Ex-Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, the son of ex-Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, has a very well-known name in Harlem politics, though the younger Powell failed to beat Rangel in 1994 or 2010. Espaillat is counting on a strong performance with the area's Dominican-American population to put him over the top, but Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, an old Espaillat rival, could cost him some critical votes. The only poll we've seen came from a pro-Espaillat group, and it gave Espaillat a 20-19 lead over Wright, with Powell at 13 and everyone else in the single-digits.
● NY-18: Obama only carried this Hudson Valley seat 51-47, and Democratic Rep. Sean Maloney pulled off tight wins against Republican Nan Hayworth in 2012 and 2014. However, it doesn't look like there will be much to watch this time around. Westchester County Republicans have consolidated behind Phil Oliva, a former top aide to Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, but Oliva had just $78,000 on-hand in early June; Maloney had $1.8 million banked. The New York media market is incredibly expensive, and it's extremely unlikely that any conservative group is willing to spent much to prop up someone as weak as Oliva. This seat may be in play again for Team Red in the future, but this year, Daily Kos Elections is moving it from Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic.
● NY-19: The June 28 GOP primary for this 52-46 Obama seat is not looking good for businessman Andrew Heaney. After two polls gave ex-Assembly Minority Leader John Faso double-digits leads, Heaney's own campaign recently released a survey showing Faso up "just" 37-28. But Faso's team brags that Politico just reported that Heaney has canceled about $200,000 in TV reservations; the story is paywalled, but Heaney isn't contradicting anything. Given that Heaney's own campaign admits he's down, it's clear he's not making this move from a position of strength.
Interestingly, Heaney has already spent a ton here. From April 1 to June 8, Heaney, who has partially self-funded his bid, outspent Faso $864,000 to $480,000. But Faso has gotten some air-support from the super PAC New York Wins, which the Observer says has deployed $764,000 on ads portraying Heaney as a carpetbagger and a closet liberal; Heaney's allied super PAC, the New York Jobs Council, has spent just $40,000. New York Wins has been primarily funded by hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer, but Paul Singer, another major GOP donor, has also given the group a generous amount of money. Heaney has eagerly embraced Donald Trump while Singer is a Trump-skeptic, which partially explains Singer's interest in stopping him. (And to answer a question that no one was asking, Paul Singer is not related to Daily Kos Elections' Jeff Singer.)
The Democratic primary has been comparatively low-key. Law professor Zephyr Teachout has the support of powerful establishment figures like New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand as well as more outsider oriented politicians like Bernie Sanders, and it's shown in her fundraising. From April 1 to June 8, Teachout outraised Livingston Town Councilor Will Yandik $757,000 to $135,000. Yandik has also been outspent, though by a smaller $320,000 to $267,000 margin. An early June poll from Siena College gave Teachout a 53-23 lead, and no other numbers have been released.
● NY-22: Businessman Steve Wells may have entered the GOP primary with little name-recognition, but he's been spending big to change that. During the pre-primary period, Wells, who has been doing some self-funding, spent $474,000, much more than Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney's $130,000 or ex-Broome County Legislator George Phillips' $88,000. Outside spending is also helping Wells. The GOP establishment group Defending Main Street recently aired an ad for him; Tenney's old adversaries, the Oneida Indian Nation, have also funded a group called Grow the Economy that has been airing commercials against her.
The Republican nominee will face Broome County Legislator Kim Myers in a seat that Romney narrowly carried. Myers only had $200,000 on-hand on June 8, which is pretty modest considering that she's had months to raise money without needing to worry about the Democratic primary. Myers does come from a wealthy family (her father is the founder of Dick's Sporting Goods), so maybe she's planning to do some self-funding. Rich guy Matt Babinec, who is running under his new party, the Upstate Jobs Party, spent a hefty $621,000 during the pre-primary period, and he'll likely drop a whole lot more between now and November.
● NY-24: The DCCC is supporting ex-Senate staffer Colleen Deacon in the primary to face freshman Republican Rep. John Katko, and they've released a survey from their in-house polling firm showing her dominating on June 28. Deacon leads attorney Steve Williams 50-17, with college professor Eric Kingson at 8. During the pre-primary period, Deacon outspent Williams $279,000 to $114,000, and she has the support of both of New York's senators, so it's plausible that she's doing very well. Deacon is also out with a new spot highlighting how she raised her son on her own, and pledging that she'll fight to ensure that women are paid fairly. The commercial also briefly features a clip of Deacon with Gillibrand, her old boss.
Kingson is also taking to the airwaves with an ad that highlights his compassion for others. The spot is very low quality, which is understandable, since Kingson hasn't raised or spent much cash. Kingson did earn Bernie Sander's endorsement on June 7, one day before the end of the pre-primary reporting period, and Kingson says it brought him $30,000 in 28 hours.
Katko has a tough task ahead of him if he wants to win a second term in this 57-41 Obama Syracuse seat. Katko has stockpiled $1.2 million, and national Republicans have reserved $1.5 million in fall airtime here, so he's not going down without a fight.
● NY-25: In 2014, longtime Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter came within 583 votes of losing to little-known Republican Mark Assini in a Rochester seat that Obama carried 59-39. Assini is back and once again, he has raised very little: As of June 8, Assini had just $59,000 in the bank. Assini owes his near-2014 win to the GOP wave and awful turnout in upstate New York, but those factors are unlikely to be present this time around. Daily Kos Elections is moving this contest from Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic.
● OK-01: It's tough to see Rep. Jim Bridenstine losing the June 28 GOP primary, but wealthy oilman Tom Atkinson is spending big to try and make it happen. From April 1 to June 8, Atkinson outspent Bridenstine $579,000 to $420,000. (Atkinson has self-funded about half his campaign.) Atkinson is out with another spot that promotes his "real-world business approach."
Still, Atkinson doesn't appear to have run any ads against Bridenstine, and if he doesn't give voters a compelling reason to fire the incumbent, it won't be easy for Atkinson to prevail. While Republican voters are clearly fed up with their party establishment, they haven't lashed out down the ballot. So far, only two GOP House members, North Carolina's Renee Ellmers and Virginia's Randy Forbes, have lost renomination in 2016, and both of them had their seats redistricted out from under them. Bridenstine doesn't appear to have made any enemies at home, so it seems unlikely that voters will oust him.
But Bridenstine is still wisely taking this contest seriously, and he's up with a new TV ad promoting his work on national security. A group called Character Is Essential is also putting $8,000 behind a commercial for Bridenstine. This Tulsa seat is safely red.
● OK-02: The sleepy GOP primary in eastern Oklahoma got a little bit interesting a few weeks ago when ex-Sen. Tom Coburn, angry that Rep. Markwayne Mullin was backing away from his old term limits pledge, endorsed veteran Jarrin Jackson. The good news for Mullin is that Jackson is still quite underfunded. Mullin does seem to be taking renomination seriously though, since he spent a notable $307,000 to Jackson's $48,000 from April 1 to June 8. This ancestrally Democratic seat is safely red these days.
● PA-09: One of the strangest little sagas of 2016 has reached a climax: Tea partier Art Halvorson, who narrowly lost challenge to Rep. Bill Shuster in the Republican primary, has now been declared the winner of the Democratic primary, thanks to the magic of (apparently unsolicited) write-in votes and absence of any actual Democrat who filed to run in this dark red district. Halvorson says he hasn't yet decided whether to accept the nomination and doesn't have any timetable for making up his mind, but it's not inconceivable that he could put another serious scare into Shuster if he did run.
While it would be an odd sight to see, Halvorson could win if he once again fires up conservatives (Shuster beat him by just 1 percent in April) while also pulling in votes from Democrats who show up for the presidential race and, while they're at it, vote a straight ticket without even knowing who Halvorson is. Halvorson has said previously that should he prevail, he'd caucus with the Republicans, so whatever happens, it really wouldn't make much difference either way. But we almost have to root for him, just in the hopes of seeing this crazy spectacle unfold. And if he can keep Shuster pinned down, that's one less Republican available to help his party.
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.