● FL-Sen: Just a month ago, Marco Rubio tweeted, "I have only said like 10000 times I will be a private citizen in January." And yet, on Wednesday, Rubio announced that he would reverse his longstanding promise not to seek re-election and would in fact run for a second term in the Senate. There's only one way to reconcile these two statements: Marco Rubio is predicting he will lose.
And he very well might. While several competitors in the GOP primary bowed out in the wake of this news (Rubio's "real good friend," Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, up and quit the race, and Rep. Ron DeSantis will run for re-election; Rep. David Jolly said he'd do the same last week), one major obstacle remains in Rubio's way: wealthy businessman Carlos Beruff, aka the Donald Trump of Florida politics.
Beruff, a raging nativist in precisely the Trump mold, has already spent $4 million of his own money on the race and has reportedly said he's ready to shell out as much as $15 million more. (Another rich candidate, Todd Wilcox, is also insisting he'll stay put, but he hasn't spent nearly as freely.) Beruff's campaign has also scathingly questioned Rubio's honor, demanding to know whether the senator will commit to serving a full six-year term—and thus not run for president again in 2020.
Rubio, of course, has refused to say anything of the sort, since this about-face is designed to further his own personal ambitions, not serve the people of Florida. In fact, Rubio's barely making any effort to hide what he's up to: The New York Times reports that Rubio has told "colleagues and advisers" that he concluded it would be harder to run for president a second time from the private sector.
But Rubio did say, in attempting to explain his reversal, that he wants to remain in the Senate because he finds Donald Trump "worrisome," despite the fact that he'd previously pledged to support his party's nominee. Rubio's not so good with the promises, clearly, but this kind of triangulation is an even bigger problem, because it won't play well in the primary. Beruff will be eager to turn this race into a replay of Trump vs. Rubio, and that's not a battle Rubio wants to repeat. Indeed, Rubio has yet to recover from his 46-27 drubbing at the hands of Trump here three months ago: A recent PPP poll gave Rubio an abysmal 44-42 job approval rating with Republicans.
Yet even if Rubio survives the primary (he did, upon his re-entry, instantly earn the Club for Growth's endorsement, so he's got that going for him), there's still the general election to fret about. A new Quinnipiac poll finds Rubio leading his likeliest Democratic opponent, Rep. Patrick Murphy, by a 47-40 margin, but that gap is mostly reflective of Rubio's broad name recognition. (Murphy, by contrast, beats Beruff 43-31.) And that gap may not even exist: A pair of PPP polls conducted this month found Murphy ahead of Rubio by a point. The newest one also gave Rubio an atrocious 30-49 approval score with Florida voters.
And as Murphy has pointed out, he announced his own Senate bid last year before Rubio declared for president—when, in other words, it was still possible that Rubio might forego a White House run and seek re-election instead. Even if that was never especially likely, Murphy still had to be prepared for that contingency, and his choice showed he wasn't afraid to risk his own promising House career to take on an incumbent senator.
But it's looking like the smart choice. Murphy will not only have the benefit of presidential-year turnout, he'll also have Donald Trump working overtime on his behalf to juice Latino turnout. Funny how Trump could screw Rubio in both the primary and the general in completely opposite ways, isn't it? Rubio may have ultimately concluded that his shot at the Republican presidential nomination four years from now depends on him preserving this seat for the GOP, but his odds of keeping his dreams alive are no better than even. Daily Kos Elections is holding fast to our rating of Tossup, and we would be entirely unsurprised to see Rubio lose for a second time this year.
● AZ-Sen: After months of showing a tight race between GOP Sen. John McCain and Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick, Behavior Research Center now gives McCain a strong 40-31 edge. But this wouldn't be a BRC poll if everything made sense and sure enough, there are some odds things here. For starters, the poll was conducted over an absurdly long 14-day period. And for some reason, the undecideds have increased from 16 percent to 29 percent since April. However, BRC's demographics do make more sense than they did two months ago. Back then, McCain led with Hispanics 50-37, but this time, they support Kirkpatrick 44-26.
● FL-Sen: A Democratic pollster we've never encountered before, Targeted Persuasion, has surveyed Florida's Democratic primary for Senate for the first time. While most recent polls have found Rep. Patrick Murphy leading Rep. Alan Grayson, this one finds Grayson with a small edge, 30-27. Florida's painfully late primary is not until Aug. 30, but at some point this summer, we'll finally start seeing some TV ads here, and, with any luck, we'll also see some primary polls that don't have quite so many undecideds.
● OH-Sen: Biden Alert! On June 30, Vice President Joe Biden will headline two Ohio fundraisers for Democratic nominee Ted Strickland. Strickland's fundraising has been pretty underwhelming so far, so hopefully Biden will be able to help him turn things around.
The conservative group One Nation is also out with yet another spot from their $4.8 million state buy. Their commercial praises Republican Sen. Rob Portman for getting tough on China to protect state jobs. On the other side of the aisle, End Citizens United is spending $150,000 on an ad hitting Portman's ties to lobbyists and Wall Street.
● PA-Sen, OH-Sen: For no discernable reason, Quinnipiac's new Pennsylvania poll finds GOP Sen. Pat Toomey legging out to a 49-40 lead on Democrat Katie McGinty, even though Toomey sported just a 45-44 edge last month. This jump makes even less sense when you consider the presidential head-to-heads between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, which didn't shift at all during the same timeframe.
And what makes the Pennsylvania numbers weirder still is that Ohio's Senate contest, which Quinnipiac surveyed at the same time, barely budged. GOP Sen. Rob Portman and Democratic ex-Gov. Ted Strickland are tied at 42 apiece; in May, it was 43-42 Strickland. We aren't going to try to explain any of this, but we will note that Quinnipiac is relying on some absurdly long field periods these days. Both this new survey and the prior one were conducted over a 12-day span. A normal poll is in the field for just three days; go much longer than that and you risk failing to accurately capture new developments in a given race.
● WI-Sen: Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is out with his second ad, and he's once again ignoring the fact that he's spent the last six years in DC. Johnson promotes his business background, describing how he went from working for minimum wage at a Walgreens grill during his teens, and how he worked 12-hour shifts during the early years of his business. It's actually a pretty decent spot, and having Johnson do the talking makes it a lot more interesting than the billion commercials we see each cycle that feature a narrator blandly describing their candidate as a business outsider.
● MO-Gov: Retired Navy SEAL Eric Greitens is out with yet another spot that promotes him as a conservative, a veteran, and a political outsider. The only interesting part is where Greitens, a Republican, says he'll tell career politicians, "I will expose your lies, root out your corruption, and attack politics as usual at every turn." I'm sure they're shaking in their boots.
● OR-Gov: While Republican physician Bud Pierce recently released a poll showing him only trailing Democratic Gov. Kate Brown 39-37, Pierce is going to need a lot to go right if he's going to win in this blue state. One piece of good news for Pierce is that, thanks to $780,000 in contributions from Pierce and his wife, his campaign has brought in a comparable amount of cash as Brown in 2016. Via State of Reform, Brown has outraised Pierce $1.2 million to $1 million. The bad news is that Pierce needed to spend most of his money to win May's GOP primary, and Brown holds a strong $1.2 million to $63,000 cash-on-hand edge.
● CA-46: Two weeks ago, it looked like ex-state Sen. Lou Correa, a Democrat, and Republican Some Dude Bob Peterson had both advanced to the general election in this safely blue Orange County seat. However, Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen, another Democrat, surged ahead of Peterson as more ballots were counted. On Tuesday, with just a few hundred votes left to be tabulated and Nguyen leading Peterson by 1,650 votes, Peterson conceded.
As we've noted before, Correa starts out the all-Democratic general election as the clear favorite against Nguyen. While Correa represented about 75 percent of this district until the end of 2014, most of Nguyen's constituents are in another seat. Nguyen also has raised very little cash, so he won't have an easy time getting his name out. Demographics should also work in Correa's favor: Sixty-seven percent of the population is Hispanic, while Asian-Americans only make up 13 percent of the district. Still, general elections featuring two members of the same party are unpredictable, and Correa can't completely take this contest for granted. Now that the top-two primary has finally been settled, Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Correa.
● FL-06: With Sen. Marco Rubio announcing that he would seek re-election, GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis ended his 13-month U.S. Senate campaign on Wednesday and announced that he would seek re-election to the House. While several Republicans were campaigning for the 6th while it was an open seat, most of them quickly deferred to DeSantis. Within hours of DeSantis' decision, state Rep. David Santiago, Navy veteran Brandon Patty, and political consultant Pat Mooney all exited the race, while state Rep. Fred Costello has not made it clear yet if he'll forge ahead. The Club for Growth, which supported DeSantis' Senate bid, is also endorsing his re-election campaign.
● NY-01: Venture capitalist Dave Calone is up with another ad ahead of next week's Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin. The narrator reads from the New York Times and Smithtown News editorials endorsing Calone, which is no more exciting than it sounds.
● NY-19: While businessman Andrew Heaney has reportedly canceled some of his TV reservations ahead of next week's GOP primary, he's still going up with a new spot. The ad contrasts Heaney with primary rival John Faso, the former state Assembly GOP leader. The spot features the two pictures side by side as the narrator says that, while Heaney is not a politician, Faso is a lobbyist who has "spent 30 years in Albany," and that Faso has voted to raise taxes while Heaney opposes tax hikes. Even though Heaney has spent heavily in this contest and can presumably afford better, this commercial just looks like a PowerPoint presentation.
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.