● IA-Sen: If a poll looks too good to be true, it probably is. Loras College is out with a survey giving Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley just a 46-45 edge over Democrat Patty Judge. While the sample gives Grassley a positive 49-41 favorable rating, Judge's 41-23 margin is even better.
The only other polls we've seen for this Senate race both came from PPP on behalf of liberal groups, and they each gave Grassley a 7-point lead: With so little information, we can't exactly call Loras an outlier. Loras' presidential numbers give Hillary Clinton a huge 49-39 edge against Donald Trump, which also seems too bullish for Democrats, but again, we don't have a lot of other numbers here. Loras only opened its polling operation for the 2014 cycle, so they don't have much of a track record. However, the group's late October poll of the 2014 Senate race gave Democrat Bruce Braley a 45-44 edge; Braley lost 52-44. Still, most groups underestimated Republican Joni Ernst as well, and Loras was on-target for Iowa's gubernatorial contest. But Loras' final Iowa caucus poll, conducted less than two weeks before the contest, gave Hillary Clinton an insane 29-point lead, which wasn't even close to right. No other pollster, not even the infamous Gravis Marketing, was anywhere near as off.
What's more notable is that there has been almost no outside spending here on either side, and no groups have purchased fall ad reservations. If national Democrats or Republicans were seeing numbers showing Grassley in real danger, they'd likely be running spots here. Again, the few polls we have do show Grassley in danger, but a few million dollars worth of commercials will speak louder than any surveys.
● CO-Sen: In a recent digest, we wrote that neither party has made any major ad reservations in Colorado's Senate race, but unfortunately, that was incorrect. Back in April, the DSCC reserved $5 million in fall ad time to help Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. That reservation of course can be scaled back or canceled, but, at least for now, it's still on the books.
The good news for Team Blue is that Republicans haven't given any sign that they'll invest in El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn. As Morning Consult notes, both the Senate Leadership Fund and the NRSC have refused to even say if they'll spend money to help Glenn. Even the Senate Conservatives Fund, which aired ads for Glenn ahead of Tuesday's GOP primary, also won't say if they'll be back in the fall.
● NH-Sen: The American Research Group gives us a break from all those polls showing a tight race and finds Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte beating Democrat Maggie Hassan 51-42. Now, it's possible ARG is actually finding something every single other group is missing… but their track record argues otherwise. Back in 2012, ARG missed pretty much across the board, including in their home state of New Hampshire.
ARG didn't release many polls last cycle, and they almost entirely stayed in the Granite State. Their final polls found the Senate race tied 49-49 and gave Hassan a 48-46 edge in the gubernatorial contest. Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen won 51-48 and Hassan prevailed 52-47, so these numbers were reasonable. However, just a month before their final poll, ARG gave Shaheen a 53-43 edge and had Hassan up 55-40, a wild and unlikely swing in the GOP's direction in a short amount of time. ARG ventured back to other states for the 2016 presidential primaries, and they had some stinkers; the group most notably found John Kasich ahead in Michigan by 2 points days before he lost it by 12. So yeah, ARG isn't our favorite pollster.
● NV-Sen: The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC is out with a new spot as part of what Jon Ralston reports is a $900,000 buy. The narrator argues that "when big banks invest in a politician like Joe Heck, the investment pays off big time." The commercial goes on to charge Heck, the GOP nominee, of sponsoring massive tax breaks for banks and trying to privatize Social Security.
● OH-Sen: The conservative group Fighting for Ohio has launched another $1.5 million ad buy targeting Democrat Ted Strickland. Once again, they use a video footage of Strickland from an editorial board interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer earlier this year in which he said, "My record is mixed and spotty, and I can be criticized for that." Strickland was talking about how his views on gun control have moved to the left, but Fighting for Ohio instead uses the clip to talk about Ohio's economic problems during his governorship. This is another GOP ad that doesn't mention the whole Great Recession thing and instead makes it sound like Strickland was just irresponsible.
● MO-Gov: Eric Greitens' latest TV spot ahead of the Aug. 2 GOP primary once again makes heavy use of his military background. The commercial stars Marine Lt. Col. Joel Poudrier, who describes how Greitens helped saved several soldiers in Iraq, including himself, after a suicide vehicle blew up just outside the building they were in.
● NC-Gov, Sen: Contra PPP, the conservative Civitas Institute continues to find GOP Gov. Pat McCrory with a 45-40 lead on Democratic state Attorney General Roy Cooper, just as they did a month ago. (PPP has consistently had the race within a point or two.) Civitas, which uses National Research as their pollster, also finds Republican Sen. Richard Burr with a sizable 44-34 lead on his Democratic challenger, ex-state Rep. Deborah Ross—again parting ways with PPP, which had Burr up just 40-37 in its most recent poll.
Fine, you say: National Research is a Republican outfit, after all, and Civitas has produced some questionable results in the recent past. But here's why it still doesn't add up: The very same poll shows Hillary Clinton edging Donald Trump 42-40. If Clinton is actually ahead, it seems rather strange for both Cooper and Ross to be behind. Then again, Civitas had Clinton up by an impossible 49-37 margin in April, so who even knows what's going on here?
● CO-06: Republican Rep. Mike Coffman is seeking another term in a suburban Denver seat that backed Obama 52-47, so it's not surprising that he's distancing himself from his own party in his first TV spot. The commercial features a diverse assortment of people praising the congressman, and Coffman's team makes sure that viewers don't miss any subtext.
One woman praises Coffman for being involved in a fundraiser to help the hunger in Ethiopia, while other highlight his support for the Korean and Chinese communities. Another woman, who identifies herself as "Jackie Martinez," also calls the congressman "a real leader on immigration reform," before a clip of Coffman speaking in Spanish playing. One of Coffman's supporters goes on to say he's "not like other Republicans," while the diverse cast praise him as a hard worker and "one of us." No one mentions Donald Trump, but Coffman clearly is trying to distance himself from Trump without actually alienating conservative voters. Coffman faces Democratic state Sen. Morgan Carroll in what will be a very expensive contest.
● FL-05: The University of North Florida takes a look at the Aug. 30 primary for this safely blue seat, and they give Rep. Corrine Brown a 30-27 lead over ex-state Senate Minority Leader Al Lawson. The only other poll we've seen was an April offering from St. Pete Polls that had Brown up 42-37. Brown only represents 38 percent of this new district in the House and Lawson hails from the Tallahassee area, where she isn't well-known.
● FL-18: Wealthy businessman Randy Perkins, who recently announced that he would be entirely self-funding his campaign rather than asking for more donations, is out with his first spot ahead of the Aug. 30 Democratic primary. Perkins highlights his humble origins, telling the audience that he and his family were on the state's WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program, and that one day, he stood with a WIC coupon at a Winn-Dixie and decided he would do everything he could to get off the program.
Perkins then says he's "so tired of hearing politicians say 'If you work hard you can achieve the American dream.' What are we telling the American people—that they're not working hard enough? It's Congress, that's who's not working hard enough." Perkins concludes that no one will work harder than him in Congress. Politico's Matt Dixon says this spot is part of a $50,000 reservation. Perkins, the DCCC's favored candidate, faces attorney Jonathan Chane for the Democratic nomination in this competitive seat.
● FL-19: GOP Gov. Rick Scott has an annoying habit of praising candidates to the stars in competitive primaries, but then insisting that he's not actually endorsing them. Thankfully, Scott is ditching that charade this time. Ex-Ambassador and wealthy businessman Francis Rooney has announced that Scott has endorsed him (and yes, Rooney used the E-word) and will appear with him at a campaign event in mid-July. The primary for this safely red seat is in late August.
Rooney has already aired several ads as part of his $400,000 reservation, and he's out with yet another. The commercial stars Jim Towey, who served as White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under George W. Bush and leads Ave Maria University, a local Catholic college. Towey says that working with Mother Teresa "always spoke very eloquently about the sanctity of life," and says that Rooney will "give voice to the same values that Mother Teresa espoused. Starting with defending the sanctity of life and defunding Planned Parenthood."
Rooney faces Chauncey Goss, the son of ex-Rep. Porter Goss, and ex-Secret Service agent and former Maryland congressional candidate Dan Bongino. Politico reports that Bongino has reserved $30,000 in airtime on Fox News through July 4 and he recently aired his first spot, while Goss has yet to take to the airwaves.
● NJ-05: The Democratic group House Majority PAC is adding more money to the pile in their efforts to defeat Republican incumbent Scott Garrett, whose anti-gay stances have gotten a lot of attention recently. The problem here is, though, that NJ-05 is in the nation's most expensive media market (New York City), so HMP has to come up with various workarounds to get their message out.
The usual solution is targeted cable TV buys, and that's mostly what HMP is doing by adding another $80,000 to previous buys. But they're also spending on billboards, and an unusual expense that will be familiar to long-time Jersey Shore beachgoers but probably sounds odd to the rest of the country: airplane banners.
Flying billboards towed by light airplanes have been a ubiquitous sight for many decades down the Shore (especially south of Atlantic City, where TV reception used to be spotty at best), mostly to advertise seafood restaurants and casinos. HMP's buy is limited to the July 4th weekend in Monmouth County, which is further north, and where NJ-05's residents in Bergen County are likeliest to be going to the beach. HMP doesn't mention the size of the buy, but it's not an expensive way to get the word out, usually only around $400 per day.
● NY-13: On Thursday, Assemblyman Keith Wright conceded to state Sen. Adriano Espaillat in the Democratic primary to replace longtime Rep. Charlie Rangel. This seat, which includes Harlem and part of the Bronx, is one of the most Democratic districts in the country, and Espaillat will become the first Dominican-American member of Congress in January.
Harlem has been represented by an African-American since 1944, when the legendary and controversial Adam Clayton Powell Jr. was first elected, but redistricting and demographic changes have made this seat predominantly Latino over the ensuing decades. Now, 54 percent of the district is Latino, while only 25 percent is black; however, African-Americans tend to turn out in local Democratic primaries in much greater numbers. Race was always an issue in the lead up to Tuesday's contest, and as Matthew Isbell demonstrates with a series of maps, it was a major factor in the election returns.
Isbell tells us that Espaillat won the heavily Hispanic Bronx and North Manhattan portions of the seat, though Wright, who is black, did take Spanish Harlem. Wright also did very well in Harlem, which has been a black Mecca for a century. However, three other black candidates took a combined 22 percent of the vote, which made all the difference in a contest Wright lost 37-34.
Ex-Assemblyman Clayton Powell IV, the son of the former congressman, only won 6 percent of the vote overall, but Isbell notes that he did well in Spanish Harlem, which he used to represent in the legislature. Espaillat actually did poorly in Spanish Harlem, which is predominately Hispanic, and it's likely that if Powell weren't in the contest, many of his voters would have gone to Wright. Another African-American candidate, ex-DNC Political Director Clyde Williams, took 11 percent district-wide, and did well around Inwood and Southern Harlem; it's also likely that he cost Wright some critical support.
Espaillat did face Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, a fellow Dominican and a bitter rival, and he threatened to eat into his base. However, Linares only took 6 percent of the vote overall, and he didn't exceed 20 percent of the vote almost anywhere. Altogether, the four African-American candidates took a combined 56 percent of the vote, while Espaillat and Linares grabbed 42.
It's likely that Espaillat will face a credible primary challenge in 2018, but nothing's certain. The contest got particularly nasty in the final weekend, but things appear to have calmed down since Tuesday. While Rangel expressed shock on election night at the idea of Harlem not having an African-American congressman, he appeared at a unity press conference with Espaillat and Wright after the latter conceded. There's also no guarantee that there will be just one strong black opponent for Espaillat, either.
As a congressman, Espaillat also will have the chance to win over voters who were skeptical about him as a candidate. Texas Democratic Rep. Marc Veasey is one politician who became quickly entrenched after a racially divisive primary. In 2012, Veasey, who is black, defeated ex-state Rep. Domingo Garcia just 53-47 in a contest where race played a major role. Two years later, Veasey easily defeated a well-funded Hispanic primary foe, and he didn't face a credible challenge in 2016.
Tennessee Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen is another good example for Espaillat. Cohen, a white politician representing a predominately black seat, won just 31 percent of the vote in his 2006 primary against a crowded field of African-American opponents. Two years later, Cohen took 79 percent against a foe who put race front-and-center, and he's never taken less than 66 percent of the vote since then. While racial divisions played a major part in the last three Democratic primaries in NY-13, they may not be the be-all end-all in 2018.
● PA-16: Democrat Christina Hartman's campaign for this open Lancaster County seat hasn't attracted much attention, but she's out with an early May PPP poll giving her just a 48-43 deficit against GOP state Sen. Lloyd Smucker with registered voters. Romney took this seat 52-46, so that margin isn't unrealistic, though Republicans tend to do very well here downballot.
But what's very weird is that Hartman sat on this optimistic poll for almost two whole months, only to release it to Politico less than 24 hours before the quarterly fundraising deadline. If Hartman had unveiled this survey a lot earlier, she'd have a good pitch to donors. A strong fundraising quarter is a good way to attract national Democrats' attention, so it's odd that Hartman only decided to release this survey now, when it's almost too late for it to make a difference.
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.