● CA-49: Whoa, baby. Marine vet Doug Applegate surprised the hell out of political observers when he held GOP Rep. Darrell Issa to a shockingly weak 51-45 margin in California's top-two primary earlier this month, and now the DCCC has released an in-house robopoll suggesting that those results were no fluke. The survey finds Applegate and Issa tied at 43 apiece, and perhaps even more compellingly, it shows Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump 41-38—this in a district that Mitt Romney carried 52-46 four years ago.
But even if you feel this poll might be too rosy for Democrats (and it is, after all, a partisan internal), it's nevertheless interesting that the D-Trip decided to take a look at this race in the first place. Applegate was, it's fair to say, on no one's radar prior to the primary, thanks in part to his abysmal fundraising. But if national Democrats sense there's an opportunity here, as this poll seems to indicate, that'll open all sorts of doors for the challenger. The key date right now is July 15, which is when second-quarter FEC fundraising reports are due—in other words, when we'll see whether Applegate has been able to capitalize on his sudden acclaim.
● CO-Sen: Conservative businessman Robert Blaha has finally filed his pre-primary report, and it turns out he spent $507,000 from April 1 to June 8. That's not a huge amount for a statewide Senate primary, but it's actually the second-most of any of the five Republican candidates; Jack Graham, the former athletic director of Colorado State University, led the pack with $684,000. Whoever wins the June 28 primary will face Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.
● FL-Sen: Carlos Beruff is forcing Marco Rubio to think hard—very hard—about whether he really, truly wants to seek re-election. Beruff, an extremely wealthy businessman who's selling himself as the Sunshine State's version of Donald Trump, has reportedly told his staff that he's prepared to spend $10 to $15 million more of his own money on the GOP primary, on top of the $4 million he's already shelled out. Beruff's campaign wouldn't comment on the topic, but it did issue a white-hot statement demanding that Rubio "commit to serving out an entire six-year term in the Senate" if he runs—and to also pledge not to run for president in 2020.
Rubio obviously has not risen to the bait, refusing to even answer any questions about making such promises, but Beruff will gleefully make this a campaign issue if Rubio does decide to run again. Indeed, with just days to go before Friday's filing deadline, Rubio's pretty much refusing to answer any questions at all, saying only, "When I make a decision and I'm ready to announce, I'll tell you." We'll be waiting. So will Carlos Beruff.
● IL-Sen: It's been an eternity since anyone released a poll of the contest between Republican Sen. Mark Kirk and Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, but both sides haven't been treating this like a top-tier contest for some time—and that's bad news for the GOP. While outside groups have already spent millions on ads in other Senate battlegrounds and are preparing to invest millions more in TV reservations for the fall, Illinois has been almost entirely ignored, an indicator that Democrats and Republicans alike don't think highly of Kirk's chances at surviving in this blue state.
It's too early to count out Kirk, who has a history of winning over moderate voters, but now he's the underdog. Kirk is wisely running away from Donald Trump as fast as possible, but he'll still need to convince a significant number of Trump-hating voters that he's the better candidate than Duckworth, a task made more difficult by the fact that Duckworth actually had more money than Kirk at the end of March. What's more, the most recent poll we actually have seen—from all the way back in March—was a Kirk internal that had him trailing Duckworth 43-40. Political observers know it's never a good sign when your own polling has you down.
Kirk can still cling to some small hope that long-ago events from Duckworth's time as director of the state's Department of Veterans Affairs will come back to haunt her. A state judge recently scheduled a trial on allegations that Duckworth engaged in improper retaliation against two employees, and Kirk is hoping that the story will give him an opening. But the case has been dismissed twice already and, even when viewed in the most negative light, doesn't have the hallmarks of a major scandal. Needless to say, Kirk's not in a good position if he's depending on external events to save him.
We're not ready to write Kirk's political obituary yet, but in recognition of the myriad challenges he faces, Daily Kos Elections is moving this contest from Tossup to Lean Democratic.
● LA-Sen: On behalf of Democratic attorney Caroline Fayard, GBA Strategies is out with a poll of the November jungle primary. Like every released survey, it finds GOP state Treasurer John Kennedy easily taking the first runoff spot, this time with 30 percent of the vote. But it's a tight race to take the second slot: Democratic Public Service Commissioner Forster Campbell narrowly edges Fayard 15-14, with GOP Reps. Charles Boustany and John Fleming just behind at 11 and 9 respectively.
● MO-Sen: The conservative group One Nation is out with their second spot in their $1.5 million buy. One again, they go positive and praise Republican Sen. Roy Blunt's work on veterans issues.
● NV-Sen: This may come as a massive surprise to Republican Joe Heck, but not everything on the internet is true.
● PA-Sen: Politico reports that the Democratic group Majority Forward is spending $300,000 to re-air an AFSCME ad that accused Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of being too close to Wall Street.
● MO-Gov: On behalf of the political newsletter Missouri Scout, Republican pollster Remington Research takes a look at the four-way August GOP primary and finds that it's very much up for grabs. They give wealthy businessman John Brunner a 23-19 lead over ex-U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway, with retired Navy SEAL Eric Greitens and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder grabbing 17 and 16 percent, respectively. The winner will face Attorney General Chris Koster, who has minimal Democratic primary opposition.
● MT-Gov: Republican nominee Greg Gianforte is out with yet another TV spot in his campaign against Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. This one features a local taxidermist (now that's not something we get to write very often!) saying that most politicians "are a lot like the mounts I do here … they're full of stuff!" He goes on to praise Gianforte as "a small businessman, conservationist, and outdoorsman" and a frequent customer, concluding that the candidate "has a great head on his shoulders, and he's got quite a few on his walls, too."
● VT-Gov: Ex-state Transportation Secretary Sue Minter is airing her first TV spot ahead of the August Democratic primary. The commercial features footage of the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, as the narrator highlights Minter's work helping Vermont repair its roads after the 2011 storm. It then features a flood survivor praising Minter for giving "everyone hope that we would get through this together as a community." Seven Days says the campaign has spent $21,000 to air the ad this week.
● CO-03: Republican Rep. Scott Tipton beat a touted Democratic foe 53-41 in 2012 as Mitt Romney carried this Western Slope seat 52-46, and it won't be easy to oust him this cycle. However, Democrats seem high on former state Sen. Gail Schwartz's candidacy. Schwartz raised an impressive $350,000 during her first two months in the race, and Tipton's $762,000-to-$311,000 cash-on-hand edge is far from overwhelming.
Even more importantly, the two biggest outside Democratic groups, the DCCC and the House Majority PAC, have reserved $6.7 million in TV ad time in media markets that reach the 3rd District. Some of that is earmarked for another competitive race in the 6th District, but a good chunk was booked with the 3rd in mind. There's also the fact that Latinos make up a sizable 25 percent of the district. Trump may not be electoral rat poison here (yet!), but it doesn't look like he'll help Tipton, either. The seat's red hue still gives Tipton the edge, but Schwartz looks strong enough to put it in play. As a result, we're changing our rating from Likely Republican to Lean Republican.
● FL-19: In a bit of a surprise, ex-state Rep. Paige Kreegel announced on Tuesday that he would not run for this safely red seat and would instead support
attorney former Paul Ryan aide Chauncey Goss. Kreegel took third place in the primary in both 2012 and 2014, and he recently formed a PAC to raise money and "test the waters." Right now, there's a three way race between Goss, a 2012 candidate and the son of ex-Rep. Porter Goss; wealthy ex-Ambassador Francis Rooney; and ex-Secret Service agent and former Maryland congressional candidate Dan Bongino. The filing deadline is Friday.
● GA-03: State Sen. Mike Crane has been decisively outraised by dentist Drew Ferguson, his opponent in the July runoff for this safely red seat, but he has one powerful ally that's coming to help him in his time of need. The Club for Growth has launched a "six-figure TV and digital buy" for Crane, and they're re-airing the spot that ran during the May primary. The narrator praises Crane as a job-creator who stood up for the taxpayer. Riveting stuff, isn't it?
● IA-03: Freshman Republican Rep. David Young won an unexpectedly decisive 53-42 win during the 2014 GOP wave, but he's going to need to work hard to hold this 51-47 Obama seat in a presidential year. Team Blue has nominated veteran Jim Mowrer, who defeated wealthy businessman Mike Sherzan by an unexpectedly wide margin the Democratic primary earlier this month. Both parties have signaled that this is going to be a battleground: National Democrats have reserved $1.3 million in fall airtime here, and the NRCC has also booked TV time to help Young.
The good news for Young is that he does have over $1 million in his campaign account while Mowrer needs to rebuild his warchest from scratch. It's also unclear how well Donald Trump will play in Iowa, so Young may have some more breathing room than some of his colleagues elsewhere, particularly those in seats with more Latino voters (Iowa's 3rd is 93 percent white). But this will be an expensive fight, and it doesn't look like Young has a material advantage this far out in this swing seat, so Daily Kos Elections is changing our rating from Lean Republican to Tossup.
● KS-01: Now this is a negative ad! Rep. Tim Huelskamp faces a credible challenge in the August GOP primary from physician Roger Marshall in Kansas' safely red 1st Congressional District, and Huelskamp going on the offensive with a spot that utilizes a recording of a 911 call from 2008 to argue that Marshall is dangerous and unfit for office.
The commercial features a man telling the dispatcher, "I've got Dr. Marshall over here trespassing. He just about ran over me." The operator then says, "Have a report of a possible trespassing, RP [reporting party] is advising he was almost run over by subject last name Marshall." The narrator goes on to say, "In a violent rage, Dr. Roger Marshall almost ran down and seriously injured his neighbor and fled the scene of his crime. Lawbreakers belong in jail, not Congress."
The Hutchinson News gives us the background to this unexpected saga. According to court documents, Marshall and the 911 caller, Randy Suchy, had feuded over property issues. After the incident, Marshall was initially charged with battery and reckless driving. The battery charge was later dropped, but Marshall pled no contest to reckless driving and was given a five-day suspended jail sentence plus a $225 fine. According to KWCH12, the reckless driving charge was also subsequently reduced, to "failure to exercise due care in regard to a pedestrian," and Marshall's fine was cut to $45. It appears the jail sentence may also have been dropped. No matter the details, the story doesn't make Marshall look good.
Marshall responded quickly, with one of those negative "look at how awful my opponent's negative ad is!" ads. The narrator calls Huelskamp's "ugly smears" "the desperate, last gasps of a career politician" and says that newspapers are accusing the congressman of "spreading misinformation." The narrator goes on to say that Huelskamp is running "[t]he dirtiest campaign Kansas has ever seen!" as several newspaper headlines criticizing Huelskamp fly by. While the narrator doesn't actually outright say that these newspapers are condemning Huelskamp's recent spot, the audience is clearly meant to think that they are. However, all these editorials are old and have nothing to do with the 911 ad.
For instance, the text from the Wichita Eagle that briefly shows up on screen says that Huelskamp "deserves criticism for the content of two glossy mailers recently dropped on his constituents at $64,000 expense to taxpayers." The spot goes on to feature a headline from the Garden City Telegram titled "Huelskamp Deliberately Misleads," but the actual 2015 article is about the congressman's attacks on Obamacare while the text of another article that appears on screen briefly talks about endorsements the congressman may not have actually received. While none of these editorials make Huelskamp sound great, it's not like the local media is up in arms about his recent commercial. The second half of Marshall's spot just talks up his own medical career. At no point is the 2008 incident addressed, although there really isn't anything Marshall can say about it that can help his cause.
● NC-09: As expected, the recount in North Carolina's GOP primary barely budged the numbers at all, trimming Rep. Robert Pittenger's lead over megachurch pastor Mark Harris from 135 votes to 133. In the wake of these results, Harris conceded, though he didn't exactly offer an unconditional endorsement of Pittenger, saying only that he "hope[s] for his success in November." A Pittenger victory should be automatic this fall, given how red this seat is, but even if the wounds the incumbent suffered thanks to a long-running federal investigation into his campaign finances don't hurt him in the general election, he'll be vulnerable to another primary challenge down the line.
● NJ-05: According to The Hotline's Kimberly Railey, the House Majority PAC is tacking on another $80,000 to its ad buy slamming GOP Rep. Scott Garrett for his anti-gay views, doubling the amount the group has spent so far. Garrett faces a stiff challenge from Democrat Josh Gottheimer, a former aide to both Bill and Hillary Clinton.
● NV-04: Freshman Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy won this 54-44 Obama seat thanks to awful 2014 Democratic turnout, and he'll have a very tough time holding it in a presidential year with Donald Trump on the ballot. The Democrats have nominated state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, who turned in a dominant primary victory thanks to help from two crucial allies: Sen. Harry Reid and organized labor, particularly the Culinary Union. Kihuen recently reserved $1 million in airtime for the fall, and his powerful friends are likely to work hard to put him over the top.
Hardy, by contrast, has only $682,000 on-hand, an unimpressive sum for a vulnerable incumbent. The good news for Hardy is that the NRCC has reserved airtime in Las Vegas, though it's unclear how much will be sent to help Hardy and how much will be devoted to holding the nearby 3rd District, a swingy open seat. Hardy got very lucky two years ago; his good fortune is unlikely to repeat. Daily Kos Elections is moving our rating from Tossup to Lean Democratic.
● NY-22: The group Liberty Opinion Research recently released a poll showing Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney holding just a 32-31 edge over businessman Steve Wells ahead of next week's GOP primary, but her allies at Citizens United are pushing back with their own survey. (LOR says their poll was not conducted on anyone's behalf.) The Polling Company (yep, that's their name) gives Tenney a 38-26 lead over Wells, with ex-Broome County Legislator George Phillips taking just 11. One big caveat here is that the memo does not provide field dates, though the Polling Company said their toplines come "with one week remaining before the election." (And here's a dispiriting statistic: More NY-22 primary polls have been released in the last week alone than have been released for the presidential race in either Colorado or Nevada in all of 2016.)
If Tenney wants to win next week, she's going to need to withstand a barrage of spending. Her old adversaries at the Oneida Indian Nation set up a super PAC called Grow the Economy that's aired ads against her, but they're now running a positive commercial for Wells. According to Bloomberg Politics, the ad promotes him as "an outsider who will shake things up in Washington." As of June 18, Grow the Economy has spent $580,000 here, while Wells outspent Tenney $474,000 to $130,000 from April 1 to June 8.
Whoever emerges on Tuesday will face Broome County Legislator Kim Myers in an upstate seat that Romney narrowly took. However, wealthy independent Martin Babinec complicates the calculus. Babinec has launched four 15-second TV spots that promote him as the "jobs candidate." With a message like that, it's unclear which party stands to lose more votes in November to Babinec.
● PA-02: Veteran Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah was found guilty on Tuesday of 22 counts of racketeering, fraud, and money laundering in connection with his use of public money to repay an illegal $1 million loan to his unsuccessful 2007 mayoral campaign. Federal prosecutors indicted Fattah last year, and the cloud hanging over him led to his 43-36 defeat in April's Democratic primary at the hands of state Rep. Dwight Evans. (Evans is a lock in November in this dark blue Philadelphia district.) Fattah has not yet said whether he'll resign, though it's possible he'll try to trade his resignation for a favorable sentencing recommendation from prosecutors. Fattah's sentencing is scheduled for October.
● Recalls: Furor toward Aaron Persky, a California judge who recently handed down a six-month sentence to a Stanford student convicted of rape, has led to calls that he be removed from the bench, but recall expert Joshua Spivak explains in a new op-ed just why that's so unlikely to happen. No judge in the U.S. has even faced a recall in over 30 years, and the examples that people (incorrectly) point to invariably involve judges losing regularly scheduled retention elections, which happened to three California Supreme Court justices in 1986 over the jurists' opposition to the death penalty.
Spivak says this "recall desert" is due to the fact that it takes a lot of signatures to get a recall on the ballot—58,000 would have to be gathered from Santa Clara County voters in just 160 days to force a vote on Persky. And unlike with recalls of legislators or governors, there's no partisan gain to be had here, so the usual forces that unite to try to push someone out of office are likely to remain absent.
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.